Thursday, December 1, 2016

Before moving onto Christmas, one more look at Thanksgiving

On November 1, I had the thought that I’ve never done one of those “30 Days of Thanks” things for November on Facebook, and I wanted to. But for the first year that I remember, no one else was doing it. Plus I don’t like it when gratitude comes across as bragging, so I decided that instead of publicly posting each day, I’d keep it to myself and post it as a blog. So here it goes:

Day 1: I’m thankful for my husband, who is persistent beyond belief. Our radiators upstairs have only been heating half the floor since we tested them out about a month ago, and he has gone at this problem time after time after time. And while I would have given up and called a repairman after the second try, he knew that they would not do any magic trick to fix them or use any special tools, but that this is something he could fix himself. And he did!
Day 2: I’m thankful for getting together with friends weekly in my book club. We discuss books, and even more importantly, our lives. This is a weekly life raft that I always look forward to.
Day 3: I’m thankful for naps. I’m thankful when Rye naps, when Rye and Knox nap, and the trifecta—when I get a nap in there too. Oh sweet, blessed sleep.
Day 4: I’m thankful for friends who come to visit me, even though I only visit them every 5 years or so, and who bring chocolate J
Day 5: I’m thankful for good friends that we can talk openly and honestly with, have differing opinions, challenge each other to see things in new ways, and walk away feeling enriched by the experience.
Day 6: I’m thankful for declaring Sundays during football season as a day of rest—dedicated to watching the Ravens. And while they had me doubtful during the first quarter, they were clearly better than the Steelers today and didn’t blow it. Thank you, Ravens, for earning me my free Dunkin Donuts coffee tomorrow!
Day 7: I’m thankful for my son Rye. We’ve been going through a tough time, what with him being a 3-year-old dictator, and he’s been sick for the past two weeks and been just miserable. While sometimes he gets subdued and affectionate when he’s sick, this cold has led to extra whininess and general malaise. But today, though he hasn’t quite lost his congestion, his attitude and energy level greatly improved, and I remembered that he actually can be fun to spend time, and not just a snot-nosed punk (literally) who is always bossing me around. Love you, Rye!
Day 8: I’m thankful to live in a country where you can go and vote and people smile at you and you don’t have to worry about people with machine guns threatening you to prevent you from voting.
Day 9: I’m thankful that no matter what happens politically, God is God and he is in control, and I can cast my anxieties on him and share his light yoke. Because the thought of what’s going to happen politically makes me really sad…
Day 10: I’m thankful for weeks when Josh doesn’t have to work so much and we get to see more of each other than the quick “have a good day” and “goodnight” routines that control some days.
Day 11: I’m thankful for companies like Panera, which can transform the sad taste of lettuce into a delicious salad that I look forward to eating.
Day 12: I’m thankful for a slow start-up to the Christmas season. I used to eschew anything Christmas-related before Thanksgiving, but if the Christmas season is the “most wonderful time of the year,” then why not make it last for two months instead of one?
Day 13: I’m thankful for a day with absolutely nothing on the schedule and no obligations. Just sitting around the house, catching up on the newspaper and little things around the house, and taking time to exhale.
Day 14: I’m thankful for discovering high-waisted jeggings, which make it look like I’m wearing skinny jeans and yet they keep me from displaying embarrassing muffin-top. And I’m thankful that they are not labeled as “Mom Jeans of the 21st Century.”
Day 15: I’m thankful for grandparents who come visit and watch my kids not just because they want to help me but because they love seeing these little ones grow up.
Day 16: I’m thankful for British period dramas. I’m glad I don’t live during those times, but it’s fun to watch.
Day 17: I’m thankful for when you get the nudge to contact someone, out of the blue, and when you do, you find out you have something to offer that was just what the other person needed.
Day 18: I’m thankful for Knox, who turned four months old today! He is so sweet, and generally easy going, and has started sleeping at night again (bless you, Knox!), and smiles every time he sees me in a way that melts my heart. He is such a sweetie pie.
Day 19: I’m thankful for my dad, whose birthday is today. He has such great stories and such a generous spirit, and is just fun to be around. Glad I’ll get to see him tomorrow.
Day 20: I’m thankful for our church family, who we got to share our baby dedication ceremony with today. These people showed such compassion and I’m thankful for our church family, who prayed for this sweet child throughout my pregnancy and will be there to pray for him as he grows up.
Day 21: I’m thankful for those opportunities to view Rye in a new light. Today was his preschool Thanksgiving program for all the parents to come and watch, and it was great to see him in a different setting and with a fresh set of eyes. So cute!

Day 22: I’m thankful for unexpected changes in the day that make it go better. Today our pediatrician’s office called to call an 8:30 a.m. appointment for tomorrow, but then told me I could come at 12:15 p.m. today if I wanted to. Yes, please!
Day 23: I’m thankful for opportunities to cook for fun. For Thanksgiving, I made a chocolate pumpkin tart, which I would never make for just Josh and I, and I no longer have a work place to take baked goods to, so to have a family event to go a little “extra” for really makes me happy.
Day 24: I’m thankful for getting to see my parents, my brother and his wife, their new baby (who is just 3 months younger than Knox), my sister-in-law’s mother, and my mother-in-law for Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. It was just a very relaxing day with delicious, creative food (and plenty of leftovers to take home!) and there was no political talk and three desserts. #winning
Day 25: I’m thankful for having a husband who loves selecting a live Christmas tree as much as I do. This has always been my favorite part of Christmas, since I was a child, and Josh shows as much enthusiasm for it as I do. This year we spent about an hour and a half at the tree farm, and ended up getting the first tree I liked. The current tally for picking Christmas trees: Carrie-13, Josh-1.
Day 26: I’m thankful for my in-laws. Josh’s family and my family are very different, personality-wise, and it took me a few years to get used to them, but I wouldn’t trade my mother-in-law and brothers- and sisters-in law for anything! I feel so blessed that we have no tension within our family, and genuinely like spending time together!
Day 27: I’m thankful for online shopping. I’ve never been a hardcore shopper, so doing this from my phone or computer—what could be better!
Day 28: I’m thankful for living in such a great little city. I love Westminster, and appreciate all that its people put on for the rest of the community, sharing their passions and time and resources generously.
Day 29: I’m thankful for the nursery staff at our gym, who take the kiddos in, give them activities and snacks and make it a place where the kids are excited (usually) to go and so I can have an hour of time to myself trying to get my pre-baby body back.
Day 30: I’m thankful for a warm, dry house on icky, rainy days. I love that we’ve lived in this house for seven years and it is filled with our personal touches and memories and the sounds of our family. I love my view from sitting on the couch, holding Knox, and watching Josh and Rye build a wooden train track town together. I wonder what it will be like when Knox is old enough to play with Rye and Josh and I can sit on the couch again together.

So there you have it, my 30 days of gratitude. It wasn’t hard to be thankful each day, but extremely hard to remember to write them down each day. I usually ended up doing it every three to five days, so I wish I had been a little bit better about taking a moment to express and record the gratitude each day. There’s always next year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Day in the life

Ever wonder what a stay-at-home mom does all day? Or even what you have done with your whole day? People are always whining about Mondays, and yes, even I am prone to some weekend hangover-ness, but yesterday, I was on a roll, and decided to record my actions because such a productive day may never happen again. Or maybe one day in the future when the kids are older I’ll try to remember what it was like with two littles and a freelance writing career, and if I don’t write it down, I won’t remember. So here it goes, starting at 2 a.m., Monday Nov. 21, 2016.

2 a.m.: Feed Knox, change his diaper, go back into a deep sleep.
5:45 a.m.: Hear Knox, but he sounds happy, so go back to sleep.
6:08 a.m.: Hear Knox, realize that while he’s happy, he’s not going to fall back asleep unless I give him the binky. Go in his room to discover he’s majorly wet the bed. Strip him and the bed, change his diaper, wrap him back up and put him back to bed. Hear Rye saying he has to pee, so go take him to the bathroom and put him back to bed. Get in bed myself, but don’t fall back to sleep.
6:45 a.m.: Get up, retrieve Knox who did not fall back to sleep either, feed him.
7 a.m.: Remind Josh that his alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and he need to get up.
7:10 a.m.: Greet Rye at his allowable wake time, change Knox’s diaper, and put him back to bed.
7:15 a.m.: Fold the kids’ laundry that I washed last night.
7:30 a.m.: Empty the dishwasher, make myself a cup of decaffeinated Earl Grey.
7:40 a.m.: Pack up Josh’s lunch, say goodbye.
7:45 a.m.: Breakfast with Rye—oatmeal, granola bar, and one cookie for him (that I made last night to take to his school’s special Thanksgiving program today); peanut butter-infused Greek yogurt dipped up with apple slices for me.
8:10 a.m.: Start a load of lights to wash Knox’s wet bed dressings.
8:15 a.m.: Play with Rye.
8:25 a.m.: Knox is fussing, go up and soothe him, get myself dressed, bring down Rye’s clothes and get him dressed, both brush our teeth.
8:35 a.m.: Try to soothe Knox again, realize he’s not going to settle, bring him downstairs.
8:45 a.m.: Help Rye do a puzzle while holding Knox.
8:57 a.m.: Realize I might as well feed Knox now to get a head start on the next cycle.
9:10 a.m.: Tell Rye to put on his shoes and start grabbing everything we need to take to school and the gym for me and Knox.
9:22 a.m.: In the car and driving to school.
9:35 a.m.: Leave Rye at school, with the homemade cookies and baby carrots I had signed up to bring, drive to the gym.  
9:45 a.m.: Arrive at gym, put Knox in the nursery, and attempt to master the elliptical for 40 minutes.
10:03 a.m.: Interrupted by nursery staff, need to go change Knox’s poopy diaper.
10:15 a.m.: Decide Knox seemed really fussy and probably just needs a nap, give up elliptical early after just 25 minutes and head home.
10:30 a.m.: Get Knox in his room, change his clothes wet from drool. Realize he’s not going to fall asleep on his own so swaddle him, sing to him and sway for 3 minutes, until he falls asleep, then put him in his crib.
10:37 a.m.: Time to get a shower. While in the shower, realize that if Knox is really asleep, I have time to start another load of laundry, blow dry my hair and still make it back to preschool in time for Rye’s program. Start to realize this may be the most productive day ever and that I should start taking notes.
11 a.m.: Dress and head downstairs with load of darks, get them going, then blow dry my hair for five minutes. It’s still mostly wet, but I shouldn’t get icicles in my hair anymore.
11:15 a.m.: Wake up Knox, remember to grab a bib, then head downstairs, wrap him in my coat then head out with the diaper bag to go to Rye’s school.
11:27 a.m.: Arrive early. Must wait in the hallway. Ugh.
11:34 a.m.: We are let in and file into the larger part of the classroom, I stand in the back with Knox in the Baby Bjorn, wave to Rye, and get my phone camera ready. Take one picture then switch to video, and video all 10 minutes of their songs. Rye doesn’t sing, but mostly does the motions to the Turkey Wobble song.
11:45 a.m.: Snack time. Get some disapproving looks from other parents for letting Rye have 4 cookies, but he had 4 pieces of lunch meat and 3 chunks of cheese, so I’m happy that I won’t have to give him lunch when we get home. I’m a little discouraged that parents are giving kids these 2 ½-inch diameter store-bought M&M cookies over my homemade 1-inch diameter honey coins (a shortbread covered in powdered sugar), but one dad starts taking them by the handful, and one child with perfect hair and a model-like mother chooses my cookie over the M&M cookie. The 9 p.m. cookie making last night was worth it!
12:20 p.m.: Convince Rye it’s time to go home, as Knox can’t wait to eat and sleep.
12:30 p.m.: Home, see that the mail has not come and remember to put out a Netflix movie we need to send back. Feed Knox, then change his diaper. Help Rye spell out signs to write on his magnet doodler. Put Knox on his play mat and then help Rye put together another puzzle he had started this morning and abandoned.
1:05 p.m.: Nap time. Cajole Rye to come upstairs, change from his jeans to flannel pajama pants, take him to the bathroom to pee. While he’s washing his hands, swaddle Knox and put him down, go read Rye a book and put him in his bed, then go back to Knox’s room to re-swaddle him and hold his arms still until he falls asleep 20 seconds later.
1:30 p.m.: My lunch time, warm up leftover chili and sit down at computer to eat.
1:37 p.m.: Mid-lunch, Rye calls over the monitor that he has to pee again. Really tempted to call B.S. but go up anyway, take him to the bathroom where he dribbles out an ounce, then put him back in bed.
1:47 p.m.: Finish lunch. Remember I need to finish my food column, so open the document, edit the pre-selected recipes I found last night, then write my intro.
2:07 p.m.: Remember that if I plan to cook next, I should make sure the meat in the fridge is thawed. But I find the meat is not in the fridge, but the freezer. First fail of the day! Get it out and put it in a bowl of water, hoping that will get it mostly thawed in the next hour.
2:11 p.m.: Knox is crying and sounds in pain. Go up and give him gas drops, put my hand on his chest until he falls asleep, and go back down to finish writing.
2:24 p.m.: Finish food column and email it to my editors. Since meat is still frozen, decide to fold whites.
2:44 p.m.: Start cooking. I make a homemade Hamburger Helper-like casserole for a family from church on the Mercy Meals list, and start roasting a spaghetti squash for our dinner, to serve with leftover Italian sausage I cooked Friday.
3:34 p.m.: Casserole is done and put back in the fridge to cool, squash is still roasting. Time to sit down! But Rye wakes up and wants water. I give him some but let him know he has to stay in bed til 4. Go downstairs and start Project Runway with a little snack of leftover Mexican corn.
3:50 p.m.: Knox wakes up, bring him down to feed him while continuing Project Runway. Ugh, Dexter is so annoying!
4:10 p.m.: Go upstairs to get Rye, change Knox’s diaper, then let Rye know we have to take the food to the family. He agrees by asking if we can bring 3 of his toy road signs instead of just the standard 2 we allow (one for each hand—can’t argue with that logic). I agree to the compromise. I take the spaghetti squash out of the oven and let it cool, let the family know we’re on the way, then get the kids in the car.
5:00 p.m.: Back home. Put a very fussy Knox in his bouncer, then talk to Rye about some road signs he admires but doesn’t have, then convert two of his signs into two from his wishlist: two lanes ahead and squiggly road ahead.
5:15 p.m.: Back to cooking our dinner. Shred the spaghetti squash and put in pan, add marinara and cooked Italian sausage, start cooking pasta for Rye. Take Knox out of bouncer and put him in Bumbo in kitchen with me while Rye watches Truck Tunes, then a little of Busytown.
5:40 p.m.: Take Knox upstairs for his nap. Come back down and scoop out our food, wait for Rye to finish his video then we sit down to eat.
6:05 p.m.: I’m done dinner, but Rye isn’t, though he suddenly realizes he has to poop and leaves the dinner table. I use this opportunity to get a head start on dishes.
6:15 p.m.: Pooping is done, Rye declares he will not finish his dinner, which was about two-thirds consumed so I don’t really care, and he goes to the living room to play while I finish dishes.
6:30 p.m.: Having finished the dishes, I am free to play with Rye. We play 10 minutes of Signtown, where cars drive around and remark on the signs in the town, then I convince him to clean up all his signs so we can play with the magnet doodler for the last 5 minutes before bath time.
6:50 p.m.: Upstairs for bath time.
7:02 p.m.: Rye’s yell about getting soap in his eye wakes up Knox. Go into his room, give him his binky, stay for a minute then back to the bathroom for Rye.
7:10 p.m.: Bath time is over. Dry Rye up and take him to his room to get dressed. Then downstairs for his milk, upstairs to read a book, then count as he brushes his teeth. Then we both put some cocoa butter lotion on our hands, go back to his room, say a prayer, talk about three special things that happened today and talk about what’s going to happen tomorrow.
7:35 p.m.: Back downstairs. Give the cats their treats and night time food. Bring up the last load of laundry from the basement, go into the living room to fold it while continuing to watch Project Runway (same episode) and wait for Knox to wake up for his final feeding of this Monday.
8:00 p.m.: Done cleaning up and can finally sit down!
8:07 p.m.: Rye tells me over the monitor that his door opened by itself, and can I come and please close it?
8:12 p.m.: After I am back downstairs, Rye says he has to pee. I take him to the bathroom again, and tell him this will be the last time I come in tonight. We blow his nose one more time for good measure.
8:30 p.m.: Josh texts that he’s on his way home. I wake up Knox to feed him again.
8:50 p.m.: Project Runway is over—Dexter went home! Josh gets home, Knox is done feeding. We talk while Josh unloads for the day and giggle with Knox.
9:10 p.m.: Take Knox upstairs, tag team putting him to bed.
9:20 p.m.: Feeling good that Knox won’t need a feeding until at least 2 a.m. (or 3 a.m. if I’m lucky), and I create a new skinny cocktail: almond cashew milk with pumpkin spice Kahlua. Delicious! Consumed in a very small quantity.
9:28 p.m.: Sit down to view the latest episode of PBS’s “Poldark.”
10:03 p.m.: Check to see how much show is left, which is 18 minutes, so decide to go for it.
10:21 p.m.: Show finished, take all glasses and plates to kitchen, then show Josh the video I shot of Rye’s Thanksgiving parade. Marvel at how grown-up Rye looks, and how tall, standing next to his peers.
10:34 p.m.: Upstairs, brush teeth, get in bed to read a little more of “The Glass Castle” before sleeping.
10:53 p.m.: Lights out. Dead to the world. Day over.

So there you have it, if you made it this far—a full day. It was a good day. This must have been how Ice Cube felt when he wrote “It Was a Good Day”…

Monday, October 24, 2016

Giving my best

Rye is a good kid, but he gets on my nerves so much more than he should.
The things he’s doing are pretty innocent—like asking “Why?” after every single thing I tell him, including the answer to every question. (Rye: “Why are we going this way?” Me: “Because we’re parked over here.” Rye: “Why?”) Or insisting we have the same conversation over and over, throughout the day, every day. (Rye: “Which of these road signs is your favorite?” Me: “The yield sign, because it means you only have to stop if another car is coming the other way.” Rye: “Why?” Me: “I just told you why.” Rye: “Why can’t the Speed Limit 55 be your favorite?”) He’s also SO SLOW. At everything, whether from disobedience or dilly-dallying. I’d take walks more often, but it takes him 10 minutes to go two blocks, and you guessed it, he asks the same questions while walking these two blocks every time. (“Why is that stop sign twisted? Why are those two houses together? Why is that sidewalk whiter than the other sidewalk?”)
His words are like an ocean, and each repetition is a wave that keeps knocking into me, pulling the sands of patience out below my feet. This instability leads to me snapping at times, and internal cursing (“get your ass out of the car” is a common internal refrain as he gets out of the car seat and just stands on the edge of the inside of the car, staring into space, as I lug Knox’s car seat around, with the diaper bag, and whatever stuff Rye brought home from preschool while Rye seems to be studying the air like a sea captain trying to determine which direction the non-existent wind is coming from). Sometimes I feel justified in my minor outbursts, but then when Josh is home and parenting while I’m doing dishes or some other housework nearby, I see how much better he handles all these three-year-old behaviors. He returns a question with another question. (Josh: “Well why do you think we closed the windows?” Rye: “Because it’s getting cold?” Josh: “Exactly.”) He diffuses Rye’s stubbornness with silliness. And he encourages Rye to move along at a faster pace by challenging him in fun ways.
And I am reminded that I am NOT the fun parent in this family. More often than not, I’m the grouchy, overly-tired, busy mom who is counting down the hours until Rye’s bedtime. I wonder when Rye will grow out of this phase, and I don’t feel bad about wanting him to grow up faster. (When he's four he can slow down again.)
Still, there’s a tinge of guilt about feeling like I’m a mean mom. (Though considering he lives in a house full of toys, with a stay-at-home mom at his beck and call, making awesome meals that he won’t eat and then letting him eat apple and peanut butter instead, with very little chores expected of him and no physical abuse, I know I’m not REALLY a mean mom, just not as fun of a mom as I wish I could be.)
But in one night of exhaustion I had this golden nugget of a thought: “It’s hard to give your best when you’re giving your all.”
On most days, we’re together for all 12 hours of his wake time. Subtract three hours from that on days he has preschool, and an hour for days when I go to the gym. Otherwise, it’s the “Rye and Carrie Show, now featuring Knox.” Josh has been working 12 hour shifts lately, so on the days he works he sees Rye for about half an hour before leaving. On his off days, he always tries to schedule some Rye and Daddy time, but for the most part, I’m still the primary parent. As Rye once asked as I was getting ready to leave the house for a doctor’s appointment, “Is Daddy going to babysit me?”
I am giving Rye (and Knox) my all, and unfortunately for them, that means the good and the bad. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” as the saying goes, but with Rye there is no absence, merely respites. My heart still grows fonder, but the growth rate of my impatience and exhaustion are giving my heart a run for its money.
The questions, the attitude, the rudeness, the potty talk, the screaming temper tantrums — hopefully these are all just a phase that will be gone or at least decreased in the next few months. I can withstand this.
I’m all in. 

I have no back-up plan.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What has two thumbs, two kids, and a new (used) SUV? This gal!

So Knox is 10 weeks old, and I haven’t written a post yet about life with our newest addition. He is awesome! I’m going to do some quick baby bragging—so if this is not your thing, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. Here are some of the ways in which Knox is awesome: he was holding up his own head at a week old. He GAINED weight before leaving the hospital and so impressed his pediatrician at his 1-week appointment that he told us we could skip the 1-month appointment and just bring him for a 2-month appointment. He was only waking twice through the night from 2 weeks old, and cut that down to one feeding at night around 4 a.m. at 8 weeks old. At his 2-month appointment, the doctor put him on his tummy to see what he would do, and he held himself propped up on his arms, head up, for about 10 seconds before he started to lower down to his tummy. The doctor said that’s a 4-month-old’s trait. Oh, and he has the CUTEST smiles, which he happily shares after making eye contact with you when you’re smiling at him. He also just started giggling, but he makes you work for it, which I respect. And while some babies scream during diaper changes, he loves them. He’s a keeper.
But back to me. Just like you never know what life will be like when you go from no kids to 1 kid, it’s really impossible to know what going from 1 to 2 will be like. Thankfully, our transition has been really smooth. Rye is a great older brother, he hasn’t been showing any jealousy or regression, but he does get a little more demanding about trying to get Josh’s and my attention. But for the most part, I feel like our challenges with him are typical 3-year-old issues, not related to sudden big-brotherism. Personally, I had to adjust to sleeping in 3-hour stretches, now 5-hour stretches, but it was way easier this time than when I went through it with Rye. Running errands with the two is still difficult, but now that Rye is in preschool three days a week, I try to plan ahead and take just one child at a time, or go shopping by myself when Josh is off and can keep both of them. There’s even less “me time” than there was before, but once you realize this is just for a season, you don’t mourn the loss of that time as much.
As I had been hoping to do since the spring, we bought an SUV! I really wanted a Honda Pilot, since we wanted the third row of seating available and I’m a Honda loyalist (I have owned three Civics). Josh wanted us to try out Toyota’s Highlander, but after just doing a side-by-side comparison of the Highlander and Pilot while at a dealership, it was obvious that the Pilot is bigger and by my standards, has a more commonsense dashboard and better cup holders (yes, these are the things I care about in a vehicle). While Josh was angling for the Toyota for its “decreased road noise” and more comfortable seats, he agreed that the Pilots seemed nicer and we focused our search specifically on used Pilots, from 2008 and up, under $22,000. We test drove two, almost test drove two more, and were about to make an offer on one listed for $18,000 when Josh had dinner with his old boss and told him we were about to buy a 2010 Pilot. His boss asked if we would be interested in seeing his 2007 Highlander Hybrid with less than 100,000 miles before we made the purchase, and Josh said, “sure, why not?”
Josh went to check it out the next day, and I got a chance to test drive it by myself for about an hour the day after that. My first impression was that it was so much smaller than the Pilot. The 2007 was still part of the former design, and was even smaller than the modern Highlanders, feeling more like a slightly bigger Subaru Outback than like the beast that the Pilot is. But I liked the way it drove — the steering was loose, it had nice bounce to it, and even though it was all-wheel drive, it eagerly coasted, something that Josh’s all-wheel drive BMW did not do. The downsides: It was nearly a decade old already, it looked like it had been someone else’s “family car” for a decade (think gum wrappers and spilled soda stains), the dashboard was poorly designed and it had a tape deck (yes, in 2007, Toyota was still using tape decks!) but no auxiliary port for iPods, and no back-up camera. The Pilot we were looking at didn’t have a back-up camera either, and since we only have on-street parking at our house, requiring me to constantly parallel park, we had already looked into the cost of getting a camera installed and would have had to do that anyway.
Oh, and it was a hybrid, which I was pretty excited about because I’ve always been an anti-big-car person, and having a hybrid relieved some of the guilt involved in making the leap to an SUV. Josh was kind of anti-hybrids, saying the gas savings would never justify the increased cost for a hybrid, plus he was worried about the cost of a replacement battery, but since this was his boss’s old vehicle, he felt better about it.
With all those factors in mind, the biggest selling point, and what tipped the scales of favor from the Pilot to the Highlander, is that we got it for about half the price of the Pilot. Yeah. The only caveat was that I had to wait a month for the former owner’s daughter to go away to college since she was still driving the vehicle, but since that was going to happen before our family vacation in September, it was no big deal.
The former owners even got it detailed for me! As I sat in the driver’s seat for the first time as the new primary driver, the inside was gorgeous, with only a few traces of its former family’s history left behind. There are a couple of big scuffs on the inside, a couple of dents on the outside, but that really doesn’t bother me; if anything, it takes the pressure off of me to keep it pristine, and considering we now have two kids and it’s now our “family car,” evidence of our family adventures are sure to leave their marks in the future.

I forgot to suck in my stomach.
One of the things I think about a lot these days is how much my life has changed in the past 10 years. At 26, I don’t want to say I was a “career woman” because I think that has a strong connotation of ambition, whereas to me, my job was just about doing something that I loved doing without any hopes of escalating any higher, and I wasn’t even thinking about having kids. Five years ago, I was tormented by infertility and wondering if we’d ever have a child added to our family. A year ago, I was wrecked by a miscarriage and questions of whether we should ever even try again. And today, by God’s grace, I’m a mother of two, driving around town in yoga pants in my mom-mobile, holding doors open for other moms out on the town running errands with their littles, just trying to make it through our routine of daily life, even if each week feels the same, day in and day out. Compared to all the complications and adult interactions I had back when I was working full time, everything I’m dealing with these days feels very small, but it’s still precious.
Just like our little Knox. 

Birth announcement, with photo by Jessica Lyric Photography

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Racial tension

As I saw the news of this month’s two new cases of police officers needlessly killing black men, I cringed with thoughts of “can this really be happening again?” I read the words of lots of friends on Facebook about the cases, their venting and their prayers and sharing of news stories, and while my heart ached at the divisive situation our country is in, I couldn’t find the right way to put my feelings into words.
But that doesn’t let me off the hook. The issue is too big to ignore.
I imagine that if I was a teenager in the 60s, I might not have been brave enough to take part in Freedom Summer, but I would have taken part in a local sit-in. I would have spoken up on my beliefs of civil rights, and wanted to be a part of the change that needed to happen.
And as uncomfortable as it is to talk about race relations 50 years later and now in my own lifetime, I don’t think they are any less important. To be silent is to support the status quo. Not that I think putting my opinion on Facebook is going to change the world, but it’s something. So while I’d rather share pictures of my awesome tomato plants or tell a cute Rye story on Facebook, I’ve held back until I could make at least some statement to recognize these significant and disturbing events that have occurred. And yet I’ve been at a loss for words.
So let me start by sharing some of the best things that I’ve read this week, from friends on Facebook.

This poem by Nikki Giovanni was shared by my sister-in-law Julie:

I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn’t
And she scared me
And I smashed her
I don’t think
I’m allowed
To kill something
Because I am

Wow. I’m just going to let that sink in.

And my friend Katie reposted a quote from Christian writer Stephen Mattson:
“Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Samaritan lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Children’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Jewish lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”
Even though Jesus loves everyone, even to the point of dying for their sins, he went out of his way to intentionally help specific groups of people — the alienated, mistreated, and those facing injustice.
So saying “Black Lives Matter” and participating in a movement seeking justice, positive reform, and empowerment is one of the most Christ-like things we can do.”

I haven’t gotten on board with the “#Blacklivesmatter” phrasing of our current racial situation because I don’t want to believe that that’s how far backwards we have to go before we can start moving forward. It feels one step removed from #Blacksarehumanstoo, which might have been the slogan of abolitionists in the 19th century if they had used hashtags.
But I’m not black. I don’t know what black people in my community and country experience because of their skin color and the stereotypes and prejudices that non-blacks attach to them because of that color. The only way I can judge the level of racial discrimination in my community is by hearing what level of ignorant, racist speech other non-blacks publicly express or share in my presence because they for some reason believe that our shared white skin means we both “get it.”
As an outsider on multi-racial interactions, growing up in a county that was 86 percent white (and a high school that was 99 percent white) and now living in a ZIP-code that is 91 percent white (not kidding, I looked up the census data), I always thought that racism that was dying out more and more with each generation. People of my grandparents’ generation would loudly and unembarrassedly say racist things; people of my parents’ generation would say fewer things, in a hushed tone while looking over their shoulders; and among my peers anyone who was overtly racist was always the odd one out, and someone I stopped interacting with. But now I realize it’s not enough to just ignore racism, it has to be confronted, and not just by minorities and those who suffer from it.
Part of me wants to write this whole issue off as a problem with cops. I in no way want to say I’m anti-cops or want to paint all cops with a broad paint stroke labeling them as overly-aggressive and racist. But that said, I generally don’t trust cops. When I get pulled over, I keep my hands on the steering wheel and don’t reach for the glove compartment until the officer is at my window, my window is down, and I inform them I have to get my car’s registration out of the glove compartment. And I’m a 5-foot-tall white woman driving a well-kept Honda Civic! But you never know, maybe I look like someone this officer has dealt with in the past or a current suspect. I’m not taking any chances.
And not knowing at all what it’s like to be a minority, I know for sure that if my skin was even two shades darker, “suntanned” instead of “nude” as the hosiery companies like to call it, I would be a compliant robot when stopped by the cops. Which is not to say I put any blame on the victims—only that I believe the threat to them from cops is real.
How have things gotten this way? Are the cops responsible for these shootings just looking for a reason to shoot a black man, or are they that frightened? Are cops being trained in the liberal use of lethal force? If cops are that afraid/threatened, can’t they just wear body armor like this is Fallujah or something?
So I have no answers, nor really organized thoughts, but I want to remain active in this conversation, even if I’m not the one doing the talking. I think everyone will benefit if we all do a little more listening than talking.
And a final bright spot on Facebook, posted by my friend Jamie, from St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer:
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Color study

Back in January and February, when I was eagerly awaiting my 20-week ultrasound and to learn the gender of Baby Knauer, I started fixating on the nursery and what colors I would assign to this baby’s room and bedding and probably, subconsciously, future clothing purchases.
The baby will be moving into our smallest, or as I like to think of it, coziest, bedroom, located on the north side of the house over the foyer, which for the past year or so has been a guest bedroom, left vacant 360 nights out of the year. The paint color was a smoky blue-gray, chosen when the room was originally designated in 2009 as our “study,” which to us meant a room for a love seat, old TV stand and new flat-screen TV, decorated with the more intimate family photos and our framed college degrees. It’s a nice, masculine color, and helps balance the upstairs, which has two light green rooms (the sage playroom/office and Rye’s spring green bedroom) and two blues (the smoky blue-gray and the master bedroom’s airy blue). My dad had already offered his time to do the painting in whatever we wanted, so all I had to do was make up my mind and dust.
If the baby was a girl, I hadn’t made up my mind yet, but was thinking something in the lilac family or maybe even a cheery pastel coral sorbet. For a boy, I wasn’t quite sure. We already had enough green rooms, I didn’t want to do a neutral, and a baby boy blue was too close to the master bedroom’s blue. I turned it over in my mind, but decided I would look at rugs first and let that be the first color choice of the room to be followed by choosing a paint color. So when, on Feb. 29, we found out we were having another boy, my next step in decorating was already set in motion, and the rug search began.
I’ve written about my love of rugs before when I was choosing the playroom rug, which you can read/view pictures of HERE. So I won’t go into detail about that. But I must say that buying a gender neutral/not too adult/slightly masculine rug is not easy. I’m not one for buying a rug designed specifically for kids. I want to have the ability to roll this rug up and move it to another room in a few years if I decide I have a better place for it or just want to change my mind.
So what I came up with was a color scheme of blue, off-white and green, and looked at different shades of blues and greens and different not-too-floral patterns. And here is what I chose:

Since computer screens can alter the color tone, I’ll describe this blue as just a tinge of turquoise and the green as sort of an Aegean sea green. And with that rug chosen and my accent colors set, I decided that the smoky blue room was just as it should be, and there was no need to paint it another color.
Which was a difficult decision for me to make. One of my biggest reactions to learning we are having a second son was wanting to honor the second child as much as our first, and I was concerned about how to do that without the excitement of having a child of the opposite sex. I know it seems silly, but I grew up in a family with just two kids, one girl and one boy, 7 years apart, which meant we both grew up with the pleasure of being mostly treated like an only child who never had to wear spit-up stained onesies or play with semi-broken toys. Maybe kids from big families don’t think about those things, but I remember thinking about that in the context of my friends who had multiple siblings, so I’m guessing they thought about it too. I wanted to take this baby’s bedroom as seriously as I had taken Rye’s. But there was no clear color I wanted to paint this room that would be different, so painting for the sake of painting seemed just silly. The rug was rolled out, the baby furniture moved in, and while we still need to take down our DVD collection and college degrees, this room is about 75 percent of the way of being ready for Boy #2.

But I love color. I couldn’t relinquish the desire to pick a new color and transform a room on a grand scale for the measly cost of about $28. And so I set my sights on the master bedroom.
This was kind of silly too. I really loved my bedroom color, it’s such a happy blue that every time I looked at Olympic paint section at Lowe’s and try to pick a different color, I picked this one every time.
But change can be good. Even if egg custard is my favorite Italian ice/snowball flavor, I don’t order it every time because it gets old and doesn’t taste as rich anymore. And the same can happen with a color choice. I’ve now looked at this color for 7 years, and it was just a shade different from the color of my bedroom in our previous apartment, where we lived for almost 6 years.
Thinking about how it looks like my life going forward will be me versus 3 males, I decided I deserve a sanctuary of femaleness. No, I would not subject Josh to sharing a pink bedroom (pink is not in my top 3 colors, though I am partial to a ballet pink color that I think looks very good with my skin tone). But I wanted purple. Or rather, a purplish-blue, a periwinkle. I looked at 5 different companies of paint, even calling my parents and asking them to go to their local hardware store and pick out a dozen paint chip cards for me to compare, but as I pored over my stockpile, nothing was quite right. So I pursued a silvery purple, which designers in magazines and television programs are always trying to convince us are still a very masculine but soft option. Josh disagreed. And he continuously reminded me of the purple bedroom at our previous house, which he called “the Crayola room,” and it made me second guess every purple paint chip. So I decided to add something totally different to the mix—a deep blue-green. I can’t say where this desire came from, but while at Home Depot I had seen a paint chip of this color in the Ralph Lauren section that I thought was stunning, and reminded me of a glamorous study in a mansion, and then I picked a few similar colors by other brands to see if I really liked it or not.
Having accumulated a giant envelope of paint chips, I decided to take my time with it and really study the colors. I started with picking out 21 paint chips, each with the adjoining paint colors on the same card where applicable, and hung them up on the north side wall of our bedroom, which gets the most attractive morning light through the windows without any indoor lamps on. I stared at them for a few minutes before getting out of bed in the morning, before going to bed at night, and while walking through my room to fetch a sweater or socks or restock the toilet paper.

About a week later, I cut off the samples on those cards that I was not seriously considering, which removed the distraction of having so many colors and of thinking I liked certain colors when really I only liked them better than the other ones on the same card. This took me down from 21 individual colors I had been looking at to just 11.

Another week later, I moved the color chips to the room’s east wall, which gets the best afternoon sunlight via the bathroom windows. And they looked really different there than they had on the other wall. This move also changed the way they looked with electric lighting, since they were now more influenced by the incandescent lights overhead in our ceiling fan (which project a yellow-y light that I’m not very happy about) which we use when walking through the room to fetch something, as compared to the CFL bulbs in our reading lamps, which is what we use most often when spending time in the room.

And then I got stuck. I kind of even stopped noticing the paint chips. It was Josh who brought it up next with “so can I throw these paint chips away?” (He meant the ones that had been removed from the wall and were covering the top of my bookcase, not the ones on the wall. The answer was still “no.”) Which he followed up with “so are we going to paint the room or not?”
Here was my problem: the blues were too close to the blues I already had, the purples weren’t purple enough to make me happy, and the blue-greens were just so dark that they had big potential for being regretted. I was really on the fence about whether to pursue a paint change or just ask my dad to use his offered time to build me a raised bed for my vegetable garden instead.

But Josh expressed regret that he had been a bit of a sour-puss on the whole color change, and encouraged me to go ahead and just pick what would make me happy (granted that it wasn’t Crayola purple again). So I decided to go forward boldly with a blue green. At least, sample-wise. I told Josh I was willing to make a $5 venture rather than take a $28 risk, and we'd see how it turned out. And I studied my two favorite blue-greens again, and settled on one to have a sample made from the card: Kingfisher blue from Behr, but I had it made in Olympic paint because that’s the brand I like.

Kingfisher Blue is the lower sample,
top is Ralph Lauren's Blue Douglas.

The result: awful. It was way more teal, way more Caribbean or margarita bar-looking than I wanted to be. Even in the jar I could tell this was wrong, but I gave it a try, painting a 7-inch square on each wall in the bedroom. Three days later, I decided to go for the runner-up, the original color that had caught my eye, Ralph Lauren's Blue Douglas…only I had lost the sample card. This was pretty frustrating, because I did not want to go to Home Depot to pick up a card, just to drive over to Lowe's and have them make it for me in Olympic. So I decided to wing it, which was pretty ridiculous considering I had been studying the color samples on my wall for about 2 months. I had noticed that when they made my last sample, they had been able to type the paint name into their computer and the program recognized it and made the sample from the formula, rather than trying to use a scanner to color match it. I hoped this would work for the Ralph Lauren paint as well. Unfortunately, it didn’t. They couldn’t find Blue Douglas in their system, and I decided to just give the Lowe's brands a look one more time and see if I could find anything close, and I chose Valspar’s Firmament. It seemed very similar to the Ralph Lauren color, though not quite as dark, but not too happy-looking either, like the way the Kingfisher Blue had let me down. They mixed me up a sample and I painted it on the four walls again that night.
As it went on, it looked really dark, and more green than blue, which is not quite what I was going for. But as it dried, and as the different shades of light hit it, I thought “this could be it.” It wasn’t the color I had dreamed of, but after many weeks of experimentation, I thought this offered the “refuge” feeling that I was going for, even if it wasn’t going to be a feminine color. Josh liked it too, but was a little nervous about how dark it was. But I pointed out that with Rye being an early riser and a new baby on the way, I think we are more likely to want a darker room that aids every extra minute of sleep we can get rather than a color designed to help us wake up naturally with the morning light. I bought the paint two days later, and my dad was able to come over the next week and paint the room.
So here it is: my non sky-blue bedroom. This color tells me "go ahead and take a nap" and "don't worry about it, Josh has everything under control." 
I like it. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On babies and body shapes

I was napping, or rather trying to, on a rainy Thursday afternoon last week after having a dreadful sleep the previous night that had left me quite groggy and muddle-minded. Part of the source of the evening’s poor sleep was the awkwardness of my new body shape—my torso feels like I’m wearing a barrel for a shirt, like some image I must remember from an old movie or cartoon—leading me to toss and turn in search of a comfortable position. And part of the problem was the movements of the baby, who was clearly tossing and turning himself.
A month ago I was describing this baby’s movements as a gyroscope, spinning internally in a rhythm that was out of sync with my external movements. But at 28 weeks (and officially third trimester!), this baby feels like a child that could be born any day now, and quite possibly may already be planning his escape, seeking less cramped quarters. While I’ve always described the early movements of a baby in utero as feeling like a fantail goldfish, gracefully and slowly moving about, this baby has somehow grown into a sea monster, bumping those bony Knauer knees and elbows in three directions at once.

When I lie on my side, as it is the only semi-comfortable position these days, it feels as if he’s practicing crawling, and the slippery sides of my uterus are like a treadmill that he keeps him crawling and crawling in place. I wish that I had a glass panel in my torso so I could watch his movements, for I am sure I would see him doing a full body stretch at times, his toes pointed down, his arms over his head and taking a big yawn. (Sleep, little one, you’re not missing anything yet.)
To be clear, these are not complaints, merely observations. Each movement is a precious reassurance that this baby is alive and kicking, literally.
We have not settled on a name yet for Baby Boy Knauer #2, which is kind of funny, because Josh and I are full of great names. It’s the committing to a name, for quite possibly our last child, that is hard. Personally, I don’t want to give up the brainstorming, comparing, and trying-on of names yet because it’s so fun. What if we don’t get to do this again?
While my little bruiser pummeled me from inside as I tried to nap, I tried to think of what kind of name would fit a child that I feel is going to be so big and clearly strong. As of now, I feel that his “spirit animal” would be a bull dog. Perhaps he will not have Josh’s thin, tall frame, as Rye seems to have acquired, but may rather receive my family’s squatter, but strong shape. If you think you know what your child is going to look like, would that influence your name choice? (Note, I don’t believe in “spirit animals” as a spiritual thing, but as a pop culture concept, the idea makes me laugh.)
For a while I was nicknaming him “Maximus,” which clearly means “large” but is also the middle name of Haloti Maximus Ngata, son of former Ravens defense player Haloti Ngata, who was delivered by one of the doctors at my ob/gyn practice. I know this because they have a birth announcement with the baby’s name and photo (no kidding, he was huge) on one of their bulletin boards. Josh and Rye call the baby “Toot-Toot,” which is Rye’s suggestion for a baby name, with “toot” meaning fart in our house. Yeah, classic big brother rank already asserting itself.
No surprise, but neither name is on our actual list. But now I am trying to think of other bulldog-like names. Brutus? No, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh would like that one (his list has previously included other Roman names, like Octavius and Augustus). Kingsley? I like it as a nod to Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic,” but would not seriously want to name our child Kingsley. Before this pregnancy Josh and I had considered the name Royal, also from Wes Anderson and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” but we tossed it because we knew everyone would call our sons “Rye and Roy,” and “Roy” is not as charming (or regal) as Royal.
I think I may need to just wait until we see this baby and see what name feels best. Not that I think I’ll be able to predict his adult body shape by what he looks like in the first few hours of life (Josh was a gigantic baby himself, and look how he turned out), but without the perfect name clicking right now, I’m leaving the options open.
And as for my own body, I will be excited when I get my normal body shape back (see above description of feeling like I’m wearing a barrel for a shirt). I once had a student in youth group who said she classified everyone’s body type as either a noodle or a marshmallow. I stupidly asked which one I was, and she replied marshmallow. Granted, I was probably 7 pounds heavier than I wanted to be at the time and was wearing my knee-length puffer coat which Josh lovingly calls my “homeless coat,” so I probably did look like a marshmallow. My feelings weren’t hurt. It wasn’t a dig, merely an answer to how I would be classified in her system. I knew I wasn’t the noodle; it was stupid to ask. My response took some time; I don’t remember if I came up with it later that night or waited until I saw her the next week, but I proposed a third category: the Coke bottle. Now I am truly a marshmallow, and oh how I long to be a Coke bottle again. Not even for vanity reasons. I want to be able to walk faster than 3 miles an hour on the treadmill, and to get out of bed without an awkward roll that requires a freeze once I land on my feet to regain my balance. I want to be able to reach the cereal in our upper cabinet without having to stand sideways to avoid the countertop digging into my bump. And sleep, oh how I miss a good night of sleep.
Before this pregnancy, I was 1.5 pounds from my ideal weight. Scratch that—make that my ideal 35-year-old weight. Without divulging the target number, I’ll just say that without working my butt off, I tend to be 5 to 7 pounds over that number. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but you try being 5’1/2”. Every bit shows. Particularly when you’re letting it slide.
I’ve put on about 20 pounds so far this pregnancy, and there’s 12 weeks left (or maybe 11, fingers crossed), and supposedly at the end you and the baby put the weight on the fastest. But with Rye, I put the weight on the fastest in the middle and then slowed down toward the end. Plus my last two months will be summer, and I have a hard enough time wanting to eat when it’s hot out and I’m not pregnant and don’t have a baby taking up so much of my stomach and lung space.
But I don’t really care about the weight so much as my shape. And I know I’ll get it back, and that it will take a while. I lost my Rye pregnancy weight, all 35 pounds of it, in 5 months, but it took another 6 months or so before I was truly my “shape” again. It’s even kind of amazing that our bodies can go back to what they once were. I’ve heard the second time it’s even harder to lose the weight, but I’m willing to take on the challenge. I just need Rye and Toot-Toot to let me sleep enough to have enough energy to push it at the gym. 

Josh and I on Christmas 2012, when I was about 30 weeks pregnant.

Josh and I today, at 28.5 weeks pregnant. Since this is a selfie,
there is a little distortion, but I think they're pretty close.

Monday, March 7, 2016

"I'm still pregnant" is the new "I'm pregnant"

    So you might have noticed that I’m sharing the news of my pregnancy a little late. Well, it hasn’t been an easy journey. Last year, I publically shared the news of my pregnancy at about 16 weeks, and just a week and a half later, I had a miscarriage. And since I had told everyone about the pregnancy, I had to tell everyone about the miscarriage.

This time we told just a few people at a time. First, it was our Bible study friends, because we wanted ourselves and that tiny baby covered in prayer. At Thanksgiving (6 weeks), we told our immediate families. Then as I started showing (11 weeks), I started telling more friends that I was seeing in person, then even more people who couldn’t help but stare at my stomach and wonder (13 weeks).

At 14 weeks, you’re officially in the second trimester, where the risk of miscarriage drops to about 1 percent. That figure should make most people feel good and “safe” and OK with going public. But since I had already had a miscarriage beyond that point, I didn’t feel safe. Part of me wanted to tell all my friends, such as the ones who I’m more than just Facebook friends with but don’t see on a regular basis in real life. But another part of me felt like “if I wait, that’s one less person I’ll have to tell bad news to, should it turn out that way.” After all, it is much easier for both sides of the conversation when someone can say “I’m so sorry you went through that” instead of “I’m so sorry you are going through this.”

For people who did know, and would ask “How are you feeling?” every time we got together, the answer was really complicated.

Up until 8 weeks, I felt really hopeful. It was as if my brain was divided into two parts, the happy part that was all “yay, babies!” and the “rational” side that was all “maybe a baby.” But the happy side was winning.

Then at 8 weeks, I started to get more nervous. I hadn’t been to the doctor yet, and it wasn’t that I was worried that there wouldn’t be a heartbeat; it was more like I was worried that the appointment would give me a false security, and then if I did lose the baby, I’d be wrecked (as if I wouldn’t be wrecked in any circumstance that led to losing another baby). I reached out to my prayer friends, who got me through the day, and at night while lying in bed, unable to fall asleep from worry, I would pray to God. I remember specifically one night in December feeling extremely worked up (which is really unlike me, I am not a worrier by nature) and I prayed: “Jesus, I need you now, if I'm going to get any sleep, please give me your rest.” And it was answered prayer in a way that I have experienced very few times in my life. Immediately the cycle of worried thoughts stopped, replaced by Christmas songs, and I fell asleep within minutes. All night I dreamed dreams of being a reporter and doing interviews with people who had stories with crazy circumstances, but how God had worked it out for good. I had three dreams in a row like that, but I forgot the details of each as soon as it was over. (I usually have extremely boring dreams, so experiencing these was quite remarkable, even though I couldn’t remember the specifics of the dream.)

We had the first doctor’s appointment at 8 ½ weeks, and because of our ridiculous insurance policy, I’m not allowed to see a doctor and an ultrasound technician on the same day. We only saw my doctor that day, but she used the little handheld ultrasound unit (yay for technology!) and verified, yes, there was a living baby in there, head, body, heart, and little appendages. Five days later Josh and I went back for the real ultrasound on the big machine, and the ultrasound technician easily found the baby, measured him and confirmed my July 22 due date, but had a hard time getting the baby to move. I kind of started freaking out, because it seemed really important to the tech to get the baby to move and she kept poking my uterus and then made me roll back and forth a bunch of times until we finally got the baby to respond. We did see something really amazing on the ultrasound though—I had a blood vessel right under the baby’s head, and my blood flow pulsing through it was actually rocking the baby’s head up and down, as if he was in a rocker. That was a slight consolation about why the baby was so hard to wake up.

At 11 weeks, I went for a second doctor’s appointment, this time with my mom because I couldn’t get an appointment that would fit Josh’s schedule. This time the baby was easier to see on the little handheld unit, with fully sprouted arms, legs, hands and feet. Again, the baby was sleeping, but after a few minutes of the doctor moving the ultrasound wand all around, the baby did wake up and wiggle a little. But the doctor said she got a clear look at the neck and it looked good and she could see the nose bones, which apparently is a really good sign developmentally at that stage. It was just enough reassurance to get me through the next week and a half.

At our 13-week appointment (Pause: I have an amazing doctor, who as you can see, was letting me come every two weeks instead of every four weeks. She knew I needed the reassurance of seeing that baby and she told me I could come back even on her lunch breaks if I was just having a bad day, but I kept it to my biweekly appointments), Josh came with me again and we saw the baby on the handheld unit, wiggling up a storm. He had crossed, then uncrossed his feet, long legs (I wonder where those came from?) and was rolling over, giving us all kinds of visuals. I left the appointment feeling elated, and quickly texted everyone who was praying for me and my nervousness the great news.

Part of me wanted to tell all my friends at that point, but the part inside of me that’s still sad, still guarded, over-road the excitement. After all, the last baby died somewhere between 14 and 17 weeks. Granted, the only time we saw an ultrasound of that baby was at the 8-week appointment, so we never knew anything was unhealthy with the child until I was spotting and panicking in the doctor’s office. But then again, how much could the doctor really tell this time by looking at the ultrasound on a screen the size of my iPhone?

In mid-January, when I hit 14 weeks, Josh’s work schedule for late February and early March started getting busy. I knew I would be eligible for the anatomy scan ultrasound, where the technician really checks the baby out, looks at all the visible organs and does in-depth measurements, identifies the gender and gives a sort of “all clear,” at 19 weeks, which would be Feb. 26. While you usually need the doctor to order the anatomy scan, I called my doctor’s secretary, explained my husband’s work schedule limitations to her, and she let me make the anatomy scan ultrasound appointment for Feb. 29. Leap Day! It felt like a good sign, like maybe we’d have such good news we’d be “leaping” for joy. (I apologize for the pun.)

At 15 ½ weeks, Josh and I went back and saw my doctor for a regular appointment. The office was running pretty late that day, and the doctor only did the Doppler to listen for the heartbeat, which she found immediately, and explained that the extra weird sounds we were also hearing was the baby moving around. And she looked me in the eye and said “I think this is a completely normal, healthy baby.” And it was like my soul sighed with relief.

While I had entered the office wanting one more appointment before the ultrasound—which would feel like an eternity at 3 ½ weeks away, I didn’t ask for it. It was time to let go of my pseudo control. An ultrasound can’t save a baby, it can only give me 12 hours of reassurance (oh me, of little faith). And then the worry was likely to come right back. I let it go, then Josh and I went to Panera to buy a gift card for our awesome doctor who had gone out of her way for us so many times already. (She also had delivered Rye during an emergency C-section, and we had never officially thanked her for that, so a Panera gift card didn’t really seem quite fitting enough for a thank-you, but it was a gesture.)

The first week went by OK. The next week got harder. I still couldn’t feel the baby, and the anniversary point for when I had found out I had lost the last baby, at 17 weeks and 3 days, was coming up. I asked my friends to cover me in prayer that day, which turned out to be a snowstorm and Rye and I were stuck in the house. That did not help—no distractions for me, and all my energy went into keeping Rye and I from going crazy with more cabin fever. I’m not going to lie, it was a sucky day. I didn’t feel God’s reassurance, or the baby moving, and I just had to continue to wait.

But just three days later, I did feel the baby move. Determining those first kicks and moves from regular bodily functions can be hard, but these sensations were clear—and clearly coming from right underneath my C-section scar. I cried.

And the motions continued to pop up every day, throughout the day, first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. Thank you, Jesus! I thought the last week leading up to ultrasound day would be the hardest, but it wasn’t. My schedule was so full that I had a visitor every day but one (a day of much needed rest and sweatpants), and with my baby’s movements, it was like I had a new friend keeping me company internally throughout the day. While I think my natural face that I walk around with is a horrible, sullen-looking expression (as evidenced by every single photo where I’m not told to “smile”), I now really was smiling.

And three days before the ultrasound, I texted two friends who know the depths of what I’ve been through a cheerful “Been feeling the baby consistently for a week—overwhelmed with feelings of ‘this is really happening!’” With tears in my eyes.

On Feb. 29, we headed down to my Owings Mills doctor’s office and made great time, getting there at 10 on the dot. I knew we were the first ultrasound of the day, and my heart was racing as we waited to get back there. I hadn’t been able to eat breakfast, but had an apple in the car so as not to pass out during my appointment (and to give that baby a boost of energy too so we could see him move).

Still, the minutes ticked by. Despite being the first appointment, we still didn’t get into the ultrasound room until 20 minutes after our scheduled time. The ultrasound tech was very pleased, getting great shots of the baby’s spine, head, leg and heart rather quickly. But when it came time for the gender reveal, baby would not cooperate. He was moving, but in weird ways. We even saw him do ¾ of a somersault, and the technician started chanting “do it, do it!” and all I could think was “don’t, don’t, the cord!” Finally though she caught a flicker of the crotch that we didn’t catch, and said “ready to find out?” and we said yes, and she showed us the freeze frame of that tiny little penis. I smiled. Whereas with Rye I had been 98% sure I was having a girl, this time around I was 95% sure it was a boy. While we both wanted to know the gender, we had already learned that this baby was looking healthy, and that was what mattered more than anything.

The ultrasound tech was now running pretty behind schedule, so while she told us the baby was measuring 5 days ahead of due date and probably weighed 12 ounces, we didn’t find out the percentiles or anything like that. I figured the doctor would tell us that since we were supposed to see her next, but this doctor (not the same one I had already seen four times) had apparently cancelled all her appointments for that day and I had to reschedule. Oh well, we had the news we wanted.

And so now I feel pretty reassured. We’ve seen the baby, he’s big (oy vey), and he moves all the time. We both enjoy chocolate and carbs. And ice cream. I think we’re going to get along just fine.

To everyone who learned about the pregnancy via the blog, I hope you’re not offended. Just know that I am SO HAPPY to share the good, good news with you now.