Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Owen!

One year ago today, I was in the hospital making calls to family and friends announcing the birth of our son, Owen.  There is something strange and beautiful to me about those first days in the hospital with your brand new baby.  It's so bizarre, being in this place all by yourself with this tiny little being you're all of the sudden expected to care for, even though you've only just met.  The feeling of responsibility, intimidation, nervousness and excitement is impossible to explain but in that moment there's no time to make sense of it all.  You have to hit the ground running, that's for sure!  I know a lot of people hate it, but for me both hospital experiences are two of the most special ones of my life.  I even love the crappy hospital food simply for being part of the whole experience, honestly!  That's not too hard to say about Owen's birth because the hospital here is wonderful (although the food was still wonderfully crappy) and their general philosophy is almost exactly mine.  I didn't have any conflicts or bad feelings/vibes at all.    The hospital stay in Brooklyn after Zoe's birth was not ideal and I had some struggles but what stands out in my memory the most now, almost 4 years later, is the fact that those were the first few days of the wild ride I'm on with these kids now.

I realized today that I started this blog after Owen was born, so I never documented the birth story here.  I wrote it down in a baby book, but I'd like to get it all down here too...hope you don't mind:

I was having contractions for about 24 hours, but they were pretty irregular and far apart.  I wasn't sure when things would pick up, so in the morning I told Nathan to go ahead to school for the day.  I planned to be around friends all morning because I was pretty uncomfortable.  Not the most ideal situation to be in while trying to take care of your almost-3-year-old.  I spent the first part of the morning at our apartment with my friend Jessica.  While she and I sat at my kitchen table drinking coffee, we both agreed that we didn't think it was going to happen that day.  After Jessica and I parted ways, I spent an hour or so alone while waiting for my friend Gretchen to be able to keep me company.  Not much changed, but I knew I couldn't be alone.  Whenever a contraction came, I couldn't talk or look at Zoe for fear of scaring her and she kept asking me to do things I couldn't possibly do (put me in the baby swing, Mommy!).  When I got to Gretchen's house, I sat right down at her kitchen table and tried to hold a conversation while bracing myself through a contraction every 10-15 minutes or so.  I called the midwives to tell them what was going on and to see what their advice was.  They suggested I take a walk to try and get things moving along and if I wanted to, I could go in to the office a few hours later to have them check me to see what was going on.  I told Gretchen what they had said and she and I realized (I think in the same moment) that on some level I had known that all along, but was AFRAID to "get things moving along", which was why I spent the whole morning sitting comfortably at kitchen tables.  When I did that, I was able to keep the contractions somewhat at bay.  Anyway, all of the sudden Gretchen told me she'd watch Zoe and shooed me out the door.

I had been keeping Nathan up to date via text and told him this latest news, but I still thought it was too early for him to come home.  He just said "I feel like I should be there.  I'm coming now." and about 20 minutes later, he showed up.  He walked around with me a bit and I admitted that although the contractions weren't any more regular I was feeling pretty crummy in general, which made me want to go to the midwives office right away, even though it was earlier than they'd told me to come in.  I had already called my friend Mariah, who was watching Zoe for us while we went to the hospital, and she magically showed up about a minute after I decided I wanted to go see the midwives.  Nathan and I slowly walked to the car (amusingly, one of my residents saw us and was trying to ask me something, but Nathan thankfully told them in a beautifully discreet way that it wasn't exactly a good time and they immediately backed off) and headed to the office.

The office is right across the street from the hospital and Nathan and I went back and forth in our conversation, trying to decide whether we should go to the office or straight to the emergency room.  We decided on the office at the very last minute and shuffled on into the lobby.  I waited (VERY uncomfortably) for about 10 minutes before they were able to see me and I think they could tell right away that I wasn't feeling all that great.  I guess that's because when they asked how I was feeling, I said "Not Good."  Anyway, we went back to the room where one of the midwives kindly waited for a contraction to pass before checking me.  Then she looked at me with a smile and said "You're nine centimeters.  You'd better get to the hospital!"  We all had a good (short lived) laugh and Nathan and I went outside.  We laughed at the absurdity of it all as I TEXTED my friends saying "Nine centimeters!  Going in!".  When we got across the street to the hospital, I shuffled my way into the building, praying first that I would make it to the front door, then the elevator, then the front desk, then the room.  I got to the room, put my hospital gown on and promptly burst into tears.  I think I had been holding back so much emotion all day for Zoe's sake.  I had been so afraid of scaring her that I had put on a brave face and not let anything break through.  When I finally felt secure in my little room with Nathan, my midwife and a nurse, I knew I could say and do WHATEVER THE HELL I WANTED and they will have all heard and seen it before.

After chatting a minute and getting my IV put in (I had tested positive for Group B Strep) we started filling up the tub.  As I stood next to the toilet, getting ready to step into the bath my water broke and it was like 2 trains going in opposite directions had collided and I was standing right at the point of impact.  I felt scared and overwhelmed and could not move.  I could see the toilet next to me and all I could think was "You can NOT have this baby next to the TOILET."  but I just couldn't move.  Luckily, Nathan and my midwife helped me into the room and about 15 minutes later, little Owen entered the world!  (We checked into the hospital at 4:08pm and he was born at 4:56pm!) Okay, so yes--it was only about 15 minutes of pushing but they were the most hellish 15 minutes I could ever imagine possible.  I spent the whole time helplessly wishing there was some other way and honestly didn't think I could get my heart and soul behind this gargantuan task but low and behold, I managed to push the little guy out.  Then, what followed the most hellish experience of my life was one of the most magical, euphoric ones.  Nothing can possibly compare to the joy you feel after giving birth.  I'd heard so many parents of more than one talk about how before you have two, you can't imagine how you could possibly love another being as much as you love your first born but you just do. When you have the second one, your heart somehow just opens up--wide as can be--to welcome this new beautiful addition to your family.  I loved every single person in the room and couldn't stop marveling at how cute and tiny Owen was.  Nathan and I chatted with the nurse for a long time and just floated along on our own little cloud.

The year that follows this story has been one of plenty of challenges and joys.  Owen is my little monkey and I love him more than I can almost stand sometimes.  Zoe is an awesome big sister and I somehow love her even MORE as I watch her love her brother as much as Nathan and I do.  I'm not sure how we got so lucky, but I'm not going to question it.  I'm taking the struggles, the laughter, the exhaustion, the kisses and hugs, the sleepless nights, the feeding challenges and triumphs, the smiles and ear-splitting screeches all as one incredible blessing and enjoying this moment in our lives.

Happy Birthday, Owen!  We love you SO MUCH!!


Monday, September 19, 2011


Well, this new season has brought about a lot of new adventures/challenges for our little family...mostly, Zoe actually...she started a new school year at the same place she went last year and it didn't take long for us to notice that she was not enjoying her new room as much this year.  As a matter of fact, she seemed to be pretty miserable.  For a while, I think Nathan and I sort of silently observed what was going on, waiting for the moment to come, like it did last year, when it clicked for her and she could settle in and start having fun.  But, that moment didn't seem to be coming, and Nathan and I both expressed our less than glowing opinions to each other about her new teacher, and realized it might make sense to look elsewhere.  Neither one of us thinks the school is a "bad" school, just didn't seem to suit Zoe and we didn't want to be spending money on (non-required) preschool if she wasn't even enjoying it.  So, with the encouragement and a referral from my friend Jessica, we checked out her daughter (and Zoe's BFF) Sierra's school, Children's House Preschool, and it all fell into place.  She started there practically right away, and all 3 of us are totally relieved and excited about it.  She's learning so much already and coming home with the BEST projects...the first day I picked her up, she showed me the project of the day: "The Life Cycle of a Butterfly" and explained to me how it starts as an egg on a leaf, then hatches into a caterpillar, then builds a "chrysalis" (yes, she used that word) around itself and then hatches into a butterfly.  She and I were both smiling ear to ear all the way home as she said over and over: "Mommy, I had SO much fun!  Everyone there is SO nice!!".  Her teachers even told me that she told them she didn't like her old school.  While it's completely possible she picked up the vibe from me, I was careful never to actually say she didn't like it around or to her so that was interesting to me.  Anyway--yay!

She's also taking her first ballet class at our local rec center after a few months of taking gymnastics there (which she LOVED).  She's been completely pumped about it ever since she decided to give it a try for the next session and actually ran down the hallway to get to the classroom on the first day.  We went into the studio together, sat down and met her teacher and then, as the parents were shooed out of the room, a look of sheer panic entered Zoe's face.  Something made her change her mind really quickly about this new class and she couldn't seem to stay in the room without me.  This was surprising to me because she's ALWAYS bounded right into gymnastics without a hint of trepidation, so I was caught a little off guard when she ran BACK down the hallway, this time all the way to the front door.  I finally convinced her to go back to the studio, but I had to go in with her.  I tried to sneak out at one point and she followed me right out.  She kind of miserably went in and out of the room the whole time, torn between REALLY wanting to try the class but not being able to be in the room by herself.   We were both at a loss for words, honestly.  She didn't know how to explain how she was feeling and I wasn't able to find my "supportive parent" footing and gave her a mix of tough love and coddling as we watched the class from outside the room through a window.  After that day, I did a little reading and talked to a few of the great parents in my life and found my footing.  By the time we went back to the second class this morning, we were both a little more prepared for the experience.  She and I talked about how I would stay in the class with her for the first half and then go outside.  If she was having fun, she could stay and if she wasn't she could go out in the hallway with me again and watch through the window for the second half.  So, we got there early and talked to the teacher for a bit, and she let us hang out in the studio by ourselves before the rest of the class got there.  Then I stayed in the class for about 15 minutes, waved goodbye to a smiling, waving Zoe and hung out in the hallway with Owen until the end of class.  She came out smiling and jumping, showing me her plies and stretches.  Phew!

On the home front, Owen continues to charm us all with his smiling and overall cheery disposition...except when he decides he is frustrated and lets out the most ear piercing screeches you've ever heard.  It's made me start dreading riding on a plane by myself with the two of them in April.  I've always had really good luck with air travel and our kids' behavior but something tells me I'm going to get a round of payback in a few months.  If you happen to be traveling East at the end of April and can help it, do NOT book a flight with Southwest.  You don't want to take any chances and end up on a plane with us. If you forget or have no choice, and DO have that misfortune I recommend going out and buying the best ear plugs you can find, regardless of price.  Please, PLEASE wish me luck.

I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but we have a small rat problem on our patio.  We aren't infested by any means, but once in a while we see one scurry across our patio on their way to our neighbor's shed.  The university has tried their best to deter them but they just keep coming back, unfortunately.  We haven't seen one in a while so thought maybe they'd found somewhere else to be.  The other day though, I was hanging laundry and letting Owen crawl around when I noticed he was looking closely at something on his hands.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was rat poop!  (I know this because I looked it up online.  A word of advice:  unless you absolutely have to, never do a Google search for "rat poop, images".  It's even more disgusting than you'd expect.)  We are working towards getting our neighbor's shed torn down, but in the meantime Zoe came up with a brilliant plan after finding some more poop out there this morning.  She made a "No Pooping" sign and hung it on our patio door "So, when the rats come to our door, they'll see the sign and say 'Oh!  We can't poop here!'"  Thank goodness I have her in times like these.

Lastly, after our shaving cream experiment last week, I finally felt inspired to try making marbled paper with shaving cream.  I've seen it on tons of blogs but used this as a guideline.  It was really easy and fun and super easy to clean up!  We have to replenish Nathan's shaving cream by now for sure, but I'd say it's a price worth paying...
Smoothed out a layer of shaving cream on some wax paper...

Randomly squirted on blobs of liquid water color paints...

Used a paintbrush to swirl it around...

..until we liked the look of it...

Pressed the paper onto it....

Peeled it away...

..and scraped off the shaving cream with a ruler!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


We've had a fun few days around here.  The weather has FINALLY cooled off and we are all feeling a lot more lively and a lot less grumpy.  It's amazing what the hot summer weather does to your motivation especially when it wears out it's welcome like it did this year.  Anyway, after a couple of weeks of having zero enthusiasm for projects, Zoe and I finally got back to what we do best during Owen's naps and did some messy experimenting the other day.  We stole Daddy's shaving cream, filled 3 ziplock bags with some, added food coloring and went crazy!  First we just wanted to see what colors we could make and then we decided to see what would happen if we "painted" with it on some watercolor paper.  After playing around with it for a long time we scraped all the excess foam and realized we'd made some pretty cool paper!

We cut the corner of the bag and squeezed it out like icing...fun!

Before scraping it off

There's a piece of paper under all of that!

Finished product!  I love that you can kind of see her hand prints in there...
Yesterday, to celebrate Fall approaching we made a "Fall Tree".  She and I colored the trunk together, she cut it out and we both added what we wanted to it.  I cut out the leaves and she helped me put them on the tree.  I'm hoping to collect leaves as they begin to fall and add them to the tree...

Today, Nathan took Zoe to see her first college football game and they both had a ball.  They were gone ALL afternoon, which meant Owen and I had some rare, quiet one-on-one time together, which was really, really great.  I spent an hour and a half following him around as he crawled all around Smiley Court checking out all manner of sticks, acorns and flowers.  Once in a while he'd stop to clap and smile or show me something and I soaked every second of it up.  I realized that I never really had time like that with Zoe, since we lived in the city when she was that age.  She and I couldn't just walk out our door and quietly investigate the world like that so it felt really special.

All in all a great start to the new season!

Before the game

I love this series of pictures Zoe took...so funny!

Actually I think Daddy took this one, but still.

Sweet little Owen, so excited to discover these flowers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Starting From Scratch

I've suddenly had a drastic change in attitude towards this blog.  Ever since I started it, it's inspired me to find the interesting tidbits in our everyday life and kept me motivated to find interesting things to do with Zoe.  In the beginning I meant to just keep a journal so that I can look back with the kids one day and enjoy feeling nostalgic with them.  I am one of those parents who can't, for the life of them remember when their kids first crawled, or got their first tooth but I was terrible about writing stuff down in baby books.  So, someone suggested I start a blog and it just really stuck for me.  I use it for different reasons depending on how I'm feeling or what's going on:  sometimes it's just to document a fun outing we had as a family, or to share something funny about the kids...sometimes I need to vent about something and talk my way back to feeling okay about it...sometimes I'm feeling crappy and want to share so that other people in the same position as me will know that they aren't alone...but, lately I've been feeling kind of embarrassed by the whole thing.

I used to write poetry when I was in high school and college (I know, wasn't I amazingly original??) and keep my notebooks in my room, only sharing them with people who I was either a) trying to impress, b) trying to gain sympathy from for whatever reason, because you KNOW it was all full of heartbreak and angst or c) really drunk with at the time.  I would sometimes read them to myself when alone in my room and spent a lot of that time trying to act like I didn't think I was really talented and deep.  The trouble with that younger me was that I was so non-committal about it all.  I thought I was good, and once in a while someone would concur so why didn't I try to foster that skill--take some classes and get better at it?  When I think about that, I realize I can say something similar about almost everything I've ever spent time doing:  singing, acting, playing the piano, playing the saxophone (don't laugh--I was pretty good!), playing the guitar...  I have this mix of enthusiasm, pride and for some reason I've never figured out, shame whenever I try to foster a natural talent or particular interest.  I think the obvious explanation has everything to do with fear of failure and judgement...I just cringe at the thought of someone not liking something I create and actually TELLING me...or I hate myself for doing something like this and wanting attention for it.  I mean, isn't it weird that I talk about my personal life and then post it on Facebook for all to see?  How narcissistic can you get?  So, that fear and shame keeps me totally immobilized, or causes me to to come to a screeching halt whenever I gain some momentum...which brings me back to the reason I started this entry in the first place. 

I've recognized that I've been feeling the same way about my blog as I did about all my poetry notebooks right before I threw them all in the trash.  One day I took them out to read them after having not done so for a really long time, and all I saw in there was a bunch of unoriginal teenage (and then into young adult) self-loathing and faux wisdom.  I thought of all the people I'd read them to and wondered how many of them were internally rolling their eyes and yawning.  It made me suddenly feel so ashamed that I took them all to the garbage, ripped them up and threw them away.  I've never regretted it but sometimes I do wish I had been a little easier on myself and maybe kept one or two around just to read as a source of amusement these days, if nothing else.  I'm trying to catch myself before I do the same thing now.  Granted, the first thing I'll do after I'm done writing this is post it on Facebook (just can't stop craving that attention, can I?) but I think I'll take a breath and start over here.  The first thing I have to do is admit why I keep this blog and share it with all of you:  Sometimes I feel lonely and irrelevant and seek validation for the work that I do as a Mom.  There, I said it--and you know what?  Saying it makes me feel much less pathetic somehow.  Now, maybe by the time I sit down to write my next post I'll be able to get back to the place I meant to be in when I started and stop analyzing it so much.  See you then!