Friday, November 30, 2012

fashion plate

My mother-in-law is the real photographer in the family.  I've actually discovered that I somewhat suck at taking pictures.  So, here's a good pic of the little one from last week:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

for every stoplight i didn't make . . .

My ten-year high school reunion was last Saturday.  I zoomed home to Lawrence from East Tennessee the day after Thanksgiving, dropping off Jeff and Vicki in Nashville and going solo.  The long drive was really nice, actually - a good time to sort out thoughts without having to stop and feed/entertain a strapped-down toddler who naturally feels antsy.

I stayed with our friends Chuck and Leslie, whose wedding I had to miss in September because of a completely asinine mistake on my behalf (I'll tell you about it sometime maybe).  So it was great to see them and catch up, and see how they are doing in Topeka.  By the way, if you're looking for a very cute house in Topeka, they are trying to sell - and the price can't be beat!  Contact me.

The actual reunion was interesting.  The planning committee included one of my good friends Sarah, and another long-time friend Eric.  Also Katie, with whom I spent many long hours in choirs.  I thought they did a fantastic job of promoting the event, organizing and selling tickets, getting the venue ready, and having a good atmosphere.  Everything you would expect from event organizers!

The dynamics were pretty much just like high school.  So, I guess if you had a very fun time then, you probably had a great time at the reunion.  I will disclose that I was always sort of middle-of-the-pack.  Not super-popular, not unheard-of.  I did lots of music and was in advanced classes.  I was not an athlete.  I think I had recreated a version of high school in my mind where the awkwardness and hormones were erased.  Being back in the situation brought it all back - the good and the bad.

I'm second row from bottom, second from left.
I'm not at all sorry that I went!  It was a great time, and I was able to catch up with plenty of folks I would never have seen otherwise.  (And always very entertaining to see the looks when they find out I'm now a pastor!)  Plus, a visit to my hometown is always centering for me.

I was texting with my sister after getting back to Chuck and Leslie's.  She asked how it was, and I told her the same reflections I wrote above.  But then I wrote, "You know it just makes me really glad for the life I have now."

My husband loves Darius Rucker (and all country music, which I think is kind of funny - as well as hard-core hip-hop and rap).  He has a great song that talks about all the choices and opportunities in life that bring us to where we are now:

For every stoplight I didn't make /
Every chance I did or I didn't take /
All the nights I went too far /
All the girls that broke my heart /
Every door that I had to close /
Everything I knew but I didn't know /
Thank God for all I missed . . . 'cause it led me here to this.

If I'd never stepped out to work at a summer camp where I knew no one . . . I would never have met Jeff.  If I'd never applied early for college in New York City . . . I would never have met my best friend Amanda, or have been invited to officiate at her wedding in March.  And if I hadn't decided to come home for the Free State High '02 Reunion . . . I wouldn't have had a chance to reflect on how happy my life is ten years out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the bedroom conundrum

I've mentioned before that our sweet little house is . . . little.  It was a little over 900 square feet when we bought it, and we added on another 200 or so.  We have a kitchen, living room, dining room, two bedrooms, and one bathroom.

Honestly, my first thought on finding out we were expecting again was, "But we don't have enough room!"  It's going to be tight, for sure.  We have eventual plans to add on a master suite, but they are very eventual.  Like five to ten years eventual.

But then I remembered fondly the years that my sister and I shared not only a bedroom, but also a bed.  I also recall snuggling up a lot with my mom when I was a youngster.  I certainly don't feel like I was "deprived" because I was without my own room.  On the contrary - it was fun and formed a close bond between all of us.

My dreams of putting together the perfect Montessori nursery are on hold yet again.  And you know, I think it's just fine.  There can be a tendency to get very hung on the details and miss the bigger picture of what you are creating.  What kind of environment do I want for my children?  One that encourages touching, exploring, learning, and curiosity.  One where things are not "off limits," but are rather open to them.  That can be done in any number of ways.

It does, though, seem to rule out the possibility of a floor bed for G2 until s/he is a bit older.  I just wouldn't feel safe having both children sleep together in the same room without some kind of protective device surrounding the youngest one.  Vicki's room is completely baby-proofed . . . except for Vicki herself!  I don't think she would try to hurt the baby, but she is very hands-on, if you know what I mean. 

Not to mention the logistics involved in even getting two children, 25 months apart, to sleep in the same room.  I don't even know if it's possible until G2 is on a regular bed- and naptime, which took a long time for Vicki.

So, I have come up with a very loose plan.  Loose because I've found that these plans tend to sit on the shelf when an actual, real baby who has an opinion about the situation suddenly appears!

G2 will sleep in bed with us, as Vicki did, for awhile.  When no one is around to sleep in bed with him or her, s/he will stay in the same cradle we used for Vicki, which was also used for Jeff when he was a baby. 

When it's time for the new baby to move to his or her own space, we will get both kids in their room.  The young one will probably stay in the pack and play (less bulky than a crib), and Vicki will sleep on her floor bed. 

I will need to reorganize the kids' bedroom and really streamline, so there is not a lot of clutter.  When they are older, I'd love to get a bunk bed to save space.  So here is what I envision in their shared room, when it becomes shared:

-Two floor beds, or maybe just one?  Depending on their relationship.
-A low table with two chairs.
-A reading corner with pillows and wall-mounted shelves to keep the books at eye level for them.
-A small potty on a carpet (no room in the bathroom for this!)
-Another low shelf in addition to Vicki's.
-Plenty of hooks hung at child level for sweaters, towels, etc.
-Artwork for the children hung at their eye level (no glass frames).

We keep the dresser full of Vicki's clothes and blankets in her closet.  I will prune them so that the two children share the one dresser for clothes, diapers, etc.

So what do you think?  Am I crazy?  I mentioned this whole plan to an acquaintance, and she said that her grandma shared not just a bedroom, but a bed with four siblings.  They slept head to toe like sardines in a can!  Makes me realize just how fortunate we are, and how much we take for granted . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2012

connection or the lack thereof

My sister was pregnant with her second child at the same time I was expecting Vicki Jo.  It was a lot of fun to compare our experiences, and it was reassuring to be able to call her anytime and ask if things were "normal" or not.  Doesn't hurt that she's also a nurse! 

One of the things Nelle frequently commented on was how much she knew that her relationship with her son would change when her daughter was born.  Elliott was three when Sloane was born, and Nelle had pretty much stayed home with him since he had arrived.  They are extremely tight.  She said that she mourned the loss of their unique relationship, since she knew that it would have to adapt to a new baby that would consume all of her attention for a period of time - and would change the dynamic of their family forever.

I couldn't really identify with her feeling at that time, as I was still in the daze of brand-new-mother expectancy.  But now, I know exactly what she meant.  It's part of what makes this "new" baby still feel very theoretical.

Obviously there is a baby growing inside me.  I can feel it move sometimes, I can hear its heartbeat when we go to the midwife, and my body is changing in undeniable ways.  But I don't feel that I have really made a strong connection with that baby yet.  Because when I look at Vicki and think about what we have lived through together in the last 19 1/2 months, the new baby feels kind of like an interloper.  Not that I'm not excited about having another child.  That's not my point.  I just don't know him yet.  (We don't know boy or girl.  I just think boy.)

Do these eyes not just see your entire soul?

The days and nights since Vicki came have been some of the most difficult, painstaking, self-doubting, effervescent, joyful, giddy, satisfying, distressing times of my life.  Applying myself totally to this task of parenting has already been the longest endurance race of my life, and it's nowhere near done! 

I will build a relationship with the new baby that is just like and totally different from my connection with Vicki.  I know that.  I can't wait to see what it's like.  But I don't feel like I can do it yet. 

One of the bloggers I read frequently (Erin at Growing a Foosa) wrote a post about this very topic last week!  It was so crazy because I had already drafted this post.  Glad to know that a lot of moms go through this.

Friday, November 23, 2012

a moderate thanksgiving

We face a special, decadent challenge each Thanksgiving.  We travel to Sevierville, Tennessee, for the family reunion of my mother-in-law’s mother’s family.  2012 was the 114th annual Tarwater family reunion! 

The parcel of land traditionally owned by the Tarwaters was carved up in plots, one of which my mother-in-law was given by her mother (along with each of her four siblings).  Zan built a gorgeous hewn-wood cabin at the top of her hill.  So each year, we have a family celebration and a tranquil, rustic setting.  East Tennessee in the fall is remarkable by anyone’s standards. 

The three of us headed out on a hike before Thanksgiving dinner.
At high noon on Thanksgiving Day, we arrive at the American Legion in Sevierville.  The Tarwaters have a standing reservation for the building – and we need all the room!  There are usually between 100 and 200 people at the reunion.  The Legion has two big rooms.  The back room is where we all sit.  The front room is just for food.  Four eight foot tables laden with family favorites.  And one extra table just for desserts!  Any Thanksgiving dish you are looking for – you can find it here. 

You thought I was full of exaggerations.
Which poses special problems for a pregnant lady sort of trying to watch what she eats.  I’m not trying to reduce my consumption, really, just to be wise about what I choose to fill myself with.  (I’m not really renowned for my moderation, as my waistline and pantry can attest!)

This year, I made a list of all the foods I really wanted to eat, ahead of time.  What tops my list for Thanksgiving?  Deviled eggs, turkey and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, green salad, and cranberry sauce.  Rolls and dessert?  Not as essential as the savories.  As I made my way down the line, I kept my list in mind (I actually kept my little list in my back pocket and pulled it out once).  And it really worked!  With the addition of a little spoonful of pasta salad, and some kind of pumpkin-cream cheese muffin, and the noticeable absence of mashed potatoes (smh), I stuck to my list.  I was especially thrilled because the green salad category was fulfilled by a genre of salad I adore – an Asian cabbage slaw with crumbled dry Ramen noodles and almonds. 

Anyway, I just felt the need to describe my strategy to anyone who faces a similar Thanksgiving situation:  not a well-defined menu, but rather a smorgasbord of more food than could ever all be sampled by one person.  Good luck!

P.S. I totally blew all my efforts by eating a pound of buttery salted popcorn when we went to see Life of Pi that night.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

16 weeks

Not much to report.  Visit with midwife was good today.  Heartbeat was very strong.  She said, in fact, that it was unusual at this point for her to hear the "galloping" already (rather than just a thump-thump, thump-thump) - this signals that the heart chambers are well-formed and pumping correctly.

Blood pressure was up a bit again.  120/90.  I found my chart from my pregnancy with Vicki, and my blood pressure at sixteen weeks with her was 100/64.  So, sort of worrisome.  The midwife mentioned that her cuff was wearing out and that she needed a new one - that might be causing a mis-reading.  Seemed totally unconcerned, said I looked good, my urine sample was clean, and I'm not retaining any fluid.  So - I'm not worrying if she's not.  My sister has always dealt with low blood pressure, and with pregnancy sometimes hers got down in the 80s/60s!  How I wish I had that problem . . .

I am finally able to stomach a lot of cooking again, and now that the stove and oven are fixed (!!!!!), breakfast is on.  Have been having two eggs on a tortilla with cheese, avocado and salsa.  Yum.  Now I want another one of those.

After listening to this fantastic podcast featuring Lisa Marasco (author of The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk) on how to support healthy breastfeeding in subsequent pregnancies after you've had difficulty with the first baby, I've decided to start taking alfalfa in addition to my prenatal and B-50 complex, as well as drinking Natural Calm on occasion and taking a sip of Floradix every now and again.  When I mentioned it to my midwife, she was enthused.  Alfalfa not only supports healthy breast development during pregnancy, she said it contains every mineral that a pregnant woman needs.  I'm considering stopping the prenatal because my diet has improved so much (covering vitamins A, C, E and Zinc), I'm basically doubling up on the B-vitamins, and I get iron from the Floradix (although I have never been anemic).

Now that your eyes are glazed over from me talking about my supplements . . . photos!

This dress is a total bump-creator, even when not pregnant, so I'm not quite that house-like yet.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

slow cookin

Well, I finally got wise.  With a gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond and seven extra dollars, I bought us a crock pot.  Since the oven/stove situation seems no closer to being resolved ("the replacement part will be here by the end of the week," "it should be here by Monday or Tuesday," "not sure if it's going to get here this week"), we needed a way to start cooking some hot meals at home. 

I'm not sure why I had been so opposed to the idea of a slow cooker.  I guess I just really dislike having extra appliances.  For instance:  we don't have a toaster and a toaster oven.  Just the toaster oven.  We have no microwave, and I really don't miss it.  We do have a stand mixer, a food processor, a toaster oven (as mentioned), a popcorn popper, a rice cooker, a coffee maker, an iced tea maker, and a blender.  Except for the popcorn popper and rice cooker, they were wedding gifts.  I had held off on getting a microwave, a toaster, a bread maker, an immersion blender, a hand mixer, and a slow cooker because they seemed kind of redundant, and it's not like we have cabinet space coming out the wahoo.

But the slow cooker has proven indispensable in just the few days it's been in the kitchen!  We have had honey-soy chicken and green beans over leftover takeout rice, pork steaks with cabbage and apples over egg noodles, cube steak strips for steak sandwiches, and today I made a killer vegetable soup.  It really does cut down on the chaos of figuring out what's for dinner, and I like how I'm backed into the corner of eating whatever I prepared for us.  No last minute, don't-feel-like-having-this decisions to go out and leave food spoiling in the fridge.

We are still working through the backlog of meat in the freezer, and I pulled out a scrumptious-looking package of pork ribs the other day.  I had a bottle of Asian concoction in the fridge that I made in the summer.  I can't remember the exact measurements, but here's the gist: 

*soy sauce
*rice vinegar
*grated ginger
*diced garlic
*sesame oil
*red pepper flakes

I put the ribs in the slow cooker in the morning, doused with the sauce, and left on low for about 8 hours.  The result?

Droooool.  (Editor's note:  I am so mad that I neglected to take a picture of this.  Suffice it to say:  long day, starving, angry child, late husband, etc etc etc.  Just make the recipe you won't be sorry.)

We had some leftover steamed rice to go with it.

Also, I adapted this Bobby Flay recipe for Napa cabbage slaw, since I had a head in the fridge wilting away.

Here's my take on it:
Juice of 1/2 a tangerine
1 t Sriracha hot sauce (caution:  this makes it hot.  If you don't like spicy, scale it way back)
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1/2 T mayo
1/2 T soy sauce
3 C finely shredded Napa cabbage
1/2 orange or red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

Whisk together first five ingredients.

Then add cabbage and pepper.

Stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper, then refrigerate for at least thirty minutes.  Can I just admit that this was so delicious that I made an entire batch with the intention of refrigerating overnight, and then ate it!?  All.  By myself.

So, who needs a stove or an oven for a fantastic, homemade, flavorful meal?  Not this girl.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

be careful little ears . . . *

As a woman with a brain who grew up in the late 20th century, I'm well aware that it is a scary time to be a young woman.  Advertising and marketers are acutely tuned into the fact that our developing brains and bodies are searching desperately for what makes us fit in, what makes us beautiful and desirable, and what makes us feel connected to our peer groups.  And then they exploit those vulnerabilities to the nth degree.

I wish I could say that my self-confidence and high intelligence made me immune to these overtures, but that would be a blatant lie.  I went through the "starving myself" phase (from which my metabolism has never really recovered.  Sidenote:  I think if we told all girls who were starving themselves that later on, when they ate normally again, they would gain a lot more weight, it might prevent them from doing this?), I went through the "desperately seeking attention from males" phase, and even the "stealing expensive clothes so I could fit in" phase. 

So when I found out we were having a little girl, my mind clouded over with concern.  What if she wanted to dress in a little cheerleader outfit and dance in front of crowds?  What if she wanted to look like a teenager when she was five and participate in pageants?  What if I was unable to build a secure enough foundation for her self-worth that she searched for affirmation in dangerous places?

There are a lot of articles out there right now on "how to talk to little girls."  And I totally get the point.  Don't make your primary way of affirming your daughter about her appearance.  Don't only tell her that she is beautiful or cute or gorgeous.  Balance your attention:  tell she has great manners, or that she is tries so hard to do right, or is so smart.

Way easier said than done.  Because you know what?  My daughter is freaking beautiful!  I just want to tell her all the time how pretty she is.  She is also really smart.  So I try to engage with her on that level too.

I was talking this over with the old playgroup in Lawrence (which was appropriate, since all but two of the babies in that group were girls), and my friend Tai had a very intriguing viewpoint.  She agreed that it is harmful when the only cultural message girls receive is that appearance makes you worthy.  However, she also said that she thought the secure, unwavering, nonsexual attention of a male (usually the father) was very important in establishing firm self-worth in little girls.  In essence, that it was important for little girls to hear their fathers (or male parents) say that they were beautiful. 

Confession:  I have spent most of my life feeling like my areas of primary worth were intelligence and humor.  I decided really early on that I would never be the prettiest girl at the party, so I needed to excel in some other areas.  And when I think back on my childhood, what did I hear my mother tell me most often?  Emily, you are such a smart little girl!  I also thought my role in the family was as comedian.  Not that any of this is really bad, objectively.  Just making a point.

I didn't hear very often that I was cute or pretty.  My stepdad Mark, who is made of gold and thinks that I walk on water, affirmed me in every other way.  How smart, how dedicated, how funny, how capable I was.  But never really beautiful. 

So now I don't feel so bad when I hear Jeff gushing to Vicki Jo that she is so cute.  I don't feel like he is setting her up for a lifetime of valuing appearance above all else.  Rather, I see that he is setting the foundation (in a very natural, organic, un-self-conscious way) for her to have a balanced assessment of herself and what she can offer the world.  And that is very beautiful to me. 

*Anybody else remember this great kid's church song?  Be careful little eyes what you see . . .

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

on my shelf: real food for mother and baby

[This post submitted to Your Green Resource at Sortacrunchy on 11/15/12.]

As long as I can remember, I've always had a girl crush.  These non-sexual infatuations are more like intense periods of admiration.   I want to copy her style - from handwriting to clothing.  I find myself thinking, "What would [girl crush x] do in this situation?"  They usually fade in time, only to be replaced by a new crush.  I guess you could really call them role models - but that's no fun!

I have one of these girl crushes on Nina Planck.  She is a real food advocate who grew up on a produce farm, became passionate about extending access to food that is actually recognizable as food, and then founded a string of farmer's markets.  She was a strict vegan, and then made the transition back to animal foods and found her health returned simultaneously.  She wrote a fantastic book called Real Food:  What to Eat and Why.  And then, when she found herself pregnant at 35, she delved into another book project, called Real Food for Mother and Baby.

Planck's second book covers the scope of "eating for two" from eating for fertility, to conception and pregnancy, to birth, to breastfeeding, to baby's first foods.  It is comprehensive, and it is no-nonsense.  She is not into strict regulations or "protocols," as some real-food people love to banter about.  She is also into science, which makes this book a fascinating read. 

We have not had trouble with fertility, so I read that section kind of lightly.  But when I arrived at the "Pregnancy Diet" chapter, I immediately encountered an attitude I had felt myself.  Planck describes how she dutifully attempted to follow all the different pregnancy diets that are out there:  the Weston A. Price Foundation's recommendations, the Brewer Diet, and others.  Her continued conclusion:  too much food!  I'm stuffing myself to try to get all this food in.  And then she breaks it down into the most remarkably simple terms:

First trimester (or so):  your baby is building his internal systems and structures.  He needs vitamins to do this, but not a lot of extra calories, so continue eating a healthful and balanced diet, as you should have been before conceiving.

Second trimester (or so):  your baby is putting on muscle and bone, so he needs protein and calcium (meat and milk).

Third trimester (or so):  your baby is packing on fat and building his brain, so he needs lots of healthy fats and lots of fish oil (brains need DHA, which comes primarily from fish). 

Now this, I can remember - without a reference chart or a checklist on my refrigerator! 

Of course, there is more to it than just those three simple guidelines, but they encapsulate what I love most about Planck's book.  It is straightforward, and it doesn't make you feel as if you have failed before beginning if you don't have a perfect diet.  She doesn't make you think your baby will be delayed or weak if you don't eat liver every day.  She simply makes the point that liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and recommends that you try it.  She says that raw milk is best, and shows the science behind it, but then says that she and her family drink plenty of the best pasteurized milk she can find as well.  This is reality, and I love it. 

Her birth story (planned homebirth turned hospital labor turned cesarean) is humbling and emotional.  She reminds us that surgical birth is a miracle that does save lives, when it is reserved for its proper use. 

When I found I was pregnant again, this was the one book I wanted most to get my hands on, in our boxes and boxes of books.  I re-read it in a matter of days, marking pages and copying charts for reference. 

The sections about breastfeeding and introducing foods to your baby are just icing on the cake.  If you are struggling to get pregnant, want some well-thought-out, not-too-rigid guidelines on how to eat while pregnant, or are pondering how to introduce your child to the world of real food, you must check this book out.  It's a gem.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

what makes it montessori?

I was inspired to share these thoughts by Kylie's most recent post at How We Montessori.  One of the things I'm so excited about in our neighborhood is the Montessori school.  It is a primary class only, meaning they accept the traditional Children's House ages of 2 1/2 - 6.  Children who continue all the way through would then typically start their new schools in first grade.

Knowing how popular this school is, how small the enrollment space is, and how much I love Montessori education, I scheduled a tour at the end of summer to check out Montessori East.  What I found there checked all the boxes for me:  AMI trained directress and head teachers, authentic materials, totally mixed-aged classrooms, and long periods for uninterrupted work cycles with the children free to choose their own work.

Some of the materials I saw there that clued me in to authenticity:

The color tablets.

The knobbed cylinders.

The pink tower.
I went right ahead and filled out the application and gave our application fee.  I do so hope that there will be room for Vicki next October when she is the proper age.  Also, it gives me incentive to get her using the toilet, since a requirement is that all children must be fully trained toilet educated.

In our public school system, there are also two more options.  These are magnet schools with Montessori as their magnet focus.  They accept children in the Fall who are aged three, and then go up through 4th grade.  They do retain mixed-age classrooms.  The obviously huge benefit is that they are essentially free (there is a small enrollment fee, like $50) - paid for by our taxes.

But I need to visit and see how much they are able to retain the Montessori focus while they must also adhere to state standards and annual testing.  I need to find out about the teachers, their training, and how much they incorporate Montessori.

The big downside is that both of these schools (Stanford Montessori Design Center and Hull-Jackson Montessori Magnet) are outside of our "cluster," which means I have to apply by lottery and I am pretty far down the list to start with.  Nashville's school lottery is fairly confusing, but the bottom line makes sense:  the closer you live, the more priority you get.  So, the "geographic preference zone" is the closest.  This is what we would call the "neighborhood school" - you live close enough to walk.  We are actually in the GPZ for an amazing elementary school, but it's not Montessori at all.  The next circle out is the "cluster" - this means which high school you are zoned for.  Everyone that feeds that high school is in the same cluster.  After that is a preference for siblings.  If you already have one child at a school, you get some preference to have your other children there.  Next, a classification for parents who work nearby - makes sense to bring your child to a school near where you work.  And then the final concentric circle, "county-wide."  Essentially, everyone else.  And that's where we are for these two schools.  There's no downside to trying your luck in the lottery, but I'm not holding my breath.  I checked the results from last year, and only a small fraction of the county-wide families got into either of these schools.

The other issue I bemoan with any of these Montessori options - public or private - is that I would pull Vicki for Kindergarten.  The Montessori environment greatly benefits from having children from the full age spectrum (2 1/2 - 6), because the older children naturally serve as leaders and mentors.  They really ask that you keep your child there for the full term.  And I totally get that.

But there's that other school I told you about!  Lockeland Design Center.  This school is literally three blocks away, has some of the best testing scores in the city, gets rave reviews from parents, and is a strong neighborhood and community connection.  I want in.  Problem is, there are so many young families in our neighborhood that even kids who live in the GPZ didn't make it in last year!!  That is very unusual.  That means that all those other concentric circles I described above got zero consideration.  I checked out their lottery results from last year too, and your best chance by far is to apply for your child to start in Kindergarten.  Every year after that, there are fewer and fewer spots that open up each year.  I want the best chance to get into this school, so that would mean pulling Vicki from her Montessori room before the full cycle is up.  Boo.

What to do?  Still not sure.  I need to tour those other two Montessori magnets, see what I think, then wait and see what happens next October with Montessori East.  We also need to figure out how to afford it . . . double boo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

on choosing names

Jeff and I have our fair share of disputes and "discussions," as does any married couple.  However, we do share a similar aesthetic.  We tend to be utilitarian over trendy (or even design-oriented) in our choices of clothing, furnishings, household items, etc.  We both like solid and neutral colors.  We typically only buy items when we need them, and one of my pet peeves is having more than one of anything in the house (except things like toilet paper and paper towels). 

So I was gearing up for a little bit of a discussion when we first began discussing baby names for "Baby G," as we called Vicki Jo when we first found out about her.  We decided on names before we knew her sex. 

I took a deep breath, sat down, and said, "If it's a girl, I'd like to name her after my mother:  Vicki Jo."

Jeff nodded.  He replied, "If it's a boy, I'd like to name him after my father:  Jeffrey Todd Grammer, III (called Todd)."  Jeff's dad and his stepmom died in car wreck in 1991, with Jeff and his half-brother Steven in the backseat.  The word "trauma" doesn't really begin to encompass the feelings that are related to this incident.  It is a central event in Jeff's life, shaping his perception of himself and his relationships to all his other family members.  I completely understood Jeff's desire to honor his dad in this way, and I think the name Todd is pretty cute to boot (and it ages well - not weird to think of a one-year-old Todd, or a 45-year-old Todd). 

And that was it!  No more discussion, no revisiting it.  We just went with it.  I was really expecting a lot more negotiating.

It was a little weird to get used to calling the baby Vicki.  Not that I ever called my mom by her given name, but having a reincarnation toddling around took some adjustment.  I began to understand the Ashkenazi Jewish tradition of only naming babies after a relative who has died, rather than one who is still alive.  The legend goes that the Angel of Death may become confused when he comes to take the older person, and take the younger one instead.  I think a part of the adjustment is how Vicki Jo is inhabited by the spirit (the neshama) of my mother.  There are parts of Vicki that do seem like my mom. 

So when we found out about Baby G2, we had a similar moment.

Jeff said, "If it's a boy, I still want to name him after my dad."

I said, "If it's a girl, I want to name her Mary Rose, and call her Rosie."

The roots of this name go deep into both our families, and touch many traditions and members.  It is common in my family to name a girl Mary (my sister, my dad's sister, my granddad's sister, my other granddad's mother are all named Mary.  My grandma's middle name is Marie.  My sister is named Mary but called by her middle name, Nelle).  Rose is very common on both sides, in all its iterations.  My mother-in-law's middle name is Rose.  Her mother is named Rosemary.  My stepdad's wife is named Rosalie.  My granddad's sister is named Rosie.  My best friend's middle name is Rose.  Plus it's just so freaking cute. 

And once again, done! 

I love that these family names are not trendy.  I won't be finding them anytime soon on the "Most Popular Names of 2013" (although, to be fair, Emily was on there for a lot of years!).  They reflect our distinct heritage and the people who have made us who we are.  We hope that there are all the best parts of the namesakes in our little boy or girl.  And if he or she gets the bad parts too, at least we have some experience in dealing with them!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

15 weeks

Once again, not much to tell.  Things keep moving along.  And by things I mean the growth of my midsection.

Baby plus monstrous food baby at Church Retreat this weekend.  Whatever.  

How do I feel?  In general, pretty good.  None of the complaints that tend to slow you down nearer to the end yet.  I have an appointment tomorrow - we'll see how the old BP is looking.

I am getting into the hungry-constantly phase.  That's kind of fun, actually.  If only my digestion would keep up . . . it's moving at a snail's pace.  I drink Natural Calm (magnesium powder that you dissolve in water) and it helps somewhat, but things are just slow.  I probably need to add a probiotic back into my horse pill collection.  Have also heard anecdotally that alfalfa can help.

I've really been craving Asian food of all kinds - Chinese, Japanese, Thai.  Heaven is a fresh summer roll dipped in peanut sauce.

There was a point in my first pregnancy where my bubble kind of burst.  Not in a bad way - no one tried to hurt my feelings - but reality sunk in.  I was sitting at the OB/CNM office, waiting for my appointment, praying my blood pressure would be good while simultaneously feeling my heart nervously racing,  I looked around at all the other pregnant women sitting there in the waiting room, and I suddenly just felt very quotidian.  Before then I had felt very special.  Like I'm pregnant!  Isn't that fantastic!?  Don't you want to know the details?  Isn't it a miracle that a tiny BABY is growing inside ME?  

And then all of a sudden, in that moment in the waiting room, I felt un-special.  I felt like the hundreds and millions and billions of women who have been pregnant since time began.  Like the millions of other women who are pregnant right now.  I just felt like a woman who was living through what most other women will live through in their lives.

That's sort of how I've felt since the beginning of this one.  No big deal - women have been doing this forever.  Including me, and I have a pretty good track record.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

the great family

We have been a bit delayed in our Godly Play series on Wednesday evenings for a number of reasons.  It takes time that I don't always have to get the materials ready and in place.  To do the lessons really well, I also need to practice telling the stories with the materials once or twice.  We took Halloween off to distribute candy and hospitality to nearly 300 children in our community.  I told the story of the flood last week with no materials at all - that was an interesting experience.  The children were quite rapt, and clearly using their imaginations as I sketched and gestured out the story with my hands. 

Last night we got into the Desert Box, which is of course a draw.  Anytime sand is involved, young ones tend to be very curious.  Last night was no exception.

This first year we do Godly Play at church, I'm doing everything on the cheap.  I'm making as much as I possibly can from what we already have around, and trying not to buy all the spendy handcrafted materials available online.  Besides, I don't usually have it together enough to know what I need to order online for it to arrive in time! 

The story of the Great Family is that of Sarai and Abram's wanderings in the desert, as God led them from Ur to Haran to Hebron, with stops to build altars at Shechem and Bethel.  The stones are the altars, and the pegs represent the figure in the story.  As God leads them along, they are also being led from polytheism to monotheism.  This moment is from near the end of the story, after Sarah's death when Abraham sends his emissary back to Haran to find a wife (Rebekah) for his son Isaac.  The figure leaving Haran is Rebekah, while Isaac and Abraham stand at Hebron waiting for her. 

The kids loved the story, and when I asked where they saw themselves in it, they said in the baby Isaac or in the wedding. 

Then we pulled out our work (the little paints and the clay continue to be most popular), and finally had our feast of bananas, oatmeal cookies and water.  A splendid evening.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Oh, that fun stage of pregnancy where you just look/feel fat.  No discernable "bump."  Just a thick middle.  Not big enough for maternity wear.  Regular pants are bad.  I need to grab one of those Bella Bands next time I'm at Target.


The big development this week:  movement!  Can you believe I felt the tiny thing move!?  I hardly could either.  With Vicki, I wasn't sure what I was feeling until it became unmistakeable at nineteen weeks.  This time, I felt that little fluttery tumble so much earlier.  It helps to know what you are looking for.  It's such a funny sensation.  Jeff feels left out and sad because he'll never know what it feels like.

I'm really cherishing the little things right now.  For example, my feet are a perfectly normal size and I can see each metatarsal moving when I flex them.  I'm sure they will swell right up before I even know it.

I remember the day Jeff and I sat together on the couch, four or five days after Vicki was born, telling stories about her birth like we'd seen combat together.  He looked down at my feet propped up on the coffee table and said, "I think I'm seeing parts of your feet I haven't seen in months!"

I'm thinking of Advent, of course, as we church people frantically dive into one of our busiest seasons.  One of the readings for Christmas Day tells Jesus' full birth story (the best one is in Luke).  It tells of all the grand happenings, the census, the traveling, the birth.  And then one little line toward the end:  "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." 

Did she treasure the feeling of her baby tumbling and kicking inside her?  The birth story of her first child?  There is so much to ponder in your heart in all of this.  I know how she felt.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

on getting festive . . . or not

A picture of me getting festive with three great buddies nearly a decade ago! 

Of course, it is the holiday season.  As a Christian and an American (and no, I don't think the two have to go together!), I celebrate most of the "standard" holidays and special occasions:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, our anniversary, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Memorial Day.  My family is not a military family (aside from my granddad), so we don't do much for Veterans Day and all that.

As a pastor, though, many of those holidays are dominated by church work.  Christmas and Easter, obviously.  Most churches have some kind of Halloween celebration or Fall Festival.  A lot of churches have a community Thanksgiving service.  Any holiday that falls on a Sunday is not much of a holiday for us. 

Now that I'm a mom and we have a young one absorbing the entire universe all around her, I'm noticing that I am severely deficient in creating a holiday atmosphere.  It's like I'm missing the gene that enjoys fall decorating and baking Christmas cookies (oh wait, if we had an oven that freaking worked).  I was emailing with a good friend in Kansas who keeps me updated (hi Tai!), and mentioned this to her as well.

I remember little things about our house growing up that clued me in to the seasons:  a spring wreath on the front door, Mom's spiced tea in a percolator (the recipe is phenomenal:  pretty much just Tang and red hots), cheesecake on our birthdays (nobody really liked cake that much - cherry cheesecake was the preference). 

When I think of creating our own family's traditions, I mostly think of food.  Here's what I envision, in a world where I can think ahead and get it all together:

Thanksgiving:  this one is already taken.  Each year we go to the Tarwater family reunion in Sevierville, TN.  This is my husband's mother's mother's family, and this year will be 114th annual Thanksgiving feast.  Jeff's mom and stepdad have built a cabin on family land up there.  The fall colors are gorgeous, there is hiking and a hot tub.  It's basically amazing.

Easter:  church!  We usually go to some kind of sunrise service, which is sort of the Methodist-lazy version of an Easter vigil.  Easter dinner would ideally be lamb and spring vegetables (asparagus, green beans, radishes, new potatoes).  We would always dye eggs, and Mom would always do the most amazing Easter egg/present hunt in our backyard.  I feel like, from a faith perspective, she did a great job of emphasizing the gift of Easter over and above the commercial culture of Christmas.

Christmas:  church and more church.  My Christmas Eve usually ends with an 11:00 or midnight candlelight service.  The next day, Christmas dinner would be the whole nine:  ham, potatoes, green vegetables, salad, rolls, pie.  Mom always made this potato casserole in which we first boiled potatoes, then cooled and grated them, mixed with sour cream, green onions, and other things, and baked.  Can't remember exactly. 

We put up a Christmas tree each year, mostly at my husband's insistence. His beloved Memaw is the biggest Christmas decorator I have ever encountered. Fully decked.  And of course, now we are homeowners and I feel some responsiblity for putting up festive lights that will jack up my electricity bill for the winter.

Birthdays:  one of my favorite traditions in my family was Mom telling our birth stories each year on our birthday.  She would talk about being pregnant, what she remembered, when she went into labor, going to the hospital, and the birth (amazing to think that this was before the days of routine induction, so I was born three weeks late!).  She always said the exact times we were born, and so I remember that I was born at 3:23 pm.  I would love to cook the birthday person's favorite foods, and to do cheesecake - but skip the HFCS canned topping, and make some delicious homemade cherry or blueberry topping.

Anniversary:  since my folks divorced when I was so young, anniversaries were not much of a thing.  My best friend Amanda's family does something I always thought was great:  the children send their parents anniversary cards!  It's like saying, Hey, thanks for being amazing parents and being married and having this family.  Since we honeymooned in England and enjoyed it so so so much, I would love to do an English-food themed supper for our anniversary each year!  Bangers and mash, or pasties, or the like.

Memorial Day:  some kind of cookout to celebrate the warming weather, as well as grave decoration (isn't is funny how Decoration Day and Memorial Day have merged in our culture?  My granddad was a stickler that Memorial Day was only to honor the war dead).

Halloween:  I'm kind of a humbug on this one.  I was ruined on it in college, when every girl used it as an excuse to dress as a sexy bumblebee or whatever.  But I do like handing out candy, and our neighborhood is teeming with children.  I suppose Vicki Jo will want to start dressing up and going about soon enough.

Phew!  That was more than I thought I had in mind for our family celebrations. 

What traditions do you have, or have you started as a new family?

Monday, November 5, 2012

pregnancy tonic

I have a confession to make.  I didn't give up coffee this time.  With a baby that wakes me up between five and six each morning (update:  she has been sleeping until 7:30!  Don't know what happened, but it's awesome), I just couldn't bear to give away my caffeine.  I'm aware that coffee consumption has been linked to early miscarriage.  I'm aware that when I get that jolt, my baby does too.  So rather than my usual two or three cups, I'm down to one.  Sometimes it's a big one.

Before my coffee, though, I have my special drink.  I wake up unbearably thirsty, regardless of how much liquid I drank before going to bed.  I also still haven't caved to getting up in the night to pee - and when I wake up, I have to go.  So, I guess I'm in fluids overdrive in the night.  I crave something hydrating and fresh when I awaken.

Last pregnancy, when I did give up coffee entirely, I switched to hot water with honey and lemon each morning.  It was delicious and really got my digestion moving.  It became my ritual.  I also drank a lot of ginger tea throughout the day.  I find ginger really tasty, and it has stomach soothing properties.  The thing about that ginger tea, though, was the cost!  Six or seven dollars for a box of ground ginger in bags, basically.

So this time, I'm making my own ginger and lemon tonic.  Lemon is something our bodies just love, especially in the morning.  Its acidity helps your liver pump out bile, which we need for healthy digestion, especially of fats.  

It's not much of a recipe.  Take some ginger, peel it and grate it up, put it in a glass.  Slice some lemon wedges, and squeeze one or two into the glass.  Add either hot water, if you want a warm drink, or cold water if you want a cold one.  I think you could probably make a big batch in a mason jar or pitcher and just keep it in the fridge.

This will hydrate you and help keep morning sickness at bay.  Try it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

it takes two when it used to take only one . . .

Naturally, I've been apprehensive about this whole two kids thing.  How will it work?  Will I ever become sane again?  Obviously people do this all the time (have multiple children, that is!), but as my mother loved to tell me, "Emily, you're not everyone."

Last night, our young friend Glancy came over for supper, along with his Aunt Becky.  His mother, aunt, and uncle are old friends of ours from camp.  Glancy was actually named for one of the camps that we all worked at - when I say "camp," it's really a network of, at one time, 6 or 8 different camps in different communities in Middle/Southeast Tennessee.  He is a delightful young man who has obviously been raised (you Southern people will know what this means).

Becky and Glancy.

I will admit that I was tired and it was a bit late and having people over always makes me nervous, so I was dreading Glancy and Becky's visit a bit.  But all my worries subsided as I saw Vicki and Glancy playing together with glee the entire time they were over.  They chased and ran, hugged and kissed, giggled and generally entertained each other.

And I was like, This is it.  This is what siblings are about.  

All I had been thinking about was the work (of which there will be plenty, I'm sure!), the laundry, the cleaning, the discipline, the cost.

I hadn't given a second thought to the joy, the shared life, and the memories they will only be able to share with one another.  How much I value being able to call my brother and sister and mention Mom's obsession with only using one square of toilet paper and they know exactly what I mean.  Or how Mark will call and leave a voicemail so long that it will cut him off, and then he will call back and leave another one.  Or about how Grandma Iris kept her house at 80 degrees in the summer in Denver.

This little happening last night has given me a lot of peace.  It's a good feeling.