Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Babymoon

Photo by Tessa, age 4
I had forgotten so many things about having a newborn babe. I don't know how I ever could have, but I did. As a doula I always wish the mamas I work with a happy babymoon, and tell them what a unique time it is. There are things that you experience in these first magical weeks that will never come again in the life of this child...
This time it's our babymoon, and here is what I don't want to forget.


The second smile... just as delightful as the first.

Baby breath; sweet and warm and heavy, like the smell of honeycomb on a warm day.


Fuzz on arms and earlobes and foreheads.


The surprise of being piddled on during a diaper change- every time it happens.

How unbelievably hard they can clamp down on your nipple with just their little gums.

REM sleep with their eyes open.

The helplessness when their cry becomes high pitched and fervent, and nothing you do for them can stop it, till you just hold their little ear to your lips and beg the pain to leave them alone. Like tonight.**


The inhale-suck-exhale-swallow sounds as they breastfeed, or better still, when they are so ravenous they skip the exhale all together for 8 gulps, and the stop to pant!


The slow motion punches they do over and over, often accompanied by random, sudden leg kicks.


Rooting at your cheek, and if they get a chance, their warm little mouth finding your chin.

Staring into each others eyes endlessly.

A 20 minute car ride that turns into an hour because of stops to calm this squalling little being before your heart splits in two.

Smiles in their sleep.

Punishingly sharp little fingernails that are impossible to cut, even if you could find the clippers.

Squeaks.

Nibbling on soft toes, necks, and...heck, everything.

6 dirty diapers in 4 hours.

The ongoing deliberation over who he looks like... the more siblings, the more possibilities.

Projectile poop.

Getting their tight, squirmy little bodies into an outfit whose designer obviously has never dressed a newborn.

His tiny little frog butt.

Flared toes.

Answering the question of how old he is --in days.

Scarfing food to get back to him.

Having a police officer check on you as you are pulled over to the side of the road to breastfeed, and the surprised look on his face as he lowers his flashlight and says "Carry on."

Diaper cream under your nails.

3AM.

Hiccups. Lots of them.

Not knowing whether you are wet from pee or spit-up or milk, or your own tears.

Answering folks who tell you "He's so beautiful" with "I think so, too."

***

**It took me 3 days to finish this post because Jonah has begun to cry - a lot. After some web browsing I have learned that grass green poop may be a dairy allergy.

I thought #5 would be a cakewalk. Welcome to uncharted waters.

As of this morning I have started a fun new diet, after just two weeks of eating like a normal person. Adam, sweet Adam saw me crying when Jonah was hysterically shrieking and asked if I was ok. I explained the new situation and that I was starting a new diet to help Jonah, but that I was crying because it just breaks my heart to hear my baby in pain.

Adam kissed my face, told me he loved me and that it wasn't fair, and then tidied up the living room and made me a dairy-free sandwich.

I think things are going to be ok. We have been through worse than this.

***

2:31 AM ... the exhausted baby in my arms is staring at me with red, puffy eyes and a pained expression. We just had 2 more hours of off/on crying, and he's gearing up for another round.

My confidence from earlier is waining.

Friday, August 27, 2010

He Smiled!

Gorgeous photo of baby Jonah by Erin Langstraat (thank you Erin!)

And not just one of those pre-blow-out smiles that turns into a scowl and ends with a haz-mat cleanup. Jonah and I were sitting under the Mulberry trees at sunset (so romantic, in that babylove kinda' way) and I was telling him all about neighborhood dogs and noisy teenagers. Well, one thing led to another, and there I was tickling his ribs.

.

Then it happened.

.

His nose scrunched. His eyes squinted. His lips spread and... wham! Baby smile- a for real, beautiful, gummy smile. It faded, and there was no encore, but it was a thing to behold. The crazy thing is that earlier today I was explaining to him that Ellie had smiled at me at 13 days old (we had been on our first outing to In-n-Out Burger, who wouldn't smile?), and that he could not be outdone by his sister. I guess he'd had time to think it over and decided I was right (Good job, son. Mama is always right).

.

***

I find myself alone in the house for the first time with baby Jonah. Hormones and an ubber-quiet house are not a great combo for me.
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I am alone because I wore myself out today. I wore myself out because we went out to lunch at Dianda's today, then to look for a bra that can handle my new hooters. We had no luck. Instead we used a gift card at a screaming JC Penny's sale and left with 8 outfits for ten cents (that's after the gift card, but still!). We tried Target, but apparently women who shop there are even less likely to nurse than the Penny's crowd.
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I showed them. I parked it in the cafe and had my own nursing protest (actually, I just fed Jonah discreetly, but I was ready in case someone decided to take me on... I know the California State law protecting a woman's right to breastfeed verbatim. Sadly, no one has ever taken me on).
.
After we gathered our other goslings from school, we came home and Jonah and I crashed. When we woke up Jonah said he would rather kick it at home with mama than to go to the Cub Scout rain-gutter regatta, and so we find ourselves here. Alone.
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Um, yeah, only now I am awake, but Jonah is very asleep. I don't do really well when I am alone, especially not post-partum alone. The waters of after-babydom are usually a bit rocky for me. After Ethan was born I had severe post partum depression, and it was 17 months before I got any help. With Adam, I armed myself in advance with medicine and support, and combined with his amazing birth, I was blissed out for weeks. Then the girls came, and thinking I was going to handle it just fine, I went it alone. Bad idea.
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Several veteran mamas around me tell me that my little boat is rocking at a pretty average rate. Apparently bursting into tears several times a day can be considered perfectly normal. It still scares me a little, though, because I think that I might be at the beginning of a slippery, down-hill slope; one that starts with a few crying jags and ends with me knocking on strangers doors at midnight in my skivies asking to borrow a cup of sanity.
.
As I sat out under the trees with Jonah, basking in the glow of his fading smile, I began to weep at the thought of him being my last, sweet, yummy baby.
.
Please, somebody tell how very normal that is.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

While we were sleeping

Daddy in his favorite place in the world;
snoozing with a wee babe in his arms.
.
.
I have been resting a lot. The camera has been laying around a lot. While I have been (let's call it "busy") recuperating, some little ones have gotten their hands on the camera. Here is what they left for me...

By Adam


By Adam

???


By Tessa or Ellie, not quite sure

This looks like Ethan's handy work

By Adam

By Ethan

By Ellie (Ok, so I knew about this one, but who could resist? The girls wanted to play Fancy Nancy. Hence, Brother Jonah dons his first -of many, I am sure- tutu).

By Ethan

By Adam (the blue bow announcing to the neighborhood that Jonah was here, because not EVERYONE on the block heard me in labor).*
.
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*My labor really kicked in around 4AM, and thanks to our 1958-no-insulation,-single-pane-window house, I woke the latino neighbors who refuse to run their air conditioner and rely on the open-window-cooling method. Somewhere around 5 AM I also woke grandma, excuse me; Abuela. She joined the rest of their family on the bed and listened to me mooing. They took to praying for me because I was being so, um, vocal. They prayed that God would stop "making me suffer so!" (insert dramatic latin hand gestures to the heavens here). My neighbor even told me what time I moved from the bedroom to the living room; "The sounds got far away, then" and that the baby was born around 10AM; "I waited on my bed and listened all morning. Finally you stopped crying out and we heard the baby cry. We were just so glad that you were no longer suffering!"
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I assured her that after listening to a woman in labor, her two teenage daughters would never get pregnant out of wedlock. And perhaps not even after that!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cannoli and other sweet things

When Jonah was two days old, Guy left the house for a little while and returned with a lovely bunch of flowers. Many of the flowers were closed, and it has taken them a whole week to open and show off their full glory.
.
But that was not all he brought. A few minutes after bringing in the flowers, he returned to our room with a silver platter bedecked with pure manna from heaven; cannoli surrounded by an assortment of other Italian pastries too delicious for mere words. We sat together and sampled and nibbled. They were divine, and I relished them, guilt-free. But I don’t think I appreciated them fully, like the flowers, until last night.
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Guy and I sat last night with the computer on one lap, the baby on the other, and puttered around the web looking for the names of the confections we had enjoyed. We looked up the recipes, ogled over the different varieties and chatted about how to make them, though they were too complex to seriously be undertaken by amateurs such as ourselves. It was only after I knew how much had gone into them that I could really appreciate them.

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In the past few days I have been the recipient of so many kindnesses. Calls and visits have come, and with them, home cooked meals, cakes and pies and gifts for the baby. My friend Joanna will not tolerate verbal appreciation, yet she keeps doing things that make me want to hold her down and yell “THANK YOU!!!!” in her face a million times. Steph and Nicole “babysat” me the two days Guy needed to work, and others have offered time and energy in so many ways. Not a day has gone by that someone hasn’t checked in on me.

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But the best came yesterday when my husband told me that he was taking a few more days off work to stay with me. In the years we have been together, the times when I have felt most helpless have been those first few days that he would go back to work after a baby or a miscarriage. When he would leave, I felt like he was taking all of the oxigen with him. I knew he had planned to go back to work tomorrow, and a heaviness came upon me as I tried to figure out how I could be ready to take over my job as mom as a solo gig again. Guy has missed the first week of school as the teacher of a new class, at a new school with new staff, and a new administrator. I know it has been a huge conflict for him as he juggles being needed there and being needed here. But he chose to be here.

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I was counseled a few days ago, in my struggles with the blues I have been feeling, to focus on the joy. The joy of this sweet babe and of the blessing of being his mama. As I lift my spiritual eyes to see beyond the cluttered landscape that my weepy mortal eyes are fixed on, I see all of the sweet, heartfelt prayers that have been whispered on our behalf. I see friends who now celebrate with us, who were also here for us before there was a reason to celebrate. I see a good husband who had to grieve and still be the strong one so that I would have some one to catch me as I fell, over and over again, and who now tends to me so sweetly. As I try to focus on the joy, the beauty in the past 10 days opens to me like the flowers, and is more appreciated than before.

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He’s in the kitchen right now washing dishes and singing songs with Ethan as he makes lunches for tomorrow.

.

Isn’t that sweet?



Monday, August 23, 2010

Knock-knock?

Did you know that you can find Knock-knock jokes in the Old Testament? According to Tessa you can, but only in the Spanish version.

And who knew, but the scriptures are also jam-packed with music.

My favorite part is when she sings:

"Don't worry 'bout you,

You worry 'bout me,

I will help you, my friend."

*

*

We took our first "out in public" venture today. A brief jaunt to the library was followed by a pass by the kids school to pick them up from their first day. On the way home we stopped for some ice cream cones. When we were standing at the counter, a woman came in with her 2 kids. She took one look at Jonah in his sling and melted, then pointed to a big teen age boy and said, "I just picked my baby boy up from his first day of high school!" She went on to tell me how fast the time has gone, how she was just holding him when he was a tiny baby. I began to well up with tears and begged her to stop, I am swimming in a body full of hormone soup and can't take it.

She kept going (of course she did).

Tonight the baby cried and would not be consoled. I wept right along with him. He finally fell asleep in the swing.

Damn swing. It did what I couldn't do.

Is it crazy that I am jealous of a swing?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cocoon

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I woke up this morning just minutes from the time Jonah was born a week ago. I imagined those moments, those last few minutes before he burst upon the planet. It was such an intense time, I could barely take it in. And the days since have flown by bafflingly fast. I dreamed last night that I was in charge of a church activity and I wasn’t ready… I looked for a diaper bag and shoes, but suddenly I was trying to run there barefoot and in my night gown, carrying Jonah in just his diaper. I kept thinking “I’m just not ready”.


And I’m not. I am not ready to leave my cocoon. Not ready to join the world, to talk to strangers in stores, and to deal with traffic and time limits and rushing about.

.

Today we left the house for the first time, and as we got in the van and drove away, I looked at our house and wanted to run back inside. Jonah felt so far away in his car seat, and I couldn’t see his sweet little face. If we had to leave our cocoon for something, having lovely baby portraits done by Erin was a gentle way of re-entering the world (see her website here).

. Still, I was glad to get home and wrap my arms around my little pumpkin.

He’s here right now. And he’s gorgeous.

.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

He's here


I sit here- lay here really, with a tiny human being on my chest, inches from the belly, all pillowy soft and puffy now, where he has been all these months. His downy soft head is within kissing range. He takes a funny skittery breath every once in a while that almost sounds like a sigh. He is warm and, except for a diaper, still naked, snuggled against my skin under his blanket.

Jonah is here.

And just typing those words makes me cry again, for the millionth time in the past few days.

He’s here.

He’s here, and with his coming so much has changed. Gone are the fears for his safe arrival, gone the panic of not knowing if he would make it (though it seemed obvious to all that he would, still, the fear for me was there). Gone is my enormous belly that I both loved and feared, worshiped and sometimes hated. Gone are the kicks that every time affirmed that he was OK, replaced with rosy skin that tells me all is well. No more poking my belly if it had grown too quiet, waiting for a response (though if he is still too long my hand goes to his chest to feel the rise and fall of his breath). He’s here.

And before I can even tell you about how he came, I must tell what his coming has meant in just these few days.

Jonah is a blessing. His coming ends a long season for us. A season of loss, a season of waiting, a season of bringing life. I know some would be tempted to remind us that he is here, a panacea, mending all that was broken before. But for us he carries the sweet reminder of the children we will not raise in this life, that were ours for a little while. When we look at his face, we see features that remind us of the children; ears like Adam’s, eyes like Ellie’s, Tessa’s forehead… but whose mouth? Perhaps it is like Drew’s would have been. Perhaps this little Jonah is the spitting image of one of the little ones that didn’t complete his or her journey here.

I don’t know, or pretend to understand the eternal nature of a spirit. I don’t know when a child’s spirit leaves it’s heavenly home to enter the body that will house it in mortality. Some believe that a spirit just keeps trying, over and over, until it gets here. All I know is that each time we grew a baby, even for a few months, it was a new vessel, made of the complex blend of two generations of people; a unique blueprint that can never be duplicated. How could a spirit try on a mortal cloth like a coat, leaving one for the next? No, to me, each spirit that may have come through me, whether to stay or not, was here for its own season and reason.

I believe, of course, that this child, this spirit, is the one that was meant to grow up here in our home as a member of our family. Ultimately- though we did not know him- Jonah is the soul we have waited for. But waiting for this special person to come to us, we've had the privilege to have come through our lives, the potentials of other children who we did not really get to meet. This is nothing to be fixed. Nothing about Jonah’s presence erases those other beings; not the joyful memory of the hope we had for them, not the pain of their losses, and not the existence of their spirits. Everything about Jonah's being here reaffirms our role as parents in the eternal journeys of all of our children.

A sacred space has taken over our home. It is clouded at times by my hormonal plunges into dark corners, but when allowed to be, in it’s purest sense, there is a light here in this house that pushes the darkness out. Jonah brings a calm into the rooms of this place. He brings blessed relief from constant worry, doubt and uncertainty. He brings renewal as we start at the beginning with firsts. He closes a chapter as we say goodbye to the welcoming of new family members. He brings with him a future we had almost given up waiting for.


.

As I sort out my thoughts over the coming days and weeks, between feedings and changings, and tears- happy and some not so- I’ll put down in words what I can. For now I have pictures that share my favorite parts of these first few days.



Fuzzy little arms
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The "ooooo" that they do for only a few weeks
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A postpartum visit, Jonah barely fussed when Claudette clipped his tongue tie.

The girls prepare our flower bath, a tradition we have to welcome our babies to our family.

We welcome him, one by one taking turns, to tell him why he is so cherished, so wanted and so loved (a well placed blossom acts as a floating fig leaf :).
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Tessa introduces Jonah to the sunshine
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Another post-natal visit to check on us, Claudette weighs Jonah, a little lighter than he was 5 days ago. Not to worry for the naked babe, it was 85 degrees today.

Tired mama, all puffy from crying.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's a...!!!!

Introducing...
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Jonah Ryder Holman!

Born at home
Saturday, August 14, at 10:08 AM
.
He weighs a delicate 10 pounds, 2 ounces
(that is a 15 and a half inch melon there, folks!).
.
Because for some reason in our culture, the following information seems to be of interest, I can tell you he was 21 1/2 inches long, but for me the coolest stats are that he came out in 4 pushes and I didn't need any stitches, and 5 hours after the birth I had lost 22 pounds (if you think the baby was big, you should have seen the placenta!).
And to think my first was born by cesarean because I was "too small to push out a baby over 8 pounds".
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But the best part is that he is here and safe and well.
We are so grateful and
so very blessed.
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I have shed a thousand joyful (and a few hormonal) tears today.
Can you believe it?

He's here!
(and he's a he! That was a surprise...)
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We will rest up a bit and tell you more about him soon!

Jonah, right out of the belly of the whale, with Daddy, Mama, and dear friend Francine.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

I did my best


"I finished, Daddy. I did my best. I sink I did a good job."
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I think she did, too, but not on the windows (though, for a four year old, she is well on her way to a lucrative career in home maintenance).
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A little while ago when we were at my midwife's house, Tessa took something. It was a small toy horse that she thought was wonderful. She slipped it into her pocket and brought it home. Ellie, upon discovering the deception, was all too glad to bring it to my attention.
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"Tessa stole from Claudette!!!"
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Tess came running out of the room, wide eyed and insisting, "I will gib it back!"
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"Yes, you certainly will." I agreed (insert lecture on honesty here).
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Today at our prenatal visit, Tessa brought the horsie to return to Claudette. I gave Claudette warning that Tessa was going to confess to her and apologize. I asked her to act serious and hold Tessa responsible, and not just say 'that's OK', as adults so often do to children.
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Tessa looked Claudette in the eyes, her face tense and her eyebrows knit together. The corners of her little mouth arced downward and trembled, but she mustered her courage.
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"I sahwy I stoled youh horsie." She whispered, her huge, beautiful eyes getting shinny with tears. The corners of her mouth pulled tight and her bottom lip tried hard not to surrender to the cry waiting behind it. I coached her through the rest, "Who is sad when we take things?"
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"Cwahdette."
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"Who else?"
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"Jesus."
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I glanced at Claudette, who's face mirrored almost exactly the sad little pout on Tessa's. She sweetly collected herself and with a warm smile, said, "I forgive you."
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Tessa nearly burst into tears until she looked into my face and saw me smiling back.
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I thanked Claudette and we climbed into the van. "You did a very good job, Tessa, I am so proud of you. You did the right thing and I know that was hard."
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Tessa smiled, and looked relieved.
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She did such a good job. I know that she will make much bigger mistakes in the future. I hope somehow in her heart she will remember this day, and her sweet little heart says,
"I did my best.".
.
.
***
(Oh, and by-the-by, Claudette says baby is great. The heartbeat was very boyish today, and I am making a little progress with the hundreds of contractions I have been having. At this rate, I will have the baby in, oh, say... 7 more weeks! Ha!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

40


How I spent the day called "40 weeks":
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snuggling a croupy Tessa on the couch
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touching elbows with my sweetie as he pays bills while I email pregnant women who need support
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eggs and cantaloupe with homemade vanilla yogurt
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pulling weeds
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battling with crabby kids who don't want to pull weeds
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Addy stepping barefoot on rose thorns
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Addy then saying he hated me (for the first time in his little life)... (out loud, anyway)
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hiding my tears from him
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finding where all the snails sleep
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lectures about being kind to each other
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not going to see Shrek with crabby kids after all
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going to Walmart instead
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finding a fabulous nursing bra at Walmart
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finding they didn't have it in my size
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buying a million school supplies
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buying a monkey lunchbox for Tessa and promising outings while kids are in school
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answering "the question" five times while in Walmart ("Actually, I'm due today. Yes, really.")
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meeting a mama due in 8 days, and laughing at our matching waddles
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looking (with no luck) for curtains that will keep the boogie man out of the girls room
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giving up and riding one of those old-lady motorized scooters at Office Depot while Guy teases "Hover-round!"
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crashing into 3 displays
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catching the boys making fun of the "uni-ball" pen display (my ears perking up when I heard the word testicle, with a giggle, coming from Ethan)
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hugging little old Helen, a plump lady who walks down my street, and comparing bellies with a laugh
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listening to Stephanie singing on my answering machine (so funny!) "happy due-date-day!"
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managing to scold children to bed while still having a heart to heart visit on the phone with my sweet friend, Robin
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contracting my brains (but not my baby) out as I sit side by side with my honey, smelling his hands and feeling grateful he is here
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watching this, and being even more grateful for all of my blessings, for the gospel, and for the love of my Savior.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bun in the Oven

Mom passed away nearly 8 years ago. It is so strange to think that she has never known Ellie and Tessa, and won’t have known this little one while here in this life.

The thing that reminds me most of mom is baking. Her kitchen always smelled amazing. She made 8 loaves of bread at a time every week, usually with cinnamon rolls or dinner rolls on the side. Her Texas cake was famous. When I am missing mom, I feel close to her by making the recipes that she made so often.

I am not much of a baker, but for some crazy reason, as the days pass, I find myself returning to the kitchen to make messes that need cleaning. Yesterday saw breakfast of Aebleskivers; Danish pancakes that hide an apple slice inside (or, after the tradition of mom; apple, banana, chocolate chips, or all three). Each one is a surprise. The day before, I revisited my favorite Toffee Bar recipe. Today, I tried my hand at a new recipe for peanut butter cookies that quite literally melt in your mouth. Though I am not (supposed) to eat any of it, why should I deprive my family? Right?

.

I am freezing some so that I can totally pig out after baby!

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Enjoy the pictures (by Ethan) and the yummy recipes.

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(Oh, and this is why these are soooo yummy; the caramel layer fuses to the crust and makes them taste almost like candy.)

.

Toffee Bars

Mix and press into a 9x13 pan:

½ cup butter

½ c sugar

¼ tsp. salt

1 c flour

Bake at 350 til lightly golden

.

Meanwhile, simmer till bubbly in a saucepan, stirring constantly until thickened:

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

2 tbsp butter

Pour out on crust. Bake until golden.

.

While hot, top with 1 -6 oz pkg chocolate chips. When chips have melted, smooth them out and allow to cool. Cut when cooled. Optional toppings to add: nuts and coconut.

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

2 c peanut butter (2 ½ if you use all natural)

2 c sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

Dash of salt

Mix and bake, baby. 350 for 8 minutes. They are very delicate, but the yummiest ever.

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If this baby doesn’t come soon, I am going to have to open a bakery. Oh, wait… my oven is already occupied.




Monday, August 9, 2010

Smoke Signals

When I woke early this morning, my room was flooded with a warm, pink light. With no reason to get up, I lay trying to go back to sleep, but the glow of the morning only took me back to the glow of last night. Instead, I lay in bed remembering, and pondering my children, and the concept of perfection.

After a beautiful dinner prepared by chef Guy, I wandered out to enjoy the cool evening from the back patio. I had Addyboy begin a fire in the fire pit, and though at first Guy had declined an invitation to join us, it wasn’t long before all were gathered around the firelight. We brought out a game that Francine gave to us not long ago called Table Topics. Not a game so much, as a conversation starter. It has cards with questions ranging from, “What is your favorite ride at the amusement park?” to “What is one character trait from each family member you would like to have?” It was sweet to hear Ethan say he would like to be like mom because no matter how hard things get she never gives up. Adam would choose dad's inventiveness, and he even managed to think of nice things to say about Ellie, which should earn him a medal these days. Not understanding, Tessa told us what she liked about us, which is nice too. Apparently, I smell good. Always a bonus.

As the fire light danced off my children’s faces and sparkled in their eyes, I watched them giggle and wonder and share and be so present. We sang songs, and mom was coaxed into a few circus acts, (there’s a hole in the bottom of the ocean!). There was the ever-present burp-and-fart talk from the boys, (can some one PLEASE explain this to me? Why must everything be reduced to gases?), and several times throughout the evening we had to correct one kid or another about throwing junk in the fire, crowding each other, or talking over the top of one another, but there was also a spirit of closeness that out-warmed the fire. We were vibrating with each other’s energy. As the night wore on, each voice grew more valued, each thought special. When we came inside, there was a sort of magical feeling like we had done something really important that night, and I guess we had.

I often examine the day with so much judgement, compartmentalizing moments into good or bad, right or wrong. It is so easy to pick out the flaws. So easy to say that this was good, but it was less good because of that. It is hard to let the great and the not-so great coexist side by side, and be able to value both. I guess I am learning ever so slowly about the perfection within imperfection.

As we climbed into bed last night, Guy and I snuggled and chatted a while before I noticed that my hair carried the smokey reminder of the evening’s time spent together. "I smell like campfire!" I laughed, having no intention of breaking up a perfect snuggle to shower.

That’s OK, because according to Tessa, I smell good, smoke and all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Five

I had nothing to say.

For the past many weeks, each Sunday I go to church and am barraged by the same questions.

“When are you going to have that baby?”

“Still here?”

“Are you about to pop?”

I had taken to responding with a shrug and a smirk in the last few weeks, because I really have no response to these questions (or variations of them) anymore. Today, after the main meeting, the lady who goes out of her way to tell me every dead-baby story she knows came up and said, “No baby yet?!” to which I grabbed my belly and firmly stated, “Yes, there is a baby, and it’s right here!”

I lasted through about 8 more comments, and finally told Guy I was going home.

I feel like a baby (perhaps because I bawled after I got here), because I know I am a tougher cookie than that, but as I ponder it all I realize what is going on with me. I have lost my identity within my community. I am no longer Laine, artist, doula, singer, wife, writer, mother of four. I am “The Belly”. I…"I" am not what anybody sees anymore. I know that people tend to acquire little sayings and responses that they fire out at certain times, like “Is it hot enough for ya?” when there are a string of days over 100. I know people mean well. I know that they want to say something. And I have plenty on my mind that I could share, but no one asks the questions I have answers for.

Here is the conversation that has been in my head lately… “What will it be like to be the mother of five?” In my mind, I have always had two images of a “mother of five”. The first is of a well groomed, PTA president, soccer-carpool-cupcake mom who has chore charts on the fridge, bed times well enforced and weekly menus that are strictly adhered to. She has it all down, and her kids are walking-and-politely-talking testaments to her exceptional organizational and mothering prowice. They don’t announce "Safety!" every time they fart to avoid being punched by the kid next to them who yells “doorknob” upon hearing said fart (thanks, scout camp).

The other image of the “mother of five” that resides in my overcrowded brain is… well… you can find her on every aisle of Walmart, smacking little hands, hiking up her lose bra straps and announcing to her wild brood, “If you do that one more time…!”, never finishing the statement. By the time you leave the aisle she is on, you have committed to memory at least one of her children’s names due to its repetition in such phrases as, “Timmy, put that down!”, “Timmy, get that out of your mouth!”, and “Timmy, stop biting your sister!” Two aisles later you actually find yourself feeling sorry for Timmy. I mean, it’s not his fault he has this mother, is it?

I have seen the looks my belly gets when, with four kids in tow, I walk through a store and people count heads, and then add the bump. On difficult shopping trips, I have even asked myself, “I can’t even handle the ones I’ve got, how am I gonna do five?”

When Guy hears my question, he smiles, “The same way you do four.”

“A bite at a time?” I reply, perplexed. Oh, wait, that’s how you eat an elephant. Oh, well, same difference.

I am not the mom who has it all together. I am the mom who sets up the job chart and forgets to give the rewards. When my kids pick their noses, I don’t say “Get a tissue.” I say “Don’t eat it!” I make hollow threats, much like Timmy’s mom, about sending all the toys on the floor to the thrift store, and then think “If I were a better mom, I wouldn’t need to follow through with threats, because I wouldn’t need to make threats at all!” Soccer-PTA mom has kids with clean rooms, after all.

When I was first married, I was shocked when with my ring, there came no magic spell that made me the perfect wife and homemaker. I have battled the expectation ever since, but never more than now. I can’t become the Walmart mom. I just can’t!

Mother of five.

What is she supposed to look like? What would she have figured out by now that I haven’t?

And where, pray tell, does she shop for well fitting bras? Because, let me tall ya, Honey, they don’t sell them at Walmart.