Monday, August 27, 2012

My Little Science Experiment


 I realize that I've been terrible at keeping up with my blog since Evie was born. I had these great aspirations to write everyday during her nap time (which, as it turns out, usually happens in the car....) or I'd wake up before her in the morning, drink my coffee and start off my day with a well-written thought or two (yeah right...if she's sleeping, then I'm sleeping!

Basically, to sum up what I've learned these past 8 months about raising a child is this: preconceived expectations of who, how and what you will use to raise your child are usually wrong.
    One piece of advice I'd give expectant mothers: erase expectations. You will save yourself a lot of stress and worry. 

I was at a baby shower recently and the expectant mama was opening a gift which contained these "amazing" pacifiers. "Oh, these are just THE BEST!" one mom exclaimed. "All babies love these! You must have these all the time!" I didn't want to be negative, but what I wanted to say was, "No they're not! My baby hates pacifiers and has hated them from day one! These things actually made her cry MORE."  I figured I'd "let her figure it out." Perhaps her baby will like them.  I've realized that just because "Babies R Us" has an item on their "must-have" list, it doesn't necessarily mean your baby will like it. I've gone through FOUR different carriers, hoping that my baby would like one. When I finally did discover one she semi-tolerated, I could only use it for 30 min because my back started hurting!  I've tried two different swings, five different swaddles and several white noise devices. I've tried and tired to keep her socks on, but finally decided in April that it was warm enough for her to go barefoot now until at least October. When teething started, I gave her every potion and lotion I could find to ease the pain (although my grandma still insists that rubbing a little Bourbon on the gum line is the best remedy). 

I have felt and feel like I am wading through a deep pool of sludge half the time, trying in vain to find the magic in ONE of the many devices on the market. In my quest, I have found some songs that soothe, books that make her squeal and foods that don't make her gag. All this was done through trial and error. I affectionately call her "my little science experiment." 

I finally decided to give up on how I thought she SHOULD be and SHOULD act one night while at a friend's house. There were many babies in the room, and therefore a big box of toys was stationed in the middle to entertain the kids. After trying to find a toy that sparked her interest, I finally realized that she was happiest rolling around on the floor  playing with a plastic cup and a paper plate. Hey, she's a cheap date right now...however, I'm sure  Daddy will spoil her in the future and that will all change; but for now I'll embrace it!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Thirty Years


One dark, damp chilly night a few months ago, my husband and I sat eating our dinner to the background music of a screaming child. “Man, if it weren’t for her, there is not a doubt in my mind that we would be sitting on a beach in Mexico right now drinking a mojito,” my husband said dreamily. We looked at each other and both smiled as we thought the same thing: we wouldn’t change a thing about this moment.
As I near my 30th birthday, I’ve been reflecting on the 30 years God has given to me on this earth. I’m not dreading turning the big 3-0; rather, I choose to celebrate this incredible journey! Hooray! I've survived 10,950 days! :) 
My 20s were, for the most part, fantastic. I began the decade as a single college student, living in a house in Grand Rapids with 8 girlfriends; I end them as a wife and mother. In between, I married my wonderful husband, moved across the country, had a teaching career, earned a masters degree and cultivated an amazing community of friendships. I traveled all over the map and met people from around the world. I experienced the miracle of pregnancy, and now I am adjusting to motherhood. 

My 20s were a time of growing, figuring out “who I am” as well as struggling with “who I want to be.” I wrestled with self-confidence, my faith and my relationships. I experienced deep bitterness, deep joy and deep love. I’ve learned how to forgive, how to serve and how to grieve. I was always on the move either with my friends or my husband. There was never a dull moment.

However, as I turn 30, my life is changing. There is something in me that still loves the fast-paced, fabulous life of my 20s; however, there has been a big shift to where my energy is channeled.
 It is not all about me anymore. I didn't even realize that it was all about me until it wasn't all about me! However, perhaps even more importantly is the fact that life wouldn’t be as fulfilling and as precious if it were. If my life were merely focused on striving for my temporary happiness and joy, it would leave me utterly empty in the end. I’m realizing that what is most important and lasting in life are relationships, investing in people, and loving well. 

As I sat with my little 4-month-old daughter under a tree this afternoon, I was still amazed that the little person lying next to me is actually my child. The days that will fill the months of the next ten years will surely be consumed with many things; but none will be as important as raising and loving my family and friends. I enter this next decade excited and so grateful. Grateful for one more year…grateful for one more day…grateful for each moment, especially the small ones. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Someone's Daughter


This is a somewhat serious topic, one that has been weighing heavy on my heart since yesterday. As I was driving home from the store with my little girl, Evie, in the back seat, I started listening to a radio program that really touched me in a new way. It was about India, the sex trade and the little babies that are born into the brothels daily; uncared for, unloved and never touched, they are born into prostitution. The sex trafficking is a huge industry worldwide, one that is hidden from society. Young girls are taken and forced to work long hours where they are raped and beaten daily for little or no pay. Many women stay in these situations because they feel it is the only way they can support their children and family back home; others are trapped and if they try to run away, the corrupt police system in the country will capture them and return them for a monetary reward. Many of these women suffer with STDs and of course pregnancies. I never really thought about what happened to the kids that are born in these brothels until yesterday.

I spent part of the afternoon at Babies R Us, buying a bumbo chair and some other“developmental toys” for my baby girl. I love her so much that I feel that she deserves and needs all the gadgets this store has to offer! My husband and I get so much joy when we introduce her to all these new little things. One smile from her means the world.

Until I had a child, I never understood the excitement of watching all the little changes that occur as the days go by. I clearly remember the moment at about six weeks when I was changing her diaper and suddenly she looked me in the eye and smiled AT me! Last night was one of those moments. As I was doing the dishes, I placed her on a towel in the center of the kitchen floor behind me. When I turned around, she was flipping over on her tummy! I was so excited that I stopped what I was doing and grabbed my phone to capture this developmental milestone! After several failed attempts, my little Evie successfully flipped completely on her stomach. She looked so weak and helpless as she struggled to pull herself up. I cheered her on. I kissed her, picked her up and was so proud. I sent the video to family. My husband and I talked about it for the rest of the night.




As I lay in bed that night, my thoughts suddenly went to those dark, dirty brothels I heard about earlier in the day on the radio. How many innocent, helpless “Evies” were rolling over on their tummies for the first time without anyone cheering them on? How many were left in corners, uncared for, unloved, not picked up once during the day? Even worse, I heard that many kids are drugged, stuffed in locked closets and under bed while their mothers “work” next to them. Until I had my precious daughter, the human trafficking problem never hit me like this. I can actually picture the little, defenseless girls trapped in these conditions. The face that comes to my mind: my little daughter. Who is it that you picture in your mind?

My heart is heavy. What can I do, so far away? I know that this human trafficking problem in not just an international one. This problem is happening all over the United States. Young girls are coerced into this industry and trapped. What can we do?

  For the next few days, the non-profit “Forgo” is sending all their contributions to an organization called Freeset. Having been to India a few years ago, I visited this firsthand and saw the lives of the women transformed as they were given another option other than prostitution to make a living. Freeset teaches women skills and then they work, making bags to earn money for their families. They work in a loving, safe environment and their children are taken care of.
For more information, grab your phone and visit whynot.forgo.it to learn how to make a small sacrifice that can make a huge difference.

The face of my little girl haunts me. It may not be MY daughter, but it is someone’s daughter.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Read the Fine Print


Read the fine print. That is the lesson I learned recently after purchasing a Groupon for a six hour wine tour in a limo. I thought, What better way to celebrate our seven-year anniversary!?! So I paid the $50 per person, made the appointment and excitedly anticipated the romantic day.  
Well, the day finally arrived. We dropped our daughter off at Grandma and Grandpa's house for the day, and the two of us drove off for a memorable, relaxing day in whimsical wine country! It was a gorgeous Saturday morning. We pulled up to the MAX station, where we were instructed to meet the limo. We parked and waited..and waited…and waited.
 “Do you see a limo anywhere?” We both scanned the area. No limo. Suddenly, in the corner of the lot, we noticed a massive black bus. It seemed to be pulsating from the high energy dance music pumping from its speakers. “Could that be it?” asked John. 
No. This couldn't be it. This is a party bus! The company is called “fiesta limos.”
 LIMO. Long. Black. Chic. Romantic.
“Wine tour?” the driver of the bus asks us.
“Uh, yeah,” I answer apprehensively.
 “Well hop on!” he turns up the dance music even louder.
 We enter the party bus and take a seat on the black vinyl benches that are built into the perimeter of the red velvet walls. In front of us stands a tall, steel pole. Yes. A pole for dancing.
All of a sudden a strobe light pops on. 
It is 10:00 am. I just finished my second cup of coffee. We are ready to party.

During the next fifteen minutes, 14 more people enthusiastically enter the bus. A group of four women in their 50s, clearly on a much-anticipated “girls day out", make themselves comfortable in the back.  As soon as the bus gets going, the other wine tasters pop open a bottle of champagne to make mimosas. 
The images of a quiet ride through the vineyards, sipping vino together alone, suddenly vanish. These people clearly had other intentions. Let's just say it was clear that they weren't here to just "taste" fermented grapes and educate themselves on the whole wine-making process. 
 Our party bus weaves throughout the rolling hills of wine country. We stop at Ponzi, then Skol Blossomer, and enjoy a leisurely tasting at Erath. All the wineries have their charm, but with each stop the bus becomes louder and louder. The atmosphere heats up and people suddenly become really friendly.  
 John and I do our tasting. We learn about tannins, chat with the wine makers, and learn the optimal temperatures to store various wines. We even have lunch outside at a cute little sandwich shop by Argyle winery. 

However, the other members in the party bus seem to be doing shots with the wine. They barely nibble on some cheese, and there is a continuous flow of alcohol in between each stop. Friendly becomes obnoxious very soon. 
On the way home, John and I are clearly the only sober ones. He has his arm around me. I  try to make some nostalgic comments, "Seven years ago today we were walking down the aisle...." What? He can't hear me over the base. 
Suddenly, I sense a shadow fall over me. I turn my head around and the 50-year-old women in the black stretch pants in the back of the bus is pole dancing; her booty bounces like an overstuffed couch in my face. A guy in his early 30s slides provocatively up to the pole to take his turn after the enthusiastic prompting of his entourage. 
I try to pretend as if it not happening. "yeah, sweetie, seven years..." 
Suddenly I realize that it is impossible to pretend to ignore what is going on in front of us. I turn my head and look John in the eyes. "I'm so sorry this turned out this way. This is not the romantic, seven year celebration I envisioned for us when I planned this." 
 He just looks at me and laughs. “It will certainly be one we will look back and talk about! You know "us." Some of our best memories together have been the situations that didn't turn out like they were supposed to." 
I’m so glad that I have a husband who has such a great sense of humor.
 "And believe it or not, I'm actually kind of amused." He takes my hand and we do our best to enjoy the entertainment. 
Yes, happy seven years. 
Bring on seventy more. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Traveling with a Small Human


Last year when I was pregnant, John and I took advantage of all his accrued airline points and "elite status" to do some traveling. And travel we did! In fact, in our 6. 5 years of marriage, we have been very fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit. We started to call ourselves “jet setters” as we traipsed around the airports, waited in the “red carpet lounge”, got bumped to first class and jumped into our “emerald club” rental cars. We soon mastered the art of navigating the terminals and security lines. I learned to condense all my belongings into a mere “carry on”. Yes, life was exciting and fast paced. We would wake up in Portland and fall asleep in Chicago…or Rome. Towards the end of my pregnancy, we flew to Maui to attend one of my best friend's wedding. I remember thinking, “wow, traveling sure is harder being bigger.” Ha! Try bringing along a small human.
 So last week, John and I made our first trip across the United States to Chicago with our little 7-week-old Evelyn. Like any first experience with our baby we were a little apprehensive and nervous. I mean, it wasn’t just “us” we had to think about anymore. We had another little human on board…Not to mention the car seat and stroller and extra diapers…
During the week, I talked to several seasoned traveling parents. My one friend had traveled with her two year old on 54 flights so far. I kept hearing the same advice. “Feed often. Bring a change of clothing.” A change of clothing?! I threw one in, not expecting to really use it. Boy was I wrong!
 As we sat in Portland airport waiting to board our flight, Evelyn suddenly began to cry and cry. I know exactly what all the travelers were saying and thinking around us, “Please don’t sit by me…please don’t sit by me…”  I tried to manipulate and time her feeding schedule so it would be close to take off, but we were pushing it, and she was letting me know. Suddenly I smelled something terrible. Yes, it was an extremely dirty diaper. We were about 10 min from boarding, so I had to take care of this quickly. I scooped up my screaming child and rushed to the bathroom. I pulled down the plastic changing table, covered it in paper towels and put Evelyn down. By this point she was not happy; hungry and dirty, I received many concerned looks from women as they passed by. Sure enough, I discovered that her entire outfit was already totally soiled. Panicked, I stripped her down. She was naked, red-faced screaming, covered in poop and we were boarding in the eight minutes.  
                                                 I decided to throw the outfit away.
 Immediately, I dug out that second outfit I packed. What good advice to bring it! 
So, the trip didn’t start out on a very positive note, but overall, it was ok. We got bumped to first class (due to John’s status) and the looks we received from the other first class travelers could burn a hole through us. Evelyn spent the trip sleeping, eating (as much as she wanted) and being bounced between John and me. One thing I noticed is that the airplane bathrooms are useless when it comes to changing a diaper. However, we figured out the best way to take action. Parents, here it is…
 Close the toilet seat lid, and sit on it with the bathroom door closed. The area is so small you can’t help but put your knees up against the door. Lay your baby up over your legs and change…quickly! Mid change, the turbulence light went on. “Please don’t crash before I change this poopy diaper, “ I prayed. 

Another thing I learned is that my standard of cleanliness dropped dramatically. When we got home, Evelyn reeked of sour milk (due to an “all you can eat” buffet experience and insignificant burping). Her hair looked greasy, and her "airplane diaper changing experience" probably left her a little “under wiped.” However, her eyes were happy.
 As I stripped her down and cleaned off her "airplane residue" in the bathtub, I realized that our little “jet setter” did a good job. At 7.5 weeks old, she flew first class across the country. I now realize that our travel experience will never be the same. But I must say, she’s definitely more entertaining than any in flight movie or sky mall magazine.  And maybe we can enroll her in the frequent flyer program.




Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Season of Mom


I had all these great intentions to keep on this blog now that I have my baby girl, Evelyn Grace. The truth is, I can’t believe how busy she keeps me! Women sometimes ask me, “So, what do you do all day?” I hate that question because often times it is asked with a tone that suggests that I sit around all day and watch TV; but I have to admit that I often asked that question to stay at home moms when I was working full time. ;) The life of a stay at home mom may seem luxurious to some. To others, it is perhaps the opposite. Personally, I am so grateful that I can be at home, raising and taking care of my 
precious little girl. I don’t view it as luxurious. I’m not dressing up in nice clothes, taking clients out to lunches, or receiving praise from my boss for a job well done. The clothes I wear will be washed by the end of the day because they will smell like sour milk; I usually eat my mid day meal while simultaneously bouncing the infant seat with my foot; and I never get a thank you or good job from Evelyn after I change her poopy diaper. Usually, I am up several times throughout the night, feeding and changing Evelyn when she cries. Many mornings, (such as today) she awoke at 5 am and then, she was ready to begin her day! My job for the day has begun…but then again, it never ended from yesterday. I bath her, hold her, try to get laundry, some cleaning and a shower in between her cries and feedings (which is every two hours…) I’ve learned to lower my expectations of what I accomplish in a day.  “Accomplish” looks very different to me now. I can not define my productivity by an end result anymore. I define my day by the little rewards sprinkled throughout the hours..a smile or coo from my sweet girl. I have six years teaching experience, a master’s degree in reading development; but, there is a bigger picture at stake here, and it doesn’t have to do with a pay check or professional recognition. The bigger picture here is my baby girl, who wont be a baby girl forever. Some women absolutely need to work outside of the house…and to you, I salute you because that is a hard job indeed. I know you try to do your best and to do both jobs well. Each person has a different path and a different calling. And a good thing to remember is that whatever season you are in, it is not forever. This is something I have learned over the years and it has kept me sane. So right now my job is changing diapers, cleaning spit up, spending seemingly endless hours and hours nursing  and holding and smiling at my sweet Evie. Yes, I get those breaks of being able to meet up with other moms throughout the day sometimes. I get to take a mid day walk outside and give Evie some fresh air. The joys in my life are very simple now. It is not dinners out at the trendiest restaurant in town, or fancy drinks at happy hour or 90 minute yoga classes (all of which are really nice!!!!) But this is my new season. The season of Mom.Please be encouraged that if you are in a season that seems endless, it WILL certainly end. Someday my season of being a stay at home mom will end. So, in the meantime, bring on the diaper blow outs and burping cloths. Bring on the adoring eyes and quiet moments of rocking her to sleep. I am Mom. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Evening with the Swifts

I saw one of the most exciting things I've seen in a long time tonight. My good friend Erin and I went downtown Portland to Chapman school to watch the swift birds dance and twirl in the sky, spiraling  into their cozy chimney for the night. Videos just don't do justice to the beauty of it all, but I've attached a portion of one just to get an idea. I've never been to this September show, and neither had Erin. So when we arrived and found our spot on the grass, we really didn't know what we were in for. There were a few swift birds lazily circling the sky above us...but this was only the beginning. As dusk approached, thousands and thousands of swifts appeared out of no where and began circling in the sky above us. They came in together, tighter and tighter, forming perfect black cyclones. They spun, and churned and twisted above us. "I wonder if they could poop on us?"inquired my friend, Erin.
"Nah," I answered. "I don't think they will."
About five minutes later, a nice big green plop fell from the heavens and landed squarely on my white sleeve. I guess they can poop. And they had their target.

Anyhow, I was mesmerized by the swirling circus above me. The mass of birds began to descend towards the chimney, one bird bravely breaking away from the group and diving into the shelter for the night. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a big hawk swooped in, attacked the birds, trying to find a tasty morsel for supper. The crowd gasped in delight at the predator, cheering for his success. The hawk certainly interrupted the flow  of the dance; but after a few minutes of chaos, the birds reunited again and returned to their acrobatic cadence.
video
They entertained us for about an hour, until the sun finally set over Portland. Finally, they did one last magnificent tumble in the fading sky and looped into their resting place.
And there they sleep, nestled together in their warm chimney for the night. Just like that, the once busy sky is dark. The curtain is closed. And all the amused spectators clap and cheer for the pretty little birds who preformed for us on this most perfect evening in September.