Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Letter/Year in Review (in pictures)

I love getting Christmas cards. I really love getting Christmas cards that have family pictures in them. But I especially love getting Christmas letters. I am not particularly adept at keeping in touch with people, so these end-of-year life updates are my favorite.

Unfortunately, I am not very good at sending out my own Christmas letters. Last year, I was on the ball and sent out photo cards, but for various reasons a Christmas card was not feasible this year. I thought about doing an email letter, but I barely read anything that comes to my inbox, and I thought others might be the same. Especially if the email comes at a particularly busy or stressful time. Say.... Christmas? So I decided to take my non-Christmas-card-writing one step further and write my letter here, in my blog. It might seem lazy or impersonal, but this way I'm not cluttering up your email box, your real mailbox, your recycle bin next month, or your trashcan and a landfill if you're (gasp) not into recycling.

Anyway, here is my lazy/eco-friendly/poor girl's Christmas letter (you can choose which you want it to be). It's been an interesting year!

Last year around this time, you might have received a photo card announcing our big news:

Photo credit: Shelby Blevins Photography (for the picture on the card, not the picture of the card)
The anticipation of the baby was preempted by another big life event. In late February, D had surgery to repair the massive hernia caused by the incision from one of his previous surgeries. Sorry, I don't have any pictures of that, although I did get to see CT scan photos of what my husband looks like bisected, so that was pretty cool. In early March, the hernia repair failed and D had another surgery, prolonging his stay in the hospital. (Again, sorry, no pictures of this one). He is now held together by Gortex, which sounds much more impressive than it probably is. On a side note, his doctors and nurses at Hershey Medical Center were absolutely fantastic. I was very impressed with the care he received there.

Spring brought a lot of preparations for transition. In April, I started working my last Outdoor Education season at Black Rock Retreat. It was challenging to stay energetic and focused throughout the day with a growing belly slowing me down, but I was surrounded by wonderful coworkers and friends who were very (VERY) patient with me.

Photo credit: Manda Phillips (not pictured, although she is one of the amazing coworkers mentioned above)
D spent the spring working part-time at the Y and recovering from surgery. I kept working Outdoor Eduction, volunteering with the Teen Moms group at my church, and growing a baby.

Photo credit: Shelby Blevins Photography
Photo credit: Shelby Blevins Photography
On June 1st, two major things happened. It was my last day of work at BRR. It was difficult to leave such a wonderful job, but I came home to exciting news: D accepted a job in Williamsport, PA. He would start in the beginning of July. We had one month to pack, find a place to live, move there, and, oh yeah, have a baby.

My sister came up from Georgia to help with the birth. She brought her oldest son, Isaac (11), and her daughter, Rachel (1 1/2). She was also 7 months pregnant.

Photo Credit: Isaac Robinson
Samantha Dare entered our lives on June 16th, one day before her due date. D and Erin were by my side for the entire experience, and Erin stayed a few extra days to help me get the hang of things. Since then, every day has been an adventure. Samantha is growing so fast, and it is awesome to watch her learn new things every day. At six months old, she is rolling over, sitting up, commando crawling, and rocking back and forth on her hands and knees (I think she'll be crawling in the next few days). She is also babbling up a storm, incredibly curious about everything, and her first tooth is poking through. My father calls her "the baby of many faces."

Photo Credit: Alexandra Wasik

Photo Credit: Esther Kanuchok

We moved to Williamsport on July 1st, when Samantha was only two weeks old. The move went smoothly thanks to the help of many friends and family who helped us move out of our old apartment (pictured below) and move into our new apartment.

Photo Credit: Manda Phillips (who also helped, along with others who are not pictured)
In August, I was able to go down to Georgia to be with my sister during the birth of her 7th child, Gideon. It was an interesting road trip with an 8 week old baby (D had to stay behind in PA), but I am so glad I was able to be there!
Samantha, 2 months, & Gideon, 2 days (Photo Credit: Erin Robinson)
Samantha and all of her Robinson cousins
D started his new job and is staying very busy running the pool at the Y. He also opened an Etsy Shop for his various crafts (RavenShadow Designs) and writing short stories and children's stories. I am blessed to be able to stay home with Samantha, with only having to work a few hours a week (I coach a youth swim club and teach water fitness at the Y). I also opened an Etsy shop for Awesome Cupcake, and the last few weeks have had the opportunity for my cupcakes to be sold at a local coffee shop (Alabaster Coffee Roaster & Tea Company). I am hoping to continue baking and expand Awesome Cupcake locally in the next year.

So, that's our year in review! I am looking forward to the upcoming year. I hope that you and your family had a very Merry Christmas and will have a blessed new year!

Christmas 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Every morning for the past two months, when I walk out of my bedroom, the very first thing I see are all of my plants. They are spending the winter in a little alcove in the hallway to stay warm. Unfortunately, I was a bit late in bringing them in, and they suffered through a few frosts outside. When I brought them in, some were black and limp. There was absolutely no sign of life to them. This included my favorite plant, Cher. 

Before you ask, no, I am not in the habit of naming my plants. The other plants are all " that aloe" or "Cher's babies." But I got Cher from my friend Michelle one summer while working at camp. Cher was a "baby" from her plant (also named Cher), who was a "baby" from her friend's plant (yet another Cher). The idea is to share the plant... hence the name. I've had my Cher now for about six years. She grew huge. I have shared her with many people over the years. And then, I killed her.

Or, so I thought. Suddenly, a few days ago, I woke up in the morning to walk out to this beautiful sight:

Sprouting up from the brown, dry leaves that once were my exuberant plant is new growth! Beautiful, bright green leave bursting through what looked like death. I was just about to toss out the dead plant. For weeks, I would take Samantha over to the plants and we'd pull out as many of the dry leaves as we could (she would then try to eat them, of course). I was hoping to make room for any hint of new growth, but weeks persisted where there was just constant dreariness and death. And then, suddenly, there was life!

I know Christmas is a time when we focus on Christ's birth, and not necessarily His resurrection. But every morning this week, as I've woken up and walked out of my bedroom, I have been greeted with this simple, beautiful reminder of new life. More importantly, of the new life that has been given to me through Christ. Because we have a God who loves us more than we can ever fathom. A God who died for our sins. A God who rose from the dead so we can be reconciled with Him. A God who gave up everything so we can have new life.

I don't know about you, but I have had many times in my life that have seemed black, dry, and dead. Hopeless. Where I was about to give up, and perhaps others were about to give up on me. But God consistently worked to clear all that away, even when I couldn't see it. And now, as a child of a living and loving God, I am full of hope, joy, and new life.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. I hope that the beautiful reality of God's love for you - through Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection - permeates through everything you do this season, and that you, too, are made anew.

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." - Romans 6:4

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baking with Baby

It's that wonderful time of the year... time to bake! Cookie exchanges, loaves of bread for gifts, cakes and pies for family dinners... is it any wonder that I love Christmas so much? When you combine my love of eating with my love of baking, December becomes my favorite month. Not only are there more reasons to bake, I also find that people tend to be less concerned with eating sweets ("it's only once a year" or "it's a special occasion"), and therefore I can get more people to try my latest kitchen concoctions.

Of course, I bake year-round. And halfway through this year, a major obstacle to baking success entered my life: Samantha. I'm not complaining, but it is extremely difficult to bake successfully with a baby in the house. So, for anyone else who has just entered parenthood and has the urge to bake massive amounts of goodies this Christmas, I thought I'd offer a few helpful pointers for "baking with baby."

First and foremost, accept the fact your baby will need you at the least opportune time. She might nap the entire way through the preparation, but wake up - very hungry - two minutes before your cupcakes/bread/whatever is due to come out of the oven. When I am home alone, this either means dealing with an upset baby for a few extra minutes, or ruining my baked goods. When D is home, this has often turned into a situation where he brings me a batter-loaded toothpick so I can gauge the amount of time left in the oven while simultaneously nursing the baby. (Read: "It needs about two and a half more minutes." "You can tell that from a toothpick?" ... My superpowers are quite incredible, really.)

Secondly, you will need to entertain your baby. Sometimes Samantha will sit contentedly and play with her own toys, but usually she is very interested in what I'm doing. This is when passing her a clean spatula to "lick" is helpful (as I lick one of the batter-filled ones). Or letting her play with colorful cupcake wrappers. I often act out a cooking show for her. I explain each of the ingredients, its role in the baking process, and how much I'm using. I show her how to measure out flour, why it's helpful for ingredients to be room temperature, about the importance of sifting, and why we cream together butter and sugar. Sometimes, when she starts to fuss, I do this as a song and dance. This is always around the time my neighbors walk by the kitchen window.

Third, if you're the kind of person who needs to be at peace for baked goods to turn out well, accept the fact that this will never happen. Usually, baking is my time of relaxation and enjoyment. It's like making delicious science, and few things can beat it. But with an extra little person in the room who needs me - often on a schedule quite contrary to what I planned to do while baking - that time is no longer my own. And for some reason, this really affects my outcome. I don't know if I am more distracted, or not as careful, but I have ruined more baking projects with Samantha than I ever did before her. (Let's be honest, though - it's worth it.)

With all those challenges in mind, these are some helpful strategies for success:

Prep Ahead of Time
Baking a batch of cupcakes has become an all day adventure. It starts in the morning. When S is napping or reasonably happy playing by herself, I sift together all my dry ingredients on a sheet of wax paper. If she's still doing well, I measure out my butter and sugar. If we're still good, I then measure out any liquid ingredients. By the time I'm ready to begin actually mixing, I usually have everything pre-measured and ready to go. This way, my mixing time goes a lot faster.

Timing is Key
I've been playing around with the best timing for things. Even with everything measured out and ready, it still takes time to properly mix the ingredients, fill the baking cups/loaf tins/etc. And then to get them in the oven, wait the 15-45 minutes (depending on what you're making) until it's ready. And repeat if doing multiple batches. Keeping a baby happy for this long becomes a challenge. I first attempted to mix during naps, but as I mentioned before, she always woke up at the worst time. I now use nap time as "prep" time, and baking time begins immediately after she wakes up. I love on her for a few minutes, nurse her, and then get to work while she is happy, full, and well-rested. This allows me to be able to pull everything out of the oven just in time for her to take another nap. She is a quick eater, so I can usually nurse her again when things are in the oven if I start immediately.  Otherwise, I wait until everything is out and then I can nurse her to sleep.

No Baby-Wearing
Sure, when I'm making things just for me and D, I'll sometimes wear Samantha on my hip as I prepare all the ingredients. But when it's time for the oven, she goes into her bouncy seat or on the floor. I know this should go without saying, but please don't ever try wearing or holding your baby near a hot oven. Even if she's fussy. Scratch that - especially if she's fussy.

Keep It Simple
Some recipes are much easier than others. If you're home alone with baby, stick to the easy ones. If I want to complete a batch of cupcakes all in one weekday, I tend to opt for a basic flavor with a basic frosting - no frills, no special ingredients, no advance prep needed. When it's time to make things that are complicated, I wait until Samantha has gone to bed (not just a nap), and D assumes "baby duty." If Samantha wakes up and fusses, he's in charge of responding. For example, tonight I made a batch of homemade caramel sauce. This is a time-consuming process that needs constant attention, or else the sugar will burn and the sauce will be ruined. My stove top is lame, so it takes about half an hour to make a good caramel sauce. It's not possible to do with a baby needing my attention. This becomes my half hour of "baby free" time, no matter what happens. (And since D loves my salted caramel cupcakes, he is more than happy to take care of Samantha without any back-up.) For things that are slightly less complicated, but still very time-consuming (example: toasting/flaming the marshmallow topping on S'more cupcakes), I can do this while Samantha is awake but only when D is in charge. They sit in the living and play games, read books, and sometimes pop in to see what I'm up to. But they don't stay long before they are banished again. This system works well for us, even if it means that I'm staying up a little later than usual.

So, I guess with a little foresight, baking with a baby around isn't too much of a hassle. Especially if you are doing it intermittently. But if you are preparing for a big Christmas bake fest, be prepared to need help with the baby! And, of course, a big spatula for licking the bowl.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

These Old Jeans

I have a pair of jeans that have been patched and re-patched multiple times. The left knee is torn, the back pockets are about to fall off, and the blue heart fabric patching up the worn places is ripping out of the stitching. When I was packing away my non-maternity clothes to make room for those that would accommodate my growing stomach last year, I almost threw them away. Almost. But I didn’t.

For years, I wore those patched jeans on a daily basis. They are from American Eagle, back before they only stocked styles appropriate (and yet simultaneously inappropriate) for preteen girls. These pants weren’t patched back then; not even pre-ripped. When they first tore, I repaired them and kept going. More holes appeared, and so did more patches. These jeans were so comfortable that I just kept patching up holes whenever current patches failed. But they are now beyond repair, and I can’t wear them outside the comfort of my home. Yet, I still wear them.

I first got these jeans my senior year of college. They saw me through writing my thesis, studying on Front Quad, and graduation.  I wore them through a summer of camp in North Carolina, and a lonely year and a half on my own in Ohio. I wore them as I led hikes through northern Alabama mountains and pulled 5th graders out of Split Rock. I was wearing them the day I met my husband.

I’m not one to get sentimental about clothing, but these jeans have been through a lot. These jeans remind me of who I used to be.

Today, Samantha is sleeping in my arms. Her mouth is open into a small triangle and her head tilted back. With my book out of reach, I start to think about how much has changed these last few years.

I want to believe that I used to be fun and outgoing. I spent most of day outside – since this was, afterall, my job. I wrote poems and read lots of books. I had intellectual discussions with friends (even though I was never nearly as well-informed as they were). I had opinions about world affairs. I have never been cool, but I think I really came into my own in the years immediately following college. I was comfortable in my own skin, confident about who I was - even if I had no idea where my life was going - and I was happy.

Now, I spend my days literally covered in baby spit-up. Thanks to hormone changes, my hair is falling out by the fistfuls. Dark circles have taken up residence under my eyes. For want of conversation, I try to teach a 4 month old the importance of sifting flour when baking, or what type of mushroom we see on our daily walks. I make up songs about washing the dishes and changing diapers. I read books such as “The Portable Pediatrician,” and study topics like breastfeeding, babywearing, and baby development. Some days are really, really hard.

I often wear my old jeans to feel like the “old” me, instead of just old. I match them with a tank top and a bandana in my hair. This is what I am wearing as Samantha is sleeping in my arms, because I woke up this morning feeling worn out and boring. I wanted part of myself back – the energetic, creative, social me. But now, my arm is falling asleep, and I don’t want to move it because my daughter is simultaneously so funny looking and so adorable. I don’t want to ruin the moment.

When I think about it, I was very happy with my life before. For the period of my early and mid-twenties, it was a pretty great life to have. But this moment here - the gentle rise and fall of her chest, the soft snoring, the knowledge that when she wakes up, she will smile her giant toothless grin that’s just for me – this goes beyond happiness. It’s no longer about my ability to carry on an adult conversation, or the creative outlets I no longer have the time or energy to pursue. These things will come back, eventually. But this moment in time, with my sleeping baby, will never come back. Sure, there might be other afternoon naps in my arms, but none when she is exactly the person she is right now.

One day soon I will have to get rid of my tattered jeans. I am no longer single, no longer free to travel on a whim, no longer working a job that requires me to hang out at the top of the zipline tower. But when I look at who I am now - wife to an incredibly loving and considerate man, the man that God made for me and for whom I was made, and mama to a happy, healthy daughter who constantly amazes me with how much she learns and grows each day – I know that life is full of change. Memories of joys and trials will fade; sometimes during these last few years, I have felt pieces of my life ripping apart. And yet this moment, the one right here, is perfect and complete without patches.

 One week old.

Four months old.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Few New Things (Random Updates)

I haven't really had a chance lately to sit down and write, but a lot has happened these last few weeks. None of these things are big, life-changing events, but I just wanted to give a quick update on a few things happening here at the Fedchak house.

First, the baby updates:

3 months old!

1) Samantha will be three months old on Sunday! She now weighs in at 13 pounds 8 ounces. She is very smiley, and is suddenly extremely interested in her mobile or anything that moves. Her favorite game lately is watching my hair flip around - yes, that's right - I put my hair in a ponytail and headbang, and my daughter is overjoyed and entertained for minutes at a time. Now that the overwhelming heat has died down, we spend time out in the yard each day playing with leaves, maple seeds, and anything else that crawls onto the blanket. The first day we did this, she plucked a handful of grass and shoved it into her mouth, which brings us to the next development:

2) Everything goes in her mouth. Her hands, my hands (when she grabs them), blankets, rags, toys, and anything else she can wrap her hand around gets pulled straight into her waiting open mouth. She will sit contentedly in her swing and just gnaw on her own fists, slobbering loudly. Oh, and with all of this gumming comes a lot of drool. We have started breaking out bibs, otherwise she goes through several outfits a day that just get completely drenched down the front.

Chewing on her "cupcake crinkler."

3) In exciting news, she is now sleeping through the night! She has been doing so consistently for just over a week now. She goes to sleep between 9 and 10, and sleeps until sometime between 4:30 and 6:30 in the morning. Then, she doesn't even wake up - she just wiggles around and makes noise in her sleep until I bring her into bed and nurse her (while she still sleeps). Then she continues to sleep until between 7:30 and 8:30, when she nurses again. The last few days, she has even continued to sleep through these and not wake up until 10 am! I feel very fortunate to have a baby that sleeps through the night, even though I know this may change at any time.

4) I am in love with diapering. I realize that must sound strange, but I simply love using cloth diapers. We recently switched over to using cloth wipes, as well. I bought some flannel ones on Etsy that are rainbow colored, and many of them match the bright Thirsties diaper covers that we use. Somehow, using bright, colorful diaper covers and wipes makes what is normally a less-than-pleasant job a lot more fun. Also, it is so much cheaper than going with disposable, and we create a lot less trash each week. I think it's a win-win-win when it's good for the earth, good for my wallet, and good for my eyes (with all the pretty colors).

Flannel, re-useable wipes

 As for non-baby things in my life, there have been a few changes:

5) I officially have a job. Okay, it's only four hours a week, but it works out really well. I help coach the youth swim club at the Y for an hour and a half on Tuesday and Thursday nights. While I'm doing this, D has Samantha in his office right next door, so I can feed her right before I coach and then again right afterwards. I also teach a water fitness class for one hour each Friday morning. These are both new developments, but I enjoy having some time to think about something besides the baby, and I love that they are only short spurts of time. I am so thankful that I get to stay home with Samantha most of the time, but it is also nice to be able to have some time outside the house (and for D and Samantha to have "daddy-daughter" time without me there to "fix" things if she needs comforting - she needs to learn to be soothed by him, too!)

6) I am trying to get licensed to sell baked goods made in my kitchen, but the city of W'port is being ridiculous and not getting back to my inquiries about zoning. This means I can't fill out my application with the Dept. of Agriculture yet, and I'm rather perturbed. That said, I have re-opened my Etsy shop (and still follow all of the requirements for home food processing) while I wait for things to become official. (Shh... don't tell.) I am hoping to get some answers soon, because I would love to market locally here in town for bridal showers and the like.

7) I have officially reached my pre-pregnancy weight! I gained about 30 pounds during the pregnancy. I lost about 10 of this when she was born, and another 10 within in the first two weeks (yay breastfeeding!) But the last ten has been a bit slower in coming off, until this week. My weight is distributed differently (still a bit flabbier around the belly area than I would like), but it's nice to be back to my regular size again. Now I am just working on toning up, especially my abs and back.
A few days before Samantha arrived

Three months later

I guess that's it for now. Hopefully soon I'll have some more interesting posts, but it's still tricky to find time to sit and think through anything of significance at this point. Thanks for being patient!

Friday, August 24, 2012

1,720 Miles in Diapers

I just returned on my first road trip with little S. Together, just the two of us, we traveled a grand total of 1,720 miles. We were away from home for 14 days, passed through eight states, made seven stops, and spent over 30 hours actually driving in the car (not counting the frequent pauses required for soothing, nursing, and changing an upset baby.) The reason for the trip was a good one - we were going to help my sister welcome her 7th child into the world. When I told people about the trip, most used the term "brave" to describe my endeavor; others were more forthright and just said I was crazy. In truth, I wasn't so sure it was a good idea myself when we said goodbye to D and began our journey, but we somehow managed to survive the trip. I thought I'd share some helpful tips I found, in case anyone else is pondering a solo long distance trip with a two month old infant.

Plan ahead.
I spent several weeks planning the trip before we actually embarked. Driving from Williamsport, PA to Atlanta, GA takes about 13 hours. This is a trip that, in my pre-baby days, I would have made all at once, but fortunately I was smart enough to break it into two days. On the way down, we stopped halfway and spent a night at my alma mater in Roanoke, VA. Our first day's drive was about six and a half hours (a total of eight hours travel time with stops). This was S's first day in the car, and she did really well. On day two, I broke it up again - stopping after three hours to meet some friends for lunch in Charlotte. This gave little S a decent amount of time out of the car mid-trip, so the idea was that she would be cheerful when we reached our destination around dinner time. Unfortunately, even the best plans can fail - she screamed the entire way through South Carolina, and most of the way through Georgia. Yes, it's true - a baby really can cry for over 100 miles. But breaking up the trip both on the way down and on the way home helped eliminate any chances of even longer screaming sessions from my normally mild-mannered child.

Be prepared to stop... often.
Typically, S would sleep through the first two or three hours of driving in the morning. But then she'd wake up hungry and cranky, and we'd have to stop about every hour or so. (Somehow, she did not get the memo that she needed to fill her belly every time we stopped, so sometimes she wouldn't nurse well and then we'd have to stop again sooner.) I left plenty of time in my itinerary for these stops, especially on the longer days of driving. To maximize driving time, I filled my gas tank whenever we'd stop to nurse so I wouldn't have to stop at all when she was sound asleep. On average, I think we spent about an hour at rest stops or gas stations for every three hours of driving.

The bathroom question?
One of the biggest concerns that other people brought up when told about the trip was how I would be able to use the bathroom without someone to hold the baby. I obviously couldn't leave her in the car or ask a stranger to hold her. It seems silly now in hindsight, but I did spend some time thinking up strategies. Because of that, even though it seems a bit personal to discuss bathroom habits here, I am going to share what worked for me.
At first, I thought I would just keep her in the car seat and take it into the restroom with me. I quickly learned that she needed as much time out of the car seat as possible, so that plan never happened. I then thought I could utilize the baby changing stations commonly found in (most) fast food restaurant bathrooms. Some of these restaurants are awesome, and put the stations in the largest stall so you can strap your baby in, change her diaper, and then use the bathroom yourself with your child mostly secure and within reach. The majority of restaurants and gas stations, however, fall into one of the three categories: 1) no baby changing station at all; 2) a baby changing station that is not in the stall; or 3) a baby changing station with a broken restraint strap. On the entire two weeks of my journey, I encountered only three changing stations that were in the right location and had a working safety strap, allowing me to use the restroom without having to hold a baby. This became a bit of a crusade for me, and I now hold grudges against all of the places that didn't even have a changing station. (And just a shout out here to the McDonalds employee in Tennessee who climbed under the stall door to unlock the empty stall so I could have access to the baby changing station contained within - even though the station unfolded directly over the toilet.) Anyway, all that to say that the simple solution to using the bathroom with a baby can be found by wearing your baby. I put S in the sling and everything was great. Problem solved.

Stay in familiar places.
With all of the uncertainty that comes with traveling with a baby (and with babies in general), I found it comforting to stop or stay in places with which I had some familiarity. On the way down, I stayed at the Alumnae House at Hollins University. Having spent four years roaming the campus, I was easily able to occupy the evening with S by wandering around. I got to tell her all of the stories that I will never tell her when she's older, I got some exercise, and we both got some much-needed fresh air. Oh, and most importantly, I felt safe. In Georgia, where I spent most of the duration of the trip, I stayed at my sister's house. What it lacked in peace and quiet (with seven children running around), it made up for in great company and the warmth of home. In Tennessee, I spent one night at a random hotel before embarking on our long journey home, and this was the least relaxing night of travel. I couldn't go out and walk around outside, so I spent a few hours watching bad tv and feeling restless. The next night, passing back through Virginia, I stayed with friends who live on campus and again enjoyed a nice evening of good company and the comfort and security that comes with knowing ones surroundings. When S got fussy late in the evening, we walked out in the front yard to listen to the the crickets and gaze at the stars. She calmed down right away.
Find what makes you both happy.
Before our trip, I obtained a few items that were absolutely essential to the success of our endeavor. The first was a mirror that I could put in the car and see S in her rear-facing car seat. This eliminated the need for me to turn around and try to check on her during those long hours of driving - one quick glance in my rear view mirror and I could see that everything was okay. (Note: such mirrors have been labeled as dangerous for two reasons - they could become projectiles in an accident, and they could cause distractions to the driver. I solved these problems by purchasing a mirror that I could angle, and therefore would not have to hang directly in front of her, and by remembering that this was not "baby tv" - in other words, I kept my eyes on the road.)
Additionally, I stocked up on both audio books that I would enjoy, and children's CD's. I quickly learned that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society entertained us both, since it is a well-written epistolary novel (which I enjoyed) read by many different actors with different accents (with S enjoyed). Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything kept her entertained only for short periods at a time since it was only read by one author, but he had a British accent so that helped. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, while very entertaining for me, was read by the author in a dry humor sort of way. Since he had no foreign accent and did not speak excitedly, S was easily bored and it took a long time to get through this one.
As for music CD's, we brought our two Slugs & Bugs albums. These are great for when she's fussy. First, if she was fussy because she was bored, the music entertained her (at least for a time). And if she was fussy because she was really bored (as was the case by the time we hit South Carolina), the music helps drown out the sounds of a crying baby. The latter use is necessary for both sanity and safety in driving. We also received a CD called "Rain for Roots," which is a compilation of Bible story songs by four women. This was a lifesaver on the drive home, since the voices are beautiful and soothing (S slept more than ever when we were listening to this CD), and the songs blend well enough that I listened to it three times in a row in an attempt to keep S asleep and didn't grow tired of it.
The audio books and CD's were a great tool for us, not only because it kept me entertained, but also because S loves to listen to music and to different voices. Results may vary.

Have realistic expectations.
Every time I passed a sign that indicated the distance to upcoming towns, I set mini goals. "I am going to make it the 30 miles to Winchester without S crying," is basically how it went every time we passed such a sign. Even though I couldn't control if she was crying or not, I felt some sense of accomplishment if I made it. I felt like I was making progress, even if I was stopping often.
There also just came a point where I realized that I couldn't stop every time she started to cry. I refused to make two stops within an hour. At every stop, I made sure she was well fed, her diaper was clean, and she had some time outside of the car. When I put her in the seat, I made sure nothing was pinching her or making her physically uncomfortable. If she was still crying after all of this, I just had to ignore it or else I wasn't going to make it anywhere. Besides feeding and changing my baby, my next priority was getting her to our destination safely. If I was constantly distracted by her crying, I was not going to be able to focus on driving. So even though it was hard, I just turned up the music or audio book and drowned out the cries. They always stopped as soon as I got her out of the car seat, and she doesn't seem to be permanently scarred from the experience. She spent the next 24 hours after the trip being a little extra clingy, but other than that things have quickly returned to normal.

So those are the things that helped us survive our journey. It was an awesome two weeks. In addition to being present for the birth of my newest nephew, and getting to spend almost two full weeks with my sister and her wonderful brood, S and I got to share lots of adventures. She had a lot of new experiences: meeting all of her cousins, going to the Tennessee Aquarium (which she slept through), her first time in the Central time zone, her first time at Nature's Classroom (where her father and I met), her first walk around the Loop at Hollins, her first painting experience (in making a present for D's birthday), her first stomach bug and head cold (simultaneously), and so much more. We traveled from Pennsylvania to Virginia, stopped in North Carolina, then continued on to Georgia. We then left and went to Alabama, Tennessee, back to Virginia, and finally home to Pennsylvania. And after 1,720 miles and many, many hours on the road, I can now say that no, it is not crazy to go on a solo road trip with an infant. If anything, it helped me be more confident in all of the things that S and I can do together.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to Create a (non) Nursery on a Budget

As I wrote about previously, I wasn't able to "nest" at all during my pregnancy with little S. Instead, I was packing up our spacious two bedroom apartment and preparing to move... somewhere. Until two weeks before she was born, we had no idea where we were going. When D accepted the job in Williamsport, the great apartment search began. It became pretty obvious that we would only be able to afford a one bedroom apartment, which didn't seem ideal with a new baby arriving soon. Two days before S was born, D found our new home: a nice one bedroom apartment within walking distance of his work. I love our new apartment, but I didn't see it until we moved in two weeks after S's birthday.

All this uncertainty about our living situation meant that I couldn't prepare a space just for the baby, and this was hard. Especially with so many of my creative and organized friends posting pictures of their cute nurseries with matching crib sets/hampers/diaper bags and adorable wall clings. Yes, I had nesting jealousy (and still sometimes do!) But, in reality, our situation ended up being really good for me in several ways:

1) We don't have the disposable income to spend on decorating... well, anything. So no matter how many cute baby nursery ideas I stumbled across on Etsy, I was able to save tons of money and avoid the temptation simply because I didn't have a room to call a "nursery." 

2) I wanted to avoid getting overwhelmed with too much stuff. We had several baby showers and were very blessed with many great things for S, but without a room to fill I had a good excuse for not getting all of the so-called "necessities" that baby stores try to push on you. I wanted to avoid the rampant consumerism that has become parenting (well, as much as possible...) and not having an actual nursery made this a lot easier!

3) It kept things in perspective. Sure, it would be great to have a separate room for the baby, where I could rock her to sleep and then lay her in her crib, turn the baby monitor on, and go spend some alone time with my husband. But that idea is a luxury; in many places around the world, families of many generations share a room out of necessity (if they even have a room to share). While this isn't as common in the US, I think my complaints about not having a second room just for our infant seems pretty minimal on the global scale of problems.

Anyway, all that is to say that one part of our bedroom is now designated as the "non-nursery." This is where I keep all of S's clothes, diapers, toys, etc. And when she no longer sleeps in our bed, she'll sleep in the pack n play, in our room. The best part about our "non-nursery": it was totally free. Everything we have in the space was either used elsewhere in the house pre-baby, or was a gift. Here's a tour:

The Non-Nursery

Cloth diapers in the blue bin (which used to hold hats & gloves), baby wipes, and all of her toys, extra warm blankets, and 6 month & older clothes in the white bin (which used to hold winter clothes).

This wooden stand we bought at a yard sale three years ago for $2 (it used to hold tools) is the perfect size.
On top of the wooden night stand is a basket of diaper covers, a basket of socks & hats, and then some first aid supplies and the baby monitor.
The first shelf has wash clothes, towels, and light blankets. The second shelf has her clothes sorted out by size (a pile of newborn, a pile of 0-3 months, a pile of 3 months, and a pile of 3-6 months - everything else lives in the white bin for now, and will for the next few months.) The bottom are the sheets for the pack n play.
These are the only decorations in her space. The wall hanging was D's when he was born. The cross I made in college (it used to hang in the kitchen).
The Willow Tree figurines and the autographed plate were gifts, and add a little something to the windowsill.
Little S enjoying her dragonfly toy.

We use a pack n play instead of a crib, because it didn't make sense for us to have a crib AND a pack n play stored away somewhere to use on trips.

This room arrangement works out really well for now. Since S sleeps in our bed for the time being, the pack n play is really only used for diaper changing and naps, but sometime in the next month or two we'll probably transition her out of our bed. (She'd probably be okay with it right now, but I love cuddling with her at night, and it makes night time feedings much easier!)

As for the baby items that don't fit in our room, they are scattered around the house (hopefully in a charming, well-organized way and not a "oh my goodness a baby exploded" kind of way.) The rocking chair and her swing are in the living room. We find this arrangement works really well because it allows us to rock her and still spend time together (or throw on an episode of Mythbusters during a fussy time and calm her without losing our minds). I nurse her wherever I am when she needs it; in the rocker, on the couch, or in bed. She has a bouncy seat in the kitchen, so when I'm cooking I can still talk to her and she can still see me. Her bathtub lives in an alcove in the hallway (our bathroom is too small for it), and any other items we have for her that she's not big enough for are stored in my closet.

Note: the two things that you don't see in the above pictures that are also in the nursery space are a trash bag for wipes and a laundry basket for dirty diapers. Since both had dirty items in them, I thought they didn't need to make it into the picture. Right now, I just use a regular laundry basket for her diapers because that's what we had, but I might transition to a closed bin of some sort if I get the chance (so I don't have to see her dirty diapers every time I walk into the room).

Here are some tips I found for keeping it cheap (or free) when preparing for baby:

  • Register carefully. Don't fill your registry with too many "frills." If you only put on what you need, then you will get exactly what you need and not have to spend money on your essentials. Of course, it's not a bad idea to think big when registering either. I knew we would need a baby monitor; I thought it would be helpful to have one with video. So I put that on the registry with a note that any baby monitor would really be fine, and ended up getting the nice video one I requested. (This doesn't always work - the stroller on our registry is super expensive, and we never got it. But since I wear S in a wrap most of the time, a stroller wasn't one of our top priorities and, especially at this age, I wouldn't use it much anyway.)
  • Figure out what your essentials really are. We did this by not getting a crib and just going with the pack n play. When we tried to register at Babies R Us, they gave us a list of "necessities" that had over 100 items on it. I found this to be a bit ridiculous. Really, a baby doesn't need very much... it's the parents that want these things to make our lives a bit easier. Nothing wrong with that, but if you're on a tight budget and not blessed with overly generous family members, keep in mind that babies really just need to eat, sleep, and be loved on. Oh yes, and get lots of diapers (But that crib-side wipe warmer? Maybe not...)
  • Re-purpose old items. Shifting around some storage space gave me the chance to use some bins and baskets for baby items. Old t-shirts make great spit-up rags or diapers. Be creative!
  • Hand-me-downs are your best friend. S's first doll is a rag doll my mom made me when I had my tonsils taken out at age five. The wall hanging by her pack n play was made by D's aunt when he was born. Many of her blankets and toys were given to us from friends whose children had outgrown them.
  • Think outside the (matching) box (set). Many baby things are sold in matching sets - sheets, blankets, towels, wall hangings, diaper holders, hampers, etc. If you don't have the budget to be all matchy-matchy, then remember that this nursery "ideal" is only ideal if it fits your budget. I am quite pleased with the way S's space looks, even if it isn't color coordinated or have a homogenous look. And if you do want everything to match, remember that many things sold for babies are most likely sold (cheaper) in other departments of the store.
  • Don't be afraid to be a bit "ghetto."  If we had not received a pack n play, S's sleeping space would probably have been a laundry basket or a dresser drawer. I can guarantee she would not have known the difference. Also, while we got a lot of clothes for her, we got them in many different sizes. She only has so many outfits that fit over her cloth diapers and still fit her well at 5 weeks and 10 pounds (almost too big for newborn, still too small for most 0-3 month), and since she spits up after every feeding (or so it seems), we can go through several outfits a day. The solution? Naked baby! It's summer, it's hot, so whenever we're in the house she hangs out in a diaper. (Bonus: cloth diapers come in cute patterns so she's still adorable.) I dress her when we go out, but that's basically it. It saves me from having to buy her an excessive amount of clothing (and then having to find a place to keep it now, and then store it later when she outgrows it), and it also saves me from doing full laundry loads of onesies.
  • Don't compare your stuff to your friend's stuff. This is probably the biggest tip I can give. I spent many a pregnant evening with the blues when I heard of other expectant friends picking out the paint colors for the nursery, coordinating crib sheets, getting monogrammed blankets, and so on. This led to a lot of unnecessary (hormone-related) doubt about my ability to provide a good home for my daughter. I know that sounds insane, and now that my hormones aren't nearly as haywire I am almost embarrassed to admit it.

I was nervous about not having space just for the baby, but it is working out really well. She has become a part of our lives pretty seamlessly, even with all the transition we've gone through. She is learning to sleep when there is noise, or when a light gets flicked on in the middle of the night (at least, for now). And because we all share a space, I believe this facilitates D's interactions with her, as well. When he gets home from work he spends a lot of quality time with her, but if she's napping he can still be in the same room with her without having to seclude himself from me.

I know a lot of people who are waiting to have children until the time is "right," usually referencing having more money or better living conditions (buying a house, getting a bigger apartment, etc.) To be honest, I am so glad we were blessed with little S before we thought we were "ready." If we had waited until our medical bills and student loan payments are manageable, or until we made enough to live in a bigger place or buy a house, we would have never had children! Trust me - I know I am only six weeks into motherhood, but it is entirely possible to have a baby and be happy without a lot of extra money (especially if you have generous friends and family) or lots of extra "space." After all, all a baby really needs space-wise is a pair of loving arms:-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Samantha's Birth Story

The night before Samantha was born, I took a long walk through the woods, made mountain pies over a campfire, and played a few rounds of Dutch Blitz. It was a Friday, and I had just come back from a midwife appointment where I had declared that nothing was happening with the baby and she probably wouldn't come until next week. I had been having some mild cramping since the day before, but thought it was stomach related and didn't process them as contractions. After my appointment at the birth center that Friday afternoon, my sister jokingly remarked that we should plan to return to the center either that night or the next morning to have a baby. I thought she was being rather optimistic, since I really had no other indications that labor would start anytime soon. It wasn't until about 6pm that evening that I realized the cramps actually were contractions, and they were coming every 8-15 minutes. Erin and I went for a long walk through the woods at BRR, and climbed the steps up from the lake (there are over 100 of them; steps are great for helping labor!). D and Isaac (my oldest nephew, who accompanied my sister on her trip) built a campfire and we made pizza mountain pies and S'mores. The contractions were still irregular, but weren't going away when I changed activities. I was trying not to get my hopes up; after all, I have heard so many stories of "false labor" or "pre-labor." I wanted to save my energy for the real thing. So we all played a few rounds of Dutch Blitz until about 10 pm. The contractions were getting stronger by now, but were still irregular. I still did not have any other signs that labor was coming, but it helped me to focus on the game (and yes, I did win) to get my mind off the contractions.

By around 11 I was pretty sure I was going into labor. My contractions were still pretty far apart, so I tried to sleep. I woke up at 1 and started timing the contractions. They were about 5-7 minutes apart now, but were starting to wake me up. At around 3:00, my contractions were 4-5 minutes apart. D declared it was time to call the midwife. As it turns out, there were no rooms at the birth center! The birth center only had two birthing rooms, and apparently the weekend that Samantha was born was the weekend for everyone else to have a baby, as well. Since my contractions were still pretty consistently five minutes apart, Mary Beth (the midwife on call) suggested that I take a warm bath or shower and to call back in a little while. A shower had never felt so good! Immediately a lot of the pain was eased just by having hot water running down my back. I stood in the shower for about twenty minutes as the contractions seemed to lessen in intensity. After that, I was able to fall asleep for about an hour. At 5am, my contractions suddenly got a lot stronger and were now three minutes apart. D called the midwife back, and she told us to come in. At the birth center, they were frantically preparing the staff room to improvise a third birth room for us. Fortunately (for me, at least), one of the women who was laboring wasn't progressing very fast, and she went home to sleep for a while before coming back in. This freed up a birth room right as we arrived, which means we had full access to the tub, the shower, and the variety of birth stools/balls available.

At 5am I was at 5cm. My sister arrived, and of course D was with me the whole time. I tested positive for GBS, so I had to have IV antibiotics. Honestly, this was the worst part of the whole experience (I REALLY hate needles), but that didn't confine me to one spot. I decided to get into the tub, since the shower had helped so much earlier. I changed into my "water birth" clothes (a birth skirt and a sports bra) and took off my glasses so I couldn't see the clock. I was mentally prepared to let things happen in their own time and to not feel rushed. I labored in the tub for several hours. I drank Gatorade and chatted with my sister, while D took a nap in the rocker (he had not gotten any sleep that night, and I told him to sleep now because I was definitely going to need him later!) The midwives switched shifts, and now Karen was attending to me. She came in every once in a while to check on me and monitor the baby's heart rate, but mostly just let things run their course. I was fully prepared to have a water birth - this had been the plan all along. But after four or five hours in the water (I think - like I said, I wasn't watching the clock), I was turning into a prune. While the buoyancy felt great for the first few hours, it got tiring to support myself after a while. I eventually got out of the tub to use the bathroom, and decided not to get back in the water. I changed out of my wet clothes into one of D's old T-shirts. Being out of the water meant that I was lot more exposed, but I eventually hit a point where I just didn't care about modesty anymore. I was getting exhausted. I tried sitting on a birth stool, and laying on a birth ball, but my legs just couldn't really support me anymore after all the hours in the tub. I tried to sleep between contractions as much as possible.

Eventually, I guess I felt the urge to push. This part is really all a blur. I remember Karen suggesting I sit on the toilet to try pushing. I thought this was awkward, and was determined not to have my baby on the toilet, but eventually just sucked it up and tried it out. D sat in front of me and held my hands, and this is where my water broke. The good news about the toilet: no mess to clean up!

Because women in my family have a history of quick deliveries after their water breaks, and because the squatting position can result in a very fast delivery that might result in tearing, Karen asked if I'd feel comfortable moving to the bed. I laid down on my side and tried to sleep some more between contractions. There was a bit of a relief here, although the hard work hadn't even begun yet. I was ready to be done, and was wondering why the baby wasn't coming as quickly as I had hoped. At noon, I was at 8 cm. In seven hours, I had only dilated 3 centimeters!

From this point on, I don't remember much. I remember D on one side of the bed and my sister on the other, each holding a hand. Erin would occasionally put some counter pressure on my back. Karen got out some lotion and gave me a foot and leg message, which I remember thinking was odd but really nice. I was really hot during contractions and freezing between them, so I kept kicking the blankets off and then pulling them back on. Everyone was incredibly patient with me. The midwife and nurse just waited, and occasionally monitored the baby's heartbeat. As it turns out, I am very vocal - and what started out as low moans meant to just help me keep my muscles from clenching turned into rather loud noises that even people in the waiting room could hear. I pushed for about an hour, with one of my legs on Karen's shoulder. She applied warm wash clothes to help my tissues stretch (and this, seriously, was THE most helpful thing since I was not going to give birth in the water - it felt good and the warm pressure helped alleviate the fear that I was also going to push out other things... I highly recommend it if you're not having a water birth!) I pushed for about an hour. The baby decided to move slowly, and when Erin and the midwives exclaimed they could see the head, I was hopeful that we were close. But really, they could only see the bulge of the head - pushing, then retreating, then pushing, then retreating. This was frustrating (even though it was for the best, since it was slowly stretching the tissues). I was exhausted and just wanted to be done! 

And then, suddenly, I just got to this point of fierce determination. I was going to do this. I didn't rest much between pushing, I just knew I had to get past the pain and deal with it. It took an hour, but at 1:17 pm Samantha Dare was born. Once her head was out, Karen told me to stop pushing, and her body naturally followed. (This, along with the warm wash clothes and the slow delivery of the head, preventing any tearing or need for stitches afterwards). The baby was put immediately on my chest. I wasn't wearing my glasses, so she was a bit blurry. I was expecting a rush of emotion, and perhaps even tears, but I was too exhausted to feel much of anything. I just kind of stared at this little baby laying on my chest in disbelief. I was a bit traumatized by the whole experience, to be honest. It is amazing to me how strong our bodies are, and what they are capable of doing.

Once the cord stopped pulsing, D was able to cut it. Originally, he wasn't going to, but he changed his mind in the moment.

Not much later, I delivered the placenta (piece of cake, comparatively). The worst part of that experience was when they pushed down on my belly to get any clots out, but other than that it was fine (no one really talks about this stage of labor...)

Karen then showed me how to get the baby to latch on, and she started nursing right away. D, Samantha, and I were left alone for about an hour to nurse and bond. At no time did Samantha leave my arms during this time, and it was amazing! Even though I didn't have that flood of emotions that everyone talks about, it was perfect. (It took a little while before I really started to feel bonded to the baby, but the love was there from the beginning).

After she was done feeding, Samantha was weighed and measured. She was 7 lbs 7 oz and 20 1/2 inches long. We opted not to have a Vitamin K shot for her, or the eye ointment. She did have a bit of a tongue tie, but it didn't really interfere with nursing (we got that clipped when she was about 10 days old). She got to meet one set of grandparents (my parents, who arrived in time for the birth, but at that point I was already pushing and so focused that I didn't want anyone else in the room). Four hours later, we took our beautiful, healthy little girl home, ate pizza with the family, and settled into our new life!

At the time, the birth kind of traumatized me. I'd always heard that all the memories of the pain go away as soon as you see your baby, and that was not true at all. In fact, when Samantha was only a few hours old, I declared that she was going to be an only child. But, in time, those memories do fade. After about two weeks I found myself focusing more on the "I did it!" feeling from the birth rather than the pain. After a month, I am ready to (sometime in the future) do it all again, because it was well worth it!

D and I made the choice to switch to a birth center instead of a hospital about six months into the pregnancy. Looking back, here are all the reasons I am so very glad we did:

*In most hospitals, the idea is for labor to progress at about 1 cm every hour. It took 7 hours for me to dilate 3 cm. In a hospital, I would have been checked frequently, and, if found to not be progressing "on schedule," interventions would have been made (pitocin, epidural, etc.) I was only checked twice - at 5am and 12pm - at the birth center. At no time did I feel rushed or like I wasn't progressing.

*One of the interventions that likely would have happened in a hospital setting is artificial rupture of the membranes. At the birth center, this was allowed to happen naturally. This is particularly important for Samantha, because, as we discovered after she was born, the umbilical cord was not attached properly to the placenta. It's called a velamentous cord insertion, where the cord attaches into the surrounding membrane of the placenta. This makes the blood vessels extremely vulnerable to rupture, and is one of the causes of stillborn babies. If my water had been broken artificially, there is a chance that the blood vessels could have ruptured and the baby could have bled out and died.

*The comforts of the birth center far outweigh those of a hospital setting. I gave birth in a bedroom-like setting, with access to a large jacuzzi tub, an awesome shower, and a variety of birthing aids (stools, ball, etc.) The queen-size bed was comfortable. The lighting could be adjusted. There was even a curtain to close off the tub area in case I wanted more privacy.

*Samantha's birth was considered a natural process. I had minimal checks, and the times they checked up on the baby never interfered with my comfort (they could even check the heartbeat in the tub). Most of the time, my midwife and nurse weren't even in the room (at least for the first few hours). When they were, they helped as needed but mostly just observed. This gave me the confidence that everything was going just fine, and it allowed D to step up into the role as my main support person so we could really share the experience together. (The only intervention I had was the antibiotics for GBS; I was given the choice as to whether or not I wanted them, but we decided the risk outweighed my aversion to both needles and antibiotics.)

*My baby was placed immediately on my chest, and we started breastfeeding right away. We were left alone to bond. She wasn't taken from me to be scrubbed down and measured. At no point did she leave my room (even when it was time for her to be weighed).

*We were able to go home after four hours. Some people asked me if this was overwhelming; it wasn't. It was wonderful. It made the transition into motherhood feel seamless (as much as possible). I wasn't stuck away from home for several days, and I didn't have a bunch of doctors and nurses coming to run tests on me and the baby. We were deemed healthy and sent home with an informational packet and the 24 phone number of the midwives (which I did call at 3 am with a question, and everything was just fine).

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I am so thankful for a healthy baby, and for the positive support we had from the midwives and family (before, during, and after the birth). I am a bit disappointed that we now live in a new town and I won't be able to deliver any future children at Birth Care, but hopefully we will find something else just as wonderful if we get to that point.

I believe nothing can truly prepare you for birth - no matter how well informed you might be! (Although I strongly advocate being well informed about all of your options and the decisions you want to make!) And in the moment, it sometimes seems terrible. But looking back, I gained so much confidence from the entire experience. And, of course, I got a sweet, cuddly baby out of the deal:-)

Samantha at five hours old.

Samantha at one month.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meet Samantha Dare

It has been about a month since my last post, and a lot has happened. I am no longer employed, we moved to a new town, D started a new job, and - oh yeah - I had a baby. Posts about all of these life changes are (hopefully) forthcoming, especially our little girl's birth story, but for now I just wanted to introduce my daughter and share the story of her name. The naming process was a big deal for us. We talked about names almost non stop, but could never settle on one that felt permanent. We went into the birth with a short list of possible names and decided to wait until we met her before deciding. I was convinced we would name her Cora (my top choice from the short list). D liked the name Autumn, and we were both fond of Savannah. The name Samantha was not even on our back-up list. But when our little girl was born, none of our names seemed to fit her. D was anxious to name her as soon as possible, but I was too exhausted to even think about it. Several hours later, after a hot shower and some baby cuddle time, the name Samantha popped into my head. I knew that D would go for it as soon as I said it, so I waited a bit before bringing it up. I have always liked the name Samantha (in no small part due to the American Girls character Samantha Parkington when I was a young girl), but both D and I know quite a few friends with that name. I didn't want to name the baby after anyone, so I never seriously considered it. But I just knew - my daughter's name was going to be Samantha. Of course, D liked it right away. We looked up the meaning, and found that it means "good listener." Immediately after this, our midwife came in to check on us. She bent down to speak to the baby, and upon noticing the baby's alert reaction to her voice said, "Oh, she is such a good listener!" We still weren't totally sure on the name yet though, so four hours later we went home with a no name baby. We didn't mention on our name idea to anyone else, but before my family left for the night my sister randomly commented that the baby looked like a Samantha. She and my oldest nephew spent the drive home coming up with various nicknames if we did pick that name. So, with all these factors combined, we decided that clearly her name was meant to be Samantha. D calls her Sam, but I prefer the long version for now. The middle name, though odd, was easy. It is a shortened version of D's name, and also something unique in case she (like her mother) goes through a phase where she finds her regular name boring. This name was my idea, and one I thought of back when D and I were dating. I just thought it would be sweet for her to be named a little after her Daddy. I didn't think D would go for it, and it took a while for him to come around to the idea, but the closer we got to the birth, the more he liked it. So that is how Samantha Dare got her name. Occasionally I call her Squeaker because of the high pitched toy-like squeaks she randomly makes, but to the rest of the world she is Samantha:-) My apologies that this post doesn't flow well; it has taken me several days to get through because I am typing it on the iPad one-handed while nursing the baby. When I get two hands back and a little more time, I will write about Samantha's birth story:-)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Flooding (because when it rains...)

I have about half a dozen, meaningful posts that are half-written, but since I haven't had the mental capacity to sit down and finish any of them I thought I would do a post of the many changes going on right now. It has been raining down both blessings and challenges from all directions. Here's an update:

*I have officially left my full-time job at Black Rock Retreat, and have begun my new job as Director of Awesomeness at home. (To be clear, D is the one who picked my new title. It helped a bit with my emotional reaction to the transition of homemaker - which is my real job title, I suppose.) The transition was a lot more challenging than I initially expected. First, I loved my job at BRR. It is rare to find a job doing what you love in a place that is so supportive, caring, and positive. I don't know how D and I would have survived these last three years - especially through his health issues - without the help and prayers of my co-workers. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have worked there. Second, I am not good at cleaning or cooking. This makes my new position a bit daunting, but I woke up Saturday morning and started to tackle the mess that has been accumulating for three years and have so far made decent progress. I was afraid I would be bored at home, but so far I feel like the days pass way too quickly and there is still so much to be done. Boredom has not yet entered the picture.

*I'm almost entirely ready for baby (well, at least in physical preparations). I have done more loads of laundry these past few days than I think I have done the last few months. All the baby clothes up to size 3 months are washed, folded, and sorted. The pack n play (our crib for now) is set up in our room. The car seat is installed. All of the prefolds for the cloth diapers have been washed several times to help them reach their absorbancy (this might not seem like a big deal, but since we don't have a dryer and I have to wait for everything to air dry, laundry takes a lot longer than normal!) The birth bag is *mostly* packed (with a few things that will be added once labor actually begins - like snacks, my own clothes, etc.). All of the baby's other stuff is organized so it is (hopefully) easily accessible as I need it. And in regards to the baby herself, she is sitting low and just biding her time. She could make her appearance any day now, but I have a feeling it will be another week or two (she is due the 17th). We shall see!

*D accepted a full-time job in Williamsport, PA. This is very exciting, since I will be staying home with the baby full-time. He will be the new Aquatics Director at the downtown YMCA, and he is already busy planning and preparing for his role. He starts work the first week of July. 

*Williamsport is three hours from where we currently live, which means we must move. We are now in the process of trying to find apartments in an area that has an exorbitantly high cost of living (at least for the quality of housing available). We went up on Wednesday and had very little luck. D will be going back up next week to try to search some more, and we are both trying to stay positive. It seems pretty likely that we will be moving into a small one bedroom apartment for the first year, so in addition to preparing everything for the baby, I am trying to downsize as much as possible. My de-cluttering project that I started a few weeks ago is still going full swing (although I haven't had much time to blog about it), but I'm still amazed by how much stuff we still have. Once one box of donations leaves the house, I start filling another.

*With moving comes not only the "get rid of all our junk" process, but also the packing puzzle. I am trying to pack up what I can, while still leaving out enough that our home feels like "home" for just a few more weeks. Also, "packing" is quite the opposite of "nesting," which is what I have been having the urge to do for quite a while now. So I am going against my natural inclinations to settle in and get ready for baby, and am instead putting pictures, books, clothing, etc. into boxes and stacking them in the corner. Most of the baby's stuff is still packed away in its original packaging so it will be easier to move.

So, with the old cliche of "when it rains, it pours," my world is completely flooded right now: leaving one job, transitioning to stay at home, preparing for baby, D taking a new job, preparing to move, trying to find a place to live on short notice, and trying to get emotionally ready to become a mother. It's all a little bit insane right now! But I am thankful for the support of friends and family. Starting next Tuesday with the arrival of my sister, we will have constant help up through the birth and until the move (my sister, my parents, D's family, and our friends who have offered so much already). We have a wonderful community around us during this crazy time of transition!

On a random note, I find comfort in the fact that I, too, was born into transition. My dad had just accepted a Y job in Massachusetts and had to move up there to start work. My mom and sister stayed behind in DC until I was born. My dad was able to come back down for my birth, and we moved shortly thereafter. So my parents experienced very much the same transition that I'm going through now (although they also had a four-year-old to consider!) and survived. I was no worse off for starting my life amidst major change, and I know my daughter will be just fine through this flood! I just need to remember the blessings we've already received and rely on God's faithfulness. Because He is faithful, even when I feel like I'm starting to drown! I know that all things are working together for good, and as long as I trust in that promise, my little family will get by just fine!