December 16, 2011

Healing at home

The surgery went well. In the post-op room they kept asking me if I was ready to wake up and go into the recovery room. I kept mumbling, "No, I like sleeping." On the way home, Jrex commented that for a 20-minute procedure, it was amazing that I was gone from 9 AM til 2:30 PM. Hmm...

An incident from my breastfeeding class this summer continues to echo throughout the childbirth and motherhood experience. During the group class which included spouses, the teacher brought out sample nursing bras. One of the guys exclaimed, "Wow, so no more Victoria's Secret, huh?!" That phrase has continued to ring in my ears as each non-glamorous phase occurs.

While in the recovery room, still somewhat numb from drugs, I freaked out when I felt moisture on my stomach--I thought I'd burst my stitches. Two seconds later I realized it was milk dripping down. (Sorry for the TMI!) I asked the nurse to get my pump from Jrex in the waiting area. Now, for those who may not know, the motors for nursing pumps are LOUD. Once I finished pumping the room rang with absence of sound. I wanted to call out an apology. And in the back of my head came the echo, "No more Victoria's Secret, huh?"

December 15, 2011

Bonus Day!

When in the womb, Brex had a pattern where for a couple days he'd barely move and I'd freak out that something had gone terribly wrong, and then he'd have an active day where I wished he'd calm down. I know, I know, never happy, right? He's continued that pattern. Three days ago he would NOT nap. Today? Awake for an hour, nap. Over and over. Then he was still happy to sleep for the night (so far). Tomorrow is my hernia surgery, so I'm hoping we both get a good night's rest.

That's not the bonus though.

When the mail came, we received a huge box of local, Texas citrus, pears and chocolates. From our realtor and his wife! I think his wife sort of adopted us since we moved here and had the baby right away with no family in the area. We're so humbled by their generosity. Looks like we'll have dinner guests in January!

That's still not the bonus.

On Monday, Brex and I wandered down the street to the daycare I'd mentioned in the previous post. It's small, but all the kids looked really happy. They kept crawling into the laps of the woman who runs the place and her helper. The assistant stayed late just cause she wanted a chance to hold Brex. Let's call the director Blondie. I actually met her last fall at a neighborhood barbque and wrote her off as a total flake. Yet watching her loving, gentle approach with the kids and how content the children seemed in her care, I decided that maybe she talked my ear off because she's with kids all day? Anyway, Jrex is going to go down there with Brex tomorrow after we get home from the hospital. I need him to weigh in on which version of Blondie he sees: flake or nurturer.

Beyond all that, part of my hope for my weekend in bed is to spend some time journaling and praying about the bigger picture in terms of career/babyland/part-time/freelance/etc/etc. I need to know that I know I'm supposed to do what's next. I don't want to spend Brex's life second-guessing whichever option we pursue. Jrex is being very patient with me thrashing around trying to figure it out. I was reminded today by a dear, trusted friend that each marriage has to be interdependent. That each spouse stands alone before God before deferring to each other. I need to check in there first before forcing Jrex to be the fall-guy for whatever decision we make.

Not the bonus (obviously).

We've had major contractor drama around getting estimates for roof work. Back and forth since August! In the end, my Dad recommended that we get a clean estimate from a roofer we select (every other one was recommended by either our realtor, our insurance guy or our contractor). I followed his advice and ended up selecting the roofers who'd done our neighbor's house. I called them yesterday to find out when they were going to do the roof. They asked if they could drop off material this morning and then do the work on Friday and Saturday. Sure!

The doorbell rang today at 6:45 AM! Yikes. After the guy dropped off the materials (Class 4, hail resistant shingles. Yee-ha for Texas weather!), a bunch of Hispanic guys started to gather. Next thing we knew, they were working on the roof. As they started working, Muttola bugged me to go out. Well, obviously the back yard was out of the question, so I bundled up the baby and set forth to the park.

When I walked back in the door, the phone rang.

"OTRgirl? Congratulations! This is J with the roofing company. You just won a free garage roof!"

I was confused, "I thought we didn't include the garage in the job?"

J laughed ruefully, "We didn't. I stopped by to check in with the crew just now and they'd already started tearing up the garage roof by mistake. I didn't want you to look out of the house and see that and get worried."

"Will there still be enough material to do the porch roof?"

"Yup. Merry Christmas!"


December 9, 2011


I didn't mean to take a month off!

The truth is dawning on me: I blog to escape and/or analyze my life. Slow afternoon at work, but I need to stay on the computer and be available? Read some blogs. Something is itching at me mentally? Blog about it in order to process it. Feeling restless and wanting to skip to the end of whatever phase of life is passing by? Troll the internet so I feel like I'm going somewhere.

Well, now that all the family is gone and we have December with just the three of us, I don't have any of the above 'needs'. Somehow, being Brex's mother has stilled the restlessness in me. If I try to jump ahead to the 'next' phase, I'll miss the one he's in now, and I don't want to do that.

Each day feels like a gift to have him and have the chance to be on this side of the Mom line. In terms of crossing that line, I'd mostly given up (most of the time). My thread of hope was tattered and I didn't let myself picture what it would be like to be a Mom. In contrast to when I was younger and just assumed I'd spend most of my life mothering, I'd shifted to avoiding the kids' sections of stores, not cooing (too much) over baby shoes or hats, and tending towards friends who didn't have children.

It's strange and good now to be going to the '2011 playgroup' (went yesterday for the first time. Collection of very nice alpha Moms and fun kids.), to find out about the nursery at church, to gush over fat little baby feet and edible baby cheeks. I have a bone deep contentment that I'm finding surprising and very welcome.

Which leads to my current dilemma: daycare! Ugh.

I'm supposed to start work January 3rd. I haven't found an option that really works. There's one near the house that feels like a baby warehouse to me. Nothing terrible about it, but it didn't feel happy either. The workers looked like they were putting in time at a job. In the building next to Jrex's at UT, there's a daycare that felt a LOT happier, but that's a 20-minute drive. I hate the idea that if I'm doing the pickup/dropoff, I'll waste an hour and a half a day in driving. If Jrex takes him, I hate the idea that I wouldn't see Brex from 7 AM until 7 PM. That's unacceptable to me. There is a daycare at UT that only does admissions in August. That one is amazing, but we may or may not get in, and we need a solution in the meantime. My hope would be that by August, Jrex could come home a little earlier in the evenings and that I could do the morning drop off. I'm following up on one lead for a home-based daycare right down the street. I'll visit on Monday and see if it's a fit. She makes organic food for the kids and only takes 6 at a time. The review said that she's a great middle-ground between a nanny and a traditional day care.

I've reached out to a cool stay-at-home mom a block away and will see if that pans out. I would love to have someone like that bring my kid into her fold (I'd pay what I would to a daycare, but feel MUCH better about it). Obviously, I don't have much time yet, so I'm freaking out a little about that.

Of course the bigger question is whether I should jump on the mommy-track. The problem with being a designer and doing that, my computer skills would become obsolete VERY quickly. It seems a bit short-sighted to throw away years of amassing skills when it's unlikely I'd be able to get back into the job force as a 50-something graphic designer.

There's a teaching position I may apply for, but it's at a school that's a 50-minute drive from here. The position calls for teaching four classes on a tenure-track. As much as teaching sounds like a great fit with parenting, I'm not sure that particular job would be the right pick. I'll likely go through the application process just to get my portfolio up to speed, plus it will give me an idea if I'm at all competitive in the academic arena.

Other tidbits from the long silence:
  • OTRbro and OTRdad came for Thanksgiving and cranked out a bunch of home projects. OTRbro found out that he actually liked the blob phase (or at least Brex's version of it).
  • I've already ruined Brex. Due to his sleeping position, his head has flattened out on the right back side. Sigh. Now I have to wedge him with rolled up towels to make him sleep on his side (something a daycare is unlikely to do!) Those baby helmets cost thousands of dollars and aren't covered by most insurers. Ugh.
  • After the 2-month pediatrician visit, I became the mommy torture queen. Not only did I stop swaddling him to sleep, I had to do the towel bit AND give him lots of 'tummy time' (a.k.a. "baby-scream-his-lungs-out time"). All to try to give him a lifetime with a head he can shave without shame. Poor Mom K worked her butt off to keep Brex happy and content so he'll develop a good personality, only to have me come along and trash it all!

November 16, 2011

How I suffer!

I don't remember if I ever blogged about the fact that when I was pregnant, I became lactose intolerant. In addition, anything sweet made me nauseous. I actually used to fight with the fetus about it, especially since it was Girl Scout Cookie season. Looking at a Thin Mint, I'd think, "I LIKE thin mints, dammit. You can't stop me!" Then I'd eat one and regret it for the next hour. Once the feeling of nausea faded, I'd repeat the experience. Hey, it takes me a while to be reconciled to situations in which my Will is subdued by Circumstance!

In our early days with Brex, we started to fear that he was going to be a colicky baby. By his 12th day we'd started pacing the floor, bouncing him, swaddling, soothing, swinging and shushing him. His poop went from yellow and seedy (which is what breast-fed baby poop should be) to green around that time. I googled the symptoms and got a bunch of stuff about how he wasn't getting enough 'hindmilk', that I had overabundant milk and he was only getting a flood of the early 'foremilk' and not the fatty stuff at the end. So I started nursing on one side at a time.

Fortunately for all of us, on day 14 we went to our glorious Pediatrician for his 2-week checkup. I told her about the green poop and the La Leche recommendations. She shrugged, "That may be true, but green poop usually means there's blood in the stool from an irritated digestive tract. The biggest culprit is milk protein, so you need to cut all dairy from your diet for the next two weeks and see if that helps." With a few stumbles backward, ("But I LIKE Almond Butter Thins. Surely if the butter is COOKED?") I quickly complied. All of a sudden we had a happy baby who only cried for a reason. Wow.

Prior to that doctor's appointment, I'd started fidgeting with my diet, but without her intervention, I have no idea how long it would have taken me to discontinue ALL dairy. We've wondered since how many kids with colic just have food issues? I know that most have other stuff going on, but it was such a simple solution for us that I hate to think of anyone suffering longer than necessary.

Anyway, today is Mom K's last full day here (cue the Hallelujah Chorus) so I took her out for lunch. The special was a Sandwich and Soup, and, of course the soup was a lovely Buttermilk Squash Bisque. Dairy based. Sigh... It's going on the list that I plan to wave in Brex's face any time a guilt trip is needed in the future. "You want a later curfew? How can you make me suffer like that after I gave up ice cream so you wouldn't cry?! The ingratitude of youth!"

Of course, the difference between contented Brex and screeching Brex is worth any price. Mom K complimented me on how good I kept in shape during the pregnancy and after. I can't take any credit since it's all the kid's fault. I guess he can wave that back in my face when I try to play the suffering card, "Sheesh, Mom, I made you stay thin and in good shape, and this is the thanks I get? Parents!"

Every time Mom K comments how good Brex is and that we'll never have any problems with him, I shake my head. There's no way that Jrex and I won't end up with a smart-aleck kid. It's going to be fun!

November 8, 2011

My recent attitude adjustment

On Sunday morning, Mom K and I went to the front of the church together for communion. Jrex stayed with the baby in the pew. The church has an altar rail with kneelers in front of it that circles the base of the choir/preaching platform. Inside the rail are little individual cups of wine. After kneeling at the rail, the pastor comes over with a loaf of bread and offers, "The Body of Christ, broken for you". Holding the bread, you can pray for as long as you need to, then eat the bread and take the wine. I love having time to confess if I need to and really feel that as I take communion, I'm receiving God's mercy, both physically and spiritually.

Well, on Sunday, I had my attitude toward Mom K to work through. I felt convicted that I need to seek what I can receive from her rather than standing back with my arms folded and my barriers up. It helped that she was kneeling next to me as I prayed.

After church, we were chatting with friends. Mom K had stepped outside to make a phone call. One woman, the one who'd invited me to the Bible Study I go to on Fridays, asked how it was going. I explained Mom's 'no cry' philosophy and it's consequences. She laughed and gave me this eye opener, "When our third child was nine-months old, we were missionaries in the Solomon Islands. We lived in a village of 100 people. In the village, everyone could hear everything that happened in each others house. Culturally, they don't believe in ever letting a child cry for any reason. After 9 months of not sleeping, I was losing my mind. We were trying to train him to go to sleep and he was crying during the night. One night at 3 AM, there was a knock on the door. 'Why is M crying? We love him, we'll walk with him and help him to sleep!' I was ready to kill someone!"

I thanked her profusely for putting my situation into stark perspective. I've only got one woman judging me for letting him cry, I can't imagine having to worry about a whole village!

Since then, yes, I've still been hiding in our room a bit, but that's more just talk fatigue. When I'm with her, I feel much more open to listening to her wisdom and asking her questions. Of course, it's only been two days, but I'm hoping my attitude will stay adjusted!

November 3, 2011

Mixed Bag

Everything I've said about Mom K being here is true, but... I think I have a two-week limit. She's the best house guest ever: I came downstairs today and she was mopping the downstairs. Jrex finally had time to take her to Hmart on Saturday and we've been eating well ever since. She's wonderful at chattering to the baby and loving him, delighting in him, and nurturing him.

What's not to like?

The sad truth is, I don't think it's her, it's me. I like to think I'm a generous, go-with-the-flow extrovert (don't snort your drink when you laugh, Jrex, it's rude) who is happy to have people visit. There's some truth to that, but after two weeks, I'm feeling territorial and grumpy.

Today we went downtown and visited the Asian Art Museum and grabbed food from a Korean Taco Truck (Mom liked it, and she's now planning to do a better version next weekend. YUM.) Throughout her visit she's mentioned that she could live in Dallas. I just smile and don't say anything each time. As we walked around the clean arts district under a cloudless blue sky with a brisk, yet pleasant breeze, she said again that she could live here. Nod and smile. Inside though, it puts up my walls. Maybe if she lived her, she'd be less HERE than when she's visiting, or maybe she'd take over everything.

During our time together, she also said the following,

"When Jrex and YJ were young, I put them in lots of classes. I wanted them to find out what they liked to do. Better they have exposure to many things so they can socialize with anyone. YJ was very good at ballet, her teacher said she should do ballet, but I don't want her to be a ballet person, so I took her out of the class. Instead, I had her do ice skating. She broke her ankle doing a jump, I feel so bad to her for that.

"Jrex, I put him in Tae Kwan Do in 4th grade. He loved it, but he did it too much. At night I'd find him in the backyard doing it. He lost too much weight, so I made him stop in 7th grade.

"I told you he was so good at music. His clarinet teacher begged me to let him continue lessons, but I don't want him to be a musician, so I made him stop. He begged to try out for the school for the arts, but I don't want him to have a hard life. Being a musician is too hard. If he's good, too much travel. Hard to have a family. Hard to make a living."

She told me all this in a soft, loving voice. Truly feeling that she was doing her best to steer her children to happy, prosperous futures, she sees nothing wrong in her actions. I knew most of those stories already (she likes to tell them), but inside, my version of a tiger mom was rising up. Do NOT go near my child's future. If God designed him to be an artist, then that's what he'll be. Our role is to prayerfully lead him to fulfill what he's meant to do, not steer him to what we think is best. I realized that a big reason I have so many walls up where she's concerned is the control factor. True, it's not just hers, it's my control streak as well, but I do not want to let her mess with my son's head.

Another thing that's irritating me is that she keeps making me take pictures when she's holding him and she gets him to a point where he looks totally peaceful. "He's so pretty, he's such a gentleman, so peaceful." I get the feeling that she only wants to remember and talk about that version of him. To me, the implications that only one state of being is acceptable is NOT ok. He's a whole person: happy, irritable, mellow, intense. I don't want to pick and choose one aspect of his character and inflate that to be the whole picture. (I KNOW that I'm blowing it totally out of proportion, which is why I'm realizing I've hit my two-week limit).

The past two days I've found myself needing to be on the opposite floor to wherever she is with Brex. She's profoundly loving with him, but we've transitioned from having a happy, self-soothing baby to one who can't fall asleep easily unless he's held and walked. His night feedings have gone from 40-minutes of me half-asleep to two-and-a-half hour ordeals of me walking, soothing, rocking, soothing. If I let him cry too much, she asks me in the morning what happened. "YOU. You happened," is what I'm thinking, but I just shrug.

We've asked Mom to put Brex down when he's happy, mellow and heading toward sleep and let him put himself to sleep, but she can't handle the little squawks he makes as he settles into a nap. Instead she walks him and holds him until he's in a deep sleep. As much as we've asked her, she can't let him self-soothe (I think she barely agrees with a pacifier, much less having him fuss at all). Rather than hover and micromanage her, I've just been walking away. It's two more weeks. He'll then be seven-weeks old and we can work on setting up his schedule and figuring out his rhythm once she's gone. She's investing love and that doesn't hurt. I don't want her to think I'm trying to keep her away from the baby, but it's driving me crazy.

The good news is that I'm getting lots of stuff in the house organized!

October 29, 2011

One Month and counting

You are one month old today. How can the world change so much in such a short amount of time? How have you impacted our lives?
  1. When you’re falling asleep at night, if I’m not next to you when your eyes flicker open, you start to cry. Having your father next to you trying to soothe you doesn’t seem to be enough. I have to finish feeding you, put you into your co-sleeper (Dman and Singer gave us an in-bed cosleeper), and then remain next to you until you’re in deep sleep before using the bathroom, brushing my teeth or running down stairs to refill my water bottle. It’s a strange feeling to know that I’m someone’s magnetic north. I’m deeply humbled and awed when I think that I will define comfort, safety and home for you. I’m enjoying being that for you so far, but the ongoing implications are a bit daunting.

  2. Over our 14 years of marriage, Jrex and I have journeyed from being each others’ best friends, to being co-habitating adversaries, then eventually making an emotionally charged journey back to being on the same team. My biggest fear in becoming parents was that we’d drift into different worlds and lose that sense of being in each others’ corner. Instead, as proved by how we’ve handled the Mom K visit, we’re definitely working well together. Our philosophical approach--that you’re important and valued, but you’re not in charge, we are--is the same. We agree on mostly trying to do a schedule and give you structure without being hardliners about it. Thank you for giving us the chance to parent you together.
  3. You bring out your father’s silly side. He loves to tell you his plans for you: teaching you four-syllable words by the time you’re three, that you’re not allowed to have a Texas accent, that you’re going to be a north-easterner even if you’re being raised here and that you’ll treat your mother well (love that one!). Appa loves your dramatic hand gestures and makes up music or monologues to accompany them.

  4. I’ve always thought that I’d be a mother someday and be good at it. There have been many times in the past 14 years when I feared that kids would never happen. That was the saddest thing I wrestled with as I waited, prayed and endured the hard times in this marriage. After a pregnancy where it was hard to believe we’d end up with a live, healthy kid, it’s been wonderful to discover that mothering you comes naturally. Sure, you’ve had your inconsolable days when I’ve had to put you down and walk away, but overall, we’re a good team.

  5. Your poor Halmoni keeps asking us what we’re going to do for your one-month birthday and for Christmas. We’re obviously disappointing her when we say, “Nothing. He won’t remember what we do or don’t do at this point.” She shakes her head, “At least you do and take picture! It’s his first Christmas, you have to do something.” Hopefully, not having those pictures isn’t going to scar you forever...

  6. You are a reminder that one can survive much suffering. Having your diaper changed appears to be almost as bad as having a finger cut off; yet you survive and smile soon after.

October 27, 2011

Race is in the eye of the beholder

Both OTRmama and my father have been clamoring for a blog post. I've had this one in mind for over two weeks now, but it's hard to find the head space to write. Having one's day cut up into two hour blocks with only an hour of free time within the two is more challenging than I thought.

Mom K is here through mid-November and it's hugely helpful that she takes care of Brex in-between feedings. I'd worried about so many things with her here for a month, but it's been good. She's letting me be the Mom (i.e., my bossy self) and follows my directions with Brex. Also, she's more than happy to hold him any time she can.

When OTRsis was here for the week after Brex's birth, we both thought Brex looked really Asian. This is a picture taken while she was here. (That onesie is for my father's benefit! Dad is Michigan born and bred)

We even had a conversation with Jrex where OTRsis insisted that Brex had black hair. We both shook our heads, No, definitely brown.

A week ago, a family we're friends with came for lunch (Jrex and Dman were at Hopkins together, they both work down here now). Dman and his wife, Singer are both ethnically Taiwanese and have two kids, Eager Girl and Mellow Boy.

Here's Muttola waiting to welcome the visitors...

While they were here, Singer exclaimed about how light Brex's hair is. "It's blonde!" Jrex and I laughed and shook our heads, "No, definitely brown." Yet, it was true that our Hapa boy looked more white when seen with Asian kids.

We've found out that the local public elementary school is an immersion program with bilingual English/Spanish classrooms. Two teachers, half the kids native English speakers and half native Spanish. We're excited for him to grow up at least bilingual, and if we can figure out a way to squeeze Korean in there, somewhat trilingual. Of course, in a Hispanic context, he may even look Latino!

With Mom K, every day she sees something different in him. One day he looks white to her, the next day, 'just like Jrex'. Brex definitely has his father's hands and feet (which makes me really happy), and his individual features look more like Jrex, but his face and expressions look just like my baby pictures.

I'm enjoying having this ever-morphing kid. It's going to be fun to watch others' perceptions of him and his perceptions of himself take shape.

October 6, 2011

Notes from the other side

For the past week, my fabulous sister has been here. Because of her know-how and ability to get Brex (Baby Rex--love it!) to go to sleep (as well as her willingness to change diapers!), I've felt like I have training wheels for this new parenting deal. She's also helped clean the house, make dinners and do dishes. Between her and Jrex, I've felt like all I have to do is figure out Brex. For the most part, I've been happily surprised by how the overwhelming love for the little one outweighs the exhaustion. Much of that however, is due to my sister taking Brex whenever he's been fussy and then getting him to go to sleep. If I try to get him to sleep, he's too busy rooting into my arm or shoulder to settle. I keep looking at him and mournfully asking, "Don't you like me for my personality?" Based on the scrunch-faced tears I get right after the question, I'm guessing the answer is no.

Throughout the pregnancy, I kept finding out that my theoretical hippie approach was outweighed by my pragmatic streak. The one area where I didn't plan to do the 'hippie' version was with the baby's sleeping habits. Knowing how much I need sleep, my plan was to give Brex a couple weeks, maybe a month sleeping in the co-sleeper that Jrex's sister gave us. Letting Brex sleep in the same room as us, but not our bed seemed like a fair compromise. Overall though, I was going to aim for a schedule and sleep in the nursery crib as soon as possible. As it turns out, if Brex is next to me, he eats/sleeps in four-hour blocks, if left in the co-sleeper, I'm lucky if he eats/sleeps in a three-hour cycle. Despite my theoretical pragmatist, it's so much easier to have the baby in bed and do easy feeding and sleep cycles. Definitely not our long-term plan, but for now, he's hard to resist.

OTRsis leaves Saturday and then it's just us for the next twelve days before Mom Kim comes. I think those days without outside help will be challenging, but good. My hormones finally dropped a bit today (I got very weepy when faced with a few challenges) so if that continues, then next week will be even more of an adventure. Jrex is planning to just do a couple hours each day in lab so that he can be around to help.

Before now, I've always called the first three months of a baby's life The Blob Phase. I just haven't found them all that interesting. Good thing biology kicks in and I find this particular Blob utterly fascinating. His facial expressions crack me up, even the way he warms up toward crying is amusing. Jrex seems similarly affected which is really fun to watch.

Mom K has asked for pictures, so I'm trying to send her a "Daily Brex" via text message. My sister pointed out that my Dad and brother might also enjoy that. I asked if she wanted one, too and she did. I guess that means that I've already become one of THOSE parents, huh?

October 1, 2011

More details than you really want!


The doorbell is ringing and the mutt starts whining and barking. I’m upstairs and rush to change from pajamas to something presentable. Whoever is at the door keeps banging on the door and ringing the bell. The dog is in a frenzy. I hurry down the stairs and Muttola comes to meet me. We get entangled and I land on the floor on knees, elbow and dog. It didn’t feel like I hit my pregnant belly though my stomach muscles felt a little achy from the jostle. I answer the door to find one of the workmen who’ve been repairing our front porch.

The rest of the day I work from the couch with my feet up and ice packs for my knees. Throughout the day I feel the baby moving and have no cramps or discharge, so it doesn’t seem like anything happened. Phew!

I end up working until 2 AM to whip the presentation for Friday into shape so the team can review it.

(the beginning of potentially too much detail...)

After my late night, I sleep in until 9:30, completely taking advantage of working west coast hours. I step into the shower at 10:20. While in the shower, it feels like I’m wetting myself, which is weird since I used the toilet just before getting in the shower. I finish cleaning up and use the toilet again. It still seems like pee. However, when I get up to put moisturizer on, there’s liquid trickling on my legs. Hmm...well, if it’s amniotic fluid, they have to get the baby out within 24 hours, so I put an overnight pad on, get dressed, head downstairs and upload the files I’ve been working on so that a coworker can take over the project. I email my teams that I’m heading to the hospital, call the doctor’s office, call Jrex, load the car and head out.

People had been warning us to have our bags packed. I’d sort-of done a bag for myself and one for the baby, but I was missing a bunch of stuff recommended in the birthing class (Depends diapers for one. Ugh.). Fortunately, I HAD installed the car seat base. So, my pioneer life/Amish pregnancy continued as I drove myself to the hospital. Since I wasn’t having any contractions, it was much less harrowing (or studly) than it sounds.

Jrex joined me in triage where they figured out it WAS my water breaking and admitted me. My fabulous OB met us in the room and inserted a device with meds that would help soften my cervix. There’s a scale for how inducible a woman is, they prefer to give Pitocin when she’s at 8 and I was at 2 (out of 10). The med would stay in for 12 hours and then, pending the result, they’d start the Pitocin at 4 AM. I started contractions around midnight: I could sleep around them, wake for them and then go back to sleep. By 4 AM I was 1 cm dilated, so a much better candidate for the induction.

I’d told the doctor I wanted to try natural, but I also knew that Pitocin induced labor would be fairly intense, so wasn’t holding natural childbirth too tightly.

With the Pitocin, at first I was able to geek out and use the contraction counter app on my phone to help. It was comforting to know I was at 30 seconds of the pain wave with only another 30-45 seconds to go. At first I lay in the hospital bed, but then they brought me a ‘birthing ball’ (i.e. a balance ball). It helped to be able to rock during the contraction. Of course, NEXT Monday was the birthing class on breathing, but I made something up that seemed to be helpful. Eventually the contractions were coming every 3 minutes for a minute long. I actually was falling completely asleep between each one, which was a little freaky given that I sat on a balance ball with my arms wrapped around a pillow on the bed. I had them switch the hospital bed to a birthing stool formation. Sitting in that meant that sleeping was easier between the contraction, but more painful during.

During the contraction, I kept thinking of things I wanted to tell Jrex, but then I’d fall asleep the instant the contraction finished. Eventually I was able to get out that if I was less than 4 cm when the Dr arrived to check me, I wanted drugs. I couldn’t imagine hours and hours of the pain wave.

Poor Dr N arrived to check me at 10:30 AM. He had to wait to do the check when I was between contractions. At that point, I had NO restraint in me and I exclaimed, “Ow, ow, OW!” the whole time he was checking me. When he was done he pronounced me completely effaced, but only two cm dilated. Without censor or care, I blurted out, “Fuck that! I want the epidural!” They all burst out laughing.

Within five minutes the doctor with his beautiful drugs rescued me and I fell asleep.

A few hours later, I was able to chat on the phone with my sister and send out text updates. A resident checked me at 3:30 PM and I was at 7 cm. Dr N arrived at 5 pm, found me at 10 cm and declared it was time to push. He left me with Jrex and our nurse. At 5:20 or so, they each grabbed a leg and helped coach me through pushing through the contraction. Jrex was awesome about having his arm completely behind my back and forcing me into a strong crunch position. I think it’s to his credit that after only an hour, Dr N and half the hospital were back in the room for the catch.

I believe my famous last words when I saw the purple cone-head child emerge were, “Look, Jrex, it’s a person!” The baby’s head was so big that his cone-head actually had a bend in it! They put him on me to say hello while Jrex cut the cord. Then the nurses and Jrex took the baby over to a warming station to clean him up while Dr N and a resident stitched up my 2nd degree tear (which was NOT bad for such a big headed baby).

When they brought the munchkin back and most people had cleared the room, I tried to nurse. Feeling a bit like a little kid who puts a doll to her chest, I went through the motions I’d seen in the videos, and to my shock, it seemed to work! He latched on really well and seemed to get a good drink from both sides.

We arrived upstairs at 7:30 pm. and the beginning of ‘your life will never be the same’ began!

It’s now Saturday morning and we’ll head home soon. My sister arrives this afternoon for a week (I’m very excited to hang out with her during this transitional week. She’s got lots of practical wisdom and is also a lot of fun. The next immediate adventure is introducing the baby to the dog!

How can you help? I need a name to use on the blog for the baby! Any suggestions?

September 26, 2011

Getting to know you

We went around the room doing introductions: a labor & delivery nurse, a stay-at-home Mom, a Mary Kay rep (and great-grandmother) in her 80's, a single woman who is a Counselor, a Grandma, a Mom/part-time finance person (with three adopted children), Counselor/Mom, Mom, Mom, and then our fearless leader. This group has met for years on Friday mornings: a tight-knit group who've mostly lived in Oak Cliff all their lives. I was invited to join them by a woman at Tyler Methodist.

I joined the study in the second week. They're going through a book by Beth Moore called "Jesus". It's a study of the book of Luke that takes 18 weeks. After a warm welcome, the group had a lot of questions for me:

"When are you due? Two weeks! My goodness, you're tiny. What are you having? Where is your house? How long have you been here. Are you working?"

"Where's your mother?" (this from the labor/delivery nurse). I answered, "She's been dead for 14 years." With a sympathetic shrug she continued, "Well, maybe it's a God thing you're in this group, we're all happy to help with baby stuff!"

Other women chimed in, "Yeah, I have a 14-year old and a 17-year old who love to babysit. Heck, I'm underemployed right now, I'll come babysit!" "Bring the baby to the group, we'll all love to take turns holding him."

After years of being one of the 'old married people' compared to many of the people in my small groups, being in a group of women that includes a great-grandmother (with fiesty red hair) is wonderful. I also loved that the discussion was very earthy and authentic. It didn't feel like 'Southern Hospitality' where there's a facade of warmth, but then people are stuck with masks (stereotype, I know!).

One of the other things we did with Mom K was to go to a neighborhood bbq in the next block. The hosts were a lesbian couple with twins (one has my first name, the other has a variation on my middle name. Easy to remember!). We sat across the circle of chairs from them and Mom K kept thinking that the guy sitting next to the couple was the Dad. It must have taken 10 variations of me or Jrex saying, "No, it's the two women in the red baseball hats. They're the parents." She also thought there were a lot of housemates there, she didn't realize they were all gay couples.

One of the older gentlemen at the event is actually Santa Claus. He drives a red car with a vanity plate and does dozens of gigs each season. Apparently he really decks out his house, too.

We found out a ton of gossip about our house. They called the guy two owners ago "Na zi Ni ck"; I didn't find out why because his mother was chatting with another group nearby, but I'd met her and she's a really interesting woman who's originally from Germany. I HOPE the name isn't a reference to her heritage, cause that would be really lame. Especially since the woman who was telling me was also going on and on about the super-organic day care that she runs. She called the most recent owner "Daddy War bucks" because he was bald and poured so much money into this house. When we explained which house we'd bought, many of them exclaimed, "Oh! You bought Big Brown!"

I guess this is the joy and the craziness of a "real" neighborhood, huh? People have been here for years and know each others' histories. I wonder what nicknames we'll end up getting? Probably "The Slackers"! We were informed that our street goes nuts with Hallowe'en decorations and Christmas--we've NEVER been good with that. The guy across the street from us does a hearse filled with dry ice, people drop off car loads of children to trick-or-treat our street. I think that this year we have a valid out due to the baby, but I guess we'll be in trouble if we opt out in the future. Guess we still had better stock up on candy, huh? Mom K will be back with us for Halloween this year. Should be fun (and very amusing).

It was strange to go from that BBQ to the Bible study. For the area within a few blocks of us, we have one of the bigger houses and seem like 'rich' people. A little further north in Oak Cliff, there's an area called Kessler Park that has really big mansions, rolling hills, and a golf course. The Bible study is in a house just off the golf course. In that group, I'm definitely NOT one of the rich ones. (Note: the houses below ARE in Kessler, but they're much bigger than the house where the study is...)

We went to a pool party yesterday to welcome new faculty. Jrex was one of the guests of honor. THAT neighborhood has "Oh-My-God!" mansions. It's in a northern part of Dallas that's very wealthy. It all circles back to making me so, so grateful for the house/street/neighborhood where we get to raise a kid. I love the diversity around us and that there's a mix of rich and poor and that we'll get to know people from so many walks of life.

September 19, 2011


Mom K came for a short visit this week. Sept 17 was the second anniversary of Jrex's father's death and she wanted us to spend time remembering him and praying together.

As we prepared for Saturday, I asked lots of questions to try to understand the background and culture for how she wanted to do things. Here's the summary:

Traditionally for the anniversary of a parent's death, the children gather, but so do any other family members who are able to come. In non-Christian Korean tradition, everyone bows to the dead relative's picture and a feast is prepared in their honor. The belief is that on that day the spirit of the ancestor visits the home. Mom didn't say this, but the implication seemed to be that you want the spirit to see that everyone and everything is fine so they won't need to hang around. It's also a way for the dead person to see the family's esteem for them. To my relief, Mom said she doesn't believe that the spirit shows up, she believes that Dad is in heaven, but that he's aware of what we're doing.

As a result, the whole meal was food that Dad would have liked: a wonderful seafood stew (squid, scallops, fish, mushrooms, tofu and other ingredients) and another stew filled with variations of rice cakes. Of course, there were also lots of side dishes. When setting the table, all the settings were white (placemats, napkins, etc). Most of the time, we use cloth napkins, but Dad always asked for a paper towel, so we set the table with paper towels. Mom wore an all white outfit. Neither of us had known about the white stipulation, so we just wore ordinary clothing.

For the ceremony, Mom bought flowers. Five big roses for her, Jrex, me, his sister and her husband and two small roses for Asian niece and our unborn son. I printed out a picture of Dad and put it into a frame I had. She bought a new candle that we lit and placed in front of the picture and the flowers.

Mom had prepared scriptures she wanted us to read about the resurrection and how we have hope. Then we sang Amazing Grace (Dad's favorite) and each of us prayed and thanked God for his life. Mom shared memories of their life together. She was honest and laughingly said, "Jrex knows, when Daddy was alive, I complained about him. When he died, I saw how much he did and how I didn't have to worry about things because he took care of them. When he was alive, I thought all problems were him, after he died, I realized it was me, too. If I had to do it all over again, I would choose him. No one else is like him." She spoke about how hard it was to move to a new country and learn a new language at the ages of 38 and 32. I'd been afraid that it would feel like a strange combination of animism/Buddhism and Christianity, but it was just a good time to remember together.

She asked what my family does to remember my Mom's death. I was embarrassed to admit that after the first year when we gathered together, we mostly just called each other on that day. And that now, 14 years later, we rarely do that. It sounds like she expects to keep doing something for Dad the rest of her life. She also made it sound like it was a really big deal that we need to show up at her house next year for this. She said that her community in NYC keep asking her questions. Her implication was that they are judging her for having disrespectful children who neglect their parents. We do need to go and help her sort and clear out her house, so we might as well go at that time and deal with all of it together.

Do any of you remember those who have died with any special ceremony? Have you experienced another culture's ceremonies?

September 12, 2011

We ARE the bad kids in the back of the class

First of four "Prepared Childbirth" classes tonight. I think that Jrex and I are definitely in the 'which of these is not like the others?' category. All the other parents seemed to be doing the blissed out, miracle of baby thing. Of course, most of the people in the class are having their kids in late November or December. NO one else has procrastinated as badly as we have (we're due 7 days after the class finishes...whoops). I thought the whole focus was going to be on labor and delivery, but this first class was all about interviewing and then introducing the people in your little group. Discussing a chart of pregnancy symptoms and how to relieve them, hearing about the right biomechanics to use during pregnancy, etc.

Given the fact that I sit on a balance ball all day as my 'chair', it was amusing/annoying when they spent 10 minutes going over the benefits of using one. I do think that it's been a big part of why I can still pick things up off the floor (plié/relevé...hips apart and down, swoop and rise) and why I'm not getting back pain. Apparently, it can also help get the kid into the right position in my body. I don't know if it's true or not, but they said it might help avoid backache labor. I'll let you know.

We were in the second-to-last row making snarky comments to each other the whole class. He kept correcting the teachers' anatomy explanations (in a whisper to me), I kept muttering about having to hear about how to manage pregnancy symptoms. After I checked off what symptoms I've had and it was only a third of the preggers possibilites, I poked him in the arm, "You are SO lucky! This could have been so much worse." He raised his eyebrows and peered at me over the top of his glasses, "No, YOU are so lucky." I laughed, "I KNOW I'm lucky, I just don't think you appreciate how lucky YOU are. You should be much more grateful for how easy I've made this for you!"

During class, the baby was really pushing and stretching and making me uncomfortable, I nudged him again, "This child is already a trouble-maker. He's definitely YOUR son." Jrex shook his head in mock sadness, "I keep having to point out to you that this whole thing was YOUR idea!"

Everyone else was being wonderful and polite and listening intently to the teacher. Oops. On the way home I commented that it's a good thing we weren't in high school together cause we'd have gotten into lots of trouble. I could blame Jrex, but really, since 10th grade, I've consistently been the bad kid in the back of the class. It must drive teachers crazy to have me around: I'm paying attention and listening, but usually just restless enough to make comments to people sitting near me. I've sat giggling through way too many classes, sermons and lectures with a wide variety of people for me to be able to blame Jrex.

How are we going to NOT corrupt a child?

September 10, 2011

Follow up to my friendly email

Remember this post? I emailed a local blogger to try to connect. For weeks I heard nothing back from her and assumed my email had ended up in her junk folder and been lost forever. I was a little bummed, but shrugged it off. A couple weeks ago, this showed up in my inbox:
I am a terrible, terrible person.
Got your email and then my life got crazy.
Love that you're here - unless of course you've moved because it was so long ago that you wrote this - and would love to get together. We're in your neck of the woods a little and could meet you for lunch.
You have an amazing story and I'd love to hear more!
Let me know when you're available and I'll take you to lunch to make up for my rude delayed response. I blame the children.
We ended up getting together a week later. She's as funny in person as she seemed she'd be. Even though we were in a chic coffee shop with all kinds of posh drink options she asked the waitress in a conspiratorial tone, "I know this is a violation of everything your shop stands for, but would it be possible to get a Diet Coke?"

For over two hours we chatted. She wanted more details about how Jrex and I ended up in Dallas, how I got from there to here, how my childhood impacted my life. She shared some of what her kids are dealing with. Unlike my parents, she and her husband have continued to attend the suburban church that 'sent' them into West Dallas. For a long time, this has kept them in a limbo where they were "in but not of" two very different worlds. In the past year, they've begun to hunt for a neighborhood-based church option. Their part of Dallas is primarily African-American and I think it's been rare for her to be able to talk with a peer who understands the mentality of both the inner city as well as wealthy suburban culture.

I could also relate stories of how our church handled our Wednesday night dinner & worship service (we had a fun activity after the worship so people were more likely to stay for the whole evening. Grocery Bingo, anyone?), how I'd worked with kids and had to start by getting them to respect me before worrying about them liking me. She kept bemoaning that they'd done everything backwards.

I hope we can spend more time together in the years to come. She's amazing and her family all sound like people worth knowing. It's fun to reach out and have good things happen. It's part of what I enjoy about moving--connecting to different people around the country.

One of my college friends had an interesting suggestion for me. I told her about the conversation with MH and how part of me wishes I had time to commit to being a mentor and working with her husband and their program (they connect mentors when a kid is in 4th grade and ask for a commitment between mentor and kid until the kid graduates from high school!) My college friend suggested that I ask MH if she knows a teenage Mom who might want to get together with me for Mommy play dates after our kid is born. A way to combine both of us figuring out motherhood together with mentoring. I keep forgetting to email MH about it, but this post is a good reminder! Mom's out there, is that taking on too much? Should I wait and see how much time/energy I have? Or set something up now?

September 7, 2011

So much to say

Baby update
The fluid in the kidneys went down, so no worries there. The Kid is on track in terms of size, weight gain, amniotic fluid, head down, etc. In fact, everything looked so good that Dr. N doesn't need to see us for two weeks (we go back next Monday). Jrex asked Dr. N if he thought it would be o.k. if we took a weekend trip down to Austin (3-hour drive). Dr. N laughed and said, "No. Try Ft. Worth instead."

So we did.

Weekend activities
I dragged Jrex over to the Modern last Saturday. We both loved it. Here he is playing with echoes inside a huge sculpture.
Here I am in front of my current art crush, Anselm Keifer:

Also by Kieffer:

After lunch in the museum café, we checked out a Ft. Worth wine shop. Jrex was underwhelmed. So far, he's found a decent, but overpriced, shop in Dallas, as well as another that's better in price, but with more limited selection. I'm amused that I've learned Dallas geography through furniture shopping while he's getting to know it through his hunt for a good wine store.

Speaking of furniture shopping, Lowes had a big end-of-season sale, so we stopped by Sunday afternoon and picked up patio furniture. Sunday night the weather broke (went from 100's to 80's overnight), so Monday we had a wonderful time in the yard putting this together:

The timing was perfect since we had a family of four come over for Asian potluck on Monday night. I made Korean ribs and bought side dishes from Hmart, she made shrimp and broccoli as well as homemade ice cream and dessert rolls stuffed with Hawaiian plantains and jack fruit.

This family lives a block away (I introduced myself to them a while ago. Cause I'm pushy like that...) Anyway, we really enjoyed our time with them. Their little 3-year old girl followed Muttola around the whole evening. The mutt wasn't sure why there was a kid with a hand on her back the whole night, but she tolerated it fairly well. The wife commented a couple times that since she moved here a year ago from the Philippines, this is the first time they've done dinner with another family. Turns out the husband is also an avid Yankees fan, so I foresee some World Series nights in our future (how I suffer).

Sunday night, Enthusiastic Scientist and two of his friends came by the house. From our place, we walked two blocks to the Bishop Arts District for a Margarita fest. For $20, attendees sampled margaritas from 20 restaurants. There were also street tacos and BBQ sandwiches for sale. After getting some food with the group, it wasn't that exciting for me to wait in line for margaritas I couldn't enjoy (plus the gravity of my heavy belly caught up with me) so I headed home early. On the way, I passed a neighbor's porch. He was out there with two other couples and invited me to come up and join them. The other people all live within a few blocks; one of the couples has two boys: a 3-year and a 1-year old. They were happy to hear that we're adding to the neighborhood boy quota. I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with sidewalks and front porches, but without white picket fences (ha!). Who knew I'd find that in Dallas!

Church home?
On Sunday, Jrex and I visited Tyler Street Methodist (TSM). I'd visited once before and felt at home there. It's ironic that after growing up in a quirky Lutheran church, then attending non-denominational charismatic churches, we might end up back in a quirky yet 'traditional' church for raising our family.

Oak Cliff churches seem to do a lot of self-segregation: white, black, OR hispanic. In general, there are few Asians in the area and I haven't seen any in the other churches I've visited. TSM has a white guy as Senior Pastor, a black woman as Associate Pastor and an Asian woman as Director of Music and Fine Arts. Sprinkled throughout the mostly white congregation are Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans. People are really friendly without being creepy and they feel very alive and genuine. Overall, the church is deeply involved in the neighborhood, many live here, others work and volunteer locally. The church runs a private K-12 academy, a retirement community and is involved in a local AIDS hospice. They do drama (Cottonpatch Gospel performance), music (Jazz Vespers coming up) as well as various Bible study groups and life groups (parenting/financial training/men's breakfast, etc).

It must be my nesting urge in overdrive: my normal pattern is to want to check out every option before picking one, but this time, I liked the church when I visited, wanted Jrex to give a thumbs up or down (he gave thumbs up) and am happy to just start going there and see what happens.

Jrex started his first 'real' job!
Yesterday was the first day at UT. Jrex is getting a nice sized lab (room for eight people to work), plus an attached office for his private domain. The guy who'd been in the space is being moved elsewhere in the building (the whole floor is getting shuffled around for lots of reasons, not just Jrex's arrival). He's mostly out, but lots of his equipment is still in the space. Fortunately, Jrex gets along well with the guy's lab manager and they're working together to clear out the rest of the lab. Jrex's lab tech starts today (he hired her over the phone based on a strong recommendation from Enthusiastic Scientist), so they'll be meeting each other for the first time this morning.

The father of lung cancer research at UT, JM, took Jrex around to introduce him to everyone on the floor. He also invited Jrex to join them this morning as they interviewed another prospective person. Overall, everyone was warm and welcoming. JM's administrator took Jrex to get his ID picture taken and show him around the campus. She commented that as much as JM enjoys science, his real passion if for mentoring people. After being in a sink-or-swim lab that's welcome news!

I NEVER thought I'd be saying this, but it really does feel like Dallas, TX is the right place and the right time for us. After so many years of uphill battles and frustration, it feels oddly disorienting to be in the 'sweet spot' where everything feels like it's coming together.

Of course, with a baby coming into the equation, this may just be the calm before the storm, right? (hmm...perhaps Jrex's ability to find the dark cloud on a sunny day is rubbing off on me...)

August 31, 2011

All's well that ends well

My big projects for work are done and therefore, I've been avoiding the computer. It's been lovely! Well, except for what I've been doing now that I'm not tied to my desk: trying to get a Texas driver's license.

In every other state I've lived in, you trek to the DMV and wait in line and they deal with everything all at once. Perhaps you have to get the car inspected, but they can handle everything else with one stop. Not here in oddly bureaucratic Texas (Republicans AND lots of red tape? Seems contradictory...)

When moving from out of state before one can procure a driver's license, the car has to be registered! And before registering you need car insurance and an inspection. THEN you have to go downtown to register the car and pick up the plates. Only after that can you go through the traditional DMV hell. Which is in an entirely different location.

Unfortunately for me, not only did I have to do all that, my California license expired on my birthday in late July, so I had to do the written and driving exams. At 2:30 yesterday, I passed the written test, but they said I didn't have enough time to take the driving test before they closed at 4:30. Back I went this morning.

"Go wait in line 10, ma'am."

I walked to the back of the building and saw a line of 10 people waiting in front of counter 10. There were empty chairs in the middle of the room, so, being 5 weeks away from delivering a big-headed baby boy, I pulled one into the line so I wouldn't be on my feet while waiting. Apparently, the rule that people in Texas are nice ends at the door to the DMV. The woman running station 10 called over the counter, "Ma'am, I need you to put that chair away and stand in line." I raised my eyebrows at her and shrugged as I followed instructions. Everyone else in the line gave me a sympathetic look.

When we got to the front, the older man in front of me gestured for me to go ahead of him. I smiled and shook my head and indicated he should go ahead. He tried to argue, but Bossy Lady called him forward.

While he was still standing in front of her, she beckoned to me. I went to the counter and started to put my Kindle away and get out my paperwork. "You don't have your paperwork ready?" She beckoned the guy behind me to step up to the counter. I stared at her in disbelief as she proceeded to handle all his stuff, answer two phone calls and then finally process my stuff.

I wonder if it was racial. I was one of only two white patrons in the building the whole time I was there. The guy behind me was her race. Could have been she assumed I was presuming on white privilege, or could have been innocent, but the combo of incidents was NOT pleasant.

THEN, it was still going to be over two hours before I could take the driving test! I went home, made lunch and then headed back down to purgatory. To take the driving test, I had to wait in my car in a line of cars, in the lovely temperate Dallas weather (105 degrees in the sun) for over 45-minutes. I thought my air conditioning was going to die.

When it was time to take the test, I was super careful, looked both ways at every intersection, slowed down and looked both ways when crossing the railroad tracks and thought I'd aced it. The tester told me I hadn't looked both ways (I guess just using my eyes wasn't enough, I should have turned my whole head each time), I'd not used my turn signal when parallel parking (fair), and hadn't stopped at the line for the stop signs. Thankfully, I passed anyway.

She then told me to go back to line 10 to get my license.


Fortunately, there wasn't a line.

August 24, 2011

A Christian conundrum

I just read a post on Gifts in the Journey that sparked this (long!) comment in reply. Since I rarely make time anymore to be philosophical, I wanted to share it with the rest of you as well.

As I've mentioned before, I grew up in a Christian family, but because we chose voluntary poverty and chose to live in a 'rough' area, I also grew up where prayer was super practical. Mom and Dad, not knowing where the next meal would come from, praying for food and there would be provision. At the same time, we also grew up surrounded by death and violence. (in the same year--I was 4--our Pastor's grown daughter was murdered by an ex-boyfriend and my godfather was hit in the head by a kid with a baseball bat and died 6-months later.) So my parents could never give us a simplistic version of faith where God would always make everything better. In fact my Mom often struggled with the idea that as much as she loved the Lord, she didn't trust him to "do her good". Toward the end of her life, while dying of cancer, she got a revelation of God's Father love that really changed her. She wasn't healed, but her joy in the midst of dying was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

Part of what's hard about prayer is that (at least in the Christian version) it's as much a reflection of the relationship as it is about a formula or set of words. There's a reason that Jesus' revolutionary prayer begins with "Our Father". Not "My Father" not "Our Holy Director". It's about community with others and communion in a loving relationship with God. The problem is that when we go through really crappy life events, it's really hard to reconcile that with a loving Father and, and, frankly, the 'gimmee' faith that I've seen in many American churches makes that wresting match all the more confusing. It also makes it harder to find a community where honest struggle is welcomed.

My husband has been wrestling with these sorts of questions for much of our marriage. For three or four years I gave him a string of rah-rah answers, the lines that had been fed to me. In the end, I did a study of the book of Job where I went through and underlined in one color the things I heard him saying, in another color what people from our church told him, and another for what I was saying to him. It seemed like there were three approaches: God IS responsible and I want him to answer (Job/Jrex); God is always good and this bad stuff has happened because you deserve it (Job's three friends/church); and It's a mystery, we just have to trust (Elihu/me). In the end, God did answer Job, but the answer was mostly a non-answer where God basically says, I'm really big and most of what I do is beyond your capacity to execute or even fully understand. Somehow in the end, that glimpse of God's reality is enough that Job says he gets it. I don't fully understand it as an interaction, but it seems like there was something in that to reconnect the relationship enough for Job to return to a trusting relationship.

Again in the NT, Paul comes to the point where he questions why God does what He does and again, it's a non-answer, "Who are you to question God?" I find that one of the really difficult things about the Christian faith: the reality that Why? won't necessarily be answered. Perhaps Who? and What For? might get clarified, but going down the Why? road seems to lead to a lot of despair. There is a lot in the NT about counting suffering as joy and being thankful in all circumstances that I still don't understand. That somehow mixes into the life of prayer and the living of life in a way I don't often see modeled in the States.

For me, I've had enough relational encounters with Jesus/God that I can't walk away from the reality of his existence. Some of the theology/philosophy around who he is can be confusing, but the core of knowing he's real and trusting that somehow, somewhere along the road he'll use all this still feels true.

I found this verse last night in Hosea: "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." As much as Jrex isn't sure about a lot of the Christian faith, he trusts that Jesus died and rose and that heaven is real. Somehow that's been the thin thread that he's held onto and that verse spoke to me about God's attitude toward that. The person who chooses to not completely walk away is someone of great worth to Him. I think of that in your honesty and hope that maybe there's something worthwhile in prayer, there is great worth.

August 23, 2011

Working from home

I mentioned (whined) about the air conditioning breaking three times in the first month we (I) were in the house.

Part of the huge impact on me was that I really need my desk. I'm a bit quirky in that I need an organized environment in order to be truly creative. Even in college, I'd have to clean and organize my Art Barn space before beginning to paint. (I also have to do that in the kitchen before cooking.) Being 'homeless' and not able to work in my office made it that much harder to hit the insane deadlines that were being thrown my way. My brain felt fogged and it was hard to get into right-brain mode.

Since the second-floor AC still worked, I ended up perching on the loveseat in our room (not such a bad place to work, but it wasn't my custom built desk! Plus baby-belly hunched over a laptop=not comfy!) (I know, I know, "first world problems", right?)

Now that the AC is fixed, I love our office (bonus: replacing the fan motor got rid of the floor vibration completely). I say 'our' because Jrex is sharing the room with me. It's not as bad as it sounds. As you can see in the picture below, I intentionally set up my desk so that I won't see any visual "distractions" while working. (Let's just say one of us needs clean surfaces to have a calm mind and the other prefers the 'geological' method of organization. That is, finding where something is in the pile based on time of deposit.)

No office is complete without timezone clocks. The black frame is for me in Dallas, with the others for coworkers in Boston and California. It must be the visual thinker in me, but it really helps not to have to 'translate' what time it is.

As of September 6th, Jrex will have an office at UT, but since so much of his impending work will involve writing grants and responding to emails, it makes sense for him to have an office at home. Upon arrival here, we realized that even though the master bedroom closet IS huge, it's not THAT big. Fitting a desk would have been tight (and hot). Having this home office for Jrex also means he'll be able to come home early, play with the kid, and then continue working.

He has 1/3 of the room to the right of the arch while the daybed (for overflow guests as well as a place to brainstorm, sketch and edit) and my area take up 2/3rds.

Thus far, I'm enjoying the expected perks that come with working from home: wearing comfortable clothing, being able to sleep in, being able to take breaks to deal with contractors and repair people, not having as many distractions, and being able to take a nap as needed. The surprise is how aggravating it is being two-hours ahead of my coworkers. It messes up my mealtimes and means I don't get an evening. I often finish work at 8:30 or 9 pm and then have to figure out food (which keeps me up late, wakes me up late and costs the morning as well as the evening). That part should be better in September when there's not as much going on, but there's no guarantee in this business.

It's good to be able to check off another life fantasy ("if only I could work from home and make a good living, everything would be better"). This solution has been great for our transition to Dallas and should be good for the first year of the kid's life, but I don't see it being a long-term solution. It works out well since my company is nuts and burns people out faster than a six-year old boy who's found a box of matches. I'm really hoping to get the brain space to stop talking about my job so much and be able to LIVE outside of work.

August 21, 2011


She knows the routine. If we get in the car and she doesn't have her collar on, we're going to the airport. In general, she's just happy to be in on the action and doesn't care who we're picking up. Most of the time, as someone approaches the car, she starts wiggling and wagging her tail and getting excited. It's only polite in the doggie world, right?

At the airport, I saw him waiting at the curb with a big grin when he saw us pulling up. In the back seat, she froze like a pointer dog on a hunt. "Is it? Could it be?" YES! The wiggle waggle shook the car. I got out to open the back while the two of them reunited through the car window. When it was my turn, I didn't wag quite as much on the outside, but I was just as happy.

He's already claiming his man kitchen. Veggie egg scramble and buckwheat pancakes for brunch. I think my quality of life is about to improve a hundred-fold! Or at least the quality of what I eat.

As promised, he gets this week mostly off from social obligations, but I'm lining them up for the week after. I ran into our neighbor in the grocery store and got her phone number (she doesn't know it yet, but I'm grooming her for my 'adopt-a-grandma' project), another neighbor is going to come over to look at our dysfunctional garage door tomorrow, so we'll likely invite him for dinner, and then we have the couple with the two young kids to invite. Also on the docket are the two couples we knew before moving here.

Let the games begin! (or at least the home fires on our awesome cooktop stove)

August 15, 2011

When procrastinating might be a BAD idea...

I mentioned that I'm waiting for Jrex to get into town before we deal with baby stuff, right? (He's coming Saturday, I'm SO excited to have him back!!!)

Anyway, this morning I had a sonogram. At the 21-week anatomy scan, the tech noticed that the baby's kidneys are a little enlarged and they recommended a follow-up scan at 32 weeks to make sure everything was fine. Basically, the kidney size was at the high end of normal. The issue is that if they are too enlarged, it may indicate that there's a blockage and fluid isn't draining properly. In the worst case scenario, that could mean kidney tissue is getting damaged.

In today's look/see, the kidneys were still at the high end of normal. Everything else was fine. The Kid continues to hide his face with his hands, keep his head down and flaunt the rest of himself. The tech estimated his weight at 4 lb 10 oz, which freaked me out, "Wait, I have eight more weeks to go! How big is he going to get!? Is his head big?" She went back to measure the head and said it was definitely big, but not overly so. I think I've mentioned that Jrex's Mom loves to tell me how he was so hard to get out and almost killed her cause of his big head? So, a big head does NOT sound fun.

On the plus side, I've only gained 20 pounds so far! One of the strangest surprises in this pregnancy has been how weirdly body-obsessed I've become. I'm not dieting, I'm just eating normally without doing much 'eating for two'. Knowing how hard it is to lose weight in one's 40's, I think I've been terrified of gaining 60 pounds and then having to fight to lose it again. The thought of conquering that mountain, but then trying to get pregnant a second time and having to fight it AGAIN (yes, I think too much, is that a problem?) freaks me out.

After the sonogram, I had a chat with my doctor, let's call him Dr. Kind. Based on the kidneys being enlarged, he wants me back in two weeks. "What's the worst case scenario?" He laughed, "Yes, that's always the question, right? Worst case is that if they are too large and might be getting damaged, we'll go ahead and deliver the baby early. He'd be premature, of course, but he's at a good size and it shouldn't be an issue."

"Two weeks?! I haven't even really started thinking about baby stuff! I was going to do that in September. We don't even have a mattress for the crib. Holey Moley. I guess we'd better pull this together."

He smiled and nodded, but added, "You've had a lot going on this summer, haven't you? It's highly unlikely an early delivery will be necessary. Enlarged kidneys is very normal for boys, it's just something we're going to be watching carefully."

On the bright side, I've found a local diaper service (thanks for the idea, Dad!) as well as a stay-at-home Mom who runs a great store out of their garage--she's got all the diaper covers, 'snappis', great nursing bras, and assorted intimidating paraphernalia. I like the idea of being able to go there and ask her questions.

Jrex is greatly comforted by the diaper service concept, so I think that helps tip him toward cloth diapers. Basically, we have to buy the diaper covers, but the service will not only wash the cloth inserts, but any covers or other stuff we want to throw into the bag. We just fill up a Diaper Genie with dirty diapers (no need to rinse or clean them) and every week we get clean, sanitized, lovely diapers back. Totally helps decrease the intimidation factor on the cloth diapering. The other bonus is that there have been great strides since the '70's and we don't have to mess with pins at all. There are little plastic thingys that pull the sides and front of the diaper together. Nice.

Thank you for all the advice about buying as needed vs going out and getting all the latest greatest stuff. That said, we do need a mattress and a changing table. Sigh. I guess another IKEA run is in my near future.

August 11, 2011

I think he's going to be a night person

I've heard from a few people that the stuff the baby does in utero echoes what they do when their out. Don't yet know if it's true, but if it is, this kid will NOT be a morning person. In the mornings, he doesn't move AT ALL. Right now? As I'm finishing up yet another long day of work (two events that both open August 30th and I'm cranking out look/feel and signage elements for both of them), he's pretending to be John Travolta in Staying Alive.

We've progressed from him feeling like a fish flopping around out of the water, to distinctive body parts protruding in alien fashion from my belly. The first time it happened, I was on the phone with Jrex. I was absentmindedly massaging my belly when I felt a hard knob. Without thinking about it, I started feeling it to see how big it was, the way I used to massage the cyst in my wrist. When it moved, I screeched a little. Poor Jrex, "What's wrong? What happened? Are you ok?"

I laughed as I explained that the "cyst" moved and freaked me out. Earlier in the pregnancy, I'd worried that this phase would give me the heebie-jeebies, but it's actually turning out to be somewhat amusing. I'll massage my stomach and then notice something hard and feel around to see if I can pinpoint if it's a butt, an elbow, foot or knee. As I push a little, he moves away, and then half the time kicks me. What's really weird are the times when, through my shirt, my entire belly looks like it's in motion. BI-Zarre. Somehow though, it's transitioned me from feeling like the baby deal is theoretical to feeling like there's a person in there and I'm looking forward to meeting him.

I'm SO, SO grateful that thus far, this has been an easy pregnancy. Especially with Jrex gone for six weeks, it would have been hard if I couldn't do what I needed to do with relative ease. I get heartburn, but a TUMS deals with it. I'm totally able to sleep, despite the pee breaks. I am getting weird pregnancy dreams (in one, half my ear cracked off and I wandered through the rest of the dreamscape with it in my hand looking for someone who could fix it, in another I gave birth to a little dog that looked like Muttola), but that's nothing bad.

As much as I tend to be a planner, I have a reluctance to get sucked into the baby whirlwind. I don't really feel like doing an intensive birth plan, I figure I'll go with what seems best at the time and not get too stressed about it. Between my doctor and Jrex, I feel like I'll be in good hands. I'm overwhelmed when I think about going into BabiesRUs and trying to figure out what we need. We have a sling, cosleeper, two car seats and crib, isn't that all we need? (all hand-me-downs) Once Jrex gets here and is past his potato week, we'll dive into all the baby stuff. Any "must haves" that you recommend? I'm hesitant to buy things we don't really need.

August 8, 2011

Mama Nabi slept here

With Jrex being gone for six weeks and this big old house all to myself, I've really been enjoying having house guests. Last night, I got to host fellow blogger, Mama Nabi. No, we'd never met in real life, but it felt like I was welcoming an old friend and her family despite that. She and her husband, daughter and dog are moving from Florida to California, so Dallas is along the way.

When they arrived, I was chatting with my next door neighbor and her son. I figured it was better to do the doggie meet up on neutral ground, so I was outside with Muttola. Their dog is 1.5, so I knew that Muttola would do her (in)famous puppy take-down at some point. Sure enough, in our front yard, she pounced with a huge growling bark. It always sounds like the beginning of a dog fight, so I try to warn other dog owners what's coming. After that, the dogs were off and running. Literally. We got them into the backyard and they tore around. All night, all morning, they kept chasing each other in circles around the house. I could tell that Muttola has become middle aged cause she kept trying to just lie down for a while, but couldn't resist their dog for very long.

It's so interesting to meet people who's lives you've shared via blogging. In some ways you know them well and in others, it's all new. Filling in the details around the known narrative is a lot of fun. MN went to a college that I'd visited and applied to, I got to hear more about the school where Sansangnim will be working and I got to meet MN's daughter. After seeing so many pictures, it was fun to meet her in person: fearless and playful with the dogs, shy yet eager with me, she quickly warmed up and asked for a house tour.

For dinner, I'd made a new recipe from Sunset magazine with mixed results. What had sounded like a refreshing salad with mango, shrimp and herbs was spoiled by mint that turned out to be really zingy and almost too hot to eat. Not very fun. Thank goodness I'd been seduced by the lure of Central Market and went a little crazy with the charcuterie platter (see all the weird terms I've learned living in wine country? I had no idea what that meant until I went to a wine tasting and found out it was just a sampling of cured meats).

In any case, I saw them off this morning and am now back to the grindstone with lots of work deadlines. Not so fun. Especially since the downstairs AC died AGAIN this morning. The guy who fixed it Friday already told me that he's ordering us a new fan motor, so at some point this week, he'll just call and say he's 10 minutes away and can he come over. Makes it hard to plan to do anything away from the house!

At least there are only 12 days left before Jrex will be 'home'. He's packing in all the final farewells, lab work, closing down his lab stuff, figuring out the shipping for his samples and his mice, trying to get last minute writing done, giving a talk on lungs to his lab (this just more thing to do, Jrex!) as well as trying to sort out his Texas medical licensing.

I've told him that when he gets here, he gets to have a 'potato week'. For the first week, he doesn't have to think about baby stuff, house issues, or anything demanding. He can sit around and watch TV the whole time if that's what he wants to do, or go exploring, or do whatever. I figure he's earned a rest! (plus, I can always use more wife points, right?)

August 3, 2011

Just the FAQs, Ma’am

Since many people I’ve chatted with have similar questions, I thought it would be good to gather my answers in one place.

Where have you been!?
The cable has been out since Thursday and JUST got fixed, so I haven’t had much blog time. Techs came yesterday and figured out there was a power outage at the pole next to the house. Apparently, we’re the only ones on that pole!

Is it hard to be there without Jrex?
Short answer: yes, very.

Longer answer: having various houseguests has helped (three visits so far). I’m looking forward to Mama Nabi and her crew coming by next week on their move from Florida to California.

Here’s the real irony, after giving pep talks to my single friends about how hard marriage is and the things to be grateful for as a single person, I’m having to call them and tell them I was an idiot. It’s hard to be alone. It’s especially hard to be alone in a big house where things keep breaking! (Did I mention that the AC is out AGAIN. Sigh)

Are you lonely?
Oddly, this is different than feeling Jrex’s absence. I’ve had lots of interactions with neighbors and local friends, so I’m not feeling particularly lonely. It feels like our lives here will begin to fill up very quickly once Jrex gets back into town. Our realtor wants to have us over for dinner, I met a family a block away who want to do a potluck Asian dinner, there are neighborhood b-b-ques starting in September, and I got a link to a local elementary schools’ PTA. They set up Mommy play groups and seem very active. On a day to day level, due to the house falling apart around me, I seem to have daily visits from technicians or our contractor.

Plus, I’m frequently on the phone with people from work. So, no, overall I don’t feel lonely.

How’s the heat?
I’ve been cheerfully reporting that dry heat at 110 degrees Fahrenheit feels better than 90’s with humidity, and there’s some truth to that, but it’s still hot. Being in the sun in the middle of the day is definitely oppressive, though walking the dog once the sun is going down is doable. This neighborhood has lots of big, old trees and usually has a breeze, so it’s not terrible. In terms of heat plus third trimester, I don’t feel like I have an extra oven with the baby. I guess I thought I’d be super aware of an extra heat source, but I haven’t felt any differently pregnant than if I wasn’t. All that being said, when the AC isn’t working, my cheerful speech goes up in smoke!

I’m hot, the house is hot, the animals are hot, and I don’t like it! Whine...

How’s the pregnancy/baby/bump?

Seems to be going well. I found an OB that I like and have a follow-up appointment next week. The baby is moving around a lot and while it freaks me out (cause it feels SO weird), it’s also comforting every time I feel him moving. I have mild heartburn, but it goes away with a TUMS. In terms of sleep, I discovered on our cross-country drive that my camping pillow works great for a between-the-legs pillow. Makes turning over much less arduous than with a big pillow, but it gives me the knee separation that I need. All good.

With all the house drama, I’m waiting until Jrex is back in town to really focus on the baby. I’m getting every other room set up, except the nursery. I want to share that experience with him, plus it’s all very overwhelming and I want someone else in on the decision making process.

I’m definitely showing, which is leading to all sorts of interesting conversations. Met a woman who told me about a day care center at a local church. Visited the church this past Sunday. It was a fine church though not a ‘fit’ for me/us in terms of a spiritual home, but it was full of nice people. Happened to sit in the same pew as the woman who runs the daycare. She asked when I was due, I mentioned that I’d heard about the daycare, she told me she runs it and asked when I was hoping to start. I said January, she said, “Whew! We’re really full, but come on by and check it out. We’ll see what we can do for you.”

I’m sure it helped that I looked like a single mom all alone in church!

Do you have a name for the baby yet?
We have a first and middle that we both like, but it’s turned out that the first name is one of the most popular baby boy names of late. Once Jrex gets back, we’ll get a book of names from the library and see if we can find an alternative. If not, we’ll just be trendy...

What do you think of Dallas so far?
I’m actually pleasantly surprised. People told me it would be easy to make friends here, and that feels very true. Culturally our quirky corner of Dallas seems full of interesting people, so I’m enjoying that. The downtown farmer’s market (easy to get to from our house!) has great fruits, veggies, local honey, and grass-fed beef/pork/chickens--so I don’t feel like our foodie streak will be thwarted. Added to that, there’s a crazy, huge grocery store called Central Market that has organic foods, a huge cheese selection, basically all the pretentious foods we’ve discovered in California and many more that I had no idea existed.

I’m looking forward to exploring the cultural life in Dallas, but at the moment, have been overwhelmed with trying to get the house in shape while staying on top of my super-intense work deadlines. I did get a membership to The Modern art museum in Ft. Worth.

While not being a huge museum, it has fun architecture and a great collection; plus it’s an easy 40-minute drive from our house.

Junior will be indoctrinated in art appreciation from a young age.

Best quote so far about Dallas. My friend Art Instructor came down for my birthday (that’s a whole ‘nother story. GREAT weekend.). We went shopping at Central Market and were both completely blown away and overwhelmed.

In the checkout line, she mentioned that she’s visiting from upstate NY and the cashier asked what she thought of Dallas.

“I’ve got to admit that all my stereotypes of Texas have been blown. This is a neat city full of interesting people. Haven’t seen a single cowboy hat so far.”

The cashier laughed, “Just head over to Ft. Worth and you can get all your expectations fulfilled.”

The guy bagging the groceries nodded agreement, “Truer words I have not yet heard today.”