Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's Not That Easy Being...

How many of us have ever heard an adult say the following (or something similar) to a baby in response to said baby either whining, crying, protesting, etc.:

"Oh, I know... life is so hard to be a baby!"

Heck, I know that I have said it myself. Will starts whining and for a while my response was "I know! Life is so hard! People hug you and hold you and change you and take you everyplace! I know!"

Then one day it hit me - life probably IS hard when you're a baby.

Let's think about this briefly. Pretend you're a baby. You've just spent the last nine months in the best, most comfortable hot tub ever. Then you are forcefully evicted from your home - either by being violently shoved or dramatically pulled out of your mother - and immediately exposed to a much colder, less comfortable environment than you were just in. You now need to figure out how to eat when previously you just magically got your nutrition, and you need to depend on someone else to make sure you are constantly warm and cozy. Nevermind the fact that in order to get rid of any waste you take in, you have to deposit it into this pseudo-cotton pad that you hope someone notices is full at any given moment.

And that's just what you encounter in your first 30 minutes of life...

As you continue on, you soon come across many other things that impede your progress in this big, bright new world. Let's start with the fact that it's big and bright; your eyes are not yet ready to take in everything that's out there so you spend most of your time squinting, with your eyes shut, or glazed over. The people who are your primary caregivers do not yet understand what you mean when you say "WAAAAH!" versus "waaaah...", and you have not yet deciphered what their incredibly complex language is either. You have zero body strength and control so you can't: move, sit, stand, turn your head, grab at things... you name it, you can't do it yet.

Talk about frustrating.

You grow and as months go by you learn new skills that get you closer and closer to where you want to be. However, as you realize that there is more - because you're watching these people who call themselves "Mommy" and "Daddy" doing all SORTS of cool things you can't do - you get increasingly frustrated. You don't have the trunk strength to sit up like they do, you don't have the upper body strength or the lower body co-ordination to crawl and get your toys, and because your digestive system can't handle it yet - never mind the fact that you have no teeth - you can't eat the awesome looking things that everyone else gets to eat.

Seriously, guys. I can't reach my elephant. Can you... ok... nevermind.

No worries though. You shall express your jealousy by grabbing everything humanly possible and covering it in slobber. If that's not enough, when that "Daddy" fellow decides it's a good time to play that "airplane" game, you'll let a huge drop of drool release from your lips and land somewhere on his face. Preferably up his nose or right in that gaping, laughing mouth.

That'll teach him to lift you in the air.

Anyways... you finally are able to start speaking and no one knows what you're talking about. How do these morons NOT know that "Bah-bah-a-bay-a-wah" means "Please hand me that block that makes the cool jingle noise"? Or that "A-gay-wah-wah-boooo" means "I'm about to take a huge crap, don't act surprised"? Never mind that when they FINALLY start to give you some of that yummy-looking food they're eating, they start you off with some bland cereal and PEAS. Seriously??? Why not Indian food and cheesecake like you got in utero?

Let's not even get into the fact that they put your cape on backwards when they feed you this "food".

I think you get my point. When you really think about it, being a baby is probably more difficult than we give it credit for. This dawned on me when Will was about 3 months old; I don't remember what it was that prompted me to realize this, but since that moment I have stopped saying "I know, buddy. It's so HARD to be a baby"... at least without acknowledging that you know what - it probably is.

Sure, at some point in time the same baby who we patronizingly tell that it's so "HARD" to be a baby will probably say the same thing to their own kids. We don't realize it as adults, I think, because the idea of people waiting on our every need while we lounge around playing with toys is incredibly appealing when placed against the backdrop of our 8-5 jobs and 1-hour commutes.

But I challenge you to take a moment and think of all the things you can do that you take for granted - like having the ability to lean over and grab something without smacking your face on the floor or eating food without needing to think about chewing. These are things that babies are in process of learning so that they one day can join the ranks of the autonomous. After you've thought of these things, take a moment the next time you look at a baby - especially yours - and appreciate where they're at.

I can almost guarantee that you will look at them in wonder when they finally figure out how to lean over to pick something up from a sitting position - and manage to sit back up again.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Things to Do...

Will is going to be 5 months old next Saturday. There are so many things that he has already outgrown and so many things that he is starting to do and discover that I can't help but start thinking of the things that I want to teach him as he grows...

I want him to appreciate the feelings of grass beneath barefeet and sand between his toes.

I want to show him the competition with the ocean when you build a sand castle too close to the tide... and how to use the tide to his advantage to fill a moat in a properly built sand castle.

I want to lay on a picnic blanket and show him the shapes in the clouds as they float by.

I want to watch him try to pop bubbles and then laugh with him as he blows bubbles while I try to pop them.

I want to show him how to sound out words with his finger when he reads a book. 

I want to help him discover the pride that can come from simple crayon drawings hung on a fridge or mailed to grandparents. 

I want aid him in understanding gratitude and help him to write his first thank-you note.

I want to help him to get to know who Jesus is and what He did for us.

I want to build popsicle boxes with him and help him to see how much people appreciate homemade presents. 

I want to serve alongside him in his first community service project and help him to understand why it's important to help and serve others. 

I want to tell him fun stories about and lessons learned from the people in our family who have left us to go to Heaven and why it's important to understand our past. 

I want to carry on the tradition of making Christmas cookies and giving them out to friends, family, and neighbors. And the fun of eating cookie dough off of your fingers (and then washing your hands). 

I want him to know the simple comfort that can be had in a good hug.

These are just some of the things that I want to teach our little man as he grows.

Each time I put him down for a nap it seems that he's just a little bit bigger in my arms. I know the time will come soon enough for me to teach him these things and experience them with him, and I don't want to rush that time at all. In the meantime, I am enjoying every minute of his baby-ness and placing little "photos" in my memory file.

Just spending each day loving on my adorable little blessing...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lessons From My Father...

Below are a list of lessons and things that I learned from my father over the years... most of which he probably never meant to teach me...

Dance whenever the opportunity arises - even if you look like a fool - because it's fun. Especially when "Love Shack" is playing.

There's nothing wrong with making up ridiculous songs using ridiculous noises.

Cheese will bind you up.

You are never too old to own & wear a pair of one-piece fleece pajamas.

Find & marry someone who is strong, loving, and will take good care of you when you're at your weakest.

Always be nice to the police officer who is proctoring your driver's test.

In fact... be nice and joke with any person who is serving you. It could make their day.

Confucious say: Man who go to bed with itchy bum wake up with smelly finger. (This actually has a serious connotation... think about it...)

Don't do drugs (under threat of butt-kicking...).

There's no place like Nana's house.

Be candid with your doctor about your family medical history and ask if there are tests to find out if you are at risk for anything in said history.

Everyone needs a nickname - usually a one-syllable male name like "Fred" or "Ralph".

Burger King is superior to McDonald's, and you'll never find a better steak & cheese than at Steffy's.

Bacon and peanut butter are two of the best food products ever to exist.

Always keep a positive attitude, no matter how crappy things get. It makes a difference to the people around you.

People will remember the ridiculous things you did in the name of humor and recount them with a chuckle later, no matter how out of left field it seemed at the time. Like driving through a cemetery while honking the horn to "wake the dead".

Never lie about how you're doing when someone asks.

Make sure to brag and praise about the people who you are most proud of.

Always - ALWAYS - be yourself.

And probably most importantly... never EVER part ways or hang up the phone with someone without stressing that you love them. No matter how fantastically good or badly strained the relationship with that person is, it's important that they hear it.

In memory of Daniel K. Cochrane
Jan. 29, 1957 - June 30, 2012 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Magical Motherhood Moment #576...

It has always been a fact that lay somewhere in my brain that when I had children, I would breastfeed. My mother nursed all 4 of her children, so I knew that I too would bring my babes to bosom for their daily doses of nutritious milk when I had mine.

It was just the way I knew it would be.

On May 6, the opportunity presented itself when our son William was born. After his glorious entrance into the world via c-section, the fine folks at Lowell General wheeled us up to the recovery room in a "skin-on-skin" fashion (read: stripped my kid down to his diaper and placed him on my chest under the sexy johnny gown that made me appear to be 300 pounds) and once we were settled encouraged us to partake in the first official magical moment of our mother-son bonding experience...

"OK, Mom! Are you ready to try to nurse?"

Sure. In my deliriously exhausted state after 32 hours of induction, 14.5 hours of labor, and 45 minutes of surgery... nothing could bring me more joy than being able to spend a few moments with my newborn son giving him as much nutrition as my meager sampling of colostrum could muster.

I'm being serious about this, by the way... it'd been a long few days, I was excited for the moment where I could spend a few minutes with the beautiful baby I'd been carrying around inside of me for 40 weeks and 2 days. I was, however, literally deliriously exhausted and am lucky I remember anything that happened in the recovery room at all.

So with the watchful eyes of a lactation certified charge nurse over my shoulder, I brought the one-hour old Baby William to my right breast and waited for that beautiful moment I'd read about in all the books. That moment where awkwardness meets new experience and he flat out rejects my breast, all the while with the nurse encouraging me not to give up... after all, breastfeeding is new for both of us.

That moment, however, never happened. It never happened because I have an amazing son who after 3 licks of expressed milk latched onto my right breast like a champ and gave me three strong suckles before tiring out. It'd been a long few days for him too; he'd been beating his head against a "wall" thanks to induction and a mom who wouldn't dilate enough for him to make a graceful exit. Yet despite how exhausted we both were... there he was, looking up at me with his quiet, big, blue eyes (well... looking up anyway) and latching like a pro.

Talk about a proud mommy moment.

That moment will forever be cherished in my memory... as will the first time I tried to kill my son via unintentional drowning on that same breast.

You see... breastfeeding is a beautiful, wonderful, natural thing between a mother and baby. It also has the potential to be incredibly horrifying at the right moments.

There we were... me and William... me sitting on our living room couch with my feet up, my arm propped up with a pillow for support and our beautiful baby boy laid across my lap. I heard the steady sound of sucking and swallowing that I had grown accustomed to hearing during these times, a quiet reassurance from Will that he was getting the food that he needed from me. I took a sip of water and as I was placing the cup back on its place on the coaster... it happened.

My one-week old son ripped his head back from my breast, opened his eyes incredibly wide, and let out these tiny little coughs. I looked down to see his face covered in white liquid... and my nipple squirting out milk like my poor kid had just won the grand prize on Stanley Spadowski's Funhouse.

(If you don't get the Stanley Spadowski reference, take the 35 seconds and watch this clip.)

I was completely horrified. No one had given me the heads up that my breast would become a sort of drowning device for my child if pressure built up when milk production was doing its finest work. Waves of guilt came over me... what if he hadn't thrown his head back? What if I had actually drowned my kid trying to do nothing more than provide him this beautiful, natural nourishment? Oh, the headlines on the six-o-clock news would have been ones for the ages!

I quickly grabbed the burp cloth I had nearby and pressed it against my breast until the firehose became a dribble and then stopped. I apologized to my poor son several times, not knowing at the time that what had happened was not only normal but would not be the last time he would get mommy-milk in the eyeball. But that first time... that awful, horrifying moment when I wondered if my breasts were broken and if my son would be able to drink breastmilk without choking to death or drowning again was one I will never, ever forget.

Over the last few weeks, what was once "udderly" horrifying has now become a joke between Will and I. If he sleeps too long between his feedings and I don't get a chance to pump, when the firehose kicks in he just backs off, looks up at me with those steely blue-grey eyes, and patiently waits for the burp cloth to come to the rescue. His expression seems to say to me "Geez, Mommy, control that thing will ya?" and the only response I have is a quick apology in a silly cooing voice so that he doesn't become startled while I hurry to stop him from getting his dinner all over his face. These moments are now ones that will be filed away in my memory bank without horror, but rather with an amusement that I can pass on to Will's wife when they have their first child.

I figure I wish someone had warned me about it... I may as well have the courtesy to pass on what I wished I had known to the next. No need to have a slew of new mommies out there thinking they are going to drown their children in the one thing that should be bringing a beautiful, nutritious, bonding experience to their parent-child relationship.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Raspberry Lime "Rickeys"

When I was a teenager, my friend Laura and I would often have sleepovers at each other's houses. The times that we stayed at her house, we would often find ourselves at 11:00 PM deciding to make a batch of raspberry lime rickeys. Recently during a conversation, she and I decided that it was about time to update the recipe to accommodate for things that we have since learned about things like... you know... way too much sugar in a beverage.

So... I did. The end result is no where NEAR as sweet as what we made as kids or what you get from your local ice cream stand, but it's still pretty tasty (hey - it passed the "Steve likes it!" test at home, so I think it stands up.

At any rate... Laura B. - my "sistah from anothah mistah" - this one is for you, me, George Carlin and the Muppets (the latter two are esoteric memories that no one will understand except us...)

Healthified Raspberry Lime Rickeys 
(makes 3)

- 1 - 12 oz. bag frozen raspberries (I used Trader Joe's Organic)
- 2-3 limes
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1 - 1 liter bottle lime-flavored seltzer water
- 1 cup water, divided

My LG Optimus V has the BEST CAMERA PHONE EVER... (not...)

- Combine the frozen raspberries, juice from 2-3 limes, 1 tbsp honey, and 1/2 cup water in blender.
- Blend on "puree" or "liquify" setting until it begins to smooth.
- Slowly pour in the other 1/2 cup water. Continue on "puree" setting until smooth.

- Fill 3 standard sized pub-glasses about halfway up (about 6 oz. each) with the lime seltzer.
- Slowly pour the raspberry-lime puree over the top of the seltzer (similar to a root beer float). Gently push the puree into the seltzer with a straw.
- Serve.
Mmmmm... delish!

When I made this last night, I realized that the puree easily makes enough for 3 people... but there were only 2 of us and I only had a can of seltzer. The adjustment for the liter of seltzer came after realizing I had more puree than I did seltzer. Another adjustment you could easily make that makes it way less healthy but way more "adult" is to add a shot of either white or coconut rum... I'm sure that it would be absolutely delicious. Like I said though - it does take away from that whole "healthy" thing.

Either way - this beverage is delicious and refreshing. I can't wait to try this over the summer and sip it out on our front porch. Hopefully, I did some justice to the raspberry lime rickeys that Laura and I had when we were teenagers... if she tries this out, she'll have to let me know!

Friday, April 6, 2012

"How Deep the Father's Love for Us..."

The first time I saw "The Passion of the Christ", I cried. A lot.

I had read the story of Christ's crucifixion several times both growing up and as an adult. Intellectually I understood the suffering of Jesus as he went through trial, torture, and ultimately the nailing to the cross. I had read "The Case for Christ" and also read a medical synopsis of His torture and death, so I grasped internally the concept that His was the worst historical account of the worst form of execution ever performed on any living person.

But... there was something about seeing it played out in front of me that really hit home.

I wasn't there. I wasn't in the crowds of scoffers hurling rocks at Christ calling Him the "King of the Jews". I wasn't among His disciples who betrayed Him or stood there silently as he was beaten mercilessly.

Yet there I was in the sanctuary at our church with 10 or so students watching a portrayal of Christ's death that critics have called pretty close to actual events... crying my eyes out, keeping Kleenex in business.

I cried because I AM among the scoffers some days.

I cried because there are days I DO betray Him.

I cried because there are days I stand by and LET him be beaten for my transgressions.

I cried because I don't love anyone enough - ANYONE - enough - to sacrifice my life for them.

I cried because I don't love anyone - ANYONE - enough to sacrifice the life of my son for them.

I cried because no human being loves ME enough to sacrifice themselves for me either.


"Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. 
But this I know with all my heart... His wounds have paid my ransom."

There is Jesus. Taking whip lashes, stones thrown at Him, clubbings, bleeding and broken dragging Himself to the top of the hill with the Cross on His back. Choosing the nails, being laid on the cross, nailed down... and dying a miserable, horrible, atrocious death.

"It is finished..." (John 19:30)

He is sinless. He did not die for His own sins.

He died for mine.

Seeing this unfold on the screen in front of me took my breath away like nothing else my life had. God spoke to my heart that night - "Don't you see? Don't you see how much I love you? How much I love each person in this room? You are all broken... I did this for YOU..."

Today (Good Friday) we mourn the death of Jesus.

Sunday (Easter) we will praise Him for being risen from the dead.

We are broken. We are weak.

God loves us anyway. He loves us more than anyone ever can or will. We do not deserve His unconditional love and grace... but yet, He pursues us. He sacrificed His only Son that we may have a relationship with Him.

Spend time with Him. Let Him love you, let Him guide your life, let Jesus be your Savior.

Have a blessed Easter.

"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting Dad Involved

Monday night on the way home from our breastfeeding class, I looked at Steve and said "Hey - thanks for coming with me to the class tonight."

Steve's response? "I wouldn't have missed it. Thanks for always making sure I feel involved."

Something that made me incredibly sad when I started to do reading about pregnancy and birth was something that to me can be so obviously avoided. If "dad" starts to feel left out, they can become jealous of the attention that "mom" gets and start to resent her. Even worse - if "mom" gives all of her attention to the baby (even starting while the baby is in the womb) and diverts most of her attention away from "dad" completely, he may start resenting the baby.

The truth of the matter is that it took two people to make the baby and it's going to take two people to raise the baby into a man/woman successfully. From day one of our marriage, Steve and I have always said that we are "Team Athanas", and I knew that neither of us wanted the pregnancy (and upcoming birth) to be any different. I knew that I didn't want Steve to feel left out or resentful of me or the baby for a single second.

While the books and such that we read mentioned the potential for what I'll call DRS (Daddy Resentment Syndrome) as well as tips for the dad/coach of things they could do to help mom, I've found that what has worked best are things that I didn't find in any book or article. I thought that I would share them with you here - maybe you will find them helpful as well.

Tip Number One: Doctor's Visits and Classes - Yes, your name is on the appointment book for those doctor's visits - but believe me when I tell you that Dad is just as interested in how you and the baby are doing as you are. If he hasn't outwardly stated that he wants to come to every visit, make a point to invite him to them. Even if he declines repeatedly, make sure you invite him to come along each time. If he can't make it because of work or isn't interested in actually attending, sit with him prior to the visit and come up with a list of questions about everything together and make sure you get heads together the same evening as the visit to discuss the answers. The same goes for classes; he's going to be the one holding your hand in the delivery room and standing by to help with feedings & diaper changes. Make sure he understands how important he is to the parenting process and how much information is dispersed in the classes. Besides - two heads remembering the information are always better than one absentminded pregnant lady.

Steve right after finding out we were having a baby boy - and that everything looked perfectly healthy for mommy & baby!
Tip Number Two: Tummy Time - As soon as that little person growing inside you starts moving and you can feel ANYTHING: get Dad involved in the excitement. The first time I felt our little guy move, I called Steve at work immediately so that he could share in the moment. As the movements become more pronounced and you can feel the baby from the outside, let Dad touch your stomach and feel him move as much as humanly possible. Something that Steve and I do is that every night we have "Daddy Tummy Time". During this 20-minute or so period, Steve puts his head down where the baby is and either talks/reads to to the baby directly or talks to me with his head there. There is a lot of evidence that the baby can recognize the voices of the mother AND the father, so we do this so our little guy can get to know Steve's voice. Not only that, but it allows Steve to partake in the wonderful feeling and visuals of our baby's movements. One other thing: if Steve puts his ear to my stomach, he can often hear our little guy moving around. That is something that ONLY Daddy can experience (since I certainly can't bend that far... nor am I letting anyone else put their ear to my stomach).

Tip Number Three: Communicate - Got big plans for the nursery or to stock up in the freezer? Read something incredibly interesting about baby's development? Wondering why Dad is looking at you concerned every time you bend over? SPEAK UP!!! Tell him everything you learn, advice you get that you're appreciating/questioning, how you felt when the old lady at the grocery store rubbed your stomach, how excited you are, any questions you have. By telling him what's on your mind or what your plans/ideas are - he will feel involved in the process. Steve and I have probably communicated better about this pregnancy than we have a lot of other things in our marriage, and I can only imagine that we're going to be better for it long-term.

Tip Number Four: Talk About Dad - Everyone is always so interested in how I'm feeling and how the baby is doing... and then proceed to ask if Steve is "ready" to be a father or if he's "petrified" at the prospect of having a kid. My thoughts on that are a rant for another time, but what I will say is that I have found that talking up how awesome of a job Steve is doing in encouraging me through the pregnancy and how excited he is to be a dad have really made a difference. Not only do people see us as an an excited couple, Steve is able to hear through my responses to others that I WANT him involved and that I APPRECIATE that he's involved. While he hasn't said anything outright, I would bet that kind of public encouragement has really helped him to feel like he IS a part of the team. 

Tip Number Five: The Registry & Shower - I think that the best way I can sum up why I think it's important to include the Dad in the process of registering is the Tale of the Diaper Bag. Steve and I were looking at diaper bags and I found one that I really liked that decidedly looked like a purse. I beeped it into our registry (I had the gun). Steve said: "No way am I taking that thing with me when it's just me and the baby. I'mma register for that one," and he beeped in one that was essentially a diaper-backpack. Dads have opinions on everything from diaper bags to diaper pails to the carseats (remember - he's probably going to be doing the carrying) to sheet colors. Involving Dad in the process of registering reinforces that you value him as a member of your team AND that you value his opinions. Remember - he has to use and look at everything on that list too. As for the shower - while most guys will pass at the opportunity to sit in a room full of women talking about all sorts of womanly things, it's a nice touch to make sure Dad's encouraged to come along too even if it's just towards the end. 

The decidedly "manlier" diaper bag that Steve picked out.

While I'm sure that there are tons of other things that Steve and I have done together that have helped him to not feel left out of the pregnancy, these are the ones that stand out the most to me. If you're wondering how to get Dad involved in the process - I hope that these have helped you a little or sparked some ideas in your head of how you can. 

If you've had a baby before or are currently pregnant - what are some things that you've done to help to make sure your other half feels like a part of the process? 
If you're reading this and you ARE the other half, what are some things that Mom did while pregnant to help you feel involved/wanted?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

66 Days

Christmas doesn't seem like it was that long ago, does it?

I just saw my cousin Stephanie at Christmas. At that time, she was about 30-ish weeks pregnant... a little over a week ago, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I can't help but think - Christmas doesn't seem like it was that long ago... how did she already have her baby?

But it WAS that long ago... it was about 7 or 8 weeks ago. Christmas was 2 months ago (roughly).

Why is this becoming such a point of thought for me, you might wonder? Well... as of last Friday, we are at 30 full weeks that I've been pregnant (30 weeks and 4 days today, actually). I'm in my 31st week of making a baby inside my body. It really doesn't seem like that long ago that Steve and I were pushing each other out of the way to see if the pregnancy test was showing us one or two pink lines.

But it has been that long. Christmas passed, football season is over, pitchers & catchers have already reported, our annual date-iversary trip to IHOP is in a week (March 7th). Before we know it, St. Patty's Day and Easter will pass... and then not long after that we'll have a little baby boy living with us and joining our family.

This is basically what it looks like inside my tummy right now. Cramped quarters...

Knowing how quickly it's been since Christmas was here helps to put in perspective how quickly it's going to be before our Little Man is here. His due date is May 4th - less than 10 weeks away - but we're less than 7 weeks from our "safe zone". He could basically arrive any time in the next 7-12 weeks...

That's less than 2 to less than 3 months away.

This past weekend, Steve painted the baby's room (the final step in transforming my purple office into a baby-friendly cream-colored nursery). In a month or so, my friends and family are throwing me baby showers... blessings I can't even begin to tell you how much I - we - appreciate. There are so many people who are so excited for this little guy to get here... Steve and I at the absolute top of that list.

It's exciting, it's scary, it's amazing, it's wonderful.

It's a miraculous blessing.

We're ready for the next step... and it'll be here before we know it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tears, Joy, and Life

I sat on the floor of the room that's about to become my son's nursery in tears. Tears that shook my entire body ran down my cheeks and I was crying like I hadn't cried in months - maybe even years. A simple miscommunication, a frustration of not knowing how to react to my mood swings on Steve's part had gotten us in an argument... and landed me in a spot where I knew I needed to walk away and regain my center.

It landed me in the middle of my office - my son's future nursery - sobbing as hard as I'd sobbed in years.

It wasn't that Steve had done some great offense that we couldn't have talked through and worked out like normal human beings. It's that over the course of the last 6-7 months... I've lost the control I typically have over my emotions and something had spilled me over the edge. Nothing is more frustrating to me than not being able to control my emotions. It lands me in this cycle...

...I become overly sensitive/emotional...

...I get frustrated that I cannot control it...

...I become emotional about my emotional state...

...I get frustrated I am exposing my husband to this side of womanhood...

...I become emotional that I can't be the best wife possible... get the point.

Welcome to being pregnant.

Add to this the complication that every cry-fest also runs a huge risk for me to get backed-up sinuses and a sinus infection. Without the ability to take my normal decongestants after a good cry (they're on the pregnancy no-no list), I need to rely on nature to drain my nasal cavities. This means that one good cry equals a week's worth of a runny nose. A few good cries means you may as well think I have a cold.

As the tears run down my cheeks and I feel the pressure building inside my sinuses... I open the door to see my distraught husband with a look of complete helplessness on his face. He wants nothing more than to take the frustration away, and I don't even know where to begin to tell him to start to help. This makes me want to cry even more...

It's right about this point in the breakdown that I - in my head - simultaneously thank God for providing me with a husband who loves me, an overall healthy pregnancy, a son who seems to be growing well in there, and no morning sickness to speak of... and curse Eve for that eating that forsaken apple.

Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth..." (Genesis 3:16a)

We all know the story of Adam and Eve and the Serpent and the Apple, so I'm not going to rehash it... but it was the first sin that was ever committed. As a result of that, we have our first set of consequences. Painful pregnancy and childbirth for the ladies, a lifetime of hard work & toil (and unmentioned in scripture - but also dealing with the wife's painful pregnancy and childbirth) for the men.

Every woman experiences pregnancy differently, and while many women truly enjoy the beautiful process of creating a human being inside our own bodies - this process is not one that does not have its consequences. Books have been written about how to deal with the discomforts of pregnancy: backaches, hemorrhoids, morning sickness, postpartum depression, UTI's, stretching ligaments that support your uterus... the list is endless and the symptoms are different for each and every woman.

But there is a promise of new life at the end. 

It hit me yesterday while sitting in church (after another crying fit that morning)... I sat down after taking Communion and bowed my head to pray. The first thing that poured from my heart was acknowledgement of my condition.

I am broken. I am a sinner. I am pregnant. God made it clear in Genesis 3:16 what this meant. For me, this means a breakdown of my normal poise, patience, clarity. It means frustration at the limitations that pregnancy imposes. It means random outbursts and crying fits.

But it's not all bad news... It means that for 40 short weeks, God gives me a glimpse into what it means to take part in His creation and make a life. It means a small little boy will be brought into this world who will depend on me, who I will love with all of my heart and who will love me back. It will provide me with an opportunity to not only experience a small glimpse into taking part in God's creation... but also a small glimpse into the unconditional love He has for each one of us.

A part of Him is in each of us, for we are created in His image. A part of me is in my son, for he is 50% my genetics. We frustrate the daylights out of God, and there are consequences for our behavior... but He forgives us. I know there will be days when we will have conflict with our son, and we'll have to "ground" him or help him see the consequences of his behavior... but we will forgive him.

And in that moment of recognition... I swallowed my cracker & grape juice and thanked God for this amazing blessing of parenthood that He has bestowed upon us. Somehow, that perspective eased the frustration of the emotional roller-coasters and helped me to see that this will all. be. worth it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Top Five: Commercials

Last weekend was the Super Bowl (as anyone living in New England is painfully aware and anyone in New York is joyously celebrating), and with the big game comes the annual excitement surrounding commercials. The Super Bowl has to be the only viewing experience where people will debate whether to get up during the feature presentation or the commercials for snacks because they don't want to miss anything.

Having said that, I was seriously disappointed with this year's commercial selections overall. Sure, there were a few good ones (the Seinfeld commercial, the M&M Commercial, and the doggy Dorito commercial) - but overall, disappointing. Budweiser historical context? I thought that beer commercials were supposed to be funny!

At any rate, this year's commercials got me thinking of some of my favorite commercials in general - not just from the Super Bowls - and I thought that I would share some of them with you. Some are funny, some are touching - but (at least in my opinion), these commercials are pretty darn good.

So... in no particular order... here are my...

Top Five Favorite Commercials

Volkswagen- The Force: This is one of the most adorable commercials I have ever seen in my whole life. Poor kid just wants to use the force... and as a woman who's about to be a parent, the outcome of this video is incredibly touching. If you've never seen it, believe me - it's worth the minute of your time to watch.

McDonald's - Mac Tonight: This commercial isn't really that great, but when you're 7 years old (which I was when this commercial came out) - it's catchy. And it gives you something to bond with your 2nd grade crush about (which I did... yes... I used to sing the Mac Tonight song in class with my 2nd grade crush. No, I will not tell you who it was). Anyway, for that reason - this commercial holds a special place in my heart.

Old Spice - The Man Your Man Could Smell Like: Admit it. You love the Old Spice commercials that have come out over the last few years. Between the hot former football player with the awesome voice, and the ripped guy who screams at the camera - entertaining is the best word you can use to describe Old Spice's recent marketing attempts. Next time you're in the store, read the back of their deodorant. They talk about stench monsters and laser robots. No, I'm not joking. Anyways - the first (I think) of these commercials is one of my favorite commercials I've ever seen. "I'm on a horse". Great stuff.

Folgers - Homecoming: This commercial is really sweet... and though I had seen it lots of times, my current pregnant state had me bawling my eyes out when I saw it this Christmas. If you've never seen it and you're a crier - grab your Kleenex.

Budweiser - Wassup: OK - this is me openly admitting that this may actually be one of the dumbest, most juvenile commercials ever made. However: when I was in college, this offered truckloads of entertainment to my friends and I. For whatever reason - one I will never understand - I find this commercial catchy and possibly even funny. Every so often, I do make an obscure reference to this commercial that probably few people understand. The funny thing - I don't even LIKE Budweiser. I actually hate it.

There are definitely lots of other commercials out there that are pretty entertaining (the original "I work with monkeys" commercial, the E*Trade baby in "solitary confinement" in his crib, and several others I've seen over the years), but these are some of my favorites. Hopefully next year the folks who decide to buy the valuable ad-space during the Super Bowl will step it up a bit before they lose their audience to the refrigerator or a snack table.

What are some of your favorite commercials? What did you think of this year's ads?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Traffic and Women's Rights

Every day I leave my house right around 8:15 AM. It takes me - on a normal day - about 30 minutes to get to work and since I have to arrive by 9:00, leaving at 8:15 gives me a 15 minute "traffic buffer" just incase I hit any snags.

Because you know, it's Eastern Massachusetts and I work "heading towards Boston". That's enough said.

As I leave my house, I can see the highway I have to get on so I am able to see what the flow of traffic looks like in the direction I'm headed. Typically speaking, it's flowing relatively freely though I can expect a slowdown one exit down due to solar glare in the winter.Today: I looked up and saw a tractor trailer. It wasn't moving. I looked closer and realized there were lots of cars. None of them were moving either. So I tried to be all slick and take the backroads to another spot to get on the highway. Those cars weren't moving either.

To make a very long story short... what usually takes me 30-35 minutes took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to accomplish from garage to parking lot. That's about twice as long as normal, and the "traffic buffer" that would normally suffice in the event of one snag (which isn't abnormal) turned out to be absolutely fruitless.

Here's where I learned a lesson in perspective today.

As I sat in my car constantly refreshing Google Maps for traffic updates and seeing nothing but red to blood red at seemingly every turn, I could feel my blood pressure rising. I was going to be late for work, I have a meeting, why am I not moving, this is so boring, I've already heard this song, why is @MassDOT not tweeting what's going on (I wasn't moving, believe me - I didn't look while I was driving), etc. etc. etc.

Then I looked over and realized something: hundreds of other cars were in the same position I was in. Everyone out on the road this morning was stuck in horrible traffic. It occurred to me that with that many people in traffic, there would be a good chance that not only would most of us be pretty late for work - it's entirely possible that someone stuck in that traffic might have been given a warning not to be late anymore or their job was on the line. And maybe today was the day that person left super early so they wouldn't be late, a day to make a fresh start - only to be met with traffic that doubled their commute time.

I said a quick prayer for that person - who I'm sure existed - that their boss be reasonable and understanding.

My brain didn't stop there. I suddenly felt this bizarre sense of solidarity - we were all in the traffic club! We were all in that mess together! All for one and one for all! Here here! This solidarity among my fellow drivers was reinforced when I realized that no one seemed to be doing that "my schedule is more important than yours" move to fly down the breakdown lane. See! We're all a traffic team!

Or something.

Last night I was purging my office to get rid of things so that we can consolidate to one office and make room for Baby Boy. As I was purging I came across my "thank you" copy of "The Vagina Monologues" that I received as being part of the performance when it was produced at UMass Lowell. If you've ever seen or heard of it, then you know that the premise of the entire thing is to bring awareness to women's issues not only in the US but in all parts of the world. It is meant to celebrate the beauty of women and unite us all globally to stand up for what is right. Performances are often sponsored by women's rights groups who fight for women to have the same freedoms in other parts of the world as they do in the US.

I remember this one monologue about what it was like to live under a burqa, and another about a woman who suffered from female circumcision and rape at the hands of soldiers in her own country. As I sat in traffic this morning, these stories came into my mind and took up space in my heart. Here I was letting my heartrate and frustration level rise because I was sitting in traffic, being inconvenienced... when really the fact that I was sitting in traffic would be considered a blessing by many women around the world.

Think about it - what led me to be sitting in the traffic in the first place? I was able to get a good education, put myself through college, choose whatever job I wanted, wear whatever clothes I picked out this morning, drive myself to work, choose what path to take - and at the end of the whole thing, arrived safely to be treated by my male peers with respect and viewed as an equal.

Without that sort of cultural surrounding - I wouldn't have been sitting in traffic this morning. Suddenly, the traffic didn't seem like a huge bother anymore.

Don't get me wrong - sitting in traffic is definitely an inconvenience, and is doubly annoying when my husband is home before me at night and I'd rather be spending time with him than sitting behind the back-end of a garbage truck staring at its taillights. It's not the traffic that I'm grateful for, especially when you consider that most traffic is caused by the misfortune of another driver. That's not it at all.

What I'm grateful for - and am actually incredibly thankful for - is that I've been blessed enough to be able to be a woman in the United States of America. A place where I can literally be who I want to be, can chase my dreams, believe in the God I choose to believe in, can be treated as an equal in the eyes of everyone.

The next time you're sitting in traffic... take a deep breath, and think about how you got to that point in the first place. If you're anything like me, it'll make the ride a lot less painful.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 - It's Gonna Rock

I decided that I'm not going to start off this post by lamenting over all the things that I didn't accomplish from my goals list in 2011. All that accomplishes is about 10 minutes of frustration and disappointment in myself - and quite frankly, I don't think that sort of attitude is a good way to start off a new year. Instead, I am going to share with you a list of things that I did accomplish last year and then share with you some things that I would like to accomplish this year.

So what happened in 2011? Here's a short list of some things that I am excited about over the last year:
  • I was able to read more books than I had in 2010; according to Goodreads, I completed 17 books during 2011. Right now I have 3 more in process, so I am glad that I was able to focus more on one of my favorite passtimes over the last 12 months. 
  • Steve and I have done a much better job at keeping God at the center of our marriage than keeping ourselves there. The fruits of this have been amazing; we feel closer, conflict is much easier to handle, and we feel a more genuine sense of optimism & excitement about the future of our marriage as a result. 
  • My prayer life has gotten stronger and I have gotten more comfortable with opening up to God in conversation. This is something that has been a huge struggle for me in my faith, and truthfully the book "Mystically Wired" helped me change my perspective on prayer. 
  • My running improved! I reached a point where while outside I was able to go longer between "walking periods" which was very exciting to me. Of course my "speed" was still just about a jog, but I was excited to need to take less walking breaks. That, however, got put on the backburner because...
  • We're having a baby! In September we found out that we'll be expecting our first little one, and in December we found out that our little one is going to be a little boy. We're super excited and so far the pregnancy & baby have been going quite well. (The pregnancy put my running endeavors on hold per doctor's orders... but it's worth it!)
Now we're in 2012, and I am excited to set some goals for the year that I know have a good chance of being accomplished. Why? Because I am determined this year. This year my goals are not being set out of obligation or some sense of "this is something I should do; this year's goals are in place because I want to accomplish these things. Period.

Goal Number One - Read the whole Bible: This year, our church is going through the narrative of the Bible from start to finish over the course of 12 months. As part of this, they have shared a reading plan that gets you through the Bible over the course of the year. In the past, I've set Bible reading goals only to fall flat on my face because I don't take the step of setting up some sort of way to hold myself accountable. Because our whole church community is reading on the same plan (or at least has the option to), it will serve to keep me on track during the course of the year. I am excited about this endeavor and know that I can see it through to the end.  

Goal Number Two - Successful Breastfeeding: I am excited to meet our little boy and welcome him into our family - along with all that entails. Yes, even the poopy diapers. One of the things that I am super excited about is nursing him and being able to provide him the nutrition that he needs from my own... person. I know that breastfeeding is hard work and it doesn't work for every person, but I am more than willing and determined to do everything I can to make it work. I have been praying that he not have digestive or latching issues, and will be signing up for a breastfeeding class that's offered at the hospital we will be delivering at. I also have had several women offer their expertise that I trust and value their opinions/advice, so I think that I have a great framework in place to be successful in this endeavor once our little man gets here. 

Little Man at 18 weeks, 3 days. Isn't he a cutie! 

Goal Number Three - Read More Books: In 2011, I was able to complete 17 books before the year was out. This year, I'd like to go back to my middle school days and hit the 20+ book club. I really don't see any reason that this goal cannot be achieved, but hey - you never know. I have a slew of books and a library card that are just aching to be read and/or used, plus I'm already off to a great start with 3 books in process. I LOVE reading, and hope that we can set a good example of how awesome reading is to our little one once he gets here. 

Goal Number Four - One 5K Race in the Fall: I am blessed to have a husband who encourages me in my running endeavors... and who also finds the value in everyone having time to themselves to do the things that will help them relieve stress. Once our little guy arrives and the doctor has cleared me to start jogging again, I can't wait to start to get back into the groove of it. My ultimate goal is to run in another 5K - either the same one I did before or one closer to home - and beat my last time of... whatever it was. Basically less than 38 minutes start to finish. I know that with Steve's support this is something that I can definitely achieve and I am excited about it.

There they are - my goals for 2012! I'm excited about these and I have a fantastic feeling about 2012 - I know it's going to be a great year. 

What goals do you have for 2012? 
Do you have a system in place to achieve the things you want to achieve?