Tuesday, March 26, 2013

blowing raspberries

This video is from a couple of weeks ago.  I've derived so much personal enjoyment out of Nell's recently-rediscovered raspberry-blowing abilities, I just had to share.  You know, just in case the rest of the world is as charmed and impressed by her stamina as we are.  Yes, this is almost a full minute of non-stop raspberry-blowing.

Take note of the arms.  I think she's dreaming of riding a motorcycle with her Uncle Jonathan.

{Observant blog-readers may notice that her skills have improved considerably since the video in this post.  Also, her hair has filled in quite a bit.}

Thursday, March 21, 2013

overdue: after the birth, or, on labor pains and growing pains

Here's another in a little series of "overdue" posts about my pregnancy and Nell's birth.

Nell's birth didn't exactly go the way we had planned.  If you've read the birth story, you already know that.

In the days, weeks, and even months following her birth, I struggled with that reality: post-partum hormones mingling with weariness and a hundred questions, painfully unanswered and unanswerable.  Even as I gazed at the healthy baby in my arms, knew how lucky we were, knew there was nothing to be sad about, I cried every night for a long time, an inner voice nagging: "You should have planned more.  Prepared better.  Practiced your Bradley techniques more faithfully.  Stayed stronger.  Stuck with it longer.  You failed."

The home birth free of medical interventions didn't happen for us.  Instead I gave birth in a hospital, with an IV of antibiotics and an epidural.  And this was really, really difficult for me to come to terms with.

In those days, every friend who gave birth, and every birth story I read, and every blogger who extolled the virtues of intervention-free birth unintentionally rubbed a little more salt into the wounds of my perceived failure.

Now, ten months later and my hormones a bit more balanced and my mind a bit clearer, those feelings of failure aren't so overwhelming.  Goodness knows that getting an epidural is nowhere close to "failure," and in fact, giving birth - whether with no drugs or with drugs or by c-section - is never "failure."

But in those early days after Nell's birth, I was haunted by questions, by "what-if's," and by self-doubt.  It seems almost silly now, the tears I shed.  I'm sure those few friends I shared my feelings with wondered why I couldn't move past it all.  I'm sure poor Nathan had no idea what to do or say, as night after night we tucked into bed and then the tears began -- again.

I'm thankful for my friend Story, who was with us for Nell's birth, who patiently listened to my questions through my tears, and worked through the whys and hows of it all, even allowing me to process the unanswerable ones.  I'm thankful for my Mom, another good listener who offered encouragement to me during those difficult emotional times.  And I'm thankful for my sister Emily (a doula), whose words on the phone reassured me: "We think of birth being only about the baby, but it's really about the mother, too, and your feelings after an experience like this are real and valid."

Yes, the end result matters.  But what happens to get us there, matters, too, and that's okay.

I wanted to know why the baby was persistent posterior, and what I could have done differently, and why the long hours of walking and hands and knees and more walking and more hands and knees didn't help, and why the midwife we had so carefully interviewed and thought we liked ended up being a person we felt we couldn't trust and who didn't help us feel safe or well cared for.  Why was it that just while sleeping with an epidural we accomplished in a few hours what laboring naturally for days had not been able to - a baby turned properly face down and ready to be born?  Why didn't our midwife explain things to me, talk to me, or seem to do anything more than say bland and generic encouraging things?  Why didn't my labor follow a normal progression?

With time, I was able to let go of these questions, and the feelings of disappointment in myself faded.  These days, I can look at the hospital hat and hospital bracelet in a shadowbox in Nell's room without crying.  I can look at the photo of myself getting that epidural without feeling so badly.

And you know what?

These days, I'm grateful.

I think I can honestly say that I'm grateful for not only the way things turned out (we have a healthy baby, and I am alive and healthy), but also for the way things happened.  I'm grateful for the process.

You see, I think I'm a more empathetic person.

If we had been granted the empowering home birth of our dreams, I think I could have become an overzealous drug-free birth advocate, extolling its virtues without really seeing or understanding the other side of the equation.

When I remember those nearly seventy hours of labor, and especially the last day and night, what felt like one long endless night of darkness and weariness and pain, I know that I have been given a personal understanding of women who choose medical pain relief, because I've been there.

It's not just the birth experience, but the experience of motherhood has also made me a more empathetic person.

When I think about how much I love being a mother, I also think of all the women who long to be mothers and, for one reason or another, don't have babies in their arms.

When I remember how hard that first four weeks of nursing was - oh, the fist-pounding pain! - it reminds me to never, never judge the mother that just found it too difficult and made the decision to use formula.

When I leave my baby in the arms of a babysitter to go to a gig, I know firsthand how agonizing the decisions about work and family can be, and I empathize with other women making those decisions, and find myself less likely to judge those whose decisions might be different from my own.

My baby is growing up awfully fast, but what do you know -- I'm growing, too.

{Tired mama and brand new baby Nell on our way from L&D up to our recovery room on the night she was born.}

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Quotable Husband

Recently Nathan was on some website - downloading a TV show I think - when an ad of a highly questionable nature popped up and started playing.  I'm sitting in the living room with him, and suddenly I hear from his computer, "blah blah blah.... until I found such-and-such-a-site, where you can chat with beautiful women any time of the night, and it's all free!"

And Nathan, pretending like I wasn't right there raising my eyebrows at him, didn't even glance my way, as he said aloud, "Oh, nice, and it's even free!  Yeeeeesssssss!"

* * *

Then this happened on Sunday:

Me: Hey, I'm back to the weight I was before I got pregnant with Nell.  I still feel like I look different, though.
Nathan: I don't think you look any worse than you always did.
Me: ...
Nathan: Wait, that didn't come out right...!

* * *

{But then this happened, too.}

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

From a girl whose one-quarter Irish Daddy...

is pretty proud that she is one-eighth Irish.

Fortunately, he tolerates the fact that this girl's Mama isn't Irish...

{But I don't mind donning a bit o' green every March the 17th.}

Somehow even the smallest of holidays are made more fun when you have a little one.  It gives you an excuse to make a big party out of the little things.  I'm looking forward to shamrock-shaped pancakes, mint smoothies, and all sorts of green celebrations in years to come as Nell grows older.

We managed to get out of the house and go to church, even though {contrary to what smiling faces in photos might make you think} nothing about the day seemed to be going quite right.  It was the prospect of singing St. Patrick's Breastplate, a favorite hymn of mine, that provided the impetus to get out the door come hell or high water.

We said these powerful words from Patrick's Confession:

There is not, nor ever was, any other God - there was none before him and there shall not be any after him - besides him who is God the Father unbegotten: without a source, from him everything else takes its beginning.  He is, as we say, the one who keeps hold of all things.

And of course, I was quite glad we managed to get to church, as I always am, because along with gospel and music, liturgy and eucharist, sitting a pew in front of me there was a toddling little boy wearing a kilt.  What more could one want from St. Patrick's day?

From the Lorica of St. Patrick:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in the eye that sees me, 
Christ in the ear that hears me. 

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

Now, you certainly don't have to be Irish to appreciate that, do you?

{I'm linking up with Fine Linen and Purple}

Friday, March 15, 2013

nine months

I figured I should finally write Nell's nine month post since, ahem, she's ten months old as of today.  It's important to keep up with the monthly updates, after all, so that any future children we may have can have something to complain about when I don't keep chronicling their lives with the same frequency.

Note: I actually did take the pictures and start writing this post when she turned nine months old, it just didn't get finished until now.  All the things she's "currently" doing actually apply to nine months.

Nine months.  On the outside for about as long as she was on the inside!  When it comes to losing pregnancy weight, everyone says, "Nine months up, nine months down."  So naturally I woke up on Nell's nine-month birthday and said to Nathan ominously before going to hop on the scale, "It's the day of judgment..."

One pound.  Still one pesky pound over my pre-pregnancy weight.

{Also, my pre-pregnancy weight was nothing to write home about, so... le sigh.}

Meanwhile, Nell's weight, if not mine, is fair game to be broadcast across the internet, and at nine months she was weighing in around 22 lbs of sweetness, chub, and kissability.

At her nine month checkup, which actually took place when she was about eight and a half months, her doctor asked if she was working on developing a pincer grasp.  Oh, she already had that down.  If someone has tracked the smallest pine needle into the house, Nell will scoot around and find it, picking it up carefully between thumb and forefinger.  Each tiny bit of dust is fair game.  Suffice it to say, she's putting my {dubious} housekeeping abilities on trial.

Nell and I have a little game we like to play these days.  She coughs, and I pretend-cough back at her.  She pretend-coughs, smiles, waits.  I cough.  She coughs.  Etc.  She is downright gleeful about this game, and while it originated in response to an actual cough, now that she's figured out how to fake-cough, she can initiate a round of this game any time she wants to.  In fact, she decided to play at her doctor's appointment, and even 'invited' him to play, too.  She coughed, I coughed.  She coughed, I coughed.  She turned, looked at Dr. L., coughed, smiled, waited.  He was quite impressed with her little game!  And yes, he coughed back.

Aside from her regular wellness visit, Nell and I also took another trip to the doctor recently, when she unexpectedly vomited six times within about a half an hour.  The latter five of these were fluorescent yellow bile.  While I'm usually not the sort of person to run to the doctor's office for every little thing, Nell is my first baby, and I found myself a little disconcerted.  By the time we got to the doctor's office, she hadn't vomited any more, and they couldn't find a thing wrong with her, so that little incident will remain a mystery.  Poor thing though, she was sad and confused by the whole thing, and spent the afternoon a bit subdued and very snuggle-prone.

Nell has figured out how to put things into other things, and consequently, spends a lot of her play time putting smaller objects into her biggest stacking cups, taking them out again, rinse and repeat.

She loves reading books, her current favorites being "Moo, Baa, La La La," "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," and "Pajama Time."  She's recently figured out how to poke her little finger through the holes in The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and seems to derive endless enjoyment from this activity.

Nell can scoot herself around a fair amount now, and will regularly end up three or four feet away from where I set her down on a rug or blanket to play.  She's not crawling yet, but she wants to!  She always gets one foot stuck in front of her.  I think once she figures out how to navigate that, and get up on her knees, she'll be off to the races.

She's recently started to "share" her pacifier with me, or, as I said to Nathan, "Look, Nell's offering me a drag on her binky."  I perceive this as her first act of generosity - and perhaps even love? - and it warms my heart when she wakes from a nap, takes her pacifier out of her mouth, and holds it up to my mouth.

On the opposite end of her personality spectrum, this same little girl who sweetly offers me a "taste" of all the things she loves to put in her mouth also threw her first tantrum just a few days before she turned nine months old.  The reason for the tantrum?  I had a tortilla chip in my hand, and she wanted it, but alas, could not have it.  I explained that it was salty, had sharp corners and edges, etc., and removed it from sight, offering something in its stead, but too late - Nell could not be pacified.  Angry screaming and back-arching ensued and lasted for several minutes.  I admit that I was not ready for this to happen so soon, and the whole experience was a little upsetting and overwhelming for me.

Ironically, despite what The Tortilla Chip Incident might indicate, she still hates and refuses pretty much all foods, with the occasional exception of a bite or two of egg yolk or a nibble on a slice of avocado.  Most offers elicit extreme shuddering and gagging.  I'm trying not to get ahead of myself and start worrying that she's inherited her father's extreme picky eating habits.  For now, I just keep patiently offering, but not forcing.  Hopefully she'll come around.

Nell has an extensive vocabulary of sounds, her favorite of which is "da da da da da da da."  Along with the frequent babbles, though, she can also employ a real humdinger of a shriek.  She shrieks when she's happy, she shrieks when she sees something that interests her, she shrieks when she wants something.  She's in no way trying to be 'naughty;' these are definitely the shrieks of an excited or intrigued little girl exploring her world (and her vocal range), but nonetheless, they are ear-splitting and a wee bit uncomfortable since it's usually my ears being split.  We're hoping that the excitement for life continues, but that this phase is otherwise short-lived.

In the list of things that probably only a parent notices or cares about, sometime between eight and nine months Nathan and I noticed that Nell whipped out an altogether new look for herself.  She now frequently employs the funniest little straight-mouthed smile.  Such a goofy girl, this one.

Dear Ellen,

I think the tortilla chip tantrum will forever be emblazoned in my memory.  I suspect that you have a bit of a spitfire in you beneath those big round eyes and sweet chubby cheeks, and this was only the beginning of things to come.  You are growing up quickly, as babies seem to do, and learning what you want.  You are rapidly becoming your own little person.  I just hope this growing up process isn't too painful for any of us involved.  I'm excited to see the kind of person you become: what you love, what you're passionate about, what you want out of life.  I know you'll find bigger and better things to invest yourself in than tortilla chips.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I've designed a new blog header, and changed my layout and look here at being sarah marie.  I'll probably still be making a few changes over the next few days, but in the meantime, I'm having fun with the process.  Extremely limited knowledge of html/css?  Check!  Child-like abilities with Photoshop?  Check!  What more could I need?

When I first started blogging - almost ten years ago! - Blogger didn't have as many options as it does now.  There were two or three blog templates to choose from, and any customizations whatsoever you had to do in html.  It was fun for me, and I learned a lot and did a lot of Google searches for tutorials on things I couldn't figure out on my own.

My Dad always says, "A good engineer is a lazy engineer," and while I'm no engineer, I think the saying applies in this situation.  I decided to finally ditch the template I had customized over the years and switch over to a Blogger template, where it's now extremely easy to customize text colors, fonts, margin widths, sidebars, etc.  Almost no html knowledge required!

I've added tabs at the top including an About Me section (Too many pictures?  Probably.  Too long?  Definitely.  But what else would you expect from me?), and a few brief thoughts on Why I Blog.  Both are works in progress, but check it out and tell me what you think.

What are your favorite features to see in a well-designed blog?  What are some of your least favorite blog layouts or designs?

Friday, March 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes

I'm joining Jennifer Fulwiler today -- and a couple hundred others -- and blogging seven little paragraphs.  Mostly mundane.  A little Christmassy.  A bit fermented.  Slightly ridiculous.  That's life around here.

- ONE -

I've been making my own kefir since the beginning of February.  I ordered my organic milk kefir grains from Simply Kefir, and have been delighted with how easy it is to make kefir.

For those of you who are not experts in kefir, "kefir grains" are not grains at all, but rather they are gelatinous, cauliflower-resembling structures made of yeast and bacteria.  You feed them some fresh milk, they turn it into kefir, and you strain them out and start again.  As long as you keep feeding your grains, the fun never stops!  Then you can flavor your kefir with fruit or put it in a smoothie or drink it plain if you like things a little fizzy and sour.  Supposedly kefir contains up to four times the beneficial live cultures as yogurt.

{Of course, that won't stop me from continuing to make delicious homemade yogurt, too.}

- TWO -

I kid you not that my husband's "white trash Christmas tree" (the fake tree we inherited in the basement from the previous owners of our house, not the real tree we put up in our living room each Christmas) is still up in the TV room.  I ask beg threaten him nearly daily at this point, and yet it still stands.  You're probably wondering, "Sarah, why don't you just take the %&*# tree down yourself?"  Well, because Nathan insists that he and he alone can be the one to properly disassemble this piece of plastic-y horror and then take it in its piecemeal glory down to the basement.  I don't know why.  The truth is, I could probably do it, but Nathan likes to make projects really complicated and come up with reasons why they have to be done a certain way and no other way will suffice and no one but himself can be the one to do them.  In this way, he can continue to stress himself out on a regular basis.  We call him "The Overkiller" around here, because pick a project, be it as simple as making a peanut butter sandwich, and Nathan will find a way to make it really complex and use at least four different drill bits, some caulk, and the vacuum cleaner.  Then he'll need to replace a fuse.  That's just the way projects go around here.  


It is amazing what a little sleep can do for a person.  This morning when Nell woke up at 6:30 or so, I was really dragging.  My mind was a jumble of, "I don't know how to be a good mother / I don't know how to make any of the decisions I need to make in life / I have too many problems / I don't have any solutions / I'll never be able to raise this baby to be a kind and productive member of society who loves Jesus."

Then at 9:30 Nell took a nap, and I did too.  And I woke up at 11:00 thinking, "Okay.  There is probably at least one mother somewhere in the world even less qualified than I am.  I can do this."

That's the power of a nap.

- FOUR -

Nell has been a little dramatic lately.  It seems like every little thing makes her face crumple slowly into a look of abject misery, and then the crying begins.  Every diaper change.  Every morning when it's time to get dressed.  Every time she drops a toy.  Or bumps her face with her hand.  Or reaches for something she can't have and is swiftly removed from the situation.  It would be funny if it weren't so pitiful to see her little face fall, as her world comes crashing down time and again.  I have to say, I don't think I was expecting this level of drama until she was at least twelve or thirteen.  Maybe she's working on another tooth?

{Look at that adorable little bundle of blurry frustration.  I love her.}

- FIVE -

It snowed today.  About a foot.  Very beautiful.  But I'm very ready for spring.  No more snow, please.

... I just ran upstairs to re-settle my baby girl.  Then, having been pondering the snow, it seemed necessary to make myself a mug of hot chocolate.  My justifications were twofold: one, it was a snow day for the schools, and snow days require hot chocolate; two, I don't want that tin of Sipping Chocolate from Trader Joe's sitting in my cabinet all summer, so somebody's got to use it up.  Will I regret this indulgence?  My friends, I regret it already.  And yet that is unlikely to stop me from sitting here and drinking it as I type.

Yes, I know it's Lent.  I didn't give up sweets this year.  I'm sure I should have.  I'm striving for simplicity and prayerfulness overall, though, and finding that not surprisingly, these are good things.

- SIX -

I have two avocado seeds properly skewered with toothpicks and half-immersed in water sitting on my kitchen window.  It's been weeks and weeks, and they have nothing to show for themselves.  I also have the beginnings of sourdough starter on my kitchen counter, which I am dutifully stirring and feeding, but which looks suspiciously lacking.  You'd think I could dwell on my successes (such as the aforementioned kefir) and brush these things aside, but they are bothering me.  Especially the sourdough starter.

I still have hopes that it will pull through (I'm using whole wheat flour and pineapple juice as described here), but it just doesn't look very promising yet.  As for the avocado seeds, well, I suppose I can let that one go.  I didn't really envision a yard full of avocado trees in Eastern Massachusetts, anyway.


Earlier this week I bought the ingredients to start making my own laundry detergent, as well as some other household cleaners.  This was something I'd been meaning to do for a while, and I've procrastinated long enough.  This weekend, it's happening.  Wish me luck!  Do any of my readers have any experience making their own cleaners/detergents?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

the filibuster

Nathan and Nell and I watched a little bit of the filibuster last night.  We don't watch TV with Nell, and I never have it on during the day, but we made an exception last night and tuned in to C-SPAN on my laptop for a bit while Nell decided to be unexpectedly awake around 10 pm.

{isn't she sweet?}

I felt like we were seeing a bit of history being made.

“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul said as he began. “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

This evening I'm trying to process the events of yesterday, trying to read recent articles about the drone controversy and John Brennan and Pakistan and Yemen and be at least a fraction as informed as I'd like to be about everything.

And there's this: Living Under Drones

There's finally a bit of an answer for Senator Rand Paul: Sen. Paul Reaches Victory Through Filibuster

And there are a hundred other things I could try to read and process about war, about politics, about our nation, about mothers and their babies living a world away from me right now, and what their lives are like, and what effect my country is having on them.

Nell is sleeping, so it's my chance to be on my computer a bit, to catch up on the news or read some blogs or write something of my own.  It's also my chance to tidy my messy house, to vacuum the bedroom or finish up the last of the dishes in the kitchen or start soaking pinto beans for tomorrow's dinner.  I'm behind on work, with emails hanging over my head and financial matters waiting to be checked and double-checked.  Where do I start?  It's easy to get overwhelmed.

Nell keeps waking up.  Five times since she went to bed at 7:00, she's awakened crying out and needing to be re-settled.  I run up the stairs, pat her back, lay down beside her.  Her soft, warm little hands reach out for me, find my face in the dimness, and her cries quiet, her breathing deepens.  I kiss her little palms, one and then the other.  I breathe in her scent, sweet and clean from her evening bath.

I want to solve the problems of the world.  I don't want children in Pakistan to die.  I don't want Americans to be complicit in the unnecessary deaths of innocent civilians.  I want change for our government.  I want Rand Paul's filibuster to mean something to our nation.  I want liberty and justice for all, the Constitution to be upheld.

But I can't solve all these problems.  I can't even finish reading the websites and the articles I'd like to read this evening, and those dishes in the sink probably won't get finished tonight, either.

I can only solve the problems of one little baby with warm hands and sweet-smelling skin, who just needs a reassuring touch from her mama.  I can do that.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

a little tragedy

There were a lot of good things about the past weekend, which I intend to write about.  Having these good things was nice, and much-needed, because frankly, February was a rough month around here.

But there was one tragic, disappointing thing that happened over the past weekend, and it deserves, needs, demands to be mentioned.

There I was, browsing through a store in Boston, happily holding with pride to my claim to fame that I must, surely, be the last and only person in the world to have never, not even once, listened to the song 'Gangnam Style.'  This was a good thing.  I liked it this way.  I was actually rather pleased about it.  My avoidance of the song represented such a departure from cultural norms -- not to mention such good taste -- that it deserved to be spoken of in run-on sentences and with more than a few superlatives.


And then the song began to play over the store speakers.

I knew it was 'Gangnam Style,' because amidst indiscernible lyrics and unremarkable music, I heard those words pop through.  "Gangnam Style!"

I can no longer say that I've managed to avoid hearing the song.

I told you it was tragic.

That is all.