Thursday, March 5

Connor's birth story


Here is both a very short and a very long version of Connor's birth story. The long version is for me, but I know that some people, like me, love detailed birth stories, so I'm sharing the play-by-play here (since apparently this blog has been nothing but birth stories for three years).


Short version:
Last Tuesday, which was very fortunately Mark's day off, I had contractions off and on from about 6:30 in the morning to about 3:00 in the afternoon, when they really picked up while we were out running errands. Mark took the kids to his parents’ house around 4:20 when I was finally sure things were happening, and happening fast. We got to the hospital at 5:05 and Connor was born at 5:55. It was really fast and really intense, but he’s super cute.

Long version:
Since I felt relatively good during this pregnancy, I wasn’t overly anxious for Baby to come early. Sure, I was uncomfortable—my heartburn was awful this time around, and for the past month or so the swelling in my extremities had been getting progressively worse. But I was sleeping at night, so I wasn’t going crazy. Some days I felt more ready to be done than others, but emotionally I wasn’t chomping at the bit, like I had been with Andrew (Mr. 6-days-overdue).

I woke up on Tuesday morning around 6:30, but couldn’t fall back to sleep because I was having contractions. This was unusual, because I never had contractions first thing in the morning. I went to the bathroom and noticed I had lost my mucus plug. I told that to Mark and we both started thinking about the idea that things were going to happen today. Still, you can lose your mucus plug days before delivering, so I tried not to put too much stock in it.

It was Mark’s day off (thank heavens!), so we took the morning easy. I decided against going to the gym in case today was the day, and I showered early and got ready. I urged Mark to shower and get ready, thinking things could pick up any time.

I was having irregular but strongish contractions. Nothing I couldn’t talk through, but they were more than what I had been having any other day. I timed them for a bit about mid-morning, but they were still 12–20 minutes apart—nothing to get excited about. Still, we got bags packed and told Mark’s parents (who were going to watch the kids) to be on the alert.

By 12:00 we were all going a little crazy. The kids were annoying each other, and Mark and I were both a little grumpy. (My excuse was that I was uncomfortable from contractions.) My contractions seemed to have subsided quite a bit, and I started thinking maybe today wasn’t the day. I felt frustrated because I felt like it was my fault that we’d wasted the morning, and I had no progression to show for it.

So at my urging, we decided to get out of the house. We went to Costco, where I had a few contractions that I couldn’t walk through. I just stopped and pretended to be very interested in the Dysons for a minute (I wouldn’t mind one of those, actually). Then we went to the grocery store where I had a few more contractions strong enough that I had to stop moving.

Still interested in killing time, Mark suggested we stop by the thrift store to pick up some scrubs for him. He’s had scrubs on loan for the last two babies, and the idea that he’d wear regular clothes for the delivery just seemed weird. So we headed to the thrift store to look through scrubs. They were $10—what a racket.We bought them anyway.

I had more contractions that were pretty strong in the store. I had to stop and put my head down until they passed. The hospital called while we were there to preregister me, which annoyed me because everything the guy asked me I had already answered in the online preregistration. Oh well; I made it through most of the conversation before I started contracting again, and all I had to say at the end was “Okay. Okay,” during the contraction.

It was at the point of leaving the thrift store that my contractions started getting really serious, because I had Mark pull the car over whenever I had one because the bumps were really uncomfortable. In hindsight I’m baffled that I didn’t realize this meant the show was starting, but I didn’t. I think I was just so annoyed at how the day had gone that I had concluded that there would be no baby today.

We got home at about 3:45 and I lay down in bed and started timing my contractions again. They were about 7 minutes apart and over a minute long and getting pretty uncomfortable. Still, I thought I had some time. I was hungry, but didn’t feel like eating, and I felt a little worried that I wouldn’t have enough energy once things finally kicked in (which I was anticipating would be some time much later that night). I told Mark to get the kids a snack and to hurry and wash those scrubs.

But by 4:15 I could tell this was happening, and it was happening fast. I suddenly knew that there was no time to finish snacks or wait for scrubs to dry. I told Mark to take the kids to his parents’ and come back to get me ASAP. I was full-on moaning during contractions now. Mark sped to his parents’ house (Maren: “Dad, you’re driving really fast!”). He was gone for only 20 or 25 minutes but it felt like an eternity, and I was feeling a little bit of panic because I felt the slightest urge to bear down. I was mostly terrified of the drive to the hospital, because I know that riding in the car while having contractions is basically torture to me, and they were pretty hard at this point.

Anyway, I knelt on the floor in the back seat (no way you are getting me to sit down once I’m in labor) and gripped the seat belts. Our car does not have very good shock absorption and it is really hard to get it to shift super smoothly. Because of my heightened sensitivity I felt like I was off-roading with someone who was just learning to drive a stick.

By now it was 4:50 and contractions were 75 seconds and about 3 minutes apart. I couldn’t believe how close together they were coming already, since just 45 minutes ago they were 7 minutes apart. Mark called the hospital and the midwife to let them know we were coming. The midwife couldn’t hear him because I was so loud in the back seat. “Is that her I hear in the background?” she asked. “Yes!” Mark yelled. “Okay, I’m coming right now!”

We pulled into the hospital at 5:05. There were about five nurses swarming me, telling me to get undressed and putting my IV in (for the antibiotic since I had Group B Strep) and putting on the monitors and trying to check me. I remember telling the nurse that she had about one minute to check me between contractions and then feeling SO annoyed that she didn’t even have her gloves on when I was ready for her. I was already at an 8.

The midwife showed up and we tried to figure out what was going to be the best position for me to deliver in. I had planned to labor in the tub but it was clear there wasn’t going to be any time for that, and the urge to bear down was creeping up on me. I was most comfortable standing, but I was standing on the bed and no one wanted me to deliver like that, so we tried hands and knees. That was good enough for me, but when I started needing to push the midwife wanted to make sure my cervix was completely gone and she couldn’t check in that position. They told me I had to roll over to be checked, and I did not like that idea at ALL. There was definitely a sense of urgency in the room, or at least I felt that there was.

While I consider myself to be a generally reasonable person who is open to compelling arguments—such as a the inadvisability of pushing before one’s cervix has completely opened—when I feel like I am being ripped open from the inside out (which is essentially what is happening), I get a little obstinate when people ask me to do even simple things, like roll over. I’m also pretty sure I yelled “shut up!” at least twice, mostly because I found it highly irritating to have people chatting like this was all in a day’s work while I was in agony. Sorry about that, everybody.

Anyway, eventually I managed to get to my side, and it turned out there was a lip of cervix left. Curse you, cervix! They told me not to push until the midwife could reduce it. To say it’s really hard not to push when you feel the urge to push is kind of an understatement. It’s like fighting against the most primal mammalian instinct in existence. I yelled, “How do I do not push?!” They told me to breathe. Then they thought I’d hyperventilate so they stuck a bag in my face. I don’t really know what was going on, but it wasn’t fun. The don’t-push-while-we-reduce-your-cervix part is a little fuzzy, probably because my brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

The next thing I remember, the midwife said she’d gotten my cervix out of the way and I could push. Pushing is really, really hard and it really, really hurts, but it’s so much better than having contractions. I knew that once I started pushing it was only a matter of a few minutes before the baby was out. I just clutched the side of the bed and someone held my leg and I felt like my head was going to pop off (in fact I did rupture a blood vessel in my eye), and it hurt and it was hard but then out came the baby!

I remember the relief of having the baby out being much greater with the other two, but for some reason not so much with this one. They handed baby to me and I was—again—shocked to see a boy. It was 5:55 p.m., about 50 minutes after we had pulled up to the hospital. Whew!

The next 20 minutes were not very fun. They took the baby away sooner than I would have liked and the midwife started stitching me up right away. I was cold and shaking uncontrollably and I just wanted the stitches to be done so I could roll over. I was super uncomfortable and pretty grumpy, and, I think, just overwhelmed by the speed and intensity of the experience. But eventually she finished, and I think we are still on good terms despite me saying some ornery things at her. I rolled over and they got me some warm blankets and I started feeling much better.

While after labor with Andrew I felt like an Amazon warrior princess, after this one I felt like I’d been hit by a freight train. It was like I was planning for the Labor and Delivery Express to pull into the station at a predictable pace, and I’d get on and we’d pick up speed while I settled in to a rhythm, hit my stride, and coasted into town, like I did with Andrew. Instead it’s like I was told the train was coming only to believe it was canceled, and on my way home it blindsided me and dragged me along at twice the expected speed before arriving in Babyville.  

There was no time to “settle in” to labor. While I was never scared (except of enduring the car ride), it happened so fast that I didn’t get a chance to accept what was happening and relax into it. On the other hand, I only had to really labor for about 3 hours, and less than one of those at the hospital, so there’s that.

I also wasn’t thrilled with how things went down right after Connor was born. I didn’t like that they took him away so fast, and I didn’t even realize they’d taken him until later. I didn’t like that Mark was texting everybody already like the party was over, meanwhile I was shaking and freezing while being stitched up. We stayed in the same room that I delivered in, and the bed was like a brick—I hardly slept at all that night. Mark and I both got bored the next day waiting to be discharged after 24 hours. I was anxious to go home and sleep in my own bed.

But Connor has been amazingly easy so far (knock on wood), so a week out I have no complaints. 

And now for some pictures!
Mark had it rough in the hospital
 I can never have a summer baby because all my kids have come home in this bear suit:

So, I have three children now. That makes me feel old.

Saturday, April 7

A story about birth

Here's a little story about one not-so-little boy's terrestrial debut and how his mom fared.

I know, I know, it's called "false labor" or "pre-labor" or "Braxton-Hicks" and it's not technically labor-labor, but still. My contractions were so frequent and so annoying that I'm calling this the longest labor on the record books -- 2 months at least! Crazy contractions from the beginning of February were basically preventing me from moving in most functional ways. Add that to an increasingly-willful two-year-old and a husband working pretty much any time he wasn't sleeping, and I was at the end of my sanity string.

I was sure Baby Surprise (we didn't know the gender) would come early since I had hardly any pre-labor with Maren and she was a few days early. Whereas with Maren I was really in no hurry to have my life turned upside-down and greatly in denial about the onset of labor, this time I felt like Baby couldn't come soon enough and I spent most of March thinking surely tonight was the night.  But when I hit my due date of March 30 and I was dilated to a whopping ZERO, I gave up on ever giving birth and resigned myself to a state of permanent pregnancy.

Spoiler alert: the pregnancy DID eventually end! But before we cut to the chase, I want to display the awesome henna tattoos my sister did on my belly. The first one wore off too fast, so she did another last Saturday. She loves doing it and they look really cool!

Henna skills

After washing off the henna -- it came out really light

The second one. Nice paisleys!

Okay, now for the story. I tried to keep it short but, well, brevity is not my strong point.

Wednesday night around 10:00 the show started, though I was skeptical since I had been expecting the show to start almost every night for a month. I didn't want to make my mom drive 45 minutes in the middle of the night only to send her home. So I waited, and for the first time the contractions got worse instead of better. Finally I was convinced that this was the real deal!

We called my mom at about 12:15 in the a.m. and she arrived shortly after 1:00. By this time Mark had the car packed and I was vocalizing and swaying through the contractions. For a while I would lean on the washing machine and sway my hips. Later I would kneel at the bed and bite down on a rag during the contractions. During each contraction, I focused on relaxing my face and repeating in my mind, "Every contraction ends. Every contraction ends." Mark had called the hospital to request the room big enough for the new inflatable tub. No luck; it was occupied. At this point I thought, there is no way I can do this without meds if I have no tub. My resolve to go epidural-free weakened a little.

I knelt in the back seat of the car for the 10 minute drive to the hospital. Fortunately we hit all green lights because every bump and turn and stop and gear shift was agony. I felt like were in the parking garage forever. Some random hospital employees helped carry our stuff and I had to make several rather loud stops for contractions. Good thing it was the middle of the night so I avoided an audience.

At around 1:30 I was dilated to a 6. (Hurray!) They moved me from triage to an L&D room -- it wasn't big enough for the inflatable tub, but I was relieved to find that it did have a tub in the bathroom. It wasn't any bigger than a standard bathtub, but I was just glad to have it. They filled it up, stuck some waterproof wireless monitors on my belly (these are awesome!), and I got in.

Ahhhhhh...pain free! Contractions no longer hurt at all! I asked for a book and a glass of juice and just hung out for a few hours.


Yeah right!

Things were definitely painful, but the water took the edge off. I can't explain it. Because of the shape of the tub, the only comfortable position was kneeling with my ankles crossed and leaning over the edge. Mark sat on one side for a while and gently rubbed my back during contractions. Later he got a stool and sat in front of me. Contractions were getting a lot stronger and I was trying to keep my vocalizing low.  I kept reminding myself that every contraction ends and tried to keep my face relaxed.

This was totally different than it had been with Maren. During that labor, I felt like the pain was taking me over and I felt fear that it would never end. I felt like I didn't know what was going on, that it was taking too long, and wondered whether it was normal. I needed so much more attention -- Mark at my head, nurses rubbing my back, etc. Granted it was a LOT longer, but this time I didn't really need anyone besides Mark sitting there. The midwife just hung out outside the bathroom and the nurse popped her head in every once in a while. Despite the pain, I felt very calm. Having been through it once and survived, I knew it would end and that I wouldn't feel this pain anymore. I tried to focus on two specific memories of Maren's birth: the indescribable relief of having her finally out, and the calm, pain-free ride home from the birth center with her in the car seat, the ordeal over with. It WOULD end.

I started feeling the urge to push surprisingly soon. The midwife said I was at an 8 -- a little early for pushing, but I couldn't help it. I developed a new routine where during each contraction I would lean my arms out of the tub and stick my fingers under the tongues of Mark's sneakers and pull as hard as I could while I moaned and grunted. Mark told me later he considered what would happen if I went suddenly crazy and threw him off the stool (didn't happen). I tried to keep the grunting in control (so I wouldn't have a sore throat like last time), but I couldn't help it. Through a few contractions, I did try to distract myself by making the weirdest grunting noises I could, or making up little rhythms. Just a little diversion in my head.

When I was checked again and still at an 8, there was a bit of discouragement that sneaked in and started to nibble at the fringes of my mind. I remembered how I had been stuck at an 8 for several hours with Maren and how that just about did me in. But I forced myself to not think like that because I couldn't afford to get discouraged. And there was no need. Before long I was at a 9, and then pop! My water broke.

I told the midwife that my water had broken (though I contemplated not telling her), and she told me to get out of the tub. (Hospital policy is that you can labor in the tub but you can't deliver in it.) I had decided that I didn't want to get out of the tub, so I told her that I couldn't move -- which was mostly true. I started pushing, and they tried to get me out. I knew they weren't going to drag me out, so I just kept saying no. Finally the midwife said, "We'll have to drain the water then." In my head I answered, "Dang it!" but knew I had really no recourse at that point and it wasn't worth fighting.

There were two handicap bars mounted horizontally on the wall of the tub, and I pulled myself up into a squatting position and hung on those bars while I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. Man, pushing is HARD WORK! It's a different kind of pain from contractions -- a more productive pain -- but it is absolutely exhausting. Somewhere in my primal self there was some superhuman strength, and I held myself up on those bars for 15 minutes and pushed. I tried to hold my breath and concentrate my energy on pushing, but a few times I couldn't help but let out these crazy primitive roars. It was not the best position to be supporting myself in, and a few times I thought I would collapse, but I really had no choice but to stay there. I kept focusing on the immediate relief of getting the baby out. Jill, the midwife, leaned into the tub to support my perineum and keep an eye on things. I felt a bit of relief and asked if the baby was out. Jill answered that the head was out, and I yelled, "get the rest of it out!" And then -- whoop -- baby was out and they were handing it to me. It was just like I remembered, slimy and slippery, covered in blood and vernix. This might sound gross and certainly weird, but this is my absolute favorite part. I love how slimy they are.

I sat and held the baby. The nurse said, "Do you want to know the gender?" And I thought, Give me a second, woman! Labor is so exhausting that you just want a minute to let the relief sink in. I said no, I wanted to check for myself, and I rested for a few more minutes. Then I checked and we had -- a boy! I was shocked. I though for sure I'd be looking at another girl, and I spent the next 36 hours voicing this surprise at random intervals.

Anyway, little Andrew showed up at 4:08 a.m. and weighed in at 8 lbs 15 oz! If we had weighed him before he pooped, he might have topped 9 lbs. No wonder pushing was so hard! But I was only in labor for 6 hours, and just over two of those hours at the hospital. THIS is the way to do it. I didn't need much support, I felt calm and in control, and overall I felt like a champion. I was so pleased with how it all happened, and unlike last time, I thought, I could do this again. (Although...third trimester nearly did me in. I'm not really keen on doing THAT part again.)

Within hours my arms and legs were so sore that I could barely lift my liter mug of full of water. I must have had some crazy adrenaline woman strength to suspend myself from those bars for so long. Every muscle group from my neck to my ankles (aside from the non-existent abdominals) absolutely ached. I needed help just to lift myself out of bed. It was annoying to be unable to move, but very satisfying to think that I pulled that off.

So if I had to sum up labor in a series of pictures, it would look like this:

It was a good experience. Thank you, Maren, for breaking me in! This second labor much better.

Here's some hospital commentary for anyone interested. If not, just skip to the pictures.  The main reason I opted for a hospital is cost. Because we Mark works at University Hospital, our insurance covered almost everything. There are a handful of birth centers in Salt Lake, but only one of them takes insurance, and I wasn't thrilled about the lone midwife who ran that place. UH is also the only "Baby Friendly" hospital in Utah, and they have a birth care practice run by midwives (one of whom I met volunteering at the birth center in Texas). I was impressed with their philosophy and satisfied that they would support the experience I was looking for.

Overall, it was fine. I didn't need much support at all, and despite feeling a little annoyed at hospital policies, everything was fine. I will say that it was VERY annoying the next day to have a billion people poking their heads in my room every thirty minutes. The nurse needs to feel your belly. The aide needs to take your vitals. The pediatric team needs to evaluate the baby. The vital records lady wants to know if you've filled out the birth certificate yet. Food service is dropping off breakfast. Oh, time to feel your abdomen again! I understand that all these people have very specialized jobs, but it made it tough to get any rest. I did love the reclining bed though. That was really nice for someone who could barely move.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the little man.


Maren's introduction today couldn't have gone better. She giggled with delight about Baby Andrew and asked to "hold it." Then she tried to share every toy she could find with him. It was lovely.

No-neck is not the most flattering newborn angle.

Blurry kiss picture

So there you have it. Welcome to the world, little Andrew! You have smitten everyone you've met, including your big sister (who you resemble quite a bit).

Friday, March 9

The thing about single guys

Since I moved out of my parents’ house some 9 years ago, I have always lived somewhere with a shared wall or ceiling/floor. Some of these living arrangements have been better than others, of course. Most have been all right.

Except when I’ve shared the wall with (a) single guy(s).

Not that it’s the guys’ fault, so much as the places with crappy walls have happened to be places where single guys also live. (Maybe there’s a correlation there.) And, of course, the shared wall has to be in the master bedroom.

But here’s the thing about sharing a paper-thin wall with a single guy.

I think it’s safe to say that single guys live a very different lifestyle than does a married couple with a small child.

In South Texas, we shared the wall with Edgar, a border patrol agent. He was a nice, clean-cut, polite guy who kept to himself. But border patrol agents work wacky hours, and I can only imagine that cranking up the music helps them unwind after a busy day’s (or night’s) work. The only redeeming factor to Edgar’s music habits was that we had similar taste. He liked Coldplay; I like Coldplay. And judging by how often we heard Coldplay coming through the wall, Edgar liked Coldplay a lot. So do I, but not so much at 10:30 p.m. when I would rather be sleeping.

For the first several months we just thought that Edgar liked his music really, really loud. But that’s the problem with sharing a wall with a single guy—he’s single. And single, sane people don’t talk much when they’re alone, which makes it hard to gauge just how thin your wall is. So when Edgar started watching a lot of sports (I think?), and yelling at his TV, and I could hear every single word, I realized it wasn’t his music; it was our wall.

Then I overheard some of his phone conversations.

And then I died.

Because I am not a quiet person. And this is our master bedroom and bathroom, I remind you. Where I happened to spend a lot of time talking with my husband. Probably quite loudly. Suffice it to say my I tried to drop my pitch after that, and I was conscious that every thing I said might possibly be overheard.

Like the time I went into labor at midnight and did a lot of loud moaning—I felt very self-conscious. Hopefully Edgar was working that night.

We moved back to San Antonio and shared a wall again—this time with another couple. I can safely say that this duplex was built to much higher standards, since we never, EVER heard that couple through the wall. And believe me, I would’ve known, because there were many times when I did hear the wife blow her top and scream at her husband in a fit of uncontrolled hysteria while they were outside on their back porch. I doubt she reserved these explosions only for their backyard tête-à-têtes, so I was glad for a nice, thick, well-insulated wall.

Alas, a nice, thick, well-insulated wall was not to be for our current residence.

And, naturally, we share our duplex with single guys of a worldly nature, who definitely do not have the same lifestyle as a married couple with a small child and the schedule of a medical resident.

And of course the shared wall (one of them) is, again, in the master bedroom.

Still, it’s hard to gauge just how bad the wall is. Because, remember, people who don’t share a room don’t talk that much, and for a while, when you hear and feel the bass thumping through the wall (our new neighbor, unfortunately, does not share my music taste), you think it’s probably just loud music that vibrates past the threshold of your home.

Then you hear two of the roommates talking to each other, and you realize your naïveté.

Then one afternoon you hear a female having an emotional breakdown in the bathroom (oh yes, we share that wall too).

Then you are awakened in the night by suspicious-sounding bed-bouncing type noises, and you are extremely glad you have your bed on the opposite wall.

Then you are awakened by what must have been a dance party of some kind, with lots of jumping and female laughter. At midnight.

It didn’t take long for earplugs to become standard for me at night. And of course I wonder what our neighbor can hear from us. Me laughing, definitely. Maren crying, certainly. Maren squealing in the bathtub, absolutely. Me yelling “Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaark!” in the shower when the shaving gel runs out, bet your life on it. But what else? What is a safe pitch at which to converse? It’s an obnoxious question to have in the back of your mind every time you open your mouth in the “privacy” of your own bedroom.

We haven’t said anything about it to the guys next door. It’s hard to know just how unreasonable their volume choices are when you live somewhere that was built decades ago and is so shoddily put together (don't get me started) that I can only assume it was skipped over by a bribed building inspector. AND because I figure that in a few weeks when I’m bunking with a newborn that will be payback enough for a while.

I’m just looking forward to the day when I don't share a wall with any neighbors, let alone a crappy wall shared with single guys.

Sunday, January 8

Post-2011 update

Anyone still out there? Anyone?

I have some blogging issues that prevent me from writing very often (things like privacy and self-consciousness and belaboring everything I write, etc. etc.), but after reading so many of my favorite people's Christmas cards, letters, emails, blog posts, etc., I figured maybe I should do some sort of update in an effort to be better at staying in touch (something I'm horrible at). I will EVEN include some pictures.

Anyway, here are some of the highlights of 2011 for us, in mostly chronological order.

Mark started off the year finishing interviewing at pediatric residency programs around the country. He loved Primary Children's in Utah, and in March we were elated to find that we matched there.
(Yay! We're going back to Utah!)

Dani spent the first half of 2011 taking a weekly cycling class through the San Antonio Wheelmen, which finally made me feel legitimate enough to call myself a "cyclist." I mean, once you learn about the butt cream, you are IN.

(Can you find me? I'm the one on the far left, wearing a blue borrowed jacket on an unusually chilly Texas morning.)

Maren entered that awkward phase where you are trying to grow your bangs out...but you have no bangs because you happen to be completely bald from the crown forward. We not-so-affectionately dubbed this the Ben Franklin look.

Maren, January 2011, and Ben, 1750's?

Thus 2011 quickly became Maren's "Year of the Permanent Pigtails."

A decent pigtail shot, April 2011, and a reminder of Maren's love for this dog sign we passed each day on the way to the mailbox. Never could she pass it without stopping to give a kiss.

Mark graduated from medical school in May. Kind of a big deal.

(Traditional graduation "Ascension" jump)

In May Dani packed the house with the obsessive meticulousness I have acquired over 4 moves in 5 years of marriage. Miraculously, everything barely fit in our moving truck, and we said adios to Texas, the land of interminable summer.

After 4 years, I finally got a picture in front of the Alamo.

A final outing to Guadalupe State Park, wherein Maren tries to acquire giardia in order to test her father's newly earned physician skills.

Goodbye, San Antonio home!

Goodbye, wallpaper that makes one question the judgment and sanity of both the designer of this product and whoever chose it for this bathroom!

Of course, we also said goodbye to many great friends, who we miss a lot.

Dani found us a decent rental on the east side of Salt Lake City. It is a good size and close to the hospital, but it has the most atrocious carpet of any place I've lived in yet. Including in the dining area. (Who carpets the dining area?! Seriously?) Fortunately we have an awesome landlord who let us replace the carpeted dining area and vinyl kitchen with some free (FREE!!) laminate I scored off the KSL free classifieds. Total cost for ancillary materials was like $60, and the landlord reimbursed us. Major improvement.

BEFORE: Carpet & vinyl (note that this picture does not do the stains [I only pointed out two] nor the carpet justice)

AFTER:New laminate floor where a 2-year-old can eat spaghetti without her mother hovering over every twirl of the fork

Dani dyed her hair for the first time ever. Sure it was a box and the temporary kind that washes out (I wasn't really committed), but it was unprecedented.

Mark, on a rare day off, helped my parents dig a new window well with a mini-excavator, also known as a trackhoe. He was like a little boy with a new video game running that machine. He only hit the brick once (oops) and his amazing coordination served him and my parents well. This experience only reinforced Maren's obsession with backhoes and all other construction equipment.

Dani, a month or so after getting pregnant, broke her leg in a rather unpleasant paragliding fiasco. I healed up nicely though and both legs are doing their best to support my ever-expanding girth. Baby #2 will make his or her gender known upon arrival sometime around April Fool's Day 2012.

The only belly shot I could find (I'm the one on the left).

Maren loves to be outside, no matter how cold it is. She is a champ and a bit of a daredevil on this tricycle/scooter, and sometimes when's she's cruising downhill I can barely keep up with her (see "expanding girth" above).
We all wish it would snow a little more this hazy winter.

Maren went from being a baby in January to a full-blown toddler by December, when she turned 2. Though she only grew one clothing size, she stopped nursing, learned to walk, dropped a nap, finally grew some hair on top (but not still not much), and expanded her vocabulary from animal noises to full (if grammatically and syntactically incorrect) sentences. Like, "Look, backhoe blue one outside over there!" and then, "Look, two backhoes yellow!" Or, "Mom uh-oh owie foot this -- kisses need it?"

December 2011

2012 has started out great.

Mark continues to spend all his time either at the hospital or sleeping. He honestly loves the program at Primary Children's even if he doesn't love all the stress or the busy schedule. He informed me yesterday that after a month in the newborn nursery he is now very confident in performing circumcisions.

Dani works around the clock incubating human life. As if that isn't enough, I also keep everyone fed, clothed, bathed, etc., and I'm foraying into couponing, food storage, massive home-organization overhaul, and starting a bunch of projects that I hope to finish sometime in the next two years.

Finally, Maren spends her days eating, sleeping, reading books, dancing to the piano's demo music, jumping everywhere, and just overall being a delight to be around.

So there you have it, some randomness from 2011 and a strong start to 2012.

Sunday, August 28

This is how it -- I mean, I -- went down

Remember the time I broke my leg? Here's the story in all its gory detail.

As a budding paraglider, you have to take risks. See me up there? That's pretty high, pretty risky. When you crash from up there,'re bound to take a hit.


Okay, okay, juuust kidding. That really isn't me. That's a pro. Fun to pretend though, right?

Anyway. This is what really happened.

I bought Mark a Groupon for a 4-hr paragliding class as a Father's Day present. I was hesitant to include myself in this adventure, but Mark insisted. Having recently committed to forgo lameness, I consented.

The day was set and awaited with much anticipation. My sister-in-law had also bought the coupon for my brother, and so had her sister and husband. It was to be a grand adventure.

The day arrived. I had slept poorly the night before, but we drove to Point of the Mountain at 6 in the a.m. excited nonetheless.

We were met by a crew of semi-professional paragliding men. They are the obviously outdoorsy type. We signed our lives away, were assigned our gear, and got ready for instruction. Instruction kind of went like this:

Outdoorsy guy: "We're going to talk about a ton of things right now, and you probably won't remember half of them," [nervous glances among us] "but that's okay. So, when I say 'flare,' you pull your arms down like this. Got it? Okay, we're ready to practice!"

At this point I commented to Mark that I was waiting for the rest of the "ton of things" that we were going to forget half of, but then we were running across the gravel parking lot with our arms over our heads and looking generally like chickens.

Then we went to the bottom of the hill. We watched an instructor do a demo. The message from the demo: "Keep your legs beneath you." Check.

They helped us get suited up.

Mark getting ready

Before we knew it, they were coming round and starting to push us down the mountain. I went fourth. None of the three people before me even made it a few feet of the ground, including my brother, Dave:

Here Dave is receiving the following invaluable instructions I had just received (and I quote): "Run hard, head up, fly long."

Dave runs hard.
Dave gets almost no air and stays safely close to the ground.

Do I look tough here? That helmet didn't fit. I had no inkling of the catastrophe about to befall me.

So, determined not to be a sissy (still have some baggage in the sissy department), I ran hard and tried to keep my head up. Perhaps it was a fateful gust, or perhaps I was just meant to fly, but before I knew it I was airborne. It happened really fast. One second there was ground beneath me, and the next I was cruising many, many feet in the air. This was neither thrilling nor scary. It was surprising more than anything.

There was a guy behind me yelling "Flare! Flare!" and a guy below me yelling "Keep running! Keep running!" And this, in some sort of senseless jumble, was what was going through my head:

When I "flare" (pull my hands, which were holding the strings attached to the sail, down), I go up. I do not want to go up.
How can I keep running when I am 10 feet in the air?
and They told me to keep my legs beneath me. I will keep my legs beneath me.

That was it. No real panic, no real fear, just kind of like, Um, not exactly sure how to handle this... I can't say it was really fun to be gliding through the air. The gliding part lasted 5, maybe 10 seconds. And most of that was spent in slightly alarmed ignorance as to how the crap to land this thing. But I was never really afraid.

I was a little surprised when I crash landed and felt an explosive pain in my left knee. The kind that makes you think, That was really, really, really bad.

I had landed straight-legged on my left foot. Because the sail was still in the air and going forward, it pulled me forward--and hard. First I hit my knees, then my right shoulder and my face skidded along the recently-mown mountain shrub. I thought for sure I'd be bleeding.

But my knee--oh, my knee. I knew it was bad. I willed it to not be bad, but I knew it was bad. The guy who had been yelling "Keep running" ran up and asked me how I was. He suggested that I walk it off. I suggested I would not be walking any time soon.

I got up and hobbled off the field to the parking lot, propped up by "keep running" guy. Ken, the man in charge, came up and asked how I was. I said I was bad. I said, "Do you have any ice?"

No ice.

"I really need to get some ice."

Ken: "Well, you could drive down to the gas station and get some."
Me: Seriously?! "My car's a stick shift, I don't think I can drive it."

So Ken asked a random young guy to drive me to the gas station. I got in his Honda. He got in his Honda.

Me: "Hi, I'm Dani."
Random Guy: "Hi, I'm Garrett."
Me: "Um, thanks for taking me to get ice."
Garrett: "No problem."

Garrett was really nice. He told me to not let this incident deter me from paragliding in the future, because it's really awesome. He drove me to the Maverik that felt like it was about 10 miles away. I was hurting really, really bad. We go to the Maverik, and Garrett said, "Adventure's first stop."

Me: "Or adventure's last stop, for me."

I had to pee. But after our interminable ride in the car, my knee had completely frozen up. I could not bend it. I tried to get out of the car. It was embarrassing.

Garrett: "Do you want me to just carry you?"
Me: "Sure."

That was a little strange.

Me, as I'm being carried into a gas station by a guy I just met: "Well, we're certainly getting up close and personal, aren't we?"
Garrett: "I dance ballroom at BYU. I'm used to it."
Me (not entirely sure what he is used to...carrying married ladies around?): "Oh, cool."

We go to the ice machine and Garrett fills up a bag. Suddenly I feel an alarming absence of blood in my brain. Afraid of passing out, I slide to the floor and weakly ask for some water. Garrett leaves for a minute to let me come to my senses.

At this point a tight-shirted, massively muscular guy in his 30s came to get a soda. I like this part of the story, because it made laugh.

Massive Guy: "That doesn't look good."
Me: "It isn't."
MG: "What happened"
Me: "I just busted my knee paragliding."
MG: "Man, that sucks. But at least you have a good story. This one time, I had a really bad cough, and I coughed so hard that I pulled one of these intercostal muscles between my ribs. It was awful. I couldn't sleep on my stomach for weeks. And I had to tell people that I got injured coughing."

He had a point. It was a good story. Since Massive Guy I have had many variations on this response, my second favorite being from some random guy at a park: "At least you were doing something cool, and not like, falling out of the bathtub."


Anyway. Garrett brought me back to the flight spot and I set up a cozy little bed for myself and watched everyone else for the next two hours.

A question I often get at this point is where was Mark? Why didn't he take me to get ice?

Everyone else was still up the mountain and unaware of how bad my injury was. I was also acutely sensitive to not making this much-anticipated experience lame for anyone else. When I got back he came and examined it and expressed his disgruntlement at the lack of adequate instruction that in part led to this fiasco. This, coming from Mark--the most charitable, non-judgmental, and forgiving person I know--meant the most: he was irritated on my behalf. We determined that a few hours of sitting there was not going to make anything worse, so he went back to finish enjoying his Father's Day gift.

And I watched. I was mad. I was embarrassed. Then I was mad. Then I was embarrassed. Then I was in denial. Then I was mad again. You get the idea.

Turns out that watching other people paraglide is pretty boring.

Mark getting some good air

After seeing my demonstration of how not to land, everyone else had a great time.

At the end, Ken, the man in charge, came up to check on me.

Ken: "How are you doing?"
Me: "I've been better, but I'm okay."
Ken: "How's the knee?"
Me: "I think it's pretty bad. It's all swollen and it really hurts."
Ken: "Well, what did you learn?"
Me: Eyebrow raised. "Um, that crashing from 10 feet in the air is not a good idea?"
Ken: "Well, it's an important lesson to learn, no matter how you have to learn it."

Which parting comment rendered me speechless.

So that's how I went down. X-rays a few days later revealed a fractured tibia. Not a horrible fracture, gratefully, and as far as we can tell no other damage. I've been wearing a brace most of the time since then.

I have been on crutches for three weeks now. I could write an entire post about life on crutches. Like how it's really hard to get in the shower. And how ridiculous I feel driving the electric carts at the grocery store (and how the ones at Home Depot are really slow). And how annoying it is to not be able to carry your own food. And how fast my left leg has atrophied and how my calf is completely gelatinous.

But this is long enough. (Brevity is not my strong point.)

So. For lack of a better way to end,

The end.

Friday, July 22

I'm on a roll!

Maren discovers the anonymity provided by a good pair of shades. No one recognizes her during our entire trip to Home Depot.

Thoughts on the zoo

Hello? Hello? Anyone still out there?

I have some existential issues with this blog, but that's a topic for another time, maybe. For now, let's talk about the zoo.

I bought a zoo pass because the zoo is about 2 miles from my house and it's something to do during the long lonely days of a medical resident's wife.

However, it's hot outside, and most of the interesting animals are doing exactly what I would be doing if I were caged up on a 90-degree-plus afternoon: hiding in the shade.

No worries, Maren isn't really interested in the animals anyway. She would rather do some combination of the following:

- jump in puddles
- stand on the bridge and look at the creek running below
- watch a Bobcat (the machine, not the animal) move gravel around in the construction zone
- look at the non-zoo birds nesting in some rafters
- push the stroller herself with reckless abandon
- wander around on foot giving high-fives to other (bewildered) kids in strollers

Which gives a mother cause to wonder why she spent all that money on a zoo pass. However, the zoo is savvy enough to put dinosaurs on display! This is excellent, and most children under the age of 6 were more interested in the dinosaurs than in any actual living animal (Maren included). Actually, if the zoo were really smart, they would just replace ALL the animals with mechanical replicas. The replicas would require much less care and would always be doing something interesting, like roaring and looking like they are about to devour you whole.

Maren was one of the few children not traumatized by the T-Rex, though its occasional roaring did startle her. I was slightly unsettled by its eerily-lifelike shifty eyes.

On the other hand, I did get to see a bald eagle eating a rat the other day, so I guess the pass was worth it.

Monday, February 7

I have listened to the theme song from Chariots of Fire twenty times tonight, and this is why.

I love Chariots of Fire—especially the character of Eric Liddell—and here's why.

Eric Liddell and friends celebrate a race well run

Sure it’s a great movie about honor, motives, and ambition. But I love it because Eric is a person committed to his faith, enough so that he’s willing to make a huge sacrifice to be true to his convictions. And he’s still normal.

He’s not a weirdo; he’s not an over-zealous fundamentalist. He’s a dedicated Christian and he’s cool. He’s an awesome athlete, he taunts his opponents in good fun, he winks at bashful choir girls, and he likes to joke around. He’s not a nut. His devotion to his faith doesn’t make you roll your eyes or shake your head. It isn’t hokey or trite. It’s just normal. God is a big part of his life, and he’s willing to take a stand, but that doesn’t make him a freak.

Not exactly how religion gets portrayed in the movies much, unfortunately--if it gets portrayed at all.

Why can't there be more media about people for whom religion is just a normal part of life? Not more media about religion, because that seems to either ridicule it or make it look schmaltzy (a la Letters to God*). (*judgment made based on previews only) I mean stories about interesting people that don't ignore or distort the role of religion but don't focus on it either.

Like in Sound of Music. I love that Maria prays and gets advice from a religious leader, but that isn't the focus of the movie or even a tangent. It's just who she is. No big deal.

So that's why I loved Chariots of Fire. I loved that Eric wasn't depicted as some religious zealot for refusing to run on Sunday. In fact, he's a hero! The movie ended and I thought, "Go Sabbath-keepers!" I was inspired to be a cool religious person. What if more of our movies were about role models like that?