Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Just Wait!"

There's a phrase that I've been hearing for years- and may even be guilty of using myself from time to time- and I've gotten so tired of it that I'm ready to suggest that it be banned forever. Perhaps you've heard it too... you're sharing a story or an experience or something that's specific to your current stage of life, only to be told, "Oh, just wait!"

To the teenager, we say, "Just wait until you're in college..."

To a college student, we say, "Just wait until you're an adult in the real world."

To a single, married people say, "Just wait until you're married!" 

To newlyweds, we say, "Just wait until the honeymoon wears off!"

To couples without kids, we say "Just wait until you have a baby!"

To couples with one baby, we say "Just wait until you have a toddler!"

To couples with one child, we say "Just wait until you have two (or three or four)!" 

To couples with young kids, we say, "Just wait until they're teenagers!'

To couples with teenagers, we say, "Just wait until they're grown!"

Good grief... why can't everyone be able to experience, enjoy, muddle through, cry over, or whatever in each stage of life without it being belittled or dismissed by someone in the next stage? I'm a mom of a three-month-old baby, so no- I don't know what it's like to chase a toddler or argue with a teenager, but I'm still a mom. Single people can have full lives without (gasp!) constantly seeking a date or marriage. Teenagers do have problems, no matter how trivial they seem to us, and they don't have to wait until adulthood to experience sadness or betrayal or hurt. 

Even though these words can come from good intentions (as in, "don't worry- you can survive this!"), it seems that more often than not we are just grumpy people who want to feel a little superior to someone because we've come through a stage that they haven't yet. Or for some reason we have a bit of a sadistic pleasure in letting people know that their lives will become more difficult. (Misery loves company!) Someone recently said to me, upon hearing that Alice is a very good, easy baby, "Well, that just means she'll be a really difficult toddler!" What? Maybe she will be. Maybe Alice will go from my sweet, smiling baby to a little hoodlum whose screams can be heard throughout Target (heaven forbid!) but nothing guarantees that and why on earth would you want it to? 

Besides being condescending, this "just wait" business completely contradicts what we are told in Philippians 4:11- that in whatever "state" or stage we can find contentment. (I'm not talking about truly difficult seasons of sickness, loss, dire financial straits, etc. but just the typical day-to-day living most of us are dealing with.) Being single or having a newborn or going to college are all unique times of life, meant to be enjoyed (sometimes endured) but not constantly compared to whatever someone else is going through. Don't we all know that sometimes even after marriage, the single life has some appeal? Or that moms of toddlers look back fondly at the days of their little squishy newborns, or that parents of teenagers certainly miss even the craziest days with that toddler who is suddenly sporting acne and a perpetual scowl? 

The point is this: offering encouragement to someone to help them make through a rough patch in life is fine, and even admirable. But acting as if their experiences are irrelevant because yours are different is not okay. (I remember being so mad as a teenager when someone told me I didn't know what it meant to be tired. I didn't, but that's not the point.) "Just wait...." usually ends with something negative that either puts down their current stage of life or makes them dread the next one. (This is especially true of marriage- I love how older couples sometimes make it their mission to make sure young couples have nothing to look forward to.) 


Current stage... taking mirror selfies with my squishy girl =)


So, let's try to meet people where they are, allow each other to fully experience each lovely (or not-so-lovely) chapter of life as it unfolds, and be reminded that it's okay to "just" be a student, or a newlywed, or a first or fifth time mom, or a grandparent. Each stage is easier or harder to more or less fun than someone else's, but if we are finding our identity in Christ than any time of life can be beautiful and joyful. And if it doesn't seem that way today, well... just wait. =)


Ash

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2015

I know, I know... it's already the middle of January and I'm way overdue for sharing books all the way from last year... but I'm just now getting around to it. It's not like I've been busy, necessarily, but I was out of town, then Alice had a cold, then we moved her to her room and sleep became a little dicey. (Excuses, excuses.) I'll just say I have been deep in thought as to which books I should share... that sounds better. =)

Reading with my little future bookworm =)

I've broken this up into fiction, nonfiction, and memoir/biography for your convenience and I'll try to make my summaries brief. (Ha!)

Fiction:

-Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. This journal-style novel about a young girl who has grown up in foster care and now faces adulthood is so sweet. The ending might leave you in tears, but in the best, most romantic way.

-Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson. The subtitle of this book is "a proper romance" and that's exactly what it is. It's set in England in the 19th century and is just the sweetest love story. It's a quick, light read with a great plot and characters.

-The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly. I wish this was a series because I loved it so much! It's about sisters, so I related, naturally, and they're descendants of Jo March (in this book, she's a real person.) The back and forth between time periods (which I don't usually care for) is seamless and I was sad when the book ended.

-Lizzie and Jane by Katherine Reay. Two from the same author? Yes, she's that good! This one has a lot going on- cancer treatment, family drama, romance- but at its core it's another sister story and I absolutely loved it. (Bonus: right now the Kindle version is on sale for $1.99!)

-The Lake House by Kate Morton. I read my first Kate Morton novel several years ago and have since read all her books- this one is her best yet. Each of her stories have a major twist and this one was my favorite so far. The story goes back and forth between the mysterious disappearance of a little boy (from the perspective of his older sister) and a detective who is trying to solve the decades-old case. Intriguing!

Non-Fiction:

-David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Honestly, I could include all of Gladwell's books because each of them is excellent, but this one happens to be my favorite. The entire premise is that what we view as disadvantages or "underdog" circumstances actually are the opposite in the long run and each chapter explores that philosophy in a different way. Totally fascinating. 

-Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Oh my... I want everyone to read this book, determine their tendency, and then tell me so we can have a giant virtual book club about it. I think about information from this guide to better habits and living so often (and reinforce all the excellent tips by listening to Gretchen's podcast, "Happier," that she records with her sister each week.) Check this one out; it is guaranteed to help you!

-Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. I absolutely loved this inside look at the creation of computer animation and Pixar. The stories ranged from the near-death of Toy Story early on (what a loss that would have been!) and working with Steve Jobs (always fascinating to me.) The book also contains lots of useful and helpful leadership and business principles but would be enjoyable for any Pixar fan, I think.

-Do Over by Jon Acuff. I've recommended this book multiple times since reading it this summer. So many books about career change are mostly a collection of Pinterest memes like "chase your dreams and anything can happen!" but this one is full of practical, REAL advice that can be applied to many different situations. Plus Jon is hilarious and makes you feel like he's your friend. (Follow him on Twitter or Instagram for daily humor!)

-Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West. This book combines two of my favorite things: history and "behind the scenes." It's like bonus features for American history! The author was the chief usher at the White House for nearly thirty years and his details about his work and each First Lady is so interesting. It's informative but not gossipy (and be prepared to cry when he describes saying goodbye to Jackie Kennedy.) 

-Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I'm not a true introvert (although I am classified as one by Myers-Briggs) but this book about how our culture- from jobs to education to parenting- is tailored toward extroverts was so eye-opening. The chapters on education were especially interesting to the teacher side of me- and it turns out that methods I've never been a big fan of (think group projects, for example) have been proven to be more harmful than helpful. 

-Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. The premise of this book- a discussion about death and dying- did not initially interest me (and sounded depressing!) but I plowed through this in a day. It's so important to have the right information when it comes to care for the elderly, terminal illness, etc. and the author (a surgeon) gives personal, touching stories that back up his medical information. 

Biography/Memoir

-Belles on Their Toes by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. This is the simply delightful sequel to the already delightful Cheaper by the Dozen. I love the Gilbreth family (even more so because they were real people) and to catch up with them after the death of their dad and see how they survived the next few years with their typical humor and hard work is so fun. (And if you can find it, check out Time Out for Happiness by Frank Jr. It delves more deeply into motion study and the backgrounds of both parents and I just love it.)

-Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. This is one of those books that is so rewarding to take the time to read and finish because it can be truly transformative if you allow the story to really sink in. The in-depth look at the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his early years as a theologian to his eventual death at the hands of the Nazis, is a study in sacrifice for Christ. (I highly recommend the student version for any young people in your life!)

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This was such a sweet memoir about growing up in Brooklyn in the day of the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers/Yankees rivalry. The author describes her idyllic childhood, "growing up" moments, and the loss of her mother- all anchored in her and her dad's mutual love of baseball. I love this because it reminds me of my own baseball-obsessed childhood and also because her tone is very similar to Beverly Cleary's... pretty much the highest compliment I can give.

-Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. I read this while I was pregnant (probably a mistake!) but the stories about being a midwife in the slums of London during the 50s and 60s pulled me in. Some were sweet, some were funny, some were tragic- and they all reminded me how thankful I am for modern medicine. =) (Everyone keeps telling me to watch the PBS series. It's on my list!)

-The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I'm ashamed to say I had never read this book in its entirety but I finally did and it was amazing. Like Bonhoeffer, it definitely has the power to change your life if you apply the principles found in Corrie's story. Her faith and strength in the face of danger, loss, and suffering challenged and inspired me. This is a must-read. 

-41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush. Since George H.W. Bush is my favorite president this inside look at his life was completely fascinating. I thought W. did a good job of being a proud son but also objectively presenting facts about his dad's administration. (Also I've visited the George. H.W. Bush Presidential Library twice now and I love it enough to go back any time. It's awesome.) 


It was so hard to narrow down all my choices, and if you are interested in other titles leave a comment or message me and I'll consult my list. =) And as always, if you read and like (or even dislike) any of these, let me know so we can discuss!

Happy Reading!


Ash

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Alice Juliet- Three Months

I really can't believe how big my baby is! It's exciting, yes, and I'm thankful she's healthy and happy but it really makes me very sad! Here's a little update about our girl right now. =)


Gotta throw in a "Bama Baby" picture since we're National Champs once again!

Weight and Length- as of her last appointment, she was 11 pounds 6 ounces and 22 3/4 inches long. I know she's grown since then! I feel like she grows by the hour! =(

Nicknames- Alice from the Palace, Love Bug, Squish, Poocho, Pookie. 


Sleep- great! She moved into her room last week (tears!) and she fusses for a little while each night but she's sleeping all night (and mysteriously getting from one end of her crib to the other during that time... I'm tempted to video her and see how that's happening!) 


Eating- still all milk, all the time =) and she's doing great! It's amazing how much less of an ordeal nursing is now that it doesn't hurt anymore. Such a blessing! 


Clothing- she's in 0-3 and 3 months now... some of it is still very loose but a few outfits are already small... it just depends on the brand. The 0-3 dress she wore Sunday was teeny tiny but the onesie she has on today is huge. She has a lot of 0-3 clothes so hopefully she won't outgrow them before she has a chance to wear them all! (She's like her mama... too many clothes!) 

Mood- very happy! I love that I can get a smile out of her pretty much any time. She's such a sweetheart and loves to ham it up when she's getting attention at church or wherever. She turns heads everywhere we go and definitely doesn't mind it! =) 


Loves-

-her daddy (naturally)
-sitting up (with help, obviously)
-rocking/cuddling 
-lying on the changing pad- it's seriously her happy place. Cracks me up!
-watching TV or listening to her Disney songs
-kicking and scooting
-being read to- bring so much joy to my book-loving heart!
-bath time... I know she'll love swimming in the future!
-sucking her thumb (much to my chagrin) 
-grabbing (aka pulling) my hair 

Doesn't Love-

-being ignored =) 

-her hands being covered
-being left alone in her room (and then she goes to sleep and she's fine =) 

What I Want to Remember/Milestones- oh my goodness... she's changing so much! I can't handle it! She's so smiley and "talkative" and seriously just a joy to have around. (Words I need to remind myself of when she's got the red-eyed JackJack scream going on. Ha!) Seriously though, she's a very happy girl and she's working hard on growing up. =( She is trying to roll over, holding her head all the time, and gets tickled at herself. It's so funny! I'm loving this sweet, snuggly stage... she'll lay on my lap and watch movies or listen to a book for quite a long time. It's the best! 

What I'm Looking Forward To- well her getting bigger makes me very sad but I'm loving watching her little personality show itself more and more so that is fun and something to look forward to. =)


Me- I'm pretty much an emotional wreck at how big she's getting. I was terribly nervous about transitioning her into her room (and have stayed glued to the monitor every night) but she's done better than I imagined. And this doesn't really have to do with being a mom but (as of last night... so hardcore! haha) I'm going to the gym and trying to get in shape. (I would say back in shape but I really wasn't before. =) I have pretty much lost most of my pregnancy weight but the remainder has... shifted, I suppose. So I'm working on that! It's actually the first time ever that I've been semi-excited to work out. I'm also counting carrying Alice in her carseat up the stairs as a work out because it IS. Sheesh!



She's a smiley, sweet, silly little love and we are so blessed to have her in our lives! Happy three months (and four days =) Alice Juliet!


Ash



Monday, December 14, 2015

Alice Juliet- Two Months

Let me break a parenting stereotype here by going out on a limb and saying something no mom has said before: time is FLYING. Ha! Obviously everyone says that but it's because it's true. The past two months have gone by so quickly but at the same time everything that happened before Alice was born seems like a lifetime ago. It's the weirdest feeling! But I am borderline depressed at how big she is already and I'd like that to stop, mmkay?




Anyway, here's a look at life with our little nugget...



Weight and Length- well, she JUST went back to the doctor today (thanks, stupid insurance problems that never end. #ihateobamacare) but she's 11 pounds 6 ounces and 22.75 inches long. She's right on track for everything... the doctor said she's "perfect" and naturally we agree. =) 

Nicknames- Alice from the Palace, Love Bug, Squish, Poocho, Troll (when she spits up and then smiles about it), and a multitude of other terms of sappy endearment. We're embarrassing. 


Sleep- MUCH BETTER. Her new "fussy time" became anywhere from midnight to one a.m. which was challenging to say the least since it wasn't like she was waking up... she wasn't going to sleep in the first place. But she's slept all night (usually 7-8 hours) for the past week so no complaints! Best Christmas present she could have given me! =) 


Eating- it's taking more to fill her up, obviously, and she's doing really well most of the time. She's just coming through a phase where she got extremely fussy if she had to wait at all or even work for her milk (lazy girl! haha.) Holding a hungry, screaming baby who won't eat when it's RIGHT. THERE. is a little disheartening to say the least! Now her thing is falling asleep while she's eating. I pretty much have to annoy her into waking up. She's pretty much on a three hour schedule for most of the day, with her last 2-3 feedings more like two hours apart. 


Clothing- still some newborn stuff but 0-3 too. The 0-3s are okay... 3 months are really big but since most of her Christmas clothes are 3 months we are just letting them be baggy. =) She usually wears the same 3 sleepers most days at home so it doesn't really matter. (I love the ones that cover her feet because she always kicks off her socks and zippers are so much easier than snaps for Shaky Hands Ashley.) I LOVE getting her dressed in festive outfits. It's so fun!


Mood- happy, happy, happy! Really, she's only fussy when she's hungry or, like I said, when it's time to sleep. =) Pretty much everyone comments on how content and sweet she is. I think she's cried while we're out maybe a handful of times. She's a good, good baby!


Loves-

-dancing with her daddy (I may or may not have video footage of the two of them dancing to The Wiz... we'll never know.) 
-the lights on the Christmas tree
-sleeping on mama
-being naked! (Scandalous!)
-lying on the changing pad- it's seriously her happy place. Cracks me up!
-TV (#badmom)
-kicking, especially when it's time for bed, little rebel!
-swinging
-silly voices and songs- she's really close to laughing and I can't wait!
-baths- yay! Conquered that mountain!
-holding hands, sucking on her hands... she's kind of obsessed with her hands!
-grabbing my hair, necklaces... anything she can get her fat little fingers around!

Doesn't Love-

-being hungry. She gets seriously mad when it's past time for her to eat. #hangry
-being flat on her back (unless it's on the changing pad)
-being swaddled- we gave that up weeks ago!
-being wet- she wants to be changed immediately! 

What I Want to Remember/Milestones- she is becoming much more of a person and less of a sleeping ball of cuteness. =) She's so alert and loves to look around when we're out, she is smiling all the time, and she has the cutest poochie lip when she's sad. (Is it bad to laugh at your crying baby because her little cry is simultaneously pitiful and adorable?) She is also talking up a storm (baby talk, obviously- mostly "oohs" and "aahs") and so of course my phone is full of videos waiting for her to "say" something. I'm totally that mom who should be sleeping but is scrolling through pictures and videos of her on my phone. And she's holding her head up a lot and is very strong and active. I have a feeling we'll have an early crawler/walker on our hands. (Heaven help me when this child can actually move around. Life is easy now!) 


What I'm Looking Forward To-CHRISTMAS! Enough said! =)


Me- I am loving this. It's really hard sometimes, but I look at my baby at least ten times a day and just shake my head in disbelief that I have this beautiful little person. A good friend just told me she's pregnant and I responded that I'm so much happier for her now that I'm a mom because it's just a million times more amazing than I could have even imagined. I know it won't always be sunshine and roses (it's not even now!) and that my snuggly little baby will become a crazy toddler and eventually a teenager (nooo!) but I really feel like the luckiest girl in the world. 


That being said... I'm slowly accepting the fact that being a mom (especially to a baby) is constantly wondering if you're doing the right thing and that the internet is pretty much a nightmare for someone as worrisome and indecisive as I am. I'm reading a book about pregnancy (a little late, I know) but it discusses all the conflicting information that's out there and how you have to take it all in and make your own decisions about what's best for you and your baby. That certainly applies now... it's like, "have a bedtime routine! but don't have your baby become dependent on anything to go to sleep!" (Um... like a routine?) I am a worrier and a fearful person by nature in addition to my own self-doubt there's a constant nagging worry that something, anything, bad can and will happen. It's fairly common for parents to worry about their children. (I believe that's a Course Requirement, no?) But I take it to a whole new level. (I'm an overachiever that way.) One of the biggest challenges for me is to give Alice to the Lord daily... not just her future, as in, "she can be a missionary, God! Whatever you want!" but even in these moments where she's still tiny and completely dependent on me. It physically hurts me to think of anything happening to her- good grief, I LEFT THE ROOM during her shots today. (Jonathan was there; don't worry. I'm not a completely terrible person.) But worrying about it isn't going to keep something from happening. God knows exactly what lies in our future and He is the only person who could possibly love and care more for my girl than her daddy and I do. 
          Being a mom has taught me a lot about myself already... for example, that I, shockingly, can overcome a lot more physical pain and discomfort than I would have ever dreamed. My doctor said, "You're tougher than you thought you were!" That may be true physically, but emotionally I'm definitely weak and learning to lean hard on God's promise to provide everything I need- mainly wisdom to make the best decisions for Alice and peace that she is in His hands. (Thank goodness they are much more stable than my shaky ones in every way. =)

As always, I have to thank Jonathan for being the world's best daddy. It has come to my attention through several different sources that apparently there are quite a few husbands and dads who don't really do much to help with their kids. I knew long before Alice arrived that that would never be the case with Jonathan and it isn't. He serves us both and takes excellent care of our family! He's the best! 



Well, there's a little (ha! novel-length) update on our princess... we thank God every day for a sweet, healthy, beautiful baby! We love her so much and are enjoying every minute. (Especially the minutes when we're all asleep. Those are some special minutes.) =) Thank you all for your sweet comments along the way. Alice can't wait to meet more family and friends next week! =) 


I'm dead... the cuteness has killed me.


Until next time! (Her next update will be short because she's growing entirely too fast and I discussed it with her and she agreed to slow down. Glad that's take care of.)


Ash

P.S. All these beautiful pictures (minus the last two) were taken by our friend Shelbie... you can check out her page here!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Alice Juliet- One Month

A month ago this morning, our sweet girl was born and our lives got so much better! I know every parent in the history of forever has said this, but I really can't believe how fast my baby is growing! This month has been full of firsts and crazy experiences and about a million moments where I shake my head in bewilderment when I realize that this tiny little person is actually mine (well, ours. =) 



Day she was born/One Week/Two Weeks
Three Weeks/Four Weeks


Weight and Length- at her last doctor visit she was 8.5 pounds and I think 20.5 inches long... her one month appointment got moved when we switched doctors so I'm sure those numbers have changed since her last checkup was over a week ago! She's definitely growing!

Nicknames- Booboo, Goose Egg (it's a family thing!), Alice from the Palace, Poocho (something Mamaw says- ha!), Love Bug. 

Sleep- she is doing really well... she's slept several 5-6 hour stretches at night which is always a gift. =) Knock on wood, she'll be on track to sleeping through the night before too long! Typically she only wakes up once to eat and we're very thankful for that. Her nap times have been a little sporadic but I'm much more concerned with her nighttime sleeping at this point! 

Eating- like a champ! She's good about taking a bottle too so that's really nice for when we're out or when it's 3 A.M. and I want a break. Gotta let Daddy have some of the fun! =)

Clothing- definitely still in newborn stuff only. I'm kind of surprised because sooo many people said that most babies outgrow their NB stuff after like two weeks but everything 0-3 that I've tried has swallowed her up. She's just petite like her mama. (*Snort.*)

Mood- mostly very content. I feel SO lucky that she rarely cries unless she's hungry... her fussiest time of the day is usually the last couple of hours before her daddy gets home. (Perhaps she senses my despair after a long day at home? Ha!) But she is definitely getting more alert and looking very thoughtful as she stares around the room. And we're getting more smiles all the time which always makes my day. =)



Obviously she finds me hilarious. =)


Loves-
-snuggling with her daddy
-napping on top of mama 
-her carseat, believe it or not!
-lying on the changing pad
-music, especially Auntie Manda's CD and Christmas songs
-waving her arms... I think she might be a music minister someday. =)
-shopping, of course!
-having her hands free, which is rare since she still scratches herself

Doesn't Love-
-the initial dip into her bath- it makes her mad. Ha!
-having her clothes changed
-losing her pacifier- although sometimes I wait a minute before giving it back because watching her try to get it herself is hilarious. #meanmom
-tummy time- our few attempts have ended with many tears. =( 
-hiccups- she gets them all the time! (And yes, I burp her. Ha!)



Big eyes!


What I Want to Remember/Milestones- so many things! Her chubby little face when she's done eating, the way she sleeps with one hand up on her face, watching Disney movies and listening to Christmas music together, holding her head up (this girl is STRONG- all her nurses said so too!), the way she is getting so alert and smiling a lot, how she tucks her bottom lip in, her raspy little cry, grabbing my hand with her fingers, pulling my hair (ouch!), her hair getting lighter and suddenly standing up one side all the time... so many things. Everything! I'm the most stereotypical new mom ever. =)

What I'm Looking Forward To- moving up to 0-3 clothes since she has waaaay more stuff in that size. And introducing her to everyone at Christmas! Yay!

Me- Well, I'm actually feeling much better (knock on wood) and that makes the long days and short nights a whole lot easier. It's not nearly as awful to survive on very little sleep if you're not also in tremendous pain most of the time, so I'm thankful for that. And as far as motherhood goes... is it bad to say that I'm doing way better than I thought I would? (#humblebrag =) I remember feeding her at the hospital with the help of my mom and a nurse and thinking, "Does one have to be an octopus to nurse a baby??" The answer, it turns out, is no... although eight arms would help. =) I guess I was just so paranoid and nervous because I really am a big spaz and I've gotten much more confident and "at ease" with everything in the past few weeks which is a pleasant surprise. Emotionally I'm getting better too, I think... some days it definitely feels like I'm on a hamster wheel (eat, wake, change, sleep- rinse, repeat) but we're getting in a good rhythm and that helps a lot. I'm fitting into quite a bit of my pre-baby clothes but not in the same way =) so now that I'm not so sore hopefully we'll be able to do some more walking and maybe even visit the gym. (Gasp!) I'm incredibly thankful for Jonathan because as always he has done everything I've asked and beyond this month and I would be a mess without him. 



We couldn't thank God more that He blessed us with this beautiful, sweet girl. We love her so, so much and look forward to all the fun and crazy times ahead! Happy one month birthday, Alice Juliet! 

Ash

P.S. Our first attempt at a "one month" picture was less than successful... #reallife



Friday, October 30, 2015

We Have a Baby!

FYI: I wrote the bulk of this post when Alice was like nine days old and haven't had the desire/energy/mental capacity to go back and edit/finish it until now. #newmom #sleepdeprivation It's more about the "birth story" and first few days but I'm sure I'll write something that's more up-to-date with our current daily routine if I ever get a decent night's sleep. So, maybe never. 

The title of this post is a bit obvious if you follow me on any form of social media since I've posted about a million pictures since the big day, but still... it's true! Alice Juliet joined us on October 10 and we have spent the last three weeks falling completely in love with her. Here's how it all went down...

On Wednesday morning (the 7th) I woke up having contractions... really the first ones I had experienced during my pregnancy which was kind of a miracle, I'm told. (I think the Lord just knew I couldn't have handled them any longer than I did.) They were anywhere from 10-30 minutes apart all that day but as the evening wore on, they got closer and closer together until they were about 4-5 minutes for a while (and I was hurting really bad... or so I thought, naive little first-time mom that I am. Ha!) My mom and sisters were telling me to go in to the hospital, and I really wasn't trying to be brave and stick it out only to have to deliver at home with only hot water and towels, Little House style. I just didn't want to go in and be sent home, which ended up being exactly what happened.

I decided that if I was still having contractions five minutes apart by 10:30 we would go to the hospital. Jonathan is a doll so he passed the time by cleaning and getting things ready in case we left. The appointed time came and went with my contractions still going consistently so we took a few pictures, looked around in disbelief that this was actually happening, and off we went. As we got closer to the hospital, my contractions were actually getting closer together, about three minutes, confirming to me that I had made the right choice. (HA!)



Last bump picture... taken right before our first trip to the hospital. 

Since it was after nine PM, we had to enter through the emergency room (why are there always such sketchy-looking people in the ER late at night?) and as I approached the desk, holding my huge belly and panting, I was still asked why I was there. (Um, I broke my thumb?) Thank goodness we preregistered so after only a couple of minutes a nurse from the maternity floor arrived with a wheelchair and up we went.

I got into triage and hooked up to the machines... and then things got interesting. As you moms know, getting checked to see if you're dilated is uncomfortable at best and SO HORRIFICALLY PAINFUL at worst and mine was the worst. (Long story and totally TMI but it was truly awful.) I had done fine with the contractions (I mean, within reason) but the exam totally did me in and I was sobbing when they were finished. They asked me a million questions, gave me a huge thing of water to drink because apparently I was dehydrated (a result of being sick of having to go to the bathroom every two seconds, I guess) and left me to be monitored for over an hour. Then they examined me AGAIN... two nurses this time and it was nothing short of traumatic (more tears and more cries of pain.) Anyway, blah blah blah... I was barely dilated so they gave me a shot of Demerol and sent me home around 3 AM. Then I had to roll out of bed to be at my OB appointment by 8:30.

My doctor told me that I wasn't in active labor and that she could tell by looking at me that I wasn't going to go that day. She basically told me I would have to just survive it and went ahead and scheduled an induction for the following Wednesday (as I nearly wept at the thought of enduring this for another six days.) I continued to have contractions throughout Thursday but they were more spaced out. I pretty much didn't sleep at all that night as I was either worried to death about actually going into labor or breathing through another contraction. (So fun!)



Being sent home...


By Friday morning, having endured another night of contractions and having them more intense and closer together, I decided to go in again. More monitoring, another painful exam... and once again, I was sent home in tears. (Fortunately my mom arrived right before we left and that helped a lot.) They told me to come back in if my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and even more intense (something I couldn't imagine at the time) and after moaning my way through the day, I finally broke down Friday night. I knew that I couldn't handle any more pain... it was absolutely unbearable by that night and my contractions were super close together. I was begging God to let them tell me I was dilated because the thought of being sent home again was just more than I could take.

We got to the hospital around 9 P.M., got whisked into triage, examined, and... miracle of miracles... I was dilated to 3 cm and we were admitted. Even as panic gripped me- hello, you're having a baby!- I was so relieved to be getting something for the pain that I couldn't even be as terrified as I had planned on. The anesthesiologist (my new best friend) arrived around 10:30 and I felt like I could take a full breath for the first time since Tuesday night. Then the waiting game began... my water still hadn't broken and I had to obviously progress to several more centimeters so I tried to just get some sleep.

I progressed bit by bit throughout the night, dozed in and out of sleep, and since I still wasn't quite where I needed to be, they gave me Pitocin around 7 A.M. My water broke a few minutes later (such an odd feeling!) and they began to prepare for the delivery. I'm not sure when I began pushing- so weird! so surreal! so hard! (the epidural definitely didn't dull ALL the pain)- but Alice was born at 8:33 AM! I was thrilled that she had lots of hair and my first thought when I saw her face was that she looked like Amy (my little sister.)



That face!

I just read an article that said it's okay if you don't hear angels singing the first time you see/hold your baby... and that was true for me. First of all, my entire body started shaking uncontrollably and I was sobbing- not even happy tears just "I'm completely overwhelmed, that was incredibly traumatic and I can't believe it's over and she's out" kind of tears. And... this is probably TMI, but #realtalk- something you definitely don't want to hear two seconds after your baby is born is that you can't hold her because the doctor has to stitch you up since you tore through three layers including muscle. Ah! Yeah, that was one of my biggest fears and it came true in a big way. I was pretty much terrified that my recovery was going to be absolutely awful as soon as I heard them say that, but I have to thank the Lord and the amazing doctor (not even my regular doctor- she was out of town!) because it's been really hard but not as bad as I thought. Given the severity of the tearing and my complete lack of pain tolerance, that's a miracle!

SO, I was getting stitched up (ewww) while they cleaned her up but they finally gave her to me and I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. It was like I had been pregnant forever and that part was over but somehow disconnected from this little person who was now out and blinking her big blue eyes at me like, "You're going to keep me alive, right?" Honestly, she's three weeks old and I still hold her and can't believe she's here. It's a little terrifying to think of all of her fitting inside me... no wonder I was so uncomfortable!






So even though people who say "As soon as I held my baby, I forgot about the pain!" are either crazy or lying (hehe), all the craziness and trauma and pain WAS, of course, completely worth it. The last few weeks has been a hazy blur of huge smiles and laughing and a million iPhone pictures, keeping up with medicines and burp cloths and pacifiers, emotional moments where I'm convinced I'll never have this mom thing together, and then feeling my heart explode about a million times a day when I look at my girl's chubby cheeks and realize I just want to squeeze her and never let go. (Ever seen Homeward Bound? Poor Alice is the cat. "Sweetheart, Sassy can't breathe.")

There are so many things about this time, especially those first few days, that I want to remember... putting her in the carseat for the first time, carrying her around to give her a "tour" of her nursery, watching Jonathan be totally paranoid (I knew he would be!) and also the sweetest daddy ever, realizing I've become a person who claps in delight when her baby has a dirty diaper (since that was a concern at the beginning), watching Disney movies all day, eating giant chocolate chip cookies from Costco, staying up late with my mom laughing ourselves to tears over ridiculous Facebook posts, dutifully drinking my weight in water from my huge hospital mug, the way Alice tucks her bottom lip in when she finishes eating, her squishy face when she sleeps, her little hand wrapped around my thumb, how she sleeps with one hand against her face, her snuggling on her daddy's chest, the million (nearly identical) pictures we take a day, the smiles she seems to reserve only for Gigi... I could go on! (P.S. My mom left last Saturday and after a week without her I've decided the only viable option is for my parents to move here. Sorry, Georgia.) 



You think you're fairly competent with a newborn and then your mom leaves. =( We never would have made it through the first two weeks without her! 


I follow a few other new moms on Instagram and sometimes I think, "she looks so happy and put together and she's wearing real clothes... I wonder if she ever sits up in bed at three in the morning with tears streaming down her face because the pain of nursing rivals the pain of labor and she feels like her life is just one big painful recovery in addition to having a tiny human to obsess over and worry about 24 hours a day? Does she lie in bed knowing she should 'sleep while the baby sleeps' but then find herself scrolling through pictures of her instead? Or checking on her even when she's two feet away?" (I bet she does all those things and is just choosing to spend her time curling her hair instead of watching episodes of Diagnosis Murder which is currently my activity of choice. We all have our priorities! =) 

The past several days have been the hardest of my life in terms of pain, exhaustion, and just a complete overwhelming of emotions... but I can't imagine loving someone more. I could (and do) just stare at her and snuggle her all day and thank God a million times over that He gave us this sweet baby. She's pooped on us, deprived us of sleep, and broken our hearts with the saddest, raspiest little cry... and we are loving it. (Well, the poop not so much.) 



...and one day you put a crown on your baby and die of the cuteness. We love our princess!


Thank you all so much for your sweet comments and words of encouragement over the last few days! We are super blessed with the best friends and family and can't wait for Alice to meet more of you at Christmas! Keep us in your prayers as we continue to adjust to life as a family of three! (And if anyone truly wants to be a big help, just consider using your Costco membership to send me a lifetime supply of chocolate chip cookies... they're Alice's favorite. =) 

Ash

Monday, October 5, 2015

Third Quarter Reading

Every time I do a reading-related post, I second-guess myself because, you know, who really cares? But then I remind myself that a) I love reading posts like these and b) I get a message from at least one or two people every month saying they've enjoyed these recommendations and I am nothing if not a people-pleaser so let the book lists continue, I say! 

I didn't read nearly as many books this quarter (only 37 as opposed to last quarter's 56) but other than having a lot of baby-related stuff to do (finishing the nursery, etc.) I blame mostly the very real malady of "pregnancy brain" which in my case seemed to keep me from concentrating on much at all for any length of time. (I realize that 37 books is still a lot of books for a 3-month period, but it's really not impressive considering the openness of my schedule. Anyway.) 



I love my Nancy Drew bag so much.


I read a lot of fiction this time around (it's so much easier to fly through a novel than a biography!) but most of my favorites were still nonfiction. Anyway, without rambling on any more, here are my recommendations for you (in no particular order except the order I read them.) 

1. The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly. I'm always a little leery of a book that tries to modernize or "borrow from" a classic, but this story of three sisters, particularly the middle sister Lulu, and their distant family tie to Jo March (in this book, Jo's a real person) did it exactly right. Lulu feels like a bit of a black sheep in her family (don't all middle children?) and discovers a kindred spirit through Great-Aunt Jo and the letters she wrote to Meg, Amy, Beth, and others in her life. Sometimes when a book contains a lot of letters, it's tempting to skip or skim them, but these captured the voice of the Jo we know and love so well that I actually enjoyed them as much as the modern-day story. It all plays out so well, with sisterly dynamics I definitely recognized, that I found myself wishing it would go on for another hundred pages or so. 

2. The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. Anytime Janssen raves about a book, I know I have to read it, and this was no exception. The author examines the progress of three American exchange students in South Korea, Finland, and Poland and compares their experiences- good and bad- with the comparable education they'd receive in America. I'm not gonna lie- it's a lot of data, numbers, and statistics to wade through, but it's absolutely fascinating to see the way the American education system lines up against these other countries (which have the top three test scores in the world) and the way their approach to schooling differentiates pretty wildly from what we're used to here. (Next time your child complains about homework, you can let him know that students in South Korea spend about 14 hours a day in class or studying with a tutor. Yikes!) 

3. Do Over by Jon Acuff. I love this, but then I love anything Jon Acuff writes (pretty big fangirl here.) His newest book is mainly about, well, a "do over" or fresh start in your career (the subtitle is Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck) and I highly recommend it if you're venturing out into a new job or life change. However, there is practical and helpful advice for anyone in any job, even if you've been where you are for 20 years and have no plans to leave. This guy is super smart but also so, so funny and he takes what could be fairly dry information and makes it engaging and practical. So many career-related books are vague ("chase your dreams!" "be yourself!") but this one, while certainly inspiring, gives advice that can actually be implemented in your life. Snatch it up- you'll want a copy for yourself to underline and take notes in!

4. Move Your Bus by Ron Clark. In case I haven't mentioned it before, Ron Clark is my teaching and education hero. This book is obviously from an educator's point of view but applies to any professional, really. He compares different types of employees (Runners, Joggers, Walkers, and Riders) and offers strategies for dealing with each type (and improving if you're a Walker or dreaded Rider.) I think, because Mr. Clark is single and his entire life is devoted to his school, which is fine, that he is maybe a little too impressed with people who basically have no life outside of work. He does mention that he understands that some of his teachers have families but he expects their full cooperation while they're at school, which I understand. But killing yourself day in and day out at any job, even if it's one you love, isn't really healthy and he kind of glamorizes being a "Runner" who's always the first to show up and the last to leave. That's not really sustainable without some major burnout, in my opinion, but other than that one caveat with his philosophy, I love the book. If you're a teacher, it will definitely get you fired up about being the best you can be (and possibly convincing your administrator to install a giant slide in your school's foyer.) 

5. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. Oh man, this was so interesting. An American mom (and her British husband) found themselves raising their new baby (and eventually two more) in Paris and the resulting clash of cultures led to some startling insights as to the different in French and American kids. Basically, French kids eat everything (no tasteless rice cereal!) and have more sophisticated palates than most adults (including me), start sleeping through the night very early, and are just generally much more well-behaved than their American playmates. (The author said she only saw one meltdown from a French kid at the park in the three years she worked on this book. One!) Since one of my handful of nonnegotiable goals for Alice is consistently polite and non-horrible behavior, I am definitely going to be implementing some of this advice. (Sending her on a two-week field trip in first grade? Not so much.) 

6. NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Another fascinating look at the myths, legends, and otherwise widely-accepted tales we take at face value as truth about kids and parenting that are not necessarily right. This covers a wide range of topics from lying to racial attitudes to sleep patterns, but all of it was super interesting and made me think a lot about the way I want to raise my kids. The chapter I found most interesting was the discussion on praising your kids and how constant praise actually produces anxiety and a lack of effort in kids who feel their only worth is in being called "smart" or whatever other adjective you choose. Specific, earned praise is much more helpful, and even carefully worded criticism can do more to help your child improve than a standard "You did a great job," "I'm proud of you," etc. I don't plan on being a happiness miser and never praising my kids, but doing it thoughtfully makes a world of difference. Good stuff! (I did find some of the statistics pretty disturbing- especially the study on lying that found that pretty much all kids lie and their parents can't tell. I mean, teaching taught me that but still. I don't look forward to it!)

7. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. This book has a lot of negative reviews on Amazon that claim it only applies to upper middle class (or above) career professionals with a lot of disposable income. Well, you could probably make that argument if you wanted to ignore all the helpful information and feel better about yourself, but the truth is there is plenty of advice that can be applied to anyone, even if you don't have the money for a full-time laundry service (one time-saving practice recommended in the book.) Everyone claims to not have enough time to do all they want to do or should do. "There aren't enough hours in the day!" is a fairly common lament from all adults everywhere. But this book highlights the lives of several different kinds of people who actually have fulfilling jobs and home lives while devoting time to hobbies, volunteering, and other pursuits. How do they do it? The author points out that we all have the same amount of time- 168 hours per week- and that by taking a long, hard (and honest) look at what we do with those 168 hours, we can find the time to do just about anything we want. Again, some of what she recommends isn't for everyone (allowing your house to be messy, for example, is not on my list of acceptable exceptions, since that would drive me insane) but there are definitely principles that we all can apply. If nothing else, this will convict you about your social media and TV time, for sure. 

8. Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This one might be my favorite of the whole bunch. Not only do I love anything set in the 40s or 50s, but I love baseball, and this book has both. It's a memoir of the author's childhood spent on Long Island as an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan, an obsession shared by her dad and one that gave them a bond that lasted her whole life. He taught her the game, how to keep score, and the dedication of a truly loyal fan. Since the Dodgers barely missed out on the World Series multiple times during her childhood, she became well-acquainted with the comforting refrain, "Wait till next year." Aside from all the baseball talk, it's a fun look back at an innocent time of tight-knit neighborhoods and communities and just an all-around fun era to live in New York (the three-way rivalry between the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants was practically a living thing.) The author's life wasn't all happy times- her mother died when she was just 15, and she had to navigate through the uncertainty of the Cold War and adolescence, which some would argue are equally terrifying. But overall it's a very sweet book that reminded me a lot of Beverly Cleary's works, both her memoirs and fiction. And the mark of a truly good author, to me, is if I want to reader of their books. I requested everything our library had by Miss Goodwin so she's a winner. =)


There you go! I anticipate my fourth quarter reading to drop off a little more as we get adjusted to life with a new little person but we'll see how it goes! Maybe I'll include Alice's books to boost my numbers a little. =) As always, let me know if/when you check any of these out so we can have a virtual book club! Happy reading!


Ash