Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

52 Weeks Ago Today...

Who's ready for a birth story?!

As a notoriously nostalgic gal, I've been reflecting on my daughter's day of birth a lot lately.  So I figured I'd might as well share.

To really begin properly, we must start with the conception.  HAHAHA!  No, not really, but kinda.  My husband and I practice Natural Family Planning, which uses a woman's natural fertility signs (external observations and waking body temperatures) to predict ovulation.  It's helpful when we are trying to avoid pregnancy, and it was equally helpful when we were hoping to conceive in the fall of 2009.  As soon as I saw those two little lines on the positive pregnancy test, I scurried over to my NFP manual to find the section on estimating the baby's due date.  According to my calculations, our little one would be born June 30, 2010.

Then I went to the OB/GYN, where everyone has 28-day cycles (since we're all on the Pill, right?) and ovulates on day 14.  "June 24," the nurse announced after adjusting her little wheel.  The next week, we had our first ultrasound, which confirmed my suspected date of conception (and, in turn, due date) to the day.  I attempted to get the doctor to change my official due date: "My cycles tend to be a little on the long side," I said.  "Oh, if it's within a week, we don't usually change it," he replied.

Even though I knew the reasoning was faulty, I wanted to meet my little one sooner rather than later, so I ended up adopting the June 24 due date myself when people would ask.  Silly weez!  I wish I'd stuck to my guns.

Not surprisingly, June 24 came and went without the slightest contraction.  As did the next few days.  I talked to my mom over the weekend, and she predicted that the baby would wait until July 1.  My husband voted for June 27; my dad stuck with my original due date of June 30; I threw my hat in the ring with June 29.  (Awesomely, nobody remembers this but me. Oh well.)

I had a doctor's appointment on Monday, June 28, which included a non-stress test since I was technically overdue at that point (so! wrong! sigh).  I woke up around 7 that morning and had a lovely breakfast of blueberries and cantaloupe.  Afterwards, I felt really tired, and decided to go ahead and nap, even though it felt a little silly to nap from 8-10 in the morning. (I'm really glad I did!)  Then I headed out to the doctor's office.  After weeks of stagnating in the dilation/effacing department, things were finally moving along; I knew it wouldn't be much longer.  The baby performed admirably during the non-stress test, but the doctor noticed some dips in her heart rate, and decided to send me over to the hospital for some additional monitoring.

As I walked out of the doctor's office, I called my husband, who was holding office hours for the class he taught last summer.  "Yeah, the doctor is sending me over to the hospital for some additional non-stress test monitoring, no big deal," I told him.  "It shouldn't take long.  No need to come."

I drove the (literally) 30 seconds from my doctor's office to the hospital parking lot, parked, and headed in.  As I strode toward the door, it began to rain.  I noticed some other folks sitting outside, waiting for rides, looking at my big belly.  I wonder if I'm actually just going here to have her? I wondered.  I wonder if they're looking at a woman who's arriving here to have a baby?

(Note: we're developing a family history of going into labor on the day of our last prenatal doctor's appointment.  My mom was supposed to go to the doctor at 12:30 the day she had me, but she ended up going into labor around 4 in the morning and I was born at 1:29 PM.  She went to an appointment the day she had my brother, and was informed that she was in labor and should go to the hospital immediately; he was born about 4 hours later.  So it crossed my mind that I might follow suit!)

Once I got up to the L&D area, I was utterly confused about where to go, and ended up barging into a "no patients allowed" nurse's office to announce my presence.  I'm still not sure what I was actually supposed to do, but luckily, the staff quickly figured out what to do with me and where to put me. I donned a hospital gown and got hooked up to some equipment. I called my mom to let her know what was going on.

Honestly, the next part it foggy in my memory, but I know the doctor came in, examined me, realized that I had progressed even since my appointment the hour before...and somehow concluded that labor should be induced.  I had been dead-set against induction unless it was medically necessary for my entire pregnancy, but, naive first-timer that I was, I agreed to it.  Lesson learned!  (Again, of course I'm in favor of induction if there is a medical reason to do it, but there wasn't in my case, and I wish I would have just let nature take its course.  Pitocin makes for some strong contractions, oh yes it does!)

As soon as the doctor left, I pulled out my cell phone.  My husband had left a message saying his office hours had ended early and he was headed over to the hospital, which I found reassuring.  However, I was hoping to intercept him on his way so he could go home first, pack my hospital bag, and bring it.  (Yep, I had never done it, despite reading many books that said I should.  By the end of my pregnancy, I felt like I was doing absolutely nothing but waiting on my daughter to arrive, and I just couldn't handle the thought of having everything ready.  What can I say, I live on the edge.)  I must have called him at least a half-dozen times, but he didn't pick up.  I grew frantic -- but it wasn't really about the bag; I knew I was going to have the baby that day or the next, and my husband didn't, and I needed him to know!  Now!

Soon later, I heard my sweet husband's voice outside in the hall.  (That's the nice thing about State College -- everything is crazy close.  The hospital is right next to campus; our home is a ten-minute drive at most from both.)  "Did you hear that today's the day?" I asked him when he came in.  He smiled and said yes.  "Do you have like seven missed calls?" He looked; his stupid phone had turned itself off.  (It still does that from time to time.  We still haven't replaced it.  Aren't we deliciously cheap?)

I made a list of items I wanted and sent my husband home to get them.  I called my mom to fill her in.  The nurse started my IV, and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, she added the Pitocin.  For a while, it was easy: the contractions were no worse than moderate menstrual cramps.
"I can't believe women get all bent out of shape about labor!" -- ridiculously foolish, naive weez around 5 pm on 6/28/10
I can certainly handle this!  I thought.  Things were moving rather slowly, though, so around 7, the doctor broke my water.

Um. Wow.

It didn't take long for the contractions to ratchet up, big time.  I was in agonizing pain, and I couldn't stop shivering.  My dear husband held my hand, put his own hand on my stomach while encouraging me to take deep breaths, and tried rubbing my back (that just didn't help, so I immediately asked him to stop). Relaxation did nothing for me.  Now, disclaimer -- we didn't take any prepared childbirth classes.  (Me: "I'm not paying $125 for that!"  Deliciously cheap, once again.)  Instead, we both read Dr. Bradley's Husband-Coached Childbirth.  I didn't even buy it; I borrowed it from the PSU Library.  So it's entirely possible that, had we taken a course, I would have better understood what to do and fared much better.  But we didn't.

I was frantic.  I had maintained for a long time that I wanted to go drug-free, but here I was, in agony, unable to relax or go to my happy place or do anything but focus on how miserable I felt.  We asked about my options, and the nurse unhesitatingly recommended an epidural.  I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes (and asked my husband, "Will you think less of me?" to which of course he answered no), and then gave the word that I wanted one, imagining that it would arrive in about 15 seconds.

Ha!  Not exactly.  First, my doctor had to approve it (which was quick), then the anesthesiologist had to show up.  He was busy with another patient, so I was told I'd have about a 45-minute wait.  45 minutes! I shrieked to myself.  How am I going to survive?!  But I did.  And around a quarter to nine, charming Dr. Foster with the hot-pepper do-rag arrived on his shining white steed, asked me to sign a couple papers (I'd love to see what my John Hancock looked like at that point), numbed my back, and hooked me up to some serious painkillers.

Ahhhhh.  Well, not right away.  I can even remember pansily asking the nurse how long it was going to be before the drugs took effect.  And for a while there, I availed myself the extra boost I was allowed every fifteen minutes.  But after an hour or so, I indeed felt much better.  I could actually relax, and I even slept some.

The hours ticked by.  I watched my favorite Three Tenors concert because I love the music and it reminds me of the summer of 1997 when my brother and I watched portions of it pretty much every night.  Midnight came and went.  Finally, around 1:40 in the morning, the nurse said I could start pushing.  Hooray! I thought.  I figured that she would be born with an hour.

HA! HA!

Soon after I started, the nurse wanted me to try from another position for a few minutes.  I honestly don't remember exactly why, but I think it had something to do with getting the baby situated better.  She requested that I get up on my hands and knees.  The epidural had basically numbed the lower half of my body, so this was no small task, but I managed to do it (especially after I heard her tell another nurse that she didn't think I could -- it was SO ON!).  Finally, I was able to turn back around, but my girl's heart rate kept dipping, so I had to start wearing an oxygen mask, which I deplored (I felt like I was getting less oxygen, even though I knew it wasn't true).

The night wore on.  My contractions were coming every two minutes, the epidural was no longer disguising them, and I pushed for most of them.  In between, I nearly fell asleep.  When I tell people this, they sometimes reply, "Oh, that's nice!" It was not nice at all.   I was still going on my fruity breakfast from the day before and nothing more, and I was completely exhausted.  I wasn't falling asleep because I was relaxed, but because I barely had any energy.

I remember thinking, "well she'll be born at 2 something...at 3 something...at 4 something...at 5 something..."  During the 5 o'clock hour, I started thinking to myself that I might have to give up and ask if they could do a c-section.  I didn't want to, but I didn't know how I could go on much longer.  "You have to do something," I pleaded with my husband.  "I can't do this much longer."  He smiled and reassured me, "It will be soon, I promise."  "But you don't knoooooow that," I responded weakly.

He was right!  Our precious little baby girl was born at 5:50 AM, June 29, 2010, after four hours and ten minutes of pushing.  The doctor ended up having to use the little vacuum to ease her out, which I had wanted to avoid -- but after all that time, I needed it.  We said a prayer for her just before she was born.  And then, out she came!  I will never forget the first incredulous thought that passed through my mind when I saw her: that baby that was inside of me...is a BABY!

Yes, that's right.  I knew she was a person the whole time, I believed it with my whole heart and soul, but it was only on an intellectual level.  Seeing her in front of my eyes -- a little, squirming, crying, perfect baby girl -- forced me to understand her humanity in an entirely new way.  Nine months earlier, she had not existed; God created her right beneath my very heart, and she'd been safely growing inside me all that time.  A person!  Our daughter!  It was unbelievable, but true.

As is the custom nowadays, the attendants immediately placed her on my chest.  "I'm your mommy," I said to her softly. 

The rest of the day passed like a dream.  We watched her get her first bath, I nursed her on and off, my parents and brother drove in from Youngstown to visit us, and I finally got to eat. :)  At one point, I waddled into the bathroom, and when I caught sight of my own face in the mirror, I stopped dead in my tracks.  She looks like me!  I realized.  Her eyes looked like mine.  The fronts of her cheeks were shaped just like mine.  It was an incredible moment -- I have often looked in the mirror and noticed my resemblance to both of my parents, but here, for the first time, I noticed my resemblance to my daughter.

I didn't sleep the whole day, and by nightfall I was very tired.  The nurses kept coming in to either check on me or have me nurse the baby, so it was a long time before I fell asleep.  A few minutes before midnight, I stared at the clock, and I felt a stirring in my heart that I didn't want the day to end.  Why? I asked myself.

The answer sprung up from the deepest, purest part of me: Because it's the day my daughter was born. It's the best day of my life.

Friday, June 24, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday: Things I've Learned About Motherhood Edition

Congratulations to Jen at Conversion Diary on the birth of her fifth child, a sweet baby girl!  Since she just had her baby on Wednesday, the lovely Betty Beguiles is hosting Quick Takes this week.  Head on over to check out her blog about modesty, fashion, and romance!

My daughter is turning one next Wednesday.  In honor of her first birthday, I'm dedicating this Quick Takes to seven things I've learned about motherhood during the past year.

1. Every mother is different, and that's okay.
My daughter and I spend most of our time at home, just the two of us.  But, especially now that the weather's nice, we sometimes venture out to playgroups, storytimes, and other mommy/baby outings.  And for all the solidarity and camaraderie among the moms, I'm always struck by the differences, too.  There are as many parenting styles out there as there are parents, and as a young, insecure mama, it's taken me some time to accept that and feel confident in my own style.  Not to say that I'm perfect and couldn't stand to learn from other (especially veteran) mothers -- I certainly could -- and not to say that I won't continue to battle insecurity -- I certainly will -- but I think I have a much better handle on the landscape of mothering styles now than I did a year ago.

2. No matter how dedicated I am to not wasting food, my baby is still going to throw puffs on the floor and refuse the second bite of a bowlful of yogurt.
My husband and I rarely throw any food out.  I always feel guilty if I allow something to spoil or mold, or if I mess up a recipe so badly that the finished product is inedible.  The baby, however, has no concerns about wasting food.  A day doesn't go by that finger foods aren't chucked onto the dirty floor, and I can't tell you how many times I've used a clean spoon to dole out a helping of yogurt, fed her a bite, introduced her mouth germs into the yogurt bowl as I get another spoonful, and had that spoon shoved away.  Done, Mom!  And the rest of the forsaken yogurt cannot be saved.  Sigh.  I've learned to portion out very small helpings to combat the amount of wasted food, and sometimes I'll finish her food for her. :)

3. Breastfeeding difficulties do not make me a failure as a mother.
I've already written about this, and I don't want to completely rehash my previous post.  But I would like to show you something.
This photo was taken when my daughter was 2 days old.  I did not protest, but I secretly did not want it to be taken, and I have never shared it with anyone until now.  There I am, feeding my little newborn pumped milk through a bottle...feeling like a fail-mom.  Don't be fooled by my smile.  I was mortified.  I'd been determined to breastfeed since many years before I became pregnant, and there I was, bottlefeeding my brand-new baby. 
Looking back, I realize that I should not have felt that way AT ALL.  I will have a million opportunities to fail as a mother -- moments when I give in to anger, impatience, laziness, and any number of other vices.  Navigating the world of breastfeeding challenges is not one of those moments, and I wish I would have embraced that fact from the beginning.

4. It's amazing how high my tolerance for things like spit up and poop has become.
I don't think I need to expound upon that one.

5. It's okay to have a messy house.
This lesson has been asserting itself more and more as my baby has grown.  She's been crawling for over four months, she is just staring to walk, and she loves to get into everything.  We have most of her books and toys arranged in our living room, and every day, she completely ransacks the area.  We used to "reset the stage" (borrowed from Lindsy) every night; now we only do it every few nights.  It's simply an exercise in futility. 
A before-and-after shot.  Note especially how few books are left on the left of the ledge...since they're strewn all over the floor.
Yesterday morning, Maren's three wonderful kids (aged 6.5, 5, and 1) visited while she was getting her wisdom teeth out.  When her husband came in to pick them up, he was horrified by the scene, and asked his two older kids to tidy up.  I felt a little guilty about that, because, as I explained to him, the vast majority of the mess was created by my own kid.  At least 90%.
Speaking of Maren, she recently wrote an excellent post on inviting friends over even when our homes are messy.  Check it out!

6. Even though having a baby has drastically reduced our alone time, it has also deepened the love and strengthened the bond between my husband and me more than I ever could have imagined.
I had a hunch on our first date that my husband would be a fantastic father (to be honest, it was because of how sweetly he interacted with a friend's dog, haha!), and he has exceeded my expectations in every possible way.  His incredible support and love as a spouse have been constant throughout our marriage, but even more obvious since the birth of our daughter.

7. I will never be able to describe the love that I have for my child.  I will never be able to comprehend how God could have blessed me so abundantly.
But He did.  And I am so, so thankful.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Older than Keats, and that's OK

I feel old.

It's ridiculous, and I know it.  My birthday is next month, and I'll be turning 26: I'm hardly advanced in years.  And yet the feeling persists.

When I was growing up, my mom never wanted people to know her age.  (She still doesn't, which is why I won't divulge it now.)  As a child, I couldn't understand this.  "Age is only a number!" I told her time and again. Meanwhile, I was very proud of whatever age I happened to be.  7! 8! 9! 10 -- double digits, WOW!  I continued to delight in getting older until around age 21.  After that, aging seemed to be rather pointless, for what reason I don't know (I didn't even go out, much less drink, the day I turned 21).  I enjoyed turning 24 because it's my favorite number and I got to be 24 on the 24th.  I winced at turning 25 because I had decided as a young teenager that this age was "over the hill" (after all, demographic groups are typically split as 18-24 and 25-I dunno? 34?), and I still hadn't shaken that opinion.  I consoled myself with the coolness that my daughter was 25 days old on my 25th birthday.

In spite of my protests at my mom's self-consciousness, I have also been a little too fixated on my own age.  My July birthday ensured that I was always among the youngest in my class, which I maintained as a point of pride all the way through school, as if graduating high school when I was still 17 was some sort of badge of honor.  I have a youthful face, which for years has guaranteed that many folks will mistaken me for a younger age.  The pinnacle of these situations occurred last summer.  My baby's middle name was misspelled on her Social Security card, which meant I had to go down to our local office to fill out paperwork to have it changed.  The police guard asked me what I was there for.  When I told her, she seemed surprised.  "She's two months old," I offered, suspecting that her reaction was age-related.  "Well how old are you?" she asked, and when I told her, she replied, "oh, wow, I thought you were in the 16-18 range." 

I'm ashamed to admit that I was actually quite flattered by her mistake.  Oh, to think, I still looked like a teenager! A high schooler!  My life might have been filled with spit-up, round-the-clock pumping, sleepless nights, and multiple daily diaper blowouts, but I looked young

As a conservative, Catholic, introverted woman, I'm generally not heavily influenced by popular culture (unless it's my girl Rebecca Black -- my heart aches for the return of the "Friday" video).  Many of my beliefs are counter-cultural, so it's not terribly difficult for me to avoid "conforming myself to this age" (Romans 12:2).  But when it comes to our society's obsession with youth, I'm afraid I fall hook, line, and sinker.  It seems like we're always hearing that some movie star or singer or golfer or skater is "only" this tender age or that.  And my reaction is always the same: wow.  Wow, look at that person, who's a few months or a year or five years or ten years younger than I am, look at how successful that person is!

Of course, it never ends there, with simple heartfelt admiration for how much someone has accomplished in a short amount of time.  It always turns back on me.  Why am I not a roaring success?   At various stages during my growing up years, I wanted to be a (famous, of course) writer, musician, actress, and political figure.  Hysterically funny, I know, but sometimes I look at myself and think, really?  In twenty-six years you couldn't get going on even a tiny part of the most reasonable of those goals?  One of my favorite blogs that I follow is written by an absolutely brilliant, remarkably well-read and well-spoken man...who is 18 years old, freshly graduated from high school.  I'm incredibly impressed with his posts, and I have nothing but admiration for him and his writing.  But it's humbling to realize: when I was his age, I couldn't do what he does now. Frankly, I still can't.

I realize that I'm falling into a trap.  Life is not a race, and the true measure of one's worth is not how quickly he or she achieves something. Yes, sometimes when I observe the brilliance and accomplishments of folks who have had fewer years on God's green earth than I have, I am reminded that I have regrets about the hours I frittered away during my younger days when free time was much more plentiful than it is now.  But my response to that regret shouldn't be wallowing in sorrow, betraying the ugly immaturity in my heart which foolishly maintains that 26 is old.  It ain't old, and my life ain't over.  Really, it is just beginning.

I pine for youth, but I shouldn't.  Instead of sitting around wishing I had read more or written more or been more disciplined or willing to take risks, I need to be grateful for who I am, what I am doing, and what my life is, today.  I'm the wife of a a wonderful man -- the perfect man for me.  I'm the mother of a beautiful and exuberant little girl, whose first birthday is just a week away.  I'm a daughter, a sister, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, and a friend.  I'm a homemaker, a former teacher, and a college graduate.  I will probably never have the time I had as a teenager and early twenty-something to develop myself, but God's plan for my life is shaping and refining me in ways that I never could have imagined.  I always think of my high school and college years as being formative ones, and indeed they were, but how could I consider them more formative than this last year -- my first as a mother?

So, a resolution: next time I hear about a blogger, a musician, an actor, a whoever, who is younger than I am, instead of moaning to my husband, "Ughhh that chick was born in 1988!  Aren't those people* still in middle school???" I'm going to smile, delight in how well that person is doing, and remind myself that we each have a unique vocation.  Right now, mine is to be a devoted wife and mother, living a quiet life with a happy little blog whose readers I cherish.

*Readers born in 1988 (or after? oh my): I love you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Good Romance

Years ago, before I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband, I was in a relationship with a different fellow.  Our junior prom was held a few months after we became "official," and we naturally assumed that we would go together.  One of our mutual female friends instructed him -- without any encouragement from me -- that he should still ask me to the prom, and with a rose in hand to boot.  So he did.  I was happy and appreciative, although I secretly felt that the display was unnecessary.

Unfortunately, that relationship proved to be an unhappy one for both of us, and we parted ways right after Christmas of our senior year of high school.  In the days and weeks that followed, I analyzed every painful moment, every offense, every wrong.  One of my strongest objections to his behavior during our time as a couple was that I felt it was all about the show for him.  He had given me good chocolate in a heart-shaped box, he had borrowed his uncle's fancy Cadillac when we went somewhere fancy, and he had given me an expensive gift for Christmas, right before our breakup.  But underneath all the ostentation, he had been hurtful, disrespectful, and unfaithful -- if not in deed, certainly in thought and speech.  I don't want to demonize him: he wasn't the worst guy in the world by any stretch, we were both young and immature at the time, and it's not like I was a perfect girlfriend.  But he didn't treat me with the respect he should have, and the relationship was ultimately damaging to me in many ways.

I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband fairly soon after that relationship ended.  It was certainly early enough to be considered a "rebound," and I doubt many people thought it would last.  In retrospect, I realize that I did struggle with the whirlwind nature of it all, and it probably would have been better to wait a bit longer before agreeing to see someone else.  But after many months of friendship, I found that I had developed feelings for the gallant Mr. Campbell (code crush name: "Soup"), and a mutual friend of ours (who ended up being the best man at our wedding) warned me that another girl was interested in him, and that I'd better give him some indication of my interest lest he be scooped up by someone else.  Something told me I didn't want to let a chance with him slip away.

Which was certainly true. :)

Part of what delighted me most about "Soup" during the early days of our courtship was how different he was from my previous boyfriend.  He was always respectful, always courteous, always faithful, always considerate and thoughtful of my feelings. It was clear from the very beginning that he held me in the utmost regard.  He was gentle and kind and he never belittled my then-highly emotional perspective on life.  He also was not showy.  Yes, he gave me a teddy bear on Valentine's Day, but there were no expensive chocolates or fancy cars, and no flowery formal invitation to prom.  We just went.  (And exchanged our first "I love yous.")

As time went on, I (thankfully) was able to move on from the painful memories of my previous relationship, and my admiration and affection for my now-husband were simply about him, not him in comparison to a less worthy man.  I maintained, however, a bullheaded prejudice toward romantic gestures.  Based on two data points, I concluded that there were two types of men in the world: men who were unfit boyfriends who would occasionally try to make up for their shortcomings with a big show of flowers or candy or glitz, and men who were wonderful boyfriends who didn't need to do such things.  My oversimplified, misguided perspective was only reinforced over the years when I observed other unworthy guys pull out the occasional romantic showstopper.  "I'd rather have a guy who was good to me all the time," I'd always think.

And, of course, I would.  A million times over.  But lately I have come to realize that sweet, romantic, swoon-inducing gestures are not necessarily the hallmarks of bad boys.  Hardly!  And as I look back on my days with Mr. Fancypants, I recognize that maybe the rosy prom invite wasn't so crazy after all.  I think a lot of his other moves were motivated by the wrong reasons, but I'm fairly sure that one was pure-hearted, and I probably should have accepted it as sweet instead of shrugging it off as superfluous.

Now, please don't think that I'm accusing my darling husband of being unromantic.  He is far from it!  Over the years, he has surprised me with flowers time and again (the most recent being just last month for Mother's Day), selected beautiful and elegant pieces of jewelry as gifts, and performed innumerable loving gestures like cleaning up the kitchen so I don't have to, putting on a CD in his car that he doesn't love but he knows I do, and carefully determining whether I prefer CGI or Muppet Yoda so he could surprise me with a poster of my favorite Star Wars character (I prefer Muppet, by the way).  However, I've managed to make it fairly obvious that I'm not into fancy restaurants and would just as soon go to Baja Fresh, that I'm content with my current fine jewelry collection and I don't mind if I never get another new piece, and that I'd rather save money than spend it on romantic stuff.  All of which stands, by and large, but...

Lately I've been longing for romance.  I imagine that having an eleven-and-a-half-month-old daughter, no family nearby, and no babysitters might have something to do with it.  My husband and I rarely get alone time, and when we do, we usually just watch TV.  The other night I wistfully mentioned that I wished we could go on a marriage retreat, even a short one, but that it would be impossible as we have no one to watch our daughter (and as often as she still nurses, it simply couldn't happen).  My sweet husband looked up some retreat exercises online the following day, and we did some, but they felt a little silly.  (Disclaimer: it wasn't that extensive of a search, and I'm sure a more thorough gander around the Interwebs would yield some more fruitful exercises.)

So my question is, how can we add some romance into our lives?  And yes, of course, I realize it's not a one-sided issue!  I want to perform more romantic gestures, too (even though my husband is perfectly content with the amount of romance in our marriage).  One way I've been trying to do that is through dressing in a prettier, more feminine fashion.  I've hit some snags along this road, as I've mentioned here before.  But it still strikes me as a worthy endeavor that I'm happy to continue.

Is there anyone else experiencing a similar yearning?  Can anyone offer some sweet romantic suggestions for a young married couple with limited funds and even more limited time when our darling daughter is asleep?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wordy Wednesday

Dahhh!

I have been wanting to update.  I compose portions of blog posts in my head while I take my daughter on strolls.  As I go about my days, I reflect on how a thought or scenario might be fodder for the ol' blog.  And yet, this wonderful little world has been woefully quiet as of late.  Here's a little bit on why...
I know I mentioned this already in last week's quick takes.  I have a few half-written (well, more like tenth-written) posts that I'm hoping to finish...someday.  I get little ideas, but nothing grand.  And yes, it doesn't have to be grand, but lately I've been a pretty
in general.  I've just been feeling low.  Lonely, bored, I hate to say worthless, but a little bit of that, too.  And then yesterday, just when I was feeling like maybe I could contribute something decent to the blogosphere, the unthinkinable happened:
Of course, that could not stand.  Readers, take note: if you link to an article about an 780-year-old relic of St. Anthony being stolen and provide your own commentary on how the Catholic practice of requesting intercessory prayer from the saints amounts to idolatry, you're gonna hear from me.  Sigh.  

All that has added up to no new blog posts.  BOO!  That ain't cool.  (Thanks for not giving me a red underline under the word "ain't," Firefox!)

I'm hoping to get back in the groove soon.  Maybe even today!  Maybe. I hope.

Friday, June 10, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday: Quickest Ever

Thanks for hosting, Jen!
I've been running into some writer's block lately.  So my quick takes are gonna be hella quick!

1. I am a sucker for anything that has owls on it.
2. We need a new house phone.  I can't adjust the volume on our current one, and I can barely hear the person on the other end.  This problem is intensified when my little girl babbles delightedly throughout my phone conversations, which happens often.
3. We might go to one of the local wineries tomorrow to sample local cheeses.  But it's embarrassing when we don't end up buying anything, and I am loyal to my Meyer Dairy hot pepper cheese, which will not be featured.
4. The baby and I happened to stroll by that vintage clothing shop I mentioned on our way to the farmer's market today, and there were new, adorable dresses in the window!  Even one with pockets!  I wonder if any of them is my size. :)
5. We also strolled by the trendy store where I'll soon have store credit.  There were some possibilities in their window too, so I have hope!
6. Said baby is now looking through some of her books, which is incredibly adorable.
7. Um, how did I forget?  We got STRAWBERRIES at the farmer's market today!  YIPPITY SKIPPITY DOO!!!!!!!!!

Happy weekend to all!  It's been a hot, humid, lonely week here, so for me it's been a long time coming!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Diss Dressed

I have a pink house dress that I bought a few years ago.  It is a bright, cheerful pink, and it's a cool, comfortable material, and it even has pockets!  In my mind, I like to picture it like this:
Except, of course, pink, and with pockets. [Source]
Unfortunately, it doesn't look at all like that, and most of the disparity isn't due to color or presence of pockets.  It's always wrinkly in spots (yes, I've tried ironing it), it always shows my bra straps, and now that I'm a nursing mom, its empire waist comes up too high and sits right across my bust.  Which looks ridiculous.

I need to give this dress away.  It looks terrible on me, and I doubt that will ever change.  Every now and then, I put it on, in hopes that it will have magically transformed into a dress that suits me perfectly.  Of course, I am always disappointed.

I'm finding it hard to part with this dress, mostly because it's the only dress I own that can just be worn around the house.  For a long time, I only had one other dress that could even be worn to church.  The rest of my dresses are all evening-wear, worn once or twice in my life to a dance or banquet or wedding, and unlikely to ever see the light of day again.  Much of my remaining wardrobe is comprised of graphic t-shirts that feature such hilarious images as a salsa jar gesturing towards a eyelash-batting hot pepper saying "This is why I'm hot" and a woeful pencil asking a mischievous-looking eraser, "Why you hatin'?"  They're fun, but they're silly, and sometimes I don't want silly.  I want feminine.

So, I made a plan last Saturday to spend the afternoon shopping for dresses while my husband watched the baby.  I was eagerly looking forward to the adventure.  I love spending time with my daughter, but shopping with her in tow can be difficult, and it's extremely rare that I get time to do it (or much of anything else) alone anymore.  And here I would have a couple hours not only to myself, but also set aside to find lovely articles of clothing!

Before my shopping excursion, we went out to lunch at Baja Fresh (which, by the way, is amazing).  I realized with dismay as we got out of the car that I had forgotten the coupon I'd saved from a mailer.  We rarely eat out without one, and the knowledge that a five dollar off coupon was just sitting idly in a drawer at home made me want to cry.  My husband offered to go back and get it, but by that time we were both ravenous and it seemed ridiculous to spend the extra time and gas.  After a few minutes, I gathered my senses together and decided to have a good time anyway --  but not before I managed to completely alienate another mom who smiled my way and was met with my own bitter scowl, because smiling back was just! too! hard! five dollars! sob!

After lunching, we dropped by a new frozen yogurt shop that was giving away ten free ounces of yogurt and toppings per customer all day.  Naturally, the place was packed.  We soldiered on, however, never ones to be deterred from availing ourselves of free yogurty goodness, especially in light of the earlier coupon tragedy.  We even got a tiny bit of strawberry yogurt for the baby.  She wasn't a big fan; I suspect she disapproved of how cold it was.

As we walked back to the car after finishing our yogurt, we started to feel raindrops.  Real slow at first, and then faster, faster.  They continued all the way home, and by the time I sat down to nurse the baby before my departure, it was pouring.  I kept expecting it to stop, as it often does this time of year after a very hard rain, but it didn't let up.  Finally, I decided to just go anyway.  Who cared about a little rain?

I parked in a lot on campus that's free on weekends and close to downtown.  Down the street I strode, bright red, slightly broken umbrella in hand, hot pink purse slung over my shoulder.  The first clothing shop I happened upon was a trendy little store filled with fair-trade blouses made in India and $200 jeans with holes in the knees.  There was a bright, colorful dress hanging on one of the front racks -- pretty, summery, fanciful, perfect!  One of the hip young employees stowed it away in a dressing room for me.  I took a look around the rest of the store, but I didn't see any other dresses I liked, so I went in to try it on.

Ugh.  Nothing makes me feel uglier than when I look in the mirror on an ugly day after looking at someone beautiful.  Both of the girls working at the store were gorgeous.  One in particular had amazing, feathery black hair and expertly applied eye makeup that did wonders to enhance her natural beauty.  And there I was, with my mismatched purse and umbrella, my "Why you hatin'?" shirt, and my hair so frizzed out from the rain I almost looked like a clown -- except my makeup was all worn off and I looked pasty, pale, and exhausted thanks to the dark circles under my eyes.  UGH!!

I tried on the dress, hoping I would feel prettier in it.  "How is it fitting?" one of the girls asked.  I infused my voice with all the chipper cheerfulness I could muster as I replied, "Great!"  And I was convinced.  I had told her it was great, ergo, it was great!  I would buy it!  And feel feminine and fine!

The especially gorgeous employee checked me out.  I paid with a credit card, so she asked to see my ID.  In the process of paying, I told her that I loved her hair, and she informed me that it wasn't even real, but extensions.  As she looked at my driver's license, she said, "Oh, did you have long hair in this picture?"  I confirmed that I did, and she asked when I'd cut it short.  I replied by way of telling her that I had an eleven-month-old daughter, hoping to explain not only my haircut but my frazzled appearance.

Despite feeling ugly in my current outfit and with my frizzball hair, I still felt potentially pretty due to my purchase, so I continued on to another shop.  It was a vintage clothing store, and I must say, visiting it was a truly glorious experience.  There were so many lovely pieces!  The kind lady working there was very knowledgeable and eager to help me find something I'd like.  I tried on quite a few dresses, and was honestly surprised to discover that most of the smalls were too small for me.  But, I did find one lovely pink dress from the 1970s.  It's too fancy to be a house dress, but you can bet your $200 holey jeans (or your $5 Baja Fresh coupon) that I wore to Mass the next day.
Pretty!  And not just in my imagination.

That is the good news.  For the bad news, let's back this bus up to Saturday: as soon as I arrived home, I modeled my purchases for my husband.  It was then that reality came crashing down: the hip, modern dress looked awful on me.  AWFUL.  So pretty on the rack.  But ridiculous on my body.  I quickly scoured my purse for the receipt: exchanges and store credit only, no refunds.
Say it ain't so, Mom!
So now I gotta go back to the trendy-spendy shop and try to find something else.  I'm hoping that there's a cute blouse or dress that I didn't notice the first time (that's close to the price of my original purchase).  Rest assured that when I go, it will not be raining and I will not be wearing a goofy graphic tee. 

Maybe I'll wear my vintage dress!  That'll throw 'em.

Friday, June 3, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday: I Love June

For more takes of the quick variety, visit our hostess Jen.

June is my favorite month, so I'm tickled pink that it's finally here!  Here are some of the reasons I love June.

1. Fresh local strawberries!
They're on their way! [Source]

2. This cookbook features soup recipes with seasonal ingredients for each month of the year, and the chapter for June is prefaced with this quote:
What is one to say about June....
the time of perfect young summer,
the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months,
and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade?
For my own part I wander up into the wood and say:
"June is here -- June is here: thank God for lovely June!"
--Gertrude Jekyll--

3. School's out!  It actually hasn't been terribly long since this affected me directly, since the school I taught at the last couple years didn't finish its academic year until mid-June.  Both of my university alma maters were on semesters, so their school years ended in May -- which I didn't mind a bit, but June just feels more right.

4. Awesome memories: this year marks a decade since I took a fantastic ten-day trip to the French-speaking European countries in between my sophomore and junior years of high school.  It was late June, and everywhere we visited was incredibly gorgeous.  I'd love to go back someday.
Eze, France -- the most beautiful place I have ever been. [Source]

5. Plentiful daylight: I struggle during the dark winter months.  The summer solstice is in June, and as a lifelong inhabitant of the northern hemisphere, I enjoy the month's long, sunny days every year.

6. My name: it's Louise, of course.  I was named after my maternal grandmother, who passed away two years before I was born.  But when she was born, her mother had trouble deciding whether to name her Louise...or June!  If she had decided the other way, I'm sure I would have also been a June.  I like the name, though I don't think it quite fits me.  (I suspect that most of us can't imagine ourselves with any name other than the one we have, however.)

7.

Incredible, but true: my darling baby girl will be a year old on June 29.
I love her so much. ♥

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Matter of Great Importance

I have tried it.

On Saturday, May 28, 2011, I drove to the closest Dunkin' Donuts and purchased a Blueberry Waffle Breakfast Sandwich.  Not a moment too soon, it seems, because I noticed the large poster advertising this wonder had a "take-down" date of May 29!

I'm not a big egg person, so I ordered mine without.  ("Wait, there's something on this that could be considered healthy?  Away with it!")  That left me with a bun of two soft, smaller-than-Eggo waffles, a maple-flavored square sausage patty, and a slice of American "cheese food."  Now, I don't say that disparagingly; while I certainly recognize that this sandwich does not even pretend to be nutritionally worthwhile, I think it does a great job of being delicious. 

In an incredible twist of fate, Lindsy emailed me that very same day to report that she had tried the sandwich!  Great minds, yo!  She mentioned that she had expected the waffles to be crisper than they were, but that their softness didn't detract much from the sandwich.  I agree.  Frankly, I ate this guy in about two minutes (my husband was listening to a Linkin Park song on YouTube, and when I finished chewing my last bite, I realized that the same song had been playing when I began my first).  Okay, okay, shame on me, but consider this: I probably would not have been able to do that with a bagel breakfast sandwich.  Yes, bagels are larger, but they are also chewier.  Maybe, just maybe, a crisper "bun" would have extended this sandwich's life by thirty seconds or so.  At least long enough for another song to have started.

Anyway, I enjoyed the sandwich, and I'm glad I gave it a go. :)