We’ve had a nice, cozy Thanksgiving weekend together. We didn’t travel, so we missed our families BUT it was so nice to not be on the road! We had a sweet Thanksgiving meal with some friends in town, had a lot of baby/toddler chaos I mean joy and watched many, many episodes of Parenthood after the kids went to sleep each night. Today we went to our tree place and cut down a beautiful tree! Will was deeply impressed by the “farner” (i.e, the Christmas tree farm guy; “farner” is how he refers to farmers, and I just love it so I don’t try to correct him, which is horrible, I know) and his tractor. Which Will got to sit on. So obviously he was in heaven. Anyway, we made it back, got the tree up, lights on, and managed to take few pictures. And now the little ones are snug in their beds, the kettle is full of hot water ready for winter tea, and I have a delicious stack of library books to read next to the fire. I love Christmas. And I love these two babies. And I love this man who deals with toddler bathroom situations, fixes curtain rods, lies down on muddy, wet, cold ground to cut down a Christmas tree, and has woken up with Margaret at 5:30 every morning for the past 4 days. (Pictures of the tree expedition coming soon.)
We made it to the library (and back) this morning. It was snowing, no big deal. Being a surgeon in the ER during a power outage or climbing Mt. Everest with no food or water during avalanche season would be a calm, relaxing experience after taking two small children to the Ithaca library in the winter. Have I ever mentioned that our library has no parking? Anyway, we stocked up on books about Thanksgiving, and I got some Dickens (Oliver Twist) and some fun mysteries if the Dickens feels too difficult, which it probably will. And an anthology of 20th c. poetry! I realized I need more poems in my little world.
But before we went I tried to get some pictures of the nuggets for a possible Christmas card!!!! We’ve never sent one out, and every year I long to with all the fervor in my little heart, and then I realize that it will cost money, and we don’t. But this year. Maybe.
Also. I hope these photos convey how we are always sitting about laughing heartily and kissing our baby sister and gazing with wonder at the falling snow wearing coordinating outfits (minus, I guess, Will’s random track pants)! Not how unshowered I was (and still am) or the heaps of laundry in the other corner and econo-pack of toilet paper sitting in the middle of the living room because I don’t have a place to store huge quantities of toilet paper in the new house or how immediately after these pictures ensued approximately 1 hour of Margaret screaming because it was her nap time and she was hungry but we were also trying to get out the door to go to the library or how I spent most of the weekend sobbing or huddled in a ball of panic because of how hard life with two babies is.
Ok, so as crazy as life is, I just have to say. Will is obsessed with Margaret and all he wants to do is snuggle with her, help me change her diaper, bring me cloths when she spits up, sing songs to her when she’s sad. And obsessed with helping. Takes out the trash with John, helps me wipe the table, puts his clothes away, everything. Good little productive firstborn child. And the other morning while he was playing on the rug with his trucks I heard him whispering to them, “Get cozy, get cozy.” And Margaret’s little baby smiles are just radiant beams of golden joy. So anyway, Merry early Christmas because yes, I am one of those people who starts celebrating Christmas before thanksgiving!
Four years to the day after we moved in to our little first floor apartment, we said goodbye. It was the longest I’ve ever lived in any single dwelling place since leaving home for college. It’s where we huddled under down comforters and wore bathrobes on top of sweaters all winter to stay warm. It’s where we used box after box of shims to try to get our furniture straight on hundred-year old wooden floors that were crooked past belief (and by “we” i obviously mean John). The basement was dark and damp and cobwebby, the floors were sinking in ominously in several places (and we had only one parking spot at our house, and Will’s room didn’t have a heating vent, and it was right on a super busy road….) BUT it was home. I knew exactly where to turn the knobs on the stove, without looking, to get the temperature right for whatever I was cooking. We had our little compost bin that John built when we first moved in. It’s where we brought our first baby home, completely in love and completely bewildered and where our second baby burst forth in all her rapid glory. It was home, and a beautiful one.
But we were bursting at the seams. And the house was being foreclosed on. And so, here we are. This is our living room/kitchen. Pictures of the two bedrooms maybe to come soon? Reading nook! Gas fireplace! Big windows overlooking the woods. And a million thanks to John’s parents who literally packed and unpacked our whole house in one weekend. We couldn’t have done it without them.
(Ok, so it hasn’t actually snowed here yet, as the photo above might suggest. But we have had a few flurries, and a real snow isn’t too far away. Also, we are moving. Tomorrow. Today was insane. Every single thing is in boxes and John and some of his buddies already took more than half of our stuff over to the new place. I wrote this a couple of afternoons ago when I should have been packing but obviously wasn’t because it was too intimidating to start. And then I figured I’d save it and post it on a Friday. So. ) Anyway, recently I read about the notion of Fredagsmys in this blog post from A Cup of Jo about parenting in Sweden. The word basically means “Cozy Friday,” and it pretty much captures my feelings about Friday nights. I just didn’t think there was a good word, let alone an entire cultural phenomenon, that celebrated it. So, as far as I can tell, in Sweden people curl up with lots of potato chips (ok, a little weird, but ok), huddle under blankets, watch movies, and just spend quality time with the fam. Amazing. We’re not at a movie-watching point in our kids’ lives quite yet, but we are all about getting cozy on Fridays. We sometimes make a pizza all together (Will is obsessed with cutting things with his little knife, plus I think there must have been a Daniel Tiger episode about making pizzas, because he knows ALL ABOUT IT), and sometimes pancakes or waffles. Or something else easy and cozy. Now that the days are getting shorter and the weather colder we are going to do it up for Fredagsmys. Some ideas for getting cozy on Fridays:
2. put Christmas music on (or this album). or whatever music makes you happy.
3. Put on pjs and a robe and slippers or thick wool socks
4. If you have a fireplace, make a fire!
5. Or if not light as many candles as possible
6. turn off and put away all the phones/ipods/ipads/computers/devices (for real)
7. Invite friends over and order cheap pizza
8. Or get some pizza dough from trader joes and cook your own
9. Or make a big pot of chili or soup earlier in the day to have ready for dinner
10. Use paper plates, bowls, etc.!
11. Make a big pile of all the pillows and blankets you can find and curl up with the kids and read
12. Make hot chocolate for everyone
13. Or cider and drink it through cinnamon sticks like straws
14. Or some good hot herbal tea in special mugs
15. Bake cinnamon rolls (from the can, obviously– Cozy Friday is all about No Dishes)
16. Play board games!
17. Family camp out in sleeping bags in the living room (or wherever)
18. Family read-aloud of whatever awesome book you’re reading
19. Watch a movie or show (we try to not watch much during the week so Friday is our night to binge on episodes of the West Wing or Chefs Table)
20. Pancakes for dinner (with sausage or eggs)
21. make popcorn on the stove. (it’s easy, I promise) or in the microwave. or over a fire pit. or whatever. sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast. or check out these 30 awesome toppings.
Happy Cozy Friday, y’all! (And if anyone has other good ideas for making Friday nights cozy and special I’d love to hear! read here for more about a similar concept in Denmark: Hygge)
Well, friends, we are moving to a new apartment. The living room windows overlook the woods (instead of a busy road as they do now), the bedrooms (still only 2) are a bit bigger, and there are closets. So many closets. And a mud room (not pictured, yet). There’s a gas fireplace (not as awesome as a real one, but should be fun in the winter, and by winter I mean of course the whole year except for July and August). John’s parents are coming to help us (otherwise I don’t know how we would do it) and we’ll be moving this Saturday! More pictures to come once we have everything set up in the new place!
It’s officially fall here. It was 29 degrees when John left for work this morning and we had snow flurries yesterday. I’m dreading winter a bit already, but I do love fall, and I especially love upstate New York falls. I love feeling cozy and drinking hot tea and baking things with apples we picked at the farm down the road. And I love putting my baby girl in this shirt:
In a moment of reckless abandon I bought some chestnuts at the farmers’ market, and we’ve been cracking them open with Will and eating the sweet, chewy meat. I was planning to roast them, because when I lived in London one fall a few years ago I would buy little packets of hot roasted chestnuts from street vendors and ever since then I pretty much believe that the essence of joy is roasted chestnuts in the fall. But they taste so good raw that none have made it into our oven yet. I also bought 2 stalks of “pumpkins on a stick” (which are actually a type of ornamental eggplant) at the market. So our fall decorations consist of a bowl of squashes from our CSA, some stalks of pumpkin-on-a-stick, and two tiny pumpkins we bought at Indian Creek Farm a few weeks ago.
I’m not much of a decorate for the seasons kind of person, mostly because our space, as small as it is, can’t handle much else in the way of visual clutter or More Objects On Surfaces. We’re pretty maxed out with just regular daily stuff. And we don’t have space to store decorations. But I do love fall, and falls here are gorgeous, and I want Will to have good, rich, deep seasons and holidays, so I figured let’s just go crazy and have some ornamental pumpkins and tiny honey nut squashes in a bowl on the table and chestnuts to crack open and eat. (This nut-cracker for children is on our wish-list for Will in case any grandparents are reading this! I’m planning to have a bowl of nuts out on the table for the rest of the winter for cracking. it’s my new thing.)
We made it to the library and back this morning, and the whole endeavor literally felt like climbing Everest. The parking within a 3 block radius of the library costs money, so we park 3 blocks away. I literally am not going to spend $2 in order to go to the public library. What is the good of living in a socialistcommunistfhsldhfjsldflsdkfh city if you have to PAY to go the library, I ask you? Where is all our tax money going, if not to allow mothers of two children to park adjacent to the public library for free? (Oh wait, I forgot.) But I digress. (I know I both over- and misused the word ‘literally’ in this paragraph, but I just needed to get it out.)
(Also, if you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal about parking 3 blocks away? Walking 3 blocks is so easy, I do that all the time.” What you don’t realize is that the simplest thing, with two small children added into the mix, instantly becomes the hardest thing of all time. Like I’m not trying to sound like a really bitter, angry person, but walking 3 blocks with a toddler while carrying 15 pounds of library books while pushing a stroller while carrying a screaming baby while having tonsillitis is a whole other thing than just walking 3 blocks. (And yes, I should have put the toddler in the stroller, yes, I should have. It would made the whole procedure much easier, but the precious child wanted to walk and hold my hand and look at leaves, and it was a sweet autumnal sort of moment, and I loved it and it was beautiful. But it was also a very laborious and challenging 3 blocks to walk.))
And then today there was a whole thing with finding a parking space, dealing with an Angry Northerner (sorry, people from the north, but seriously), parking in front of a fire hydrant and the Angry Northerner angrily telling me I’d get a ticket if I parked there, etc., and then (since both kids were already out of the car and Margaret was strapped to me in her baby carrier by the time the A. N. told me about the fire hydrant and the ticket) I shuffled Will onto the front seat and drove (with Margaret in the Ergo) into another spot in front of us. It was all of 10 feet, but I probably could have been thrown into prison for not having the kids in their car seats, and if someone had arrested me in that moment, I would have said, Thank you Jesus, I will happily go to jail and live there forever and you, Officer, can deal with getting both these children back in their carseats. And then you tell me you wouldn’t break the law egregiously just to not have to put them both in carseats one extra time.
So anyway, we made it to the library. And we got some books about castles and a lovely book called Bluebird that has the prettiest pictures I ever saw and I got some decorating books and Mitten Strings for God, which sounds like it will be hopelessly sappy but it’s supposed to be “reflections for moms in a hurry,” so if it can offer any small amount of wisdom about slowing down and taking deep breaths in the midst of these crazy days it’ll be worth it. (Has anyone read this one? Any thoughts?)
And then we made it home from the library. We actually did. There were points of hysterical screaming and crying from both the children, and I shed a few tears as well. It’s literally like going into battle and barely making it out alive, going to the library. But then we come home and we are victorious and Will pulls out a book from our bag and then this:
And it’s so very worth it.
Mitten Strings for God Katrina Kennison
The Perfectly Imperfect Home Deborah Needleman
Domino: The Book of Decorating
Bluebird Lindsey Yankey
Castle David Macauley (a Caldecott Honor book– gorgeous illustrations! John said he read this one when he was little!)
Good Night Yoga: A Pose by Pose bedtime Story Mariam Gates
Knights and Castles: Exploring History Through Art Alex Martin (learning about medieval life through actual medieval art? Yes please. Bayeaux Tapestry, etc!!!!)
We haven’t used our oven all summer. Maybe once, on accident, early in the summer, when I forgot that using our oven=a 95 degree kitchen. But the nights have been getting cooler– it was 45 the other morning when we woke up– and so last night I decided to roast up a bunch of our CSA gems. I roughly chopped potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli, put them on two separate baking sheets (the potatoes needed a bit longer to cook), gave them a dollop of lard (leaf lard that I, a mother of two, personally rendered, no big deal) & a generous sprinkle of salt. I sprinkled garlic powder on the potatoes when they came out.
We ate them right off the pans with some quickly stirred together mayo+mustard+honey (delicious, creamy, honey mustard sauce in an instant!). And that was dinner. You could fry an egg or make some cheese toast if you wanted a little more protein, but we didn’t and all lived to see another day. And Will loves dipping things into any kind of sauce, so he loved it. (Inspired by this wonderful book, I’ve been trying to make vegetables the backbone of our meals these days. Doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s good.)
For the first part of this story, read here.
I woke up around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning with some contractions that almost immediately felt pretty strong, so I started timing them with an app while I got up and started to get things together for the hospital, just in case. I was already mostly packed, but there are always the last minute things you need to get, so I was doing that. Since it was 1:30 in the morning I didn’t want to wake anyone up unless I was pretty sure that I was actually in labor, and I was assuming that even if I were in labor I had several hours ahead of me. The contractions were incredibly intense.
By 2:00 the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and over a minute long and really painful. So I went to wake up John, and as I walked down the hall to get him I remember sort of shivering and thinking that it felt the way transition felt with Will. But surely it couldn’t be that yet, right? John got up, started a pot of coffee, and jumped in the shower. I called our friend Carrie (who was going to come watch Will) and our doula (both of whom said they would get here in 20-30 minutes).
Pretty soon after I made those calls (I think while John was in the shower) the contractions got crazy. Like actually out of control insane. I think I have blocked out most of this part of the labor, because they would come and I would just involuntarily scream at the top of my lungs. It’s hard to describe, but it was just qualitatively a different kind of pain than I have ever experienced or can even imagine experiencing. A little after 2 I could tell that the contractions were pushing the baby down. (With Will I never felt an urge to push, and I had to physically, consciously push him out, and it was horrible. With this labor it was like my body was squeezing the baby out whether or not I wanted it to.) Around this point I yelled at John to call our midwife at the hospital because I knew I wouldn’t be able to use the phone. I don’t know if he had time to make the call, because right around then I could feel the baby nearly crowning and things got intense really fast.
Right around then Kate, our doula, got to our house. It was 2:25 a.m. (I wasn’t paying attention to the time at this point, but later as we were trying to piece together the story she told us that’s when she arrived). As soon as she came in the door she said, “Ok, let’s get you to the hospital.” And I told her I could feel the baby’s head coming out and there was no way I could get in a car, let alone drive to the hospital (even though it was only 5 minutes away). So she very calmly but firmly said, “Ok, Laurie, go get in the bathtub. John, call 911.”
I obeyed and knelt in the tub. I grabbed a towel that was hanging next to the tub and set it underneath me in case the baby fell out. I didn’t want her to get hurt. John called the paramedics. Our friend Carrie showed up soon after I got in the tub, which was beautiful because around then Will started to cry, so she was with him. (The bathroom and his room share a wall, so he could hear everything.) Kate sat next to me and called the midwife at the hospital to have some support on the other end of the phone. I remember her saying, “I don’t do this! I don’t deliver babies!” while also telling me to try to slow my breathing to slow the baby, which I tried but couldn’t really do. At some point during all of this my water broke.
Looking back it feels like such a blur. I remember being so relieved that I was actually in labor and giving birth (because I was so over pregnancy at that point). And also being ecstatic that it was happening at home (see previous post). And also being terrified that it was happening at home. But I think mostly my body just took over and every part of me was just so consumed by the contractions that were just coming on, one after the other.
An ambulance and a fire truck showed up but they went to the wrong house, so John ran outside, showed them where our house was, and then sprinted back inside (I was oblivious to all of this). By the time he came back in I could feel the baby’s head crowning. I held her head with my hands and tried to push back a little to slow her down. John straddled the tub and Kate told him to get ready to catch the baby. And with one contraction my body pushed her out, all at once. John caught her and Kate told him to hand her to me. Kate looked and announced that it was a girl! And so there I was, kneeling in our bathtub, covered in blood, holding my little vernix-covered girl, shaking with pain/elation/adrenaline/shock/etc. It was 2:38 in the morning, just a little over an hour after labor started.
I’m not sure how long it was before the paramedics came inside, maybe two minutes? A female paramedic came into the bathroom and suctioned her out (I think) and clamped her cord. She let John cut it. They wrapped the baby up in one of those crinkly survival blankets that kind of looks like aluminum foil and someone took her for maybe two minutes while I was getting out of the bathtub. (Pictures of the paramedics’ baby delivery kit below. The remnants of it were still in our bathroom when we got home from the hospital, so I took a few pictures.) Someone (or maybe me) grabbed a beach towel from our shelves and wrapped me up from the waist down, and I walked out to a stretcher that was waiting outside the door. At this point I could hear Will inside screaming, “Mommy, Mommy!” and it was one of the hardest things in the world not to run back inside to him. But anyway, they got me in the ambulance and handed Margaret back to me, and we went to the hospital. The paramedics wanted to hook me up to an IV and I managed to decline it. I just lay there (still in shock, and still in quite a bit of pain because I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet). But I was cradling this tiny little person and everything else sort of disappeared.
We got to the hospital, they whisked us through the ER and into one of the L&D rooms where the midwife who would have attended the birth delivered the placenta and then stitched me up. The stitching was by far the worst part of everything. I had a 2nd degree laceration and I don’t know how many stitches she put in, but it seemed to take an hour. But while the midwife was stitching I held little Margaret and John and Kate sat on either side of me and we all started talking about the birth, telling Lisa the details and just laughing about how crazy it all was.
After that, Kate left, and John and I were alone in the room (picture below– the room was BEAUTIFUL) for a long time, just talking and gazing at our little girl and just re-telling our parts of the birth story over and over in complete amazement. We both just couldn’t believe what had just happened. I kept little Margaret on my chest for hours. She had started nursing quite well while I was being stitched, and she kept at it. The two of us watched the pink sunrise outside our window (picture below) and existed in the golden newness and joy of our precious, tiny girl.
And that is the story of how little Margaret entered the world. It was amazing, and essentially my dream come true. The quickness of the birth left me more torn than I probably would have been otherwise, and I was upset about that for a few weeks afterwards, but I’m all healed up now and just thankful beyond measure that she was safe and healthy. And even now, almost 3 months later, I cannot believe that I have a daughter. A little girl. Who is now bright-eyed and smiles at us with these radiant smiles and is just too sweet and darling for words. And on her birth certificate, the location of birth says: home.
(A quick note– I wrote this weeks and weeks ago but have been so reluctant about posting about the birth for some reason. But here we go.)
I should be taking a nap. Or folding laundry. Or vacuuming the floors. Or organizing the 3-drawer dresser that now is supposed to hold clothes and diapers for 2 children. Or cleaning up the table from lunch. Or lots of other things. Mostly, I should be taking a nap.
But I wanted to write out Margaret’s birth story, because it was pretty amazing and I wanted to share it. I’m also hesitant about sharing it because I think we live in a culture of idolatry of birth stories: who had the most natural labor, who birthed at home, who birthed the biggest baby without tearing and was running a half marathon two weeks later, who gave birth in the gentle waters of the Caribbean while swimming with dolphins, etc. So I’m not sharing this to say, “Wow, look how awesome my birth was.” Because it was beautiful, but it was also hard.
Our doula, when we were preparing for Will’s birth, told me that there might be points during labor where I felt like I was dying. And she said, in a way you are dying. Your old self is dying and you are being reborn as a mother. She’s not a Christian (as far as I know), but she said that. And I found that to be so true with Will, and true again with this little one.
And as I have been recovering from this birth with a 2nd degree laceration in a place of the body you really don’t want lacerated, I’ve been thinking about the story of Jacob, and how he wrestled with God and was broken but victorious. How the mysterious man/God “did not prevail against Jacob” but “touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him” (Gen. 32:25). And Jacob clung fiercely to the man/God until he received a blessing. So Jacob walked away in the morning blessed but “limping because of his hip.”
And I think birth is like that. This massive encounter between us and God, in which we fight tooth and nail and are pushed beyond every limit, beyond our capacity for pain, but we hang in there, we keep fighting, and we leave the wrestling match broken and transformed and yet blessed. And I think the three tend to go together, the brokenness, the transformation, and the being blessed.
So I’m sharing this story not as a story of “Look how amazing I am” (because this birth literally just happened to me) but as a story of how I went through a labor and emerged from it broken and stitched up and limping and somehow a mother of a daughter.
So the birth… This story really begins a few years ago, circa 2010, when I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born. I knew then that I wanted a home birth. No hospitals for me, thank you very much. I would be like Ricki Lake! I would be one of those amazing, strong women who pushes babies out in their very own bathtubs! I told John this plan, and he immediately said, “Absolutely not.” Those were his exact words.
But we were awhile away from having kids, so we kind of dropped the whole thing. When we got pregnant with #1 I read all the books about birthing, home birth, natural birth, etc., and was convinced by Ina May that I would NOT be able to give birth in a hospital. After a few conversations (and after personally reading Spiritual Midwifery from cover to cover) John was on board with home birth. To make a long story short, we met with the most amazing midwife, loved her, and then hit the brick wall of our insurance company who said they would not pay anything toward a home birth. So we found a lovely family practice doctor who still delivers babies, and I drove a few towns over for all my appointments with her. And she was amazing.
So I gave birth in a hospital but it was beautiful and I survived and I didn’t get MRSA and life moved on. With the second pregnancy I once again looked into the possibility of a home birth, petitioned our insurance company for one, and they granted it. But we also knew that it might be hard to get them to reimburse us all the money, and for a variety of other reasons (including the fact that the hospital here was renovated this year and each room comes with its own tub, see picture below) we decided to stick with the midwives at the OB practice and give birth in the hospital. It was a really hard decision to make, and I was pretty much torn over it every single day.
I really wanted to give birth in that beautiful tub in the hospital. And spend 2 days recovering without a toddler climbing on top of me. But I mostly really, really wanted to have this baby at home. So I daydreamed of going into labor and giving birth in our bathtub, or on the side of the road on the way to the hospital. Glamorous things like that. I would read stories of precipitous births on random people’s blogs and think wistfully how lucky those women were.
So my due date came and went, and I was getting massively impatient. So impatient that I even bought a bottle of castor oil and was very close to throwing caution to the wind and trying that method. On Friday, 3 days after she was due, I took Will on a walk for about 2 hours, and that night we went to dinner at Ithaca Brewing Co. with some friends and I ate a beautiful amazing hamburger and drank half a beer. Came home and went to bed, preparing for yet another night of feeling like an elephant and dreading another day of pregnant existence. And then…