Happy Father’s Day to Him & so on

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Almost a year ago today you straddled the bathtub next to me and caught our baby girl. The paramedic rushed in and gave you a blade and your cut her cord with your own two hands. I know you didn’t believe I was really in labor until she was literally on her way out, but you did a beautiful job nonetheless.

This has been an exhausting year: potty training the toddler, moving, job stuff. Lots of bath times and cleaning food off of small people’s faces and hands (jam hands!). Lots of laundry and diaper changes and sweeping floors. Car repairs and shoveling snow and taking the trash out, over and over and over.

Thank you for being a hero to all three of us in the midst of the hectic and mundane. For reminding me to slow down and enjoy the little in-between moments. For taking Will on adventures. For inventing beautiful and curious games to play with him. For all the stories you read and music you play. For all your patience and goodness. For planting that little mint yesterday on top of everything else. I can’t believe I get to do this whole crazy life with you. Happy Father’s Day, sweetie.

(And a very happy day to our dads, too. We love you each so much. Thank you for everything.)

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Valentine’s Day & Good poems for Lonely Hearts

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John was out of town for work all of last week. My mom came monday night, just in time for Ithaca to get cold again. The temperature was in the negatives this morning. She brought heart-shaped cookie cutters and we’ve made cookies and heart pancakes and oh lots of things.

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John came back & he and will made this heart garland (above) for me. (Based on this little Valentine’s Day book we’ve checked out from the library to read with Will. Kind of a deep book about how a little mouse makes a huge valentine and wants to find someone to give it to, but it’s too big for anyone else so he and the little girl mouse cut it up into smaller valentine’s to give to lots of people. I mean, that’s really deep for a children’s Valentine’s Day book, right?)

On these cold days we need all the strung up hearts and little honey-spice cookies and treats we can get. My toes refuse to warm up, even in thick wool socks and shearling-lined slippers. I vowed last year that I would never do another winter here, and well, here we are.

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(Above: Will and my mom doing one of many baking projects together; Will eating raw batter. Below: Keeping things classy with orange paper plates.)

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And maybe it’s just me and my enneagram type or my idealism or having read too many Jane Austen and L. M. Montgomery novels at an impressionable age, but even with all these babies and this really, really good man (and the sweetest parents ever and friends far beyond what I ever deserved) my heart still feels so lonely and so sad sometimes. And I wanted to write a whole thing about this, about Simone Weil and Augustine and the void and our hearts being empty and restless and all that, but I just am so exhausted from babies and toddlers not sleeping that I can’t.

But just very briefly. I wanted to say, especially on this particular day, that our hearts are made with this infinite empty space and this space aches so much sometimes. Even when you’re married. Even when you have little darling babies who are latched onto you 24 hours a day.

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And I wish I knew how to make it stop, but pretty much everything from Jesus to Anne Lamott seems to suggest that we just have to sit with the emptiness and let it be a little empty, without trying to stuff it down with all the chocolate in the world, cough, cough. not me, other people, I mean. Other people do that.

But Jesus, annoyingly, showed us that sometimes we have to sit in a garden and cry. Sometimes we have to pray, “God, why have you left me completely forsaken and alone?” And that is a hard prayer to pray. There is nothing fun or easy or cute about that prayer.  But maybe one of the main reasons I believe the Bible to be true is that the longest book in the whole thing is a book of poems.Poems for empty hearts. Poems for the betrayed, poems for the angry, poems for the soul-starved. Ok, so they are poem-prayers. And ok, the first and second ones are a little austere, if you’re starting from the beginning. You can skip around. 3, 4, 13, 16, 18, 22, 23, 27, 30, 31, 32, 40, 42, 46, 56, 62, 63, 69, 73, 84, 90, 91, 121, 130, and 143 are some particularly good ones.

And the beautiful thing about these particular poems is that they don’t leave us in our misery. There is plenty of room for wallowing and languishing and angst in these poems. They say that every single one of our tears is counted. Matters. But these poems carry us through the ache and into the holy, shining radiant love of God. They gently teach us that our own empty heart is not the center of all things but that the beautiful Home of God is the center of all things. And that that dwelling place, that lovely home, is what our hearts long for (Psalm 84).

And the other beautiful thing is that Jesus prayed all of these poems for us. He became the loneliest and most forsaken for us. And there are no depths we feel that he has not felt. And he is just gathering us all up &  oh so soon will mend all the broken hearts & wipe all the tears from the saddest faces and bring us all home. (speaking of which, pleasepleaseplease listen to this song.) Anyway, happy valentine’s day, y’all.

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The New Year and Just About the Best Thing I Ever Did

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Just a quick update. Life is beautiful and crazy. I just started a bullet journal yesterday (using this as a guide) and I love it more than life itself, pretty much.

I don’t have much in the way of New Year’s resolutions, but I do want to cook my way slowly and haphazardly through Jerusalem, a cookbook I’ve heard about over and over the past couple of years and then finally cooked no fewer than 6 recipes out of with my mother in law one afternoon over Christmas. The dinner we made was epic and insanely delicious as of course anything with that much garlic and cilantro and lemon juice and za’atar would be. It was exhausting, but glorious.

Which, by the way, pretty much sums up my entire year. Exhausting but (or maybe I should say and) glorious. A toddler, being pregnant, being a chaplain, living through last winter in Ithaca, giving birth in a bathtub in complete terror and ecstasy, and now two babies, another winter, and potty training the toddler. Heights of glory and depths of, well, something.

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I also want to listen to more music this year and read more novels. So those are my resolutions or hopes or intentions or whatever.

Next on the agenda. So obviously the best thing I ever did was to marry the most amazing man in the world. And then the next best few things I ever did were: go to Davidson College, birth two babies without pain medication, and sing in a gospel choir when I was in grad school. But maybe the next best thing I ever did is this:

Right before Christmas I had John take Safari off my iphone. I don’t have a facebook app, instragram app, or any other social media apps on there. I also have disabled the email on my phone. So now I can: text, make calls, take pictures, and use a map. Oh, and listen to podcasts. That’s all. At first I kept looking frantically for the safari icon, desperately wanting to check email or Facebook or read something to make me feel good. But now!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Y’all, I don’t even have words for how awesome this is. Now I have to use the actual computer if I want to check my email or facebook, so it happens maybe 3 times a day instead of 500.

Maybe you are not like me and you have self control and you don’t get sucked into all that crazy not-real stuff, but anyway, I just wanted to share. I am un-tethering myself from that blasted thing & just feeling better and happier and more present than I have in awhile. I know that’s not the answer for everyone, and I’m not trying to be all, “Look how awesome I am.” But it just feels good not to have access to those empty sink holes any more.

Anyway, now i must return to my bullet journal and some trashy tv! Love & joy to everyone and hope your 2016 is going beautifully so far!

Babies. And Christmas.

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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.)

The Story of Her Birth, Part 2

For the first part of this story, read here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

37 Weeks and the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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37 weeks.  Massive nesting continues.  I have literally crossed off a list of about 20 project-y type things that have been lingering on my to-do list for months.  And gotten rid of 2 more bags of books, several more bags of clothes, and several more bags of things for Goodwill.  I’m emphasizing the word “more” because I already got rid of so much stuff a few weeks ago, so the fact that there was more of everything to go feels really satisfying. This second wave of purging was inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Amazing, lovely, wonderful little book. I highly recommend it.  I found that there seemed to be a symbiotic relationship, somehow, between getting rid of physical objects and also having the energy to accomplish onerous, project-y tasks that have seemed impossible until now.  Or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s not -15 degrees every day.  Or that I’m not working now.  At any rate, I have been super productive and our house is free of junk and the book is lovely and I highly recommend it– we have more open, free, clean spaces in our tiny apartment now than we did 4 years ago in the same space with no children. (Oh, and most of this second wave of cleaning stuff out was made possible by the most AMAZING HUSBAND IN THE WORLD, who single handedly put together a massive IKEA dresser, cleaned out a bunch of his own personal stuff, hung pictures for me, and basically did hours and hours of cleaning/organizing/etc. with/for me last week.)

So, pregnancy stuff:

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Weight gain: 25 pounds

Cravings: Just ice, but it has to have sort of a crinkly texture, and I can only find the right kind in a few locations in town.  And weirdly, chamomile tea with a splash of half and half. And this kale salad. I literally can eat an entire bunch of kale in one sitting if it’s made this way.  I’ve been making it with just salt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, a very scant number of raisins, and lots of crushed red pepper flakes. A foodie friend of mine brought the most amazing kale salad to a potluck awhile back, and she said the secret to kale salads is to massage the greens for awhile once you have them chopped.  Maybe everyone already knows that, but it was a revelation to me, and it makes the salad much easier to eat!

Other stuff: John has been gone all week, so it’s just been my huge pregnant self and the crazy toddler.  I may or may not have curled up in the fetal position for about an hour and  a half this morning while Will watched Daniel Tiger. But otherwise we’ve been making it ok.  The worst pregnancy thing right now is that I’ve been sleeping pretty badly, waking up around 3 or 4 and just being wide awake for hours, sometimes all the way until morning. I drink chamomile tea, use lavender essential oil, take calming baths before bed, have calming bedtime rituals and everything.  Nothing seems to work. Otherwise, I’m doing pretty well.  At least being up at night with a baby won’t be a shock to the system?!

And some pictures of random things: a tiny, rose pink shirt I found at the consignment store and fell in love with, in case it’s a girl; peonies finally in bloom; and a Matisse print from IKEA!  (We went there when we were in Maryland two weekends ago to buy a dresser for John, and I also finally got this!)

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Pumpkin Picking & the Farm

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John, Will, and I went pumpkin picking at Indian Creek farm this afternoon.  We went right before dinner, and Will must have been starving because he kept trying to eat everything from the pumpkins to acorns and unripe tomatoes. It was adorable. Anyway, it was a perfect October day, we bought some unpasteurized apple-pear cider, and even though almost all the pictures involve Will putting vegetables in his mouth I still think they’re precious. DSC_1140 DSC_1170 DSC_1174 DSC_1179 DSC_1182 DSC_1185 DSC_1190 DSC_1213 DSC_1217 DSC_1218 DSC_1219 DSC_1220 DSC_1226 DSC_1230 DSC_1231