Friday, December 13, 2013

The good, the bad, the ugly side of being a new mom

I feel like I've unintentionally become an attachment parent. I don't subscribe to any parenting philosophy or style, because each family and each baby is different. What works for one kid might not work for the next, or won't work for your friend and her baby. I grew up hearing my parents talk about how different my siblings and I are, and how they had to do everything (like disciplining us) differently for each kid. Sending one of my brothers to his room as punishment worked; sending another brother did nothing because he'd just quietly play with his toys, no sense of punishment. As an observer of human nature, it seems obvious to me that I should become a different parent based on my child's needs, not on what some book says, no matter how well researched. So when people get so up in arms about their parenting style being "the best", I find it more than a little ridiculous. Just yesterday I was hanging out with a friend, who currently has a 2-year-old and an infant just a few weeks older than mine. I was bemoaning the fact that I can't ever seem to put Baby down because she either wakes up and starts screaming or, if awake when I put her down, starts crying within five minutes. Oh, there have been exceptions. We've gotten her to sleep in her cradle about four times for a couple of hours each, but only if she was really, really deeply asleep when placed in there. Usually I know I have just a couple of minutes to go to the bathroom and pee. If I'm really lucky, I can do something like put in/take out my contacts or brush my teeth before the screaming starts. I haven't written anything in almost a month because the few minutes I have free are inevitably spent doing laundry (diapers need to be done every couple of days), or doing the dishes, or taking a freaking shower in the ten minutes before she wakes up and needs to be fed yet again. I'm currently typing this courtesy of the Moby, so Baby can sleep and I have hands free. (Laundry is going to be started as soon as I'm done writing.)
So I was telling all of this to my friend and she nodded in sympathy. Her son, the infant, is the same way. Apparently their daughter slept in the crib like a champ right from the start, but their son needs to be held to sleep. So currently, we're both bed-sharing with our infants. I'm torn. Part of me panics about the (slightly) increased SIDS risk. I check and double-check that she's got enough space to breathe, that none of the blankets can fall or get kicked onto her face, and Shane does the same. (I've woken up a few times to find him bending over us in the eerie glow of the nightlight as he checks on us.) I wake up every time the dog shifts, although she's been very good about the baby. Better than expected, actually. She's anxious, of course, but very gentle with Baby. I've had to worry more about her stepping on my incision as she climbs across the bed to snuggle with Shane. Usually, that's how we sleep. Shane and the dog cuddled together, me with the baby. And really, if this is what we have to do to ensure that we all get to sleep, then so be it. I have to say, I'm sleeping much better now than I was for the first few nights, when I tried to get her to sleep in the cradle. Not that it worked. I'd put her down, start sliding into bed, and she'd wake up. I slept more in a chair in the living room than I did in my own bed for most of the first week. When I did manage to get her to sleep in the cradle I still panicked about SIDS, only I'd have to actually get out of bed to check on her. I woke up every time she shifted, and at every little noise she made. Now it's easy enough to put a hand on her little tummy and determine that, yes, she's still breathing, or that she's just fussing in her sleep and will go back to sleep, or that she's waking up to be fed. When she needs to be fed, I grab an extra pillow I keep by the bed, prop myself up a bit, and feed her right there. It's not exactly restful, but it's much better than getting out of bed every time I need to nurse her.
And that's another thing I didn't expect to have problems with: breastfeeding. I remind myself all the time that of course it has taken a while for my milk production to ramp up. After everything I went through with labor and delivery, of course my body has needed time to heal itself before providing for another as well. I'm finally feeling like my milk supply is almost adequate for our needs, though. Almost. We're still supplementing a little bit of formula, but not nearly as much as we were. And a little bit of it is because Shane's leery of using the small amount of breast milk I've managed to pump. Baby hasn't gotten the hang of using a bottle yet, which flows too fast and she ends up choking a bit or spitting out whatever's in her mouth. So for the supplementation the public health nurses gave us a feeding tube. I can snake it into the side of her mouth when she's breastfeeding, and get the stimulation that my body needs to signal "hey, produce more milk!" Shane uses it with the pacifier, snaking it through a hole in the side and into her mouth. (No, there've been no problems with "nipple confusion".) But, you have to prime it by sucking a bit into the tube before getting it into her mouth. Generally whoever is doing this gets a drop or two of formula in their mouth (tastes horrible, by the way) and the idea of doing the same thing with breastmilk just grosses Shane out. He's even laughed at me when I pump, because it does look a little weird. "I'm sorry, it's just odd to see my wife...milking herself."
This doesn't really make me sound like an attachment parent, does it? I had an epidural, rather than suffering through the pain after about 20 hours of labor, a C-section, and worst of all I supplement with formula. Go ahead and gasp, judge me even. Do it. The attachment parenting that I referred to is the fact that I hold my baby for roughly 80% of the day. The rest of the time, Shane's holding her. We're working on putting her down more often, but she's not a fan. I got her to lie on the floor next to me for a few minutes while I tried to do some quick exercises to help my abdomen.
I really, really didn't expect breastfeeding to be so hard. I'd read up on it and so much of what you read follows the "it's natural, therefore it's easy!" line of reasoning. And I'm sure that for a lot of mothers and babies, it is. If baby starts with a good latch and Mom's milk supply comes in on time, piece of cake! My milk took almost a week to come in, and even then it was a slow start. I thought I knew what to look for in a good latch, but apparently I didn't so we had to deal with that. Once I got help for it it took Baby less than a day to learn how to properly latch, but until then it was incredibly painful to feed her. I had big sores on each nipple where they were bruised and even, at times, bloody. It cleared up within a couple of days of getting a good latch, but it was not fun to deal with.
The fact that my milk is just barely or not quite keeping up with Baby's needs is frustrating to me. A little bit of the supplementation at this point is simply because Shane wants to give me time to sleep. I go to bed early and he takes over baby duty, then when he's ready for bed he wakes me up and hands her off. The rest of the night is spent nursing and co-sleeping. However, I did get a pump a couple of days ago so we should be tapering off the need for formula soon and I can still get the sleep I need. We just need to teach her to eat from a bottle as well now, too. Currently, she's a bit too greedy and almost chokes herself unless we pull it away every couple of sucks.
It has been incredibly helpful to read online about other women's less-than-perfect breastfeeding experiences. I'm not alone! I'm not the only one who broke down into tears doing what's supposedly "natural and easy"! It also shows me how lucky I am in how supportive the people around me are. When I was feeling the lowest, that first week, when I'd cry nearly every time I had to feed her, my mom was here to hug me and tell me that I'm not a failure. I don't know what I would have done without her. I also have the amazing public health lactation nurses, who were amazingly helpful and understanding and who visited my house so that I didn't have to take Baby out in the cold. I might have given up without them showing us the right way to latch and what's normal. Last, I have another breastfeeding mom to hang out with, commiserate with, and laugh with. Every new mom should be that lucky.
What's not helpful? The breastfeeding propaganda, and the number of people who get so high and mighty about breastfeeding. I came across one story (I won't bother linking to it because I'm still pissed) in which a woman basically said that supplementing is a sham and that no mom truly needs to do it. She fought the system, everyone else should too! Good for you lady, and screw you. I couldn't watch my baby lose any more weight, and supplementing was the least bad option. I still hate formula, but it's better than starving my child.
This time of year has never been so tough on me, but without my routine I have more time to focus on how dark it is. When I wake up, I have no idea what time it is, except that if it's starting to get light then it's sometime after 9:00. With my crazy sleep schedule, and with the complete lack of any routine at this point, I sometimes feel a bit disassociated with reality. Not in a dangerous PPD type of way, I just feel a little odd sometimes because I don't know what day it is or what time it is. I'm still taking one medication (an iron supplement to help regenerate all of the blood I lost) and I have a hard time remembering each day if I took it three times, or only twice? Was that today or yesterday that I last took one? I should write it down, but finding the time and energy to do so hasn't been high on my list of things to do. Hell, I'm lucky if I get a chance to heat up leftovers to eat while breastfeeding Baby. I think that my most impressive feat as a new mom was to make dinner while breastfeeding the other night. I'd laid her down and, amazingly, got enough time to chop all the veggies before she started screaming for food. So it was more a matter of putting it all together, but still. Wandering around my kitchen with Baby in one arm, latched onto my boob, and dumping veggies into the pan with the other and then stirring, adding spices, etc. Yeah. I felt like a badass.
So that's the bad and the ugly. The good part of being a new mom? Do I even need to say? Sometimes I get irritated that I have to spend basically my entire day holding Baby, but at the same time I know that this stage is very fleeting. Babies develop so much in the first year that she'll be almost a different creature by this time next year. So I'm trying to enjoy it, and it's really not that hard. She's wonderful, and beautiful, and I am such a lucky mom.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The birth story

Ah, the best laid plans. Where to start with this all? I mentioned before that I was scheduled for an induction last Saturday. Unfortunately after I called the hospital that day, but before we got there, one woman needed an emergency C-section and they had someone else walk in in active labor. So I shot to the bottom of the priority list. We were admitted for all of five minutes before they sent us home, saying that they'd call us later. On the way home, frustrated, I told Shane that I couldn't even be mad because "an emergency C-section must suck so much." So we waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. I called them several times and was always told that it would be just a little bit longer. Finally, around 8:00 that night, Shane got fed up and took over the phone call. He demanded to talk to someone else, and it turned out that they'd pretty much cancelled us for the day as soon as they couldn't fit us in by noon. That would have been nice to know, right? I guess the receptionists and the nurses didn't think it was worth talking about to each other.
So we spent an anxious night, determined to wake up much earlier the next day and get to the hospital as early as possible. Neither of us slept very much, although I think I'm the winner with about 5 hours. Shane thinks he only got about 3. But we woke up, called the hospital, and rushed over there as quickly as possible. Good thing, too, since right after we showed up, so did another woman who was actually in labor. ("3rd baby, though, so she's already at 7 centimeters and we should be able to start your induction very soon.") They might have pushed us off again if we'd waited.
By about 10 a.m., we had started the medicine to "ripen" my cervix. That worked, getting my labor started all by itself, and by around 11:30 I was feeling labor pains. I never thought I'd be so happy to be in pain, or that I'd ever welcome it so much, but I did.
I was hoping that the interventions could stop there, but while I was having labor pains, it was slow going. Late in the afternoon, after consulting with the doctor, she inserted a bulb catheter to get my cervix to dilate more. That worked really well and really fast, too, getting me to a little over 5 centimeters in under 2 hours, whereas I'd gone in being a little over 2 centimeters dilated, and it had taken me most of the day to get to 3 centimeters. So, progress! At that point, although I'd been laboring all day, I was officially in labor.
The night wore on and my labor got a lot slower again. My water broke--or rather, my first water. I guess some women can have more than one bag of amniotic fluid and I was one of them. Who knew? The first one broke all on its own, and unlike the movies where there's just one quick gush of fluid, after that point I felt like I was just leaking over and over. Seriously, I kept checking to see if I'd accidentally peed myself. I also didn't expect all of the blood. I knew about the "bloody show" (pregnancy has the most disturbing names for things), but everything I'd read made it seem like a one and done sort of thing, rather than, "You'll probably be bleeding for most of your labor." And, leaking amniotic fluid.
The nurses had told me to expect my labor pains to get worse after my water broke, but I didn't expect the sudden onset of severe back labor. Baby was still positioned just a bit wrong, so instead of the painful but bearable normal contractions, they were shooting up and down my back horribly. I'd read up on all of this, of course, hoping to avoid an epidural if at all possible. None of the positions I tried helped, though, and I asked to get in the tub they have, which I'd been told would help. It did, some. But not enough. This was also around 5 in the morning. I was exhausted, sobbing with each contraction and dozing in between. Shane was so tired that he fell asleep on the floor next to the tub, holding my hand. We'd been awake for about 24 hours, I'd been in labor for most of that, and we were worn out.
Around 7, I threw in the towel. I'd been counting the minutes, telling myself that the passage of time meant that I was closer to actually having my baby. Progress, right? No. I was so tense and tired that I still wasn't progressing much, even though they'd begun giving me pitocin. I figured that the best thing I could do for all of us was to have the epidural and let us all relax some. It was a good decision, although it took forever. I sent Shane to ask about an epidural pretty much right at 7 but the anesthesiologists didn't come to see me until 8:30. I don't blame them, I think someone mentioned that they'd been in a surgery. (In my haze of pain and exhaustion, I'm not entirely sure what anyone said then.)
Say what you will, but it seems that getting the epidural was a good decision. Shane and I both got to fall asleep. I could still vaguely feel my contractions, enough to know that things were happening, but I wasn't in the excruciating pain I had been before. And I did relax, enough to let my body do what it needed to. By the time the doctor came to check me again at 11:00 I'd gone from just barely 6 centimeters to a little over 8, almost there! (You're supposed to be at 10 cm before pushing.) She broke my second bag of water, too, and told me that it was going well. I honestly think that just being able to relax and rest made all the difference, since that was the fastest part of labor for me. Shane was still napping, but I was too excited to rest anymore. As I said, I could feel the contractions vaguely so I kept track of them and was daydreaming about getting to finally hold my baby.
At 11:30, I looked at the baby's heartbeat monitor and saw that it was incredibly low. Normally a baby's heartbeat is over 130, and according to the monitor hers was around 75. Then it dropped lower still. I know I saw it drop into the 40s at one point, before heading back up. But still not enough. I watched for maybe, maybe, 30 seconds, telling myself that the monitor was hooked up to their computers and that the nurses were watching. However, just about the time I thought that I should call someone just to check, 3 nurses burst into the room. One of them was shouting over her shoulder to call my doctor. They got me to roll over on my hands and knees, put oxygen over my mouth, and did I don't even know what. Poor Shane had still been sleeping when all of this started, and I didn't get a chance to explain anything because of the oxygen mask. Since the nurses were tossing around terms like "emergency", he didn't want to stop any of them to ask what was going on. He rushed over and grabbed my hand but I didn't know until later that he was clueless as to what the problem was.
The doctor came in and said she was going to try a couple of things real quick. I was so focused inward, whispering to Baby to hang on in there, trying not to freak out. According to Shane, the doctor did about one thing, then stripped off her gloves and said, "Prep the OR, we need to go now."
It was the scariest moment in our lives, and Shane couldn't follow me. He held my hand as they wheeled me into the hallway, but passing through one set of doors I heard them explaining that he couldn't go there unless he was scrubbed in and there just wasn't time. I wish I could erase from my mind the look on his face. "Devastation" doesn't really seem to cover it. He said later that he was watching his entire world be wheeled into emergency surgery, and he still didn't even know why.
It was maybe 10-15 minutes, total, from the time Baby was first in distress until I was knocked out by general anesthesia for the C-section. That is an eternity in which to wonder if you will, instead of experiencing one of the best moments of your life, be going home baby-less instead. Poor Shane was pacing around for about 20 minutes before a nurse brought Baby out. He got to be there as they cleaned her up, weighed her, all that good stuff. As soon as they'd brought her out the nurse told him that he had a healthy baby girl. Shane asked, "And the mother?" The guy shrugged and said, "Her heart's beating." He was a pediatric nurse, not a labor and delivery nurse, so he might not have known any more than that since he was just there for Baby. But poor Shane was left an anxious mess, wondering if something was wrong and the nurse didn't want to tell him, or if I was just fine. So not only did he have the initial fear of going home without a baby, but once that fear was taken care of it was replaced by the fear that he might be wifeless.
After getting knocked out for surgery, the next thing I knew I was being woken up with Shane at my bedside, holding our baby girl. He handed her to me and told me her stats as I got to look her over for the first time. I know everyone says this, or thinks it, but I really do have the most beautiful baby in the world. She's got a full head of dark hair the same color as her daddy's, dark blue/gray eyes (as Buttercup says in 'The Princess Bride', "Eyes like the sea after a storm"), and chubby cheeks. Perfection. Looking down at her little face as I cradle her has become my new favorite sight in the entire world. A close second is seeing her snuggled in her dad's arms. We're so enraptured by this tiny person we made.
I wish my saga of birth ended there, that everything was fine. But I had apparently lost a lot of blood during the surgery. They didn't tell me this the first night, which is fine since I was still so out of it that I probably wouldn't have understood anyway. They did make me get up and out of bed, just for as long as I could, and that is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It hurt so bad that I almost started crying, thinking that it would take me months to recover from this surgery. I got dizzy and light-headed from being upright, so I just stood there for a few seconds before they made me lie back down.
They tested my blood and basically I had, based on some points scale that I didn't inquire about too much, about half as many points as I should have. (A healthy, non-pregnant person should be up around 13, I was at 5.something.) So I got two pints of blood, I'm taking an iron supplement, and I'll still be low on blood for the next 3-6 months. They warned me that I would tire more easily, and I can actually tell that I do. Oh, I'm sure some of it is new parent sleep deprivation. But so far, between my mom and my husband they've been helping me to get at least 6-7 hours each day, generally more toward the 7 end of things. It helps, too, that Baby B is such an easy-going little girl. She doesn't fuss much, and usually when she does it's for a good reason: her diaper seriously needs changing or she's hungry.
And speaking of hunger, adding to my first week of motherhood's woes, we've had some lactation issues. I thought I knew what a deep latch should look like, but it turns out that I didn't and not only was Baby not being fed effectively, but I got sores on my nipples. Yes, ouch. Then, most likely due to all the physical trauma I'd been through, my milk didn't come in until nearly a full week after she was born. I felt like such a failure. Unable to give birth properly, unable to feed my child, I spent a couple of attempted feedings sobbing my heart out. Thank God for my mom, who was there to tell me that I'm not a failure, that I'm a good mom, and to hug me. I'm also grateful for the public health system we have here, where they have lactation nurses to help new moms. Even better, they'll actually come out to your house rather than making you drive a baby out into the cold to see them. (I just knew we'd be bringing Baby home on the coldest day of the year so far--I think it was about -30.) I did go there once, after our first pediatric appointment. Baby had lost a bit more weight than they want to see, so the doctor gave me some supplemental formula and the nurse showed me how to use it. It's pretty cool, she gave us a small bottle and a feeding tube. So when Baby latches on I can snake the tube into the side of her mouth and she's both nursing and getting the formula. It's not ideal--ideal would be if my milk had come in after a day or two like it should have. But keeping my baby healthy and happy is the most important thing, and this helped. Now that my milk has actually come in, I'm weaning both of us off the formula. In the last day she's gotten only about half an ounce, just to be sure. The measure of "is my baby getting enough to eat?" is through their diapers, and she's still not peeing as much as she should so thus the small amount of supplementation. I think it will take a bit more time before my milk supply is fully up to the task of feeding her. However, I'm doing what I should by both eating and drinking lots. In fact, I feel like a hobbit, eating at least three meals and three large "snacks" each day. (When your snack is the same size as your other meals, can it still be called a snack?)
As annoying, harrowing, and disappointing as much of this has been, I'm so happy. I have the most beautiful baby, a sweet little girl who makes me deliriously joyful. Just as good, seeing my husband as a devoted new father makes me melt. So the process of becoming a mother wasn't what I planned or expected. So what? The outcome is what's important.
I am ridiculously in love with my baby.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Due date

I finished work on Friday, which was both a wonderful and a very odd feeling. Wrapping up some of my projects before going, and making sure that everyone else in the office knew about things I was doing so that I didn't end up being the only one knowing what was supposed to happen or what was going on, felt strange. I know I'll be back, but I'm not even allowed to check my work email so I'm essentially cut off until I get back. (It's not technically allowed, but my coworker and I will text and communicate so that I don't come back totally not knowing what's going on.) The thing that I'm most proud of myself for, though? The fact that I walked to and from work the whole nine months. It didn't even feel all that impressive to me, but everyone else seems to be blown away by it. Even Shane said he was proud of me for keeping up with the walking. He knew that I wouldn't drive, but walking halfway and then taking a shuttle bus up the rest of the hill was an option, just not one I ever really considered. The 'trick', as I see it, is that I never told myself I couldn't do this. So it didn't seem like an unusual feat, or anything extraordinary, but just what I do. After all, we're not too far removed from the days when a pregnant woman would have had to move with her tribe and keep up. I am no delicate flower, I'm a capable woman who just happens to be pregnant.
Despite the fact that yesterday was only an estimated due date, everyone around me was on high alert. I got several "happy due date!" messages, and every time I've called someone for the past week or so I've started with something along the lines of, "Don't get excited, I'm not in labor." I even sent a text to one of my brothers just to say there was no news. (He thanked me, since his wife had apparently been scouring Facebook to see if I'd posted something about being in labor.) I even got one, "When is she going to pop out?? She sure does like staying in there!" And when I went to the doctor's yesterday morning the nurse said, "So, you're overdue? ...Oh, no, it's your due date, that's right." Um, wow people. Just wow. Since when did making it to your due date become "overdue"? (The doctor herself said, "Don't worry about going past today, that's perfectly normal.")
It honestly sort of feels like I'm the person who's put the least amount of awkward pressure on my due date. I know that it's an estimation, and only around 5% of babies are actually born on their due dates, which leaves the rest to scatter before and after. It would be so, so nice if they could, in fact, pinpoint one date and say, "Yes, your baby will be born on X date." But it doesn't work like that, and I know it.
What I half expected, and dreaded, was that I would end up like my mother and not actually go into labor. So far, that appears to be what's happening. Baby hasn't dropped, I haven't really effaced, and I'm not really dilated. 1 cm, which is basically nothing, especially since I haven't effaced, and I've been this way for about three weeks. It was so frustrating to go to the doctor's yesterday and hear that there'd been no change. Until then I could tell myself that at least all the achiness and pain and cramping I've been experiencing was doing something, it was getting my body ready for labor. Nope. I'm all kinds of hurting for no progress. Wouldn't you be just a bit insulted by that?
Technically speaking, this lack of progress doesn't mean very much as I could still go into labor at any minute, but my body just doesn't show signs of doing what it's supposed to. So, I've scheduled an induction for this weekend. And I'm really of two minds about it. On the one hand, yay! There's a definite end point, a time when I really will get to hold my baby! On the other hand, I was really, really hoping that I would just go into labor naturally. But it's seeming less and less likely that that will happen. So, an induction. It's the least invasive thing they can do, first a medicine to "ripen" my cervix, which could start labor all by itself, and then pitocin if I need it.
If nothing happens before Saturday, that is. I still have a little hope. I've been talking to Baby Girl and telling her that she'd really be doing her parents a solid favor if she could make an appearance soon. And yes, I've been walking a lot. And cleaning, and doing yoga, and just generally moving around. It hasn't helped.
I could have put off the induction until sometime next week. But I talked it over with Shane, and honestly it interrupts his schoolwork less to do it over a weekend, especially since the doctor warned that even starting it on Saturday could mean that it spills over into Sunday. Yes, we're those silly people who are trying to fit in a baby's birth to our schedule. But if we have to schedule it anyway, it might as well work for us. And his schoolwork will need to get done at some point, so why not interrupt it as little as possible from the start?
I'm sure there are natural birth advocates out there who would shake their heads and fists at what I'm doing. They'd tell me to go as late as possible before letting the doctors do any sort of intervention. (Or, even better, they'd tell me that it's not possible for a woman to not go into labor on her own. Uh, yeah. Tell that to my mom, whose oldest baby was over a month late, and who ended up having four C-sections. Just try it, see how well that goes over.) I do realize that being induced puts me at a slightly increased risk of needing a cesarean. However, the earlier they induce the less risk there is. So by doing the induction this weekend, rather than waiting one more, I was making a bet that this induction will lead to less needed intervention overall. We'll see how that works out.

I had to order more prenatal vitamins, since I'm planning to breastfeed and according to my doc it's actually arguably more important to take a vitamin while breastfeeding than while pregnant. (Except, of course, for the all-important folic acid in the very start of pregnancy.) I took a survey for someone's research at the U and got a $10 Amazon gift card, which I knew I'd be using for more vitamins. I love the logic of shipping to Alaska. When I went through most of the checkout process for just the vitamins, my order total was over $23, even with the gift card. They were going to charge me, at minimum, $10.55 for shipping. (Unless I tried Amazon Prime, but I don't feel that I order enough from them to justify that.) So, I looked around for something I wanted to get for one of my brothers for Christmas. When all was said and done, adding a nearly $20 item to my total actually only added about $6 ($29 rather than $23) because I was able to then get free shipping. The logic of shipping to Alaska.
At least I didn't get all the way through ordering only to then get the message, "We're sorry, we can't ship this item outside of the continental U.S." That's a fun one, and I love that they leave it for the very end of the process.

It is my second day as a hausfrau and I'm already worried that I'll run out of things to do. I mean, I don't do "sitting around waiting" very well. So even with my appointment yesterday I managed to go grocery shopping, take the dog for a walk to deliver Shane's thermos to him on campus, I re-potted a plant, thoroughly cleaned the kitchen, made bread, called my mom, cleaned the toilet, did four loads of laundry, and that was all just before Shane got home at 7. After he got home, the one thing we did (other than making dinner and, you know, relaxing) was move the baby's cradle into the closet finally. It fits even better than we thought it would! We can close the curtains and Shane joked, "It'll be like we don't even have a baby at all! We can totally ignore her." I laughed. It might sound like a terrible joke but, well, we're quite certain that any baby of ours won't let herself be ignored, ever. Besides, she's already being stubborn just about being born! When I put it that way Shane said, "That's my girl!"
On today's to-do list: tackle all floors (sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming), clean the bathroom, organize some of the baby stuff a bit more, dust, clean some of the window screens, clean off/out the stove, finish the laundry, take the dog for another walk, do yoga, finish sewing that nightgown I was making. And if I manage to get all of this done today, I'll be going crazy tomorrow because I'll have nothing left to do. Except maybe to clean off my desk....

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shopping in my house and more sewing projects

All of the activities before which I thought were "nesting"? Yeah, that's been nothing compared to the overwhelming need to get things done and cleaned and ready which seized me at the end of this week. In part, I think, it's because I finally finished the book series I was reading. I wanted to get that done before Baby's arrival because, while I love the books, they wouldn't have been fun to read out loud. And I plan to do a lot of reading aloud to her. Such a list of good books to read aloud that I've got in my head! It starts with "Pride and Prejudice". (I figure we'll get into board books a little later on, when she's more active than a potato.)
It is, of course, starting to get dark around here. The piss-poor way this house was set up, with the biggest windows on the North side, doesn't help. Even during the weekends, in the daylight, I would find myself wanting a bit more light to read by. But I didn't want to turn on the power-sucking, huge overhead lights.
(I hate these lights.) I've been thinking for a few weeks that we really should get a lamp for the living room so that we don't have to depend on those horrible overhead lights. I thought that I'd look at Value Village the next time we went (which we'll need to do for our Halloween costumes) and then realized that there was a perfectly good lamp in our bedroom which we almost never use. It's small, and it's one of those ones with a clamp to hold it onto something. It's been clamped to Shane's desk everywhere he's lived since before I met him. I pulled it off, then looked in it and realized that most of the reason it gets used so rarely is because it's got a blacklight in it. So I went searching in one of the hall closets for our CFL lightbulbs and what did I find? A different clampy lamp. One that looks a bit nicer and is a little larger, far more suited to the living room and my needs out there. I didn't even know we had this lamp, and how bad is that?
Needless to say, I put the other lamp back and used the one I'd found in the hall closet instead. Now I have a decent-looking and comfortable place to read. If I need to put my feet up, I use the exercise ball. Frequently, the cat jumps into my lap and enjoys the quiet reading time with me.
My horror at not even realizing we had this lamp lead me to clean out that closet a bit more. I realized that in the past I've looked through the upper cabinets but there are lower cabinets which I've mostly left alone, thinking that I knew what was in them. Clearly I do not. And it turned out to be a bit of a gold mine, mostly in terms of things that we can get rid of. Some holiday decorations which were given to us, and which we've never actually used, filled up half a bag.
What really surprised me, though, was a thing whose origins I don't know, and I can't even guess at what it once was. It was a big white sheet of waterproof material, torn in several places, and with definite corners and a long zipper. ???? It's about the size of a full-size sheet, but I don't know what it is. I suspect it's something from our old roommate, and I'm probably the one who kept it thinking that it would be useful "someday". That day has come. :) I've been needing some waterproof material for some of the baby projects I wanted to get done, and this saves me from buying it. What a fortuitous find! Sometimes, my packrat tendencies do pay off.
Through one thing and another, I ended up having an entire free Friday because I didn't have to work. Shane has class on Thursday nights until 9:00, so I had an entire evening to myself, with nothing planned. I spent half an hour trying to read but my mind kept wandering to the projects I wanted to get done. I'd planned to do them the next day, on my day off, then realized that it was silly to push them off for no good reason. On went "Ghostbusters", out came the serger and all of my materials: two old sheets, the waterproof material, two pillowcases, and a cloth drawstring bag which I found in the closet with all of the sheets and realized was perfect for re-use. It used to hold a set of sheets, but no more.
If you're wondering where I got all of these old sheets and useless pillowcases and such (perfectly reasonable), wonder no longer. Some were left by our old roommate, and some were given to us by my in-laws, and due to their age the fitted sheet has since died. (By that I mean, Shane managed to put giant holes in them.) The top sheets were still just fine, though, because Shane hates them so they end up getting pushed to the foot of the bed, crumpled rather than torn. The pillowcases...well, some of those were given to us, and some we found in the couch after we got it. I have no idea what they were doing in there, but whatever. They've come in handy. Since the fabric for all of these thigns was still good, and I always have grand plans for projects I want to do, I saved them. It wasn't until I got the serger last Thanksgiving, however, that I really had the means with which to do anything. So now, out they all came to finally become useful rather than simply taking up space.
The first thing I wanted to do was to make some wetbags for holding dirty diapers. Because of the dog, we need to keep these off the floor, in some sort of container that will both cut down on smell and be hard for the dog to get into if she does get ahold of it. The pillowcases and the waterproof material were what I used. Cutting the material was by far the hardest part, both because the only space I have to use is the floor, and because my little "helper" kept swiping at my hands when I tried to cut the waterproof material. (His fort.)
So be kind when you see the finished projects. I'm still a very novice sewer, and I didn't have the best working conditions. Also, I used black thread on everything, no matter the color, because the serger is such a pain in the ass to change thread that I didn't even bother. I don't think any of it looks bad, though, so if you do you can keep your mouth shut. Overall, what matters the most to me is simply that I got these things done.

For the wetbags, I cut out waterproof material in the size and shape of the pillowcases, then sewed three edges so that they became, essentially, waterproof pillowcases. Then came the hard part, sewing the waterproof material into the pillowcases. The first one I did looks worse by far, but really only from the inside.
There's a bit of puckering because the waterproof material wasn't quite as wide as the pillowcase. (Thanks cat.) But since this is to hold dirty diapers, who cares? When I was out and about on Friday, I stopped at the craft store to buy a couple of zippers and sewed those into the tops of the wetbags.
I now have two wetbags which can be thrown into the washing machine along with the dirty diapers. Woo! The only thing I have left to do is to figure out how I want to keep them off the floor. I'm thinking I should do something to hang them in the closet, but I'm not certain what the best way to accomplish that is yet. I'll figure something out, and most likely I'll find whatever I need for that project around the house. :)
Remember the small drawstring bag I mentioned? That got made into a small wetbag as well, for in the diaper bag whenever we go out and about. By the time I did it, I was getting much better about sewing in the round. So it actually turned out quite well. From the outside you can't even tell that it's anything other than a small-ish drawstring jersey bag.

I've been wanting to make some curtains for our closet, since that will be Baby's "room" for the first few months. Just something light so that we don't have to worry as much about turning a light on in the bedroom when she's sleeping, but which also won't really be much of a barrier so that sound and air will travel freely. I knew exactly what sheet I wanted to use for this project, too. An old white topsheet was perfect. Basically all I had to do was cut it up the middle, serge the sides and bottom (both sides so that they would match, and the bottom because it was way too long) and then flipped the top down to make a tube through which to slide the curtain rod. (Also bought at the craft store--I spent a grand total of $16, and I got a set of pins as well.) I hung them up using sticky hooks, so they won't damage anything in our apartment. Overall, I'd say it looks pretty nice.

My final, and most ambitious project, was to make a nightgown for myself. Shane thinks it's silly, but I wanted something in which would be really easy to nurse. At the very least, when we have family visiting or go visiting other places, I'll need something that I'll be comfortable in. (I usually sleep either, um, naked, or wearing a big old t-shirt.) Anyway, I had a grand design in my head and thought that it wouldn't be too hard. And I was right! The hardest parts were simply that I don't have a great method of cutting out material, and that jersey is hard material to work with.
Also, I was making this for an approximation of my post-pregnancy body so I had to guess at some things. For a pattern, I cut an old t-shirt (with a number of small holes in it, so it wasn't in donatable condition) and used that to approximate my dimensions. As you can see, I drew on there some pattern ideas for the top using a Sharpie. Mostly, I wanted to be sure I knew where my boobs would be so that I didn't accidentally cut too little fabric.
The belly part was easy, I just put a few gathers in under the empire waist. I put one in at the back, too, (just one) that I think looks rather nice. Overall, the skirt was the easiest part.

Which means that the top is the hardest part. How to get things just right? How to make it look nice, or even decent? My first idea was to have two flaps overlaying each other so that I could just pull one aside at a time, but I didn't like that idea so much. So I did a scoop-neck instead. It's pretty low-cut, but that just means it'll be easier to pull aside for nursing.
I also wasn't sure how to make the edges look so nice. For some things, like the bottom and the armpits, I really don't mind having the serged edges show. But for the neckline? I figure that, at least, should look cute. So I cut out some very long strips of the sheet and braided them together. I'm still in the process of hand-sewing them on. They'll also serve as the straps, since they're sturdier and less prone to stretching than one thin strap of jersey material would be. They'll still be easy to slide off my shoulders, though.

When I showed Shane my project he thought it was rather silly that I felt the need to have a nightgown at all. (Until I reminded him about feeding the baby around friends and family, at least.) Then he said, "Wait, is that a sheet?" I said, "Yeah, would you rather that I had bought fabric for this?" He said, "No, but I still reserve the right to laugh at you." Fair enough.
The nightgown is far from perfect. More than a short glance will show some places where the sewing could have been done better. But, considering my lack of experience with the serger and the fact that this is the most ambitious project I've ever tried, I feel pretty good about it. (I'd post a picture, but I'm still 9 months pregnant so it looks pretty silly on me at the moment.) Maybe I'll try making more nursing clothes for myself? I do still have about half a sheet of material left....

I still need to make some changing pads for diapering Baby, but I have plenty of the waterproof material for that. The only thing I'm not certain about is what else I want to use. Should I just use a layer or two of the flannel, with the waterproof material either under or in between? Or should I get a couple of towels at Value Village and use those? Should I do a different one for the diaper bag, since we might need to change her diaper on a hard surface, or will that not matter too much? I'll have to think about it some more, but quickly since according to my doctor I could go into labor at any time now. (Yay! But my due date isn't for another two weeks, and she also wouldn't be surprised if nothing happens before then. She told me to "just hang on and don't get discouraged.")
I didn't do this yesterday, but I did make more dog booties this year. I mostly used materials I had leftover from last year, like the velcro, elastic, and canvas (so much of that left). Since I didn't have any fleece for the insides, though, I used some more bits of the flannel sheet which I'd cut up for baby wipes. The purpose isn't really to pad her feet, but to keep them from getting frostbitten in the cold, so the flannel will work well enough. And this year I learned from my mistakes: I used two layers of canvas on the bottoms. Hopefully these will hold together better. I'm always looking for ways to improve the design. One day, perhaps, I'll be able to make some dog booties which last for more than one winter's worth of walks and runs.
If winter ever gets here, that is. Almost Halloween and no snow? Even worse, it was so warm that it was raining for a couple of weeks, even at night. What the hell? It's actually nice to have frosty days once again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Take the good with the bad

I have to admit, for the most part I've really enjoyed being pregnant. At the very least, it's fun digging into the biology behind what's going on and tracking the changes in myself. Seriously, it's magical to be able to make another human being.
At its best, I realize in awe that no one else will ever get to have this experience of my child that I do. Not even Shane has gotten to know her yet as I have, through her kicks and rolls and how we respond to each other. I eat certain things and she turns into a little ninja, I think in appreciation. (Baby loves Thai food as much as I do!) I sing and she goes quiet, either sleeping or just appreciating. However, she kicked and rolled through all of my Symphony rehearsals as if she was dancing. I've had a few inordinately stressful moments at work over the past few months and every time I got really stressed out she started moving a whole bunch like she was trying to say, "Mom, chill out! It doesn't matter!" It's amazing, getting to know her this way.
So most of my griping is because I'm just impatient. I dream about holding my Baby in my arms and I want to do it right now. We've technically reached full term (I'm almost 38 weeks) but still have a couple of weeks to go for optimum health. Still, when I'm alone I'll tell her that she can come out any time now, I'm ready.
My other big gripe is how other people respond to me being pregnant. I thought the most annoying thing ever would be having others touch my belly. But, I realize that the people who do this are just excited and awed by what's going on. I even invite people to touch my belly when she's poking a knee or a foot out, so that they can experience it a little for themselves. And really, it's only been friends who've touched my belly. (Plus one coworker.) One friend gets teased for being "that guy" because every time he sees me he reaches out and gently lays a hand on my belly. But, the look in his eyes is so reverent. He just thinks it's so cool, and how can I be annoyed with that?
What I didn't expect was the number of people who would think that it's perfectly acceptable to tell me how huge I am. What...what the hell? Why would you ever say that to a person? If it's not acceptable to say to someone who's not pregnant, why would it suddenly be acceptable to say to a woman just because she is pregnant? You wouldn't tell a fat person how huge they are. (Or at least, you fall into the category of "giant douche" if you do.) Generally, you expect that an overweight person will know it. And you know what? I do too. I already feel like a whale without you needing to say it, thankyouverymuch. And while I generally have a healthy body image, and I understand that I've gained weight because it's healthy when you're pregnant, I do still have my fears. Will I ever be able to get back into the shape I was before I got pregnant? Will I have stretched out, saggy skin forever? I take solace in the fact that my stomach is stretch-mark free, not because stretch marks are so terrible but just because it's one thing to cling to and feel good about.
These comments are all the more hurtful because I really haven't gained that much weight. 25 pounds is on the lower end of the recommended weight gain for someone who's not over- or under-weight. I measure exactly where I should be at every appointment, and there are no signs that I'm going to have a particularly big baby. No one at the doctor's office has said a word about my weight gain, since it's exactly what it's supposed to be. But, I'm short. Adding 25 lbs to my frame looks very different from adding that same weight to the frame of someone several inches taller. Also, I'm carrying all out front. I still have most of the inward curve to my waist when looked at from the front or back. So, yeah. The belly looks pretty big. But, there's also a tiny person in there. I made a fucking person. Back off about how big I am.
I do understand that most of the women who've made comments about my size (yes, it's only been women--men KNOW not to tell a woman she's big) don't have any children of their own and so I can give them the benefit of the doubt that they don't quite understand how hurtful that statement can be. There are only two people who've said this that I know were being catty. One I can forgive, because she's a friend and I have no doubt she was just trying to make herself feel better for her own pregnancy weight gain. (Which doesn't mean I didn't really want to point out that at least I don't look like a dumpling, round all over, and I did avoid her for a few weeks to calm down.) The other woman...well, there's a history there that I won't go into. Needless to say, I already couldn't stand her so her bitchiness is far less hurtful than the comment from an acquaintance who said, "Weren't you supposed to have that baby already? No?! Oh. ...Well, you're going to have a biiiiiig, healthy baby."
The other annoying question I get seems so innocent at first. But, everyone seems to ask it and I think it's about the dumbest question ever. "Are you getting excited?" What do they expect me to say, no? Of course I'm flipping excited! If I wasn't so huge, I'd be doing backflips to show how excited I am. It's right up there with people asking the gender and when I tell them they say, "Ooh, are you excited?" Once again, of course I am. But not because she's a girl, I'm just excited because I'm having a baby. A healthy baby, at that! That is something to celebrate, but it should be obvious and you don't need to ask me if I'm excited. Just trust me, I am.
Men can be weird about it all, and in such varying ways. Most ignore it, some (like my friend who touches my belly) are super excited about it, some are leery (as if it might be catching?), and some are just plain weird. There was the creepy guy in my office the other day who kept asking me questions with a weird smile. Maybe he was just trying to be nice, but I was just trying to work and I didn't want to play 20 Questions About the Baby Belly. It doesn't help that he started, randomly, with "So, does this mean you're having a baby?" "This"? I should have said that it was a tumor.
I did also have a friend of a friend (who, for background, was asking weird questions all night, including if anyone would mind if he lit up a joint, in a place where no smoking is allowed) ask me randomly who my doctor is. I reacted a bit harshly, in part because he'd been so strange all night and partly because I was so sick of answering questions. So I said, "I'm not going to tell you that. You've basically just asked me who's been poking around inside my vagina, and I don't feel like telling you." He got offended and only afterward explained that, apparently, his wife works in healthcare and knows a number of the OBs in town. It would have helped had he lead with that information, but it's still a weird question for a man to ask a woman. Or am I the only one who feels that way? I think it was also the suddenness of it, and the awkwardly confrontational manner in which he asked it. Not jovial, or silly, or curious. More of a command than a question, like he expected an answer, or deserved one. He was just as awkward and socially inept every other time he opened his mouth, so I was out of patience.
The one thing I don't get sick of is hearing my brothers answer their phones with, "Baby time? Or not yet?" They're so excited to become uncles, and they will be fantastic at it. Also, adorable. They will be adorable uncles. :)
I'm also overwhelmed by the number of friends and family who've sent things to us. I got a message from a cousin the other day which basically came down to, "What will be the most helpful thing you still need?" It was like a long-distance hug, I felt so loved. She's sending a box with a few things she'd kept from when her own babies were babies. So while we have lots of baby stuff, we've bought basically none of it. One dress and one infant onesie (but only because they're blue and we needed something to go against all the pink): $4, used. One nasal aspirator and one set of baby nail clippers: $5. That's it. If you count the gift card, we bought a humidifier but spent $0 of our own money. If you count the things I've needed while pregnant, we've bought some prenatal vitamins (about $30 total), some maternity clothes (all used, some given to me, so we only spent about $35), and the healthcare costs. I will be getting a breast pump, but that's paid for by my insurance. That's it, and with it we have enough stuff to see her at least through her first six months, except for bottles and I'll probably ask for those for Christmas. (We'll need those, at the latest, when I go back to work.) Wouldn't you be amazed and grateful for all of that help? I am so, so lucky to have such a supportive network of people around me and I just hope that I can pass the helpfulness along when more of my friends start having babies.
Finally, I have the dates my mother will visit! I'm excited for all of the other family who will be here for Thanksgiving, of course, but my mom has been so amazingly helpful through everything. Calming, sympathetic when I need it, and (after having four kids of her own) so knowledgeable. She, more than just about anyone else, has given off the vibe of, "What do you need from me? What can I do that will be most helpful for you and Shane as new parents?" (Rather than, "How often can I see the baby? It's all about the baby! BABY!!!!!") So she'll be here for two weeks to help out and I really couldn't be more excited.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gift card queen

I'm still plugging along with some of my projects, both for Baby's imminent arrival (less than a month until our due date!) and for other things. For instance, one of my goals for quite a while has been to work on and give away more warm knitted items. Some will go to charity, some to friends. A worthy goal, right? Except I haven't done pretty much any of the projects that I wanted to do. I've been lazy and pushed them off. But, our apartment really is feeling cluttered with stuff, particularly now that we're adding in so much baby stuff. (Holy crap, that kid has a lot of clothes already!) So, one small part of decluttering is to actually use up some of my yarn stash. I have tons of yarn. Approximately six large bags worth. It's silly. What's even worse is that I have a few half-finished projects but would need to buy more yarn to finish them! Oy. So I'm working on the things that I can, for now. I'm making a hat for one of my friends, some socks for baby (and if I can get the pattern right, more socks for friends and family who are having babies of their own), and some Christmas gifts. If I have time, I'd also like to make a quick mobile to hang in Baby's closet. Nothing fancy. I'm thinking I'll just make crocheted balls of different colors and hang them from an embroidery hoop.
I did actually get started on reorganizing our room and closet to make space for Baby. It seemed like such a daunting, cyclical task. I have to do X before Y, before Z, before A, before B...but that one requires X task be finished, otherwise it would be a huge mess. So I finally picked a spot and just started there. All of our baby clothes until about 3 months are washed, organized, and in our closet. Our nice clothes are in the closet in the spare bedroom (since we don't wear them that often) and our everyday clothes are now in the wire cube things next to the desk. (We've used the wire storage cubes as our clothing organizer for years now, rather than a bulky dresser, and it works out pretty well.) Not only this, but it's now doubling as a cat perch, so hopefully our cat will hang out with us more when we're back in the bedroom. (Usually he lurks in the hallway, staring in at me--not Shane, just me--and being a little creepy.) The one drawback to this: this morning he didn't want to let me get my underwear (in a basket in the top cube) and kept batting at my hands. I had to bop him (gently) on the head to get him to leave me alone. (He wasn't hurt, just offended.)
I still need to make and set up the curtains to go over the closet, and we need to move the cradle in. (It needs some wood glue first, just to reinforce it.) We still need to figure out something for where to put dirty cloth diapers and wipes, where to keep baby blankets (the pets have tried to claim them, and I don't want them getting ruined by cat claws or the dog's incessant need to create a nest whenever she lies down), and what to do for changing diapers. We could use some baskets or something to keep a few items in the living room, except we don't have baskets and I don't feel like buying any. (It's not in our budget!) But, I'm sure that we'll get the necessary things done before Baby's arrival and the rest can be figured out after she's here.
Because we had to move things around, it did necessitate a little bit more decluttering. I realized that there were a few clothes I owned which I could part with since I was mostly keeping them around because they're still in fine condition so I might as well, right? Never mind the fact that I didn't like them much and only ever wore them because I felt like I should. Not anymore, they're gone. I also have a couple of t-shirts which I wanted to hang onto but they don't look good on me. So, they're waiting for me to decide if they're really worth storing or if I should donate one and toss the other (not in donatable condition).
I got Shane to help me pull down a box from the spare bedroom closet, one I've assumed was full of his stuff, only to find out that it was full of my things. Even better, when he pulled it down a bag full of empty soda bottles came down with it, which my little brother must have left in the room when he moved out. (Thanks.) And we found two small boxes of the Boy's stuff, as well. The things in my box all went immediately into the donate pile, the bottles into the recycling stash in the garage, and the boxes of the Boy's things are waiting for my parents to take them home to him when they visit. Even just going through that small amount of stuff is making me feel lighter, though. Better. It's amazing how getting rid of stuff can make you feel more organized, even if you really aren't.
This doesn't really help with decluttering, but we do have a number of gift cards that we've received over the years and have never gotten around to using for one reason or another. Generally, it's because there isn't that store in town. Shane's family is big on sending gift cards, but terrible about remembering what stores we actually have in Fairbanks. *Shrug* But, I can't argue that they're not useful. We've just been a bit lazy about using them. I can't remember if I mentioned it or not, but we had an incredibly generous gift card to a certain home store that someone gave us for our wedding. Since we've accumulated plenty of kitchen items we either wanted to upgrade (bread pans, thermometer, measuring spoons) or didn't have (muffin pans, 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup) we went ahead and used it. We got some really nice, incredibly useful kitchen items and spent a grand total of $1 of our own money. (And the things which they're replacing, such as the bread pans, are getting donated.) They arrived only about a month ago and we've already used the least used of them (the muffin pans) three times. You can imagine how often the nice measuring spoons have been used! (Always, always get glass or metal kitchen utensils whenever possible. Plastic ones just suck.)
We also need a humidifier. Our big old one that we have grew mold and we can't find any replacement filters. It's from the 70's (I think), enormous, probably a huge energy hog, and at this point pretty useless. So it's time to get rid of it. But a humidifier is very, very nice to have here. Already my hands are starting to peel and even crack because of the dry air. And that's after a rainy night! It gets much, much worse over the winter. So I used a gift card to another clothing/home store and found a humidifier. With shipping, there was $.24 left over on the gift card so $0 spent on our part. That makes me very happy.
We have other gift cards, including two for other home/clothing stores. I'm keeping an eye out for flannel sheets, since we don't have any and the jersey sheets we got as a wedding gift have already worn out. I'll hang onto them and use the material for other projects as needed, but they've got a few large holes in them that make them not so nice for bedding anymore and that means we're effectively down to two sets of sheets, one for our bed and one for the guest bed. Not the worst situation, but since we have the means to fix it, why not? And, it's hard to argue against having a set of flannel sheets in Fairbanks.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Safe sex and meal planning. Not at the same time.

Since the start of the new semester, I've noticed that a pregnant woman gets A LOT of attention on a college campus. I mean, my baby belly gets a lot of attention everywhere, but particularly here on campus where it's relatively rare to see. Add in the fact that I look like I could be a student and I get a lot of odd looks. There are smiles from older people, some smiles from young women and some sideways stares as if they're wondering if I'm pregnant because I'm trampy and slept around. Almost uniformly, however, young men give me a stare more like this: O_o I sincerely hope it's accompanied by the thought, "Oh, crap. Maybe I should go get some condoms, just in case...."
Speaking of which, I got to be the condom fairy a few weeks ago. Strange thing, but it made me happy. When cleaning our apartment I found a few condoms from, well, before, and (after checking the expiration date) decided that we really don't need them. So how to get rid of them? Easy. When we went to the Pub one night I stuffed them in my purse. Carried my purse into the bathroom and left them in one of the stalls so that someone who might need them could anonymously take them. And take them someone did, since they were gone by the end of the evening. So here's to promoting safe sex, even in subtle ways.

We're finally getting some of the major reorganization projects done around the house. Well, one. It was a busy weekend, with one friend coming into town and another friend having a birthday party. So when Sunday rolled around we were both pretty tired and just wanted to have a lazy day. That didn't happen. Shane had a meeting for a project, I met with people for a "going away" lunch for the friend who was in town (and since I'd had breakfast only about an hour before, I didn't even order anything), and then there were myriad things around the house to take care of. Of course there were. If I'd known when I was a kid how many house chores were involved in being a grownup, I might not have considered the trade-off of "autonomy" vs. "chores" to be quite so one-sided.
All this to say, we got the garage cleaned out! We have an interior place to park for the winter, which means no plugging in our car. Woo! This makes me so very happy, as it also means no running the car for a half hour before going anywhere to warm up the engine.
We still haven't organized the closet, and I still haven't done anything about making curtains to block off Baby's area. But I'm really feeling the push to get things done and I know those will happen in the next week or two.

With the change in my schedule, and with Shane's crazy semester schedule, cooking is something which could fall through the cracks. However, we can't afford to get takeout every night, or even every week (or every month....) so I'm making a serious effort to really plan out our week's meals in advance and to be highly organized so that we have both dinners and lunches (leftovers!). The CrockPot is my savior, once again. And I'm trying some new recipes, just so we've got plenty of variety. Today's is this beef stew, and later this week this apple-parsnip soup. (Shane's not a fan of parsnips so he's wary. Also, he doesn't like the texture of pureed soups so to add a bit of texture I'm going to throw some chicken-apple sausages in there.) A friend sent me a recipe for Mexican chicken soup, so that will be going on our menu soon too, along with this tomato soup and this cream of potato soup with bacon. Because bacon.
If I need a quick bread pairing with any of these soups (other than the tomato soup, which will of course have the traditional grilled cheese with it), I've got these freezer biscuits which will be super easy to make. And of course, I'll let you know which of these recipes are winners. Because everyone could do with a few extra easy meals in their repertoire.
I did try making these pumpkin cinnamon rolls, which were deemed half successful. I thought they were ok, Shane didn't. I'll make them again sometime, but I'll try baking them like regular cinnamon rolls, rather than in the Crockpot, and see if that helps. Also, since they're from a vegan blog and we are most assuredly not vegan, I changed the recipe to this:

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
3 1/2 cups flour, plus enough extra to make it properly doughy/roll out
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp yeast
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin
1 egg

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to taste (a bit heavier on cinnamon and nutmeg, lighter on the cloves)

I suggest baking them (probably at 350^ until done) and then smothering them with cream cheese frosting. For health.
I don't want to give the impression that we're only eating from the CrockPot. Whenever we've got time, or can make time, we actually cook. Last Thursday, Shane decided that since he hadn't cooked in nearly two weeks, and missed it, he wanted to make dinner. This meant starting dinner at 9:00. So I snacked in the afternoon (but was still plenty hungry by dinnertime) and got everything chopped, prepped and ready for him. It could have sucked, eating so late, but it didn't. And it was not only nice for him to do something he enjoyed toward the end of a crazy, busy week but also for me to have a bit of a break from the kitchen. (Yes, at this point *only* chopping vegetables constitutes a break from the kitchen.)

After the first snowfall I had Shane bring my small carrot boxes inside, but the large planter boxes were far too large to carry into the garage so I left them out there figuring that the next time I needed carrots I'd go pull them from there. I finally did that. Only six of my large carrots actually germinated, so it wasn't the greatest haul. However, I did get a good laugh since all but one of them was mutated in some way!

I love the small round one which looks kind of like a bear claw. Even better, Shane came home and when he saw them lying on the counter asked, "Where the heck did you buy these carrots from?" :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Millions of tiny happinesses

My library ebook copy of Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project" is finally mine (for a short time) and I've been very much enjoying reading it. Like, 'I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone' levels of enjoyment. Why? What makes reading about someone else's project to be just a bit happier so rewarding? Well, lots of things. For starters, it's a helpful place to think about your own happiness (and she repeatedly outlines why this is a worthy goal--such as the facts that happier people tend to make those around them happier, and they are more generous). Are you happy? If so, why or why not? What makes you happy and why don't you do more of it? Like Gretchen herself, I struggle with these sometimes. I push off the things which make me happy for the things which I should do instead. And there is happiness in having a clean house, but there is also happiness in taking a relaxing bath when I need it and I don't do that nearly enough.
Some of what she says are her weaknesses, her faults, resonate with me. Probably the biggest was when she described herself as a score-keeper, particularly with her spouse. I have to admit, I really hate this quality about myself, but I'm also a score keeper with Shane. He is with me as well, but of the two of us I'm probably far worse. I'm sure that on my end it has something to do with growing up as one of four siblings, learning to keep track and keep score so that I don't miss out on my fair share of good things (dessert!) or end up with a disproportionate amount of bad things like chores. However, this isn't an excuse for keeping score in my marriage. Really, it's a horrible way to look at things. "I did X chore, so it's not fair that I should also have to do Y chore as well." It's a "wah! poor me!" attitude and I really want to break myself of it, but of course a change such as that, a change in your entire attitude, is hard to do. Probably if I worked on it every day for the next year I would still find it hard at the end of that year.
Compounding this, I am pregnant. 33 weeks! The end is in sight (and yet, that makes for the beginning of another tough but rewarding chapter in life: motherhood). I have zero stamina, lots to do, insomnia because I'm the size of a hippo so I'm tired all the time, and dammit, I deserve a little extra special treatment! Everyone tells me so. I tell myself that.
But...doesn't Shane deserve a bit of coddling too? He's taking seventeen credits of classes this semester. All told, between class and homework, it's more than a full-time job, and he's working on top of it. (Still helping our elderly friends up the hill to clear their trees, and got a few hours a week in the computer lab--at least he's allowed to do homework during the lab time when someone doesn't need his help!) Not only is he putting so much effort into this semester, but it's not even the fun classes. Three of them are hard, and only tangentially related to the programming that he's interested in: physics, calc 3, and statistics. These classes suck. Physics sucks even more because of the way the class is structured (it's an evening class and homework is due by midnight the night of 5 hours to get it all done, and that's true even for the Friday night class!) and because the professor...well, I'm not in the class so I don't know if he's got tenure and has just stopped caring, or if his teaching style just isn't for Shane, but it's hard. Even with a friend's help, the homework takes hours every week. My poor guy looks so frazzled. Just because things are a little harder on me doesn't mean I should add to his burden. So what if I had to do all of the hand washing, again, because he was too busy, you know, doing homework? What makes my contribution to the household more special or more worthy than his?
On top of everything else, we don't get to spend much time together right now, for obvious reasons. When I have time, he doesn't. When he's free, I'm working or doing homework. Between Monday and Friday of last week, I'd estimate that we only got to spend about 3 hours of quality time together, and most of that was while we ate dinner for a few quick minutes or did a little bit of cleaning up together. Wheeeee. On Friday night, we ended up snapping at each other a couple of times, not because we were mad at each other but because we were frustrated by the situation. Thankfully, we did each explain ourselves so what could easily have devolved into an argument turned into hugs and sympathy for how hard we've each been working.
So this leads to the biggest reason why I'm enjoying this book: it's making me think more about gratitude. Instead of being upset by these hardships, I'm going to do my best to undertake a more grateful way of thinking about them. Instead of mentally whinging because we only got to spend a few minutes together eating a dinner that I had to make, again, I would like to be grateful that I have a husband who will take a few minutes out of his busy day to eat dinner with me, even if it means staying up that much later to finish his homework, and who is grateful in return that I took time out of my busy, tiring day to make dinner and have it waiting for him when he got home.
As the saying goes, instead of being upset that I have to do the dishes, I should be thankful for what those dishes represent: food on the table and someone I love to share it with. Not everyone gets to say the same.
Along with gratitude needs to come that buzzword which I really dislike for some reason, but which really fits: mindfulness. Since we'd spent so much time apart last week, when Shane asked me what I wanted to do on Saturday night I told him that, honestly, I wanted to hang out at home with him. Instead of saying that he wanted to go out and see people, which he usually does after a hermit-like week of schoolwork, he said, "Sounds great! There are a few movies we haven't seen yet that I'd like to watch." So we sat in bed the entire evening and watched movies. We cuddled the dog, we made hot chocolate from scratch, and it was beautiful. I just didn't realize how great it was until this morning when I was wishing that I was back in bed, cuddled up with him and sipping cocoa, laughing about something together. At the time, I was so tired from the week that I didn't stop to fully appreciate how wonderful those moments were. Now that I can't get them back is when I'm realizing just how good I had it.
I must admit, it's easier at this time of year for me to be grateful. I know it just officially became autumn according to the calendar, but we've already had our first couple of light dustings of snow, which didn't stick but are a poignant reminder of how fleeting the seasons are. The trees are still in their golden glory, but not for much longer. The air is chilled and perfect. It's my favorite time of year, when I'm so happy to snuggle into sweaters once again, and to curl up with a good book and something hot to drink--warm milk and honey, hot cocoa, hot apple cider.... It's the time of year to make gingerbread cookies and to really savor all of the flavors of the season. So many good things are coming my way. And the holidays, while still distant, will be upon us before we know it, with all the attendant fun activities and family time. How could that not foster gratitude?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to make the most of your library experience: Don't piss off the librarian

I don't usually think of my job as a "customer service" job. It is, and I do know that, but tucked away in our little corner of the University, most people don't even realize we exist. The people who do know about us are generally so happy that we exist, and use our resources so much, that they love us. Consequently, I avoid roughly 95% of all "customer service" related bullshit. In over four years of working here, I've only had to deal with a handful of truly rude or annoying patrons.
Which is not to say that I don't have problem patrons. It's just not the major problems that other places have. We get the little annoyances, the things that people without severe mental or emotional problems (I've had to deal with a few of those) bring to the library without seeming to realize it. Pretty much anyone who's going to read this will, I assume, be smart enough to know not to go to the library drunk. Most people will understand that, while looking at porn on a library computer is not technically illegal, it is gross. Doing more than just watching said porn, however, is completely illegal. (That doesn't stop people from doing it.) There are serious, gross, and flat-out creepy problems which librarians have to deal with and which most people don't even think of. Several of our librarians had to go on a hunt for whoever was downloading and printing pictures of child porn. When they called police and caught the guy, it turned out that he had an outstanding warrant on a charge of child molestation. Lovely, right? This didn't even occur at a public library. This was a University library. Public librarians have it so, so much worse.
There are entire meetings I've been to discussing the porn policy (where does the line get drawn between legitimate research--there are a few classes which could/do require students to look at what would otherwise be questionable material, and not all students have personal computers--and someone just getting their jollies watching porn in public?) or discussing what to do if someone's passed out. Are they drunk, or could it be a serious medical condition making them appear so? Where do these lines get drawn?
What I'm talking about are not the gray areas. These are things which people should know how to do, and just don't. These are the things which piss me off. Give me ten people with mental illnesses over one person who comes to me with a combative attitude, acting like I'm their servant.
To be clear, I am not, strictly speaking, a librarian. I haven't gotten my MLS (master's of library science) degree. I'm just a lowly library technician. A staff person. However, I sit at the front circulation desk. Our librarian handles the major issues, while my coworker and I handle the day-to-day running of our little demesne, including dealing with the patrons. Even better, mine is the first desk people get to when they need to speak to someone. So when we do get a lousy, annoying, or just plain rude patron, they come to me first.
So here are just a few problems that I've had over the years, and why they are problems.

1. It's such a simple thing, but push in your chairs. Seriously, you should have learned how to do this in kindergarten. I don't understand it, but very few people actual feel that they need to bother pushing in their chairs at the library. Consequently, they block aisles and create a less welcoming atmosphere for everyone. Every time I get up from my desk I end up walking around pushing in chairs that people have left strewn everywhere. It's annoying.

2. Don't be rude to your fellow patrons. I'm not talking about outright rudeness, here, (which is a huge problem but also falls under the heading of "I'm sure if you're reading this, you already know not to do these things" category outlined above) but about small rudenesses. Don't chat loudly on your cell phone. Don't take up lots of space because you can, spreading your bag, coat, laptop, etc., all around over several different desks, chairs, or tables. Someone else might need that space. Someone else might want to get through that aisle. Don't be a dick.

3. Don't whine about how hard you've got it and why that exempts you from the rules. Seriously. This is probably the most common type of complaint we get. One woman is so infamous for it that we groan when she comes in. My favorite is her complaint, "But I have children." This excuse has been used for everything from why she can't turn in any book on time to why we're jerks for sending an ILL book back to the library which owns it before she could pick it up, even though she had a month in which to come pick it up before it was due. Congrats on your fertility, lady! That doesn't exempt you from library rules. You are not special. Your failure to plan ahead is not our fault, so don't try to make it our problem. We will not sympathize.

4. Read the signs we have posted. They're posted for a reason. It amazes me how many people come into the library and just...don't read things. We have pretty much all of our rules posted somewhere or another. We've got signs up everywhere in an effort to show people where things are. We definitely have patrons who never need to interact with us unless they're checking out items, because they've actually read the signs. Then there are the patrons who won't even read the colorful sign I have posted on the front of my desk, and get pouty when I point it out to them. It's a sign asking people to stand in front of my desk, rather than coming around to stand by my side, both because it's creepy when they invade my space and, more importantly, for privacy issues. Speaking of privacy issues....

5. Don't assume that we're keeping things from you to be jerks. There are an amazing number of legal issues surrounding libraries and the information we have access to. We have an incredible amount of personal information about people in our database: names, phone numbers, addresses--all to get in touch with people when we need to, but still personal info--and since we're a University, ID #s which can access all kinds of other personal scholarly information, such as transcripts. Not to mention, information on what books people have checked out (yes, that information is legally protected). People are always shocked and generally a little pissed off when I can't do something for them which would infringe on someone else's library information. We had a woman in the other day asking if her husband had checked out a book. When I told her that I couldn't legally answer that question she said, "But he's my husband!" Sure. But you don't have proof of that, and even if you did I still wouldn't be able to tell you because there are laws protecting that information. Yes, even from spouses.
We also have patrons asking to check out books that are on hold for other people, on the other person's behalf. We can't let you do that for a variety of reasons, including those pesky privacy laws again. I realize it can be inconvenient, but you're not only asking me to break library rules for you, you're asking me to break the law.

6. Don't, for the love of all things holy, assume that we will do all of your work for you. The one thing I see most commonly, and which drives me craziest, are the people who walk up to my desk first thing and say, "Where do I find this?" My first question for them is, "Have you tried looking in the catalog?" Half the time they say no, and I mentally categorize them (fairly or not) as lazy. Sometimes, I do realize, it's a matter of telling them how to get access to the catalog. (It's online, just like everything else these days.) But I actually had one conversation go like this:
Me: Did you look in the catalog?
Patron: No.
Me: Well, you can look it up in the online library catalog from any of those computers over there. It will be the homepage, so it's really easy.
Patron: But I wanted you to do it.
Me: ...But I'm showing you how to do it, so that you don't need to come and ask me every time you want to look up a book.
Patron: Yeah, I still want you to do it for me.
At this point, I was super annoyed and wanted to tell this guy, "Go fuck off, it's not my job to coddle you and enable your laziness." Of course, I couldn't say that. I ended up looking up the book for him, but I did let my annoyance show through. It would have taken this guy less time to look it up himself than he spent arguing with me about who should look it up. I got the impression that he was being a douche because he could, and because he thought it should be my job to cater to him. That is not, ever, the purpose of a librarian. Yes, we're here to help. But using a library correctly is not difficult, and it is a skill that all people should learn. When you don't bother to try learning, you're not going to get the most helpful service.

7. Don't ever think that you know more about the library's resources than the library worker you're talking to. This one happened just this morning, as it turns out. The very first thing I had to deal with when I got to work was an angry phone call from someone who was pissed that he couldn't find the information he needed. I realized pretty quickly that he was looking in the wrong place on the website but every time I tried to explain how to get to the information he needed he swore he was looking at the place I wanted to navigate him to and would rant for a bit about how awful our website is. ("When I type in the title of this journal, it's not even the first thing that comes up! It's, like the seventh, and that's just crazy." I wanted to ask if he'd ever used a database before, and if he understood how they work. Do you always accept your first Google hit?) If he'd have shut up for 30 seconds, it would have been a much faster and more pleasant conversation. As it was, I had to endure several minutes of him talking about how horrible our website is, and by extension the library and everyone who works here. Not productive, dude. I finally got him to listen to me, explained a few things to him, and then how to get what he wanted. All the while, I had to endure more verbal abuse about how bad our service is. Thanks. Once again, if you're willing to learn then I'm willing to teach you. If you're not willing to learn how to use the library resources properly, then there's really nothing I can do for you. You're going to have a bad time, and it's going to be all your fault. I just can't say it that way to you.

8. Don't lie to us. It's pure stupidity on your part to assume that we can't see through your lies. Just because we don't call you on them every time doesn't mean that we believe you. The third time you come in with some lame and generally convoluted story about why you can't turn in something on time, I'm not going to be happy with you and I will let it show. Because the why isn't actually my problem. You checked out the item, and by doing so you need to understand that....

9. Checking out a library item is sort of like signing a contract. You agree to borrow it for a certain amount of time, and we should have a reasonable expectation that you will bring it back at least close to the time it's due. We explain when an item might have a fine attached to it so that you know beforehand. And usually, we're pretty nice. We'll waive fees all the time, knowing that a) students are poor and b) life happens. But when it's a consistent problem on your end, then expect the library to have a problem with you. You are not the only person in the world, nor are you the only person who might want to borrow the item you've taken out. We have rules about borrowing periods for a reason. If you're not following them, that's your fault. You knew what you were getting into when you checked the item out.

10. Understand that we have lives outside of the library. When I tell you that the library is closing, I mean that it's closing. I have a home and a family to get back to, and you're infringing on that. When I say "we're closed", I don't mean 15 minutes from now, I mean now. The fact that you didn't get all of your online shopping done before the library closed is not my problem, but you're making it mine. And I'm not being a douche for saying that I'll call security to have them escort you out, I'm trying to let you understand what a douche you're being to me. Once again, we have our hours signs posted all over the place. If you ask, we'll tell you when we close. I go around the library before closing to let people know, hey, we're closing up soon. It is not a surprise, and once again you don't get to be the special exempted person for whom the rules don't apply. You're just being an ass. Now get the fuck out of my library and let me go home.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


This last Saturday, my friends threw a baby shower for me. It was actually held at my apartment, and I consulted a lot with the friend who was organizing it, so I guess I sort of threw it for myself too.
I'm not sure how I feel about baby showers and wedding showers and such. I know a lot of minimalists decry the tradition, and having the attention on me makes me uncomfortable, but I do also understand that some people love the tradition and don't feel right about things unless a woman has a baby shower or wedding shower or whatever. And I'm not opposed to it, necessarily, just because I feel awkward about being the center of attention for doing nothing more than procreating. Yeah, it's a big deal to have a baby in one sense (yay, babies!), but in another...women all over the world do this all the time. It's special, and yet it's not. I think this, and the blatant consumerism which is encouraged by baby showers, is where my ambivalence comes from.
Part of what makes a shower awkward for me is the expectation that people will bring gifts. Not only am I the center of attention, but I really, really hate the idea of making my friends feel obligated to give me things. So I tried to make that very clear, but no one seems to have taken me seriously since they all brought gifts anyway. I'm not complaining here, they gave us wonderful and useful things. Books for Baby (good ones, too, like Dr. Seuss books and The Berenstain Bears), bibs, socks, a blanket with monsters on the fabric. The mustachifier. Even baby wash/shampoo, which is always handy.
Shane has been complaining for a while that we don't have any bath toys. Seriously. He's kept an old squirt bottle which used to hold body wash so that he can play around with squirting water in the shower. My ridiculous spouse will never grow up. Well, now he's got some bath toys. I'm pretty sure that I will never get to give our daughter a bath because Shane will be so excited to play with the toys that he'll take over. (Again, not complaining!)
The biggest thing we got was one that I was starting to get nervous about not having: a carseat. This came from Shane's parents, of course, (his mom came up for the shower) and I feel a little guilty that they spent so much money but, at the same time, incredibly, unspeakably grateful to them. It's the carseat I wanted, which is a combination seat and not just a strictly infant seat like some. This one will be good until about the time Baby needs to move into a booster.
Being among the first of our friends in Fairbanks to have a kid means that a lot of the bigger items can't come second hand. I didn't really have to decide about how I'd feel about a used carseat because it wasn't an option at all. When I first got pregnant, I thought perhaps we could borrow an infant seat from our friends, until it turned out that they were also expecting another little one. It's going to be the same thing when the time comes for us to need something like a highchair, and a slightly bigger crib. However, for those things I have zero qualms about buying used.
Anyway, the shower was such fun. A bunch of fun ladies gathered together for an afternoon/evening to chat and eat and have a grand time together. The spouses and boyfriends and a few other people gathered at someone else's house to play cards. I got to have a hilarious moment when Shane was gathering stuff together to head out because he told a friend over the phone that we had a bottle of rum which he could bring. I said, "Hey! I wanted that for the baby shower!" I got a dropped jaw and stuttered, "Wh...what?" Until I started laughing, that is, and he realized that I was joking.
Instead of playing baby shower games (have you ever looked at those? they're horrible!!) my friend bought some stuff so that we could make a quilt. Everyone decorated squares with fabric pens. Mine, of course, said, "Welcome, tiny overlord." My friends have skills, though, and they did some really adorable squares. We joked about writing very adult messages on there, things like, "Don't drink and drive" or "Never sign a contract without reading the fine print". Like horrible baby names, I think it's much funnier to joke about that than actually do it.
My poor dog didn't understand what was going on at all, so of course she got nervous. She spent a good portion of the party thrusting her head at me for reassuring pets. The cat simply hid in a cabinet in the kitchen. Our friend had to bring her 2-year-old, which of course no one minded (she's adorable!) and had brought some balloons as decoration. The 2-year-old couldn't get enough of those balloons. When I fed our pets, I thought perhaps that people had been around long enough that I could lure the cat out of hiding and it seemed like it would work, until the 2-year-old started banging on the balloons and cackling loudly. Nope, cat was back in the deepest recesses of the cabinet. So I fed him in there.

At the end of the day, when everyone went home, I went for a walk with the dog and my MIL, then we watched "Despicable Me" (she'd never seen it before!) and went to bed. It was a lovely ending to the day. Shane woke me up when he got home and we chatted for probably about an hour in the wee hours of the morning. For some reason, I love those moments. The quiet house, the lateness of the hour making it seem sneaky and forbidden but we're up anyway, alone in our little world together. I hope that feeling carries through to when I'm waking up at night to feed and change Baby.

I still need to clean out our closet so that we can move the baby stuff in there. Shane keeps saying, "I'm waiting until the last minute for that," and I keep trying to convince him that, at 32 weeks, this is the last minute.

We had our first snowfall this morning. It didn't stick around, but it's a clear sign that winter is almost upon us. So many things are changing, but they're good and happy changes. I'm excited for the new season, and the new direction my life is going to take very soon.