Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Michael Ryan's Big Adventure

Today Michael Ryan is 10 days old. That means that we have been out of the hospital as long as we were in it to begin with. Only the last 5 days have gone by much faster than the first 5 days.

I think I've done a pretty good job at trying to recuperate from surgery and not push myself too hard. After three days on the couch with my legs up and darling husband fulfilling my every request (within reason, of course!), I decided today was a good day to run some errands. My mother came up to shop with Michael and me - and to help me do all the heavy lifting & driving, as I am restricted from both activities.

We took little MR to the mall. And it was insanely busy inside. I realized two things on our adventure this afternoon. #1) I love my Chico stroller. It turns on a dime and takes very little effort to push. #2) Other women cannot resist a newborn. I found myself in conversation with so many women, whether we were in the bathroom or the check-out line. They all wanted to know Michael's age - and I was amused by the responses when they found out he was 10 days old. "Good for you for getting out!" one woman told me.

It seemed strange to me. Why was I being applauded for leaving my home so soon after the birth of my child?

Having returned home, totally exhausted, I understand a little better their supportive statements. It's really difficult to go with a newborn, in maternity clothes that don't fit because regular clothes don't fit either (one big motivation for shopping today), and walk all over creation to participate in consumerism. I can't imagine trying to shop without my mother helping me! Every errand takes longer to fulfill and I get worn out so quickly from walking. Not to mention the fact that I have make pit-stops along the way to care for my hungry/wet son.

How in the world am I going to manage these errands on my own in just a few weeks?

Luckily, I still get to cash in the post-surgery sympathy card at the moment. I plan to focus on resting up and healing myself so that when the day comes for me to make due on my own I will be ready for the challenge. Right now, however, I am going to take a nap.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Best Laid Plans....

...often go awry. Isn't that the truth? Here is the second half of Michael Ryan's birth story, and how I've had to deal with many unexpected events this week.

After Michael was born our whole family met us in the recovery room. It was beautiful to see the joy on our sisters' and parents' faces. Michael's godmother was even able to meet him, only 5 hours before she had to hop on plane for California. I spent our first night together just staring at his precious little face and watching the sunlight gradually brighten my hospital room. I just couldn't believe he was really mine... And then our families returned on Saturday to hold and cuddle and photograph the adorable new member of our clan.

I noticed throughout the day that my poor little man was having a hard time breastfeeding because he couldn't breathe very well. His little nose was so congested. After awhile we called the nurses to see if they could help him. They tried, but it didn't seem to make a difference. And soon Michael was getting fussy and starting to cough from his congestion. When the nurses returned the 2nd time they brought NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) with them. I was so tired and out of it that when NICU told me to kiss my little boy good-bye I didn't understand why - wasn't he only going to be gone for an hour or so?

About half and hour later I realized that Michael wasn't coming back anytime soon. And so we embarked on four very long and stressful days, waiting for our son to be released from NICU. Saturday night I was an emotional wreak. The c-section had already interfered with my bonding to Michael Ryan, I was beyond exhausted from zero sleep the night before, and now the NICU was holding by baby hostage from me. All I could do was cry myself to sleep all night long.

I spent Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday racing back and forth the the NICU to breastfeed Michael Ryan whenever he started to fuss. It was a long process just to get down there. First I had to take care of myself and make sure I'd received pain meds before I left. Then I would hole up in my corner of the NICU with Michael and try not to tangle myself in his IV and monitor cords while attempting to learn how to breastfeed him. I quickly became friends with the nurses and lactation consultants during our stay!

It was so gut-wrenching to go into the NICU. I missed my son, of course, but at least he was full-term and fairly healthy. The doctors wanted to moniter him because they thought he swallowed meconium and they wanted to make sure he was getting enough nutrition with his late start to breastfeeding. All the other babies though... They were so tiny, smaller than my hand. And I would see their mothers come in, day after day, with no hope of going home anytime soon. At least I could hope to be home for Christmas, only a few days away. I spent a lot of time praying for those other babies, as I held my son who was 2 or 3 times bigger than each of them.

It was a rough four days for Ryan and I. At first we thought we might get to go home on Monday or Tuesday. Then it was Tuesday or Wednesday. Each time the doctor came to update us it seemed like Michael's release date was pushed back. And we just couldn't understand why. All I wanted was to take my little boy home for Christmas!

The other challenge with the NICU was how extremely crowded they became while we were there. It seemed like for each baby that was sent home, 2 or 3 new ones would arrive in his place. Michael Ryan was definitely taking up space that NICU needed for the really sick babies. Ryan and I watched as the rooms became more and more full with little preemie babies.

Finally, on Tuesday night I was officially released from the hospital. Because Michael wouldn't be allowed go home until Wednesday, Christmas Eve, at the very earliest, Ryan and I opted to stay in a "parent room" free of charge at the hospital. We packed up all our bags and moved into another smaller hospital room down the hall. When we went to breastfeed him that evening we couldn't find our little guy in his usual spot! He had been moved to a tiny edge of the room, a little peninsula in the paths of the nurses. The NICU was so crowded that we couldn't even find a spot to nurse our little boy. A nurse had to bring him down to our parent room to nurse and then we had to call for them to take him back when he was finished. It was insane! Why couldn't we just go home?

That's when the NICU had the idea to move us into one of the internal parent rooms, right off the NICU corridor. They would let us sleep in the room with Michael Ryan as long as he was on a monitor. It was like a halfway deal - we did the work of the nurses to free them up, and in return we were "allowed" to sleep in the same room as our son. So Ryan and I packed our bags again and waited to be called down the NICU room. I truly felt like we were Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus with no room for us in the inn.

Sleeping in the tiny parent room (filled to the brim with a pull-out couch, recliner, and Michael's rolling crib) was less than comfortable, to say the least. And the monitor would go off in these spastic binges of noise that we weren't able to quiet. In addition, Michael was beginning to jaundice and the doctors were extremely hesitant to release him if his bilireuben levels continued to rise. I wasn't sure if I would be able to survive one more night of sleepless chaos and I was quickly nearing my breaking point.

At last the dawn broke (not that we could tell, as the NICU parent room had no windows) and the doctor release Michael to our care on one condition - we had to take him to a medpoint on Christmas day to do another bilireuben level check. Anything, we told him, would be worth getting to leave this hosptial on Christmas Eve! The last hour was another agonizing wait for the necessary paperwork and suddenly we were in our own car, free to go whereever we pleased. It was like walking out of a dark movie theater into the afternoon sunlight, disorienting but very pleasing nonetheless.

Our little family spent a wonderful Christmas Eve at home with my parents and sisters. I was still exhausted, but so glad to be on my own turf. After 5 nights in the hospital, I finally slept soundly in my own bed, with Michael Ryan cuddled next to me. We woke up the next morning and even made it to Christmas Day mass. I spent a beautiful 24 hours with my family, sans hospitals.

Then we had to go back.

Another day, another challenge. The medpoint where we stopped at to get the bilireuben test for Michael was unable to accommodate us because they were all out of small vials! So off we went to the ER and back to the hospital I just left the day before. We spent over an hour in an empty waiting room before we discovered that someone had dropped the ball and forgotten about us. So, it took us about 3 hours to receive a 1o minute test - and I was again frustrated and exhausted from medical mayhem.

Our Christmas day ended on a more pleasant note with another family gathering at my in-laws' home. All in all, I received the best gift I could ever want - our firstborn son in my arms and at home on Christmas day. He is so perfect and beautiful and absolutely wonderful to behold. I am in awe at God's gift to us, a tiny and trusting little eternal soul to care for the rest of our lives. Even though my hopes for Michael Ryan's birth were different than the outcome, I know that God's plans are always better than my own. Perhaps it is a grace that my plans go awry - so that the greater glory of God will be known.

To read Part I of Michael's birth story, go here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Announcing the Birth of Michael Ryan!

Our dear little Advent gift was born on Friday, December 19th at 11:49pm. He came out via an unexpected c-section because the little bugger was breech and we've had a crazy week ever since. The best part of this whole birth experience has been getting to know our newborn son. He has so many cute expressions and ways to tell us what he is thinking or wanting. I've totally and utterly fallen in love with Michael Ryan - and all he does is eat, sleep, and poop!

Here is our story.

Friday morning I woke up in early stage labor, but I wasn't sure it was for real. It didn't really hurt and as I had no idea what a contraction felt like... It was all new to me. What tipped me off was my insane nesting attack throughout the day. Ryan and I cleaned the whole apartment, did some major reorganization of pantries and closets and piles of gifts. And I was determined to wrap all my Christmas gifts before the little guy came. We almost made it.

My water broke at 6:00pm and we were off to the hospital by 7:15pm. At that point I knew it was real labor, and everything was moving fast. They checked me at 8:00pm and I was already 5 cm dialated.

Ryan and I had already decided to go for a natural birth and we just finished our Bradley Method classes on Wednesday. This is the part of the story where Ryan really shines. He eased right into the role of coach and made my labor so easy to deal with. My pain was centered in my back and Ryan spent most of labor massaging all the sore spots and applying counter-pressure during contractions.

All I wanted to do that night was soak in a nice warm bath in the hospital jacuzzi - especially since we don't have a bathtub in our apartment! First, however, the nurses had to give me penicillin drip because I tested GBS positive. It took us an hour just to get the meds to the room (thanks to hospital chaos) and then I had to wait another 30 minutes for the antibiotic to drip into my IV (which, by the way, is rather painful and worse than the actual contractions). It was about 10pm by the time I was going to be allowed to crawl into the tub. And then I felt sick...

So they checked me again. This time, however, the nurse didn't say anything. She just told us that she wanted to take a scan. It turned out that the little stinker had flipped around in the womb and was definitely butt-side-down breech. Suddenly there was a change in plans. Here I was, nearly ready to push him out and really starting to feel those contractions, and they were telling me I have to have a c-section instead. My midwife wouldn't be able to turn him around because I was too far along in labor, at least 9 cm dialated at this point, and they didn't want to risk a prolapsed cord or some other distressing turn of events.

It took another hour to get me from my laboring room to the surgery room. The waiting period was bit extended because my midwife had yet to arrive. It turns out that on her way to the hospital she was hit by a drunk driver! Luckily, she was fine and she made it to the c-section just in time.

I think this was the most difficult time in my labor, both physically and emotionally. The contractions were really intense, but I would have been fine if I knew I got to push soon. Changing plans to a c-section, however, kind of broke my spirit. I no longer wanted to deal with the pain and was totally focused on when the doctors would "take it away." It was a very challenging hour, especially when they had to separate me from Ryan during my surgery prep.

And so, the doctors numbed me up with a spinal block and proceeded to cut my baby out of me. After having gone unmedicated through most of labor and then experiencing a c-section, I can tell you that I prefer the labor pains to the "pain-free" c-section. Give me natural birth any day.

Michael Ryan entered the world by a different route than I had anticipated, but I can truly say he was worth it. Ryan was able to cut the cord, put on his first diaper, and then cuddle our little boy skin-to-skin on his chest while I was being put back together. I am so thankful for Ryan's calm and levelheadedness that night. He freaked out a bit when he found out I had to undergo surgery, but he didn't show it to me. I was also very peaceful about having a c-section. I knew that I did the best I could for our son and sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

And man, oh man, did our plans go awry this last week! I'll have more on this in a continued post...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Good Read

Ryan and I recently stumbled on a good book: The Good Girl Revolution by Wendy Shalit. We do this thing where we read out loud to each other (Ryan says it feels like we should be in a Victorian reading room) and discuss our thoughts as we go. Needless to say, we don't move through the book very quickly. But it sure has beefed up our conversations this week. And I'll take any distraction I can get while waiting for Michael Ryan to arrive!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hangin' With My Hubby

Ryan is on hall duty tonight. That means we get to sit quietly in our apartment with the door open from 10pm to 2am to make sure the boys are following all the rules. Ryan's job is enforcer. My job is moral support.

I am so tired - this is all I can think to write. It doesn't help that it just now took me a solid 5 minutes to remember the term "moral support" (and I reacted with disdain and disbelief when Ryan vocalized the phrase for me - until I realized he was, in fact, correct).

Only an hour and a half to go...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

38 Weeks

In This Second Week of Advent...

...I am very tired.

The baby gestational clock is really ticking now. And I am starting to feel the discomforts at the end of pregnancy. It's funny how eventually the bodily pains and impatience overshadow any fears of labor pain. I just want Michael Ryan out! But not at this very moment. He's under specific orders to wait until Baby Sister returns home from Europe on the 14th. And then Ryan is finished with his semester on the 15th. Come anytime after that. Preferably before the 17th - when M.R.'s godparents leave for California. Got all that little-one-in-womb?

With the arrival of Advent, I have been so much more aware of Michael Ryan's impending birth. He really could be a Christmas baby, with a due date on the 21st. And I have a wonderful feeling of communion with the Virgin Mary, waiting for my son, as she waited for her son Jesus to be born. It gives me a deeper perspective on the meaning of Christmas. To think of Mary riding on a donkey for endless miles also keeps me from complaining about my own inconveniences!

I've been trying to take it very slow this Advent season - to really reflect on the season and the coming Christmas celebration. It's been nice to be done with my job, to be able to spend those 40 hours a week working on other projects with an unhurried pace. I am slowly completing a list of tasks before Michael Ryan arrives. Slow is the key word here.

My successes so far: washing & organizing the baby clothes, putting up Christmas decorations, purchasing almost all the Christmas gifts, and (finally!) finishing baby thank you notes. I've also typed up a birth plan, selected a family doctor, and attended my first Le Leche League meeting. I feel about 80% prepared for Michael's birth - enough that I am not freaking out, but all is not quite finished. I still have a stack of baby gifts to sift through & organize, those Christmas gifts need to be wrapped, and I have a couple of photo album projects I would really like to complete. Each day I just try to do the best I can and go to sleep in peace with what I have accomplished.

In this second week of Advent...

...life is good - even if I'm tired.

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Snow!

I don't like snow. Well, I don't really like snow after dealing with it for a long time. But it's always exciting when you get your first really good snow of the season. And ours has come early this year!

Notice the nice (zipped-up) maternity coat that I am sporting in this picture. I had been wavering on whether or not to purchase a coat because I only have a month left to go. However, my desire for warmth finally trumped my frugality. Yesterday my mother and I went shopping and found a nice, cozy winter coat to fit the expanding dimensions of my belly. And boy, I sure didn't wait a moment too long! The lake-effect snow kicked in about an hour after our stop at the mall. A very fortunate event!

Then last night Ryan and I had to get out and play in the fresh, puffy snow. We threw on our coats over our pajamas and grabbed the camera. I think a few of the hall residents gave us funny looks on our way out the door. I often wonder what they think of us.... I mean, we are obviously older than them, married, and having a baby - BUT - then we have these moments when we can't help but play like little kids.

And then we woke up this morning to...


Here's a picture of Ryan digging out our car this morning, on his way to class. Even with a foot of snow, and more falling, the university didn't cancel classes. It's an unheard of luxery around here - an honest to goodness snow day.

I am enjoying the snow now. We'll see how long it lasts!

Friday, November 14, 2008

How Can I Live Without the Internet?

It's really fun to not have to go into work each day. My days are so free! And I now have the flexibility to change my daily routine. For example: Yesterday and today I was able to join Ryan on a trip up to Chicago for an academic conference. He's off listening to intellectual speakers while I get to visit with my friend, Aislinn. It's a pretty sweet deal...

Last night Aislinn, her husband Rich, and I enjoyed a wonderful homemade meal - and I was able to bask in the glow of the newlywed couple. They are fantastically cute. I had forgotten the sweet newness that comes with the first month of marriage. I also spent a good portion of the evening in awe of Aislinn's tiny waist. My pregnant waist is so large right now that it's hard to imagine being slim again!

This morning I sent everyone off to work/conference and hunkered down to get a few tasks done on my computer while I was alone. That's when I realized that the internet wouldn't connect to my computer and I had just sent away my tech support with a dead cell phone! So much for my big plans...

The good news is that I have been able to get online through Aislinn's computer. Even more important: the world won't end if I don't fulfill all of my plans today. Maybe I'll just take a nap instead.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Best Friend's Wedding

Aislinn & Rich enjoy their nuptial blessing

The happy couple smiles for the camera

Baby Michael Ryan enjoys being the center of attention with his mama, the Matron-of-Honor, and his papa, husband extraordinaire

Lots to Catch Up On

I am surprised anyone even reads this blog anymore.... I'm sure not holding up my end of the deal to write on a regular basis! That said, let's move on.

Life has been busy. If I am not sleeping I am running around all over the place. And, believe me, I've been sleeping quite a bit these days (According to BabyCenter.com, 34 weeks pregnant is when the "fatigue" sets in again). In the last month I've celebrated Aislinn's wedding, Ryan's cousin Matt's wedding, and 2 baby showers - and I attended the Center for Ethics and Culture Conference at Notre Dame, as well as the most recent ND football game that went into quadruple overtime. Every single weekend has been booked.

Ryan's life has been heating up too. He's working hard right now to finish his master's proposal. Every night we just kind of look at each other like, "Well, here we are at the end of the day and there's still so much left to do!" The poor guy just can't catch a break. Each evening we hope he'll find time to write his proposal, but some other pressing task (class work, lab work, Hall Director work) must come first.

The good news is that I finally managed to wash the floors last week! Of course, I had the extra motivation of house guests over the weekend to get me moving.

I am also slowly but surely putting our little apartment in order before baby Michael arrives. Each of the wonderful gifts we've received is finding a place in our tiny home. I just can't believe how generous everyone has been with the baby gifts! We've been showered with clothes and blankets and even 2 strollers. There are only one or two items we need to actually purchase. I feel blessed from such overwhelming generosity. And sometimes I just feel overwhelmed.

Anyway, I hope to keep writing more frequently now that I've begun again. (How many times have you already heard that promise?) If you are still reading, check back - you should have better luck than the last month!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Make That An Extended Sick Week...

This is the little cold that keeps on going... I have just over a day to heal up and prepare for my best friend's wedding on Saturday. As the matron-of-honor, I don't wanna be standing next to her with snot running down my face the entire day long!

Good news: the dress fits (had to exchange it for 2 sizes bigger 3 weeks ago)

If you happen to read this, please send up a few prayers for my health. I would really like to kick this cold by Saturday. I'll keep you posted on the festivities. :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Taking An Extended Sick Day

I have a cold. A long-lasting, enduring, drawn-out cold. It's making me tired, thirsty, and unable to speak very well.

Ryan has a scratched cornea (???) - and he's been restricted from using a computer or reading (you know, all the things a grad student has to do for his work) for 48-72 hours.

That makes for a very stir-crazy couple the last 2 days.

You should see us - all scrubbed out in comfy pants, in the midst of kleenex and chicken noodle soup remnants, apartment lights dimmed, playing 2-man Cities and Knights of Catan all day long.

Don't get me wrong, I love taking a sick day. It's wonderful to have a legitimate reason to lounge on the couch, watch movies, and refrain from showering all day long. But two days, stuck in this little apartment with an "invalid" husband is a bit much, even for me. I'm starting to feel the strain of unfinished work, waiting for me to heal up and take care of it. Ryan is also going crazy, losing two days of work and classes.

So, we wait - and wait - for health to return to our bodies. Hopefully tomorrow will bring us an escape from the apartment. At the very least, I'm going to do the laundry!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Perhaps I'm a Bit of an Idealist...

I have to smile at myself. My friend reminded me that the domestic life does not always (ever?) involve a "calm serenity" in daily life. But she has a good point - there is a peace of soul gained by fulfilling one's vocation. I think that's what I am most yearning for, and what I am beginning to feel. I realize that my day-to-day life will most likely be anything but calm. However, I will be at peace internally because I am participating in the role God has prepared for me. That I am sure of.

Monday, September 29, 2008

28 Weeks (7 Months)

I'm officially wearing maternity clothes!

How Apropos: The Perfect Feast Day

Today is the Feast Day of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. I find it particularly fitting that on my unborn child's feast day I officially begin my career change as a stay-at-home wife/mother. Or, as I am fond of saying, I have begun my retirement from the workforce today!

I have to admit, it's after 3:00pm and I am not yet fully dressed. Nor have I started working on any of my housewifely duties. But the good news is that I've caught up on all my blogs and emails (very important) - and there are no online shows to distract me ('cause I've already watched them).

Transitions are always difficult for me. I knew today would be kind of a waste, as I reassessed my daily schedule and spent the day with no official commitments pressing on my time. It's hard to figure out where to begin. With Michael Ryan still in womb, I don't yet have all the responsibilities of motherhood. However, I want to discipline and prepare myself before he arrives. But I can't think very clearly with the apartment in chaos (and, believe me, there is chaos here, leftover from the last couple of frantic, busy weeks)!

Knowing that today is St. Michael's feast day does clear my mind. There is a purpose, a reason, for my early retirement. It's not because I am tired, or lazy, or just plain bored with the corporate world. My vocation is to marriage and motherhood. I've been dreaming about the opportunity to raise my children, take care of husband, and make our home a delight to live in. My dreams are finally becoming a reality! Now I have to figure out how to get from point A to point B: from the chaos of the DINK lifestyle to the calm serenity of the domestic wife & mother vocation.

The best way to start is to just begin, to get moving. I've got an hour and a half before Ryan returns home. It's time to turn on the Laura Ingraham podcast, wash those dishes, and tidy the house. Eventually all will be organized and I will have a new daily schedule. There's peace in knowing that transitions can't last forever.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What's the Grip Againt Sarah Palin?

Technically, this is not a political blog. But I can't help expressing my frustration today over the obvious inequalities in the media - specifically concerning Sarah Palin & Barak Obama. Does it occur strange to anyone else that the media is grilling the Republican VP nomination harder than the Democratic presidential nomination?

The thing is, I really like Sarah Palin. I agree with a lot of what she says (not sure on the exact percentage, 80%...90% - I haven't heard all she has to say yet!). I think she is a wonderful example of a conservative woman out in the public sphere. So many of us, conservative women, that is, don't get a chance to make our views known publically. She represents a lot of women in our country, and I'm just one of the many.

I've been catching up on the Palin/Gibson ABC interviews on YouTube (we have no TV - a post on that later!) and Gibson's attitude towards Palin is appalling. He questions her like she's a dumb school kid, in trouble for lying, and he comes off as totally arrogant and full of himself. It really burns me up! Does anyone speak to Obama like that? Not even Bill O'Reilly.

I happen to think that Sarah Palin held her own very well, especially on the final Friday night segment. She laid out her views on abortion, stem-cell research, and gun control very clearly. Gibson kept asking the same question over and over again, implying that she had not made a sufficient answer, when she was very clear to begin with.

Gibson also implied that all women crave abortion rights (if you can even toss around a word like "right" so easily). That really ticked me off. Sure, the topic of abortion is very important in this election. However, having free access to abortion is NOT important to every single American woman. I am sick and tired of my womanhood being represented as "needing abortion" to be feminine. It sickens me. And I'm tired of being quiet.

Sarah Palin, thank you for standing up for your beliefs. We may not entirely agree on the issues, and you may have to defer to the decisions of your presidential running mate - but you stand firm anyway. You give a voice to conservative, pro-life women in politics. And you force the media to redefine it's definition of feminism. Please, please keep it up. We need you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Catholic Vote 2008

I was so moved by this video, "Catholic Vote 2008," I had to post the link.

I would also like to give a shout-out to Confessions of a Steubie Wife for putting up the link on her blog, leading to my own inspiration.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

24 Weeks (or 6 Months)

Baby Update

Along with being MIA for a month, I haven't yet had the opportunity to share our baby news with you:

We're having a boy!

Ryan and I found out this great news during my first ultrasound, about 5 weeks ago. We had a feeling our first child would be a boy, and we were right on target. It just makes sense to me, to start the family with a boy. I always wanted an older brother (being the eldest of 3 girls) - and since it didn't happen for me, at the very least I can provide an eldest brother for my daughters! Since I have so very much to do with deciding the sex of our children...

We decided to name our first son, Michael Ryan. A tradition stands in Ryan's family to give the first son his father's name as a middle name. Ryan is Ryan Daniel, his father is Daniel Norman, and so forth. Michael's name was chosen years ago (as soon as I knew that Ryan would one day be the father of my children). We had to figure out what sounded the best with "Ryan" as a second name. I also wanted to go strong with a saint or Christian name. We found "Michael" to be the perfect choice - after St. Michael the Archangel. Who better to be the patron saint of our firstborn than the defender of heaven?

It's been fun to call Michael Ryan by name. Some women have told me that it makes them feel closer to the baby to give him/her a name. I don't necessary feel that way. I always knew I would have a son first and name him Michael Ryan. My experience of joy comes from being able to talk about Michael Ryan as a real person, with a name. I no longer have to use the terms "the baby," "him or her," or (worst of all) "it" to talk about my child. I am able to give little Michael Ryan a voice in the world, defending his personhood with a simple name. He may not be able to speak for himself yet, but no one can deny his human rights when he is called by name.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's Been Awhile...

You might be wondering what's happened since my vacation time (over a month ago). Well, I know at least one person who was wondering - and she lives 5 minutes from me! Let's just say that it's been crazy for the last month. Life has been totally non-stop.

August was a whirlwind of my last full-time days at work, Ryan beginning his duties as Hall Director, guests visiting, friends moving to town, planning baby & bridal showers, and kicking it into high gear with our Christ Renews His Parish retreat preparations. I spent a good part of the month in a daze - and I'm still not sure where all of my time went!

Finally, there has been a shift in my daily schedule, like a breath of fresh air. As of yesterday I began working part-time (noon-5:00, wahoo!) and I feel like a whole new person. I'll be part-time for a total of 3 weeks and then I'm done with the corporate world for good. Wow. Freedom is so close I can taste it! But it's a little daunting too. How am I supposed to discipline myself with such a plethora of free time?

One the one hand, my ministries and social life are really perking up: CRHP, cantoring, scrapbooking evenings, women's book group, Colt's & ND football games, showers & weddings galore... But on the other hand I can actually do housework and errands between the hours of 8am and 5pm! I might even be able to squeeze in daily mass. I feel exhilarated and terrified at the same time.

That's why I grabbed a book from the shelf that has been on my mind for several weeks: A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. The book details how to center your daily life around your vocational priorities. Just like religious groups have a "rule" to live by, a wife/mother can create a rule for her family - a pattern for living that focuses on prayer and daily duties. Essentially, it's the ability to create a schedule that puts God first and finds a time to do all the daily tasks that otherwise seem insurmountable.

Holly outlines the wife and mother's priorities as such:
  • Prayer
  • Person
  • Partner
  • Parent
  • Provider
As I was reading during my 30 minute shuttle ride this morning, I felt inspired to finally make a change in my daily life. It's the perfect time. Life is already in the midst of change and I have to find a way to use my time wisely. I've been freaking out over all the stuff left undone, as well as the challenge of facing an unscheduled day in the near future. The time is ripe.

So, if all goes well, I'll be back here on a more regular basis. And I'm excited to share with you how centering my life on a God-focused schedule brings "order to [my] home and peace to [my] soul." If you get a chance, pick up a copy of A Mother's Rule of Life. It has helped me in the past, and I am certain it will continue to help me in this newest stage of my life.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vacation Time

I just want to note, for the record, that I am awake and moving at 8:46am on my vacation.

Yes, I know that my concept of time will change forever when the baby arrives. And, yes, I realize that 8:46am is not really "early" by most standards. But considering that my darling husband is still on college time (a weird phenomenon where grad students have one foot in college time and one foot in "real working world" time), I am feeling quite proactive today.

Now it's time for me to head out the door and travel down to my parent's home. I am going to relax in the sun (what better way to spend vacation time?) and perhaps see little Noah again.

The only question is: how am I ever going to go back to work next week?!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Cutest Moment Ever

Ryan and I spent the weekend at my parents' house, basking in the summer sunshine, and floating in their refreshing pool. It was wonderful - especially since I haven't been to the pool since mid-June. June was also the last time I've enjoyed outdoor recreation this summer. I've been crazy busy! But this week is my official vacation - and I plan to spend as much of it outside as possible.

While spending time with my family I witnessed quite possibly the cutest moment ever between my dad and Ryan.

Let me set the scene: My parents' next door neighbor had a baby about 3 months ago. All my mom can talk about is this little boy, Noah. She's fallen head-over-heels for him, which is humorous considering that her initial reaction to becoming a grandmother was apprehension ("I'm just not ready to be called grandma yet!").

So, I've been waiting with great impatience to meet and hold Noah in my own arms. Finally, an hour before Ryan and I had to leave, Noah and his mother and big sister, Yara, came over to jump in the pool. I held and rocked Noah and got my "baby fix" for awhile. Then, since I promised Yara I would play with her too, I handed over Noah into Ryan's arms.

Ryan was adorable holding Noah, but that's not the cutest moment ever. I had to smile at Ryan's initial awkwardness, imagining how he would look in December holding his own son or daughter. It was a beautiful preview of what is to come.

The cutest moment ever happened when my dad took Noah and realized a diaper change was in order. I glanced over to see my dad teaching Ryan how to change a diaper. They were intently bent over Noah, who was laying on one of the shaded lounge chairs. What a picture perfect moment! It was Ryan's very first lesson in baby care, and who better to teach him than my dad? Cutest moment ever, for sure.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Best Diet I've Ever Been On

It's been 18 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy so far. According to most pregnancy sources, the normal weight gain over 9 months is 25 to 35 pounds. I am determined to make this range of weight gain a reality - especially after my mother has freaked me out with stories of gaining 50 pounds each time.

As of this week, I've gained a net of only 4 pounds. The thing is, I'm getting quite big round the middle. And my husband tells me that I look skinnier in other places, like my chubby face. So, I have a hypothesis:

The extra 10 pounds I was carrying around pre-pregnancy are slowly being converted into actual baby weight. The baby is getting bigger and I'm getting smaller -hence the low level net weight gain thus far.

I have to say, this is the best "diet" I've ever been on. I can eat anything I want, I crave healthy food, I don't have a desire to eat really sweet or processed foods, and no matter how inactive I tend to be, I am actually losing weight/fat in all the non-pregnancy places! Wow. And I hear breastfeeding is even better (aka: I get to eat even more).

In all seriousness, I think the pregnancy has actually helped my mind re-prioritize food. I used to emotionally eat and idealize food. Now I eat because I'm hungry and I have to eat. The little baby in womb is very demanding about that. There are even times when I don't take any pleasure from eating, it's just a necessity. And there's a freedom in this lack of pleasure. It means I can no longer emotionally eat - it just doesn't taste good!

Who knew that the antidote to over-eating was being required to eat all the time?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I was organizing my photos the other day and came across the pictures from my semester studying abroad. I lived in a tiny Austrian village, Gaming, for four months. Monday through Thursday I studied and prayed in an old Carthusian monastary - and then I traveled around Europe Thursday evening through Sunday. It was quite possibly the most amazing and spiritually uplifting time in my life.

Above is a picture of the church, part of the complex also known a the Kartause. Here's a bit from my journal while in Austria:

In the 1300s, a group of Carthusian monks built the Kartause as a home of solitude an prayer. They remained there, cloistered from society, for 400 years until they were kicked out. During World War 2, the Russians took over the Kartause as their military base. They pretty much trashed the place, even stabling their horses inside the building. Then in the 1980s an architect took over the Kartause and totally renovated it. He offered Franciscan part of the building to use for a study abroad progam, which brings me to today. Franciscan rents out a part of the Kartause for us to live, study, and learn about European culture.

To the right is the building I lived in. As you can see, the Kartause is nestled between the rolling hill (mountains to me, a Midwest girl). These hills surround the whole village and make it feel so cozy! I really miss the beauty of Austria. Sometimes I ache to go back again.

To the left is a close-up picture of my room. We had the best room in the place because it came with a balcony! I knew from the first moment I stepped foot in the Kartause that I was going to have the time of my life.

And I was right.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Too Tired to Post

I've just been so tired lately. I'm not sure if it's the pregnancy, the constant summer activities, or the working full-time and training my replacement. Maybe it's a little bit of everything!

I really am too tired to post tonight. I just wanted to put something up here, so it seems like I am still maintaining this blog...

Before I go, I'll leave you with a slightly dated photo. I am currently 18 weeks along, but this is a picture of my growing belly at 16 and 1/2 weeks. I'm sure the baby is taking a lot of energy out of me!

Wahoo - I'm finally showing!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Where Does All the Time Go When I Have Nothing to Do?

I've noticed: on the days I have less required of me I am less efficient with my time overall.

It's a curious phenomenon. You'd think that with more time on my hands I would naturally spend it doing more of those necessary daily tasks. However, I've found quite the opposite to be true. I prefer to do nothing at all!

Here's an example: This week was the first in a long time that I've had every single evening free of commitments. But as I contemplate the past week I realize that all those little projects I've left "until later" are still waiting for me to finish them. Plus I just plain stopped doing household chores - such as dishes & laundry.

What have I been doing with my time? Hmm... Reading my new baby books, watching movies, and updating Facebook. It's all very important - at least that's what I tell myself.

I think it's all boils down to discipline - or the lack thereof. When my schedule is full I am required to discipline myself for the sake of my sanity. But it's not be a real, life-changing type of discipline I put on. It's actually the college style I've-got-a-paper-due-tomorrow-morning-and-I-procrastinated-until-now type of discipline. Fleeting.

As I was reading my new baby books (The Baby Sleep Book & The Baby Book by William & Martha Sears) it dawned on me that I'm never going to be able to handle a new baby if my life is already in chaos at 4 months pregnant. I've got to set a basic standard before the baby arrives. How can I expect to teach my baby when/how to sleep if I don't have a regular sleep pattern for myself? And how can I expect to get on a regular sleep pattern with a newborn if I've never had set schedule before?! (I do realize that there is no such thing as a "regular sleep pattern" with a newborn - but I'm learning that you can teach babies the difference between night and day, which leads to an eventual bedtime.)

The moral of my ponderings? I must return to the roots of discipline. I am motivated. I've wasted a week. But now I'm motivated.

Or maybe I'm yet again on the eve of a college paper....

Let's hope this change is for real. I'll report back to you to keep myself accountable. Now I've put it out there I've got to do it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Lilo & Joel's Wedding

This is one of my most favorite photos from the wedding mass. Lilo & Joel were just married. You can see the rings on both hands - Joel has to wear his on the right hand because it's easier to put on than the left hand.

There are still the remnants of the accident, but there is a much stronger sense of perseverance. These two were determined to get married on June 28th, no matter what! And now they stand as man & wife, ready for all the joys and trials of marriage.

Apartment Photos!

Our old apartment - getting ready to move out.

Our new apartment - the "before"

Our new apartment - after tidying up on Sunday!

Our new kitchen, from the viewpoint of the living room

My newly organized pantry!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wedding Season in Full Force

I just realized that it's been nearly 2 weeks since I last posted and if I don't post now it's not going to happen for another week!

Life has been crazy. When I last left you we were approaching moving day. Rather than intimately (and excessively) detail all the fun and exciting events, I thought I would leave you with a synopsis instead.
  • SATURAY, JUNE 21 - Finished packing and moved all the furniture with the help of 6 friends, 2 trucks, and a philosophy discussion over pizza & beer. Enjoyed the evening with more friends who cooked us our first dinner in the new apartment.
  • SUNDAY, JUNE 22 - Ignored the mess in the house and finally concentrated on my CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) meeting later that evening. It was kind of important, considering that I'm the leader...
  • MONDAY, JUNE 23 - Took the day off from work to sleep-in and clean the old apartment. We turned in the keys. Then we immediately went over to Lilo & Joel's new house to help paint. I avoided the paint fumes by playing with the electric screwdriver - the only appropriate job in my condition.
  • TUESDAY, JUNE 24 - Returned to work for a short 2 days. In the evening Ryan and I went back to Lilo & Joel's to help move in the furniture. Again I found another (appropriate) task - housesitting while guys were out with the trucks picking up new loads.
  • WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25 - Another day of work. Then Lilo's bachelorette party. Since I couldn't enjoy the dollar margaritas at Hacienda, I encouraged others to enjoy them in my stead. I also became the principle photographer for the evening.
  • THURSDAY, JUNE 26 - Joined the bridesmaids and mothers at the spa for a pedicure and nail polish in the morning. Then I shopped for a dress for the wedding (there's no better time than the day before an event for a procrastinator!). In the evening we hashed out the wedding rehearsal and enjoyed a nice dinner afterward. Again, I committed the day to memory via my sweet digital camera.
  • FRIDAY, JUNE 27 - Chaos ensued! I joined the girls at my mother-in-law's home for hair, make-up, and getting dressed. I felt pretty suave at my photography skills until the professional came. Then I rushed home to get ready, rushed to the church to decorate and take a few pictures, and basically didn't sit still until the wedding mass began. Lilo & Joel were married. It was a sobfest. Then we partied late into the night...
  • SATURDAY, JUNE 28 - It was a pajama day! I decided to do nothing all day long - which involved a Bones, Season 2 marathon and french fries from Culvers (the only kind in town that are crinkly).
  • SUNDAY, JUNE 29 - Ryan and I (finally) tidied up our new apartment. I reorganized the pantry and bookshelf, which made me very happy. At least 1 room in the new place now looks livable. I spent the evening with my CRHP ladies.
  • MONDAY, JUNE 30 - Back to work to train my replacement temp. Come October I am no longer an employed woman - I'm a stay-at-home (almost) mom! In the evening we enjoyed a steak dinner at my in-laws home. Everyone was still coming down from the wedding high over the weekend.
  • TUESDAY, JULY 1 - My houseguests returned home. I was sad to see them go, but they'll be moving to town in 3 weeks! Suddenly everything was very quiet...
  • WEDNESDAY, JULY 2 - Today I must order or create invitations for my best friend's bridal shower. She was my maid-of-honor and I will be her matron-of-honor in October. I've also got to pack to go to Columbus tomorrow - we have another wedding to attend! As soon as one wedding event ends, another starts up. It's truly Wedding Season in full force!
*Note: I originally wrote this on Wednesday, but got so busy that I forgot to finishand post it until Friday afternoon! I'm keeping the post date for July 2nd, as that was my original intention.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Funny How My Pathetic Attempts at Trust Always End Up Overwhelming Me With Grace

It occurred to me last night that this move will be doable. I don't know how. I have a very flimsy plan. But all the concerns I've been holding onto so tightly are just slipping away - like when one tries to grasp sand in his fist. The more I voice my doubts, the more obvious it seems that my arguments are weak and pathetic.

I saw the new apartment last night. There is space! And there are closets. And - perhaps - I might even like it better than the current apartment. Maybe.

I also attacked the packing.

First came the list for my mother-in-law and Baby Sister - who are beyond wonderful! They are going to help me pack while I'm at work. I just left them a list of things to pack and they are going to make it happen. When I return home this evening there will be magically full boxes, ready for transportation.

As I was explaining the list to Baby Sister she just looked at me and asked, "And what else?" As in, it really won't take us 3 hours to pack the things on your list - add more to it! Well... Ok... I guess the packing won't take quite as long as I had anticipated. The list increased.

Ryan also informed me that we have two strong men to help us from his Christ Renews His Parish group. One comes with a truck. More blessings!

So, all three of my original concerns are answered: a free truck, volunteer crew, and no penalties for leaving early. I barely moved my will in the direction of trust and I am already answered tenfold. Amazing. Grace.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday Moving Madness

We have 5 short evenings until our big move on Saturday - and I'm currently stuck at work where I can only contemplate the tasks at hand. I'm itching to start some real packing!

I'm also covered by a general feeling of apprehension as I watch the clock slowly tick down the last hour of work. We're walking straight into chaos tonight. Who knows when it will end?

Tonight Baby Sister arrives to spend 2 weeks with us before Lilo and Joel's wedding. She's taking a summer course and needs a place to live. But I have to be responsible and feed her! So I must go grocery shopping (Ryan and I have been living off free food in various forms for the last month or so) and then check out the new apartment (we received the keys today) so I can plan on how exactly to move all of our stuff.

Baby Sister has assured me that she is quite excited to be living with us and helping us move. It must be nice to be so carefree! I think she will be most helpful. Well, when she's not working like crazy on her accelerated Intro to Greek language class... But I'm determined to just let the chaos happen and trust that somewhere in the midst of it all the necessary aspects of moving are occurring.

It should be an interesting week, to say the least.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Are We Crazy?

Last night Ryan informed me that we are not moving mid-July as I had anticipated, but next weekend instead.

I replied, "Sure, honey, whatever you say. I'll follow your lead wherever you go and do what you think is best because you are my husband and head of our household and you only have our best interests in mind."

Only it came out at little differently, more like, "No freaking way I'm moving in a week."

Did I mention that the intended moving weekend falls between 3 wedding weekends, one of which is his sister Lilo's wedding, and it will be the same weekend that Lilo and Joel move into their new house?

After some tense discussion (in front of his mother and sister too, as we were at their house when the discussion arose) I played the "I'm pregnant, tired, and it's past my bedtime" card to avoid any further discussion. I also tenuously agreed to move in a week, so long as Ryan provided me with certain proofs of sanity insurance: an inexpensive moving vehicle, a volunteer crew, and permission to leave our current apartment early without penalty.

Are we just plain crazy?

Ryan thinks this coming week will be the calm in the storm for his summer graduate work. He doesn't really get a "break" for the summer. And the closer we get to August the more involved he becomes with this masters work. So, moving early means one less thing to deal with in July. He's willing to push through, pack and move in a day, and be done with it.

I, on the other hand, have a great opportunity to surrender my desire for control and trust unconditionally. My head knows that we can do if we have to (because we packed and moved in 3 days last summer), but my heart was so set on having another peaceful month. We have 3 weddings and traveling to do in the next 4 weeks. I just wanted to be able to enjoy myself before I had to think about moving.

And I like our little apartment. Let's be honest. I am comfortable and I dislike change, especially when I don't know all the details. What if the new apartment (which happens to be in a dorm) is not as nice as the one we have now? Last summer we upgraded. It's far more difficult to downgrade. I am cringing at the thought of a bad change.

The silver lining today is that I've decided to follow Ryan's lead and be at peace with moving next weekend. I can shove the whole decision making aspect of the move onto his shoulders and just show up. Right now I don't know how it's all going to work out moving day. But Ryan has enough enthusiasm for both of us. I only have to agree. And God will take care of the rest.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Big Two - Our Second Anniversary

Today Ryan and I have been married for 2 years. That seems like both a long and a short time. In the overall scheme of life 2 years isn't very long. And we hope to be married for many, many years. At the same time, I can't imagine not being married. It's so natural to me - to be Ryan's wife. It feels like we've always been married, it's just so right.

It's interesting to think back on how our lives have progressed in the last two years. Here's a synopsis:
  • May 2006: Graduate from Franciscan University
  • June 10, 2006: Our wedding day
  • June 2006: Move into a new apartment, town, and school; Prepare for graduate school
  • August 2006: Ashley starts a temp job on campus and Ryan's graduate school classes begin
  • October 2006: Ashley begins a brief entry into her favorite ministry, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
  • May 2007: Ashley's temp job becomes a salaried position, Ryan's stressful 1st year of graduate school comes to a close
  • June/July 2007: Move to a new apartment
  • August 2007: Ryan changes departments and advisors (the best change ever!)
  • September 2007: Joel's accident happens and very long recovery begins*
  • February/March 2008: Ashley & Ryan attend Christ Renews His Parish retreats, and enter into a new ministry with the church
  • April 2008: Find out we're having a baby!
  • May 2008: Ryan's 2nd year of graduate school ends
And coming soon...
  • June 27, 2008: Lilo and Joel's wedding (postponed from December)
  • June/July: Move to another new apartment
  • August 2008: Begin job as Residence Directors and Ryan's 3rd year of graduate school
  • December 2008: Welcome our first baby into the world
*Note: Lilo is Ryan's younger sister and Joel is her fiance. At the end of September he burned over 65% of his body when his car caught on fire while he was changing the fuel line. He spent 6 weeks in a coma, 2 and a half months in the hospital, and they had to postpone their December 2007 wedding until June 2008. This past spring he spent another 6 weeks at the Mayo clinic. He's had about 10 surgeries so far, but the end is not yet in sight. Right now Joel has partial use of his right arm and hand and very little use of his left arm and hand. His face and most of his legs were not burned in the fire - it was his chest, back, arms, and hands that suffered the worst burns. Prayers for our family are greatly appreciated - especially as their wedding approaches. Please pray that Lilo and Joel are able to enjoy their wedding day!

Monday, June 9, 2008

2nd Doctor Appointment

Wow. I am so ready for this next week to be over. Then I am officially in the 2nd trimester. Everyone keeps telling me that it gets better in the 2nd trimester. And I need more energy. Not only is the blog suffering, but my general life is on hold as well. So, I will do the best I can to catch up and restart, beginning today...

Ryan and I went in for our second doctor appointment on Thursday, June 5th. It was actually pretty short. They just gave me the results of my blood test and told me to bring back a food journal for my next appointment. Then we were able to listen to the baby's heartbeat. It was amazing, but surreal - I am not sure that I really feel pregnant yet. I don't think that feeling will occur until I actually feel the baby moving around.

Part of me was a little disappointed that I didn't suddenly feel different when I heard my baby's heartbeat. I guess I had expected some kind of supernatural change to come over me. Other women have talked about it being the moment they felt like a mother. I didn't really experience an overwhelming sense of motherhood. In fact, I thought, "Huh, that's a strange sound coming from my abdomen..." My head and heart are not really connected in the situation. I know I am a mother, but I don't yet know I am a mother.

One thing that struck me this week is the size of my baby. He or she is now approximately the size of a lime. I can imagine all the tiny features on a baby this size. And my stomach is starting to protrude just a little bit (although I still pretty much look like I really need a good ab workout to the general eye). I also found out that the baby will respond to pressure on my stomach. If I poke my stomach, he will move in response. I can't feel it yet, but it's happening. So cool...

Anyway, it's my bedtime now. I need as much sleep as I can get these days. And since I want to have some energy tomorrow, I really need to wrap up my evening pronto. Don't worry - I'll be back soon!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sleep Most Important

It occurred to me yesterday, when I was feeling utterly miserable, that sleep could be the pivotal factor in a happy pregnancy. Let me 'splain...

I've noticed that on the nights I make sure to go to bed earlier and get enough sleep (although, enough is a word open to interpretation these days) I wake up the next morning and have a great day. Food tastes good. I have energy. I go to work and then come home and putter around doing housewifely things (such as dishes, laundry, making the bed, etc.).

However... On the nights I stay up and hang out with hubby or read Lord of the Rings far past my bedtime I wake up the next morning feeling AWFUL (yes, it's that bad - and no, I'm not whining). It's not only that I'm tired, but nothing tastes good, I have no energy, and I am pretty much useless at work. It used to be that sleeping 6 hours instead of 8 hours just made me tired. Now I feel sick and useless. Forget about coming home and tidying the house - ain't gonna happen.

I'm not sure if this is a wide-spread phenomenon or if it's just me. Either way, my big plans this weekend definitely include shutting off the alarm and sleeping until obscenely late on Sunday morning. Thank goodness for 12:15 Mass...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


This week my baby is "barely the size of a kumquat," if you were curious.

Can't Believe It's Not Monday

Memorial weekend was wonderful, full of exciting events (early morning rummage sales, shopping for maternity capris and a new bathing suit, honest-to-goodness real warm weather, organizing the huge pile on my desk), and a wonderful vacation from work on Monday and Tuesday. But now I'm a little disoriented. Although today is Wednesday, it's like my Monday of a very short week. And I'm a little behind on my daily life. When I take a vacation I tend to believe that all time stops. It's beyond weird to discover that time has, in fact, been racing along despite my perception.

Anyway, I can't stop to long to update the blog because I have actual work to do today. Luckily, Friday is almost here!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A (Nearly) Finished Scrapbook

For the past several months I have been working on a scrapbook with my mother-in-law. I think we began it last August - but took a long break from October to January. It's been a long project, to say the least. And we finally reached the joyful moment of putting the finished pages in the album last weekend. Just in time.

The scrapbook is actually a gift for Ryan's youngest sister, Steff, who is graduating from high school at the end of May. It's tradition in their family to prepare a scrapbook of the graduate's 18 years of life and present it on graduation day. I was called in to help with the project because Steff was the scrapbooking queen for her older brother and sister, and there are no younger siblings to carry on the tradition for her. It actually worked out well because I love to scrapbook and I really love my newest little sister.

It's been such an interesting project for me to work on. First of all, I've spent a lot of time in cahoots with my mother-in-law. I am so thankful that we get along really well! We've had a lot of fun shopping at the huge scrapbook store for colorful papers and stickers and sifting through boxes of old family photos. I've tried to keep her motivated and on track and she's let me take charge of organizing the project. We've spent countless hours together in the basement pouring over stencils, scissors, and adhesives with old chick flicks on tv keeping us company in the background. In the last year I've spent more time with her than any of my other girl friends!

Secondly, it's quite intriguing to piece together a scrapbook of someone else's life. I showed up in Steff's family about six years ago and have my own perspective on her life from that time. Until 2002, however, it's mostly unknown to me. How are you supposed to pick out the most important memories for someone else? But it's been fun to delve into her life, to see pictures of her growing from a baby into a young woman. So, I just picked my favorite pictures and went crazy on the page design.

Third and finally, I've realized that this project really is a labor of love. There was a moment a few weeks ago when the thought suddenly occurred to me that I would not be the owner of the pages I had so painstakingly created. As an artist, it was a sad moment to know that I was giving away a piece of myself, never to return. But as a sister I was able to embrace the sacrifice because my love for Steff is so much greater than my selfishness. And I knew that of all people Steff would understand the nature of my gift.

She graduates in 8 days. The 2 volume album contains over 120 total pages. There are only 3 pages yet unfinished. I've spend almost every weekend for the last 4 months pouring over this book. But most importantly, I've gained more than I've given - in relationships, self-sacrifice, and introspection. Now it's time to begin the work on my own scrapbooking projects!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Would That Be Green or Purple?

Did I mention that our little baby is now the size of a grape?

Disappointed in Prince Caspian

I'm a big believer in the "don't mess with a good thing" philosophy. And I am especially critical of books turned into movies. The best movies deviate very little from the written masterpieces. After all, isn't the movie created because the book was such a hit? Which brings me to my disappointment in Prince Caspian.

On the surface the movie was quite enjoyable. The costumes and makeup were rich in detail, the outdoor locations were gorgeous. The film technique was interesting with varied shots and angles - and it caught the lighting so well in the woods. An even bigger bonus - the young actors did a great job. I really enjoyed the "artsy" outer layer of the film. But the plot ruined it for me.

The plot barely hung onto the fringes of the written story and left out the deep character development that gives Prince Caspian it's substance. It wasn't just that the director added romantic tension between Susan and Prince Caspian (which pulled us away from Susan's real focus in the book - her relationship to Aslan), but he eradicated almost all of the Christian allegory.

There were two bits of dialogue that left me with an uncomfortable feeling, like something just wasn't right. After the movie I talked with Ryan about it and he was able to clarify what the movie said versus what C.S. Lewis originally wrote.

Scene 1: Lucy has just found Aslan in the forest, after she has ridden from battle in search of help. She asks Aslan if the events in Narnia would have been different if she had sought him earlier. The movie version has Aslan tell her that we can never know the what would have happened while in the book version Aslan actually says that no one is ever told what would have happened if she had acted differently. The difference is subtle but so important! C.S. Lewis wants us to know that Aslan has the power to see the end result of all choices Lucy is offered, just has God can see the different outcomes to the choices we are offered. In the movie Aslan seems just as clueless as the little girl he guides. There is no sense that an all-powerful Aslan (God) knows the different outcomes of Lucy's choices.

Scene 2: Aslan is sending the children back to England after their adventure in Narnia. Aslan's explanation to the children why Susan and Peter will not return to Narnia in the movie is very different from the explanation in the book. In the movie Aslan tells the children that Peter and Susan have learned what they can from Narnia and now must learn what they can from their own home. In the book Aslan tells them that Peter and Susan have learned to love him as best they can in Narnia and now must learn to love him by his name in their own world. Aslan is a Christ-figure. He's telling the children in the book to go back home and grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. The movie takes out all reference to God, Christ, and the real nature of the children's relationship to Aslan.

When you look the two versions of Prince Caspian side by side the movie pales in comparison to the book. The director obviously thought his audience couldn't handle a film with deep character development, as the children struggle primarily with their relationship to Aslan (God) - and therefore took out all reference to God, replacing it with a fluffy romantic anti-relationship between Susan and Caspian and extra battle scenes that don't exist in the book version.

I am quite disappointed to find the work of C.S. Lewis severed from it's original content and meaning. And I'm just not sure if I want to waste my time on any other new movie versions of The Chronicles of Narnia. Maybe I'll just stick to the old BBC versions from my childhood, even if they don't look as cool on the surface.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Little Kidney Bean

I feel like a terrible blogger. Two really good posting days have passed me by and I have failed to post anything new. So here's a shout-out to Mother's Day (Sunday, May 11) and to the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (Tuesday, May 13). I feel better now.

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So, I've been thinking: Right at this very moment I have a tiny baby, the size of a kidney bean, growing inside of me. I don't look very different yet (although I did take pictures on Sunday to commemorate achieving 8 weeks of pregnancy), and I have gained a total of about half a pound. I'm ok with that weight gain. I'm supposed to gain about 5-7 pounds in the first trimester and I was at least 5 pounds overweight to begin with. I think my body is adjusting itself.

For some reason the kidney bean image resonates with me. Perhaps it's because the shape is correct - my baby has a big head and tiny arms and legs, and is all curled up in a little semi-circle. Sometimes I can't quite wrap my mind around what is actually going on inside of me. But now that my baby is the size of a kidney bean... Well, that size makes sense to me.

I read another women's musings on pregnancy recently (and desperately tried to find the original source for my own post, but have no idea where to find it, so here's a shout-out to whoever you are) and was struck by her words.

During the time when I discover I am pregnant until I am able to feel my child moving in my womb, I feel the closest to God.

Or something close to that. It's not a direct quote. But the essence of her words has stuck with me since reading them.

The time I am in now is such weird time to be in - knowing that I am pregnant, but not having any "proof" of it. I don't look pregnant yet, I can't feel the baby moving inside of me, and I don't really feel the effects of first trimester sickness. And there's still a possibility that something could go wrong and I could have a miscarriage. So I've got to have patience and trust that God will take care of me and my little kidney bean. Not only do I have to trust that a new person really is growing inside my womb, but I also have to act responsibly for my baby. This is a time that requires my faith to increase beyond what I know through my senses.

I don't necessarily feel closer to God at this moment, but I understand why the other mother does. Right now it's hard to connect with my baby, to even believe he or she is really there. So now is the time to throw myself into my Father's arms and trust Him, to let Him take care of us both. In becoming vulnerable, God will draw me close to Himself.

And my little kidney bean will continue to grow. Soon I will be able to hear a heart-beat and to feel little feet and hands punching me from inside out. I won't need to have faith that my baby is there because I will know from my sense experiences that he or she exists. I will have my "proof" at last. It makes this time important for my relationship with God. I understand why the those words have stuck with me. I have an opportunity at this moment to do more than just wait.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Our First Doctor Appointment

Yesterday was our first doctor appointment. And now that I think about it, we never did see an actual doctor... But that is because Ryan and I have decided to try a midwife for our first pregnancy. She comes highly recommended by my chiropractor - and why not stick with more natural medicine if that's what I'm already used to doing?

The truth is that I have no idea what I am doing and yesterday I was a little nervous.

I get that way when I have to do something new or different. In the two years Ryan and I have been married I've never even visited the medical complex that I will now be frequenting over the next 7 months. I don't really get sick and I'm never accident prone. In fact, I've only been to hospitals to visit other people. I just don't like pain and I will avoid at any cost the type of activities that might cause pain. And now I'm on this roller coaster of pregnancy that will inevitably end in the extreme pains of labor. Hence, my nervousness.

Luckily the appointment yesterday calmed my agitated state. It was your basic informative meeting. The nurse practitioner walked us through what to expect over the next 7 months. She also gave us a stack of literature on how to maintain a safe pregnancy (i.e. what type of foods to avoid, how to exercise, behaviors to restrict, etc.). We even received a little "gift bag" of prenatal vitamins and baby magazines.

Once the nurse started talking I realized that I already knew a lot of the information she was imparting to us. In college I took an embryology class (and freaked out because we talked so much about the problems of pregnancy that it seemed nearly impossible to give birth to a healthy child!) and I've done a little bit of my own online research in the past 3 weeks. The nurse's words confirmed my own knowledge and felt more like a refresher course than a brand new subject. It was soothing to hear her speak on familiar topics. She also seemed to know just what to say, almost reading the questions in my mind.

More than anything, I was thankful for Ryan's presence at the appointment. It was never a question if he would join me - but I can't help appreciating his support anyway. I know he will be at my side throughout this pregnancy, catering to my silly whims and protecting me from harm. He will be my strength at the delivery and my child's advocate from the moment of birth until we arrive safely home. Ryan's support and strength give me peace in a time of uncertainty and unanswerable questions. I can't imagine going through pregnancy without him. More than anything, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my husband, this man shaped by God and chosen for me in marriage. I don't know why I deserve him; I am humbled at the goodness of the Lord who brought us together.

Although I diverge from the story of our doctor appointment, I can't help but mention my husband. He was quiet through most of the appointment, but always at full attention. And he will continue to join me for these appointments - especially as they become more exciting and we learn more about our child.

It all feels real now. We are really going to have a baby. The adventure has just begun...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Eating for Two (or; Having to Eat is Not as Fun as Wanting to Eat!)

The first question I am asked these days is "how are you feeling?" Most of time time I can smile and claim that I don't really feel different. Maybe I am more tired and hungry than before pregnancy - but mostly I feel the same as I did two months ago. Since a few days ago I think a different answer is required of me.

I am very lucky. I haven't been sick. But I don't feel "well" either. I am in a constant state of uneasiness and slight upset stomach. It's not the kind of thing that debilitates me - it's just annoying. And I am beginning to feel little bit less excited about being pregnant. I mean, no one told me that it would be a breeze, but somehow I had the distinct impression that I would feel blissful through the majority of my pregnancy. Aren't pregnant women supposed to be so happy and glowing?

I keep thinking about the conversation I had with my mother and grandmother the day I told them the good news. They both assured me they never suffered from morning sickness. But my mom told me that she constantly ate to stave off the feelings of nausea. She said she gained her 25-30 by the time 6 months rolled around because she was eating all the time! Oh, no. I am so prepared not to gain anymore weight than what is necessary!

I think I am beginning to understand just why my mother ate so frequently.

Since becoming pregnant, I've found out that I am required to eat more often. I am not talking about they stereotypical "eating for two cause it's just an excuse to gorge myself." When I feel hungry I also feel sick. And then my blood sugar drops and I feel faint. I actually have to put food in my body or it gets angry at me! Eating frequently also requires extra meal preparation. I have to bring twice as much food to work to last me throughout the day. And it has be high in protein (or it's just not worth the time it takes to eat it). *sigh* It's a lot of work to eat properly these days.

I can't help but compare my current eating habits to those in my past. Gluttony has always been a temptation for me. I love to enjoy food! If I'm watching TV or a movie, I've got to have something to munch on. At dinner I always grab seconds - and one cookie is never enough to satisfy my craving. My freshman year of college I gained my frosh 20 in the first semester (thanks, in part, to the all-you-can-eat buffet). Since college I've battled with my weight, at least mentally/emotionally, but I've not been successful at permanently curbing my eating habits.

Now it would seem that I can finally relax about food. I will gain weight - and that's a good thing, not to mention an unavoidable change. I have a free pass to give into my cravings and eat exactly what I want when I want it. The only problem is that I don't really enjoy eating anymore! It's become more of a chore than a pleasure. And, to top it all off, I never really feel settled or satisfied after I've eaten.

Well, I keep thinking that I've got one more month to slug it through the not-fun part of pregnancy. I keep hearing that the 2nd trimester is the best trimester. It's going to be great. I can just feel it. At the very least, it's something to focus on while I am dealing with the next four weeks!

And as I suffer through weird changes in my body, I always have something to offer up in prayer. I'm trying to remember to focus beyond myself. There's always someone who needs a prayer more than I do.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How Many Words Do You Have Left?

Today is the third day that I have spent alone in my office. My co-worker, Tina, is sick and so I am "holding down the fort" by myself.

Normally I am quite lucky. The two of us work in a rather large office (if you don't count all the tables, copy machines and shelves taking up space) with two walls of full-length windows. We have a great view of the trees budding, a dead-end campus street (and how many, many cars find that out too late), and the academic building across from us. It's a perfect set of windows for spying on illegally parked cars. Hey, I've only called them in once. I just find enjoyment in watching events unfold outside our windows.

Tina and I usually spend a good portion of the day chatting together. Mostly we can talk and copy things at the same time (I know, we are talented). Sometimes we just sit and shoot the breeze. There are always professors walking in and out of our office, bringing up interesting topics, as well. Most days when I return home to Ryan and our little apartment I find that I have used up a good portion of my words for the day.

You know what I mean, right? Supposedly women have twice as many words than men to say each day... Don't quote me on the statistics. But I know it's true that I have more things to say each day than Ryan has to say. If I've been particularly quiet on a certain day I'm unable fall asleep until I've talked enough words out of my system.

Which brings me to today... Working with another office person allows me get at lot of words out of my system so I don't have to bombard Ryan with all of my thoughts in the evenings. Spending one day at work alone is enough to make me annoyingly chatty at night. Imagine the havoc that three days of silence is going to wreak tonight.

Do you think writing counts towards daily word usage?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Back From Hiatus

A lot has happened in the last 10 days. I can't believe it's been that long! But I have much to tell of the twists and turns in our graduate school life.

Biggest news: Ryan and I found out that we are going to have a baby!

It's truly amazing how God's plans work out in the end. My plan was to get pregnant, apply for the Residence Director job, and then quit my full-time job in anticipation of motherhood. God's plan was for me to learn how to trust Him and follow Him in faith without knowing the outcome. I was definitely not pregnant when we applied for the job - but we applied anyway (late, and with no help from me - Ryan did it all). Then we were offered the job and I still didn't know what was going on with my future possible motherhood. We decided to accept the job before we knew if a child was in womb. Here's the amazing part - we found out the day we signed the contract that our first child is on the way. Faith first, then answers.

It was so much fun telling our families the big news. Ryan and I have been questioned about possible pregnancies since our wedding day. My sisters have been suspicious every time our family gathers for dinner.

"Any announcements?" they would query over the dining room table.

"Nope. But don't worry, you'll be the first to know," I always replied.

Imagine their surprise and joy when my answer finally changed! Baby Sister just jumped and screamed and jumped some more. Middle Sister was still away at college and we had to tell her over the phone. She was thrilled - so very excited, in fact, that I was kind of shocked by her reaction. A few days later she called me to chat and explained that her mindset had recently changed about Ryan and I becoming parents. At first she was unconvinced that we were ready for parenthood. Within the last two weeks, however, she had a change of heart and started yearning to become an auntie. What joy to make her wish come true!

Ryan's parents were even more fun to tell our good news. It was his mother's birthday and he gave her gift of becoming a grandmother. Both of Ryan's parents jumped around and yelled and hugged us when they found out. I really didn't expect to be overwhelmed with such unfettered joy. I guess we are in a really special position. This baby will be the first grandchild on both sides, and the first great-grandchild on three out of the four sides. I can't even imagine how spoiled he or she will be...

Telling our close friends was also a wonderful experience. So many people having been praying for us to have a baby. It's not like we were in a horrible situation of infertility, but it's been a long wait since our wedding day. Many of our friends espouse the Franciscan view of begetting children on the honeymoon. Let's just say that waiting nearly two years is an unusually long time for our set of friends. If Ryan didn't immediately go to graduate school we might have had a honeymoon baby too. We just have to deal with the challenges of life as they come at us. Graduate school is definitely one such challenge!

The only unfortunate event that occurred in the last week was that Middle Sister leaked our good news onto Facebook before we had a chance to tell some people personally. A couple of my close friends saw Facebook before I could call them and it ruined the surprise element. But how can I be angry at the joy of my sister? I still called my friends - better late than never! I guess that is just a consequence of modern technology. News by Facebook travels faster than news by phone.

According to my NFP charts, our little baby should arrive around December 21st. Yes, I know, he or she will be a Christmas Baby. Seriously, that is the first thing people say when they find out my due date. I am six weeks along at this point, which means the baby is technically 4 weeks old - one month already!

Another question everyone asks is how am I feeling. I've been lucky thus far - I feel practically normal. The only difference is being much more tired and little more hungry. The hungry thing is weird because sometimes a certain food will smell terrible to me, but then it tastes just fine. The challenges arises in getting over the unappetizing smell and actually eating the food. I am probably hungry because I refuse to eat what is available!

There will be much to talk of in the coming months. I don't think I will have such a long break between posts again. And now I am so excited to keep writing. This is officially a mommy blog!

Friday, April 18, 2008

In the Words of the Holy Father...


Conference Hall of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Thursday, 17 April 2008

"We see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in – a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church." (emphasis mine)