Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Letter to My Daughter: Three Months Old

[This was written last month but I've only now gotten around to publishing it, so I'm back-dating it to reflect the proper date.]

Dear Brennan,

You are now three months old.

I find that I repeat myself endlessly with you, in a sing-songy voice. Something along the lines of: "Oh my goodness, your diaper is SO wet! SO wet! How did it get so wet?! What are you doing with such a wet diaper?!" This isn't something I did before, so I'm telling myself it's something innate in mothers that probably aids in language comprehension. Sounds plausible, right?

You are a happy baby. I love that when you wake up, you entertain yourself by looking around and wiggling your legs instead of crying. You brighten up and grin when we pick you up, and the couple times I've caught you giggling in your sleep, my heart just melts.

People have commented that you have long fingers, so there is talk whether you will embrace the creative or the physical activities where this comes in as an advantage (for the record, we'd be happy whether you follow the route of pianist or basketball player). Apparently you have quite the complexion; I've also heard numerous mention of how good your skin looked, and I think the c-section is to credit as I see other photos of newborns with blotchier skin and the temporarily misshapen head.

You seem to know kicking your feet activates lights and sounds on your bouncy seat and activity pad, although the playtime quickly escalates into sleepy time, and if we're not quick to notice, you are not afraid to let us know - in very loud terms - how upset you are that you are now struggling to fall asleep. Those times of fighting sleep aren't the most fun for you.

I remember reading someone say they got through the hectic and crazy days of five children very close in age by reminding herself that she will one day miss it. Admittedly, you are pretty easy to take care of, but already I notice I am a little sentimental that you can now sleep through the night. I don't yet tire of reading simple storybooks or singing silly songs or dangling toys for you. And the moment these activities grow tiresome - if they ever do - I trust this adage will come to mind: "One day, I will miss this."

You never knew Katherine, but that was one gift she left us with. Every moment is precious. Sometimes I grow quiet thinking of all the things we've already learned about you and how that time with your older sister was cut too short. So I even treasure those moments you kick against me and scream because you can't fall asleep, or the times I have to rush out of the store suddenly before you wail, or lugging the much heavier carseat around along with a diaper bag and everything else. It is a gift to be a mother to you, and in parenthood, the hard days and the easy days all work together to form a lifetime.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Welcome to the World, Little One

Eight weeks ago, on September 15, Eric and I arrived at the hospital at 7 AM to check in for my c-section.

Quick side story: Eric dropped me off at the door and proceeded to park the car while I began the check-in procedure, and more than one nurse asked me if I was there with anyone, worried I'd driven myself to the hospital and was going this alone. It was a little amusing until I realized they were asking because they must see some moms coming in without anyone to support them. They were visibly relieved when Eric materialized.

It's a strange feeling to know the exact date, and basically the time, that you will have a baby. I'd had a bag mostly packed for a couple weeks, but we finished our packing the night before and did our best to get some sleep. We took our last pregnancy photo before walking out the door; after all, it was 39 weeks to the day, and I'm all about the documentation! I'd had Eric take a photo the night before in case we forgot or were in a hurry in the morning, but there was a part of me that knew it wasn't the 39-week photo, it was instead the 38-weeks-and-6-days photo, and we couldn't leave it at that!

We spent the next three hours doing a lot of sitting around. I spent a few minutes doing some of the last knitting I was likely to do for the foreseeable future, although the IV made this a little awkward.

As the time neared, I found my pulse racing, some due to general nerves, some due to memories of my first c-section. As my daughter's heartrate would also increase at those times, I tried to keep calm. No need for her to feed off my anxiety.

I was wheeled into surgery and given the spinal. My blood pressure was low during the entire pregnancy, and the spinal caused it to decrease even more to the point that I was nauseous and worried about fainting; they gave me something to bring it back up.

And then it began. Eric was brought to my side and we waited some more. And then we heard it: a robust, even angry, cry materializing from our newly born daughter.

We'd been told throughout my pregnancy that she wasn't going to be any little thing, so as the doctor commented again on her size, we waited for the nurses to announce her weight. Next thing we heard was someone saying, "Ten oh three," and both of us were aghast. She hadn't seemed that large when she was shown to us in passing! We said as much, and the nurses laughed at our confusion. They had announced the time of birth, not her weight. She was all of seven pounds, 14 ounces.

Eric was able to hold her soon after, and I craned my neck to examine her. She was precious. She wasn't at all happy to be in a bright, cold room, and she let this be known. I watched her lower lip tremble as she geared up for each new wail, and as I relished her arrival, her life, I broke down in tears. This amazing day had arrived, and we were being entrusted with her life. I had carried her for 39 weeks, but now I finally got to meet this little being, our daughter Brennan.

Surgery was completed and we were whisked to the recovery room. I struggled with nausea for the first couple of hours after surgery; when the first medication had no effect, they gave me a dose of something that would certainly work, but would make me pretty drowsy as well. This meant I came in and out of consciousness frequently for her first day of life as visitors rotated through to meet her, but that and a good night's sleep resulted in a well rested mommy by day two.

For those of you who want more stats: she passed the APGAR with flying colors, first scoring a nine and then a ten (the one point she lost was due to color). She was 20.5 inches long.

I'll try to post again soon with details of her first two months of life. I return to work on Monday (!), but as she is starting to have a schedule emerge, I have some semi-predictable free time in the afternoons during her long nap.

Monday, September 06, 2010

A Letter to my Daughter: 9 Days

Dear Baby Daughter,

I am filled to overflowing with thankfulness lately. When I became pregnant with you, I didn't know what the future would hold. I started hoping we would make it out of the first trimester, and we did so without incident. Then I hoped we would make it past 24 weeks, and we managed that with flying colors. Each day has come and gone, adding up into weeks, and I've remained pregnant.

I was considered high risk because of my past complications, but this uneventful pregnancy has done much to help heal our emotions and allowed us the chance to hope again. You can't replace your sister, but we're so grateful to be able to welcome you into our family. I've had frequent doctor visits and ultrasounds, but everything continued normally. Weight gain was gradual, blood pressure and blood sugars remain low, and even with all the heat this summer, there hasn't been even a hint of swelling.

Here we are, me about to reach 38 weeks, and we're only nine days away from meeting you face to face. I can hardly believe the time has nearly come. Last week, my doctor said they wouldn't stop anything if I went into labor on my own - they would just move up my surgery date - but I've instructed you to wait until the 15th - after all, I'd like to experience a normal, scheduled c-section instead of having to be rushed into an emergency one again. There are bound to be flashbacks as we recall what we experienced with Katherine, but we're trying to trust. Circumstances are vastly different this time around.

You're a decent size at this point - the doctors think you won't be any small thing, but you appear to be perfect. I've loved watching you transform in the ultrasounds; in the last one, you rubbed your hands in front of your eyes as if we were disturbing your sleep, and such typical baby movements made this all the more real to me. You are a miracle inside of me, constantly growing.

I am beyond fascinated with your movements inside me. As you've grown, your kicks have transformed into squirming, so I feel you throughout much of the day as you are ever shifting. I love watching my belly as you distort it with all your movements. And I cannot believe that in a little over a week, I'll get to put names to all these movements. Right now, I can't distinguish between what's an elbow or a knee, but starting next Wednesday, as I see you move outside of me, I'm pretty sure I will lose track of my days. If I'm this transfixed with unidentified movements inside me, I can only imagine how much more emotional it's going to be to see you.

I admit I know there might be some long days and sleepless nights ahead as we figure out this whole parenting thing, but I feel so blessed with the support and prayers of friends and family and know we will approach one day at a time. I'm honored I've been able to carry you these many months, and I can't wait for the continued joy of getting to be your mother.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Preggo Brain in Three Acts

All of these occurred in the span of about three days last week. Those of you with child, be forewarned. Apparently, once you reach 36 weeks, your brain disconnects. These are presented in the order they occurred, so I'm concerned at where this escalation leaves me.

Act One

A student entered the main office, asking if I had any bandaids. I collected the box from a back cupboard, gave her a couple, then went back to return them. I was inches away from opening the mini fridge to put them inside. I caught myself, though, before I opened the door.

In my defense, I do open the mini fridge several times a day, pregnant or not, whereas the cupboard is rarely touched, so I cut myself some slack on this instance and wrote it off to habit - once I was in the vicinity, my feet just took over until my brain informed them I wasn't in search of a snack.

All told, a relatively minor instance of preggo brain, if it could even be blamed on that. Let's move on to later that same day.

Act Two

Washing my hands is something I've done tens of thousands of times. It's pretty straightforward, right? Water gets turned on, soap is dispensed, your hands are vigorously scrubbed, rinsed, and then dried off, and then you're done.

This, however, proved to be too much for me one evening last week. I had use of both hands, so no real excuse for what happened. One hand was on the faucet, turning it on, while the other one was simultaneously depressing the soap dispenser. Do you know what happens when you dispense soap with one hand while the other hand is nowhere nearby to collect the stream of suds? It trickles down the side of the sink, wasted.

I stood there, just shaking my head at myself. Perhaps I could say it was due to a long day at work? Yeah, I didn't think so, either. Just like you're never supposed to forget how to ride a bike, I would have classified hand washing right up there as something that should be second nature after you've been doing it nearly three (!) decades. I guess here is where I 'fess up to the final act of preggo brain.

Act Three

Friday I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. I had an appointment the previous week and then not another until the end of this week, but I'd been feeling a little different for a couple days, and the BH contractions had been pretty regular (hardly breaking in between, it would seem), so I wanted to get checked out before the weekend so I wouldn't question myself if they continued. I have an active imagination, and this would make us rest easy.

I called my doctor's office and they said they could get me in immediately after lunch. I figured it would be treated like a regular appointment, so I made sure to drink plenty of fluids so I would be ready to provide a sample.

I showed up on time, got weighed, and the nurse asked me if I had brought a urine sample. When I answered in the negative, she directed me towards the bathroom and told me to leave one.

Now I'd like to remind you that I had been drinking plenty of water and waiting to use the restroom for this very reason. It had been at the forefront of my mind. It should have been no problem. After all, this is what happens at every doctor's appointment, and being a good girl about keeping all my appointments (and having a few more than normal because I'm considered high risk), I have become pretty familiar with this routine.

And then I reverted to habit. Not doctor's-office habit, but I'm-a-big-girl-who-knows-how-to-use-the-potty habit. I finished my business, only to realize the sample had completely escaped my mind in the few seconds from acknowledging the nurse's expectation to the time it took me to sit down, and there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation. What was done was done, and I was empty.

I couldn't believe myself. It appears I had the opposite issue from the previous act. In Act Two, I was shocked I had forgotten a familiar routine that had been happening for decades. In this act, I reverted to a familiar act even though I associate the restroom at a doctor's office as an exception to the routine.

I exited the restroom, pled pregnancy brain to the waiting nurse, and told her that since I'm pregnant and spend much of my time structuring my day around trips to and from the restroom, odds were I'd have to go again in ten minutes. She kindly said nothing, and before I left my appointment, everyone was happy.

And to conclude, in case you were curious, Friday's appointment showed nothing was yet progressing, so we still have two weeks to see what other instances can occur. I know you can hardly wait. If things continue to escalate, I expect myself to show up to work in my bathrobe. Or maybe I'll forget how to put the car in reverse. Perhaps I'll forget my name (like the time I answered the phone in my classroom - after I'd been married three years - with my maiden name; there was no pregnancy brain to blame that on, just general confusion when the phone rang during a teaching period).

Monday, August 02, 2010

Pregnancy Update

I reach 33 weeks Wednesday- here is a photo of me at 32 weeks. I've put on 23 pounds and it seems to be all belly (you can't tell I'm pregnant from behind).

It looks like I'm on track to have a big girl. At my ultrasound a couple weeks back, they predicted her to be around 5 pounds, 4 ounces. Of course, there is a margin of error, but we're preparing to have a decent-sized girl; in these remaining weeks, babies tend to add anywhere from a third to double their entire body weight.

I'm still strict with my insulin-resistance dietary guidelines. After the above ultrasound, though, the doctor wanted me to check my blood sugars for a week or two to ensure her size wasn't due to gestational diabetes but instead could be explained by genetics (I did pass my GD test a couple months ago, but it can develop later in the pregnancy). I go in again this week, but from my testing, it sure seems my blood sugars are always on the low end. It's been a welcome learning exercise to check my levels with such frequency; I sometimes feel weak and light-headed and had previously written it off solely due to my low blood pressure, but I've noticed I also have low blood sugar at those times.

My c-section is scheduled for September 15. We feel like we are prepared for her arrival. I still need to pack my hospital bag, and it wouldn't hurt if we picked up some baby nail clippers and a thermometer, but we have a place for her to sleep, clothes, a carseat, and diapers. There are still general jobs around the house we'd like to tackle, but she won't notice if the place isn't perfectly clean.

I have periods of nesting that translate to cleaning and purging. However, I'm also suffering from general tiredness, so I have to weigh what's most realistic at any given time. I've enjoyed sorting through things from a seated position, for instance, but I can't always run around the house to accomplish the other organizational tasks. I assess my energy levels and act accordingly. And Eric is willing to serve as my hands and feet when I just can't imagine another trip up and down the stairs.

Eric is still the perfect expectant father. There are more door-side dropoffs when we're running errands (he is sensitive to my ever-expanding belly, the summer temperatures, and my slowed walking pace), and he never faults me for asking a favor. I'm independent, so it's sometimes hard for me to ask him to fetch me something when I am beyond exhausted but am in need of food or drink, but he never complains or grumbles, so I suck up my pride and ask, knowing he won't make some snide comment about me being lazy. Of course, if he thought to mouth off, I might have him strap on a 25-pound weight around his midsection and wear it for a few weeks to see how he fared.

The pregnancy insomnia has subsided once again, but our younger cat sees it as his job to make sure I need to get up at least once to tend to him (i.e., kick him out of the bedroom when he turns into "Mafia Cat"*). This tending doesn't necessarily coincide with my other pregnancy-related trips out of bed in the middle of the night.

After my maternity leave, I'm only returning to work in a part-time capacity - three days a week for a total of 12 hours - and I'm looking forward to the arrangement Eric and I have decided on. When I come to campus, I will drop our daughter off at Eric's spacious basement office, which will be outfitted with a pack-and-play, a portable swing, and a baby carrier. I will walk across the grass to my building, work my hours, and then collect her again. If all goes well, Eric will be able to get some work done while enjoying some one-on-one father-daughter time, and I can contribute to our finances and still have some adult interaction.

My youngest sister is visiting next week. For the second summer in a row, she's chosen our place to crash after returning from overseas (last year was China, this year, the Czech Republic). I recognize there will probably be some jet-lag issues, and I can't take off the whole week to be with her, but I might put her to work if she's willing. I've got it in my head that I'd like to freeze some meals so we don't have to expand as much energy with food prep in the fall. I've got a few recipes to try, so maybe if she'd like to spend some time in the kitchen while I'm at work, I can set her loose. I suspect we'll fall in love with the freezer meals and our crockpot all over again as the fall sets in.


*Mafia Cat is Dante's nickname when he thinks it's time for us to shower him with affection or, more likely, get up and let him enjoy our screened-in porch (we typically let them out in the morning when we get up, so he's hoping if he wakes us up at 2 AM, the same holds true; no dice, but hope springs eternal). He goes to my bedside table and starts looking at me to make sure I'm stirring, then he begins knocking things off. I imagine his thoughts are as follows: "Look at this cute travel alarm - oops! Seems that in my clumsy state I knocked it over - let's hope it still goes off in the morning at its appointed time. And your glasses, nestled safely in their case. I wonder how well they'd fare after a trip to the floor. Let's experiment, okay? Wow, this is an awfully nice antique lamp. It'd be a shame if something were to happen to it. Ooh, look, it starts rocking when I jam my head against its shade or nibble on the brim!"

Monday, July 05, 2010


After seven years...

You're still my best friend. Happy anniversary, love.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Letter to My Daughter

Dear Baby Daughter,

At nearly 25 weeks, I’ve now officially passed the point in pregnancy where I was at with Katherine when I was rushed to my emergency caesarean, so everything from here on out is new to me. It’s bittersweet to mark this time; after all, there are so many memories of what was going on at this stage in my pregnancy with her, and I’m glad there are no symptoms currently to be concerned about with you, but I still wish things hadn’t turned out the way they had and that we could be introducing you to your big sister when you arrived.

Nevertheless, I keep doing my best to trust. When I was right around 23 weeks pregnant with Katherine, we made our annual summer trip home. My first full day back in Indiana found me swollen beyond recognition and being checked into the hospital for observation. In two weeks, I had put on 20 pounds due to water retention, and it all went downhill from there. Here I was, nearly two years later, facing a summer trip home at basically the same point in my pregnancy as before, and I admit there was some anxiety. What would I do if I started to swell and was a couple states away from the doctors that knew me and my history?

However, I had a clean bill of health from my doctor and she wasn’t concerned with me traveling, so we made the long drive home. There hasn’t been a hint of swelling, even with the warmer temperatures. I delight when I see my rings unable to stay balanced and upright on my fingers, instead sliding upside-down because of how loose they continue to be. Just one more sign that I don’t have evidence of swelling and that I am healthy at this moment.

The trip home was filled with unending relaxation and good food, great visits with friends and family, and so many naps I lost count. I’m sure you enjoyed the change in routine, but I admit now that it’s over, it’s hard to adjust to just one nap a day again, especially since it doesn’t occur before 5:15 PM. I feel great during this pregnancy, but I do find myself fading more quickly than before I was pregnant, and I do get the requisite winded feeling after exerting myself for any length of time.

Your activity, growing ever stronger, is a comfort. Remind me of this when you start attacking my ribs or keeping me up at night! You like to make it known when you’re getting hungry, which considering I like to eat every couple hours, means you’re also shaping up to be a grazer, at least in utero. And then, once I’ve eaten, I can tell when the food has reached you and you start to dance in appreciation. Come bedtime, you start up your jumping again, usually against the side of my stomach that touches the mattress – this may not bode well for when you learn to jump in your toddler years and realize that the mattress makes an ideal platform, but right now it’s amusing. Some days are quieter on your end, but you don’t fail to let me know you’re still there doing well, even if you’re a little sleepier than the day before. You’re getting big enough that what were once flutters are now more decided movements, and you can even span a good distance when you stretch, so I can feel kicks and punches simultaneously on opposite sides of my stomach.

While home, two of my sisters got to feel you kicking. You even managed to scare my older sister, which made me laugh. At first, she felt a couple subtle movements, then you gave a really good jab, and she pulled away suddenly, shocked at your strength and giggling at her response.

I’ve officially popped – it happened around 22 weeks, and I currently seem to be all belly. You’re happy hanging out right in front, so while anyone who gets a side glance knows full well I’m pregnant, I’ve been told they can’t tell from behind that I’m expecting.

Your daddy is so good to me – I can’t wait for you to meet him. I decided it would be a nice gesture of solidarity if he gave up his beloved caffeinated soda while I swore off caffeinated coffee, and he’s humored me in that move. Although my former car was sufficient, he traded it in for a newer, more reliable car since it had safer crash ratings and he could rest easier knowing you would be better protected should an accident ever happen.

When I had a mild panic attack after seeing some white spots upon standing up suddenly (different from some earlier light-headed spells), he humored me by buying an automatic blood pressure cuff so I could confirm my levels were still low, thus keeping me calm when doubts creep in. He drove the entire way home from Iowa, even turning down my offers to help, because he wanted me to be well rested upon our return. He didn’t mind that he had to load and unload most of the car on his own – many of our items fell into the “over 20 pounds” limit that I’m not allowed to touch.

I haven’t yet sent him out on a craving errand, and I tease him that apparently he’s lucked out because of it. I talk to friends and learn of their late-night cravings that send their spouses running to the car, but you haven’t yet driven me to request specific food items beyond what I can find at home.

Every single day, he’s beyond helpful with never a word of complaint and even as my body changes, he still finds me beautiful. You and I are lucky to have such a thoughtful, loving man we each get to call husband and daddy. I already know you’re going to be treasured by him and he will dote on you every moment.

We just ordered your crib, which was another big step for us as we admitted that it was time to hope that this might actually happen for us and we could take more concrete steps to prepare for your arrival. Now we just need to find a dresser to buy that will hold all the baby girl clothes friends and family are passing on to us – I’m reminded again at how the predominant color for baby girls is pink, so in my knitting I’m trying to add some variety to the color palette.

I anticipate the coming months of growth, and each day and each week that passes in this uneventful pregnancy gives me added hope that we will get to know you longer than we did your older sister. Know that I already love you so much, and I look forward to getting more glimpses of your personality in the coming weeks, and then seeing you face to face in late summer. Feel free to stay inside a long time yet – I’m more than willing to experience all the uncomfortable awkwardness that comes with making it full term and being quite pregnant in the humid summer months. I’m happy to endure any aches and pains and sleepless nights that might happen as I grow in size – just do your best to stay in there until the doctor decides it’s time for you to come out, preferably as a full-term, plump, healthy baby.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday Potpourri

I’ve been trying to decide what this blog should hold – do I continue with my postings on any number of topics – a random story about family or work, pictures of my felines, accounts of finished knitting and sewing projects? I think since there’s not a common theme, I have neglected posting. After all, when you can write about anything, it can be difficult to narrow it down and make the time to compose something. When I was teaching, I had no lack of stories from work, but I don’t have the same amusement in my current position, which has led to the evolution of topics.

Anyway, in the midst of my current thinking, I thought I’d just include random updates on a myriad of topics.

Our Pets
Augustine and Dante have settled into a tolerant relationship, and it seems clear that Augustine has secured the Alpha Cat position for herself, and Dante just follows her around everywhere. This was our hope all along and the reason we got a small, male kitten. They adore the screened-in porch and are relishing the warmer temperatures, particularly when that means there are open windows. Augustine still has the sweet temperament, and Dante can be aggravating in his antics, but we’ll still keep him (it doesn't hurt that his flatulence has lessened...).

I don’t know if it’s due to my pregnancy, but Augustine has decided that Eric is the preferred sleeping companion at night, which is a first. My favorite example of this was last Saturday night, when I caught her with me. Every time Eric stirred she jumped up, walked across me and stepped on him, and when he didn’t respond, she repeated her steps and settled down with me again, resigning herself to more time with me. This was repeated four times in the span of half an hour or so, until finally Eric stirred enough that I thought he might be awake, and I told him he better welcome Augustine before I reached my tolerance at being treated as second-rate.

Changes in Me
As referenced above, I am pregnant, due in September. This could be a post in and of itself, but due to my infrequency, I better address it now. Although not my first pregnancy, it might at well be with the way I face it. It’s as if I’ve never gone through this before, and I am more anxious this time around, knowing that I’m high risk. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that there is just too much information out there for pregnant women. If we look too closely at anything, we’ll find a reason it’s not safe in pregnancy. Pregnant women are supposed to sleep on their sides, and some places will tell you to only sleep on your left side or face the dire consequences – if any of you can sleep in only one position throughout the night without stirring, kudos to you. Don’t eat soft cheeses or sandwich meats, don’t stand too near a microwave when in use, elevate your feet throughout the day, take prenatals at least three months before getting pregnant, count the baby’s movements daily in your third trimester, and if they ever slow or vary, call your doctor or go to the emergency room. Some fish are okay, but not all, and only in limited servings. Avoid Caesar salads. And on and on.

My co-workers, all of whom are grandparents, drop their jaws whenever I mention one more thing I’m not supposed to do. Then they try to compare stories of all the things they did when they were pregnant with children, including ingesting alcohol. On a related note, I recall a story from a college classmate whose mother smoked but was told during pregnancy that as long as she limited her intake to three cigarettes a day, there would be no harm to the fetus. This was a big cutback to her normal habit, so sometimes she’d smoke only one or two a day so she could hoard the extras and treat herself to half a dozen at the end of the week. Things sure have changed in the medical field regarding pregnancies.

Sometimes I wander into a pregnancy forum, but there can be some alarmist posts, so I do that in moderation and I’m selective which threads I read. I’m at 19 weeks, and I’ve been feeling inconsistent movements for a few weeks now. I think I’m finally at the point where I’m feeling them on a daily basis, although they’re still of the “fluttering” variety, most apparent shortly after a meal or when lying down for bed.

Monday was the big anatomy ultrasound - our little one cooperated, so we learned we're having a girl! Since I’m considered high-risk, it was actually my fourth ultrasound, and they will continue on a monthly basis for the duration of my pregnancy. Physically I’m feeling fine, much better than my first pregnancy. And now that I’m feeling movements, my anxiety has decreased noticeably. However, since I’ve been down this road before, I have to keep reminding myself that if things continue as they are, we’ll have a different outcome, although I confess I am skeptical of this at times. I’m still mentally planning for the changes, keeping an eye out for things we may register for in the future and planning knitting projects for a future baby, but it’s still unreal to me.

Eric has asked when I want to start transforming my office into a nursery, and I’m in no hurry. I don’t want to plan on anything going wrong, and I’m honest in that my anxiety has been low as of late, but I don’t want to have to go through returning the nursery to an office again. I think I’ll be ready to move forward when I surpass 24 weeks, the point when I had complications last time.

On the knitting front, I recently finished a hippo. I am in love with it. He is so charming and anyone who meets him just wants to squish him close – even my husband has granted it his seal of approval.

Pattern: Hippo from Itty Bitty Toys (pattern link on Ravelry)
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy, held doubled throughout; small portion of Koigu KPM, held doubled throughout; spare black yarn for face embellishments
Modifications: None

I’ve since moved on to Giraffe, but I have trouble believing Giraffe can come anywhere near to supplanting my love for Hippo. The bar has been set pretty high. I have a couple other knit animals in my queue, but now that I know we're having a girl, I've gotten distracted. Brace yourselves for an onslaught of gender-specific outfits.

Preparing for Summer
We may have purchased a new car this week - my husband the planner thought we could upgrade my former car with one that boasted a better safety rating and half the mileage while we were both still drawing in full-time salaries. It doesn't hurt that I still get a moon roof and I now gained Bose speakers. And audio controls on the steering wheel? I don't ever want to go back!

Finally, I chopped my hair, partly inspired by the warmer temperatures, partly inspired by having had long hair for too long, and partly inspired by my youngest sister's adorable cut.

I'm enjoying the change. Now if only the warmer temperatures would stay...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Boats, Trains, and Automobiles

I contemplated making a toy car mat for my nephew this Christmas, and when no satisfactory pattern was found, I turned to the equally desirable volcano mat (documented here).

In January, a co-worker showed me the perfect knit pattern for such a delightful toy mat, newly released by Knit Picks. It’s a hefty size (four feet by four feet), but as cute as can be. To temper my excitement, though, it was observed that the knitting consisted of an awful lot of stockinette (let’s not focus too long on the area of sixteen feet, or I might grow faint). However, I was not dissuaded long-term. I like some moderately straightforward knitting now and again.

However, the cuteness factor of the toy mat was trumped when I learned there were vehicles that accompanied this pattern, and the kit was duly purchased and immediately cast on.

Let me introduce you to the newest members of my toy knitting.

Enter: Train.



Pickup Truck.

My only complaint is that the wheels called for on the vehicles are i-cord alone. No extra support, no padded wheels, just black i-cord that end up looking like flat tires since they’re sewn half-on and half-off the vehicle. I left them off the car and truck. I’m thinking children’s imaginations won’t mind concocting their own wheels, unless I come up with a more satisfactory solution.

Also, I should add the disclaimer that I didn’t take a close look at gauge – while I think I was pretty close if not right on, I was aiming for the proper density of knitted fabric to hide the stuffing. A couple of the projects had me running awfully close to empty when it came to yardage. My saving grace was that I had some leftover yarn in the same colors after finishing the collaborative Kristine blanket. If you aren’t so fortunate and are considering such a kit, I recommend an extra skein of red and yellow unless you’re very spot-on with gauge.

I’m afraid that I grew pretty attached to these items during the process. Unless I make some identical ones for my nephew, I have to confess these are now at home in my toy chest, or as I like to call it, “Aunt Faith sure has the best toys!”

Hey, if bribing is what it takes to get my family to visit me, so be it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kristine's Blanket: A Collaboration

Let’s set the scene. A couple years back, about a dozen friends met on a weekly basis to knit, share life, and take in Cambodian Thai as often as we could justify. Since then, several of those individuals have moved on: four to schools or jobs out East, one to a job in Chicago, a couple are not too far away from here but not as close as to allow mid-week knitting, and yet another to Tennessee.

The newly-relocated Tennessee girl, Kristine, happened to share that she was pregnant this fall. It so happened that this summer I was suggesting to one of the remaining knitters that were one of our own to become pregnant, it would be nice to contribute a collaborative project; I even had a possibility in mind. After all, knitters often give but don’t often receive handknits, and especially since we’re all over the States, a gesture like this would be a special memory for the recipient – each square knit by a dear friend that she used to spend time with on a regular basis when she lived here, a special gift that she could share with her child. Thus, while we’re away, this blanket would hold a piece of us near.

Kristine, falling into my plans by conveniently getting pregnant, was the perfect recipient.

I sent out a mass email with the plan. We’d all lay claim to specific squares and colors for the Texture Baby Blanket (from Susan B. Anderson's book Itty Bitty Nursery), purchasing the same brand of yarn so there would be cohesiveness (here I am promoting KnitPicks again, but they offer great affordable yarn and their cotton is delicious).

We figured we had plenty of time to knit 2-3 squares before the March due date. Then we learned our dear friend was going to be in Chicago for a baby shower in December, and that spurred some sudden knitting and assembling to try to finish in time.

There’s always a gamble when eleven different individuals work together to try to make a cohesive project. Sure, we all used the same yarn brand, but our color tastes varied, and I wondered how it would turn out with such a mixture. Fortunately, we knew the recipient liked bold colors, so we thought that out of all of us, she would be most welcoming of a motley blanket.

As blocks were being returned, I admit there was some anxiety on my part. In such a project, if one person is making all 25 blocks, there can be some inattention when it comes to gauge. Use the same needle size and yarn, and the squares should be the same. However, when you have eleven knitters all aiming, more or less, for identical squares in the end, it’s imperative that the gauge be taken to account. However, as they were returned, not all were six inches square. Some were just shy, some were spot on, and some were about seven inches, or more of a rectangular shape. I was beginning to think we would be gifting 25 cotton washcloths to Kristine.

Fortunately, this was not going to be my problem to solve. Carly had offered to crochet all the squares together. She amazed me with her speed – I think it took under 48 hours to make an actual blanket out of 24 squares (one hadn’t yet been returned). The last block was seamed in on the way to the shower in the car.

Of course, time got the best of us, and at the shower, our blanket still had two squares without embellishments, no border, and more dangling ends than any knitter wants to face while sober. We showed her the project, let her caress and enjoy it for a time, and then whisked it away for finishing at the end of the night. She was gracious in response to our gift reclaiming. Over Christmas, I added the border and wove in ends (there are some bonuses to long car trips when I’m captive inside a moving vehicle). Then over the next couple months the final two squares were embellished, and we were able to mail it to her before her baby’s arrival (Baby Boy is supposed to emerge any day now, so getting it to Kristine before he came was enough for us).

She just received it a couple weeks ago, so I thought I’d share some photos of the completed project. You can see the edges don’t quite lay flat – I think this is where the differences in gauge is most obvious, but I think it turned out pretty well, all things considered.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Tale of a Chicken (aka: Nancy Challenge #1)

Once upon a time, there was a girl who noticed a distressing absence of chickens in her life. Not one to sit around and witness this tragedy continue longer than necessary, she decided to bring one to existence.

After a small dose of KnitPicks cotton, some fiberfill, and a fair amount of seaming together, Chicken entered the scene.

At first, this girl didn’t know what to make of him. She followed the (sparse) directions thoroughly, but his head was a little floppy, and that neck connection wasn’t the most attractive; some might speculate that he lacked proper support in that department. However, after two days had passed, she learned this allowed him to turn his head rakishly, so she decided it really did add to his personality.

With the satisfactory closure of this mission, her life is more complete.

This also completes her first Nancy Challenge (there are two other projects in various degrees of doneness and satisfaction that are currently in a holding pattern, plus Lent this year is composed of charity knitting, so we’ll see what’s next on the docket re: Nancy books).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Reflecting One Month Later

Today marks one month after the earthquake in Haiti. Last month was the first month since starting this blog that I didn’t write. A couple possible blog topics crossed my mind, but they seemed trite compared to what was being experienced by Haitians. In fact, I thought I could share a story told to me by some individuals in our department who happened to be in Haiti when the earthquake hit. They’ve been interviewed by the local news and the university, so I think I’m at liberty to share their first names here. First, the principal characters are Father Tom and his employees Sarah and Logan. Logan was the one that shared their experience with me.

One of our research faculty members, Father Tom, is head of a program to eliminate a couple of prevalent diseases in Haiti; they have a clinic in Leogane, so he splits his time between the States and there. He and three of his employees happened to be in Haiti last week for meetings. Tuesday's meeting (January 12) was originally supposed to go until 5 PM in the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, but one of the attendees wanted it to end early, so they modified the agenda so they were finished for the day at 3:30. There was some mingling immediately afterwards, and sometime after 4 PM Logan and Sarah were going to join a potential donor in her room on the 4th floor for a drink before dinner. The hotel had only four floors, so they were on the top floor.

Once they arrived, they spotted a terrace and, as the weather was perfect, they made the decision to sit outside and enjoy the view. As she looked over Port-au-Prince, Sarah was commenting how far Haiti had come in the last few years, making visible progress in all areas. They hadn't even been there ten minutes when the earthquake began. At first, the hotel rumbled mildly, and Logan looked around confused, wondering what was happening. It gained in strength and they were thrown violently to the tile floor, spread-eagle with nothing to hold on to, as they felt the hotel pancake underneath them. With one jolt, they fell to the third-floor terrace, then the building shook again, and they were on the second, and again, and then they fell once more.

The first person Logan saw as the dust settled was Father Tom (with the way Logan described it, I amused myself with picturing ethereal visions of Father Tom emerging untouched from the destruction all around). Fr. Tom had been a floor or two beneath them underneath a terrace, but as the earthquake began, he moved to the center to avoid the falling building. They stumbled and climbed over the rubble to reach the ground.

They found one of their Haitian employees had broken a leg. Sarah used to be a first responder, so they tore up Logan's shirt, found a couple sticks, and splinted his leg. After stock was taken, it was determined that not a single person associated with the Haiti program, or any of their families, had died, and the only injury was Claude's broken leg. I think Father Tom said there was still one person they were trying to track down, but those are pretty amazing numbers given the tragedy that took place.

In Leogane, where their hospital is located, 80 percent of the buildings collapsed, but the hospital is still standing (it helps that Father Tom, when he was given his grant from the Gates Foundation, had the College of Engineering at our university review the building plans and make alterations so it would be structurally sound to withstand an earthquake; at the time, he was given grief for spending several thousand dollars when it had been ages since an earthquake took place, but in hindsight, $5,000 dollars spent before building began sure seems like a sound investment given the outcome).

During the aftershocks, Logan spoke of seeing buildings fall around them and hearing all the screaming, but also at night, there were sounds of people praying and singing. He and Sarah made their way to the American Embassy within a day or so of the quake, where the Coast Guard was able to get them to the Dominican Republic, and then they flew out commercially and arrived safely home Friday night.

As Logan recounted the experience in our office, I had to hold back tears. Just visualizing what they experienced and wondering how I would be sleeping or acting after living through such an event is enough to make me emotional. For that moment, I could distantly relate to what Logan's mom, another employee in our department, said she is experiencing. Here, our people were all safe, and yet so many are suffering in the continuing mess. Call it survivor's guilt, or whatever it is when you're only casually connected to several individuals who experienced it and lived. They were on a terrace in a hotel where many were buried and died, and through luck, chance, or providence, their meeting ended early and they were on the top floor, not down below as they should have been.

Here they are, now removed from it all, safe and sound in the States, trying to find ways to continue their work and send aid back to Haiti. In time, they'll resume their disease elimination work in Haiti, but right now, their hospital will be transformed to provide general care. It's pretty staggering, and I don't know how quickly I could reenter my life.