Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Non Sequitur

Brooklyn: I don't feel very good at all... Let's go get a car wash.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Kara!!!

At a time when little Eli's birthday might try and eclipse that of his mother, here's to the amazing, talented, and generous light of my life.

Just the other day, Brooklyn was telling me that I'm a better story teller than Kara is. I quickly pointed out that "Mom is much better at many things than I am". Brooklyn quickly agreed with, "Yeah, Mom sings a lot better than you do..."

Singing aside (and yes, she most definitely does sing better than I do), Brooklyn and I talked about some of the other things that Mom is great at--like just being a great musician in general. There is nothing quite so relaxing as hearing Kara sit down at the piano in the evenings and fill our home with peaceful music. She also is very good at playing the French Horn (though we might need a sawz-all to get the valves unstuck...), the recorder, and the Little Tykes xylophone in the kids' room.

Kara is a great craft maker, always helping the kids exercise their creativity in assembling their latest paper plate menagerie, mixing up a batch of homemade play dough, or making musical instruments from old beans and plastic cups. Come to think of it, there is more than one night in my memory where she has stayed up till obscene hours in the morning helping me complete my crafts for an impending studio deadline (she is particularly good at cutting out windows on really small buildings, though I've since promised to never design a model with such extensive fenestration again).

Kara is a great comforter. Nobody is as comfy to snuggle up with on the couch as mom, and she now has to get used to all four of us vying for a spot on her lap at once (See below...). Of course, little Eli seems to be winning most of those battles as of late.

Kara is a beautiful writer - after first falling in love with Kara's smile, I think I was next smitten by her prose. From an early grade-school composition of "Loser the Ghost" (which I heard recited at our wedding dinner, thanks to "Anonymous"), to the regular musings in this blog, her writing makes me laugh, makes me remember, and most often, moves me emotionally to try and be just a little bit better.

Kara is a fantastic time piece. I suppose I should get a watch someday, but I actually really enjoy being able to ask Kara for the time - almost like a grade school kid who is looking for any excuse to talk to the cute girl sitting in the next desk over. This did prove a bit problematic the other day when my not paying attention to the time happened to coincide with a three o'clock class and Kara's watch battery deciding that the perfect perpetual time was 1:10. After realizing that it had been 1:10 for quite some time, Kara suggested I go look at the kitchen clock, which happily indicated I was already five minutes late for class.

Kara is a great friend. She is always there to lend a listening ear to my crummy jokes ("So this duck walks into a bar and says to the bartender..."), to my repetitions of the latest things I've been learning in history ("... which clearly demonstrates how the Hellenization of Roman triumphal monuments during the late republic was both a reflection of and a contribution towards a changing political climate that would eventually lead to..."), or simply to the proceedings of an otherwise dull day (", the pig farm was really stinking up something fierce when I biked by it today...").

I'm so grateful for the many memories I share with my dear wife, and I look forward to many years of memories to come. Congratulations, and Happy Birthday Kara!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Red Tractors

A couple of years ago, I read the following on a sign in front of an Iowa restaurant...

"...Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Red Tractors"


Totally Talia

Talia refers to her new baby brother as "My Eli"--totally adorable. Of course, she also has the gender pronouns mixed up and calls him "she" and "her" as well.
Our Talia has turned into a book-aholic. She's the only kid I know who insists on sleeping with a pile of hardbacks instead of a cuddly stuffed animal.
Talia has a special pronunciation for underpants--she calls them "nunderwear." Of course, I really ought to spell it "none-derwear," as that seems to be her specialty. She may not like getting dressed in the morning, but she absolutely loves getting completely undressed--anytime, anyplace. I can only imagine what the neighbors think...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Family Capers

With a little bit of luck, a photo post with lots of fun shots of Eli should be coming soon. In the meantime, I thought I'd share what the rest of the family has been up to in the meantime.

On Eli's birthday, Talia began a "Lil' All Stars" sports class at the Savoy Recreation Center. They played soccer the first week and had fun exploring basketball yesterday. Many thanks to NomiAnn (Grandma Cathy) for accompanying Tally to her sports debut.

In the meantime, Brooklyn started swim lessons at the YMCA. She's turning into quite the fish--or perhaps I should say "eel" since that is what her level is nicknamed. :)

Last Saturday we went to the Campus Recreation Center for some swim practice with Dad. While he didn't bathe, Eli enjoyed hanging out in the warm pool area.

On Sunday we celebrated Brittney's birthday (albeit belatedly) with some delicious brownies (thanks Bruce!)

Tuesday was a bittersweet day since we had to say good-bye to NomiAnn after enjoying her smiles, hugs, and help for the week.

On the positive side, Brooklyn began a new year at Little Maroon's Preschool.

And just for kicks, here are a few more photos of some fun things we did before Baby Brother joined the family. One of the best parts about fall is that Curtis Orchard opens again.

And of course, nothing tops a gorgeous day at the park, especially when you share the fun with friends.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Couple of Chuckles

While taking Brooklyn to swim lessons yesterday, one of the other Moms asked me when I was due... I didn't know what to say, so I smiled and introduced the baby in the carrier next to me. I think she was even more embarrassed than I was.
On Saturday night we had a celebratory dinner at Applebees.* When Eli got fussy, Brooklyn announced, "Mom, you need to nurse." She then proceeded to turn to the booth behind us and loudly proclaim, "I have a new baby brother, and he's nursing real milk right now."

* By the way, thanks to its macaroni and cheese, Applebees happens to be Brooklyn's favorite restaurant. Jason took her on a Daddy-daughter date there more than two years ago, yet she still remembers it. While in France, she would call it "Pomme-Abeilles"--a literal translation from English.

Entering the World of Boy

This past week has been an initiation into the world of "boy." While folding laundry yesterday, I counted thirteen different baby outfits that had already been washed, not to mention the three dirty ones that were awaiting the next load. I thought that was pretty impressive for a 5 day-old, particularly considering that the first two days he wore the same shirt in the hospital. Every time Eli tinkles, it somehow shoots right out--it seems pointless to even put on a diaper. Of course, considering yesterday's circumcision, I think he is fully justified in seeking revenge on whomever/whatever he can...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Eli Jameson Wheeler

Over the past few days, I've been pondering how much of Eli's birth story I ought to share on this blog. While I'm not really embarrassed by any of it (birth strips you of all personal pride), I also don't want to make anyone else blush. My thoughts and reflections, as initially recorded in my personal journal, are also quite lengthy. It seems rather presumptuous to think that anybody else might actually want to read them. While I am personally enchanted by the entire birth process(after the births of my children, I always ponder a career change to become a labor and delivery nurse), I recognize that others may not share my passion.

And so, I am compromising by offering a lighter Reader's Digest version in addition to the weightier, unabridged story. Feel free to give either or both a perusal, or if you're not interested, simply surf on by. :)

Special Delivery: Top Ten Lessons Learned from the Birth of our Son

1. If you are overdue, the best way to jump start labor is to attend a church potluck.

2. Always invite Grandma to drive out from Nebraska early so that she can conveniently watch the kids when it's time to go to the hospital.

3. It's possible to drift off to sleep at midnight, completely unaware that you will be holding your brand-new baby in less than 3 1/2 hours.

4. If your water breaks on the living room carpet, scream like a banshee and race to the tile as fast as you can.

5. If you don't visibly lose composure during active labor, nobody will believe you when you say your baby is coming fast.

6. If nobody (except your husband) believes that the baby's coming soon, nurses will ask you dozens of stupid questions instead of filling the birthing tub.

7. If you are already 8 centimeters when the midwife is finally summoned to check you, there will only be 8 centimeters of water in the tub when it's time to push. You can't have a waterbirth without water. (Our midwife said that I could blame it on the efficiency of my uterus...)

8. Pushing stinks. Knees don't belong behind your ears.

9. If you can't have a waterbirth, at least ask for a mirror so that you can see what's happening. While admittedly goopy and somewhat gross, watching your child be born is the most beautiful sight you will ever see.

10. If you take "me" and stick it in the middle of my favorite person "Jason," the result is our precious little Eli Jameson--who we love even more than our A&W root beer.

The Unabridged Tale of a Miracle
September 16, 2009

A miracle has come into our lives today. Baby Eli was born at 3:27 am, weighing 7 pounds, 5 ounces, measuring 18 inches long, and boasting a full head of beautiful light brown hair. The timing of his arrival worked out remarkably well, particularly considering how long (and impatiently) we've been waiting. When I went to my ObGyn appointment in the morning, the midwife Ray Spooner told me that I was already four centimeters dilated. He suggested that I consider going up to Labor and Delivery to have my water broken, as that would likely put me into labor right away. Of course, this was at 10:00 am, but the soonest they would be able to fit me in was at 2:00.

Very surprised and more than a little caught off guard, I decided that I wanted to at least wait until the next morning before trying this kind of an induction. That would at least give me time to invite my Mom to come out and watch the girls. I also wanted a bit of time to decide whether or not this was something I really wanted to do. As difficult as it is to wait, and as big and uncomfortable as I get, I still feel like things often work out for the best if you wait until baby is ready to come instead of rushing things as long, especially if there is no medical reason to induce.

Well, fortunately I never had to make this decision. My mother, bless her wonderful heart, hopped right in the car and made it to Savoy around 9:00 pm. After putting the girls to bed, I finished getting our hospital bags ready and put them by the door, in case we decided to go the hospital for our 8:00 am appointment the next day. When I took my Tylenol PM and crashed around 11:00 pm, I still hadn't decided whether or not I wanted to be induced. I remember telling Jason that I was so exhausted that I was going to cancel if I didn't get a good night's sleep.

Well, it turns out that sleep was not on the agenda. There were so many things running through my mind that I didn’t drift off until nearly midnight. Then at 12:30 am, I woke up feeling "different." At 12:35 I had a definite contraction--not terribly strong or terribly long, yet significant. The contractions came quite regularly every five minutes apart, so at 1:00 am I nudged Jason to let him know. We snuggled in bed together for a while, but at 1:30 he told me that he thought we should head to the hospital. While I was still quite comfortable and content in bed, I knew that Jason was terrified of delivering this baby at home, so I agreed and started to get ready.

We took our time getting ready, thinking that perhaps it was false labor and everything would putter out on the way to the hospital. Before we left, Jason gave me a beautiful blessing. While I don't remember many specifics because I was contracting, I was filled with a tremendous peace that everything was going to be okay.

At about 1:45 pm, we tiptoed downstairs and started to gather our final things. All of a sudden, I felt this enormous gush of warm water cascade down my legs right in the middle of the living room. I raced over to the tile floor, squealed upstairs to Jason, and woke up my Mom with yells of how my water just broke. What a shock! My pants were soaked, but fortunately the carpet was saved. I’m just so grateful that my water didn’t break five minutes later in the car… Oh, I cringe to think about it!

At this point, both Jason and I were really nervous that the baby might be delivered on the front doorstep. He ran upstairs to grab me new pants and some towels, and we hurried off to the hospital, getting there around 2:15.

On the way to the hospital, I called labor and delivery to let them know I was coming. I also told them that I wanted a waterbirth and my second delivery was very fast, so they probably ought to start filling the tub. Oh, how I wish they had listened to me!

Walking into the ER, I must have been quite a sight. I’d leaked amniotic fluid all the way to the hospital, making it look like I'd peed my pants. I wrapped a towel around me in an effort to conserve a thread of dignity, but even in the middle of heavy labor, the effect was more comic than anything.

At the hospital, it seemed like everything moved in slow motion. It took them so long to check me in. For some reason, the way I best deal with strong contractions is to pretend like they're not really happening. So while I tell people I'm in strong, active labor, based on my actions they don't really believe me. The first nurse I saw asked me how far apart my contractions were. When I told her three minutes, she responded, "But you haven't had any since you got here," to which I responded "I've had three." Even if she believed me (which I don’t think she did), she certainly didn't check on the birthing tub like I asked her to.

The next nurse was friendlier, but also unconvinced about the speed of my labor. Instead of calling the midwife, she insisted on getting me completely registered and putting me on a fetal monitor. While I answered all sorts of absurd questions about my life history and what I'd eaten for dinner, the birthing tub sat empty. The nurse assured me that Ray was really fast at filling it, so not to worry--she'd get him as soon as I signed these dozen forms...

Arghh! In general, I'm grateful that I'm generally able to stay in control and fairly polite through active labor, but in retrospect, I should have been grumpier and more insistent. After all, who knows my body better than I do? By the time they finally called Ray (saying on the phone that I “seemed fairly active"), I was almost 8 centimeters. Ray glanced at me, sighed, and in his soft-spoken manner informed me that there likely wouldn’t be enough time to fill the tub for my cherished waterbirth.

They got the tub out and started the water running, but there were only a couple inches of water in it by the time I was ready to push. I certainly was disappointed that my birth wasn't going to happen as I had "planned," but I felt comforted by Jason's blessing. I was able to let it go and focus on what mattered most, the safe arrival of our baby boy. As silly as it sounds, the "product" matters much more than the "process." At one point, I complained to the nurse about how I had tried so many times to tell everyone how fast I labor, but no one believed me. She replied that they did believe me, to which I retorted, "Not enough to start filling the tub!" (Score one for Kara.) 

While the labor may have been short, pushing lasted an eternity (or at least 25 minutes). I started to push around 3:00 am, and thought I would die. This is always the point where I question why in the world I choose to do things the hard way instead of requesting an epidural. As strange as it seems, I get struck by this paralyzing fear that I'm going to poop all over the doctor. While logically I know that this is just what having a baby feels like, I've been socially conditioned my whole life long that it's impolite to crap on others. It makes it really hard for me to push well, especially when it hurts so much. I have to let down my facade of control and just start screaming, yelling, and praying that this beast inside me will finally come out!

As difficult as it is to think clearly during labor, on some level, I'm able to distance myself and see it all from a higher perspective, like a bird watching from above. From up on high, birth appears simultaneously marvelous and hilarious. There is such a comic element to the indignity of the whole situation. At one point, they switched nurses on me without any warning. I’ve got my knees behind my ears, everything precious exposed, and I’m yelling my brains out when all of a sudden this brand new face appears to watch the show. Counterproductive as it may have been, I stopped pushing and said, "Well, talk about an introduction!"

As generally happens during birth, just when you think you'll never make it, you summon all of your inner strength and courage, give one last horrendous effort--and the baby's there. The miracle. All the pain, all the waiting, all the discomfort--it's all wiped away in the joy. There is truly nothing in the world like it, and you know that you would do it all again.

While I'd wanted a waterbirth, there was a silver lining behind the standard delivery--I got to see it. I saw it! I had the presence of mind to ask for a mirror, which was well-adjusted so that I could actually watch my son emerge. I can't describe the feeling of seeing his tiny face--so perfect with its tiny nose, miniature eyes, and little mouth--slip out of my womb. Words can't describe the experience, but the bond that I feel will never die.

Eli came out rather purple--his cord was wrapped twice around his neck--but he pinked up right away and gave a hearty cry. I was so grateful that they gave him to me immediately to hold for as long as I wanted instead of whisking him away to be weighed, measured, and generally tormented. As he handed him to me, Ray’s words were, “I believe this is yours,” and I marveled “Yes, yes.” He was ours, and he was finally here.

Between a few streaks of blood and the meconium that Eli leaked on his way out, the birthing bed was a mess, and yet it was the most beautiful sight to have our family united together. While the hospital may have been bursting with new babies that evening, there was surely no happier place at that moment. When Heavenly Father sends a new spirit to this world, he coats it with pure joy. The blood and slime bit is just a fa├žade designed to discourage those hearts which aren’t ready to receive such a blessing.

Blessings—out of the very many ways in which we have been recently blessed, all pale in comparison with the arrival of our Eli Jameson Wheeler. If you take “me” and surround me with all of the love and warmth of my best friend Jason (Jameson), the result is our little Eli. While tiny now, in Hebrew his name is connected with uplifting height and ascension. Indeed, he inspires me to stand a little taller, reach a little higher, and be a little better. Ultimately, his name is connected with that of our Creator and inspires us remember our God-- while Jason and I may be stewards here on earth, it is to Him that he truly belongs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sweet Baby Eli

3:27am. 7lbs 5oz. 18in. Baby Boy. Lots of Hair.

Happy Mom.

Happy Dad.

Tired Mom.

Tired Eli.

Beautiful Boy.

Beautiful Mom.

Beautiful Morning.

It's a Beautiful Day.
Way to go Kara - You are truly amazing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sidewalk Silliness

In case you are wondering how to amuse yourself in the Champaign-Urbana area, you might try sidewalk chalk at the library. Here Brooklyn poses for a sketch of her silhouette.

Of course, Talia was eager to follow in her sister's foot...uh, I mean bodyprint.

The artist hard at work.

Talia gets a little help from Mom.

The fabulous finished products.

Of course, story time is always fun too, especially when you get to sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider."

So, when Talia gets sleepy and sucks her thumb, her other hand automatically shoots down her shirt. While quite original, this "Napoleon" pose drives me absolutely batty. Let me know if you have any good suggestions about how to break the habit.

And, just for kicks, one last pic of the overdue belly. Several weeks ago Jason told me that my stomach looked absurd. While at the time I wanted to bop him, you kind of have to admit that he's right. :)

Wrong Way

Why is that men never want to stop and ask directions? With every passing day, this little munchkin jams himself further and further into my rib cage. Even the midwife was surprised by how high he is. Wrong way, little man, move south!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Well, no matter which due date you pick, I am now most definitely overdue. Sigh. Perhaps this little guy overheard Brooklyn's dramatic "I'm having a TOUGH life" and decided to stay put for awhile.

Strangely enough, after some lengthy and uncomfortable periods of false labor, I've decided that pregnancy is tough, but labor is tougher. If our little man decides to hang out a bit longer, at least I'll get to procrastinate the inevitable.

We'll keep you posted!

Friday, September 11, 2009


What a strange world we live in! Standing in line at the grocery store today, the clerk asked me when I was due. When I told her, she responded, "Oh my goodness! Are you dilated yet?"

How do you respond to that one? "I'm a 9 and about to drop this baby on your floor. Do you mind?" One of the things that I enjoy most about the nurse-midwives I see is that the state of my cervix is considered personal information. It's not standard procedure to repeatedly subject their patients to an uncomfortable and invasive exam: you only have to be checked if you want to be.

Last week a misinformed and slightly obnoxious nurse insisted that I undress for my appointment since I was 39 weeks along. (Fortunately, I was supplied with a drape, unlike in France...) My girls were with me, so it was definitely awkward explaining to them why Mommy was taking her pants off. To make matters worse, the midwife happened to be accompanied by a medical student who looked like he was going to pass out from embarrassment. Fortunately, this midwife (who happens to be a man) asked me if I really wanted to be checked. When I told him "absolutely not," he responded with the following words of wisdom: "Don't ever take your clothes off just because somebody tells you to."

In French, the word for midwife is "sagefemme," which literally means wise woman. Fortunately, there are some wise men in this world too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Farewell to Summer

September is a bitter-sweet month for me. I love the beginning of fall, but it's always a bit sad to see summer go. In commemoration of the passing season, here are a few photos of our July visit to Omaha that I recently grabbed off of my Mom's camera.

Loving the slip 'n slide in my parent's backyard. I was kind of jealous that Jason got to have all the fun. :)

Trekking across Omaha's new pedestrian bridge that crosses the Missouri.

Beating the blistering heat by playing in the sprinklers.

Riding the "Skyfari" at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.

Chilling on the carousel. It's strange to be back in the States where it's required to ride on the platform with your child, since in France it's forbidden.
Talia seems to enjoy this ride as much as her carousel horse.

Dressing up in Nauvoo, Illinois on the way back home. What fun!

Affectionate hugs for some stony parents...

And last but not least, you know you're home when...

There's nothing like corn, sweet corn. :)