Monday, September 24, 2012

Actively Pregnant

It occurs to me that I haven't provided many pregnancy details. While I don't really believe in due dates, I'm more than twenty weeks along now, meaning that this babe should arrive in February, perhaps closer to the beginning than the end. We don't know baby's gender, although we're debating whether or not to find out at our next ultrasound.

While I'm feeling great now, the first trimester was definitely tougher than any of my previous pregnancies--much tougher. While I know it's normal to feel gross, the constant nausea was new territory for me. I'm a terrible wimp, but after a while I lightened up on the complaining because even I was sick of listening to me whine. And so, to all of you women for whom this is the norm, may I offer my sincerest condolences and deepest admiration for your endurance. Had my first pregnancy started off as such, Brooklyn might have ended up an only child.

During the first trimester, a great number of things ceased to happen as I moped on the couch: housework, meal preparation, grocery shopping, you get the idea. However, I found surprising relief from an unlikely source: running. Now don't get me wrong, I didn't run far and I never ran fast. Getting off the couch and out the door required every ounce of willpower. Yet once I was going, I me again. I'm not sure if I felt normal because running always makes me slightly queasy, making the nausea was less noticeable, or if the endorphins masked the symptoms for a while. Either way, the time I spent chugging along the pavement was welcome relief for both body and soul.

Now that the morning sickness has passed, I'm still trying my best to stay active. I confess: at the beginning of my pregnancy, I hoped that moving more would magically transform me into one of those women at the gym who gain minimal weight and magically conceal their pregnancies until their final month. You know, the ones who squeeze back into their skinny jeans after only a week and look like they never had a baby. The ones we all love to hate--you know the type.

Well, now that the babe is half-baked, I've come to accept the fact that running isn't likely to transform my pregnant body shape. With little space for baby to hide in my torso, I'm big already and will certainly be huge by the end. Taking off the baby weight afterward will still require plenty of effort and patience. But that's okay. When I move, I'm stronger, healthier, and above all, happier. So never mind the strange glances, I plan to run/jog/waddle for just as long as I'm able. Trust me, when you factor in maternal sanity, it's certainly better for the baby.

And just to prove that pregnancy doesn't mean you have to set aside an active lifestyle, here are some pictures from a canyoneering expedition two weekends ago. Jason and I found teamed up with another couple and two experienced canyoneers who led us through Yankee Doodle Canyon, quite close to St. George. We had so much fun!

Here's Jason at the top of the first rappel.
We paid very close attention to all of the safety knots, just in case we ever dare to venture out on our own.
Jason, looking like a pro.
My good friend Heather was quite nervous at first, yet zipped through the rappel in no time at all. Even though this canyon was a first for us both, we thoroughly enjoyed our "extreme Relief Society" experience.
Proof that Jason and I made it safely to the bottom... did baby.
Here's a peek at our second rappel. We chose to divide the descent into 25' and 75' sections, but you can see a canyoneer in the background who opted for the single 100' drop.
Here's Thad, Heather's husband, making his way down the second major rappel.
Even though there weren't any other major descents, the canyon was a string of challenging downclimbs that ended in a myriad of pools. Our fearless 70 year-old guide, David Brown, was extremely skilled at traversing the gap.
Such style!
Of course, being great with child, I opted for the safest route--straight through the water. Jason fortunately followed suit--after all, we're equal partners in this parenthood gig.
So was canyoneering more difficult for me than for the rest of the gang? Probably. But not because I am pregnant; because I am short. After all, no matter how far I stretch, I can't span the same distance as one with long arms and gangly legs. The pool that approaches another's waist easily tickles my armpits.

But am I glad I went? Absolutely. The canyon was delightful and in my opinion, quite safe when approached knowledgeably, respectfully, and responsibly. In fact, I can't wait to canyoneer again--the sooner the better, since I'll soon be latched to a nursing baby.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Note to Self

Never gloat about how content or easy-going your child is. Things can change. Quickly.

Anybody interested in a three year-old? No refunds allowed.

(Advice to Self: Keep Smiling!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

When is it more than a patch?

Brooklyn and Talia stem from a long tradition of Girl Scouting. Their mother was a Girl Scout, their grandmother was a scout, even their great-grandmother. And so, each time they don their Girl Scout vests, I smile inside about this rich heritage.
Friday night we celebrated scouting with a Bridging/Investiture/Rededication Ceremony for the entire service unit. Here's Talia "investing" as a Daisy to a future in scouting.
Brooklyn was recognized with a few fellow troop members for earning her "Summit Award."
And here's Brooklyn, bridging to Brownies.
Good thing she got a new vest! She was all out of space for patches on her old vest.
In fact, she had so many patches that we had to start sewing them on the inside! Meet Brooklyn the flasher.
Which brings me to my next point. Mind if I rant a bit? Now please bear in mind that this rant isn't against Girl Scouting in particular. Rather, it touches upon the larger societal ills of excess, shallow praise, and entitlement.

We have been extremely fortunate to connect with an active troop that does all sorts of fun things together. In addition to working on specific awards, we've done everything from bowling to practicing etiquette at the Olive Garden. So here's my gripe. Shouldn't participation in these activities be intrinsically rewarding enough? Why do we need to give girls a patch to celebrate every little thing they do? Tie-dying T-shirts. Cool idea. A tie-dye patch? Definitely over the top. After all, the girls already got to take home the shirt. We have water party patches, snow tubing patches, movie night patches, art museum patches, caroling get the idea. And while most of the Moms are thrilled, I'm concerned that we're sending our daughters the wrong lesson. While the vests may be cute now, do we really want to instill such a sense of expectancy? By recognizing every tiny thing, aren't we devaluing the "real" awards that require substantial time and commitment? And for pete's sake, isn't there some value in my time as a mother? I don't know about you, but I have better things to do than to spend hours on end playing with patches. If anybody finds an "I-sew-on-my-own-awards" patch, there's something I'd celebrate!

Yet as much as I disagree philosophically, I can't say much until I'm willing to match the dedication and time commitment of our fearless troop leader. Still, this problem isn't isolated to Girl Scouting. Everywhere I turn, be it in school, sports, or the community, I find kids being showered with shallow praise and spoiled with trinkets for small endeavors. Despite our good intentions, I feel like many kids are smothering from self-esteem.

What to do? How do you shelter your children from this onslaught of entitlement?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Très Tres (Look Who's Three!)

Happy Birthday Eli! We're so glad to have another superhero in the family!
After church this morning, Eli got to open presents. Or at least he got to watch his sisters try to open his presents for him... Such a pity when the baby grows up and can do it all by himself!
Brooklyn enjoyed playing with his play-doh. (She wanted me to be sure and point out the equation: sun + rain = a rainbow.)
Talia just loves the new magnatiles. (Thanks NomiAnn and Papa Kay.)
And of course, despite all the quality toys around, Eli is enamored with the cheap air rocket that I picked up at the last moment from the dollar store.
Of course, I really oughtn't be surprised. Last night Eli celebrated his birthday with a rocket party at the park. Simple, yet fun.

As you can see from the picture, our rocket cupcake cones suffered a nuclear meltdown. You'd think after two years in St. George I'd know better than to bring chocolate outside in September.
No matter, the treats were still nummy. This cute little girl's family made Eli's adorable superhero cape.
The Diet Coke and Mentos rocket was also a gushing success. Here's Kajun, Eli's teenage pal, loading up the ammo. It's so cute to watch Kajun and his 11 year-old brother dote over Eli!
Blast-off! I'm not quite sure why Diet Coke explodes so much more than the generic variety, but the difference is startling.
Eli enjoys a hot dog with Kess Johnson and her Mom, Heather.
And here's Kolter, the youngest of the Johnson clan. Last year Kolter and Eli enjoyed lots of playdates while I taught Spanglish.
Brooklyn takes a break to eat.
If success can be measured in dirt, then Talia's face suggests the party was a hit.

While the past three years with Eli have passed quickly, it's hard to remember life before he was born. He's certainly enchanted both friends and family, winning the hearts of all with his easy laugh and smile. People often marvel at his generally content and easy-going personality. It's true--he's almost always happy--except for those rare moments when he isn't--and then you'd better watch out. Fortunately, the storm generally abates quickly, and Eli will break out with a chipper "I all better now!"

Eli is an unusual blend of the infantile and mature. He nimbly peels his oranges by himself (and then proceeds to eat them like an apple), yet he shows no interest in dressing himself. He colors meticulously and counts accurately, but potty training? Forget about it. In Eli's words, "You change my diaper." He took forever to start talking, but has since adopted a large vocabulary, clear diction, and complex phrase structure.

In general, Eli's simply in no hurry to grow up. He has embraced his role as the baby of the family, and he enjoys it. While his sisters graduated from the crib fairly early, Eli's only slept in a big boy bed for a few weeks since he never climbed out of his crib. Heck, he's never even escaped out of his bed! We tuck him in at night, and he calls out in the morning to let us know he's awake. Strange, very strange, but I'll take it.

The truth is, I enjoy having Eli as the baby of the family. We all do. He's just so darn snuggly and cuddly and cute. I melt every time he hunts me down, not to beg for a snack (although he does plenty of that, trust me), but to ask for a hug. It's been a joy to let him stay little, relishing the small moments together.

But now I'm a bit nervous. Because like it or not, Eli won't be the baby much longer. He's already starting to show some frustration at the belly that's slowly edging him off my lap as we read stories at night. While Eli's often generous, when we talked with him about sharing his old crib with his new sibling, he was definitely *not* interested. This next year may be challenging for us all, but I think in the end Eli will embrace his new role. I know he'll be a wonderful big brother, and we'll love him all the more for it.

Happy Birthday, Eli!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Of All the Impertinent Questions...

So I composed this post all the way back in June, but didn't dare post it. The process of writing was cathartic enough, allowing me to vent without risking publicity. Now it's no holds barred...


Tuesday night I went to see "Hairspray" at Tuacahn with a group of women from our neighborhood book club.  Most of these women are casual acquaintances, old enough to be my mother or even grandmother.  Very nice ladies, but certainly not confidants.  Imagine my dismay, then, when one of these women pulls me aside and asks, "So are you expecting?"

Guess I should have eased up on the broccoli chicken for dinner.

For the rest of the evening, I felt self-conscious, wadding my jacket in front of my apparently round belly to avoid further confusion.  I thought I was doing a decent job until another lady, whose name I scarcely know, asks me "So when is the baby due?"

Not if.  When.  When!!!  Aghhh!

Guess I should have done more abs at the gym.


So here's the kicker.  I am pregnant.  A whopping seven weeks today, meaning that at 6.5 weeks I looked pregnant enough to make near strangers presume.

Everything I read says that it's not physically possible to look so obviously pregnant this early on.  Our baby's about the size of a lentil, perhaps a blueberry.  My uterus has only grown from a plum to an apple.  I've gained less than a pound.  I exercise like crazy.  Yet I promise you, that  no matter what the experts say, when you are 4'11" and carrying your fourth baby, you can show, early or not.

I feel betrayed by my body.  I wasn't prepared to share this news for many weeks, perhaps even several months.   But like it or not, apparently the secret's out.  If this were winter, I might be able to disguise the bulge beneath my baggy sweatshirts.  But this is June...and we live in St. George...and it's hot.   No matter how much I run, this secret won't hide.

I feel invaded by the personal inquiries of these women, no matter how benign their intentions.  I was completely caught off guard by their questions, having no idea that I looked pregnant in the first place.  Their questions were so blunt that I was left speechless.  While in retrospect I wish I'd responded with a casual smile and a simple "No announcement," instead I did what I've been trained to do.  I told the truth.  What else was I to do?  After all, won't a lie become more and more obvious?  Yet all the same, I'm frustrated.  This was my news to share in my own way and in my own time.  They weren't supposed to be the first to know.  Without meaning to, their invasive questions robbed me of a precious moment.

But since the secret's out, I'm sharing the news with you--the family and friends who care.  In one sense, it seems a bit reckless to share something so personal during the first trimester when so many things can still go wrong.  Yet I've often wondered why we are so quick to share our joys, yet hesitant to share our sorrows.  I've miscarried once before, shortly after we moved to St. George, and I can tell you that it's a lonely road--stuck in a new place with empty arms without any friends to share in the hurt.  This time I hope and pray that all will end well.  But should it not, heaven forbid, then let us weep together.

In a way, it feels cathartic to share the news with everyone in one fell blogging swoop.  (And when I say everyone, I mean it literally.  Unless we are married or you have been nosy enough to ask, no one else has been told before you.)  "Announcements" have always felt difficult and awkward on many levels.  First of all, let's face it, pregnancy is public proof of personal intimacy.  Yes, Jason and I are married, and yes, we certainly enjoy being together, but ooh la la, are we really going to ask the entire world to celebrate the moment that sperm met egg?  And what about all of those for whom parenthood just isn't happening, whether because they haven't met that special someone or because they are struggling with infertility?  Every time we become pregnant so easily, we feel a sense of injustice, wishing that we could somehow share the blessings of parenthood.

As our family composition strays farther and farther from the societal norm,  public announcements become more difficult.  Having grown up with only one sibling, four kids feels colossal.  I worry about being judged, fairly or not.  There are a lot of important questions to be asked.  Do we have space for another baby?  Can we afford another child?  Perhaps most importantly, can we be loving (and sane) parents to yet another little one?

I don't have great answers to all of these questions.  Analytically, having another child doesn't make a lot of sense.  I thrive on simplicity, and adding to our family is certainly not simple.  Yet this decision didn't come from our heads, it grew out of our hearts.  Without becoming too personal, Jason and I felt strong impressions that a child was waiting who will be a great blessing to our family.  For months I wrestled and wrestled against these promptings, trying to push them aside.  Yet ever since we moved forward with faith to welcome this child, I have relished a beautiful calm and peace in my soul.

So, yes.   Like it or not, the secret is out.  But with news this sweet, I'm happy to share.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Anonymous, this one's for you...

Papa Kay, thank you for revealing my omission.  (Oh wait, did I just reveal your *secret* identity?)  How could I have forgotten the plastic snowman?  Papa Kay loves plastic snowmen so much that Jay picked him up one of his very own from the side of the road.  Despite a crowded dining room, the snowman still dined with us for every meal. 
And as long as I'm online, here are a few reminders of the fun time we had in Omaha on our way to Lake George.  Papa Kay outdid himself this time with the double wide, double long slip 'n slide.  Dad, where in the world do you come up with your T-shirts?
Feeding the budgees at the zoo.
Time for a train ride!
Ah, so sweet.

And last but not least, the tornado exhibit at the Wizard of Oz exhibit in the Omaha Children's Museum.  I think Eli really loved it, don't you?

Lake George: The End

Okay, okay, I know. Lake George is WAY old news. You're tired of reading about it, and I'm tired of procrastinating posting about it. I promise this will really be the end.

Wrapping up the Cast:

First of all, the Kiwis returned from New Zealand. Hooray! After a fascinating foray into the world of the Hobbit, Callie and Adam are stateside once more, having rejoined the world of the big people. Here they are lounging with their little hobbit nephew Eli as he relishes his first breakfast. With so many people around to beg for vittles, I'm pretty sure he ate at least three breakfasts every day.
Despite a delayed flight, Papa Kay also made the journey... did NomiAnn, who deserves a medal for being my driving companion and comrade all the way from St. George. All in all, we make a darn good travel team, even if we do periodically forget to fill up on gas. In the left of the picture is Aunt Christy, who also deserves much praise for driving up from Brooklyn. Although the trip may not be as far, it's a definite sacrifice when you don't own your own car. In this picture, we're all playing Monopoly Deal, a new family favorite.
Here's a better picture of Christy, playing with the girls at the lake's edge.
Uncle Ben, looking mighty comfortable on the waterfront. (His brother Tal came too, but quickly disappeared, thanks to a good book.)
The waterfront was NomiAnn's favorite hangout as well. Apparently she didn't want her picture taken.
So, we just snagged pictures while she was napping instead. (You know I'm going to suffer for posting these photos.)
Let's see, who else? Jason deserves some credit for making the all-night flight, then getting bumped off his connection. Of course, he didn't get all that much sympathy from his pregnant wife who drove the entire way half-nauseous. (Oops! Did I just spill that? Oh well, I figure if you're actually reading this, then you deserve the latest news.)
Eli and I. With kids this cute, who wouldn't want more?
Back on topic, my Grandpa John Wells and his wife Elaine came up from Vermont to celebrate birthdays. (He and Callie share the same birth day, August 12th.) Grandpa and Elaine are pictured center, in black and white.
And of course, let's not forget our favorite Golden Retrievers.
Meet the boys, Addie and Rondack.
After an entire week of following her around like a puppy, Talia never quite mastered Jeanette's name. Strangely enough, she never had trouble remembering the names of the actual pups. Go figure!

Onto the excitement. Waterskiing!

Here's Talia modeling the obligatory dry land lesson. Remember to keep those elbows straight!
Uncle Jay helps hoist Brooklyn over the edge...
...where Gregory takes over the instruction.
Looks like Talia's ready to go. Hit it!

As you can see, poor Talia drank a lot of lake water. Apparently we forgot to tell her when to let go of the rope! Brave soul, she finished with a smile, although she did warn Brooklyn that she "might not like it."
Here's Brooklyn. So close, so close!
Finishing with a smile. Both girls really enjoyed their introduction to waterskiing and tried on multiple occasions, thanks to their very patient helpers.
Here's Gregory, showing us all how the pros wakeboard.
Jeanette takes a turn...
...and hey look, there are two! Callie and I tried our hand at tandem skiing. So much fun! I'd forgotten how much I love to waterski. Don't worry, I behaved myself and bypassed the slalom.
Over the wake...
...and bring us home.
Talia tubes with Jeanette. Can you tell they're related?
Needless to say, a fantastic time was had by all.

More Water Play:

Talia suits up in her snorkel. I have many fond memories of snorkeling in that very same spot as a small child, and a couple of not-so-fond ones, such as the time I dropped the keys to the jet ski in the water and had to search until I found them.

Here are the cousins jumping off the dock: Kathryn, Brooklyn, and Katelyn

Katelyn still wins first prize for the craziest leap.
Brooklyn quickly got the knack of kayaking.
Talia gives the kayak a whirl while Brooklyn paddles along as coach. I'm glad nobody ended up with a concussion.

Coming straight from a New Zealand winter, Callie was grateful to catch a few rays of sun.

Meanwhile, Jason and Eli make some dribble castles.

Papa Kay in his usual spot, reading the paper.

Of course, Grandpas need some wet 'n wild fun too. Watch out, Brooklyn!
Papa Kay certainly needed the chance to wash off, particularly after the steep walk we took him on. I think he worried that it might literally become a Dead End, his Journey's End. :)
As long as we're on dry land, check out this fantastic double decker treehouse that the Wells clan built.
Lunch time! Is that Adam? Eating gazpacho? With tomatoes? Somebody take a picture, quick!
Eli preferred his play doh pizza.
How 'bout some coloring fun?
Of course, the major excitement was outside. Here are Eli and Alesia blowing bubbles.

Katelyn joins in the fun.

Check out that embouchure! Eli was buzzing up a storm. We have a future brass player, for sure.

Despite our inexperience, Uncle Jay was kind enough to let us all commandeer his sailboat. After a bit of heart-racing practice at the rudder, Jason became an expert at helping us come about. Meanwhile, Adam and Callie enjoyed showing off their mad skeels, thanks to their New Zealand sailing lessons.

Talia checks out the cabin.
Inspection passed, Brooklyn waves us off.
I may be wrong, but I think it usually helps to put up the sail.
Oh, I see. Y'all were docking. Here's Gregory helping Talia unload.

Adam ties off. As far as I know, the boat's still there so he must have done a decent job.

If you're looking to get somewhere in a hurry, you may prefer the Shark Eye II, particularly if the wind has died down.
Here we are on our way to hike some waterfalls. Keeping so many toeheads sunscreened is a lot of work!
Talia looking cute...
...and pretty goofy.
The poor kid kept breaking out into this weird rash on her face. We think it may have come from blowing into the swim noodle to soak us all.
And another photo of Gregory, just because he was so patient with all of us women.
Not only did we discover some gorgeous waterfalls on our hike, we also caught four nifty frogs, one of whom was enormous.
Making them a comfy home in their own terrarium.
We're not going to discuss Squishy, the cute little newt that disappeared overnight. We strongly suspect monster frog to be the culprit. Sometimes the circle of life isn't pretty.
Believe it or not, I still have loads more photos. Perhaps a thousand, if you must know. But after a long day, I'm tired. As was Eli at dinner each night. For three nights in a row, dinner time found him to be going... going... gone.
I'll be right up to bed...just let me have one more 'smore with Callie and Adam.
So long, Lake George, farewell.