Wednesday, September 28, 2011


"Bobservations" is my new slang term for "baby observations" of my little one. She does lots of little things that I'd like to remember, and here a a few of them.
  • She likes to flip us off. She flipped us off for the first time on her first day of life, as she rested her middle finger on her face and curled the rest of her fingers. Her middle finger continues to be her favorite finger for pointing, grasping, and resting.
  • On a similar note, she is always doing "jazz hands," or what I like to call her magician's hands. Rather than being a very graspy baby, she would far rather flex and curl her fingers in a bedazzling assortment of poses - peace signs, back of the hand to the forehead, thinking hand on chin, etc.
  • She does a mean Blue Steel. I would like to catch this on camera, but she does it too fast for me to reach my camera. When she is done eating, she tightly purses her lips as if to say, "you're not getting that thing back in me!" and looks something like this...minus the blue stole.
  • She likes to sleep with her arms up over her head. Either straight up over her head, or like this, below. Efforts to swaddle her are in vain, as she'd far rather be able to pose her jazz hands above her head while sleeping.
  • She takes after her mom as she is a sweaty baby. Many times at night, we have to uncover her and take her little hat off, as she will be drenched, literally, in sweat. Last night we made the mistake of letting her arms out in a short sleeved onesie while swaddling the rest of her in a warm blanket. The result? A onesie and hat drenched in sweat and little icicle arms. So sad. Will remember to always put her in a sleeper and nothing else from now on.
  • She also takes after her mom in her appetite. She likes to eat a lot. On day 10, she was already a pound over what she weighed on day 3. She now has a big chubby chin. While nursing, I used to stroke her chin to get her to keep eating (rather than sleeping), but now a big chubby double chin blocks my finger strokes. My brother-in-law said she looked like ET because of her skinny limbs with skin folds, so perhaps this will make her slightly less extra-terrestrial.
  • She is fuzzy like a puppy. I've always wished I could have a little kitten or a little puppy to cuddle, but my allergies prevent me from being anywhere near anything fuzzy and adorable. But my baby was born 2 weeks early, so she still has her lanugo - the little layer of hair that covers babies in the womb. I thought this sounded kind of gross when I read about it, but it turns out it's super cute. She has a little layer of fine hair all over her body that makes her cuddly and soft like a puppy dog.
  • She likes to take long walks with her mom and dad. At least, she hasn't told us so per se, but she settles in for a nice nap on each of our daily walks. Here she is at our walk in Garden of the Gods yesterday...(she's the one in the big stroller).
And that concludes my bobservations for today! This morning, the baby woke up with an eye infection. It's so sad to see her cute little eye swollen shut! Her grandpa prescribed some drugs for her and we'll take her to the doctor tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 1: It's a Jolly Holiday with Allie

We've made it through one entire week with baby! We haven't broken her or anything. I just realized that I'm 1/8th through my maternity leave, so I need to soak it all up while I can! So far it's been a jolly holiday with our little girl. Here are some of the notable experiences of our first week with our little coconut.
  • Magnesium sulfate made the first day and a half a blur. I was so weak, I couldn't lift my head to nurse, so the nurses had to help Allie nurse while I laid there like a beached whale. I threw up anything and everything (including water) during that time. I became adept at vomiting while nursing and not getting any on the baby. Lovely, huh?
  • In the hospital, we found that Allie (what we're calling her right now, but we're still probably switching to Alex when she's older) had such a sweet disposition...or at least sleeping all the time made her seem awful sweet. :) She isn't easily perturbed, but seems to just roll with the punches. One night, she scared us something awful when she coughed up a bunch of blood. She was rushed off to the nursery where they pumped 7 ml of blood out of her stomach. When she came back, she was so sweet and placid and didn't even cry. It turned out to be blood she swallowed during the c-section, so she was alright, but she sure scared he parents.
  • We stayed in the hospital until Wednesday, by which time I felt that if I was woken up one more time in the night by a nurse's poking, I'd probably scream. My parents came down from Denver and saw us home.
  • One of our first acts upon arriving home was to change Alexandra's diaper. We all gathered around for baby's first diaper change - how exciting! Then she projectile pooped across the room. I didn't even know babies could do that. So my parents, who came down to help us in our time of need, got to get right down to business scrubbing poop out of the carpet. Allie has since done this twice more, once reaching an incredible range of 6 feet (yes, we measured; all the way from the changing pad to the head rest of my rocking chair). Thanks, baby.
  • Our days pretty much consist of feeding the baby and changing the baby and waiting to do it all over again. Although our little coconut is just 5 1/2 pounds, she seems to have been born with her mother's appetite. When giving her a bottle, she'll routinely suck down 2 ounces - twice what she's supposed to be able to at her age. She's a pretty good nurser, but we have to cajole and poke and prod her to keep her awake, although as she gets older she stays awake more. Two of the lactation consultants at the hospital independently wondered if she was actually only 37 weeks at birth, based on how sleepy and uninterested in eating she was at first. But though she'd rather sleep through most feedings, when she does get eating, she can pound it down!
  • Every night has been a bit different with sleeping. One night she cried like crazy for 3 hours straight. One night, she slept sweetly most of the night, at 3 and 4 hour stretches. One night she did a little of both. We're still figuring it all out.
  • My dad cuddled the baby a lot. Every time I'd be about to set her down, he'd say, like an eager puppy dog, "I can hold her!"

  • My parents gave baby her first bath.

  • She had her first "tummy time" to get her a little active, rather than sleeping all the time. She figured out how to turn her head within minutes. Go, baby! Here she is in her "My First Halloween" outfit from her Grandma Van and on a beautiful quilt that a friend of the family made her. The quilt matches our nursery perfectly and it's now hanging proudly from her crib.

  • Mike and I took Alexandra on a couple of short, slow walks, as I'm still an invalid from the c-section. It helps me so much to get outside. At nighttime, I start feeling the affect of postpartum hormones, and I feel inexplicably sad, which the books tell me is normal. They also tell me that the hormones you experience after birth make puberty and PMS hormones look like nothing, so that makes me feel better too. Mike's been an excellent husband, keeping me encouraged when I feel the crazy coming on.

  • My parents were absolutely amazing and did so much for us our first week home. I felt like a princess, as they fixed all our meals and cleaned all the dishes and washed all the clothes. My dad weeded and mowed until our lawn looked better than it's ever looked and my mom reorganized several of my closets that were impractically cluttered. Thanks, mom and dad for helping out so much! This next week, Mike's parents will be coming down to help us even more. We're spoiled.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Poverty Theology Parable

Here is a parable about our sometimes twisted poverty theology that I thought was apt. I can certainly relate, especially working for a non-profit and not driving a total beater. Often I feel the need to justify or explain away the nice things that I have to those whom I presume might be judging me..."I got a great deal on it, I swear!" which betrays that I, like the son in the parable, can care more for what people think than I am thankful for how materially gracious He has been to me and my family. I would rather be a thankful daughter than a legalistic ascetic.

This post encouraged me to always be thankful and enjoy the good things in my life, and I hope it will you too!

"Command those who are rich in this present put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." 1 Timothy 6:17-18

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Laborious Story

I don't suppose there are very many people out there who want to hear the nitty gritty details of my labor, but for my own sake, I'd like to write it down before it grows even more fuzzy in my mind than it already is. So, without further ado, here is my labor story. If you please, you may skip to the end and view cute pictures of baby. :)

At Home
On Saturday, September 17th, I woke around midnight in pain. I tried to sleep through it, but to no avail. Soon, my sleepy mind began to realize that these pains were rhythmic and coming about every 8 minutes. More for novelty's sake than necessity, I woke Mike and told him I thought I was having contractions. Mike, who had been secretly hoping all along I would deliver early so he could meet his daughter - especially after meeting the newborn baby of our friends two days earlier - became somewhat...hmm what's the word? Crazed? Frantic? Jubilant? Totally freaked out? Since I couldn't sleep for the pain and he couldn't sleep for the exuberance, we began a flurry of activity that lasted throughout the night and the next day.

Well, in all honesty, Mike was much more aflurry with activity than me, unless you consider laying on the couch obsessively watching a stopwatch a lot of activity. Thinking we had two weeks left before baby, we had put all number of things off to get done in the last days, so Mike worked furiously cleaning, organizing, mowing, etc.

Throughout the day, my contractions began to get closer together, first 8 minutes, then 7, then 6 then even 5 - that magic number at which you go to the hospital. But as soon as that 5-minute mark was tantalizingly close, it would flit away and go back up to 6, 7, 8. Later in the day, it even began heading up to 8, 9, and 10, which made me want to cry. We had called our families, perhaps too soon, and it was so discouraging to have to keep answering their calls of "Is it time yet?" with "No, and it's less time now than ever." Mike and I took a long walk in our neighborhood, hoping for gravity to do its magic, to no avail. Here's a pic Mike snapped of it. What a beautiful day to have a baby!

As the day grew to night, I dreaded waiting until midnight again to make a midnight rush to the hospital when my contractions finally grew closer together, but I also feared being that woman who went to the hospital too early, only to be sent home to suffer for hours, perhaps days, longer while the nurses snickered behind their hands, "She thinks that's pain? She's only 1 centimeter dilated!" But my sister-in-law convinced me that it was better to be checked out for the sake of the baby, who might be getting tired out from all the contractions. My protective instincts immediately kicked in, and we got ourselves to the hospital at 7 p.m., about 18 hours after I'd first started having contractions.

At Hospital
At the hospital, it turned out I was that woman I dreaded being, who rushed to the hospital when she was only 1 centimeter dilated. When I first got to the hospital and was hooked up to the monitor, my contractions were 4 minutes apart...and then they began to peter out and stretch to 11 minutes apart. I wanted to cry. But a curious thing had happened. My always perfect blood pressure had for some reason skyrocketed to unheard of numbers for me - in the 150s over 105s, a sign of preeclampsia. The doctor diagnosed me with preeclampsia and ordered an induction, thus saving me from the drive of shame home from the hospital.

So they put me on pitocin and they put me on magnesium sulfate (blood pressure medicine which is very, very unfun, I was soon to find out), and my parents began their joyful drive down from Denver.

As it turned out, during my labor I was going to become a tester for every medical intervention possible during labor. At our labor class several weeks before, we had learned all about the various things they do in the case of complications during labor, and my body decided to become an undercover investigator, testing the various interventions in order to report back to you. Very often, one medical intervention leads to another, then another, then another, ad infinitum, and that was my experience. I experienced nearly every possibility of labor, with the exception of pushing (which I'm honestly not that sad I missed).

First was the joy of pitocin, which induces labor. At first, it was so fun to see the frequency of those contractions go up. But soon the reality of labor set in, and it became slightly less than fun. As we learned later, I was in back labor, purportedly the most painful type of labor in which the back of the baby's head is pushing against your back (rather than the baby's soft little face facing your back. As it turns out, back labor is painful. Mike and I had wondered what type of laborer I might be - would I scream at Mike, "I hate you, you did this to me!" like the women in the movies? No, predictably, I just laid curled on my side and softly groaned while Mike rubbed my back. My parents were there, and now I find it quite embarrassing to think that they watched in my hours of groaning, but I'm sure they still love me.

Sadly, because of the high blood pressure, I wasn't allowed out of the bed or even allowed to sit up, so all those helpful strategies for coping with pain that they taught us in birth class were of no use to me. All I was allowed to do was lay on my side, in order to keep my blood pressure down, which is perhaps the very worst position of all to deal with labor pain. I hadn't gotten an epidural - not out of my sense of nobility but because epidurals drop your blood pressure and I was already on medication to drop my blood pressure and had to become stable before I could get one. But as soon as I was given the green light, I got an epidural after several hours of back labor, and things became so much nicer after that.

I dozed, Mike dozed, and I enjoyed feeling my contractions get closer and closer together without the trouble of the pain. But I wasn't dilating fast enough. The doctor decided to break my water to speed labor. We had been told in class that your water breaking wasn't the spectacular thing that movies made it out to be. Ha. They hadn't seen me. The doctor hadn't even yet been handed the water breaking hook when, simply by reaching her fingers in, my water exploded in a fantastic shower that covered all three of the nurses and doctors huddled at my feet. It was pretty spectacular. This was followed by a second smaller shower seconds later. It's a small thing, but it was the best part of my labor.

After my water was broken, I still wasn't progressing. They began to become worried about the baby's well-being, being in labor for so long. So they inserted an internal heart monitor to monitor her heart rate. It was rather scary to listen to her heart rate, which would be beating happily along, until a contraction came along, at which point it would get slower and slower and slower, at some points even sounding like it had stopped altogether. The doctor decided the risk to the baby was too great and recommended a c-section. Having heard her heart beat sound like it nearly stopped, they didn't have to ask me twice.

We learned after the c-section that her cord was stuck in a loop next to her head and every time I had a contraction, it was putting intense pressure on the cord and dropping her heart rate. Scary! I'm so glad I live in a time and place where she was safe and came out like a kicking champ.

After all my deliberations about whether or not to get an epidural, it turned out to be a blessing, as the transition to surgery was so fast. My only problem was intense shaking, which my body tends to do. They strapped my arms down and covered my top half in heat pads. Mike stood at my head and tried to calm me. The thought of surgery makes me want to vomit, so I was hoping I wouldn't hear things like, "Scalpel. Scissors. Hacksaw." Instead, I heard them chatting about movies or some such thing and, about the time when I thought they must be getting ready to make the incision, I heard a baby's cry.

She was born at 3:34 a.m. on September 18th, 5 pounds and 15 ounces, 19 inches long.

They brought her up for us to look at, and she looked purple and covered in white goo. Then they quickly took her away with Mike, to the nursery to do their thing. I was stitched up and moved to recovery, where I laid for several hours. At some point, Mike was able to come see me and even bring the baby. I don't even recall what I felt or thought then, holding the baby for the first time, as I was under the serious affect of drugs (magnesium sulfate). I remember she was small and pretty and light.

As the magnesium sulfate wore off over the next two days, painfully slowly, I came out of my drug-induced fog and was able to see her for the incredibly sweet and beautiful little thing that she is. And that is the end of my labor story. Now for a totally obnoxious number of baby pictures...

Day 1

Grand Auntie Cindy with Alexandra

Auntie Tara and Uncle Bryan

Auntie Chrissy

Grandma Ginny and Daddy

Granddad Bray
Grandma Nancy (Grandpa Craig was exposed to germs and didn't get to pose with baby.)

Several days going home with baby.

Baby's first walk in our neighborhood

Her dark blue eyes

Chillin' in the crib. (I swear we didn't stage this, she's just a little poser!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Alexandra Noel Van Schooneveld

Post from Sunday by Mike...which blogger wouldn't let me post until today. I'll update later!

Hey all, Amber is taking a well-deserved rest so I'm posting a little update. Alexandra was born last night/early this morning (by C-section), around 3:30AM. She was 5 lbs 15 oz and 19 inches long. She looks a lot like her mom, including lovely brown eyes and lots of curly dark hair. She's very active and squirmy and has a pretty good attitude and doesn't cry very much. Pretty sure she has my floppy detatched earlobes though, and possibly my oddly proportioned fingers and toes (ring longer than index, second longer than big). She really enjoyed getting her hair washed, so she's clearly Amber's daughter. Amber loves having her hair played with.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Belly Painting

This is Lori.

Lori is an artist, and guess who painted this lovely design on her belly...She did! Pretty amazing, huh? At a recent baby shower I went to, Lori also painted our friend Rachel's belly to celebrate Hadassah's coming. Hadassah (Hebrew for "Esther") means "myrtle tree," so these are the blossoms of a myrtle tree.

Lori is hoping to start a small business painting ladies' pregnant bellies. But she needs a portfolio, so she called me up! I told her a little about Mike and I and she came up with this design. It's a combination of Mike and my favorite flowers, lilies of the valley and lilacs, respectively, along with a book, since we're both so bookish.

Beautiful, no? I like how it has a storybook feel. She was even able to hide two of my appendectomy scars. Mike and I also used the opportunity to gaze lovingly at one another in the back yard.

And when exactly did I become the kind of person who posts pictures of her husband kissing her nude belly on the internet? It must have happened sometime between January and now. I blame the hormones.

When I told my parents I was getting my belly painted, my dad let out a nervous laugh and my mom groaned. Apparently they thought I meant I was getting a nude maternity portrait of me painted, which I could then hang in my entryway for all to see when they came over to watch football. So, in comparison, mom, putting a photo of my belly on the internet isn't all that bad, right?

On another pregnancy note, here is me and my friend Stephanie two weeks ago.

Stephanie is due 4 days after me, so it's been fun to go through everything at the same time as her. We have already arranged a marriage between our girl and their boy because they're both smart engineers, and we want in on that action. But guess what...she just delivered! We went to the hospital to see them and their little boy today. She had the nicest labor I've ever heard of: 12 hours in labor. She slept for 3 of the 12 hours. She pushed for 10 minutes. Nice.

It was pretty darn neato (and quite surreal) to see a little baby that is just about the same size as what is wiggling around in my belly right now. I will admit, on Mike's behalf, that he even got a little choked up. While my biggest fear is labor in general, Mike's biggest fear is now that he will become a blubbering idiot in the delivery room. Which would be pretty cute, really.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Turning Complaints to Blessings

My friend Krissy is getting married on Saturday. And guess what happened on Monday a week ago...She got an appendectomy! Sheesh, what's with appendectomies and major life events around here? Despite her less than ideal situation, she has a great attitude, counting her blessings in a situation that might otherwise be frustrating. A little change in perspective is so refreshing!

So I'm going to follow her lead and count my blessings - taking a fresh look at my current day-to-day complaints for the aspects of them that truly are blessings.

Complaint 1: I only get 8 weeks off for maternity leave, and my coworker in Canada who is having a baby at the same time as me gets a year!

Blessing 1: Um, hello? I get 8 weeks off! I have a job! The last time I had 8 weeks off was in high school! And I have 8 weeks off paid, so I can continue to shelter, clothe and feed my baby, which are not guarantees in this world, as I learn every day in my job.

Complaint 2: This baby be sittin' on my bladder and I'm starting to get real pain in my lower back and abdomen thanks to her head which is sitting quite firmly in my pelvis.

Blessing 2: My baby isn't breech!

Complaint 3: I'm tired all the time and not sleeping well (thanks to aforementioned pain and bladder).

Blessing 3: I'm in a situation in which I can afford to take breaks and naps. I'm not working in a field for too many hours. When I need a nap, I can take one in my air-conditioned living room on a couch and not on the bamboo floor of a humid shack. My sleepiness means that my body is working hard to make a baby, and I have the proper nutrition to get it done!

Complaint 4: Things just got a bit busier around here, as Mikey Duck was asked to help out the deacons and also to be a small group leader...and we start on Monday. Great timing, right? Busy-ness stresses my fish-sized brain out.

Blessing 4: We have a great church and a great small group that we can be involved in and where we have found a home! (And I'll just nix small group at my house for a month...or two. :) )

Complaint 5: Due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, our money situation isn't what we had planned. (Don't worry, we're fine, we're just not in as ideal of a situation as we had planned for!)

Blessing 5: Hello, McFly? Though we're not Warren Buffet, we also eat 3 meals a day (plus snacks for preggo), we have a nice place to live, we have a car that runs and I've never had to wear rags in my life.

These are just a few of the many, many blessings that I have. We talked about it in small group this week and it's so true: Most of the time what needs to change are not our circumstances, but our attitudes. Our circumstances can rob us of joy - but unjustly! Joy comes not from comfort or money or the perfect life, but from a proper perspective - that God loves us and he is our ultimate home!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Money Tips for Misers

Recently, I read one of the headline articles on Yahoo (almost always a bad idea) about helpful money-saving tips in these uncertain financial times. They went something like this...and I don't exaggerate:
  • Instead of taking a yearly trip to Europe, consider taking a trip within the U.S.
  • Consider cutting down on the number of times your cleaning help comes each month.
  • Consider shopping at discount stores, rather than only shopping through Nordstrom's annual catalog.
Umm, thanks. That's super helpful. It reminds me of similar dieting advice I've gotten from Yahoo (5 Tips to Trim Belly Fat Fast!), such as don't drink 64 ounces of soda a day and cut down on your 4 daily bags of Doritos by half.

The people who write these articles seem to only know Montgomery Burns and Homer Simpson. So how about some advice for the rest of us modest Americans!

If you have read my blog very long (and therefore seen pictures of our home), you know that the idea that Mike and I are misers is laughable. But we do live cheap. We've always lived on a single-income, and that of a data entry specialist, copy editor, or copy writer, depending on the year. We've never paid for cell phones. We've never paid for cable. We keep our home at 63 in the winter and 78 in the summer. Our big nights out usually include Chick-Fil-A. We only go to see movies when a freelance gig is paying. I don't color my hair because it's so ridiculously expensive.

I actively dislike spending money. I've never understood the term "retail therapy" because for me, the act of shopping and spending money is actively unpleasant and painful. Giving businesses my money is not my idea of fun. I'm not virtuous or self-sacrificing in my frugality. I'm much more like a mean-old curmudgeonly miser.

So it's hard to know where to slice from your budget. (That is, if we had a budget. (Insider fact: We have never in fact had a budget. (We've never needed one since we're so cheap (not since we're so rich)))).

We all have our weaknesses, though. Mike and I, while having a miserly attitude at times, are also quite used to a comfortable life. My weakness, quite obviously, is home improvement projects. Although we do them on the cheap, a tool here and a tile there sure add up. Mike's weakness is...well I'm not sure that man has a weakness. Not one he acts on anyway. He will starve himself all day rather than spend money on food. He will wear socks with holes the size of hockey pucks rather than buy clothes. (Luckily for him, however, through the generosity of family, he still gets all his toys through Christmas and birthday presents.)

So, you fellow cheapos, lend me your ideas! What are some of your creative ways of saving money? (And you better not say, "I only go to get a pedicure every other month now and have cut down my daily lattes from three to one!")

Sunday, September 11, 2011

More Belly Pics

I don't have much to say right now, so I'm going to cop out and just post pregnancy pics. Yay! I'm also really just posting these to impress you with how tough I am during pregnancy.

Here I am last week at 36 weeks on a little hike/walk at Ute Valley Park by our house. Mike cajoled me into going all the way to the top of the ridge. (Sorry, these are taken with his cell phone, so not super resolution.)

And here is me yesterday at 37 weeks, after a hike up Queen's Canyon at Glen Eyrie to the waterfall. Yep. I'm feeling pretty tough. And I wear that orange shirt a little too often, I see.

Mike is busy right now working on our home projects...and he just came home from Lowes with supplies for two more potential home projects. (They were on clearance, so he couldn't resist!) And I'm busy laying on the couch watching BBC miniseries and reading historic fiction. So I better be off now!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All Ready for Baby!

We are all ready for baby! Which I mean in a purely material sense, and certainly not in a metaphysical one. This weekend we were having guests over, so it gave us the extra push to complete all those last-minute details to get the baby room finally ready.

Here is what it looked like before. Not very hospitable, is it?

Here is what it looked like halfway through our project. I'm afraid I didn't get another wide-view picture of the room, so you'll just have to look at this link. (My camera died, and my charger disappeared.) But here are some of the finishing details.

We found a mobile (which we didn't register for on principle because they were so danged expensive) at a consignment shop for $10 (usually $50 to $60). Though this one doesn't match our set, it adds some nice feminine softness to the room. Upon entering the room a couple weeks ago, one friend said, "You're having a girl, right?" So I guess that means we needed a little pink.

To the left of the crib, we set up our little start-up library for her. Check out the dictionary pages of "A" tied with a pink bow (just under the Beatrix Potter book). My friend Katy got that for me, which I thought was quite adorable and appropriate.

Then there's our dresser/changing table that Mike redid for this room. I wasn't sure about the diaper stacker that came with our crib set, but it's pretty cute, n'est ce pas? We also had this leftover poster that was meant to be hung in the ice cream store. We could never find a frame that fit it, so it's been gathering dust. But Mike pulled it out of the dust bunnies and we noticed how well it matched our set. AND we found one frame that fit it. We are just going to pretend that there are giraffe and acacia trees in the hundred-acre wood.

Here's a closer look at the poster, which we both love.

And here is my little nursing corner. Do you see the lovely blanket on the chair? A friend from work, Carol, hand-wove it for me on her loom! Check out her wares here.

I also was suspicious of the toy bag that came with our crib set, but it turns out it's pretty darn cute too.

And lastly, here's a 36-week picture for you. We went blackberry picking down at Happy Apple Farm this weekend, where they sadly lost all their apple harvest this year; but it was an excellent year for blackberries! We'll be making some blackberry gelato sometime soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Hazards of Hanovertown

I have always dreamt of living in a small town or isolated in the mountains somewhere, but those options weren't conducive to earning a living. So Mike and I bought our home on the very edge of town, so I could pretend I live in a mountain hamlet, rather than in a large front range city. We bought on the edge where the land can be developed no more - a national forest to the northwest, a rock quarry to the west, and a cattle ranch to the southwest.

I love our humble little hamlet, but sometimes we have to cope with the consequences of living on such diverse borders.

The national forest to the northwest means that we have to deal with the dangers of gangs of deer that munch up every last flower and snap innocent saplings in half. They're violent, those dear gangs. It means I occasionally find bunny parts while weeding my lawn, left by tricksy foxy. It means that there is an off-chance a bear will eat all your garbage or a mountain lion will eat your yippy little dog. But it is worth it for the clean air and silence.

The red-rock quarry to the west of us means that when the wind blows, the dirt on our windowsills is decidedly pink. It means that when you look up toward the purple mountain majesty, it's actually a pink hole in the earth. They're trying to reclaim the land by planting vegetation, but rock-slides make it quite trying for plants to survive long-term. And it ultimately means that perhaps someday our house will be buried in a huge glorious pink pile of rubble. (Just kidding, mom.) But it is worth it so that we can afford to live in our own mountain hideaway.

The ranch to the southwest has always put a smile in Mike and my little hearts. The rolling hills dotted with cattle make Mike feel like he is back at home in his agricultural roots. I, being a city girl and therefore unhindered by any realistic idea of the difficulties of ranch life, find it romantic to have a sprawling mountain ranch at our back door, complete with men in Wranglers fixing fences. It's also rather fun to live at the edge of a cheesy tourist attraction, the Flying W Ranch, which is part of this working ranch. (At least, that's what Mike told me, and I tend to believe what he says, for better or for worse.)

But now I have learned the disadvantage of ranches: Cows. Holy cow, I never knew how loud cows low. Really loud. And they don't moo in the daytime or the evening when I could find it romantic. They moo at 5 a.m. When my baby is kicking me and my bladder is full (again) and I'm already ravenous for breakfast and my lips are dry and I have to blow my nose and my fan is making that loud clicking noise again. On top of it all, the cows moo even louder than this pregnant lady can snore. And I'm so tired, and I know I'll never sleep again because I'm having a baby, and I just wish I could just one day sleep past 3:45 a.m., and then these lousy cows come along.

I could take it all in my neighborhood, the violent deer, the treacherous rockslides, but the cows have finally broken this pregnant camel's back.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Writing Writers Write

The act of writing is an odd thing. The act of blogging perhaps even more so. Why do writers write? For me, it's a compulsion. Something you do because you feel you must, for better or worse, for good or bad. Because you wake up at 3 a.m. and cannot go back to sleep until the words in your head are spilled onto a page or screen. Because, though when you speak to people in person you're slow and stilting, when you write, you flow. Because of the simple pleasure of setting one word next to another like two knick-knacks on a shelf.

And yet. Writing is a highly personal and private thing that us writers - who are often very private folk - then paradoxically set on display for all the world to see. Though in person, I may close inward if you ask too personal of a question, yet in writing, I'll set down my soul, bare and red and wriggling, for all to see. Do we writers have something of the exhibitionist in us, despite insisting on our introversion? Why do we, like Anne Bradstreet, feel that we must rip our most tender words from our breast and shove them out the door into an unkind world - "Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain, who after birth did'st by my side remain...At thy return my blushing was not small, my rambling brat (in print) should mother call."

We love our words, and we hate them. We pet them, and we berate them. We want the world to see them, but we dread that anyone should read them. For me, I write for myself and to myself. In public. But I forget that anyone else is listening. And then when someone mentions in a spare conversation something I've written, I'm startled. It's as if I realize they've been inside my head, unnoticed, hearing the preposterous things I say and think. I squirm like a bug writhing on the collector's pin. It's like they've crashed a party that I didn't know they were invited to, even though I'm the one who sent out the invites.

Oh, what a paradox is the private and public mind of the writer. Sometimes my self-conscious and self-doubting soul wishes to collapse inwardly, like a hermit crab folding up its legs into its shell. Other times I wish to shout forth words, words, words from the rooftops for all to hear. It's a conundrum, I can tell you that.

By the way, you're not reading this, are you?