Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween 2011!

This year for Halloween, my 2nd favorite holiday, we had a little party at our house with our small group and the singles small group from our church. It was our very first year being at our home for trick-or-treating! We had about 30 trick-or-treaters in all. Just enough to be fun and not too many to necessitate buying more than one bag of candy. :)

We made all kinds of goodies for our party like pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and carrot cake cupcakes and Jen's famous artichoke dip and Nancy's cheesy dip. Mike also started a fire outside in the chiminea, so people could sit outside by the fire and make s'mores. We also had Vermont maple and honey gelato to make root beer floats with, which were fabulous if I do say so myself.

I decided to be enormously sweet and sacrificial by allowing my husband to dress my adorable, cute princess of a girl up as an ugly green old alien.

Every year after this, she is going to be something ridiculously girlie to make up for it. (I've already decided she'll be Scarlet O'Hara next year, if only I knew how to sew...) But the costume turned out to be a bit unwieldy to keep a sleeping/crying/nursing 6-week-old in, so she only wore it briefly before the party.

I dressed as a Greek goddess, as I am now such a paragon of fertility and whatnot. And as I bought this costume several years ago for a banquet, saying, "Oh, I can save money and wear this every year!" And I had the perfect accessory for my costume: An adorable baby. She really made the outfit.

Mike came as Luke Skywalker. Since Alexandra couldn't make the appearance on his back as Yoda, her stuffed giraffe filled in for the part. I'm not sure what I'm doing with my mouth here. Maybe Greek goddesses eat a lot of lemons.

Eric and Brenda came as straciatella and nutella gelato. They won for creativity.

Will and Richard came as Rambo and a cowboy. Very American of them.

Jennifer and David came wearing a Nepali sari and guard uniform...and Ansel was a cute little pumpkin. Rachel and Fernando didn't come dressed up, so they got to pick out these costumes from our box of disguises.

Later, Fernando traded in his costume to become the first Mexican Jewish graduate to ever come to one of my parties.

And Hadassah came as a little pumpkin. That made three little pumpkins at our party!

To shake things up, Timothy came dressed as a little bear, accompanied by his parents from Mt. Olympus.

And, last but not least, Emily came dressed as a dark fairy and Jamie and Carrie came dressed as each other. These faces are their reaction to me saying, "I'm going to flash you," which they took to mean something other than, "I'm going to turn the flash on on my camera."

I love Halloween! I can't wait for it to come around again next year, and I really can't wait for Alexandra to be old enough to go trick-or-treating for herself!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Four Generations

Great-Grandmama Dottie, Granny Ginger, Mumsie, and Allie

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is There Anything Better Than Baby Thighs?

I defy you to find something cuter than our little tubbalo's thigh rolls.

Also, this is how we found the pumpkin sleeping last night. She loves to pull her hat over her eyes, like Dumb Donald from Fat Albert. Usually this makes her scream and scream, but last night, she was quite content to sleep just like this, complete with palm raised in the air.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Snow Monkey

Baby experienced her first snow today.

But don't worry; we rushed right back inside and cuddled to warm up.

Now she's all snuggled in her warm woolies, enjoying life.

What do Jesus, Gandalf, Obi Wan, and Dumbledore have in common?

They all had to die.

The thing I love most about literature, particularly fantasy, is how well it mirrors the deep truths of our world - without us even recognizing it most of the time. It speaks to our hearts of things we know are true, but have forgotten. The three great fantasy stories of our time - The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter series - are not just popular because they give a bunch of dorks a chance to escape into another world, but because they resonate someplace deep within us on a soul level. They remind us of what is good and true: things like courage, sacrifice, love, and the triumph of good over evil.

But there are so many other hidden gems in these stories. One is a common archetype: the death of the leader. Whether it is Jesus, Gandalf, Obi Wan Kenobi, or Dumbledore, they all had to die. (Or, more accurately, they must ascend, fall into the depths of the earth with a balrog, go to wherever fallen Jedi go, and fall off a tower and take his place in a portrait over his desk in Hogwarts, respectively.)

Jesus had to die in a much deeper sense - in that his death atones for our sins - but I'm talking about the necessity for them to leave. Jesus said before his Ascension that he must leave, but that he was sending another, that it would be good for us if he left. These words always seemed hollow to could it be better for Jesus to be gone? I think we can understand it better through the lens of these stories.

When Gandalf was on the earth...Middle Earth, that is...everyone looked to him to know what to do next. They relied on him and were, to some degree, passive followers of his plans. It wasn't until he was (supposedly) dead that Frodo had to make the difficult choice to set out on his own to do the agonizing task that he knew he must do...ultimately sacrificing himself to save his world.

As long as Obi Wan Kenobi was alive, Luke Skywalker was a moot point. You don't need Luke if you have Obi Wan. Everyone looked to Obi Wan...until he died and Luke had to take his place in fighting Darth Vador.

As long as Dumbledore was alive, people knew everything would be fine at Hogwarts. It was not until Dumbledore sacrifices himself that Harry must take his place as the chosen one and ultimately sacrifice his life to save his world.

But Jesus isn't just a literary figure. He is the truth all these stories point to: After Jesus ascended, he chose us to be his actors in this world. The story doesn't end with him because he has commissioned us to be the ones who now step up and sacrifice ourselves in order to save our world. This has nothing to do with our own self-glorification as heroes, but everything to do with God's graciousness in honoring us by making us an integral part of His Story.

And, like Luke Skywalker, we are not alone to figure it out. God has sent us his Spirit to guide us and comfort us as we walk along our difficult journey. How cool is that?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Krista, Oh Krista

My husband's family has a tradition of holding a guessing game before each baby in the family is born. Each person pledges a gift to the winner of the game. Today, the 11th child from the Van Schooneveld branch was born, and I won the prizes (mostly candy)! Hooray! Congratulations, Trevor and Dynell!

For Alexandra's birth, my sister-in-law Krista won the baby guessing game and earned the prize of a poem written by my husband about her. I thought this would be a good opportunity to honor my sister-in-law who has helped us so much in the past 5 weeks by posting it here.

Krista is one of those women that everyone wants to be friends with. I met her my freshman year of college, and even as I was a doofy, goofy 18-year-old, she already exuded wisdom and confidence. If I could choose one thing my girl would learn from Aunt Krista, it would be her confidence - even though she may occasionally inwardly doubt herself (at least so she tells me), Krista models an uncommon calm security in who she is. This calm security frees her up to love others fully, not dilly-dallying about with an insecure self-focus like I am wont to do.

Krista's wisdom and grounded outlook on life make her much sought after by other women. When I married her brother, I remember being told by several people how lucky I was to get to be related to Krista - to have such unfettered access to her. Krista is now a pastor's wife, so many women would love to pick her brain and be guided by her, but being the mother of five, she naturally can't be everyone's best friend. But having married Mike, I got in through the back door and can talk to her anytime I please. It's kind of like being related to Angelina Jolie. Only more blonde. And cooler.

Since I had Alexandra, Krista has indulged me calling a ridiculous number of times to ask about diaper rash and sleeping patterns and nursing and everything else under the baby sun. What a balm to my mind it has been to have someone to turn to, to ask all my silly new mom questions.

So without further ado, here is one of the three poems Mike wrote for be sung to the tune of "Circle of Life" from the Lion King.

The Sister We Love

From the day Alexandra arrived on the planet
And blinking stepped into the sun
You've been really nice
Given us good advice
Kept my wife from going off like a gun

There's so many great things about Krista
More to count than can ever be said
From her athletic prowess
To the way that she dresses
To the way that she makes tasty bread

It's the sister we love
And she beats us all
At strategy games
And in the pool
Till we find a way
To trick her into jumping into a snowdrift
It's our sister
The sister we love.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Orange Taffeta

Baby rocked her first tutu today.

And got in the fall spirit yesterday.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why I'm So Messed Up

Playing with my own live baby doll has made me nostalgic for my old toys. Today I was reminiscing about them with Mike, when I remembered one of my most traumatic life events.

When I was a little girl, Cabbage Patch Kids were the Toy Du Jour. Harried moms would wait hours in toy-store lines and wrestle in the aisles to have a doll to put under the Christmas tree. My mom was one such woman. In the winter circa 1984, she lined up in her moon boots to show her daughters her love. She waited and waited, and I'm pretty sure she even wrestled some other moon-boot mommies. So on Christmas day, my sister and I found two doll-shaped boxes under the tree. My sister opened hers, and it was the prettiest little blonde doll with yellow yarn hair (...well, it was as pretty as any Cabbage Patch doll can be).

Then I opened mine to find a little newborn doll, Samantha Joy, who looked something like this.

I remember being a little sad that my doll didn't have pretty long hair for me to play with and braid, but I was still glad to have my very own little baby. Each doll came with a birth certificate and adoption papers, showing that you were their new mommy. I would stare over and over at her little birth certificate, running my finger over her name, "Samantha Joy."

It never occurred to me to wonder why it was written in my mom's handwriting.

Years passed, and I still played with and loved my little girl doll. She'd climb trees with me. Read stories with me. Have brunch with me. Even sleep with me.

Then one day, as I looked once again at her birth certificate, I noticed the edges of her name starting to peel up from the paper. Her name was actually written on a piece of tape placed on the certificate. Now how had I never noticed that before? Hmm. Very odd. Then I noticed that it really did look just like mommy's handwriting. How peculiar.

Following that same child's instinct that leads them to pick off scabs (or in my case, pull tassels off of my grandmother's antique velvet chair), I peeled that piece of tape back. Slowly, slowly, until I noticed letters appearing, one by one, from under the tape.

Alexander James

What? What was going on? How had some boy's name gotten on my little girl's birth certificate? Had there been some paperwork error at the cabbage patch and some little boy out there had my girl's certificate?

And then it hit me: Samantha was Alexander! My sweet, precious little girl who had shared secrets with me and played dress up with me was...A BOY. Samantha had been the victim of gender reassignment. That fateful day so many winters ago, my mom had gotten to the toy store one doll too late. She was able to get a girl doll for Tara, but only boys were left for me. In her great love for me, my mom bought a boy doll, doctored the gift certificate, sewed little girl doll clothes, and passed him off as a her.

How was I to recover from this? My bosom friend for so many years was not who I thought was. It was like finding out my dad was in the CIA or my sister was adopted. What else had my parents lied to me about? Was Santa a fake too? Was the Tooth Fairy a figment of my imagination?

My world was in chaos. And this is why I was and am such a messed up and confused little girl... Perhaps this deep-seated gender confusion is why I gave my little girl a little boy's name.

Melodrama aside, Alexandra went on another little adventure today. We took a fork on a trail nearby our house that we'd never taken before and discovered a little wonderland! (Cell phone picture at the trailhead:)

The trail wound up through a stream bed strewn with crunchy fallen leaves, then along a jagged rock cliff, then out to an idyllic mountain meadow fringed by red-rock fins. (We were walking along the continuation of the Garden of the Gods formation on the Flying W Ranch's grounds.) It was magical, and we imagined all the storybooks that it looked like we had stumbled into. We decided it was most like the old Withywindle, and on the way back we were being led down, down, down the stream, back into the heart of the sleeping and hostile forest.

We can't wait for Alexandra to join in on our make believe games! (If not for her own sake, then at least to legitimatize the fantasizing of two silly old grown ups.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alexandra Month by Month

OK, now that I had a serious, non-baby post, I can feel totally fine about barraging you with more baby photos! Alexandra turned one month on Tuesday. To track the little pumpkin's progress, I decided to take a photo of her each month in her little queen's chair.

Her she is at one week, when she weighed approximately 5 pounds 12 ounces.

And now here she is at one month, when she weighed somewhere around 8 pounds 4 ounces. Look at the little chubbawumba!

Now that she's getting bigger, I can almost fit her into her cute 0-3 month outfits. Here she is rocking a Baby Gap get-up from Auntie Tara...It's still a little big.

And here she is in her punk look.

Love that hair! She looks quite Asian in this photo. In the past, I've tried to convince my mom that we must have some Asian blood in us, but she will never admit it. I feel this photo gives us adequate proof of our Eastern heritage. Alexandra and her Asian cousin will fit in just swell together!

God's Will or Eastern Mysticism?

This is something I wrote earlier this year but never posted because I thought it was redundant to past posts. But since there is such a dearth of non-baby posts, I thought I'd go ahead and post it anyway.

Do you have one of those topics that you find yourself harping on over and over? For me, it’s God’s will. Recently I think Mike stumbled upon the heart of the issue. He has a way of taking my scattered thoughts and crystallizing them to their essence. It's annoying and wonderful. And so here is my thesis (appropriated from my husband):

Much of the modern American Christian conception of "God's will" is an embracing and adopting of the Eastern mystical ideas prevalent in our secular society, simply colored and spiritualized by Christian rhetoric. We think we're trying to reassure one another with Christian truth, but so often what we're really saying, along with mystics, Buddhists, and Oprahists is: "Nothing bad ever really happens."

On a recent lazy weekend, I watched an entire season of Project Runway. Throughout the show, the contestants would find solace by saying: "If it's meant to be, it will be. If I'm meant to win, I will. If I'm not, I won't."

This (very current) philosophy is distilled from various sources of eastern mysticism and paganism: The idea that there is a natural, perfect order to this world that will inevitably unfold. Whatever is meant to be, will be. And whatever is, was meant to be.

Now, how very similar is the Christian rhetoric on the same topic? "If it's God's will, you'll get the job. If it's not, you won't." If it's meant to be, it will be. It is in essence the same concept, but dressed up all pretty.

I think we, as Christians, have embraced too simplistic and (supposedly) comforting a view of the world. It seems that any bad thing that happens, we, like the pagans say, "It was meant to be. It is God's will."

Recently, Mark Driscoll spoke at The Gospel Coalition, and he said something like this (I wish I had written it down verbatim): "If you are teaching predestination at your church without teaching about sin and Satan, you're going to have some really confused Christians. Because that means that everything bad that happens, God did."


The gaping hole in our philosophy of destiny dressed up as God's will is sin, evil, and the Fall. It pretends that everything that happens is actually alright because God allowed it to happen. The logical endpoint of this philosophy is absurdity. I think we all need to go back to the 11th grade and read Voltaire's Candide. He wrote it in the 1700s in response to a Christian philosopher (Leibniz) who argued that because the world was created by an all-powerful, all-knowing God, this is the "best of all possible worlds." After a series of ridiculous misfortunes, Candide realizes that this idea is absurd.

Ironically, I think the Christians of today need to hear the words of a secular French thinker two and a half centuries later just as much as the original audience did. This is not the best of all possible worlds. Even I, having lived a sheltered suburban life, have seen enough evil in the world to know that it is simply not true.

The truth is that there is evil in this world. People do things that God never wanted them to do. Things "come to be" that were certainly never meant to be. Rape, murder, adultery. And beyond sin itself, this is simply a broken world due to the Fall. According to Genesis, God never intended for man to die. Death came into being because of the Fall. A whole host of bad happens (that is not necessarily evil), such as natural disasters, disease and death) as a result of the Fall, and not as a result of God's original plan for the world.

When someone tells a woman who has lost a child, "It was God's will for her to die and go to be with Him," they are leaving out a very large truth: Death was not God's plan. God didn't create a world in which babies died in order to teach us lessons. This is a fallen world in which bad things happen. God allows and redeems these things, but this is very different from our cheery dismissals of evil and misfortune with pagan philosophies dressed up as Christianity.

Simplistically stating that everything is God's will is to empty sin of its power and, in effect, to unbind the idea of evil and sin completely. If everything that happens is God's will and God is all good, then logically there is no such thing as sin. In reality, God created a world in which we are free beings, and He allows the consequences of our (good or evil) choices to play out. In this way, you can say that everything that happens is God’s will, but it is a game of semantics. Unlike many games of semantics, this is one that matters because it colors our understanding of God. It tricks us into thinking that God is ok with the terrible tragedies that happen to us, maybe even into thinking that he brought them on us deliberately as part of some higher purpose. Bad things happen every moment of every day that are part of God's permissive will that are completely against his perfect will. There is a difference! God allows freedom, He permits many things to happen, but He hates the sin; He hates the suffering, and one day he's not going to permit it any more.

Perhaps this will sound twisted, but the idea of sin and the Fall is one of the most comforting tenets of Christianity. It answers our souls' cries of "This world is awful! There is something not right!" with "Yes, you're right. There is something wrong." The fact that there is something wrong is indispensable to Christianity. This world hurts because this world is broken and wrong. It's not all OK. Everything that is supposed to happen doesn't happen. Things that were never meant to happen do happen.

I don't want to escape from this truth, like Candide tried, and simply say, "It seems bad, but it really isn't; really it's all meant to happen because it's part of God's big, beautiful plan!" No! Evil exists. Bad happens. Ephesians 6:12 makes it clear: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

The comfort is not that everything that happens is meant to be, that this is the best of all possible worlds if we could only see things from God's perspective. The comfort is that, though we will have trouble in this world, we can take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). The comfort is that, though we suffer the evil of other people's hands and they suffer from our own evil, a day of judgment is coming, when all will be set right (Matthew 12:36). The comfort is that Jesus will dry every tear, and there will be no more death or mourning or pain (Revelation 21:4). And the ultimate comfort is that we will not be treated as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:9-11), but God will welcome us as children if we turn to Him (John 1:12).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Alexandra Goes to the Zoo

Yes, I have officially become *that* woman who takes a picture of everything her baby does and posts it on the internet, foisting it upon an unsuspecting and uninterested public. But my excuse is that I don't have anything else to say, as my brain still seems to be taken hostage by postpartum hormones...Last night we went to a movie, and one of the previews about an orphaned baby chimp nearly had me in tears and rushing home without seeing the movie to make sure my baby was still OK. Last night, I saw a picture of my adoptive nephew (who is still in his home country), and wanted to kiss and hug the iPad it was on. And at the zoo today, I saw a mountain goat standing all alone, and I felt so sad for it, I wanted to go hug it. Clearly, I'm turning into this girl.

So, until a semblance of a brain and composure returns, it's baby updates for now.

For Alexandra's 1-month anniversary of life, we decided to take her to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, despite the perils that lurk this (this video is taken at our zoo).

We got to see the tiger swimming and the beaver chomping. But Alexandra was most excited about the giraffes.

And on a totally unrelated but baby-obsessed note, here is a picture of Alexandra with her eyes open wide, which she's doing a lot these days, but I don't always catch it on camera.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Baby Doll

When Mike first found out we were having a girl, he wanted to know the types of toys and games girls enjoy. Some friends told him that they like playing with baby dolls - feeding them and dressing them - and playing with kitchen sets and playing Barbies. Mike thought this all sounded rather lame. I believe he is planning to introduce Legos and Lightsabers to her early to de-lamify girlhood.

But as Mike pointed out, I have now reached what all that girlhood play was leading up to - dressing and feeding and caring for a baby. I now have my very own little baby doll. My favorite part of this is the clothes. I unabashedly love clothes. But grown-up clothes are so expensive and always involve finding pants that don't make my backside look big. But with a little baby doll, it's all the best part of clothes, with none of the disadvantages!

I now have a closet and dresser full of adorable little girl outfits. (When you're having a girl, everyone wants to buy her cute clothes.) So far, Alexandra has been too little to fit into any of her cutesie outfits, but today I was able to get her into one of my favorites, a little green dress from my friend Brandy.

I love her flared nostrils and chubby chin in this photo. She gets this expression a lot, and you can see that I'm working hard to plumpen her up. I hope this is just the beginning of many ridiculously cute and impractically girly outfits.

On another note, as of today, I am officially halfway through my maternity leave, so we thought we better live it up. So for Alexandra's adventures today, we brought her to Manitou Springs to eat custard. She wasn't feeling up to custard just yet, so I ate her turtle sundae for her and she just had milk. Here we are outside the Colorado Custard Company.

After Manitou, Alexandra still had more energy so we decided to introduce her to another landmark of our region, the Broadmoor.

We took a long walk around the lake and enjoyed the fall flowers and swans on the lake. Although we're sad our leave is already half over, we are making the most of the days we have!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Things to Remember

I have been trying to come up with enough content on one topic for a cohesive post, but in vain. I would have to go into far too much detail regarding excrement or nipples, and I doubt anyone really wants that. (Side note: In the past, I would have never used the word "nipple," but now it is used at least 5 times an hour in our household.)

So rather than shooting unreasonably high for lucidity, I'll simply jot down a few things about these past several weeks that I'd like to remember and a few things that have been going on.

Sea Life: Our baby sounds like a porpoise. When first drifting off to sleep, she very often makes many high pitched clicking sounds in a row, like a porpoise. Click on this link and listen to "dolphin chatter." That's what she sounds like. I believe I'll call it "Alexandra chatter" from now on.

Snuggling: I want to remember the way she sleeps on her father's chest. In the morning after nursing, Alexandra is still nearly impossible to wake. So instead, she spends some time sleeping on either my or Mike's chest. It's the sweetest thing ever. It's rather painful for Mike, however, as Allie has quite the strong grip and likes to cling to his chest hair while resting. Warning: Gratuitous chest hair in photo below.

Crying: Suddenly, our baby cries. For the first two weeks, she slept like a baby, although she would cry at night for an hour or so. Now she is really stepping up the crying. To the point that we have looked up "colic" several times. She can be fairly inconsolable when she cries - nothing makes it stop and she gets higher pitched and more frantic. This morning, listening to her high pitched out-of-control screams for 45 minutes and being helpless to stop it brought me to tears. There must be a few postpartum hormones still lurking around in me. I am reading all the books and using all the tips people recommend, and they are helping...sometimes.

Sleep: Every night is still different. She'll go for a 5 hour stretch between feedings one night, and the next night will wake every 2 1/2 hours. She'll go down like an angel within minutes one night, and be crying for two hours another night. Mike is keeping vigil the first part of the night, while I put in my ear plugs and get a couple good hours of sleep, while I keep vigil the second part of the night while Mike puts in his earphones.

Ziggy Piggy One: Oh my gosh, I have never eaten so well in my life. First, my parents were here for a week and cooked for us. Then my mother-in-law was here for a week and cooked for us. Now for the next two weeks, people from our church are providing meals for us. We've gotten so much food from church friends, that we've frozen about half of it (along with frozen food from both of our parents and my sister). Seriously, it's a good thing I'm nursing because I have shown no caution in eating. A little zucchini bread for a mid-morning snack? Yes, please! A side of chocolate cherry cake with lunch? Sure, why not? A pint or so of pumpkin cheesecake gelato for dinner? Of course! But the scale continues to go down...though no doubt slower thanks to my efforts. I'm considering getting a job as a wet nurse when Alexandra is done nursing, just so I can continue to eat like a mad ziggy piggy.

Ziggy Piggy Two: Perhaps the reason I'm able to eat so much (believe me, I'm going above and beyond the 500-800 calorie extra you are said to need) is that my daughter has got a stomach on her, God bless her. At 3 weeks, she could chug down 5 ounces of milk. I have friends with 4-month-old babies who can't drink that much. I keep watching to see if her belly will explode, but she seems to be doing just fine. Barely any spit-up, although she does get milk out of her nose occasionally because she eats so fast. She rarely takes longer than 15 minutes to nurse (half of what all books say it should take), so at first I was quite worried that she was starving. But she just seems to have a vigorous suck, while I have a vigorous supply.

Gazing and Giggling: In the past couple of days, Alexandra has begun to look at us...or at least gaze vaguely in the direction of the fuzzy blobs in her line of vision. She also gave her first smile (other than those sleeping smiles) and giggle when Mike blew a raspberry on her tummy yesterday. As sad as I am for her to leave this cuddly monkey stage, I am so excited to have her see us and respond to us.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Walking Along the Santa Fe Trail

On this, Alexandra's 22nd day of life, she took a little adventure up the Santa Fe trail. Mike got to test out our stroller, ahem, transportation system, which Mike now thinks could make it to the top of a 14er. We've decided to call it the Baby Tank. It made it up and over the ballast of a railroad grade and over the railroad tracks, and up and down the sandy, rocky, steep and uneven Santa Fe trail with nary a problem.

We walked up to Ice Lake on the Air Force grounds, where we had a lovely view of the towering white Pikes Peak. It was one of those most perfect of days - a clear October day in Colorado - with the bluest sky and zero clouds and yellow aspens and snow on the mountaintops and the smell of pine needles and fallen leaves.

Mike looked it up afterwards, and we walked 3.2 miles - a full 5K! I was very proud of myself. Except when I got home and several hours later felt the pain in my incision. But my father-in-law said that in all his years of practice, he's never seen a c-section incision burst. He asked a fellow doctor if he had, and that doctor had only ever once seen a c-section burst and her intestines spill out onto the ground. So, I figure, I've got a pretty good chance of making it through. But I intend to use my potential intestine explosion as an excuse tomorrow to ask Mike to wait on me. :)

And a parting shot: The babies on our small group. Cute! From left to right, it's Alexandra, 22 days; Hadassah, 3 1/2 months, and Ansel, 6 months.

This was the second week of hosting small group at our house, and it turns out it's the best way to do small group with a new baby! I don't have to worry about getting myself out of the door, and all the noise makes Alexandra sleep like, well, a baby. Yesterday, she had her first meal out, at Five Guys, which is a excessively noisy burger joint, and she slept like a baby once again. We've decided that we must be way too quiet for her to be on such good behavior the rest of the time, so tonight maybe we'll blast some Bruce Springsteen in her nursery.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Like a Bowlful of Jelly

My belly has been through a lot this year. It hasn't really had to do very much in its 30-odd years of existence. It has spent three decades just hiding out, pale and unremarkable, under my shirt. But this was the year of my belly.

First, it was blown up to gargantuan proportions as an alien life form took up residence. Then it was sliced open in three spots to remove a silly little lima bean of an organ. Then it was sliced open in a fourth spot to remove said alien life form. My four surgery scars form a box around stomach that make me look somewhat reminiscent of a Telletubby.

Now that the lima bean and little alien have been removed, it's quite fascinating to watch the belly evolve. First in the hospital, the nurses would come to check the uterus each day - by far the worse part their checks. They would reach their hands deep into my now empty and gelatinous belly, feeling for something or other. Mike said it was quite horrifying - looking as if they were sinking their hands deep into a vat of marshmallow creme.

Upon returning home, the belly continued to shrink, but when I laughed, it would shake like a bowlful of jelly bouncing up and down on my torso, and continues to shake up to this day.

Now my belly has shrunk nearly back to pre-pregnancy proportions, but sags like a deflated balloon. Side note: nursing does wonders. I am eating like an absolute ziggy piggy and shedding pounds by the day. Don't worry about me not eating, Liz, I am living it up with gelato and zucchini bread and caramels. Back to the sagging: where my appendectomy scars were once stretched to their limit, they are now sunken, inverted little smiles, like patches sewn on a popped balloon. My c-section incision is puckered and puffed, looking like Sally's haphazard patches in Nightmare Before Christmas.

Some women call these battle scars that we should wear like proud badges. I don't know about implies I was at war with my baby...but they are reminders of how glad I am to live in the time of modern medicine in which my baby's life was potentially saved not once but twice. And now, at least, I'll have a better excuse to refuse when my husband tries to convince me to wear a bikini in Hawaii.

And now, to reward you for reading intimate details of my belly that you never wanted to know, here are some pictures of la bebe, courtesy of my sister who visited this weekend.

Family portrait. Mike and Alexandra looking cute. Me looking weird.

She has my worried brow and Mike's receding hairline.

Gazing at Grandma

We almost caught her doing Blue Steel, but weren't quite fast enough.

We looked at my baby photos and determined that she basically looks exactly like me as a baby. Mike is hoping and waiting for one of his traits to pop out.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Walking Along Monument Creek

Yesterday for our adventure with the baby, we went for a walk along Monument Creek in Monument Valley Park. We were more citified than we usually are and walked into downtown where we visited the library. I checked out books on how to get your baby to sleep and Mike checked out audio books, but Alexandra was bored by the books and slept through it all.

I know Liz will get me in trouble for walking, but I'm just so ready to be back on my feet again! But don't worry, I'll take it slow today (which will be easy, as we're exhausted after a night with a fussy baby!).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Awaiting a Savior

My sister-in-law is going to get me in trouble for writing about poverty rather than posting cute pictures of my baby, but I wanted to share a book with you.

My coworker and friend Aaron just published a book, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, The New Creation and the End of Poverty. Here's a little teaser trailer about it.

Full disclosure: Aaron recognizes me in his acknowledgements, so I might be slightly biased. (Do you like how I threw that in as "full disclosure" so it sounds like I'm saying it out of my high integrity and not like I'm just totally bragging? (Which I am.) :) )

I think this book adds vital elements to the conversation about poverty that are sometimes missing from other discussions on the topic. Namely, a focus on how sin creates and entrenches poverty and a focus on the ultimate answer to the problem of poverty: Jesus Christ.

One of the parts I found most fascinating was looking at our motivations for why we do what we do as Christians - the call for each of us as Christians to analyze whether or not we are pursuing a grand goal - such as ending poverty - for our own self-aggrandizement and legacy, rather than out of the wellspring of our gratitude and devotion to Christ.

I'm afraid this is a feeble endorsement, which I will blame on my 2-week mommy brain, but if you are interested in the topic of poverty and how we as Christians ought to respond, I highly recommend reading this book!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Walking Along Fountain Creek

Not too much is going on these days. We eat; we sleep; we feed the baby; we change the baby's diapers; we try to get the baby to sleep at night. I haven't written about these things because I assume you don't want to hear my breast milk or baby poop shenanigans. But we're also trying to take at least a walk a day, to get us out of the house and get our health back. It helps to make us feel normal and like the world is still turning.

Today, we decided to go to a new place we'd never gone, Fountain Creek Park. Fountain is a city south of the Springs, about 30 minutes from our house. It was a nice change from our usual mountain surroundings. It's warmer and has water and deciduous trees, which made us feel like we were back in Longmont or Fort Collins. You can just see Pikes Peak peeking up from behind the mountains.

The terrain is more flat here, so I was able to walk an hour and a half! Go, me! It's nice to start feeling normal again. The baby did great, as she just sleeps the day away in her stroller.

We stopped at a nature center and gave the baby a bottle. Here she is in her milk coma.

And that's all I have to say about that! Now I must go eat, sleep, feed baby, change baby's diapers and try to get her to sleep. Not necessarily in that order.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Master Bath Update

So, about a month before the baby arrived, we started dreaming of how we could improve our master bath. Mike has been slowly chipping away at the project, stealing minutes from here and there. The past two weeks we had family staying with us to help us out with the baby, so Mike was able to get in some good time on our bathroom cabinets.

This is what they looked like before (and here is the previous post about the bathroom).

Since then, Mike painted the walls a very light green (so light, in fact, that you'll barely make out a color below). He also replaced the oak trim with fresh new white trim. And, we updated the cabinets!

He added three column-like pieces to the front of the cabinet. The right two columns were pretty simple, as he just took out the flat pieces of wood that were between the cabinets and the wall and replaced them with these pieces from Lowes. On the lefthand side, he actually added 3 1/2 inches to the cabinets by adding this third column. Adding the column and the feet on the columns was a little tricky, but he figured it out. It's hard to see, but there is also a trim piece added to the very top to add a little visual interest.

Then he crackled, painted, and antiqued the cabinets. This is actually the same paint as our kitchen and front room are painted (Benjamin Moore Frappe), though you wouldn't know with the antiquing glaze he used.

Pretty, huh? I'd still like to change the hardware from knobs to handles, so we're searching for some online. As you can see in the first picture, we have some tile picked out to tile the countertops, a greenish brown tile we found for cheap on Craigslist. We're also going to remove one of the sinks, as I'd prefer more counter space to an extra sink.

I'm pretty impressed with the hubs, that he managed to do all this in the past month. Next up, tiling!