Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Comparing Kids

I thought it'd be fun to put together pictures of my babies from various stages of their lives. There's definitely a family resemblance, eh? They're listed in order of age in each category (Soren, Liam, Isabelle).

In the hospital:

A few days old: 

Three months old: 

Six Months Old: 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Reading Journal

Ya'll. I've been doing this trendy new thing lately called journaling. It's kind of like blogging - you explore your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and experiences - but you don't publish it on the internet for everyone to read. I've been enjoying the opportunity to get to know myself in a quiet and uncensored place. I do still want to keep things up here for family history purposes (one of these years I really am going to turn this blog into a series of books), so I'm hoping to post a bunch of pictures and such soon. In the meantime, here's a rundown of what I've been reading recently:

The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

I have so much respect for the group of people who grew up during the Depression and carried our country through World War II. I wish I had appreciated the strength and power of this generation before my grandparents, who were a part of it, were gone.

This book was fairly interesting, though it mostly explored the lives of this generation after they'd settled back into their post-war lives and the contributions they made to the world after pulling together as a group for the cause of freedom and goodness. I'm more interested in the parts about their experiences before and during the war, so I wasn't wildly thrilled about this book. But I do have a teeny crush on Tom Brokaw now.

The Evolution of Thomas Hall by Kieth Merrill

My mom recommended this one! It's the story of an agnostic artist who comes to know Jesus while painting a mural for a museum of natural history. I enjoyed it. Definitely better than a lot of the super cheesy lit that dominates the Christian fiction market.

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene

I LOVE the problem-solving approach this book takes to helping spirited/high-strung/extra sensitive kids learn how to predict and manage their emotional triggers. The author's philosophy is that kids do well when they have the tools to do so, and I fully believe that. I would recommend this book to anyone parenting a child who struggles this way.

How to Talk to Your Child About Sex by Linda and Richard Eyre

I think this is a MUST READ for parents who aren't sure how to open up a safe discussion with their kids about sex and values. I LOVE IT. We've tried implementing their suggestions, and so far, our kids are totally comfortable talking to us about sex. In this day, we cannot afford to not make our homes a safe and open place for dialogue about such things. (On that note, we read a book called It's So Amazing with our kids that provided a great springboard for discussion. I also recommend Good Pictures, Bad Pictures to start conversations about pornography. I have WITNESSED this book helping my kids already.)

The House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Lindhout was working as a reporter in Somalia when she and her travel companion were abducted by terrorists demanding a huge ransom for their safe return. She spent 460 excruciating days in captivity, suffering abuse, hunger, loneliness, sickness, and terror. Her story of survival, courage, gratitude, and forgiveness is one that everyone should read. (She came to speak at Abraham's company party last year and I was very impressed with her.)

Dune by Frank Herbert

I've started this one several times and was determined to get through it. I made it further than I ever have before, but then I got hit by pregnancy sickness (I refuse to call it morning sickness, because it sure as heck doesn't limit itself to the morning) and didn't care about it anymore. So, poor book, it's been relegated back to the bookshelf again. I may give it another try someday. Probably not, though.

Echo Burning by Lee Child

I love Jack Reacher. He's so tough and yet . . . so lovable.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander

I'm a sucker for near-death experiences, and this one didn't disappoint.

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich

I loved this book. It was such a beautiful story of love and family, of an ordinary woman who life was lived courageously through challenges. Her sacrifice and persistence and hard work were inspiring.

A good quote from the book: “I think that love is more like a light that you carry. At first childish happiness keeps it lighted and after that romance. Then motherhood lights it and then duty . . . and maybe after that sorrow. You wouldn't think that sorrow could be a light, would you, dearie? But it can. And then after that, service lights it. Yes. . . . I think that is what love is to a woman . . . a lantern in her hand.” 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Halfway through this book, I realized the only parts I was enjoying were the bits that were actually about Abraham Lincoln. Wasn't super thrilled by the vampire hunting stuff. Figured I should just read a biography of Abe, so I quit. Any recommendations?

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

A masterfully crafted novel that helped me understand South Africa a little better. And even helped me think that boxing wasn't the absolute worst sport ever. This is the kind of novel that just blows your mind with its scope and craftmanship. How does one author create so much perfect detail?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This definitely had the dramatic feel of other mid-century books about the dark future of the world. It was okay.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was pretty disappointed by this one, not going to lie. It was mostly about rich people living sad, empty lives. Reflecting on it, I think maybe Fitzgerald was trying to make a statement about the death of the American dream? Or maybe saying that it was an illusion? Not sure.

Immortal Prince Series by Jennifer Fallon

I LOVE Jennifer Fallon's Wolfblade Chronicles, but this series sucked. It had potential, but definitely didn't meet it. Don't read it. Halfway through I started wondering if Fallon had gotten bored and passed the project off to a gifted college student or something. The editing was low quality, too.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This is a first-person narrative about a woman developing Alzheimer's disease. It's fascinating and insightful and I highly recommend it.

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

I wanted to like this book, but I just didn't. I was kind of annoyed that the book is stuffed with comments about how being gay isn't a choice - but then the main character, who is not usually/naturally attracted to women chooses to be in a same-sex relationship. Picoult also painted Christians as bigoted idiots, even though I know she tried not to.

Walk to Beautiful by Jimmy Wayne

Jimmy Wayne is a country singer who had an incredibly rough start in life. His memoir is inspiring! And it speaks to the importance of foster care and adoption for teens.

White Fire (A Pendergast novel) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Kind of a middling thriller. I used to really love Special Agent Pendergast, but he's kind of gone downhill recently.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
A beautifully written, fascinating, and inspiring memoir. Jeanette was raised by some quirky human beings, and that wasn't always a good thing - but it made her into a compassionate, hard-working, and self-sufficient human being. Reading this kind of made me want to neglect my kids more.

The Revenant by Michael Punke
This was so much better than the movie. Based on the true story of Hugh Glass, I was totally blown away by his grit and will to survive through extremely adverse circumstances.

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
The true story of a boy living in Sierra Leone in the 90s when a brutal civil war broke out. His village was destroyed, his family was killed, and he was conscripted to fight against the rebel army. The vivid descriptions of cruel brutality were sometimes difficult for me to handle, but I'm glad I read this one. It expanded my understanding of that conflict and similar situations in Africa. This was recommended to me by Abe's mom, who is the most prolific reader I know.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

This is a classic, but it kind of felt pointless to me. The last chapter kind of explained the broader meaning and symbolism, which I appreciated, but I've already forgotten what it was. Not a life-changer for me.

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers is written in a format called "narrative nonfiction," which I don't think I've ever encountered before, but enjoyed very much. This book provided a lot of insight into what life is like for extremely poor people in urban India. I found this look into one aspect of Indian life fascinating: the tenuous co-existence of religions, the clash between traditional life and modernization, the strain of population growth, the corruption inherent on every level of the social infastructure, the near-impossibility of improving one's living situation, and more. This was another one recommended by my mother-in-law. I recommend it, too!

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
I read this one as a child, of course, but Soren told me I needed to re-read it, and I'm glad he did. Natalie Babbitt is a goddess. She is a true artist with the written word, and I love the wisdom in the story.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Isabelle's Birth Story

During my first two pregnancies, I really wanted natural births. With Soren, I researched and read and decided to use the Bradley Method. And I did use it. For the first 35 hours of my labor. Then I switched to Pitocin and an epidural. Things were much more pleasant after that. Ten hours later, I had a baby.

With Liam, I spent 30 minutes a day practicing hypnobirthing techniques for months. Then, at 41 weeks gestation, he was transverse and we had to schedule a version and an induction. After a few hours of pitocin-created contractions (which WERE made more pleasant by hypnobirthing techniques), I started crying, and Abe dashed out into the hall to hail the nearest anesthesiologist, who quickly became my favorite human being ever.

With this pregnancy, I pulled out my Hypnobabies kit and half-heartedly flipped through the pages of the manual. "I don't have energy for this anymore," I said, and tossed it under my bed. At 38 weeks gestation, sick to death of morning sickness, I asked my doctor if she would induce me if I went over 40 weeks. "Yes," she agreed, mercifully. 

So on November 2, 2016, Abraham and I left our big kids in the capable hands of their Auntie Ivy, checked into a dark, windowless room at the local hospital, met our nurse, Celynn, and plugged in the Pit at 8:30 AM.

I loved our goal board! Much better than "detox from pain meds" or "urinate independently."

I put on makeup and curled my hair in the hopes that I would look decent in post-birth photos. Didn't happen. But this pre-birth photo ain't bad.

Regular contractions started immediately, but they didn't hurt at all, so Abe and I read (and texted people) for several hours.

When Soren saw this picture, he asked what I was reading when I was in labor with him. The answer is Chaim Potok's The Chosen. My labor with Liam was pretty intense from the beginning, so his labor doesn't have a book. As an aside, I recommend both The Glass Castle and The Chosen.

Celynn kept cranking up the Pitocin, but I wasn't progressing very quickly. Finally around 1 or 2, Dr. Huggins came in and broke my water. Words cannot express to you how much I hate having my water broken. Ugh. But it did the trick. I started to feel my contractions, so Abe turned on some Enya and started rubbing my feet.

At about 3:30, I decided I didn't like having contractions anymore. In came my best friend the anesthesiologist, who administered his sweet liquid sunshine and let me keep the giant needle he did it with, which I kept in my purse and later passed around at Thanksgiving dinner like a proper crazy relative.

The nurse checked to see how dilated I was: a four. I sighed. All the other girls (there were three) who had come in that morning for inductions had already had their babies.

By this time, we had visitors: My mom and dad had just driven from their mission in California. My sister stopped by on her way home from the office. 

The epidural only took on one side at first, so I had halfsies labor for another hour or so, while the anesthesiologist keep giving me more painkillers. Finally I couldn't feel or move anything at all from the waist down.  I loved that I was in full-bore labor but still having a pleasant visit with my family.

The nurse checked my progress again and discovered that I was fully dilated. "Try pushing," she said. I pushed. "Wait," she said. She called Dr. Huggins, who rushed over from her office across the street.

They got everything set up, pulled my heavy-as-logs legs into stirrups, and instructed me to push. I pushed once, then twice, and then, at 5:52 PM, I heard my daughter's first cry.

(My mom and sister, who had settled into chairs for a nice chat, gasped at the sound of a baby crying and rushed over.)

I held my new baby for a few minutes, and then noticed that the doctor was fussing around at my nether regions, grumbling about the placenta. "It's not delivering?" I asked. "No," said Doctor Huggins. I figured it would come out in its own due time and kind of felt like her fussing was unnecessary, but I had a new baby and didn't really care, so I let the infant nurse take her and perform all the usual newborn tortures.

She weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces (I had predicted 7 pounds, 2 ounces; Abe had guessed 7 pounds, 8 ounces) and was 21 inches long.

 While that was going on, Dr. Huggins started prying the placenta out of my uterus chunk by chunk. (My mom says the whole process was VERY bloody.) She kept asking me if I was okay. "Totally fine," I said, exceedingly grateful for my mega epidural. She began requesting various sharp instruments to assist in her procedure. My sweet husband, worried about me and concerned about Isabelle, flitted back and forth between us.

(I learned later that I had a life-threatening condition called placenta accreta, in which the placenta has embedded into the uterine membranes and will not detach after birth. This will cause hemorrhaging if not addressed very quickly. If it's caught before birth via ultrasound, doctors will schedule a C-section and perform a hysterectomy. When we were discussing it afterwards, I learned that my great grandmother Mathis had died after giving birth because her placenta wouldn't detach. My doctor handled the whole situation so calmly I really had no idea how grave it could have been. I told her later that I had been weirdly paranoid about placenta previa the whole pregnancy and thought it was funny I ended up having the opposite problem; she said she thought maybe my intuition knew there was something gnarly going on with my placenta.)

Finally the placenta was out and we were able to enjoy our new baby. My dad, my friend Loriann, and my coworker friend/photographer friend Rebecca joined us. (All of the good candids in this post were taken by Rebecca, in extreme cave-like conditions.) It was such a joy to share our little miracle with people we love so much.

She was a great little eater from the start. I wasn't sure if I would remember all the ins and outs of breastfeeding, but I did! 

It was love at first sight for Abraham.

Lawd have mercy.

Because of my epidural, I had to wear this "Fall Risk" wristband. It made me giggle.

It was so good to see my mama for a few days.

It's True

"All babies look like Winston Churchhill." 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Welcome, Little One

Dear Isabelle,

When it's my turn to say the prayer at family prayers, my eyes automatically begin to well up with tears. Your sweet big brother Liam rubs my back while I pray, expressing intense gratitude for my beautiful little family, made even sweeter by your presence. Afterwards Liam will ask, "Are you just tired, Mommy?" I'll nod yes - because it's true, I am tired - but then I'll add, "But mostly my heart is just overflowing with happiness . . . and it leaks out my eyes." On one such recent occasion, Soren remarked, "Your heart sure overflows easily when you have a new baby."

It's true.

Here are some moments over the past week and a half that have made my heart overflow:

I couldn't feel anything from the waist down, but my doctor and nurse propped my legs up in stirrups and instructed me to start pushing. Two pushes later, the doctor said, "There's an arm!" I looked at your daddy for confirmation, and he nodded at me with sparkling eyes. "Here's her head!" they said. And then a minute later, there it was: the sweet sound of your voice. They laid you on my belly, this beautiful squirming creature, all purple and white, and I put my hands on your sweet warm body and sobbed joyfully.

Your eyes are sparkling almond slivers that glitter like sapphires. From your earliest hours, you've looked around with those beautiful eyes, your sweet little rosy mouth hanging open, looking at the world around you with a calm wonderment.

In the hospital, we were reminded of just how loved and welcomed you are . . . Grandma and Grandpa Hanson drove two days from their mission in California just to meet you. Auntie Collette brought flowers. Uncle Scott and Auntie Amanda and cousins Andrew and Charlotte came to see you. Auntie Tailour and Uncle Quentin and Auntie Briar and Auntie Ivy stopped by for a visit. Soren and Liam came by after school. The whole Smith clan came for a visit shortly after we brought you home.

When I have a new baby, the Carpenter's song "Close to You" always comes to mind. I sing it to you often during diaper changes and while we walk around the house. Sometimes in the morning, we'll find a good playlist on YouTube and dance to more 60s and 70s love songs.

Your daddy cannot get enough of his baby girl. You are a sleepy little tyke and we're lucky to see your eyes for an hour or two every day, but he's always so excited to talk to you when you're awake, or snuggle you when you're asleep.

Your arrival has been cause for some adjustments among your brothers. For example, I woke up one school morning, nursed you, and stumbled out of my bedroom to help your big brothers get ready for school. Soren was in the kitchen, cooking microwaved eggs. "I'm making breakfast, Mommy," he said. "I know you're really busy with the baby." Afterwards he added, "Making breakfast is more work than you'd think!" Soren is very protective of you and is deeply concerned every time Liam moves or breathes around his Isabelle.

Another morning, in the wee hours, I heard my bedroom door creaking open. Your were snuggled in the crook of my arm, so I didn't move, but I could see Liam peeking in at me from the hallway. Then the door closed. When I got up for the day, I found him curled up in the recliner in the front room, bathed in a pool of lamplight. He opened his eyes. "Did you have a scary dream?" I asked. "Yes," he said, "Two, actually. But I didn't wake you up. I'm coming a grown-up."

You often crack huge, open-mouthed smiles in your sleep. Occasionally you'll even chortle. I wonder what a few-days-old baby has to laugh about, if you're recalling some hilarious conversation you had in heaven, right before you came here.

Oh, my sweet Isabelle. You are the sweetest, calmest little creature I've ever met. You are small and warm and heavy with milk and sleep, and I love your perfect baby smell and squeaky little sounds and unsure little movements. I'm so glad you've come to our family. I'm so excited to know you better.

Welcome home, sweet baby.




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