Monday, March 18, 2013

Our Oldest Daughter is Eight.

Eight years ago yesterday, Elizabeth gave birth to Sonora. In some ways, it seems longer than that; in other ways, it feels shorter. Either way, our lives have been enriched by having her in them. One of her major birthday wishes this year was that she get to visit her cousin Kadee in Richland, so that's what we did. We had a party there. It was fun, it was silly, and it was Harry Potter themed (thank you Vanessa and Goodwill for the costumes).

Sonora has read the first four HP books and would very much like to read them all, but Elizabeth and I think it best to have her wait a while, perhaps a couple of years, before letting her read the next few books. Adolescence, I think, will come soon enough without us helping it along. Still, there really is something magical, adventurous, and child-like in the first few HP books. As we drove the two-and-a-half hours home, Sonora and Rowyn watched the first HP movie (one of her birthday presents) for the first time. Sonora couldn't help pumping her fists with excitement when Harry caught the snitch, and she cowered anxiously during some of the frightening scenes (I couldn't see Rowyn in the rearview mirror, so I'm not sure what her reactions were). Elizabeth and I are glad for the sense of adventure, magic, and discovery these and other stories bring into our kids' lives.

Here's a thank you Trudie and Basilios (Trudie's husband) for letting us crash at their house and have a party there. Basilios, Adam, Jocelyn, and Kadee were enthusiastic participants in the Hogwarts revelry, and that helped make the party fun and memorable. Oh, and the cake tasted superb.

Here are some photos:
Bellatrix and Harry: Reconciled at last.

A happy Hermione and Harry

Here we have Severus (with his picnic blanket cape and biting-dinosaur wand), a very serious Sirius, Bellatrix (with more fitting hair than earlier), Hagrid in braids, Harry, Hermione, Rowyn Unicorn-Face, a muggle toddler, a stray pumpkin from Hagrid's garden, and an un-winged dwarf hippogriff.

Elizabeth baked the cake at home and packed it up with our other gear, and then she constructed it at Trudie's house. It was a rich chocolate cake with a whole-cherry filling and a whipped-cream/cream cheese frosting. Delicious. Sonora's wand was a last-minute addition; I ripped it from a sage brush plant behind Trudie's house. I'll make her a better one soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"We used to have such happy times together, before we were grown up."

This is a quote from a book I'm reading--The Lost Summer of Loisa May Alcott. The author quotes Alcott at the beginning of each chapter. This quote dug into me like a sliver. I've been thinking along these lines for several years now. There is such a sadness that comes with adulthood. Friendships dissipate. Magic disappears. An awareness of the awfulness of some people rises, but at the same time, so does an empathetic realization that awful people had awful things done to them, that they are complex, hurting, problematic, confused people. So I can't even hate the subjects of my disgust. People fight. Love fades. Spouses cheat and justify and defend themselves. Children suffer and learn and incorporate the imperfections of their elders.

There was a time when I played in a willow patch. We hewed out hallways and rooms with machetes. Our ceiling was the sky, and leafy stalks were our walls.

Now that willow patch is mostly dead and dry. The stalks seem so finite, and not at all encompassing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This is more of a nuts and bolts entry. I'm not expecting this post to be enlightening or even interesting, but I'm feeling an urge to blog, and I also know I need to record a few things that have happened this summer. I virtually never write in my journal anymore, so this is the place, I guess.

Amaya turned a year old in mid-July. Right around that time, I was putting her to bed and she was lying, belly-down, on my chest. As she relaxed there, drifting away from wakefulness, I noticed with some sadness that she no longer fit in that space between the bottom of my chin--where she had nuzzled her head--and the top of my leg. Previously, her whole body had fit on my trunk. I could cradle her whole self there in a warm, protective embrace. Now she's too big. Her legs dangle down. She doesn't fit right. What made me sad was the realization that she'll only get older. She'll only keep growing. Last night, I took over the nighttime routine with Amaya. We're night weaning her, and this is the easiest way. A couple of times when I tried comforting her in the night by rubbing her belly and back, she pushed away my hands, swatted at them as if they were mere annoyances. In some ways, she's already beginning to separate from us.

Sonora has become an avid reader. In a few months, a she threw a switch and went from sounding out words laboriously to reading book after book with relative fluency. It had a lot to do with Elizabeth doing sight-word drills with Sonora, but still the transformation has been stunning and fun. Sonora has read most every children's book in our house at least once (we have quite a few, perhaps 50) and she is plowing through the local library collection.

In the same vein, Rowyn has become a puzzle maniac. She'll do two to seven puzzles per day. Luckily, she hasn't bored of doing the same puzzles over and over. We only have about fifteen puzzles in her ability level (20-50 piecers), but she just takes them out each day and goes to it. It's cute how she sits splayed-legged on the floor and ponders each piece before placing it. Sometimes she'll get out several puzzles and sort of roam from one to the other throughout the day. This is annoying because it litters the limited floorspace with puzzle pieces and her obstacle of a body, but mostly I'm excited by this new development.

A brief sketch of the happenings of the summer: We went to Utah and spent time with Elizabeth's family. It was fun. The kids hung out with cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Elizabeth and I talked and connected with her siblings and their spouses and kids. I went mountain biking (thanks, Bryant), running (thanks Howard), rock climbing (thanks Kaleb) and hiking (thanks Brad). On our way back home, the trusty white Eagle Summit Corey and Vanessa gave us eight years ago finally mostly died. It limped home and is still limping, but it's only being employed on on an as-needed basis. We don't really have the money to buy anything else or to fix the Eagle, so on the days I don't bike, I think I'll use the Eagle as a commuter car for work until it fully dies.

After Utah, I went to a conference in Philadelphia, which was the first time I had ever been back East. I enjoyed the city and liked exploring and familiarizing myself with the many vital historical sites. I went jogging several times after midnight because it was rather hot there and because the local time was three hours ahead of Pacific Time, to which I'm now adjusted. Shortly after returning from Philly, as part of a team of nine men, I attempted to climb Mt. Rainier, the most heavily glaciated mountain in the lower 48. We made it to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet, but the weather soured. We camped and hoped, but ended up coming back down the next day rather than risk a dangerous ascent. The views were beautiful, however, and the experience was worthwhile. The hike to Muir was a long, exhausting climb up seemingly endless snow and glacial fields. The men I went with, including my brother-in-law Corey and my friend from the mid-90's Harwood, were pleasant, supportive of each other, well-prepared, and enjoyable to be around.

Then I spent a week revising this young adult novel I've been working on for two years. I wanted to change a few things, but a few turned into many. I put at least 30 hours that week into revisions. I'm waiting to hear back from a handful of query letters I sent out. I hope hope hope a decent-sized publishing house buys this book, that many people read it, enjoy it, think about it, and discuss it. I've greatly enjoyed my journey with Lahora (the novel's protagonist).

While I'm going through that process (querying, waiting to hear back, tweaking my query, sending it out again, sending out the manuscript and waiting to hear back, etc.), I think I'll be turning back to nonfiction and writing a memoir. The house I grew up in, the one that most feels like "home" to me, blew up a few weeks ago. A gas leak. And I've been sort of melancholy since then. A place can hold memories. It can be a bank of experiences and just knowing that these places are around can be comforting. A major one for me was this home. And it's gone. I think I'll write as a way of holding on to the memories that flew out into the world in a flaming ball. Plus that will help keep me occupied while I pursue publication of Kissing the Lion, the YA fantasy I mentioned above.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hailish Homonyms

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth began teaching Sonora about homonyms. The concept really caught on and several times per day since then, Sonora has been noting words that sound the same, but have different meanings. Elizabeth was keeping a running list on the fridge for Sonora, but the list outgrew its piece of paper. It's been fun experiencing with her the joy of discovering homonyms, especially when it leads to unintentional puns.

Today, Sonora was listening to the audiobook version of Because of Winn-Dixie. The woman reading the book employs an exaggerated southern accent, such that a word like "spell" is pronounced "spay-uhl." When Sonora got to the point in the book that describes how 14-year-old Litmus volunteered to fight for the South in the Civil war and then discovered that war isn't a romantic adventure, but is an awful hell, she ran in to tell Elizabeth she had discovered another homonym.

"Mom," she said, "there are two types of hail. There's the hail that falls from the sky, and then there's war. It's also hail."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Three Children

You know, I never really believed people when they claimed having a third kid made things disproportionately harder. The claim seemed sort of self indulgent in a pity-me sort of way. But I'm finding it to be true. It's not something I can really put my finger on, either. It's almost as if that third child brought with her a time-devouring salve and smeared it on every aspect of our lives.

Let me backpedal a bit, though. I don't mean to blame our baby for all this. She exceeds my idea of an angelic kid. She almost never cries. She smiles at almost anyone and then smiles more when they return the grin. She is happy to be held, happy to sit, happy when her sisters play with her, happy when the cat sits near her, happy...most of the time. She likes most of the foods we've recently begun introducing her to (just tonight, Elizabeth cheered her fondness for avocados: "Yay, we're three for three!" Apparently, it is important to Elizabeth that our kids like avocados). And so forth and so on. It's not as if she is an unpleasant addition to our family. But an addition she is.

The third car seat makes both passenger cars feel cramped, especially if we drive for more than 15 minutes. Rowyn has just stopped taking naps, but it doesn't really matter, because Amaya still naps a few times a day, which makes any excursion hectic for Elizabeth, who is always aware of when she needs to be home to get the baby to sleep. At night, the bedtime routine takes three hours. We start getting Amaya ready for bed just before six. Rowyn needs to be asleep at seven. Sonora usually falls asleep between 8 and 8:30. And before all that, we've got to cook dinner and eat. So our evenings are a fairly frenzied race from the time I get home from work until all the kids are asleep. There isn't a lot of gown-up time for Elizabeth or me because we're usually cleaning up the house, catching up on work or other errands, and preparing for bed ourselves so that we can get a reasonable amount of sleep.

And this last point--sleep--has been the real killer. This is the area in which Amaya is less than superb. She wakes up often (sometimes every hour) throughout the night, and rarely sleeps past 5:30 in the morning. Rowyn has been waking up three to four times a night, sometimes screaming and thrashing about making all kinds of weird irrational demands. If she wakes in one of these fits, it takes at least an hour to get her calmed down and another half an hour to get her back to sleep. Sonora is a super champ sleeper these days, but the other two are making up the difference. Elizabeth and I are both night people who enjoy sleeping in. But we've had to amend our ways and we are enjoying life a little bit less because of it. When one of us does take some "me" time by staying up late, we invariably sleep far too little and spend the whole next day grouchy (Elizabeth), groggy and stupid (me), or both.

There are other ways our lives have been complicated by having a third child (by American standards, our house is quite small for a family of five), but I'm beginning to feel like a spoiled brat as I think about poor me with a really great wife and three wonderful healthy kids living together with plenty of food to eat in a warm, dry house with electricity and running water. So I'm going to stop complaining now.

I promised a friend I'd post a recent picture of our family on this blog. Problem is, we don't take that many pictures of ourselves (by today's standards). If Elizabeth and I didn't have sisters and sisters-in-law who love photography, we would have rather few quality photos of any of us. Below are a few photos we've snapped over the last couple of months.

I'm not quite sure what was going on in the photo below, but I'm guessing Sonora was behind it. She builds forts, beds, hideouts, unicorn traps, etc. all day long all throughout the house.

Besides avocados, Amaya is fond of several other foods, including rice noodles.

Elizabeth kept the older two busy for hours transforming one of our front windows into "stained glass." I hope when we eventually clean the artwork away, the glue truly is water soluble.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Newest Addition

When we were gearing up for Rowyn's birth at home, I was nervous. It was to be our maiden voyage into dangerous new territory, and it took me several months (and one movie) to adjust to the idea. Things went really well, dreamily even, so I had no objections to having our third baby at home; in fact, I have become a quiet advocate of at-home child birth, so good was our experience with Rowyn.

This delivery, while it went well, didn't go as smoothly as the previous one. Part of the reason for this is that the pregnancy in general was more challenging. Elizabeth was having heavier than normal contractions months too early. She had to be on partial bed rest for a while. Then the contractions stopped altogether, no Braxton Hicks contractions, nothing. As the delivery date drew nearer, the contractions started again. Several nights right around the baby's due date, Elizabeth would have regular contractions for a few hours. "This is it," she would think, and her adrenaline would rise. She would get up and start preparing for the baby or would just clean the kitchen or bathroom. One night, determined not to have another false start, she went for a walk at 3:00 a.m., striding alone along the gravel streets of our town hoping to get that baby out. But the contractions stopped.

She wouldn't have been all that anxious except that her parents, sister, and sister's three kids were coming, and, while she was very glad for them to come visit us, she didn't want to have the baby while they were here. Our house is very small and a home birth would have been rather uncomfortable for her with everyone there. If she didn't have the baby until after they were gone, it would have made the momentous visit sort of anti-climactic for them.

Her family left from Utah the morning of July 15th to come visit us. It is about a twelve hour drive. Elizabeth's contractions also started early that morning, but this time they didn't stop. At around nine in the morning, we loaded the kids into the stroller and walked around town, being sure to go up the steepest, longest hills we could find, starting with the one right next to our house. By the time we got near the top of that hill, Elizabeth's contractions were intense enough for her to have to stop and breathe through them before continuing. "I think it's working," she said. We kept walking for about an hour, going up that hill three more times, and then Elizabeth could tell labor was starting and it wasn't going to stop until she had the baby.

She called our midwife in Spokane and described her contractions and the midwife confirmed that the baby was on her way. Because the drive is so long from Spokane, she called a colleague in Moscow, Idaho to see if she could come over in case the baby came early.

Elizabeth had all the birth supplies neatly bundled and organized in boxes and bins in our closet. I popped a bag of soft towels into the oven to sterilize them and warm them for the baby. The contractions were pretty intense and painful now and I suggested that Elizabeth get in the hot tub. The problem was that it was mid July and a 98 degree hot tub doesn't sound very refreshing when it is 95 degrees and very sunny outside. I devised a sort of sun shade out of the hot tub cover to make the heat a little less intense and she climbed in. Even being as hot as it was, she said it was much, much better to have her contractions in the water.

A friend of ours who lives at the top of the same hill Elizabeth had been marching up earlier that day came down and got Rowyn and Sonora, who love going to her house. This was a relief, as it allowed me to focus solely on Elizabeth and allowed her to focus on having the baby. The midwife from Moscow arrived around the same time and checked in with Elizabeth, who was doing okay but feeling a little hot. She began standing up between contractions to cool off. Margaret, our midwife from Spokane, arrived a few minutes later and suggested we add some cold water to the hot tub, which was a good idea.

Soon, two more midwives in training arrived, so we had a grand total of four midwives on hand.

When Elizabeth got the urge to push, she climbed out of the hot tub and came inside, which was no small feat since her contractions were heavy, painful, and coming every two minutes. Just inside the front door, she had to kneel on the floor when one of them hit. We got her into the bedroom after that, and she labored the rest of the time in there.

Up to this point, things had been progressing well. Elizabeth was a little frightened because she hadn't done as much mental, emotional, or physical preparation as she had with the other two deliveries, and I think that as the pain increased, so did a nagging doubt that she was somehow not ready for this. To add to her fears, the baby was posterior and didn't seem to want to come out very quickly. "Is everything okay?" Elizabeth asked a few times in between pushing.

The baby's heartbeat was okay and things looked fine, though the baby seemed reluctant to make her exit. At times, I felt a little useless. Except for a brief stint lying on the bed, Elizabeth labored for the most part kneeling on the floor at the end of the bed while resting her upper body on the bed. The two midwives in training sat on the floor on either side of her while Margaret moved about coaching, examining, and guiding things. I stayed near Elizabeth's head. I asked her how I could help, but there wasn't much to do: a sip of water; a cold towel; a neck rub. With all the midwives and birth supplies scattered about, there wasn't a lot of room for me. Which was fine, because I'm not much of a birth expert, but I like to at least feel as if I'm contributing to the effort.

The pushing became more insistent and Elizabeth could feel the baby sort of crown with each push, but then when the contraction would end, the baby would retreat back in side her. This happened again and again. "Is everything okay?" She repeated. She was becoming anxious. Something didn't feel right.

Finally, the baby's head was out. "We've got a cord here." One of the midwives in training said.

"What's wrong?" Elizabeth asked.

"The cord's around the baby's neck." I was afraid. Cords around necks are not good.

But with another push and several pairs of nimble hands, the cord was unwrapped and the baby was out. She was fairly bloody, which hadn't been the case with the other two. Margaret said it was because the placenta had been so close to the cervix, which we had known all along.

Elizabeth, still knelling on the floor at the end of the bed, held our new baby to her bare chest for a few moments and then we cut the cord. The midwives wrapped up the baby in some of the warm towels and handed her to me while they attended to Elizabeth.

It's always a shock to see the color of a newly-born baby. That grayish-blue skin tone, though I know it's normal, causes me a little worry each time. She was crying--raspy, chokey, quiet, lamb-like--so I knew she was getting oxygen. Slowly, her body changed color, starting from her core and radiating outward. Her head was the last part of her to redden up. She looked kind of weird for a while with the bottom half of her face reddish and the top half bluish.

About this time, I gave her back to Elizabeth, who was sitting up at the head of the bed, her arms and legs trembling heavily. She took the baby in her arms and coaxed her to nurse. She didn't latch immediately, but soon she did, much to Elizabeth's relief. Although we knew the baby would be okay if she couldn't nurse right away, it is comforting to know right away that she will be able get the nourishment she needs to stay alive and grow.

She weighed eight pounds, four ounces, though she pooped out a whole bunch of meconium over the next hour, which probably brought her weight down a bit. The midwives finished up the examinations and the charting, cleaned up, drank some diet Coke, set up an appointment for the following day, and then left.

For me, this is the time when the home birth route is really great. We were already home. Elizabeth lay in bed. Our friend brought the girls home. I got some food ready. We proceeded at our own pace in our own home.
Elizabeth's family would be arriving in a few hours, so I finished getting their beds ready. When they called to report where they were, I didn't say anything about the birth. Elizabeth wanted to surprise them. They pulled in a little after 10:00 p.m., tired and disheveled. Had they touched Elizabeth's belly, they would have known something was up. Instead of feeling like a melon, it now felt like half-empty water balloon. But no one felt her belly. When they were near our bedroom, I said, "Come look at this; there is something in our room." I shined a dim flashlight at the spot on our bed where the baby was sleeping.

It took a second to register. "Oh my. Is that? The baby. You had the baby." Then they were laughing and hugging and congratulating Elizabeth and me.
The next few days, we hung out with the family. Mom Porter took over the kitchen and cooked everyone some great food. Dad Porter helped me dig though our flagstone patio to find the sewer cleanout, diagnose a problem with one of our cars, and get the refrigerator running more efficiently. Aleta and her kids kept our children well occupied. Elizabeth and I enjoyed their company as well as that of Amaya Juniper Lee, which is the name we settled on for our new baby.
It's been two and a half weeks since Amaya was born. Sonora, Rowyn, Amaya, Elizabeth, and I just went on an hour long walk. Elizabeth and I held hands and talked about what a pleasant postpartum experience we've had so far. Elizabeth is recovering well, and Amaya is growing strong and chubby. She's put on about a pound and a half. She is like Sonora in that she is very alert, constantly staring at stuff, already craning her neck to get a better view of whatever those dark little eyes are seeing. But she is also like Rowyn in that she sleeps pretty well. Except for a few feedings, she sleeps through the night, and takes about three naps throughout the day.
Rowyn and Sonora haven't shown any ill will toward her so far. They seem to like her when they remember she's there.
The timing of the birth was great. I had been finished with school for about two weeks, which allowed me some time to help prepare for the birth. Since then, I've been able to take Rowyn and Sonora most of the time and do a fair amount of house work and cooking. Actually, I haven't done much cooking because the people at our church provided us with so many dinners. Even though I was home and could have cooked, it was really nice to have people do this for us. Also, several days people have taken Sonora and Rowyn for the better part of the day, which allows Elizabeth and me to nap, clean up, or just recenter ourselves. We have really appreciated the help.
Now we are starting into the next phase. I'm hoping to finish this week the current set of revisions of the novel I'm working on. Sonora starts Kindergarten in three weeks. I'm going on a Scout campout in a week and a half. In a month and a half, school starts up again for me. Life and its demands are flooding back into our lives. But the last two and a half weeks have been very pleasant. In more ways than one, Amaya has brought new life to our family.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bulging with Life

Elizabeth's Sister Vanessa came to visit yesterday and took some photos. Thank you Vanessa. You rock (by the way, I removed one of the photos on Elizabeth's request).