We began sanding the wood floors at our house on Sunday, June 15th. Our goal was to get stain down by Thursday afternoon and allow it to dry over Saturday so we could put the first coat of finish on by Sunday morning, maybe even get a second coat on by that evening. The goal was to have the house airing out so we could get back in by the end of June. It was cutting things really close, but it seemed doable especially if the baby wasn't born until a week or so into July.
Then no one was able to work on the floor as anticipated, setting us back to staining on Friday - which would still work with our original schedule but we were a little concerned since we'd heard the stain sometimes didn't dry as quickly as it ought to. After running around looking for different (faster drying) stain, we eventually came to the conclusion that we should stick with our original color and type and accept the extra day. By Thursday we were doing the last sanding and moved next door to Mom and Dad Turner's house so that we wouldn't drop anything on the floor between the last sanding and the staining.
Friday morning we encountered a snag. One of the sanders being used on Sunday had apparently developed a problem with the drum and had been sort of bouncing during the sanding, which had caused a series of small trenches or divots in the floor. It wasn't very visible normally, but when we applied stain or finish it was going to be a big problem because both things would puddle in the divots and make them very obvious. After some debate, Aaron and Benjamin and Elizabeth spent a whole day resanding the floors. We were going to try to squeak in the coat of stain before sundown but eventually had to admit there was just not enough time. There was some talk about not doing the stain until Sunday or Monday, but I basically begged and pleaded for the staining to be done after dark on Saturday - which was no small request considering it was the longest day of the year and would mean we would be staining 900 square feet of wood floor starting around 10:00 at night.
It should be noted here that I was feeling very antsy about the time and concerned we weren't going to be done anywhere near in time for the baby to be born in the house. I was uneasy about the other options that we'd have to go with if we couldn't use our house. Ben began saying that perhaps it hadn't been a good idea to try to get the floors done, but at that point everything was moved out of our house and we were pretty committed; and there was still the issue of what we were going to do if we DIDN'T try to get the floors done. It could be another two months before we did anything and that would be two months of wear on an unfinished floor. I basically pushed the "what-ifs" out of mind and firmly decided the baby was going to be born on time or late. A person's mindset had a lot to do with what happened during labor or even when a person could go into labor, I told myself. And I was pretty determined not to have that baby if things weren't ready.
Thankfully, God had the timing of this all in hand. I was upset about an extra day of sanding. God was saying, "No really, let me handle this. You need to delay a day."
However, I wasn't really listening. I was pushing to get done. So on Saturday evening around sundown, I went next door and began doing the one part of the job I hadn't been banned from: using the swiffer to tack-cloth the floor one last time in preparation for staining. My family arrived around 9:45 and got to work, which included Benjamin running back to his house and cutting and preparing a lintel piece for the basement doorway since we'd forgotten it and it wasn't something that could be easily inserted after the staining and finishing was done everywhere else. Ben and I did a quick run to Meijer for snacks and more brushes since we didn't have enough for the number of people working. I was feeling very large and uncomfortable and tired, but that's par for the course at 9.5 months pregnant after having packed up and moved an entire household of stuff out of a house. I did not feel about to go into labor, though in retrospect I did have some clues that I ignored or chalked up to strain from doing a lot.
The stain was completed around midnight - and Ben was the last person out of the house in spite of the fact that it turns out he is unusually sensitive to the fumes from both the stain and the finish and he spent the night wheezing and coughing. We turned out lights and got everything set for the night and Ben said he hoped all the activity wasn't going to put me into labor. "I'm not going into labor," I said firmly. "I'm fine."
But I had a lot of trouble going to sleep since I was unusually uncomfortable. I tried getting up and taking some Tylenol and went back to bed, but by 3:30 knew that I was feeling a lot of achiness and cramping that had nothing to do with being tired and wasn't something benign like Braxton-Hicks contractions either. At that point I was so scared by the possibility of being in labor that I stubbornly closed my eyes and went to sleep telling myself that I was just tired and everything would be back to normal in the morning.
Abigail got up bright and early at 7:45 and climbed into bed to nurse, like she usually does. I was pleased and relieved to open my eyes and feel pretty good, even back to normal. "False alarm," I thought. "I really was just tired."
Then she started nursing and it triggered three very strong contractions back to back. Ouch. Not so normal after all.
I was still trying to ignore it, though. I finished nursing her and got up and got my bathrobe on and tried to get going on my usual morning routine. I didn't feel very good, though, and there was no denying I was having real contractions. Which, by the way, in my opinion are not the most painful thing I've ever felt but there's no denying they're uncomfortable. "I need to just take some more Tylenol and sit with my feet up," I thought. I'd had two episodes of false labor with Abigail and had tested it that way - and the contractions had stopped those times. So I tried it again this time. Ben realized something was up when he saw me taking Tylenol and got concerned when I had to admit what was going on. "Maybe it's just false labor," I said. "I'll just sit for a while and everything will probably just die down. I don't think I'm going to work on the yard today, though." (That'd been our plan for that day, since we couldn't do anything inside the house.)
"Do you think we should tell Mom and Dad?" Ben asked. I didn't want to. I really wanted the whole thing to just go away. But I reluctantly agreed that we ought to and I was relieved when Ben volunteered to take Abigail and make sure she got breakfast and was changed and dressed, etc. Ben brought me a pen and some paper and I began tracking the contractions. After about an hour, I finally had to break down and admit that with contractions every 7 - 10 minutes even after taking Tylenol and resting, this was no false labor.
At that point, plan B had to go into effect.
We'd prepared our room at home so that the birth supplies were organized and ready and the room itself was most ready except for the two large armchairs and the kitchen table, which could be easily moved. Ben and Dad went next door and began moving things around and putting paper down over the just-barely-dry floors. They opened all the windows and collected every fan they could get their hands on, including some from the neighbors, Dad went to the store and got an air purifier, and I called my mom and asked her to go to the store for the few things we still needed for our birth kit - including newborn diapers, which I'd planned on getting when we went grocery shopping that week but hadn't gotten yet. I had washed all the baby clothes and the covers for the swing and bouncy chair and so on, but we didn't have any diapers. Figures.
We also had to call our stand-by midwife, since our midwife still wasn't back from the short vacation she'd gone on. We'd thought there'd be plenty of time, but now it was clear there wasn't.
By the time I went back to our house - around noon - the stain smell in the house was barely noticeable and it was an absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon. Part of me was actually a little regretful to be missing out on such a beautiful day since I was way too busy to be paying attention to it. Mom Turner didn't really believe me at first that I was having strong contractions, I think, because I was behaving relatively normally; but by noon things were starting to get serious and it looked like we were on track to have this baby much, much sooner than we'd had Abigail. As a matter of fact, by 5:00 we were just at the point of birth when we encountered the same problem we had with Abigail: the baby was stuck behind a bubble of the amniotic sac that refused to budge or break. At 9:30, after going through four hours of very strong contractions that weren't noticeably doing anything, I finally had to summon the gumption to work on forcing the birth to happen even though things weren't really cooperating. Someone took a picture about the time I was sitting in the birthing pool having to make that decision - I don't really remember sitting there with my head against the back and my eyes closed, but I do remember being so very tired and just wanting to lie down and take a good nap and knowing I had to have that baby first. I could hear my sisters talking to one of the midwives in the other room and had been fuzzily aware of most of the family sitting on the patio next door having pizza a few hours earlier. I thought, "Okay, this has gone on long enough. Time to be done now." It had been about 18 hours since I first started thinking I might be in labor.
Once I decided to work on having her - I had to break the water myself since it just wouldn't rupture and then had to really push her even though I wasn't having any urge to, which takes a lot more energy than normal - Susannah Mary Turner was born about half an hour later at 10:06 pm. My mom and sister Leah ended up being there when she was born, which we hadn't really planned but was pretty special; and then Elizabeth and Anna brought Abigail over right away. I somehow had asked Leah to get them without specifically including Mom Turner in the invitation so she was a few minutes later when we realized she wasn't there, but she was still present before Susannah's cord was even cut yet. By the time Susannah and I were all cleaned up and resting in bed, the room gradually filled up with a good percentage of our family - another unplanned but special event. Mom Turner weighed Susannah for the first time and she and my mom and Anna got Susannah dressed for the first time while Abigail sat on my lap and shared my oatmeal. Abigail had no idea what to make of this tiny baby who had just appeared but finally began pointing to her eyes and mouth and hair and saying, "Eye. Mouth. Hair." Generally acknowledging that Susannah was a person just like her, I think.
We still had the odd situation of having a completely bare house that was full of the smell of stain if the windows were closed and fans turned off. We came to the conclusion it was probably best for Susannah's newly-tested lungs to take her back next door to Mom and Dad Turner's house for the night. So once everyone went home and Susannah had nursed for a little while, we packed up our two little girls and walked very slowly next door at about 1:00 in the morning and went to bed. It was very early in the morning of the two-week anniversary of Grandma Lila's death.
And in a wonderful, special touch, Susannah's first few weeks were spent at Nana and Grandpa Turner's house, where we were spoiled and cared for and visited before we went to my family's house for another few weeks and were again spoiled and cared for and visited. What a welcome for our little peanut!
We're just able to think about getting back into our house now. Turns out Ben is extremely sensitive to the fumes from the finish. So if we were able to follow our original plan, there would've been a brand new coat of finish on the floor and Susannah would've had to be born on the patio next door or something. God made sure that silly sander didn't work properly; and he made sure Susannah was born right in the best time for us to be out of the house: while she's still in a newborn coma and I can rest and not be waiting for the moment when I could start thinking about packing up the house...in the middle of nursing all the time and still not being able to handle my normal workload. It was not what we had planned at all, none of it. Not Grandma getting sick, not Susannah being born two weeks early, not the house progress taking place as it did. But in the end, it all has worked together for good.
I've been continually reminded of a children's song I played often as a kid: "He gave us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness: that we might be trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."
God had all the timing perfectly worked out. He knew how we were going to handle having Grandma Lila and a new baby at the same time. He knew how it was going to work so we could finish our floors and have a new baby at the same time. He knew what we were going to need when and he made sure it all worked. All the things we couldn't quite figure out how to cram into the same period of time he already had planned, and in the end Susannah's birth was full of little things that made it very special and very wonderful, just as he took care of Grandma Lila and her gentle death. Thank you, Lord. You made things perfect, just as you always do.
Welcome to the family, Susannah! Yours is one birth we are certainly never going to forget.
Beauty Through Ashes, Part 1
I was going to post about our last few weeks all at once, but it got to be very long and I thought it might be better to break it into three parts and give myself a few days between parts.
Grandma Lila died June 9, 2014.
Even though we all knew it was coming, it was kind of a shock that it actually happened. For one thing, when we brought Grandma home from the hospital, it looked for all the world like she only had a few days left with us. She was nearly unresponsive, wasn't eating or drinking anything, and was doing steadily worse by the day.
Then she bounced back. She was more herself than she'd ever been, clear-headed and rational and wanting to eat. We could still tell she wasn't really on the road to recovery, but for a week or so there we were honestly doubting the doctor's opinion and even began making plans how to help her get better for a time.Things did go downhill from there. First there was a kind of happy delirium in which Grandma acted like a happily intoxicated person most of the time but was pretty clearly not rational. This continued for about two months until suddenly a week before she died she became very, very sad. I think some part of her knew she wasn't going to get better and that she didn't feel well but she wasn't really able to express those things anymore because her mind had become very much like that of a little child. She compared herself to Abigail all the time, spoke "baby talk" and had a list of needs that was pretty simple: "Squatch my back!", "I'm hungry", "I want to get up" and "take me to the bathroom" became her nearly constant litany. What became difficult about this the last week was that she became desperate about those things and didn't recognize when they were being given to her. She would say, "I want water! I want water!" and would continue asking like that even with the water in her hand or even on a sponge in her mouth. She didn't seem to be able to understand that she had been given what she required because I think she knew she needed something else but couldn't really identify what.
I have always had difficulty with what I saw especially in Hospice situations as the tendency to tranquilize a dying person right into death. I have a different perspective now that might help any other "me" kind of people reading: when we finally made a decision to begin giving Grandma stronger tranquilizers, we did it because of her desperation and how badly she was feeling. It was like watching someone in great pain only she wasn't really in pain. Her mind wasn't able to tell her what was going on. Causing her to become sleepy gave her relief much like giving pain killer would and while it felt a little wrong to do in some ways since we knew we weren't going to have many more days with her, her last few days were much more peaceful than the week that had gone before. Her last drowsy conversation with Ben went something like this:
Ben: "Hi Grandma. How are you feeling? Would you like the windows open?"
Grandma: "Yes...I'd like that."
Ben, after opening the windows and then stroking Grandma's head a little: "There, Lila. We're taking good care of you."
Grandma: "You sure are..."
Ben: "I love you, Grandma Lila."
Grandma: "I love you too, Ben..."
The next night Ben was up most of the night with her since she kept crying and calling for help. We couldn't tell what was wrong, but we did notice she was having a much harder time breathing since her skin was getting bluer and we were giving her oxygen for the first time. By morning, she didn't seem able to talk anymore and we gave her some medicine hoping to help her breathe easier. She eventually fell asleep to me reading Abigail stories while I sat next to her and never woke again. She slept all day and we could tell her time was very short since her breathing became very rapid and shallow and her color kept getting duskier even though we had the oxygen up as high as it could go. She was still much more peaceful than she had been all week, no longer trying to climb out of bed or making frantic requests we couldn't grant.
Later in the afternoon, I called the Hospice nurse and told her that I didn't think Grandma had much time and asked if they wanted to come by or if there was anything they needed done for their benefit, since they arrange calling people and taking care of things after someone dies. The nurse on call was a lady we'd seen once before and really liked and she came out to the house around 5:00 to see Grandma and assess what was going on. She told us that Grandma's heart was still pretty strong considering the condition she was in and that her breathing was at what was considered a normal rate with no pauses, so we were probably looking at being up that night with her but she agreed Grandma did not have much time with us. Mom called Jenny and told her what was going on and Jenny decided to stop here on the way home from work and I started the barbecue since it was time for dinner and it looked like we'd better feed everyone since it was going to be a long night.
It was a beautiful warm summery evening and we had all the windows open in the house since we don't have air conditioning yet. Jenny arrived and came in and rubbed Grandma's head and said hello to her even though Grandma was sleeping. Mom and the nurse and I were going to clean Grandma a little since she was having some issues with her insides and we wanted her to be as comfortable as possible, so Jenny took Abigail for a walk on the path in the backyard we call "Lila Boulevard" since we built it to easily get Grandma back and forth from our house to Mom and Dad's. As the weather had gotten warmer and the dandelions bloomed, Ben taught Abigail to pick them and bring them to Grandma, since in her delirious state she would make a big deal about the "pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty flowers" that "the little girl with the curly hair" brought her - she would even make up little songs about it. When Jenny and Abigail came back, Abigail ran to me with a dandelion held out proudly. I thought she had brought it for me, but Abigail pointed to Grandma's bed and said, "Wa-wa?"
"You want me to give this to Grandma Lila?" I asked her.
"I do," she said - lately if you ask her a question she wants to answer "yes" to, she says "I do".
"Grandma's sleeping right now, but I'll put it right here on her lap so she'll see it when she opens her eyes," I told Abigail.
Then I went and got Abigail some raisins. Our family was all sitting in Grandma's new bright room with the windows open, since we had kind of gathered together to hear what the nurse would have to say. We were chatting about how Grandma's last year has been, since earlier in the day Mom had been keeping her company and putting pictures in an album from the past year and it had been amazing all the things Grandma had gotten to do and participate in. Suddenly Jenny said, "You know, Grandma's head has been moving with every breath but it's not moving now. Is she breathing?"
I looked at Grandma, who didn't really look any differently than she had all day and said, "Um...I think so. Maybe her breathing has just gotten more shallow?"
But after a few more seconds, I realized I really couldn't see any sign of Grandma breathing. I got up off the floor where I'd been sitting and feeding Abigail raisins and went over to Grandma and put my hand on her chest. I couldn't feel her breathing, but I thought I could feel her heart beating. The nurse came back in the room from having made a phone call and I looked up at her and said, "I can't tell if Grandma is breathing but I think I feel her heart."
The nurse came and put her stethoscope on Grandma's chest and listened for a little while, then looked at me and shook her head a little. "I can't hear anything," she said quietly. "She's gone."
So Grandma left us on a warm summer evening with her whole family sitting around her visiting and talking about her life of the past year while her great-granddaughter who had never lived in a house without her laid on the floor by her bed humming and peacefully eating raisins after having brought a dandelion in especially for her. It was the kind of way a lot of people might ask to die if we were given the chance to make that request.
People have asked me over the past few weeks what I thought of Grandma's view on death and if she believed she would be with God someday when she died. I was never really able to tell exactly what Grandma thought, partly because she wasn't necessarily clear-headed enough to discuss it due to medications and forgetfulness issues and partly because I just wasn't able to really tell what she thought. I know she was very afraid to die, mostly because I think she was afraid it was going to hurt. Honestly, in the end I don't think it did. Most days Ben would ask her how she was doing and she would cheerfully say, "Oh, pretty good!" which is better than she usually said when she was actually in better health.
Whatever Lila thought, however, I do know God loved Lila very much and gave her some pretty incredible blessings in her life, especially in the part of her life I was present for. As we realized months ago when we realized Grandma was "dying", a person actually lives right up to the second they die. The question always is...what kind of life are they living right up until that second?
Grandma lived a special and comfortable life full of things and people she loved right until the second she left us. That was evidence of how much God loves her. Not only was her life very blessed with good things, but there were also bad things she was always afraid of that never came to pass. She always thought she was going to get cancer or that she would have another heart attack - she was terrified of those things. She was also afraid of being put in an institution somewhere until she died. One of the reasons she came to live with us in the first place was because our family decided together that we would do whatever we could to fulfill one of her most firmly-held wishes: to never, ever end up in a nursing home. That became one of our goals, that whatever we had to do to care for her, we would strive to do from home. In the moment that Grandma died, for me there was an incredible sense of peace because together our family had accomplished something good we had set out to do and we had not failed. It was like finishing a race for everyone and that meant we could all rest when Grandma rested. We were privileged to be given to each other and we were given the strength not to abandon each other.
So in a few seconds on the evening of June 9th as we sat together peacefully talking around Lila's bed, the number of days God had given her - a little over 91 years - came to a very gentle and quiet end.
Dad had visited the farmer's market a few days earlier and brought back some rhubarb with the request for a pie and I had made it the day before forgetting Dad was leaving overnight for a fishing trip. I hadn't had enough rhubarb for a straight-up rhubarb pie, so I used strawberries from the freezer and made a strawberry-rhubarb pie instead, then saved the whole pie when I realized Dad wasn't going to be there to eat it. Over the course of the day Grandma died, Mom happened to hear on the radio that June 9th was National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day and we had gotten a chuckle out of the fact we just happened to have one to share. After we had gone through all the formal things that had to be done after Grandma's death, like disposing of her medication and signing paperwork and making various other arrangements, we took the pie next door and sat on the patio together sharing pie and ice cream and talking about Grandma and Grandpa. Sort of like people would do after a funeral when there's a meal and people are no longer crying. Mom says this is probably going to be a new tradition, where we have strawberry-rhubarb pie on National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day and remember Grandma Lila dying so quietly and peacefully that beautiful June evening in 2014.
As a tradition remembering the end of someone's life goes, I think Grandma Lila would've liked that one. She surely did enjoy her ice cream, especially the last few months of her life.
Sleep well, Grandma Lila. We love you.
Due to popular request
Due to popular request, we are updating the website with some new Abigail photos.
I certainly didn't guess we'd actually go to 40 weeks, but Peanut and I are still completely connected buddies. I got a little excited yesterday morning when I was kept from sleeping at 3:00 in the morning by strong contractions occurring every ten minutes...then every seven minutes after a while...then five...
And then they quit. It's been over 24 hours since they quit and I'm back to feeling not much activity at all except from Peanut trying to find somewhere he can stretch out.
I had false labor once before a few weeks ago, but I was starting to get a little excited this time because I did what I could to test labor (hot shower, moving around, drinking lots of water, etc.) and continued getting very regular contractions anyway.
Oh well. Even false labor does SOMETHING, even if it's just to make all my muscles nice and strong and practiced for the real thing.
In the meantime, our house is very clean. I even pulled the moldy caulk off our bathtub and re-caulked it the other day, one of those small projects that's been bugging me and I just haven't gotten to until now. I guess people call this "nesting", but I tend to think it's more like I'm just hanging around waiting, I can't do anything outside (not even shovel snow, one of my favorite winter activities...), I can't really go anywhere, and I get bored sitting around in a chair all day. My siblings will attest that this kind of project-hunting is not unusual behavior for Lauren-who-is-bored. And it's not going to extremes, either. I have yet to scrub and mop the garage floor. Though that could be possibly because the water would freeze if I tried it. Hm.
We've pretty much continued just staying quietly home with occasional trips to the grocery store. Our freezers are definitely stocked, both with meals and with ingredients for meals; and I made various cookies and some sweet bread for having around in case of visitors. Unfortunately, when I'm bored (and I haven't thought of a project to do) I start cooking. I tried out a recipe for cinnamon rolls the other day that was terrific, though I made half a batch and forgot to cut the milk amount in half, so I had to do some serious amendments to the dough just to get it to roll out. I gave one pan of them to my brother Aaron - who faithfully calls me every day and who has done all kinds of special things like coming over with lunch and taking care of little projects we didn't necessarily have the tools or pieces for - and there is another pan for my brother-in-law Benjamin, who also has done a bunch of special things like bring his cordless drill in and put up the shelf in our kitchen for our little appliances that we've been procrastinating about for a while. We had just enough left over for us to have some for dessert and give some to Mom and Dad next door, which is good. I do not need three pans of cinnamon rolls sitting over here calling my name.
Ben ordered two over-the-toilet cabinets for our bathroom and Grandma's bathroom and spent a few evenings putting them together and installing them. They look great, but I'm still in the process of figuring out what to put in them that makes sense rather than loading them with odds and ends and turning them essentially into junk drawers. I think ours is pretty much going to be holding books and extra towels, while Grandma's will hold the stuff currently in tubs on the bathroom floor like the cream for the sore on her foot and the lotion she uses after showering and so on.
We also have done a lot of talking, discussing things like what God's actual old and new covenants are (they seem to be the same covenant but sealed in different ways: ultimately, we believe the covenant is "You shall love the Lord your God and obey him; and if you do, you will be his people and he will be your God and his commands will be written on your hearts"), reading books like "The Secrets of Golgotha" (which was an absolutely fascinating book, though not nearly as sensational as the title might suggest), discussing how to make ethical insurance claims (Ben had his first meeting with an insurance adjuster due to a business computer job involving a power surge), and watching Deep Space Nine episodes. Yes, I know the last doesn't really seem to fit the others, but...we're strange that way.
We read somewhere that babies who hear their father's voice reasonably often do tend to respond to their father as well as their mother at birth. With all the talking Ben and I do, this baby ought to know Ben just fine by now. It's funny because if Ben leans over and talks right to the baby, the little guy definitely responds. He turns his head and moves his hands and stirs around even if he wasn't doing much beforehand. I'm very pleased about that. Babies should know their fathers!
All in all, right now our world is pretty quiet and secluded, which makes it a little tougher than usual to think of something to write about. It's been kind of the same routine since Christmas and I figure not much is going to change until after the waiting-for-birth process is over. Grandma asks almost every night, "Do you think the baby will be born tonight?" She's pretty convinced she's just going to wake up one morning and there'll be a baby here without her knowing it's coming. I guess that's how all her sisters and her brother were born and she often remembers her childhood clearer than anything else these days. She says her mother never would say when a due date was and people didn't talk about other people being pregnant - she remembers asking her mom one day, "Mother, how come sometimes you're thin and other times you're fat?" and her mother laughed but didn't answer her.
I'm relieved that Grandma consistently remembers there IS a new baby coming these days. Up until a few weeks ago she was still shocked every few days to discover that I was expecting. Now it seems to have really sunk in and she has even been rubbing my stomach and saying, "Yes, there's a baby in there!" In some ways, it must be really odd for her because she hasn't lived in a house with a new baby on the way for many, many years and she's still fuzzy on how she's related to us a lot. I went through the whole birth kit with her and showed her all the different stuff we'd had to collect and she was very fascinated because she never saw that kind of thing when her mom was having babies and when she had Mom, she just went to the hospital where they drugged her enough that she doesn't remember the birth at all. I think part of her would like to be around for this baby to be born, but she's probably going to be next door for that bit since she's going to need someone who can give her a hand with things and make sure she gets her meals and remembers her medicine and so on and I'm not sure I'd trust me and Ben with that responsibility during the labor and delivery.
One interesting thing is that people ask me all the time how I'm feeling and I'm having a ha.rd time figuring out how to answer that. No one needs a catalogue of all the oddball little things going on that make me feel generally not quite up to my usual par, and in the long run I'm having a pretty complaint-free pregnancy anyway; but it seems a little boring to just say, "Fine" all the time. I am fine. But I also have pins and needles constantly in the tips of my right fingers, rolling over in bed actually hurts, breathing and swallowing don't feel exactly normal, I'm experiencing heartburn for the first time in my life, and for some reason I can put my left sock on just fine but it actually hurts to bend in a way that allows me to put my right sock on. Plus my ankles swell up unpredictably, my legs get twitchy when I'm tired, I can't figure out how to carry a laundry basket properly, getting into the car is a really ungraceful procedure that I have to hold my breath to accomplish, and the baby has a stubborn fascination for keeping his knees and his feet pushing on a nerve in my ribs so that I often get a sudden sharp pain that makes me jump.
Now, would you really want someone downloading all that to you when you wanted to know how they were doing?
Of course not. And like I said, if you look at that list, it's all picky little stuff that's dumb to complain about anyway. But it does end up making me feel not quite myself most of the time even if essentially...I'm fine! Just ultimately really looking forward to the baby being outside rather than in. Even if being outside includes feeding, changing, and walking a no-longer-silent Peanut.
So that's what's going on over here. I'm really, really hoping to post some more exciting news soon. Wouldn't it just figure if after thinking the whole nine months that we'd have an early baby, we'd have a late one after all? I remember being really scared at nine weeks that we were losing this baby and asking God very fervently to please let us hang on to this one. I'm sure he's sort of gently chuckling about that right now...
I think everyone's kind of worried that we're just going to suddenly announce the birth of our baby one day without any prior warning. Jenny called Kim today and the first thing Kim wanted to know was whether there was any news to tell.
I'd really like to set everyone's mind at ease and say we'll let people know as faithfully as we can given time constraints (not sure even the most excited want a call at 3 a.m. to say labor has begun...). The actual due date is still a few weeks away (January 31), but after the big Make-Sure-All-Is-Ready visit by Eileen the midwife this week, it looks like we might be coming up on a slightly earlier birthday for Peanut. His little head is all settled in a good position ready to go and he's far enough down that his chances of flipping breech are a lot slimmer than they used to be. I also have some physical things going on that indicate we're pretty close now. And I've had so many contractions that my muscles ought to be marathon ready at this point - seriously, I had no idea I was going to do quite this much practicing ahead of time, but I'm thankful for it because moms who do this much practicing usually have nice smooth fast labors. Hey, I can be optimistic, right?
Over the past week, I've had so many people tell me what days the baby can or can't be born on that I'm a little confused myself - someone needs to create a calendar for me so I know which days it's okay to go ahead and get on with things. My extended family has some type of betting system going on in which everyone has picked a day they expect the baby to be born on - as far as I can tell, from here until February 1st, every day is covered so someone is going to win something.
If anyone's interested, I'll put my candy bar on the 16th. Just for the fun of it.
Everything around here is very quiet and sleepy for the most part. I haven't had a lot of energy, so I get a few important things done every day and then spend a lot of time with my feet up. Grandma has learned to transfer herself on one leg from wheelchair to regular chair to toilet to bed, etc., so I take care of getting her medicine and meals and making her bed and coaching her now and then when she forgets which side to position the wheelchair on to get into her easy chair. We had a consultation last week with the orthopedic surgeon and it looks like Grandma may be doing this for a very long time, perhaps the rest of her life, in order to preserve the hip joint that's thinning around the spacer that connects her hip to her leg. We are investigating the possibility that she might need to get the joint replaced altogether, but it's a tough decision to make because right now things are very tolerable and doing the surgery would be extremely rough. The question is whether keeping Grandma from walking will preserve the joint long enough for her to have a peaceful and relatively pain-free life to the end of her days or if she'll have the joint break down in a few years and cause a pretty catastrophic situation.
The orthopedic surgeon, by the way, does not think Grandma really has a broken hip but says it's very difficult to tell and to keep her off that foot until the beginning of February just to be safe. Grandma herself still is not suffering pain unless she starts thinking about her hip having a problem; and even then, it appears what pain she's suffering is now coming from the joint and muscle stiffness that accompanies not actively using that leg. If we do her exercises with her, the aching gets much better. Ben is a good physical therapist.
He's also a good coach. He's been telling me every day that he's looking forward to this baby's birth and he thinks it's going to be a very special and enjoyable thing and he has every confidence that I'm going to handle it just fine. I haven't felt terribly jittery or anything about the upcoming birth, but I appreciate every one of the times Ben tells me, "This is going to be an amazing thing we're going to do and you're going to handle it wonderfully. You were made to and I absolutely believe you will." He is also patiently putting up with me waking him up by snoring at night (this is extremely embarrassing - I've always been a very quiet sleeper) and having a lot of dinners that are essentially soup and sandwiches and he sits and reads to me when I take baths at night to get sore muscles to ease up.
Yep, it's a pretty rough life around here these past few weeks. We're just waiting and staying close to home and hopefully avoiding the outbreak of norovirus in the area (yikes...that'd be no fun to get right now!). We had a surprise delivery of a dumpster to our driveway because of a project my family is doing a few streets away: our garage and basement are free of construction debris for the first time in a year and that was our big excitement of the week.
So for all of you betting and waiting along with us, know that currently there's nothing much going on and we will most certainly let you know as soon as we can if something is.
Off The Path
If anyone's curious about where we plan to stash a baby around here given the limited bedroom space, here's our solution: a mini co-sleeper.
It's kind of funny because when I do a quick check on what a 36-week-old baby looks like, there are these lists of things new moms should be doing to prepare for their new baby and the top priorities seem to be preparing the nursery and getting ready for a hospital stay...and I'm not doing either one.
We did, however, carefully choose a bed that would fit next to ours in the little space in our bedroom. It's a cousin to the average pack-n-play, with a complicated fold process that allows it to be stowed away in a package about the size of violin case, but it has a mattress raised high enough to keep us from having to reach down into it, sides that lower and lock into place to make it a miniature extension of our bed, and a nice big storage space underneath so we even have dresser/diaper space.
Oddly enough, this little bed encapsulates a small facet of the solution-finding our chosen life has led us into. We're keeping everything as simple and no-nonsense as we can, both for reasons of limited space and because this baby can't occupy the same place in our life as many first-time parents expect their first child to inhabit. There are a lot of other things going on and the baby has to fit into them rather than having us rearrange life so we can fit into the "now we're parents" role. We knew this would be the case when we both chose to have Grandma Lila come live with us and then to allow ourselves to have children when it happened rather than trying to determine when the best time would be. But every so often I'm reminded of what an odd path we've taken and preparing for this baby definitely has had it's moments of making me feel like a stranger in a strange place. I've spent most of my life being weird, so that's nothing new; but right now we're doing something so different I don't even know anyone else who's trying it: we're taking care of Grandma near the end of her life at the same time as we're laying the foundation for the rest of our life together and getting ready to care for a child at the absolute beginning of his or her life.
It definitely makes for an odd mix of decisions. The bookmarks on my computer might just reflect how odd: links to hospital bed mattresses are sharing space with links to potential lighting plans (for the addition) and other links to birth kit supply websites and Amazon listings for strollers. Health links describing hiatal hernia and advanced osteoporosis are right on top of one leading to a "calculate your due date" site. Our calendar has an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss ramifications of a deteriorating osteoporotic hip a few days from a midwife home visit. I've learned to manage chronic skin-breakdown sores at the same time I was figuring out how to get over morning sickness. We got an education about the health effects of Vicodin and prenatal vitamins within the same few weeks. Ben is preparing for life as a new dad by getting up several times a night with Grandma (though we haven't quite gotten the get-up-three-times-and-still-get-up-on-time-in-the-morning part down smoothly yet).
Sometimes I take a step back and look at this and shake my head in wonder. Of all the ways I would've predicted an early marriage and family to be functioning, in my wildest dreams I probably would've never pictured what is actually occurring.
In those wildest imaginings, I probably should've factored in one very, very important point: when God places us in a carefully-chosen life circumstance and we respond by actively looking to see what kind of work he has laid out for us, the results are often really surprising. Sometimes what presents itself to our hands to do is so unorthodox and yet so obviously right we have to blink and say, "Huh. So that's what we're supposed to do when we grow up." In our case, we were given the opportunity to begin our marriage while caring for Grandma Lila and then immediately given a child as well.
A good friend told us back when we were first considering entering this life that when we really seek what is good, it's often as if we get led straight off the familiar path of life into a forest of trees where there isn't even a track, let alone a path. The only thing that can keep a person on a course like that is love, because otherwise wandering through the trees gets pretty bewildering at times. Well, love and faith, which is the conviction of the truth. In this case, love for God and each other and for our families - especially Grandma - and the conviction there is a way through the trees even if we can't see it. So when we sit here scratching our heads over what we should do concerning where to put a new baby's crib, for instance, or how we should best manage Grandma's broken hip when I can't lift her without pulling all my stomach muscles, we remember that we walked off the familiar path because of love and faith...and trust that God is not going to put something in front of us to do that we can't manage.
I posted the picture of the baby's crib to show that there was a solution - and an easy one - to the problem of not having a nursery space to set up a crib. It would be a lot more complicated to post pictures showing how we're currently handling the broken-hip situation or how we'll go about caring for Grandma and a new baby, but those solutions are there too. Even the ones we haven't discovered yet are still there waiting to be found. Because we walked off the path into these trees knowing there was no way we could NOT take hold of the things God so clearly laid out for us to do and God has abundantly blessed that decision. We don't love Grandma any less than we did a year ago - in fact, we love her much more and we now have actions to back the words we said before she lived here. We don't love our baby any less than we would if all we had to do right now was prepare for his or her arrival - in fact, we love him or her much more because we're even more aware of the blessing we've been given. Our marriage isn't struggling because we've had to try to figure out a whole series of unusual circumstances: it's being knit together in a unique way we certainly couldn't have ever planned. While we certainly have encountered situations that were confusing or exasperating or even just plain weird (and we don't always know what to do about them), our life over the past year has been both interesting and highly blessed and we're looking forward to the next.
So if you were to ask me my blessing for the whole year, I think the best way I could put it would be this way: we walked off the beaten path trusting it was a good thing to do and we could find answers to the challenges put before us. And it's been a pretty amazing experience. This is something to hang onto next time something comes up we're not sure how to handle. It's something we believed would happen; and it's something we believe is going to continue happening.
Warning: I haven't yet posted much about what it's like being pregnant, but since I only am likely to have a few weeks of this pregnancy left, I really feel like writing about it since I spent years imagining what it might actually be like.
Overall, it's not as strange as I thought it would be. Many things that I just couldn't picture feeling - like the baby moving - turned out to be nowhere near as odd as it might seem. Other things - like not being able to roll over in bed at night without waking up and working on it - have been a surprise. I mean, seriously: who has to wake up at night in order to roll over? Someone with a bowling ball attached to their middle, that's who.
Today I am eight months and three weeks pregnant. Next Wednesday will be nine months.
The due date is still four weeks away, but one of the odd things I've learned is that a due date is actually calculated at TEN months, not nine even: and the ninth month is four weeks long. All four weeks in January!
I know other people have thought the time has just flown by, but it's seemed a lot longer to me. Part of this is because I've pretty much been pregnant since the middle of last December with a few weeks' break early this spring. Which means it's sometimes a little hard to believe we're almost done and it's just about time for this baby to be outside instead of inside. Of course, with my stomach capacity shrinking to almost nothing these past few weeks and the way I've had a bony little bottom up so high in my diaphragm that I can't breathe right, I'm starting to think it really is high time for this little guy to continue growing somewhere else. When he stretches out and gets his foot lodged under my ribs, it's kind of a shocking feeling. Ouch!
And before anyone asks, yes I can tell the difference between a head and a bottom and it is really possible to feel the difference between feet and hands and most of the time I can tell where the baby is and how he's positioned. The way I know I've been fairly accurate so far is that the baby's heartbeat has been consistently tough to pick up with the stethoscope because you kind of have to get the amplifier right between his shoulderblades to find his heartbeat and he's usually on his side, which makes him tough to read. The midwife has started asking me if I can predict where his shoulderblades are and when I tell her, she can pick up the heartbeat. I'm kind of tickled about this.
Ben asked me last week if I could name any personality traits our baby seems to have, since it certainly seems like babies carry personality traits from the moment they're born so they must have them ahead of time. I told him I thought this baby was fairly laid-back but very curious. Rather than being belligerent about things like me resting a teacup on my stomach, the baby has a tendency to feel them and play with them. Teacups are his favorite outside toy so far - if I rest the cup on my stomach, he begins gently drumming his feet on it. Not hard enough to feel like he's trying to shove it off, more like he's saying, "Oh, this is fun...what's this?" If Ben rests his arm on my stomach, pretty soon I'll feel a little fist poke up and start feeling along the length of Ben's arm. Not poking hard like when moving around lot, just sort of feeling what this strange new heavy thing is. He'll even rub his fist against Ben's arm, which is a really funny sensation. He also does get scared by a few things - we watched The Hobbit at a theater last week and in one really intense part the baby started wiggling around a lot with an odd fluttery sort of movement which reminded me very strongly of a how a newborn acts when scared. I rubbed his back for a little and he settled right down, but he definitely responded to all the loud noise. He did something similar when we were going to Florida and the plane took off from the runway. By the third or fourth time he wasn't reacting, but I think the first few scared him.
Ben thinks I'm gigantic, but all things considered, I'm pretty small for just-about term pregnant. My waistline measures 42 inches and I weigh about 158 pounds (that's up from 25 inches and 115 pounds). Peanut is getting more and more epic cases of hiccups, to the point where (with his aforementioned little bottom shoved up against my diaphragm) it feels like I'VE got hiccups. The funny thing about baby hiccups is that they're really, really fast compared to normal - it almost feels like a heartbeat except that baby's heartbeat is quite a bit faster and it's more like mine...only it's not mine because mine's beating a different time.
And then there are contractions.
Everybody hears about contractions, but I was sort of wondering how I would recognize them or what they would feel like. Granted, the ones I feel are just the "practice" contractions that are getting all my muscles nice and strong, but still...it turns out that when you feel them, they are pretty obvious. If you picture the muscles around your stomach as a band or a belt, a contraction feels like it suddenly got very tight. It's like getting a cramp in your leg after not drinking enough water, only it doesn't hurt like that. But it's the same sudden tightening. I've been asked a few times if I'm nervous about labor and delivery and I guess the answer is I'm nervous about it in the same way I would be about playing a violin piece at a recital. I'm not afraid, but I definitely have an element of, "Okay...been practicing a while...now make sure you get that middle part right!"
Some of my siblings have been making jokes about how fat I am ("Wow, Lauren, you're HUGE!") and even Ben is kidding me about having "a wide load". I've just been shrugging and saying, "Yup." I also smile peaceably and say, "True. But in a few weeks I won't be."
I washed all the baby clothes already and have been puttering with things like getting the baby's bed set up (we were pretty pleased to find something called a 'co-sleeper', which is basically a bassinet with sides that lower so it can be put right next to the bed and take up very little room) and assembling the list of stuff we're supposed to have on hand for the baby's birth. One of the most fun things was getting the birth certificate and the little card that we're supposed to record the baby's footprints on. Getting that in the mail definitely made us feel like we're getting close. It's kind of funny getting all the things together ourselves that hospitals just seem to have on hand, like the receiving blankets and little knitted hat and the umbilical cord clamp.
The closer we get, the more I'm relieved we're having this baby at home and not in the hospital. I really am glad not to be packing for a hospital stay and knowing we'll have to judge the right time to go in and then deal with all the hospital bureaucracy and so on and so forth. I'm glad it's going to be just Ben and I and the midwife will keep an eye on us if we need some help. Both families are making us promise that we'll let them know when we're in labor and won't leave them hanging when the baby's born. Aaron says various friends of ours have been having "labor parties" when their siblings are having babies: they basically just stay up playing Wii games and eating snacks and not going to bed until they hear some news, no matter how late it gets. Of course it helps that most of the friends we have who've had babies recently have ridiculously short labors - the most recent one was three hours long from start to finish, I think. At any rate, Aaron says we better not gyp them out of their chance to have a labor party. Sounds like a political thing, put that way.
All in all, I have enjoyed being pregnant but I'm really looking forward to holding this baby. It's something that fills me with wonder, experiencing what I've only imagined up until now. I think actually having the baby will be a whole new level of that same wonder and I'm filled with anticipation of that. Not to mention anticipating being able to easily do things like sit up or get out of a chair or bend over without holding my breath. (Please note that I still have the balance to hop on one leg and tie my shoes without the bows having to be on the sides of the shoes...)
I'm also really, really looking forward to seeing Ben be a father. I can't imagine what it would be like having a baby without Ben as the daddy. He has really been wonderful and continues to be every day and I'm so pleased to have his hands be the first ones to actually touch and hold this child. In spite of how sad we were to lose our little Joshua earlier this year, part of me is glad to have had that experience because I already know how well Ben handles even difficult things and I am looking forward to going through labor with him; and I'm am absolutely looking forward to that look I know will be on his face when he gets to see his son or daughter for the first time. In many ways, I'm more excited about that than even seeing the baby myself.
It's been eight years since I've lived with a new little one. It's about time to end the baby deprivation. Just a few more weeks to go.
It has been a very long and eventful couple of weeks.
To start with, in a weird deja vu development, Grandma Lila again has a fractured hip. Last year at this time we were just bringing her home from assisted living to deal with recovery from another fracture to a different part of the same exact joint. That was a very rough couple of weeks for a variety of reasons and the actual physical caring for Grandma is much easier this time around. For one thing, it appears the pain medicine she already takes for her neuropathy is covering whatever pain there might be from the fracture - one of our hardest tasks has actually been convincing her that she can't stand or walk on the leg because to her mind, it's fine.
The very sobering part of this news, however, is that Grandma apparently fractured her hip by doing...nothing at all that should've broken anything. Apparently the bone around the old spacer in her right hip is growing so fragile that it broke just from the strain of walking on it. This could very well mean that Grandma will no longer be walking any distance at all, walker or no walker. We knew when we brought Grandma home that this was an almost inevitable development, but it's a little shocking to have it happen so soon. We are still hopeful that this isn't the case, of course, but it's hard not to draw that conclusion given the circumstances surrounding this latest fracture. We have an appointment with the orthopedic doctor who gave us such good advice last year and we'll know more after that. In the meantime, we're being well-prepared for our imminently arriving newborn by getting up several times a night for a half-hour to help Grandma to the bathroom and back. I told Ben last night that I'm very hopeful the bell Grandma rings to tell us she needs help will wake the baby up too so we can get them on the same schedule - otherwise we are going to be even more sleep-deprived than the average new parent!
I'm also down to five weeks left before the estimated due date and the midwife tells us that the baby is already engaged and it's her opinion he/she "is either going to come early or you're going to need a bigger body" as the baby is pretty well taking up all available room. I'm beginning to be pretty uncomfortable most of the time and am starting to look forward to having the baby outside rather than inside, lack of sleep or no. I'm disgusted to note I didn't inherit my mom's genes as much as I'd hoped and my feet and ankles are definitely swelling if I spend longer than a half-hour standing on them.
All of that being a prelude to what I feel is a very important and difficult-to-phrase blog post.
Last year, with all the hustle and bustle of our wedding closely followed by moving Grandma, it somehow was not apparent that Ben and I had decided to not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. This year things have been much more settled (fracture notwithstanding) and it came to Mom Turner's attention we were not decorating for Christmas. When she began asking why and discovered we were actually avoiding Christmas, it caused a lot of hurt feelings (including from Grandma Lila, who gave me a pretty sharp scolding about it the other day). Because it was hard on Mom, she began discussing the situation with others close and the result is a lot of people don't quite know how to approach Christmas with us this year. A dear neighbor brought us the beautiful wreath she'd purchased as a Christmas gift for us and asked humbly if we would be offended by it, for instance, and another close relative was very concerned about bothering us by sending us a Christmas card.
We are very touched by and appreciative of the concern, but we're a little distressed that we've caused so much upset, so here is our best explanation of what we think of Christmas and how we're approaching it for the time being.
We've been spending a lot of time considering what it means to have good things get mixed with bad and what that ultimately does to the good thing. In the case of Christmas, Christians a long time ago essentially took a very pagan holiday and rather than cancelling it altogether, decided to attempt redeeming it by turning the focus from having a big wild party to celebrating the birth of Jesus our Savior.
Good thing: celebrating Jesus' birth instead of having wild drunken revelries in honor of Saturn.
Bad thing: bringing methods of worshiping other gods into the worship of the One True God.
Now, as Grandma Lila has repeatedly pointed out to us, "we don't worship those things!" She's correct. We no longer bring pine trees in from the woods as symbols of fertility and put sacrifices under them to the wood-gods. We just don't. A Christmas tree in today's family living room is not being worshiped as a god.
The problem is, the whole reason for bringing it in comes from the worship of a pagan god.
One of the biggest questions Ben and I have asked ourselves when it comes to deciding how our family is going to work is pretty simple: "Do we know if this makes God happy or not?"
Sometimes we have to guess based on things God has said and done even if he never specifically addressed the situation we're looking at (homeschooling is an example of this). Other times, God is pretty clear about what he thinks (as in the case of the Sabbath). When it comes to Christmas, the thing God said that sticks in our mind is pretty straightforward: he said to his special people, "Don't you worship me in the same way the heathens worship their gods - that's completely disgusting to me!"
Deuteronomy 12:29-31 (ESV)
29“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land,30take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. [emphasis mine]
There are more and harsher verses, but this all by itself is pretty strong evidence of what God thinks: don't add the worship of a not-god to the worship of the real God. And bringing in a Christmas tree as part of the celebration or worship of God - commemorating his Son's birth - sounds like something God would not be too thrilled about. So after considering this, our conscience begins deeply troubling us when we look at combining the pagan traditions with the celebration of Jesus' birth. Which we came to find out didn't even occur in December, let alone on the 25th, so in a weird sort of way it would almost be easier for us to consider Christmas if Jesus were left out of it altogether since he doesn't seem to belong there in the first place. This, however, is a whole sticky matter in and of itself. There are many, many opinions on this subject and all sides get pretty touchy.
Now, the tricky thing about Christmas is that there are two parts to it. There is the religious/philosophical aspect (which is the basis for why we're not decorating); and there is the simple family get-together aspect. The time we spend with our family is very precious to us and we believe it is precious to God as well. The Christmas cards that come in the mail with letters and photos of our friends and family are special and we look forward to them. It is true, as one friend we know puts it, that if we really love our family we should show it other times than just at Christmas; but it's also true that it's very hurtful to our family to absent ourselves at a time they are used to the family being together.
We also have Grandma Lila living with us in our home and she is both very offended and hurt by the suggestion we are not doing Christmas. She has absolutely made it clear that we can do whatever weird thing we're doing but she is NOT going to give up her Christmas tree or the other elements of the Christmas celebration that we were troubled about. Because she is our grandmother and is our authority, it isn't our place to determine this for her and we have done our best to honor her wishes in this respect, including putting her small tree up in her room and putting her Christmas CDs on while she's sitting in the living room and other such things.
The truth is, we don't think anyone celebrating Christmas is evil for doing so, just as we don't believe those who do not rest on the Sabbath are evil. The only reason doing or not doing those things means anything at all has to do with how we want to relate to God. A person has to be convicted of what God wants them to do or they will be acting out of empty tradition, from a sense of obligation to rules rather than out of a love for God. Doing anything without a conviction of the truth can be much more harmful than not.
We believe that there are things we can do to please or displease God and we are doing our best to understand those things for ourselves and for our children out of gratefulness for the life God has given us and the chance we have to be in the relationship with him that kids have with their daddy. Most of us actually will take some pretty extraordinary steps to get a pleased smile of approval and the comfort of knowing our parents here on Earth are happy with us. We want to have that same closeness with the Father who made us, so if there is a suggestion that something makes him happy or sad we want to be alert for it just like we would be for our dads here on Earth. This is why it wasn't difficult for us to give up a Christmas tree once we reached the conclusion that it was something God didn't want us to do.
So to please the Father who made us, we are attempting to remove the mixed-in pagan elements from worship of him; and to please our parents on Earth, we want to be available to spend the special time with them and enjoy their company and take pleasure in being together. There will be many more Christmas days for Mom to take photos of the babies growing up and us standing around the table before dinner and all the small things families do when they have deliberately set aside the time to spend together. We are not going to be sitting around the whole day thinking about how bad it is we have to be there. We do not have to have a Christmas tree or have the kids sit on Santa's lap or have exactly the same beliefs and traditions to share that specific time. And we are not going to be offended by those we love who do.
It seems like we have a lot of things to prepare this week. It's occurred to me that at seven months pregnant, it's probably time to start gathering a few baby things - we have coupons for a few things that we can get just for shipping fees that we planned to order over the next few months and I ordered the first of them this week. And it's looking like the addition will be getting underway any day (though I know it probably looks like nothing whatsoever is going on), so this evening Ben and I are going to clear out the sunroom in preparation for tearing it down. I'm going to miss that little room, but I keep reminding myself that a new family room will be so much more pleasant and useful!
While we've been preparing little things like this, we've also been watching things happening in the outside world and wondering...how does a person really prepare for bad things to come?
A lot of people believe that we're looking at the beginnings of complete economic collapse in our country and are preparing for scenarios like no one being able to get food or water for months or years. It's pretty amazing what is advised to stockpile: everything from ibuprofen to ammunition. It's a lot like Y2K, from my perspective. We really don't know what's going to happen, so we try to think of everything that might and prepare for it.
I've had a thought that's gradually become more cohesive this time around than it was back in 1999: what is it in the Human psyche that reacts to danger by wanting to horde things? And how much will it really protect us?
I think one answer is we always want to know what's coming next and when we don't, we often place an incredible amount of emphasis on one of two things: totally ignoring the possible threat...or trying to heavily prepare for whatever we can imagine happening. And we have very vivid imaginations. The Unknown scares us enough that we try to cover all the bases we can think of, even ones that are wildly improbable, because then we feel safe. Unfortunately, when real bad things happen I don't think even our vivid imaginations cover all the results.
For instance, I know of one woman married to a man from Russia who recently mentioned what his parents did to prepare for the bad times they foresaw coming under Communist leadership. They actually did lay by supplies and try to get ready for what was coming...and the first thing the new government did was raid houses, uncover secret storehouses, and take everything.
Not sure how you can prepare for that one.
Now granted, keeping supplies on hand to deal with problems like grocery stores not being stocked for a few weeks due to storms or earthquakes or other problems like that is a sensible thing to do. But how exactly do you prepare for the collapse of your economy? How to you get ready for the end of the world? What about girding yourself to face World War III?
I think perhaps what we need to prepare isn't so much the pantry as our minds. Because the truth is, if we find our security in stockpiling enough stuff, it's going to let us down. There really is no way to physically lay by supplies for every eventuality. So ultimately, surviving any cataclysmic event can't come down to "Did I prepare enough stuff?" The answer will always be "no." If you bought a thousand dollars worth of dried rations, you probably should've bought two thousand or five thousand. If all you did was look at the future fearfully and say, "I have to DO SOMETHING!!" you will never be able to prepare enough.
But your mind drives all that you do and every response that you make to every eventually. It really does cover everything. Focusing on physical survival is one thing: preparing your mind to take anything that comes your way is another. In my opinion, the greatest thing any of us can do to prepare for anything at all is to learn to use our minds and see clearly. Because the biggest danger of all seems to be inside us. When things don't go our way, we panic, act irrationally, forget that God made us and God is in charge. When really bad things happen, we despair, lose hope, and sometimes even do crazy things like riot and kill people. When we let our minds get corrupted by things like fear, we no longer have the wisdom or the foresight to make wise preparations for even commonplace problems, let alone big ones.
We had a conversation last week about how the term "repentance" really means "to change your mind". You can't truly and usefully repent of anything until your mind has been changed and you see clearly. I think the exact same thing applies to preparing. Preparing for anything, really, even a new addition and a new baby. Ben and I have been preparing for the birth of this child for months by getting our minds ready for what's going to happen and how we're going to respond. We don't have a bassinet or diapers or baby clothes, but we've spent a lot of time saying things like, "That's how we want our baby's spirit to look - just like that!"
We don't have rifles and ammunition laid by, but we do keep preparing for whatever could happen by constantly noting and examining how God proves he's in charge. Not because we need the proof, but because that's our version of stocking the pantry so we feel safe. Considering the first urge we often have is to DO SOMETHING, this sounds like not doing very much: but it's absolutely essential. It's the foundation for being able to handle whatever comes our way. The only way for us to make wise preparations for our future, no matter what it happens to be, is to keep our minds from being filled up with junk that will prevent us from seeing what's really happening and making decisions based on that. If we put extra things in our pantry, we want to do so because we've reasonably and thoughtfully decided to, not because we're terrified we won't survive if we don't. Fear is one of the biggest corrupters of the mind out there and it's pretty easy to let it in when we hear things like "fiscal cliff" and "war" and "major tax increases". But fear has a tough time getting a foothold if you've already prepared your mind to accept that even when fearful things occur, you don't have reason to fear because you are ultimately not in charge of what's going to happen and there is someone who is, someone who is trustworthy and good and who doesn't forget even about little things like making sure we have a house next door to Mom and Dad so we can take care of Grandma Lila. Or giving Ben a job that allows us to make money to cover what we need and still give him an incredible amount of time to spend with Grandma and me. That someone is not going to suddenly forget about us just because the stock market crashes or we go to war with Iran. We keep reminding ourselves of those kinds of things and then we're at peace.
And that kind of preparation really does cover whatever happens.
A Little Of Everything
Ben and I have had an interesting week. So far, it's included two plane trips, walking about 25 miles, watching sunrise over the Atlantic at a beach, tasting seven or eight different olive oils (hey, for those of us who don't do wine tastings...), having another double birthday celebration (Kim and I have birthdays only four days apart), and having our baby finally tip out in front. I went from looking a little pregnant at the beginning of the week to looking VERY pregnant by the end of it. My ribs are eternally grateful - on Tuesday they were so sore they were driving me crazy, which tells me the baby had grown up just about as far as he possibly could and since he had to go somewhere, now he's growing out instead.
On the downside, now when I look in the mirror I wonder where that fat girl came from and why she's wearing my clothes. Ben said, "Maybe a little too much pasta."
We've enjoyed pretty much every minute of our trip to Florida, even when we opted out of going through the body scanner at the airport and submitted ourselves to the full pat-down instead. Turns out it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected; but whatever it was, we weren't interested in taking the baby through the scanner. We haven't even made free use of a Doppler heart monitor because we were reading about what the sound waves can do to a developing baby's cells...why bombard him with whatever super-rays are used in those big body scanners? Pat downs are much safer.
Our plane trips were a lot of fun for us - we enjoy doing everything together and plane rides were no exception. We had one little hop from Detroit to Atlanta and then another little hop from Atlanta to Jacksonville, where we walked off the plane to a beautiful Florida autumn day complete with a breeze that smelled like salt water. It hasn't been particularly hot here, but we certainly aren't going to complain at 70 - 75 degree temps and sunshine after 40 and rainy had become the norm back home. It feels pretty good.
We got some good advice on the plane ride from Atlanta to Jacksonville, too. In a bland professional voice, the flight attendant advised that "in the event that our flight should become a cruise", we should stop screaming and clutching our neighbor's leg and don the life jacket located under the seat in front of us. "If you're traveling with a child or someone acting like a child, be sure you prepare yourself before helping them," she continued. "And if you're traveling with multiple children, this would be the time to pick your favorite."
I'm guessing she's had to make that safety announcement one too many times. But at least she made it interesting.
Stephen and Kim have a beautiful home in the suburbs of Jacksonville and we've agreed they have a very nice guest room bed. We have been very relaxed about the schedule of things and have basically eaten our meals peacefully, taken a lot of very long walks, done what we could to keep Emma's naptimes and bedtimes as secure and uninterrupted as possible, and enjoyed Kim and Stephen's company a lot. Stephen was unexpectedly able to be home for the week since Hurricane Sandy closed the airport he would normally fly into during business hours to do his business - which turns out to be setting up IT for very large companies. I didn't realize I was marrying into a family of computer guys, but the definite upside to this is they are very keen on new gadgets and it's a lot of fun to see all kinds of new stuff in action. Ben has gotten hooked on another new iPad game and says there is absolutely no way we can ever get an iPad. He would be much too addicted to playing on it. And the truth is, now I've been playing the games with him so we'd both be hooked. Our bed would never get made and we'd be eating TV dinners.
As for Hurricane Sandy, as Mrs. G. always said..."It's an ill wind that blows no good." Out of all the mess and mayhem, the good in this instance was extra time with the Man of the Izzo Household. Who ran twenty miles this morning instead of the fourteen he was planning on. I just can't imagine being able to run that far - it was a major accomplishment to me when I reached ONE mile!
On Thursday, Ben and I went out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory for my birthday, which was a present from Kim and Stephen. We sat outside since 75 felt plenty warm enough to us for eating outside and the rest of the clientele seemed to think it was too cold, so it was quiet in the outdoor dining room. Ben proposed again, which he pretty much does every time we go out to eat. As I get more pregnant, this either gets funnier or more embarrassing depending on how you look at it.
We've noticed that we make decisions very decisively as a team, too - there were about two dozen different cheesecakes on the menu for dessert and it took us about five minutes to pick one. Typically, I find three or four that I like the sounds of and Ben casts the deciding vote. In this instance, I said, "I think the Banana Cream, the Wild Blueberry, or the Coconut cheesecakes sound really good." Ben said, "Blueberry it is, then." He very rarely says, "Hm....none of them," though that does happen on occasion.
Friday we went out to dinner at Maggiano's with Kim and Stephen, which Kim was excited about because she said it was like a double date. That was fun; and we came home with so many leftovers we had enough for dinner last night too. (This is where Ben's comment about my suddenly much-expanded belly being due to too much pasta came from.)
Yesterday morning, we got up relatively early and drove out to Jax Beach to watch the sunrise, since it's not often we have the opportunity to see sunrise over the Atlantic and it's not even like we had to get up all that early to do so. The sun came over the horizon at 7:42 and it was only about a 10 - 15 minute ride to the beach. We left at 7:15 and got there in plenty of time. We'd already been out to the beach on Thursday afternoon and discovered it's pretty quiet out there this time of the year. Not to mention no one seems interested in wearing bikinis, which is a plus. The interesting thing I've noticed about Florida beaches before is that there's a huge percentage of the female population present in bikinis; and the percentage of women who could even think of looking reasonably un-ridiculous in a bikini is a lot lower than that. Modesty issues aside, sometimes I wonder if maybe people don't look closely in the mirror before heading out the door.
But coming to Jacksonville in November mitigates this particular issue. In fact, most people who were out even in the warm afternoon were wearing sweaters (not necessary to our Michigan way of thinking) and at sunrise, folks were out in their pants and jackets. We drank coffee and hot chocolate respectively and walked a ways down the beach keeping an eye out for some of the nice big waves that came in now and then. I haven't been up that early on a Saturday morning in years and it was absolutely worth it.
In the afternoon we went to visit Stephen's mom (his dad is out of town - and planning to visit the Jordan River today, to give you an indication of how far out of town he actually is) and had lunch with her. They've just finished some fairly major renovation on their house and it was fun to see all the results. I got some very good ideas for our kitchen in the process - I've been trying to figure out if we should try to get cupboards that go up to the ceiling to make the ceiling appear taller or if that would just be kind of pointless, but after looking at the Izzo's new kitchen it looks to me like having the cupboards go up like that really does give the sense of the ceiling being higher than it is. I also liked that Mrs. Izzo picked out an island that was stained/painted a color (a beautiful blue, in this instance) rather than using the same cabinets. I'm not positive we can do this easily in our kitchen, but I have considered what would happen if I over-finished the cabinets at the island to get this effect and I really like it, so even if we don't do it now it might be a project for the future some day.
Mrs. Izzo also told us some really good stories about things like the politics of becoming a general's wife (in the military, the capability of a wife to support her husband and take good care of other military wives and keep order in their home is actually one of the things that weighs into her husband's eventual promotion, something I found really intriguing because it reminds me of Paul talking to Timothy about choosing deacons to lead a church) and living in Germany at the time Stephen was born. She said she had to quit before we got bored. We were a long way from being bored.
Speaking of our addition, Mom told me today that she'd called MISDIG and our yard is now full of little colored flags. Ben and I picked up the building permit the day before we left for Florida, so it sounds like when we get home we're going to be heading straight into addition-building. I'm relieved and excited that things are underway, but I expect these next few months are going to be some very super-busy ones. Sometimes it's hard to believe that by this time next year we'll have a totally different house and a baby who's starting to talk!
I should probably wrap this up and go find out if we've figured out what to do today. We've been playing our days very much by ear, which means we probably aren't seeing all kinds of things there are to see...but that's okay with us. Getting to spend every day together is quite a special thing for us all by itself, and getting to spend the time with Kim and Stephen and Emma is icing on the cake. The warm weather just puts everything over the top! We're pretty glad we're the ones that came out in November and Grandma went out in September, though. While we think the weather's lovely, it's a little cool for swimming and I think Grandma would still think it was cold. Ben talked to her on the phone yesterday and she doesn't really believe him that it's only in the early 70s, but I can see her out here sitting on the patio in a jacket and blanket while I'm barefoot and in summer clothes.
So long for now...and in my next post, perhaps there'll be something new and exciting about house preparations to talk about. You know we're going to really get to it eventually!
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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