10 sept 2018

What a weekend! Apart from hosting our first community group on Sunday where Ryan said he was thankful he doesn’t get nervous talking in front of people because my eyes were boring into him (I was a ball of nerves the whole evening, thankful though of how easily he can talk to groups) and coming down from the high of realizing how well we all did fit together, a group of believers in different stages of life committing our time to study and pray and support each other over the next year. Both tears and laughter were shed this first night and it’s amazing to me how quickly strangers can bond if only just a sliver of vulnerability is shown.

But aside from all that, Ruthie turned 7 today. She actually got teary-eyed last night, her last tuck-in as a 6 year old.

In an effort to push back against the me-me-me that we all have inside us and hoping they learn to appreciate experiences with only a few friends, I’ve pretty much opted out of parties. You know they’ll end up wanting the exact opposite later on and that’s fine too, just hoping a piece of this gets stuck in their psyche. Last year, Ruthie asked her friend Kalyn to go canoeing with their dads who are also good friends. Ryan was hoping that’d become a tradition, but this year we asked if Kalyn could spend the night on Saturday and she did! They chased after cats and fireflies, helped me make noodles for dinner, tore apart a pinata, and had a pillow fight. 

Ryan slept.

They all crashed in one big bed after watching a movie and woke up in the morning when Annie farted really loudly.

Our favorite donut shop was closed this morning, so we had to forgo our donut tradition and had chocolate chip pancakes instead, Ruth’s second favorite.

I asked Ruthie to choose a couple friends from school to take through a drive-thru safari today. I decorated the van with streamers and leaned into the jabbering that only 7 year olds can create. Their endurance is admirable.

Annie thought it was her birthday because I let her sit up front with me during the safari.  She couldn’t believe how big the windshield window was. The emus made us scream and anytime we saw one ahead, the race to roll up all the windows and hide below the window was intense. But my favorite moment was when an employee cut up an apple, opened up the gates just for us to feed the giraffe and they all ooohed and ahhhed….over the cat lying on the bench. That literally proves that you don’t have to do jack for a good time at this age. My gawd, Ruth, you have four cats at home.

As I’m typing this, I hear classical music in the living room along with squeals and laughter and I’m imagining them reenacting their ballet class with dear-ole-dad.

Thankful for another year with my kind, shy, funny Ruthie. I like you.

8 june 2018

I said, You guys. It’s just me and three of you. Please just listen to what I say and don’t go nuts. 

So we went to the Splash Pad, which on the scale of venturing out solo is like a 2, but you just never know. And honestly, I always expect the worst, especially hauling Gertie around. I should’ve known there’d be no issue though since she and water are best buds.

Right off, they found “Camille” in the plants. She’s the lady bug that I somehow convinced is the same one they’ve been seeing since last year when they had to send her back into the garden. They were so worried about her, but ended up reuniting this spring. How amazing that she remembered where they lived and even visited them at the splash pad. What a great gal.
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Ryan and I have a few fun things coming up this summer. One of which is leading a new small group through our church. I really never thought we would, but the stars have aligned with another couple to get one going. And, after taking a year off to rest on Sunday evenings (which I absolutely needed and was thankful for), we’re ready to jump back in. You can get kind of eyes-glazed-over when you hear them say over and over while urging people to join one: We’re not a church with community groups, we’re a church made up of them. But now I fully understand the need to have a constant small circle around you.

I’ve only shared with a few people, and not even with my family, but about a month ago I had what I think was a nervous breakdown. Ryan had to come home early every day for almost a week. I was incapable of doing much beyond a simple meal: (think pb&js for dinner). I spent most of the week crying: in bed, in Gertie’s therapy waiting room, with her therapists, in the shower, at dinner. During nap/movie times, I would walk around the backyard sobbing and praying for help. From my core praying. It was probably the scariest it’s ever gotten. I guess in the midst of the news recently, I should add that it  never got to a point where I was worried of what I’d do, but I wonder what it would’ve looked like if I didn’t have that single thread of communication directly to God, the frailest of threads that was somehow strong enough to keep me upright.

Afterwards I casually shared that experience with a friend and she asked me why didn’t I reach out to her. She would’ve been the first person called too. I can share the deepest of my neuroses with her and there’s no judgement. We’ve done online bible studies together. She is a children’s pastor for goodness sakes. So why when I hit bottom did I not call? But I do know why. For someone, and maybe you’re the same way, it’s hard to ask for help. I want someone to just know without me having to explain everything. I want them to proactively send me a text. I want them to show up with a dinner (because everyone knows that’s a mom’s holy grail, a pre-made meal). Even Ryan said that he does me a disservice because whenever anyone asks about us (alluding to life with Gertie), it’s always positive. It’s always, “Great! She’s continuously improving! Hooray Tada!” And while I can see his point of only sharing the good news, it also isolates us from help when we need it. On the flip side, it’s helped me learn what I need to look for and do for others.

This is why we’re excited to start back in with a group. To have people who keep up with us (and us them) weekly, where no one will be expected to cold call a friend from ground zero. Where we can see the progression of a snowball going down hill and either all stand in front of it mid-descent or rebuild it after it shatters at the bottom. I so understand now why these face-to-face relationships are important.

And just to update, I feel really good right now. Another friend mentioned that trauma and the brain go through cycles, showing its recurring face like clockwork. Is it related to when Gertie was born and all that followed? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a little to do with it. But in the aftermath of everything a month ago, I feel different. I’m starting to be intentional. I am repeating to her the same things I say to the others: I am proud of you. You are a good girl. You make me happy. And she does. She really does, if I’ll just let her. But I do feel it happening. Her personality is coming out and I find myself laughing a lot at her.

Here she is stringing two “words” together (don’t mind her stained shirt). Two words/sounds in a row are a critical step in speech. Yesterday, when Ryan came home, I carried her out to meet him and he said “Hi Gertie!” and she responded without me cueing her a clear “Hi Dada”. Today, at the splash pad a girl came up to her little fountain and said Hi and Gertie said Hi back. To understand conversation, the back and forth. We are so hopeful.

Ryan has been amazing at giving me the evenings to run. And while I can’t do anything but gain weight, it has been very therapeutic mentally for me. Those evenings have been, along with my monthly meeting with a mentor, and then our book club that’s been meeting for the past six months. It has shoved me back into reading, where now I want to do nothing else at night except read. A friend’s therapist told her that reading activates the same part of the brain as hypnosis so is a great way to “self-medicate.” But the book clubs! We’ve been choosing restaurants/flavors relating to the books and it’s so fun. I love the different personalities and we’re at the point now where no opinion goes unsaid (I kicked that off with my book choice that no one liked, ha!)

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Our first night. When I made everyone wear name tags and answer an ice breaker question. That lasted one time.

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And Ruthie has already asked when we can do a book club together. The other night she wanted to lay in bed with me while Ryan worked in the living room. So she got her reader books, I got mine and it was so comfortable and exactly what I’d hoped to do with my child. I told her once she gets into 2nd or 3rd grade we’ll start it up.

28 apr 2018

I went to my first Celebrate Recovery meeting last night. I really wanted to hole up in the back bedroom and rest, but forced myself to put on makeup and go. When I walked into my church’s auditorium, the first sign I saw said Welcome Home and of course I welled up.

But I didn’t sing. I didn’t clap along and whoop and holler either when lyrics about God freeing us from ourselves crossed the screen. I didn’t go up when many others did, to receive hugs from people actually designated as huggers at the front of the room, so I also didn’t receive applause from everyone rewarding my bravery.

I just stood there.

Me, it felt like, in the middle of so many joyfully broken people, whose arms were outstretched so far to the sides that their fingertips brushed my shoulders, who walked up to loud cheers as they received their tokens for overcoming themselves for a month, 6 months, a year. They high-fived and hugged each other and all I could do was stand there.

Afterwards we newcomers broke off to a room and sat in a circle, to prepare for when we attended the more seasoned groups next time. And as each person passed because they were uncomfortable sharing their “intro”, it became clear I’d have to be the first to go. When they all turned and looked at me, before covering my face with my hands and crying, I said one of the hardest things I’ve ever admitted out loud:

I am a grateful believer of Jesus Christ. I struggle with anger, bitterness, and pride. I’m here today because I cannot find the value my special needs daughter brings to my life besides stress and exhaustion. I am full of hatred. My name is Carolyn. 

If you could also pray for me too.

10 feb 2018

Cathedrals. They sometimes took a hundred years to complete. Imagine being that first person, knowing you’d never see the end result. So when I’m tired of asking what’s my purpose here, impatient that nothing has been revealed yet, and maybe insecure that I even have one because I’m not seeing any fruition from my efforts, I need to think of that first bricklayer. I need to remember that God’s capacity doesn’t work within my finite timeline. That the end result of what I’m doing now could span generations, lifetimes. That the one little pebble I kick down the road could become an avalanche without me ever feeling the ground shake.

I need to think of the line of mothers following the birth of King David, proudly celebrating him as their ancestor. And them maybe also wondering what meaning their own lives have or how they could ever leave a mark in this world like he did. Them not knowing that their mundane days of raising children, cleaning the house, cooking dinner… those same days that maybe made them feel sad or insignificant would in fact be critical in eventually bringing about the Son of God. They were just the bricklayers. That them simply being would later change the world. They would never see the realization of their tedious, tiresome daily lives, instead just paving the path for Jesus without ever knowing it.

He has a purpose for me, but I have to also be willing to accept that I may never see the culmination of it with my own eyes.

So for now I will focus on my children and try to lay those bricks as solidly as possible, imagining the trickle of this ordinary life maybe one day flooding into greatness.

I need a stale cigarette STAT

Those were literally the first words out my mouth to my in-laws. I know they knew Ryan married a classy lady, they just didn’t know how classy.

It all started with their anniversary present. 40 years! Can I get a what-what?! I would’ve loved to throw them a party like we did for my parents (see here), but I didn’t think it’d be feasible. So if we couldn’t bring them to a party, why not bring the party to them? Enter our Party in a Box. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
In a box full of streamers and feathers we stacked a series of gifts. The feathers were from Ruthie’s boas that I’ve been picking up all over the house and saving in a plastic bag. I knew they’d come in handy one day.  I guess I figured I’d make myself a new swimsuit for the summer…

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but the box will do instead. The pool patrons thank you, in-laws.

First in the party box were our toasts (aka letters).
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Then the confetti from Ruthie:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
The party-goers:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI sent out postcards to their friends and family to write a note and they sent them back to me so I could send them all at once. There was a good turn out to the party! I’d say 40+ sent the card back.

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I think I was a stalker in my past life, because I had no qualms contacting their friends I’d never met and asking for addresses. Where was this confidence in 7th grade talking to boys? Strike that, in college talking to boys. I guess it’d be weird asking for their addresses though. “Hey, aren’t you in my Psych 101 class? Yeah, so what’s your address?”

But this is where things turned. For the worse, if you asked Ryan. For the better, if you asked me.

Ah, the After Party.

For my in-laws.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYeah, I went for it.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI blatantly disregarded the phallic shape of the bottle and giggly wrapped the presents. Giggling mostly because of Ryan’s mortification. In discussing anything even remotely sexual with parents in general, he said “Carrie, guys are visual, okay? Girls are disgusting.”

But those cigarettes. I’ve hung onto that pack for two years now. They were originally during a first-time dinner date with a girl I’d met at a Hip Mamas meet-up and her husband. Did you catch that? It was basically our first time meeting them, and I laid out cigarettes next to our salad plates. It was an experiment based on a chapter from the Emily Post of Etiquette book. I never expected the turn it took. Wanna read it? Click here.

The leftover pack of cigs have been moved from mobile home to townhome to house and miraculously none were broken. Or smoked. How one was not placed in my hand after my 2 hour delivery of Annie, I have no clue. I could’ve just hung out in the birthing pool with a cigarette and bottle of Cristal while everyone bustled around me that first hour afterwards.

The night before we headed back to visit his parents, Ryan went to a fashion show to support his friend from KC who was showing his collection. His texts that night cracked me up. He said he wish he’d had a friend with him who’d actually laugh at what was coming down the runway. Because everyone took it way too seriously.

You know, when a girl walked down holding a shelving unit around her face.

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Or wearing a doile around her head.doile

My friend, Jesyka, said, “You don’t question fashion, Carolyn. I will be wearing a doile on my face this spring.” She should’ve gone with Ryan.

After the show, he met up with his friend Christian (from ChristianMicaheal) who incidentally also does historical reeanctments, one of which we visited several years ago.  At some point Ryan offered up our home for them to stay at that weekend since we’d be out of town. No big deal, I’d have done the same thing.

But when did he tell me this info? The day we were to leave for Wichita and only after I’d convinced myself to just leave the house a wreck because who cares, it’ll be a mess as soon as we walk back in the house. For some reason, I have to leave the house immaculate so that we can walk in the door to a clean home. Not this time though. It was a busy week working on a trip for my dad and I wasn’t in the mood to clean.

After hearing the news that our little home might be hosting some guests, I then had to go in overdrive to make every room look decent. Ruth watched about 12 hours of Barney and who knows where Annie was. By the time Ryan got home, I was frazzled, unkempt, and tired of hearing “I’m hungry” all day long. We got into our van and drove an hour longer to get to Wichita because one had to pee and then the other had to eat and the other had pee and the other had a blowout and then our van only drives 65 at the most and I couldn’t sleep because I have this asinine idea that if I fall asleep so will the driver and I was already tired from Annie getting up in the night and and and and. You people with young kids get it.

I was done.

And then we pulled up, was thanked heartily for our gift and I remembered.

The cigarettes.

“Don’t judge me, I need a cigarette now.” Julie must have seen a look in my eye because she ran to her bedroom and brought them out. I took one, went onto their back deck, stared into the dark acreage with the wind in my hair, and listened to… nothing. Nothing except me smoking that thing like it was made of gold. I closed my eyes and just inhaled. It was kinda like Clark Griswold’s wife, but more peaceful.

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I feel like I should now start a DARE program so Ruthie and Annie don’t think I’m advocating it, but dang. It was darn near perfect that night.

Thank you ornery After Party gift.

The rest of the weekend was really nice too. That night we stayed up until after midnight talking and tried sleeping in the next day. Actually, now that I think about it, I did! 8:30! Boo-yah. We lounged around some more until we met up with Ryan’s grandma.

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I wish Ruth would feel comfortable at their place. I mean, don’t be a wallflower, jeez. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShe was so busy. I think she ran circles around the kitchen and living room for 3 hours straight.

Then she ran circles around the couch.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
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They were both wore out and took good naps before going out to eat and then onto the nursing home.

I know I’m going to eat these words, but I’m never afraid taking Ruth out to eat. She normally does really well, probably because food is involved. And that night was no exception. The stars were all aligned for everyone. Dinner went well. Annie ate, then nursed right before going in to see his grandma. No one was fussing, everyone was happy.

We waited in the lobby for her to come out and when she did, she first saw Julie, then me, then Annie and she almost started crying. Later she would say, “I hope you didn’t get a photo of me going crazy. I was just so happy.”

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His grandma (“maw-maw”) cracks me up. She asked if she could take ruthie back to pick out a stuffed animal from her closet. When they returned Ruth was carrying a huge panda bear, bigger than her almost. One time Ryan walked with her down the hallway because she wanted to show off Ruth, and he said she saw someone she wanted to talk to and rammed her scooter into his, almost pushing him backwards down the hall. Julie said she had to have her scooter taken away at one point because she was being too aggressive with it. Along the side you could see skid marks from who knows how many victims.

Ah, that made me smile. She’s still spunky as ever, even in her 90s.

It was a good visit and solidified my love of elderly people. My mom is thinking of volunteering at a retirement/nursing home. I might copy her and do the same. I just want to love on all these people and hear their stories!

The next morning we had a really good bible study and service around the dining room table. When I went on and on about fighting the same shortcomings every single day, Randy hit me with this verse:

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning
-Lamentations 3:22-23

They are new every morning. And that changed my outlook. God is good. God is love. He gives me grace every day. And I’m so thankful.

Afterwards we hopped back in the van to head home. The sun was shining, the girls were happy. It was just a 180 from the Friday before. Plus, we had a friend come along!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShady! The girls are in heaven.
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Shady is not. She’s exhausted. I think she’s used to sleeping all day and ain’t none of that is happening around these parts. Trust me, I’ve tried.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
In other news: SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
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…and on that note, I bid you adieu.

Mother’s Day

….or more like Be a Cry Baby Day.

I honestly don’t remember being this uncomfortable carrying Ruth. Sometimes I think the baby is so far down that it might already be halfway out and I’m just walking around with a baby’s head near my knees staring at people. So I spent the majority of Mother’s Day laying on the couch. I guess that sounds nice, doesn’t it. But then the thoughts and daydreams came… and I started to psyche myself out again about the impending labor. For those of you I’ve texted or emailed during these freak outs, I apologize, but thank you for your rah rah cheers. They’re what I need at the moment.

My pregnant friends and I are all discussing our upcoming plans. And when they start talking about getting epidurals, I  imagine a half-naked man waving palm leaves while feeding them grapes and giving them a pedicure. It sounds wonderful, but I know they still work hard and I totally get why women would want one. I have my own reasons for opting out of the hospital experience, some based on medical practices, but mostly it’s just personal preference. I hate staying in a hospital, period. When I had my appendix out, they strongly suggested I stay one more night, but instead I left and immediately went straight for my couch. I like being at home. That’s pretty much it. I just really like being at home.

So I spent Mother’s Day wondering how I was going to have the energy with a shot lower back and a toddler running around. And you can see it in my face.

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That’s part pain, part exhaustion, part I’m wearing a tight jean skirt to church because it’s all I have clean and I could really give a rat’s ass, part scaredy-pants, part impatience, part hunger, part gratefulness for a beautiful day, part love for my family. But I’d be lying if that last part had to be focused on intensely to even make it in the pie. Why is that the part that’s so easily removed?

It did make it in the pie, though. Because I didn’t change one dirty diaper all weekend. I didn’t clean up after any meal. I was not made to feel guilty for sneaking upstairs for naps. For watching Sesame Street when normally I’d be down in the trenches playing. For barely having any meal plans ready throughout the week. For letting Ruthie throw crayons all over the living room and then asking Ryan to help pick them up. For, in general, being a grumpy butt.

So thank you Ryan, even though you never read my blog. Thank you for picking up the slack without so much a grumble.

Sunday morning I watched my girl get so excited to wear a her red hooker skirt (sorry mom, it just kind of reminds me of those red Christmas candles you put in all your windows one year that made us look like a brothel.) She does love it so and asks to wear it every day. I told her that hooker skirts were not appropriate for church, unlike tight jean skirts.
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I watched Ruthie chase after a black cat. She so reminded me of Alice in Wonderland for some reason. Must be the white tights and black shoes. I’m sure she was hoping to go down the rabbit hole. DSC_7290But no, mean ole mom had to tell her it was time to get in the car. DSC_7293She stomped the whole way there. DSC_7294
And it made me smile. Oddly enough, when she throws a tantrum, those are my biggest laughs of the day.

We grabbed a pizza on the way home, listened to Ruth try to sing along with the cd, and talked about our faith and how it gets stronger every time we leave that place.  We came home, took a historically long nap, and then played outside a bit before watching the Survivor finale and wishing other people would watch that show too.

It wasn’t eventful, it wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t exciting. But it was my day and my life. And I really do love it, even in a too-tight jean skirt.

On Being a Coward

I had mentioned before that during our Les Mis sparring session which included several nights of watching two versions of the movie, Jesyka (her blog here) and I also drooled through basically the whole season of Basketball Wives, had some good serious conversations, and stumbled upon an Extreme Couponing epiphany. Several of the episodes showed people who were not buying groceries to be stored away in some basement apocalyptic shelving unit, but rather were getting these free goods to give to charities.

What a novel idea, we thought.

We vowed by the end of April to try our own feeble attempt at couponing so we could do the same.

I have to be honest, though. I really feel awkward writing posts like this, as if I’m saying “Hi – Look at me! I tried doing something good!!! I’m going to heaven, nanny nanny poo poo stick your head in doo doo.” It really does bother me. But then I remembered the first time I kinda stuck my neck out there to share my attempt at doing good… It was this post (click here), about the homeless bags. Several of you told me that after reading it, have either thrown it out as an idea or have actually done it with friends, bible study groups, etc. And Jesyka even said that it was only after reading that post that she decided to take a chance and post her first ever comment on my blog, thus beginning a strange start to a stranger friendship.

But really, my semi-recent obsession with focusing outward goes back further to this post I wrote: click here.

I’ve always been a “do-er”, which normally entails doing things for myself, for entertainment, but never really focusing on other people. It wasn’t until I had Ruthie, I think, that it started to shift dramatically.

It started to shift so much that Ryan and I began having long talks about how we wanted to raise Ruth, what kind of community (spiritual and otherwise) did we want her surrounded by, what did we want her to learn. This led to us joining another church, being (more) proactive in charities, and taking leaps of faith with friends to try to do. Just try to do. That’s it, really.

Our pastor had a great sermon last Sunday on the need to strike the balance of brain and heart. Studying the bible is awesome and necessary, but you also need passion. And heart. And a certain “umph” to do. Ryan and I are right where we need to be in this spiritual community of studiers/do-ers. I am excited and grateful.

But there’s also friends in my local community that feel just as compelled. They’re not hard to find. You just have to talk about it and commit to trying.

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Jesyka came over one night for a little planning session. We had just started subscribing to the weekend newspaper, so plenty o’coupons were to be had.

In our small town, we don’t have a lot of options as far as retailers go, so the ability to find huge savings was difficult.
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But I do have to say, Walgreens is pretty darn awesome. I’m sure most of you know about the points system and that if you get so many points, it’ll take off five dollar increments towards your next purchase. So we basically looked at this first shopping adventure as a starting off point for the next time…in which we can save even more.

I took cutting out the coupons very seriously.

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And folding the coupons to go into the baseball card plastic holders even more so.
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Check out that skill: Amount off, brand, and expiration date all visible.

Hey, it’s the little things.
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Jesyka tried. I told her to never make that face again. (See? I’m always being charitable, even with my advice.)
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And this is the loot we came up with. We were able to make four packages of all of this and spent, now I can’t remember exactly, was it $25-30 each? So just over ten dollars a package, not so bad. Next time will be better because of all the points we’re accumulating.
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We daydreamed about how to go about handing out these four boxes. She knew of a pregnant woman that was in need of some goods and got it delivered to her through another friend. I knew of a family that lived directly behind us that could use it as well. One of the boys is always riding around our townhomes and talks openly about what they (don’t) eat.

My heart was screaming at me to take one of the boxes to his mom.

But.

I’m a coward.

Everytime I got the cojones to do something, I’d imagine flubbering all over myself when talking to her:

“Hi! I’m Carolyn. I heard you were POOR. Have some food.”

“Hi! We’re helping out the NEEDY, take this food.”

“Hi! Your son’s hungry. Feed him this.”

Ugh. I could not get over my fear of what would come out of my mouth. I know this is when I should’ve taken a deep breath, prayed for the Holy Spirit to help me with words, and just done it. As someone told me once, you can’t fail if you try to do good.

But I just couldn’t. And everytime I see him, I think of a missed opportunity…. Seeing something I put together to directly help a family in need.

Instead, I packed up the boxes, along with an old blanket, and it took it to our town’s food drive/thrift store.

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They were of course happy to receive the items, and I know that they do a lot of good for the community. I think I just wanted to help directly… hand-to-hand. Instead of like “paying towards the administration fees” as I know I’m doing when I donate money to charities.

The good thing is there is always someone in need, always another opportunity. Look around, you’ll see too.

…now back to the regularly scheduled program: Ruthie. And the shoes she put on backwards all by herself.
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Comb My Hair, and other New Year’s Resolutions

Let’s get real. I don’t comb my hair unless company is coming over. And, really, if you’re not English royalty then all you’re getting is a finger run-through before it being thrown back into a ponytail.

Someone must have snuck into my room while sleeping with a straightener, because this photo is about as good as it gets. My hair, that is. They must have also straightened R’s mustache as well. Yuh-ikes. I’m going to add “Trim my freaking ‘stache” to his resolutions.

Look at our daughter. She makes me smile from the inside out. I’m a little nervous about having a second, because this girl is chill and I don’t think we’ll get the same thing twice. How she came to be so laid back from both of our uptight characters, I’ll never know. I’d like to think it started with the somersaults I had to do in the pool at 37 weeks to get her to turn head down.

Speaking of her, do you know what was the top post of 2011? Ruth’s official introduction: Nice to Meet You, she said.  My personal favorite post of 2011? It was a tie: The debut of my baby bump and my home birth! A friend asked the other day if that experience made me leery or eager for another one. And like I told her, on the day of I swore I’d adopt the rest of my kids, but almost every day since I’ve been daydreaming about going through it again. It was both the hardest and most powerful thing I’ve ever accomplished. Click here to read about people staking out in our yard to see my baby bump. And here for when I relived the scene from Coming to America and had a hot tub in my bedroom (aka, my home birth).

As for next year, besides routinely combing my hair, I would also like to:

  • create a family tree for my mother’s side. My dad has this great tree framed and I’d like to recreate it, if possible, by the end of next year. With the help of my family, of course.

  • learn how to sew. I snagged my grandma’s sewing machine out of my sister’s loving hands and would like her to know it wasn’t all for naught. Hopefully I’ll be able to make something better than a trapezoid baby blanket.
  • buy 75% of my clothes at goodwill. The other 25% will probably be from Eddie Bauer. Ryan is aware that I run around behind his back with Ed, and fully approves. We have an open relationship.
  • make an effort to get ready in the morning. See above: combing hair. This also includes breakfast. Yes, we skip occasionally.
  • create a weekly meal plan. R and I talked, we’re going to go simple with our meals, with maybe one fancy dinner every now and then. I don’t know why I feel guilty if it isn’t a Cheesecake Factory knockoff with a bajillion ingredients, so I need to get over this. Soups, tuna patties, meatloaf.. These are all good. And easy. And cheap.

My Aunt S and I starting the ancestral process. Remember those long sheets of printer paper? I’d love to make a Happy Birthday sign from it again.

  • make sourdough bread. The thought of reducing ingredients in staples (ie: bread) makes me happy, like in this instance: store-bought yeast. I can do this, despite my anxiety.
  • run a half-marathon. October. I can do this. I’ll probably have to wear a hat with a piece of chocolate cake dangling in front of me, but I can do this.

Ruthie is intrigued. I hope she’s as obsessed with the past as I am. I’ll give you five seconds to try and find my parent’s newspaper stash. Go.

  • Pay off our car loan and some (if not all) of my school loans. We have paid off R’s undergrad and graduate loans, along with one car loan in the last few years. Selling our house, then living in a dorm room and now a shack has helped. We literally smell how close we are to having zero debt.  I remember Dave Ramsey calling those school loans “pets” that we pay on a little each month. It’s like we just assume it will be a monthly expense. R and I are working hard to eradicate that cloud over us.
  • lose this baby weight! I gained a whopping 55 lbs and have only lost 30 so far. 10 of those went straight into Ruthie’s thigh rolls which I love. But the ones still on me… not so much.

…starting the branches…

  • And lastly, I would like to grow more in my spirituality and give God the thanks He deserves. I sometimes congratulate only myself on accomplishments or achievements made. He is the rock that has helped me and He is who I need to give the glory to. Upon waking in the morning, I should open my eyes and immediately thank Him for another day in which I can become redeemed.

That’s my list. I have several more, but am afraid of getting overwhelmed. Come April 1st, we’ll see how well I’ve done in the first quarter.

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Years and best wishes in 2012.

A Cabin, Snowman Family, and Plastic Surgery?

Now onto some of my favorite parts of Christmas with the in-laws:

1. Misty mornings on the lake. One of R’s coworkers graciously let us use her family’s cabin for the weekend. It was more than we could have asked for. You just can’t beat this view.

2. Waking up to our Christmas Canoe filled with presents!

3. FIL preparing his lesson on Jesus’ birth for our Christmas morning church service together. We decided to stay in and break bread with just the family, which resulted in an intimate, lovely experience. I was most worried about singing in front of everyone, but that melted away with the first verse. I’m seriously considering this becoming a Christmas tradition for my little family.

4. Getting our family portrait made. This one was my favorite. Ruth cracks me up.

5. And the pièce de résistance: making snowmen. Can you tell she’s a preschool teacher? They are the only ones that can explain things to me in ways I’ll understand. Plus, she allows for nap time. The only weird part is when she stands outside the bathroom door waiting to make sure I wiped from front to back.

I was a wee bit nervous making crafts with these two because creativity oozes out of their every pore. Visual arts are not my thing. I can hardly play hangman without someone asking what exactly is being hanged. What is that? A walrus? No, a person. Then why are there tusks coming out of the face. Those are the arms. You lose.

What. I can’t take critiques well.

So I couldn’t help squealing at R’s ‘professor with a combover’ creation. Complete with a bow-tie.

I tried hiding my recreations of our family, but alas, they were found.

We staged a scene from our life:

R comes home, eyes red with anger from something that annoyed him at work, and vents to his wife, who apparently has been cast in the next season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and is recovering from the obligatory facial plastic surgery. You know, the kind where the nose creates those weird tight wrinkles when they smile? I guess I just don’t understand plastic surgery (and Botox) for vanity’s sake. Reconstruction surgery is one thing. But plastic surgery? I mean, why not spend your money on something more substantial, like bulk Cheese Puffs from Sam’s Club. Now that I’ll firmly stand behind.

Back to the scene:

Wife tries to roll her bandaged, but unwrinkley eyes and hears her baby crying, happy for an excuse to escape the onslaught of frustration.

Darling, the baby is hungry. Let me get her.

(You can tell this is a fictional scene as I used a term of endearment.)

Okay, now go on with your story, honey, while I nurse Ruthie.

End Scene.

And just so you know, R added the cradle cap on little Ruth.

Gotta keep it lifelike, you know.

——–

P.S. An update on diapers. When she was born, we had been given some disposables diapers for her current size & weight. So I used this long weekend as an opportunity to use them. After starting her on cloth at six weeks, I was curious to try them again.

The verdict? I was very happy to get back to my cloth. Despite what you may think, it certainly wasn’t any easier using disposables. They were obviously thinner, which was nice when putting on her tights. I don’t know if the tights would have made it over her bulky cloth ones. However, there was just a different feel about them. I can’t explain it. My friend, J, had mentioned that there is a certain smell to disposables that you don’t notice unless you’re away from them. I was somewhat skeptical, but now know exactly what she means. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s not horrible, but it just smells… well, you know how the hospital or doctor’s room smells? That rubber glove kinda overly sterilized sort of stench? I picked up on it right away. I know you’re rolling your eyes, but I’m serious and not just touting the cloth diaper horn to make me feel better. I did like that I didn’t have to think about the snaps at 3am, but that can be remedied by using velcro only for night changes.

I’m just saying that I feel good about my choice in going cloth. I’m not as stressed out about it as I thought I’d be and think they’re just as easy as disposables. Dollars saved in this department is also a big bonus as R and I discuss our 2012 financial goals. One less necessity to buy. Plus, it saves room in the budget for more cheese puffs. And that’s always a good thing.

You’ve got that lovin’ feeling…

After I wrote my post on “The Balance” between enjoying life and helping those in it, our friend T immediately invited us over for a patio fire and discussion. While I didn’t get to hang out by the fire that much (Ruthie has taken quite a liking to this thing called milk), we did collectively agree that we need to move past talking and into doing. Do, do, do. Action speaks louder than words kind of thing.

As he wrote in an email: …it’s a big deal, you know, loving people and pointing them to God. I think it’s the reason for our existence.

That pretty much sums it up, now doesn’t it.

And so we decided to start meeting on a regular basis to make word on our decision, and I’ll be documenting each get together. My intent is not to boast about our doings in hopes that your estimation of me will rise (although, I think we can all agree that with my track record it wouldn’t take much to see an improvement. Oh look honey, she took out the trash. She’s a saint) but rather it’s for encouragement. If I told no one, I’d still be tickled pink… however we need to be each others’ cheerleader and inspiration. As my mom said, “You never know what ripples you may cause..” Would T have asked us over to have such a pointed conversation? Probably, in time. But maybe that post helped speed up the process.

Also, I’ll be sharing these to give you ideas. I think we could all use a little help that department. I certainly didn’t come up with Blessing Bags (to give to homeless people on the street. Keep them in your car and deliver as needed.) I happened to be reading one blog that linked to another blog that linked to another and there you have it, the internet. It’s a wonderful thing.

For our first get together, I invited everyone to The Shack (you know, to keep us humble) for chili, vino, and bag-making.

I set up all the items, buffet style. This would be the first time people actually got around our table in what would be, let me see… how old is ruth, over two months. Normally we find a spot that’s easy to collapse into, shove our face and then grab her so the other can eat.

I had offered to buy everyone’s items, but T wanted his son to be a part of the entire process. This is something I had not considered, and love. Our children need to know these things didn’t just come out of thin air. We are setting aside money (and time) for people…. because they are that important to us.

Ruth slept through the buying trip.

Here’s what we put into the gallon-sized bag:

  • Cough Drops
  • Socks
  • Tylenol
  • Band-Aids
  • Gum
  • Combs
  • Kleenex
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste
  • Handi-Wipes
  • Granola Bars
  • PB Crackers
  • Mouthwash
  • Chapstick

Along with a scripture:

(you can print this and many others off from here)

Ro had a great idea of including feminine hygiene products, like maxi-pads, in future bags. Again, that’s something I’ve never considered before. This group thing is already working out… throwing out suggestions to keep our minds thinking.

She and her boys came over to have a glass of wine and chit-chat before the dads came home… if you call chit-chatting me spending who knows how long in the bedroom trying to get Ruthie to sleep. How nice am I? Hi! C’mon in… hey, hang tight for a couple hours while I hole myself up in the bedroom, ‘kay? There’s some Comet under the sink for J to drink, just make yourself at home.

Because we quickly realized that The Shack is not baby-proof. Unless Comet really is on the menu, then I’m the most thoughtful host on the block. I found some locks and plug-in covers and her oldest ran around sticking them in for me. The covers, not his fingers.

He also kept an eye (or ear, to be more precise) out for Ruthie. Several times throughout the evening he would run up to me and say, “Miss Carrie! Ruth is crying.”  Oh, huh, kinda forgot she was back there with all the excitement.

The dads came home and we squealed as J walked his longest stretch yet to his papa.

Then another big and little friend came over. C’s wife is out of the country at the moment, otherwise she would have been there front and center with us. We ate a quick dinner and got to work. Side note: I cannot eat chili anymore while nursing Ruth. I think that’s self-explanatory.

And while it made me happy to see this unfold:

These are what really inspired me… seeing the future generation in on the action:


Little S-man, right in the thick of things. This guy is hilarious. The first thing he said to me when he walked in was, “Miss Carrie, we saw some animals that you may be interested in eating.” Well, don’t mind if I do, S. I love me some chickens!

And this blue-eyed boy… too young to partake in the bag-stuffing, but soaking it all in. Seeing and then imitating!

And this girl. Oh, B! After petting Ruth’s head and calling her Bee-bee, she hopped onto a chair and got straight to work… like she was born on an assembly line.

Even Ruthie jumped in. Sort of. She was more concerned with keeping her head up than putting a purple comb into a baggie, but we all have priorities, I guess.

(source)

By the end of the night, I was one happy mama. We ate and talked and laughed…which is what we normally would have done anyway, so why not throw a little ‘do good’ in the mix?

Drop me a line, I’d love to hear your stories.  And if you have any ideas for us to tackle, please send them my way!

My Birth Story – More detail than you ever wanted to know

Most of you are just dying to know the details of my homebirth….not. But there are some of you who are genuinely interested. And for you three, here it is (and it’s partly for me, too, because I’d like to have a written account for those 12 hours of my life.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, the night before Ruthie was born we went to see a concert in a nearby town. I waddled my way around and joked with the girls that this baby was gonna be danced out. I bought a bag of Tootsie Roll pops, passed them around, and silently cursed my swollen ankles. Earlier that week, I had had daily talks with the baby, reassuring it that it was free to stay right where it was or it could come early. I stressed the early part though, hoping for relief from my burgeoning body.

We arrived home around 11:30 and climbed into bed. I don’t think I even washed my face I was so tired.

Then I woke up at 12:30, felt weird, blamed the Banana Tootsie Roll pops (seriously? Who likes those, but you know that didn’t stop me from eating 5 in a row) and dropped back off to sleep. An hour later I awoke to a wet bed.  Other women have said they thought they peed their pants, and they’re not alone, because I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that my water broke for 5 solid minutes. So I woke up R, who I felt made a big show of scrambling out of bed. “Settle.” I said, “This isn’t the movies.”

And thus begins R’s marathon of patience with me.

Seriously.

He deserves a medal. Or a baby. Either one.

We called our midwife around 1:45am and apologized for waking her up. Surprisingly she was already awake and was finishing up another birth a couple towns away. A girl in our birthing class was due a couple of weeks earlier than me and we joked about fighting over Janessa. Turns out we barely missed having that throw down. Thank goodness too, because this girl had some killer eyeliner going on, and I just don’t trust people with perfectly applied eyeliner. She’d kick my butt, I’m sure of it.

So Janessa suggested that even though she knew we were excited, to try to go back to sleep and call her in a few hours.

We decided to call our parents since they were coming from 4 hours away, and then agreed to rest.

But first I wanted to take some scary model photos in the pool. Take a look at that sleepwear too. I call it Farmhouse Sexy. Don’t judge, it was comfy.

I had debated about whether to use the pool at all during the birthing process until Janessa said that it’s the “Midwives’ epidural”. Sold. And I’m so glad I did. As soon as it was filled with warm water, my contractions were well on their way and man, the water felt wonderful.

After my photo shoot I tried sleeping, but the contractions were just slightly too much. Not enough where I couldn’t check facebook or order R about, but a bit more than would let me doze. I went into ‘hostess mode’ and began picking up around the Shack, defrosted the stew, and lit incense everywhere. I was also obsessed with getting lemonade ready and the dishes washed. If neither of those had been done, I’m pretty sure little Ruth would still be sleeping soundly in my belly to this day.

After asking R to please clean the toilets & tubs (Yes. That was second priority after lemonade), I asked him to go to Walmart for some bagels & donuts. All the meals had to be covered for the party that was coming over. You know, because I seriously thought we were going to play Charades and Twister, y’all. And you just can’t get a good left hand on a red dot without donuts in you.

When R returned home about an hour later, I was on hands and knees with my head on the couch. Things were progressing, but it was short and bearable. That position just felt the best. That, and rocking in the chair.

[Side note] I never, ever, ever, ever, ever thought there would be a photo of me in my undies posted on this darn blog. I guess you should never say never (ever, ever, ever, ever.)

At this point, we figured we may as well start timing the contractions, but didn’t know the rules. So yes, we googled it. And it was about this time that I figured out I was a moaner. I always imagined how I’d labor.. would I be quiet or loud? Stationary or mobile? A sailor or saint? Well now I know. I’m a loud, mobile sailor.

A couple of hours later things were really starting to pick up  and R was running back and forth filling up the tub with pots of boiling water, trying to get the right temp. He was also keeping track of the contractions. One disastrous time, he asked, “Did the contraction start?” This really annoyed me. Didn’t I just start moaning, or was that not big enough of a clue. So I snapped, “Figure it out.”

R got scared then. We remember Janessa saying, “When she starts snapping at you, I should be there.” At the time, we joked that she should come to our house right then. But this was my first growl during the labor and R did figure it out. That he shouldn’t talk to me anymore.

The contractions started coming less than 5 minutes apart and then steadily closer and closer. We had called Janessa about an hour earlier (around 8:30am) and he held up the phone so she could hear how I sounded. She and I talked and I remember not caring about silences in the conversation. That was a signal that something was happening. I always care about silences. She said she’d take a shower and be there afterwards. Remember, she had just gotten home around 4am from another birth. I just can’t imagine the exhaustion. I’m so grateful, though, because I’m sure if I were in the hospital I’d get whoever was on call, not necessarily the OB with whom I’d built a relationship.

So it’s now around 10am and Janessa still hadn’t arrived. R was getting really nervous. The contractions were seemingly right after one another, I’d get a quick breath, and then pow! There came another. I’d waffle between laying my head on the edge of the pool, or laying back on my elbows, propping up my back and swaying from side to side. The feel of the water across my belly was soothing. In between breathing through the contractions in order to keep me from tensing up, I was now moaning really loudly and deeply. Janessa’s voice kept coming back to me (If your lips above are loose, so will your lips below be.) TMI? Just wait, it gets better.

After hearing those moans, R thought that the baby was imminent and called Janessa to let her know we’d be going to the hospital if she wasn’t here soon. He was panicking. Just as he left the message, she called and said “Getting anxious?” and that she had just pulled into the drive.

He breathed a sigh of relief as she and her apprentice, Dana, swooped in and immediately got to work. You just feel the competence as they worked around you, that was one of the reasons we decided to go through her. Not just because of glowing recommendations, but in that first conversation with her. We asked all the normal “Who would ever be crazy enough to have a home birth” questions. She answered them in such detail that calmed us immediately.

And that’s how it was for R when she came. Instant relief. They said he was running around like a hummingbird, but finally started to settle down and focus on me. I was wrapped up in my own little world at this time, but their presence made me feel better too. Partly so I could know how I was progressing.

She checked the baby’s heartbeat (sounded great!) and then me. I was at a 7 and she said, You’re gonna have this baby, mama! Crapola, I was farther than I thought.

After hearing both of these things, R forgot cardinal rule #1 and said, “Oh Carrie, Did you hear that? You’re doing great!”

I looked at him and said something which I will deny having said until the end of time. I do not remember saying it and if I did, I’ve already apologized to R and am quite embarrassed.

A sailor’s n da haaayouse!

But R didn’t get his feelings hurt and went back to holding my head and blowing on my forehead. Silently.

Out the window, I heard my parents arrive in their RV (aka: the waiting room. However, I’m sure our neighbors thought we were just adding onto the shack. “Oh, look Henry. They’re building a wing to their shack. How lovely”) My mom was originally going to be in the room with us, but at this point I did not want any new people around me. We four had already gotten into a rhythm that I was afraid to mess with. R went out to tell break the news to her, but mom immediately understood. We can always count on that… her understanding.

I was unaware that R had even left, but he quickly came back (after moving his car because my dad had to park the RV in his spot?? Poor R. He runs out there and is immediately ordered about. Nevermind that his wife’s in labor. I guess bossiness is genetic.)

The only time R could talk without me biting his head off was when he whispered prayers in my ear. I could be in the middle of a strong one and just hearing him pray for me gave me more strength than I thought I had. It was wonderful.

After a prayer, I changed positions onto my hands and knees and apologized to Dana for her having to stare at my butt. She joked that I had a nice butt, but that she wasn’t checking me out. I just stared at her.

Didn’t even laugh.

In my head I even said, “For God’s sake, Carrie, at least smile!” But I just couldn’t. And she hurriedly said, “Just kidding.”

Being a good hostess – fail.

I don’t care if you’re edging on 9cm, you always laugh at your guests jokes.

At 11:30am I started getting the urge to push. At least I thought it was an urge to push. I couldn’t tell if I just wanted to push for push’s sake or if my body was telling me to. So Janessa measured me again and sure enough I was at a 10 and that I was fully dilated. If it feels right, start pushing, mama!

F*ck.

Yes, that’s what I said. And I own that one, at least. I couldn’t believe I had made it to the pushing stage. It was like I had already won. At one point during the transition part of labor (when you’re going from 7 to 10cm), I begged someone to tell me when this would be over. Dana grabbed my hand and reminded me that it was the shortest, but most intense part. It wasn’t going to last as long as the first two stages.

So hearing that I could now do something besides simply enduring…. You bet I dropped the F-bomb.

And thus begins the idealistic thought process of how long I thought it would take to push this little baby out. I swear, when I was with my sister in the delivery room, it took her 2 grunts, three pushes, and out came baby. So I figured it would be the same for me. Nope, talk about 2 hours.

For the first sixty minutes, I started off on my elbows in the water, then on my hands and knees. Throughout it all, the baby’s heartbeat was good. But it was just moving very slowly through the canal. Janessa asked me to put my hand inside (sorry folks!) and feel the baby’s head. I said No. She asked again for me to do it , so I did and felt a nerf football. No joke! But it didn’t really motivate me, which is what I think she was going for, because it still felt way up there (to me). Apparently I don’t have a good idea of how long my canal is. Note to self: measure birth canal before going into labor.

She then suggested that I squat while hanging onto R’s shoulders as this would help push the baby through the canal. I was so physically tired at this point, that it was hard for me to keep my balance. R held me in place (and later complained that his shoulders hurt. Oh sorry, honey. You deserve a massage. You know, because you didn’t go through labor?) So I’d switch between squatting and leaning back on my elbows again.

She then told me to stand up and hang onto R. My legs were shaky and I felt like I was going to fall down if R wasn’t there. I wanted to go back onto my elbows, but if Janessa thought this would bring the baby quicker, I wasn’t about to argue.

After 30 minutes of squatting and standing, we moved to the bed. Janessa took out some olive oil and started to lube me up (sorry!) throughout the rest of the process. At one point, I remember her asking how often we had done the perineal massages. R said, Oh a few times. and she replied, You should’ve done it more. Too late, woman! But that did worry me. I’ve been hardly able to say the ‘T’ word throughout this whole pregnancy. (Tear – as in tearing a piece of paper, or you know, tearing a vagina. I can’t believe I just wrote that. But I’m leaving it.) So hearing her admonish us made me nervous.

The nervousness faded away as soon as they brought out the mirror. What the.

Dana asked me to look in the mirror. I said, No. She waited a few seconds and then calmly said I really think you should look in the mirror, Carolyn in her baby/pregnant woman whisperer voice. So I relented and looked and could just barely see the head emerging. It was getting close. R was holding my hand, Janessa was still lubing me up, and Dana was sending out her calm vibes. I could feel the baby move forward with each push and heard Janessa say, Don’t rest in between, build on that push!!

When I did rest, I could feel the baby move back up a little. So after feeling that, I’d do a long push, take a quick breath and then push hard again.

After 20 minutes, that darn mirror was pulled out again. I looked into it, and low and behold the head was almost out.

Janessa whispered, “You’re almost there. Baby can hear and sense us. There’s five of us in the room right now. Ease up on the pushing, let the contractions do the work.”

That was hard. I wanted to push hard and get her out fast, but still had to control it so as not to tear. After a few more contractions that I mildly helped along, I gave a final big push and out she came. Immediately I leaned back and closed my eyes. R was ecstatic and kept rubbing my head and telling me how proud he was.

This was our raw reaction to what just happened. I swear I was happy.

When I opened them, Janessa was holding her out for me. I stared at her for what felt like 5 minutes (R later said that he didn’t think I liked her, because I had no expression on my face. I was just tired.) We saw that it was a girl and she was laid on my chest. I leaned back again and closed my eyes, only to open them when R said, “Oh RuthAnn!”

RuthAnn?? That name was ruled out years ago, fella. So I had to remind him that it was Ruth Margaret.

R ran to the RV and gave my parents the news. We heard them yell and clap. (My parents later said that they thought they heard me in labor and then a baby’s cry. Turns out it was the neighbor’s goat. Thanks.) He then called his parents and his voice cracked when giving them the news. Everyone started to come over and tailgate by the RV as we were getting cleaned up.

Baby was weighed and measured (8 lbs, 20 inches) and I was given some herbs to take because I was bleeding a bit too much. I did not need stitches though, so I considered that a win, but I did lose enough blood that standing up made me dizzy. The herbal bath that mom & baby get to take would have to be on hold for the next night. (We want to do this bath again. Ruth just unfolded into the water and swayed back and forth. I think that might have been the first time I squealed at our new friend.)

After about an hour, the family started filing in and thus begins the series of scary photographs of me in my wrinkled t-shirt.

Sigh.

Well, you made it through this story. That was probably as difficult as labor itself. But I do have one more thing to mention to those who read about my previous fear of not having enough time to, well, groom…

I couldn’t care less about shaving my legs/bikini line. Take that, razor. And my apologies to R, Dana, & Janessa.

Resolutions

I’m copying Ashley and listing my goals for this year as well. Already, I’ve broken one of them today when we got lost a couple hours ago, but am now hyper-sensitive to it.

1. Quit cussing. Especially when lost. Although a nice F-bomb really does make you feel better every once in while.

2. Do one round of Power 90. I have a good 1.75 hours before having to pick up R from work. Why can’t I squeeze this in?

3. By eliminating those almost 2 hours of free time, it will help me spend LESS TIME ON THE INTERNET. Because we watch TV on it, email through it, write my blog with it, ugh… too much time. Setting a reading goal every month will help as well. I can’t decide to set the goal by number of pages or number of books.

4. No Coke. And by coke, I mean all of those sweet carbonated beverages. Growing up, we never drank it, why am I addicted to it now? R gave it up for all of last year and spent the past two days getting refill after refill in celebration. My mouth was watering. It sucked.

Side Note: Is ‘sucked’ considered a cuss word? If not, I may add it anyway. Along with ‘crap’.

5. Use a wider vocabulary: That’s crap -> That’s rubbish.  This sucks -> This vexes me.

6. Spending an hour each morning praying and reading the One Year Bible. All I have to do is get up an hour earlier.

Tortoise and the Hare meets Hoosiers

It was almost one in the morning on Friday night when I heard the snickering outside our dorm window. J & T had arrived.

Finally.

R & I had decided to camp out in the living room and let our guests sleep in the loft bed. Aren’t we nice. They would’ve probably been more comfortable on the couch.

But maybe that was a tactic to sabotage them. No one will ever know…and I’ll never admit it.

More snickering. We opened the door and let them in. “T was laughing at your bikes!!” yells J as they roll in their seriously serious mountain bikes. Freshly bought a month earlier at an actual bike store. No joke. Those bikes were… serious.

And we instantly had bike envy.

I rubbed my eyes and with a knee-jerk reaction, barked at them “We got them on Craigslist for 30 bucks. Leave them alone! I mean it!”

Welcome to Arkansas. Where the moment guests walk through the door, a fight breaks out. Anyone else want to visit?
Don’t you listen to them, cheap Walmart Craiglist bikes. You are special.

At first, it had nothing to do with how well made the bikes were. T was really worried that our bikes would fall apart while on a trail and we’d have to get them surgically removed from you-know-where.

The danger awaiting us is really what kept me up most of Friday night. Maybe that was their sabatoge. Okay, I get it now.

For a girl who shares a mid-90s car with her husband, lives in a pseudo dorm room, and buys most of her clothes on Goodwill Dollar days (can I not even pay full price at the goodwill??), a name brand bike should have been the least of her worries.

And it was. That is, until morning hit.

I woke up before the alarm went off and hurridly ran to wake up everyone else. We had bikes to fix, breakfast to eat, and other mandatory race items to buy!

J had an extra bike seat and T insisted R use it. He was afraid we’d never be able to have kids with the seat Walmart provided. I was right on T’s heels also insisting a better seat, but now it was only partly for safety reasons and mostly to fit in with this illusive bike crowd.

Maybe if we have a better seat, they won’t notice the huge ROADMASTER decal on the side.

When we arrived at the starting point, I made R put the bikes in the transition station for us without me. Man, this was going to my head! I had better get focused, I thought.

Okay. Let’s review how R and I trained for this event. Well, we paid our entrance fees a few months in advance. Then we waited until something nagged at the back of our heads that something was coming up. It felt like that something was something we should be training for. But what was it exactly? Oh, right, right. A little race with J & T where mid-way I’m sure we’ll stop for a picnic of cheese and wine.

That was it: a steady regimine of complete denial. Along with a few vitamins thrown in for good measure.

We had absolutely no clue. But it was too late now, the show was about to begin.

The first thing we had to do was plot out the checkpoints. We were given coordinates and, by using a UTM reader & topography map, created a general outline of the route.

Just this caused me to drink half my water and lie on the ground. What had I gotten myself into.

Once we compared notes, the four of us took off. We were separate teams but hung out with each other until slow-poke Carrie pulled her team back.

The weather: it. was. gorgeous. And I’m glad it was this way, otherwise, I don’t know if we’d have very fond memories. Not that threatening to get a divorce on a canoe as well as almost throwing up a chimichanga at a mystery event were really fond memories…. but at least it was nice out. We can always say we had that.

This is how the race was described:
  • hike/trek 8 miles
  • water activity
  • bike 20 miles
  • perfect for a first time racer!

This is how it really went:

  • Run until your sides hurt
  • Lift 1000 lbs
  • Get lost
  • Get back on track
  • Run until your sides hurt
  • Canoe across a lake until your arms hurt
  • Get divorced
  • Turn circles back to land because you can’t make the canoe go straight for one measly second
  • Jump onto a bike
  • Ride until your legs hurt
  • Eat a chimichanga and start to heave
  • Apologize to person who made chimichanga saying that if you hadn’t been in this race, you could’ve positively pounded those down.
  • Ride until your legs hurt.
  • Play putt-putt and get a hole in two.
  • Cry.
  • Ride until your legs hurt.
  • Finish.
  • Get remarried.

Sprinkle in a few curse words & tumbles on the bike and there you have it. Sound like fun?

But there’s more than that. Here’s what happened.

Slow poke Carrie kept her team back. So J & T went ahead of us. …and ahead of us. …and ahead of us… leaving me the only person to watch R trip on every frigging tree root on the trail. I was tired, people. And everything was ticking me off, especially tripping on tree roots.

Poor R.

J & T were so far ahead of us, though, that when R and I reached the canoes we asked where team number 27 was, and he looked at us pityingly (side note: did he know what bikes we rode? was that why he looked at us that way?) and said, “Oh, yeah. They’ve been out on the water already for 20 minutes.”

I could’ve sworn he called me a slow poke as we picked up our canoe. Whatever.

So we climbed into the boat and I knew this was really going to test us. We had once gone on a date way back when, where we took a canoe out onto a lake … and almost broke up then. And that was during the first phase of dating, where nothing made you mad about the other person.

Now we were paddling with 6 years worth. It was… interesting, to say the least. (In my defense, when R told his coworkers about the race, one of them mentioned that canoeing is the single hardest thing to do with a spouse… this was before R said anything about our short-lived divorce. So there.)

We kept our position out on the lake, which at this point was 7th-ish. There were two other co-ed teams ahead of us, including our friends.

Next came the bikes. I purposely slowed us down until we could transition onto them without anyone in the area.

No, not really. But I wanted to. Let’s just say, I was happy to put on a helmet and cover up my beaming red face. Darn you, T. Get out of my head!

We rode up and down some major hills until finally finding the street of our next checkpoint, which happened to be in a neighborhood. This was the chimichanga event, and so we had to park our bikes. Guess who parked theirs behind a car on the street. Look, I’m not proud of it.

We walked across the lawn and asked the now irritating question, “How far ahead is team #27?”

“They haven’t come yet.”

Shut the front door, I thought. Or maybe I said it out loud. At this point, I was saying a lot of things out loud.

“You are kidding.”

“No, we’re not. You’re team #3.”

After I downed the chimichanga, we jumped back onto our bikes and took off. As we turned the corner, guess who came around in their gleaming, sparkly, seriously serious bikes? J & T. That’s right, folks: eat. our. dust.

I raised my arm and yelled, “Go craigslist walmart bikes!” and off we went.

After a few more checkpoints and spots on the trail where I know R was silently thanking T for the seat change, we saw the finish line.

Oh, the glorious glorious finish line. After 4.25 hours, I was ready to sit down and have a beer. Not a chimichanga though.

Unbelievably, we stayed in third for the rest of the way and ended up winning first in the co-ed division.

I’ve never won anything, let alone a race…so this was exciting for us (me). Our bikes did it. They did it. It was a classic underdog fable.

But I still wheeled them to a discreet location immediately after dismounting.

Afterwards, we drove a short ways to Eureka Springs and, on the way, called random places to stay. Everything was full because of a folk music festival going on, so we booked the first thing that had a jacuzzi and/or hot tub.

Should it have been awkward to share a place that housed a jacuzzi (for two) in the middle of the living room?

Because it wasn’t.

It was even less awkward that all four of us got into the two-person jacuzzi and sipped champagne.

And less awkward still when after J & I climbed out to lay on the couch and watch National Lampoon’s Vacation (and quickly falling asleep), to hear R & T clink champagne glasses while toasting our future families.

It was awesome. We had such a nice night.

trying to get the shot of a lifetime

The next day.

Ouch.

Every fiber of my being was sore and what way to really understand this pain?

Why, by visiting the Christ of the Ozarks.

Such a fun weekend… I can say this now, because the pain has gone away and I am encouraged to actually train for the next one.

We’ve already got plans for a sequel.

And R has plans for a new partner.

Come see me at the Smithsonian!

R sent me an email a few days ago and the subject said “You wanna go to this?”. My eyes got huge b/c it’s normally me who researches places to death and then convinces him that we aren’t really living unless we go to them. So I opened it up and at first I was admittedly disappointed and then excited. I had set the bar high in my head: New York, Cancun, or maybe Austrailia? Nope, it was to a college a few towns away.

It’s a group touring the United States compiling a handwritten copy of the Bible. One person writes one verse each and then their name is indexed in the back. You have to write the same verse twice because one copy is being donated to the Smithsonian and the other will be used for resale purposes.

R was nervous that he would have to copy one of the Ten Commandments and then would forget to write the word ”not” in it, causing someone to really believe murdering is acceptable.

We decided to meet each other up there and by the time we got close, it was already dark. Mapquest failed to mention that a key street was closed, yet there was no detour showing the alternate way to get to the college. Now guys, there’s a few times in my life when I get cranky… okay more than a few, but these are the most common: when I’m hungry, when I’m lost, and when my hair feels greasy. Well, tonight I was all three. Those, coupled with my road rage, causes me to become a seriously mouthy sailor. I know that’s redundant. I’m making a point. A sailor would think I was mouthy. And that it was nighttime didn’t help, because then I know people can’t see my lips moving and so I can be as loud and obnoxious as I want.

But here’s the ironic part… Read the verse I had to write (Matthew 15:11.) I’m just sayin…

I guess ours could have been worse.

One of my co-workers is a justice of the peace and will randomly marry couples in our building. A young couple eloped in one of our classrooms today.

I didn’t think anything would have been worse than where R and I got hitched. When our original building’s roof blew off from a tornado a month before the date, we scrambled and found a little church in the same town.

They positioned their church as “from the 1800s”. We later found out that only the stones used to build the church were from the 1800s…and really, doesn’t that include just about every stone anywhere? Anyway, we attended a service to check it out and after it ended, what happened was straight out of “Children of the Corn”. The entire congregation turned around with their arms outstretched and walked zombie-like to greet us. It was terrifying.

I noticed a paint-by-number “Last Supper” and R spotted Jesus’ hologrammed rookie card. We were sold.

Old School

Good news, we’ve got internet. Bad news, now I have to start looking for a job.

Here’s a rundown of our first few days in Arkansas:
1. We furnished our apartment a la college style.

2. We got a flat on the highway and I had to stare at this optimistic sign for 20 minutes while the tire was changed.

3. Ryan tested the fire alarm and it passed. Who knew a single serving size of popcorn could produce so much smoke.