Friday, December 30, 2011

I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum. . .

Me too, me too.
Aurelia and Ari as Ari and Uzi

The Originals
One of my ultimate favorite things about living "back home" is the chance to see friends when they come home for visits.  You know those friends that would be part of your regular crew if you only lived about 5 hours closer to each other?  That's how we feel about Team Cheney.  And of course, it's always nice to have a chance to shamelessly exploit our children for a cute photo op.  

And Cheney, we need to have a little chat.  Ari was definitely going for the hand hold in that first photo.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All is calm, all is bright

Ah, Christmas.  I feel like I'm still basking in the gloriousness of the holiday.  It was a fantastic week, weekend, and day.  And I think that I'm upgrading the week between Christmas and New Year's to one of my favorite weeks of the year.  I love the time to relax after all the hustle and bustle and reflect over the last year.  What a great chance to start things out refreshed and ready to tackle new goals.   But first, let's talk some more about Christmas.

I have to admit, in the days leading up to December 25th there was a little too much hustle and bustle for me.  I don't know if it's my overly emotional state (i.e. I cried at Home Alone and Elf), our tendency to pack too much in to too little time (i.e. morning shopping trip with sister, movie with the family, and Zoolights all in the same day), my diet of fruitcake and bonbons, or the fact that we're doing all of this with a teething, napping, generally high needs little one who has gone to sleep in a pack-n-play or carseat every night for the last week. . . but my whelmage meter was definitely verging on brink of meltdown around Friday night.  Poor Joey had to deal with this very emotional woman who finally reached her limit when the one thing I couldn't handle was plugging my phone into the charger before crashing into bed.  Thankfully, I woke up the next morning further away from the ledge.  The turning point was the message on the front of the cards we delivered to our neighbors with their plates of cookies, "All is calm, all is bright."  It turned out to be a nice little mantra for me over the next 48 hours.  Not only did it remind me to take a deep breath, but it reminded me that the hustle and bustle is supposed to be part of the celebration of "the dawn of redeeming grace." And our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day turned out to be fairly low key and very enjoyable.

Here are some Christmas 2011 highlights:

-Yes, we delivered cookies to our neighbors (as required by the list).  Granted, it wasn't quite the overture I had planned.  I scaled it back from delivering to all 16 houses on our street to just our immediate neighbors.  I whipped up nutmeg logs, no bake cookies, earl grey tea cookies, and some chocolate chips Saturday morning and had them all delivered by 1:00.  It was very fun and I think we'll make it a tradition.
Mid baking break time cuddles.

- Although there wasn't nearly enough snow, we had a fun three days at the cabin with sister Sarah, Padraig and Craig.  Since Sarah and Craig both work the school calendar, it was nice to get some time away with them.

Leavenworth at Christmas? Yes please!
- Zoolights.  Definitely an idea we'll revisit in the future.  Definitely an idea that needed better planning.  With three separate vehicles, two running late (Craig was heading to Enchanted Lights), one tired baby, one toddler that wants OUT of the stroller, one starving pregnant woman, and a whole lot of searching for our group in the dark, we were not set up for success.  It was still fun.

Yaya, Nono and Paddy.

- I love our church's Christmas Eve service: the lighting of the last advent candle, the jubilant singing of carols, the candlelit singing of Silent Night.  It's really lovely, just the right amount of tradition, Truth, and beauty.  

Family Christmas pic.  And yes, I AM wearing leggings and I LOVE them now!

Precious father daughter moments.

Yes, she's missing a shoe.  I don't think you could handle the cuteness otherwise.
The whole family.
 - Every family has traditions.  We open PJ's the night before Christmas and eat Tortellini Soup after church.  We sleep as late as the youngest allow Christmas morning (7:00 AM this year, I know it will only get earlier).  And for our little family unit of 3, we each get four gifts: a want, a need, a wear and a read.


Aurelia's wear was a Panda Hat from Ganesh Himal
- When we have a Pandiani family Christmas, Sarah and I do all the cooking besides the prime rib.  This year we had cinnamon rolls, scones, biscuits, chocolate pudding, eggs, and sausage for breakfast.  Dinner was made up of prime rib, sweet potato and quinoa salad, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, ambrosia, sweet carrots, apple pie and the best pecan pie I've ever made.

- I love giving the perfect gift.  You know when you see something and know that it's just the perfect thing for mom/dad/sister/husband/etc?  I almost don't like getting a gift list 'cause I love doing the search on my own.  We got my dad Blazing Saddles and The Three Amigos to which he exclaimed, "This is the thing!  Is this coming to my house?"  You know it's a good gift when English becomes a second language.  Joey's want: A cocktail shaker.  His need: A bottle of Black Label.  His wear: An ECS membership (it comes with a scarf and a shirt).  And his read: A cocktail book (Disclaimer: Joey's gift has a bit of a distilled theme.  We've been watching a lot of Mad Men recently).  And, well, just one look at Paddy's face shows that Rody was a success.

It was a great, great day.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing you and yours

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying family, friends, food, and other frivolities.  
I'll be back and blogging next week.  In the meantime, there's some fruitcake with my name on it.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Where does the time go?  Is Christmas really less than a week away?  I had all these glorious plans to be completely prepped and prepared for Christmas with time to spare.  Shopping done, gifts wrapped, cards sent, cookies baked, merriment made, feet up, eggnog in hand. . . but I'm no where near ready.  Instead I find myself trimming nonessentials off my list (like all matching wrapping paper, hand addressed Christmas cards, and a partridge in a pear tree).  Honestly, I haven't even hung stockings.  Honestly, I can't even find Joey and my stockings.  At least the tree is trimmed.

And on top of all this, I'm 32 weeks pregnant.  I feel quite large, quite clumsy, and quite tired.  And I've started having some super fun contractions about twice a day.  Doctor says this is quite normal and that I shouldn't worry.  I keep reminding this baby she needs to stay in for at least a few weeks. . . please, stay put!  If I'm not ready for Christmas, I'm definitely not ready to have another baby!  I can't help but think that I'm not the first mother who wanted her baby to stay put for a little while longer.  I can't imagine Mary planned on delivering in a manger.  I'm sure she was telling her precious cargo to stay put on the road to Bethlehem.  There must have been a lot running through her mind as she rode on the back of that donkey.  And considering the much longed for but unexpected manner of that arrival that changed the course of history, matching gift wrap seems a lot less important.

So, instead of worrying about tying all the bows and loose ends, I'm taking the time to enjoy this moment of life.  Right this moment, my one daughter is sleeping.  I'll only have one daughter for a brief moment longer.  Right this moment, my husband is home resting by my side.  Right this moment, I'm feeling little hiccups from this other little one.  Right this moment, life is calm.  I'm content.  I'm happy.  And I feel overwhelmingly blessed and loved.  I feel very festive.

Here are some photos of our merriments:

Aurelia showing off that she's "SO BIG"

Best buddies due two days apart!

Hawkins Family Christmas with the Simlers

Aurelia enjoying some blocks

Thanks Mamaw and Papaw!

So happy about all the red and yellow toys!

The cousins

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yes, this is a post about sleep

A whole post about sleep?  Seems a bit much, doesn't it?  I mean, every new mom is exhausted.  And so I know that I am preaching to the choir a little.  But I also know that sleep is one of the biggest issues in my life currently.

Here's the thing: I have 15 month old who has yet to sleep through the night.  She's done maybe five nights with a 6-7 hour stretch.  But most nights follow a pattern of going to sleep at 7:00-7:30, waking up at 10:00, 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, and up for the day at 7:00 AM.  Bad nights follow a 1-2 hour sleep cycle pattern, good nights are 3-4.  On a good night, Joey or I only have to get out of bed once to go rock, comfort, feed, change, pace, and cry with her.  On a good night, we're woken up those three or four times by a scream and a couple minutes of crying before she conks back out.  So, what I'm saying is that good nights aren't so good.

You can see why #9 on my list was a big deal.  I haven't slept for more than 6 hours uninterrupted in over 15 months.  I had my chance when we went to SLC, but that night had an unfortunate turn of events that I don't want to relive.  I knew that the night after the Pickwick show was my best chance for a full night sleep without a baby monitor and before I get too uncomfortably pregnant.  And I knew that Joey and Zach were content to stay up later than necessary while I hit the hay early.  When I went to bed at 12:30, they were making ravioli.  The last thing I heard before I drifted off was, "These ravioli are like pillows of goodness."  And just like that, I crossed another item off my list.  I got 7 glorious hours of sleep.  It was pretty amazing.  I feel like I can now turn 30 refreshed.  Well, we'll see what baby #2 has to say about that since she's due a week before my birthday.  But at least I got one more full night sleep in before she arrives.  And who knows, maybe there will be more.

I don't want this post to sound like I'm complaining.  I do miss sleep.  But for the most part, I've gotten used to jolting awake in the middle of the night.  I've learned to weigh my sleep options.  I decide if I want to go to be at 8:30 or write, if I want to nap or fold laundry (guess which one usually wins there!), if straightening up the living room will make me feel more rested in the morning than 15 extra minutes of sleep.  I guess what I'm saying is that I've learned that restfulness isn't always about 8 hours of shut eye.  Sometimes it's about cuddling with Aurelia when she's not sleeping.  Sometimes it's about doing things that make me feel fulfilled.  Sometimes it's about leaning on other people.  All the time it's about leaning on the untiring arms of the Lord.  Sometimes it's about praying for a lot of grace.  Sometimes it's about a visit to Cutters Point or Starbucks.  Sometimes it's about stepping back and getting a bigger and better perspective about what I need to make it through the day.  And sometimes it's remembering that this little nugget makes it all worthwhile.

And here are a few more photos from our little trip to Seattle:

Voulas is amazing! Definitely worth a visit.

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Dates of Christmas

When Joey and I were dating and first married, I made him an advent calendar each year.  Some years it was a fun treat for each day of December.  One year it was cheap glass bulb ornaments that he could break each morning, filled with candy and love notes.  It was fun little way to show him a glimpse of how much I love him.  However, as life got busier and we moved to places without craft stores (imagine, no Michaels in Kabul), the advent calendar kinda dropped off my radar.  This year, I decided I would revive and remodel the tradition and have made 12 DATES for Christmas.  I thought it would be a fun way to cross #22 off my 30 before 30 list.  Some of the dates are really simple, some are pretty extravagant (like #1 and #2), some are double dates, some include our cute little 3rd wheel, and a few of them I'm not even going on.  I can't go into much more detail because my husband is one of my most faithful blog followers (love you, Lover!), and I don' want to spoil the upcoming surprises.  But our first two dates helped me mark a few more items off the list, so I'll gladly share about them.

The date started the night by dropping Aurelia off at Yaya and Nono's.  She sure does love them, and I sure am thankful for them!  Then we drove up to Seattle.

We ate here in the International District:
Thanks for the recommendation, Zach Cheney.  Samurai Noodle was very tasty.  We got the Tonkatsu and Tampopo.

Then we wondered through Uwajimaya Asian grocer.  Joey and I have traveled a lot and seen a lot of things.  Uwajimaya reminded us that there is still SO MUCH MORE TO SEE!  Here is a look of overwhelmage:

After seeing a thousand different green teas and ramen bowls, we ran down town to pick up this guy:

This photo is outdated and titled:
Conquistador; I've come to conquer your lands.
Yep, date #1 converted into a double date with Team Rhoades.  Zach is one of Joey's closest friends and we love spending time with them.  We met up with Lolo at Big Time Brewery and waited approximately 60 minutes for a cheese pizza that tasted a little like movie popcorn (second dinner).  But I hear the brews were good.

And our next stop was the main event of the first date of Christmas.  We headed to The Neptune for a Pickwick concert.  Are you familiar with Pickwick?  If you're not, you should be.  And if you're not, you probably will be soon.  Although I honestly only know about them because Joey and Zach are friends with the lead guitarist.  My husband keeps me in the know.  Check out these two videos and prepare to wait with the rest of the world for the release of their first studio album:

Pickwick - Blackout (Suzzallo Reading Room) from Tyler Kalberg on Vimeo.

Live From The Basement - Pickwick from Sound on the Sound on Vimeo.

Great stuff, right?  It was a very fun show.  And I've decided that concerts are a bit like tattoos or some other addictive habit.  I haven't been to a show in so long, now I want to go to one every weekend.  Maybe this one.  Unfortunately, 9:00 PM in Seattle means overnight babysitting and a very late night for a very pregnant lady.  Oh well, I'll just stick with my ipod for now.

Then we headed back to the Rhoades place where I got 7 hours of sleep for the first time in 15 months. . . but that deserves a post of its own.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Checking stuff off the list

What a busy, busy week!  I can't believe it's already Friday night. . . I actually keep thinking it's Saturday because there is no way we fit so much into five days.  Many, many things to post about.  We've decked our halls.  We've started getting ready for Christmas (almost done with the shopping).  And I'm ready to check several items off the list.  Each of these items deserve a moment in the spotlight, but look forward to hearing about our concert adventure, Joey's date night, sleeping for 6 hours uninterrupted, and AURELIA ARMY CRAWLING!  Like I said, it's been a busy week!

But for now, I have to help Joey get ready for a quick trip to the East Coast and back.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Purge

I love a good purge.  When I was a kid, I was big on keeping every little memento, picture, or piece of paper it seemed.  But when grown-up life required many cross country/world moves, I developed a love for downsizing.  I'll look at things and think, "If I were moving to Kabul tomorrow and could only take two suitcases, would I take this with me?  Would I pay to store it?"  Those two questions do wonders for not growing too attached to things and keeping our stuff to a minimum.  Of course, now that we have a house and kid(s), this minimal lifestyle is much harder.  And I do have a soft spot for things attached to memories (i.e. I'm more likely to keep something due to the giver not the gift).  But I love tearing through a box found in some forgotten corner, stored for years, filled with things that I once thought worthy of keeping.  It gives me a great little unedited picture of the person that turned into me.

Last week, Mary sent me home from family dinner with three gigantic boxes tucked away in their attic for the last 9 years.  Two of those boxes had been packed and not revisited since high school.  They were definitely old school. . . we're talking preschool class picture, 3rd grade valentines, middle school yearbook old school.  And there were so, so many random trinkets, bracelets, and various baubles that were worth being lovingly packed away that spark no memory whatsoever today (and if you know me, you know I have a pretty keen memory).  Seriously, why did I keep a stack of arcade tokens in a jewelry box?  In the end, I have one small box staying, one large box Goodwill-ing, and one larger stack of what in the world was I thinking?

So, here are some of my keep or toss items:

Keep: My American Girl Doll, Kjersten.  She'll be passed on to Aurelia in a year or so.

Toss: My binder full of certificates I received throughout elementary, middle school, and high school.  Of course, it was refreshing to know that I received an honorable mention at the Lighthouse Christian School 7th grade Art Fair and that my cabin received the "Fashionably Late" award at 5th grade camp.

Keep: My three charm bracelets.  Yes, three.  Two are blank slates that I'll pass on to our daughters.  The other actually has some charms on it such as a ballet charm and a charm of my patron saint St. Jude (the patron saint of hopeless causes.).  I'll always remember how special and fun we thought Mom's charm bracelet was when we were growing up.

Toss: Greeting cards and valentines from elementary school from people I don't know anymore, stored in a folder with a list of things I love written on the front.  This list from 3rd grade includes going to the cabin, getting mail, Topo Gigio (please follow the link, it's worth it), challenges, getting mail, cows, puppies, clear nights, 'writting,' and (like any good Washingtonian) apples.

Keep: My first passport.  A) The picture is awesome.  I had sweet hair.  B) I think it explains my love for travel since it has 9 stamps in it and it expired when I was 14.  Kuddos to my parents for taking us places.  Aurelia's passport has two stamps so far.

Toss: "Class of 2000" paraphernalia and my cap and gown.  Maybe I'll keep the cap and gown for the dress-up box I know is inevitably in my future as the mother of girls.  I'll also be putting my senior banquet dress in there.

Some random things that made me laugh: My parents let me fill out my own K-12 memory book (meaning I filled it out until 7th grade and lost interest).  When I was in 2nd grade, my one like was spinach and dislike, white chocolate.  When I was in 7th grade, I wanted to be an engineer.  Kindergarten Julie's favorite song was "Oh Susanna" and had a pet gerbil named Bill, named after my dad.  As a 4th grader, the most influential person in my life was Jean Kesterson (pictured below on the left with Padraig).

It's also pretty hilarious to read what people wrote in my middle school year books.  One unsigned message said, "I'm sorry I made you throw up."  I don't remember that.  And I have so many "Friends 4-ever".  I was also chided not to do drugs or drink alcohol if I ever had a baby by one signer, sage 6th grade advice.  And my first "boyfriend" told me he hoped our relationship didn't go "kaput" over the summer between 8th and 9th grade (those of you who know Chris Bechtel can giggle about that).

And finally, I made another step towards completing my 30 before 30 list.  What do you think of our new home decorations?  And what should I do with my "1993 Undefeated Champions" soccer trophy?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weekend Recap

Busy weekend.

Went here with friends.  Loads of fun stuff that I would love to buy, but I refrained.

And I went to the youth auction benefit at our church.  It was a great opportunity to get dressed up and have fun for a good cause.  I won a dinner for Joey and I (along with 8 others) with Os Guinness this summer.

But the best part of the weekend was this:

Yep, Joey's home after a month in Toronto.  We are two happy ladies.

And we ended the weekend with a quick trip to the Living Nativity here in the harbor.  It was fun, but wow the line was long.  I had no idea that the little town of Bethlehem would be so popular.  Here are the guys and kids after we made it through.

Needless to say we are keeping busy.  Unfortunately not sleeping, Aurelia has decided to switch from the nice 3 hour sleep blocks back to the 1 hour blocks.  Hopefully she'll make it through this phase quickly!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Thrill of Hope!

Welcome December!  It's hard to believe that it's already the most wonderful time of the year.  I love Christmas time.  I love the music, the lights, the traditions, the foods, the parties, the time with family, the cold weather, the stockings hung by the chimney with care. . . I could really go on and on and make quippy song quote after song quote.  But I'm sure most of you are already busily making merry yourselves, rocking around the Christmas tree as you go throughout your days.

Ok, you all know that I love tradition and history.  I was always the kid that wanted to know the story behind the story.  I was the kid that wanted to know why we put up the tree, why we eat candy canes, what in the world are the 12 days of Christmas and why would anyone give their true love four calling birds?  You're probably thinking, "Your poor parents."  I'm pretty sure they would have utilized google a lot if it had been around during my formative years.  My curiosity is why I eventually went on to study history in college.  Yep, I chose my college major because I like research.  It's a huge part of my make up.  So Christmas is really my cup of tea.  There are a lot of fun, poignant, symbolic, and historic traditions wrapped up into these days of December.  Let's start with Advent.

The first of December marks the beginning of Advent and the start of the liturgical year for the church (technically it began last Sunday).  Advent celebrates the wait leading up to the birth of Christ.  I think it's a beautiful sentiment that the year begins with waiting in eager anticipation rather than the actual event.  As children (and adults) count down the days until Christmas, we remember with joy the wait for the long expected Savior.

In our church (and many others), we light a candle each Sunday of Advent.  This last Sunday, we lit the candle of Hope.  I've thought a lot about hope this week.  The things I hope for mainly cover family, future unknowns, and tied into those two are Aurelia.  I feel like we have so many unknowns with her future.  And I feel like her health is the major deciding factor in where we are and what we're doing.  There are small moments of worry, but I try not to go down that route.  It's a lot to put on the shoulders of a 15 month old.  So, instead I hope.  I hope for incredible things (like a cure for hydrocephalus), and everyday things (like a restful night).  I hope for progress  (like crawling), and I hope for answers (like why she can't seem to gain weight).  But more than anything, I hope that she will experience and know the love of the little baby, born in a manger, sent to redeem humanity.  And hoping for that gives any of my weary worries peace.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 by 30 Update: Meet and Greet

Yeah!  Another item to check off the 30 before 30 list!  Actually, it's really the first thing that I can officially check off the list.  I still haven't used shampoo, but that can't be marked off until I get to February 23rd.  I'm working on my two memorization goals, the blog revamp (bought a domain name!), and I'm working on Aurelia's baby book.  But the first signed, sealed, delivered item to check off the list is #29: Meet Lisa Sorenson and family.

Lisa is one of the moms featured in my ongoing Hydro Mom interviews.  She's also one of the few hydro moms who lives on the West Coast.  It seems like the vast majority of families that are active in the online support community live on the east side of the country.  Well, Lisa and her family live on the east side of Washington State, less than a mile from the house Joey grew up in!  And we've tried to meet up before, but it seems like it never works out.  This weekend, we made it happen.

It was so nice to spend time with a family that speaks our "language."  I feel like most of our friends and family have done an amazing job at becoming conversational in hydrocephalus.  But there is something special about talking with someone who has heard all those big words spoken about their child, who knows what it feels like to get that initial, "Somethings wrong."  They know the lingo.  They've dealt with insurance companies.  They go to the same appointments.  And they watch as their little lady brings joy and enrichment to their lives.  And it is pretty incredible to share in the resolve that we will do whatever we can for these precious little kiddos.

It was also cute to watch Aurelia and Elisabeth play.  Aurelia is 15 months and Elisabeth is 4 years old, but they both score at around 6-7 months on the development charts.  It was like they saw eye to eye, or periphery vision to periphery vision.  They played with toys and had what I can only assume was a conversation about their shared love of pacifiers and playing with toys turned upside down.

We can't wait to spend more time with this lovely family.  Hopefully when Joey gets back from Toronto and when Elisabeth is feeling more like her smiley self.  We did get one great smile from her, despite a tough recovery from a recent surgery.  I hear she's on the mend and feeling much more like herself.  And we're thankful to know this sweet family.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

I love my family.

Aurelia and I headed to the Tri-Cities last Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with my mom's three sisters and company.  I am so thankful for this crew.  These ladies make me feel close to Mom.  I love that my Aunt Judy always talks about how Mom was her best friend, how Aunt Janice and Aunt Karen talk about how much they miss her and what an amazing lady she was, how all three of them share her same smile.  I feel like when I'm with them, I get these glimpses of her through their laughs, their voices, their gestures.  It's not the real deal, but it is refreshing.

And I love that despite the years and many tears, this family has remained close and strong.  In fact, I know we've grown closer and stronger because of the difficult things we've been through.  This time of year is especially hard for the Anderson clan with two deaths around the holidays.  But we're still able to gather around the table (many times, it seems all we do is eat!), and enjoy good food, good laughs, great wine as we create more memories.  I am so blessed to be part of this family.

Table all set and ready for the big meal.

The Gilberts (check out their wine, and they have the best apples)
Cousin Ben playing with a very happy baby

Aunt Judy, Aunt Karen and 2/3 of the triplets making spirits bright

Cousin Sean taking Aurelia on a walk
Aunt Janice always makes this little lady smile

Tune in tomorrow for another installment of something to check off the list.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Ready to Give Thanks

Aurelia and I are heading across the mountains tomorrow for some family time and Thanksgiving.  Hopefully the pass will be nice to us.  I know we'll come back with lots of silly stories.  Time with the Anderson side of our family is never short on good food, good laughs, and great reminders of why we have so much to be thankful for.  Plus, rumor has it they're renting a Karaoke machine.  I'm ready to sing some Journey.

Oh, and here's something I'm thankful for.  Aurelia started clapping her hands this week.  She's sticking to a 4-6 month postponed schedule for most cognitive things.  It's funny because she only does it when she's really excited.  I think it's a natural reaction.  AND we *think* she might have said her first word.  Guess what it was?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Breaking Dawn and the Mom Translator

I saw the new Twilight movie with some sisters this weekend, along with every 12-18 year old girl in America it seems.  But I didn't see it until Sunday, which means the theater was full of older women and tweens seeing it for the second (or third) time.

Let me go on the record right now and say that I am an unashamed fan of the Twilight Series.  Sure they're silly, sappy, a little strange, and sub-par writing.  I don't claim they should be added to the annals of great literature.  But sometimes it's nice to read something that is purely silly and sappy.  I read them when we lived in Kabul, covered in reality and dust.  Those books were a great escape.  And it's fun to revisit the story with friends who enjoyed them too.

It's also very fun to see a movie like that with the right demographic.  As a student told my brother-in-law (a high school math teacher), "This movie is WAY better than the last one.  In the last one Jacob doesn't take his shirt off until like the 20th minute.  In this one, he takes his shirt off in the first 15 seconds."  Oh teenagers.  And she was right, and it made the whole theater giggle.  And there were giggles at kisses, and sappy lines, and romantic rendezvous.

I'll admit our aisle did most of our giggling in response to the chatter of the tween crowd, and maybe some eye rolling too.  Kids these days.  I just don't get them.  I think I'm getting old.  It doesn't help that I always call Robert Pattinson, Roger Patterson (and I definitely just googled both those names to see which one was correct).  I'm on my way to needing one of these:

But, seriously, I feel like half my life is nursery rhyme and the other half is nursing home.  I love that having little kids gives me an excuse to eat dinner at 5:00 and be in my pjs by 7:30.  And I'm not even 30 yet!  It makes me so thankful for my husband who acts less his age and more my age (or younger).

So, here's to enjoying silly movies that make us giggle and feel a little young at heart!

Friday, November 18, 2011

30 by 30 Update: Shampoo

By far, the item on my 30 by 30 list that has gotten the most feedback is number 17: Not use shampoo.  The funny thing is that technically I can't cross it off my list until February 23 when I have my birthday.  But it has definitely sparked the most interest.  I've been asked things like, "Really!?!" or "What are you doing?" or "Why?"  But I've also gotten a lot of comments on how my hair looks great.

Here are the basics of what I am doing and why:

I have always had a strong dislike for shampoo and conditioner.  I've never found one that really suits my hair.  It either makes my hair too dry, too frizzy, too oily, too heavy, too fragrant, too flat, too blah.  Well, there was one shampoo/conditioner combo that I loved.  It was Aveda's Sap Moss (now called Dry Remedy) and at $42 a bottle, it seemed a little much. Disclaimer: When I used this shampoo I had a friend that worked at a salon and gave me free samples. 

So, my relationship with shampoo and conditioner was not difficult for me to end.  Honestly, I've always been an every other day shampooer.  And since Aurelia was born, I've really only washed my hair once or twice a week.  Another Disclaimer: Washing my hair twice a week does not mean I only shower twice a week.

I'd read a few other blogs that talked about the No 'Poo method and I even have a few friends that have tried it.  And being the person that I am, I decided to do some research.  What I found was that shampoo and conditioner have only been used daily (or even weekly) since the 1970s.  Before then, people just used soap a few times a month and water otherwise.  Not to get too into the theory of it all, but each time we use shampoo it strips our hair of it's natural oils.  This causes our scalps to produce more oil, necessitating more shampoo.  The imbalance of oil and overuse of detergents is what caused my constant battle with too dry, too frizzy, too oily, too etc.  And when you look at the ingredients in most shampoos and conditioners, there's actually a lot of potentially harmful stuff.  Let's throw in another disclaimer: I'm not trying to win any converts, I'm just explaining why I'm not using shampoo.

Research complete, decision's made, no more shampoo.  Now my hair washing routine is easy, basic, and cheap.  I wash my hair every two or three days with baking soda and apple cider vinegar.  The baking soda cleans, the apple cider vinegar moisturizes and detangles.  It seems like different people have different ratios that work for them.  My ratio for step 1 is 2 oz. baking soda mixed with 16 oz. water.  I probably use about 2 tablespoons of that mixture each shower.  For step 2 I use 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar mixed with 2 cups of water and just squirt some on the ends of my hair.  And the end result is soft, manageable hair.  It doesn't smell like vinegar (or grease), it just smells like hair.  I've heard of some people using a little water with essential oil, but I haven't tried that yet.  I'm on week 3, and I love it.

One final disclaimer: When I get my hair cut, I suppose I'll let them shampoo my hair.  It's not like I'm going to request they use my homemade concoction at the salon.

OK, maybe one more disclaimer: We have TONS of little bottles of hotel shampoo and conditioner for when we have guests.  I won't make you go all hippy if you stay at our house.

And if you want to read more about other non shampooers, check Keeper of the Home or Simple Mom.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

With Flying Colors

Well, I passed the 3 hour test.  In fact, my glucose levels erred on the lower end if anything.  Learn from my mistakes. . . don't eat cereal and string cheese for lunch before a blood sugar test.

To celebrate I got a Peppermint Mocha and took a free Caramel Brulee Latte to my sister.  Thank you, Starbucks!

Tomorrow I'll update on how my 30 by 30 list is coming along.  I'm already knocking things off the list.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fetal Hydrocephalus Dot Com

Still waiting on the official results from yesterday's glucose test.  While we wait, I have a VERY special hydro interview to share.  I hope you take the time to read it.

For many of us hydro parents, the first time we hear the word "hydrocephalus" is during a routine ultrasound.  As you've probably noticed in the hydro parent interviews, most of us leave the appointment feeling shocked, overwhelmed, and desperate for answers.  And where's the best place to look for quick answers?  Dr. Google.  Let me tell you, there is a lot of scary stuff out there on hydrocephalus.  But, thankfully, one of the first website that pops up in a search of "fetal hydrocephalus" is a website filled with quality information, practical tips, and lots of hope.  That website is, and today's interview is by it's creator, Michelle.  

It's hard to put the perfect descriptor to Michelle's role in the hydro community.  She's definitely a pioneer, a wealth of information, a leader, and a bit of a celebrity.  She's put a lot of time and energy into providing other hydro families with life changing information.  And she's also put a lot of effort into meeting other families and hearing their stories.  We haven't met yet, but I know we will someday.  And I am honored to feature her on my blog.  She writes about her fabulous family here.  And she's shared some of her story below:

Tell us about your family.  If your child has multiple diagnosis, feel free to share them.  We have two children.  Our oldest is our 9 year old daughter.  Owen is our youngest at 5 years old and he is the one with hydrocephalus.  He has aqueductal stenosis with a secondary Chiari.  He is deaf and has a cochlear implant.  He has seizures which keep him on meds and he has a Vagus Nerve Stimulator implanted for seizure control as well.  He cannot walk yet, though he can cruise on furniture and using a hand rail and he can crawl.  He only has about 2 verbal words and just a few signs. 

Tell us about the moment you were told your child had hydrocephalus.  We went in for a routine scan and they found that his ventricles were enlarged.  They rather foolishly told us the news right in front of our then year old daughter, so we couldn’t really fall apart then.  Once the doc was finished telling us and we were waiting for the amnio I had to have my husband take Sammy out of the room for a while so that I could lose it.  It was a rather rough day.

How has hydrocephalus affected your daily life?  Maybe give one "real life" example.  There is nothing that it hasn’t affected.  I have had to quit my job and I spend all day taking care of him.  He does no self care, so feeding, dressing, diapering, 10 therapies a week, etc take up all my time. 

Share a moment when you were frustrated or discouraged  Probably the worst was when they were wheeling him out at 1 day old for his shunt surgery and the nurse came in and stopped them and said his bloodwork had a problem and  they would have to put off the surgery for a few days.  More recently it would be watching him acquire about 13 words and a bunch of signs and then watching the seizures take them away.

Share a moment when you found joy or hope  Every time he giggles or hugs me.  Watching him hold onto the oven door and stand on his tiptoes to see onto the counter.  Every time we get even the tiniest progress towards a milestone it’s like we’ve just gone to Disneyland!

What do you do to keep your sanity?  How do you take a break?  The website has always been my biggest therapy.  Channeling what would otherwise be frustration into the energy to help educate and support others is the best way that I have found to stay sane.  I also knit, crochet and paint to give myself other outlets.  I highly recommend “yarn therapy” for all. 

What advice would you give to a family who has just received a new diagnosis of hydrocephalus?  Learn all you can, read the stories of other families, and then go on vacation.  Find other things to occupy your mind and time or you will go insane.  There isn’t anything you can do about it so just get on with things. 

How do you deal with difficult questions from onlookers?  Somewhere along the line I realized that I was smiling a lot more than I used to.  I was smiling at each and every person that walks past me, even when I’m in the hospital and having a really bad day.  I have found that it makes people feel more at ease.  It encourages them to ask questions, and I do want them to ask.  The worst thing is the quick look away that makes you realize that they are uncomfortable.  But a question means that they are curious, interested and wish to know something about my son.  I am not picky about how the question is worded.  I have only once had someone say something that was so obviously rude that I snapped back at them.  Everyone else has asked with kindness and caring.  The more open I am, the less that people will be afraid of what they don’t understand.  Even if they don’t ask a question, the smile tells them that it’s OK and there is nothing to be afraid of. 

What is one thing you wish families with typical situations realized about families dealing with special needs?  Just how all consuming it can be.  That we don’t get days off.  That the seizures can come 24 hours a day so we can’t just turn off the worry.  That you complaining about a bad day when your car won’t start probably won’t make the same impression on me that it would have before Owen.  If everyone is healthy then it isn’t a bad day. 

What is your dream getaway (either family, couple, or by yourself. . . or all three)?  Someplace I could sleep for as long as I wanted to without anyone waking me up J

What is your child's favorite toy/therapy tool?  His favorite toy is probably his bug book.  It’s a soft book that he’s had forever with bugs whose wings and antennae are sewed on pieces that he can play with.

What is your favorite coffee (or coffee alternative) drink?  Oregon Chai Tea Latte.  No question about it, I drink it every day. 

Your website on fetal hydrocephalus is one of the first stops many moms make on their google mania after receiving a diagnosis of hydrocephalus.  Why did you start the site?  When did you start it?  Any idea how many people have visited it?  And how many people have visited Duke because of it?   I started the site out of sheer frustration while I was pregnant with Owen.  I had been searching for information and I would find a tidbit here, a tidbit there and I would print out each bit.  I had a fairly large stack but it had taken me months of hard work to put together.  This was in the day before Facebook (can you believe that there was a time before Facebook?) and I couldn’t find anywhere to read actual stories of actual families.  I found one old fashioned list server where you could email questions and I had a few people answer back.  Only one was a Mom of a kid with congenital hydrocephalus.  She was great, and she even talked to me on the phone, but it was hard to get a real picture of daily life with hydrocephalus.

I had to stay on the couch quite a bit in the last few weeks of my pregnancy because of contractions, and I am not a person that can handle sitting still for long periods.  So, I channeled my frustration with how hard it had been to learn anything and with needing to be a couch potato into creating a website so that no one else would have to go through the hassle of finding out the most basic information.  It was great therapy for me.  The blog portion also served to keep my extended family and friends up to date on what was happening.  Before the blog we would have an appointment, which was devastating enough, and then we’d have to come home and spend hours telling everyone the bad news over and over again on the phone.  Once the blog was in place things were a lot easier on us emotionally.

As to how many people have come in to the site, my logs tell me that about 15,000 distinct addresses have hit it.  That doesn’t tell us much though, they may have found us by accident after a Google search, who knows.  I have hundreds and hundreds of emails that I have answered in the years that it has been live, though I’ve never really counted them.  I had no idea when I created the website whether or not anyone would ever read any of it, it was just something I needed to do.  I am thrilled though that so many have found it useful and that it has brought such a large community of people together.

Oh, and you asked about the cord blood infusions at Duke.  Currently around 40 kiddos have had the infusions done – two are being done today.  We have recently started a formal study at Duke to see whether or not we can prove that the cord blood produces better outcomes.   This is very exciting because it could open up the treatment to a wider group of people that might not be able to travel to Duke if they can prove it to the rest of the medical community.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Waiting Room

I failed my one hour glucose test.  I hate failing tests.

So now I find myself in the waiting room of Labs Northwest wasting away after 10 hours of fasting, 1 blood draw, and 3 more to go.  That's 3 hours of waiting in this waiting room.  It makes me thankful for the comfy chairs and relaxing ambiance of Gig Harbor Medical Park, the free wireless internet, and Yaya Mary who is babysitting.  And besides the fasting, the glucose drink, and the continually pokes, I'm enjoying some time to myself.  I brought my laptop, a book, my planner, and a list of things to work on.

And I've realized 3 things:

1). Don't skip breakfast.  And don't just eat cocoa puffs.  My thoughts are so jumbled right now.  And I'm all shaky from the suped up kool-aid glucose drink they make you start your day with.  I just googled "google."  It's hard to put together a cohesive sentence or rational train of thought.  I regret all the times in high school when I ran out the door with just a nutrigrain bar before a double period of Mr. Bond classes.  I really think I would have knocked those Henry V essays out of the park if I had eaten a complete breakfast.

2). A lot of people blog about food.  I opened my google reader and quickly minimized it.  That's great that you just found an awesome new pumpkin soup recipe.  I can't read about it right now.

3). I really, really, REALLY do not want to have gestational diabetes.  I doubt anyone does.  But I'm really, really, REALLY excited for Christmas and all the goodies that come with it.  Having to monitor my insulin levels would put a real damper on my holiday season.

And as my thoughts become more muddled, my second blood draw draws closer (seriously, I can't write at all right now.  I apologize for the lack of quality in this post).  I think the next two hours will have to be spent doing something productive like mindlessly surfing the internet, while avoiding websites about food.

I'll update with my results when I have stomach full and my brain back.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Refreshingly Normal

I had my first (and hopefully final) follow-up ultrasound today.  Because Aurelia didn't develop hydrocephalus until sometime between 21 and 27 weeks, my perinatologist decided that we should monitor this pregnancy closely to be on the safe side.  I've had the same tech for all of my higher level ultrasounds with both pregnancies and it was refreshing to hear him say, "Everything looks perfect."  Nothing to report, no consult with a genetic counselor, no quick talk with the perinatologist, no scheduled follow-up.  It's a wonderful feeling.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The List

Thirty things to do or accomplish by the time I'm 30.  I tried to think about various aspects of present life from parenting to holiday planning.  Some of these are a given.  Some of them are quirky.  Some of them require a bit of an explanation.  All of them are doable. 

1. Have a baby. Go big or go home, right?

2. Finish Aurelia's baby book.  

3. Get an article published.

4. Go to a concert. Yes, I've been to many concerts.  But it's been a few years.

5. Have a glass of wine with Carlee, Anna, Shan, Holly, Emily, and any other Forest Fire ladies. So, maybe it will have to be a root beer.  Or maybe we'll have to wait until after I accomplish goal 1.  Or maybe it will have to be over skype.  But these women need to be a part of any life celebration.

6. Re-memorize the Gettysburg Address.  I did it in high school.  I think it's a good thing to have in my head.

7. Make a life list.  Why stop at 30?  And the life list will be bigger, better, and much more epic.

8. Make something for each of my daughters.  This might be the biggest challenge on the list.  I lack craft.

9. Get 6 consecutive hours (or more) of sleep.

10. Come up with a name for our daughter. 

11. Deliver Christmas cookies to our neighbors.

12. Meet Whitney Phelps for coffee.  Whit is one of my favorites.  She's at law school in Seattle and we've seen each other only a few times.  Putting it on the list makes it more official.

13. Host a Christmas party.

14. Wear leggings. Ok, so it might sound weird.  But I have leggings and I think I can pull them off, but I've been too scared to try.

15. Paint my fingernails.  Another weird one.  I see all these cute blogposts about polished nails.  I have this strange aversion to my nails painted.  BUT, since I can't paint my toenails anymore ('cause I can't reach them comfortably), I'm going to get over my issues and start painting my fingernails and not immediately removing the polish.

16. Finish writing about Switzerland.  Yeah, we went to Switzerland in June.  And I've written about it and not posted.

17. Not use shampoo.  Crunchy confessional: I haven't washed my hair in over two weeks.  I'm doing the baking soda and apple cider vinegar regime.  And my hair feels great!  

18. Finish my blog revamp.  I have a friend working on a blog redesign for me.  Look forward to it's launch soon!

19. Gain 10 lbs.  

20. Lose 20 lbs (or more).

21. Make salt.

22. Take Joey on a date.  I've already planned it.  Now I just need a babysitter.

23. Decorate our home.  We've been here for almost 5 months and I have yet to hang a single picture.  Sure, we've done some projects (and by we, I mean Joey), but we need to make this house home.

24. Go to the cabin.  Preferably while it's snowing.

25. Read an Alison Weir book.  When my grandma died, she left me a lot of her book collection.  This includes 10 books by my favorite historian (yes, I'm a huge nerd).  I have yet to read one of them.

26. Memorize "The Journey of the Magi." By T.S. Eliot.  Seems perfect for this time of year.

27. Get Aurelia to army crawl.

28. Get Aurelia to say or sign something.  I know those two are TOTALLY out of my control.  But why not shoot for the stars?

29. Meet Lisa Sorenson and family.  Lisa and her fam are the closest hydro clan geographically in my little online crew.  We don't make it over the mountains as much as we used to, and when we have, it's been when she's traveling the world.  But we WILL make this meet up happen.

30. Readers choice.  Seriously, make a suggestion.  Keep in mind that I'm pregnant.

And there you have it.  I'll be posting periodic updates as I accomplish goals.  It's going to be a busy few months!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

30 by 30

I took my good friend Autumn out to breakfast this morning for a belated celebration of her 30th birthday.  Autumn has been one of my very best friends since the first day of high school when we decided to stick together on the all school field trip.  I only knew one person in our entire school (all 100 students), so making a fast friend was huge for me.  At her 15th birthday, Autumn told me that she felt like we were kindred spirits, just like in Anne of Green Gables.  That's a huge complement for a 14/15 year old girl.  And we've stuck together ever since.  We've been friends for over half our lifetime.

Christmas banquet, sophomore year. Autumn thinks I look scared of her. 
And today we dragged our pregnant selves (she's due a month after me) and two kiddos out to Shakabrah for a delicious bite to eat and a chance to laugh about how our moms wouldn't let us listen to The Verve Pipe and how we recorded The Peoples Choice Countdown on cassette to listen to on the way to school.  It was a great morning.

BUT here's the issue that I'm faced with now.  Autumn's birthday (which was actually two weeks ago) is exactly four months before my birthday.  When we were younger, Autumn's birthday meant that I would be the next girl in our little group to have a celebration, or get her license, or register to vote, or buy a beer, or whatever rite of passage came with that year.  Now it means that I'm the next friend to turn the big 3-0.  That seems like a big deal.  And I'm forced to ask myself, "What have I ever accomplished with my life that's so great?"  

I know that I've done some really cool things.  And I'm hoping to live a lifetime of doing more really cool things.  And in that spirit of accomplishment I'm making a list.  30 by 30.  30 things, big and small, that I want to check off my list.  Don't worry.  I'm not going to get all crazy and try and learn Mandarin or run a marathon by February.  These will be reasonable goals.  And don't worry.  I'll give myself a healthy heaping of grace.  After all, I am 6 months pregnant and toting around a 14 month old.  But I do want to enter the next decade of my life masterfully.  

I've given myself a bit of a head start in that I started working on writing this list after Aurelia's 1st birthday and have a few that I can cross off already.  I'll have the complete list up tomorrow.  And it will be epic.  Prepare yourselves.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Be Thankful

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

This morning I opened up my snazzy new planner to the second week in November and was reminded to "be thankful."  It certainly is that season.  My facebook page is littered with daily thanksgivings.  My blogroll had 4 posts on thankfulness this morning including this lovely post at the lovely messy by one of my favorite friends.  

So, I started thinking, "What am I thankful for?"  What are the things in my life that I should be thankful for?  Well, there's the obvious ones:

And I am so thankful for these two (and the one that's practicing roundhouse kicks on my ribcage).  I never dreamed that I could have someone who loves me like Joey does, he is a constant blessing.  And Aurelia, that kid has changed my world.  She enriches my life with her joy, determination, and contagious smile.  But really, being thankful for those two (soon to be three) should be an understood, right?  It doesn't mean I shouldn't say it and express it.  I celebrate the gift of my family every day.  And I'm thankful for a home, for health, for happiness.  That's all well and good, but it's also easy.

What about the things that are not so easy?  Are we really supposed to be thankful in all circumstances?  Frankly, some circumstances don't inspire a spirit of gratitude.  Some circumstances make me grimace.  Some circumstances are downright crummy.  Can we really find reason to be thankful in life's difficult moments?

When I was a junior in high school, my school had it's annual Thanksgiving Chapel complete with an open mic time for students to share what they were thankful for.  I stood up and said that I was thankful my mom had cancer (with the confidence and naive enthusiasm only a naive 17 year old can have).  At the time, Mom was in month 18 of her battle with colon cancer and things were looking okay.  And I was thankful that my family had gone through that trying time.  It had brought us closer, given us some very tender moments, taught me about selfless love and the power of faith and prayer.  But two weeks after this chapel, my mom passed away.  As the next November approached, I thought about my previous statement.  Was I still thankful that my mom had cancer, even though it had claimed her life?  

Fast forward a decade-ish.  After over two years of heartbreaking loss and goodbyes to babies we barely even got to glimpse, Joey and I were faced with the tough decision to move from a place we loved in order to pursue a "healthy pregnancy."  Thanksgiving 2009 found us freshly back in the states, stamps in passports still drying, and a sense of longing and regret for a place worlds away.  Although we felt like we had made the right decision, we also felt a little empty and discouraged.  I didn't feel much to be thankful for outside of the easy stuff (family, friends, dryers, microwaves, good espresso).  Was I really supposed to be thankful at a time like this?

And, of course, the next year was filled to the brim with emotional upheaval: finding out we were having a girlfinding out about hydrocephalus, welcoming our daughter into the world, and so much more.  It was a great year, but a hard year.  Our 5/10/life year plan changed the day that 5 syllable word entered our life.  Can I honestly say that I am thankful for hydrocephalus?

And so I sit here on my tweed couch, thinking about these questions, living a life that I definitely did not plan, and I rest in the asnwer, "Yes."  Yes, I am thankful for all of these circumstances.  Do I love them?  No.  Do I like them?  Not really.  I don't like cancer.  I don't like pregnancy loss.  I don't like the condition that caused my daughter's brain to be injured.  These things do not make me happy, and they shouldn't.  These things do make me thankful, and they should.  

I see how these circumstances have shaped my life, my bigger picture.  And I look at the life that I'm living, the life I didn't plan, and it's beyond anything I could have asked for or dreamed of on my own.  Even in the absolutely difficult moments, I know that I can be thankful for this life I'm living.  The point of all this rambling is that I want to be thankful for the not so obvious.  And I want you to be thankful for those things in your life too.

“Every moment and every event of everyman's life on earth plants something in his soul.”
― Thomas Merton