Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pause: Unplanned

 It is Saturday night and I am home thinking about health, wellness, and what's next.

The last few weeks have thrown a number of surprising twists. Unfortunately, most of them have been difficult.

And when you are getting shuffled by life, you hold onto comforts and wait for the ground to stabilize.

Nick and I planned to use this weekend to recover. We wanted to find a nice balance between socializing with friends and family downtime. We had a plethora of potential plans this weekend. So many possibilities that I was overwhelmed at how to spend our time.

It was all for nothing because everything fell through. We turned down some plans and others were cancelled on us. Today's plans got cancelled and uncancelled and cancelled again when Nick came down with a stomach bug. And so I am home, nursing a baby and watching Emaline.

It is not the weekend we intended but maybe, instead of fighting the waves, we need to turn around and let the tide take us back to shore.

No matter what, this girl always makes me happy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sleepless Words: Free Pass

Emaline and I move through most days on a steady rhythm. There are smalls bumps and detours but we have learned each other. I know what she needs and how to soothe her. I know when she needs sleep and I know when we can play. And I knew yesterday that she just wanted to be held. Most of the day, everything was done with a baby in my arms. And as I held her and flipped through an old notebook, I found something I wrote when she was brand new. It is choppy and incomplete because so were my thoughts when this fell onto the page.

 When so much nothing is everything.

Days are filled to the brim. I move with intention and blurry focus. But when the sun settles for the night and my body curls into the dark, I search for something to show and have nothing new to present.

The baby sleeps and a growing to do list rattles my thoughts. Her tiny chest moves up and down. These are the days with a new baby.

This time is fleeting, so temporary, and so important that I carry a pass. A pass that allows one subject to press my mind and consume my heart.

But still, I search and yearn and promise that tomorrow there will be more.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

For Her: For Me

 A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a few girl friends and we were discussing why women are not able to take a compliment. A few minutes later, my friend told me that I looked fantastic. I immediately shot her down and expressed frustration with trying to lose baby weight. She called me out for doing exactly what we were just talking about.

I have realized since that night, how often I practice negative self talk. It happens almost every day.

When I found out that I was having a girl, it focused my mind to a set list of joys and worries. I want to protect her but not in such a way that she is not able to experience the world. I want to hold her up and not hold her back. I worry about boys breaking her heart and friends breaking her trust. I worry about the pressure that is put on girls to look a certain way.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I can do to combat some of the challenges that she will face. I have come up with one seemingly simple answer. Nick and I need to develop her confidence. I want to send her out in the world with the knowledge of who she is and all she has to offer. If she knows her strength, power, and beauty she will be able to make better decisions. She will be able to walk away from troublesome boys, weak friendships, and damaging choices.

Children practice what you do but not always what you say. With this in mind, I have decided to break myself of negative self talk. If I tell her how wonderful she is and then knock myself down, the message is muddled. When I catch myself saying something critical, I replace it with something positive. If I can change the statement, I hope to eventually change the message.

I challenge you to be mindful of your own internal communication for one day. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Critic Does Not Count: Small Bursts

I never intended to stay away that long. I could offer a plethora of excuses. Emaline is the most obvious. She keeps me busy and is very distracting. She redirects my creativity and refocuses my attention, making it difficult to sit and write. But she is not the only reason. My computer stopped working around the same time that I finally got an iphone. I always thought that having a smartphone would make blogging easier. The tiny portal to the rest of the world is convenient for many things but I don't like it for writing.

Yesterday, Nick offered me his computer and so here I am.

Emaline just woke up from a nap and is cooing away in her swing.

And quickly her coos turned into fusses. So now it is a few hours later. She is taking her second nap and I am back to writing. I guess this speaks to not really owning my time. It has taken me awhile to realize that I can still accomplish the things that I want, but not always when I want.

I am on week three of the Artist's Way. The changes are small but noticeable. Cracks are forming and inspiration is starting to seep through. I have been having vivid and fantastic dreams. I am writing everyday. I have realized that writing does not have to be all or nothing. I can write in small bursts. I can write because I love it. I can create something new, not for critique but, as an expression of who I am. It is liberating to believe that my job is to put words on a page and what happens after that, is not for me to decide.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 
-Theodore Roosevelt 

Elizabeth Gilbert spoke about this in her Ted talk. Oprah has talked about this many times, most recently with the author of The War of Art. And this morning, the most eloquent blogger that I read daily, said this.

I have always been protective of my art. It was a big deal when I was younger to share my stories. It was a big deal in 2009 when I decided to start a blog. Putting yourself out there is scary. But I am also learning that vulnerability can be a good thing. And so I will try. I will try to be honest. I will try to be brave. I will try to share my voice.

She is starting to wiggle and coo. Her eyes are still closed but I know what comes next.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Birth Certificate: Naming a Person

Our baby girl had a first name long before we met her.

First day home.

As I mentioned in this post, we had a name picked out for a girl but not a boy. We came up with the name maybe even before we were married. I remember shortly after we got engaged, we were in a bar in Madison, Wisconsin and were talking names. And again when we were out to dinner in Stillwater, Minnesota. It seems that the conversations always happen when we get away from home. When we can daydream about the future.

Emaline is a song by Ben Folds. That is where we found the name. As you will hear in the song, her name is pronounced Emma-line. Line rhymes with fine or mine.

I love her name and it fits her well. I'm sure she will earn nicknames as she gets older but for now she's just my Emaline. 

Her middle name took us much longer. We filled out her birth certificate at the last possible moment and even then, were unsure. And when I say we, I really mean that I was not sure.

I thought I knew what her middle name would be months earlier. I had picked one that sounded pretty. But Nick wanted her name to mean something. He wanted family names. His Grandma Valley passed away in November and she meant the world to Nick. He had his heart set on Joann.

My Grandpa Rice passed away when I was 15. He was a poet and a builder and a man of great character. I had always planned to use his name. I thought it would be the middle name of a son but when Nick suggested otherwise, my heart latched onto Gardner.

And so she became:  

Emaline Joann Gardner Valley
Those are her arms inside sleeves that are much too big for her.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Birth Day: Emaline Joann Gardner Valley

Our baby girl arrived in the world on May 13th at 4:01pm.

She weighed in at 6 lbs 4 oz and was 18.6 inches long. Our doctor declared her to be a healthy peanut.

Labor was 10 hours.

Nick was, of course, by my side through everything. He fed me ice chips, rubbed my back, read me messages from friends and family, counted with me, and cried with me the first time we saw our little girl.

The overall labor and delivery experience was more positive than I imagined. The pain was worse.

I had back labor and it was excruciating. At the end of every contraction I collapsed into myself and waited for the next. I swore a lot.

Bless every woman who ventures through labor without an epidural. That woman will never be me.

Epidurals are amazing. Once that was in place, we put on music and I was able to rest a little.

My doctor was great but the nurses were the real rockstars. The few women who watched over me will forever have my gratitude.

At one point, lost in the pain, I forgot why I was there. But when the nurse started warming blankets to prepare for a tiny human to enter the world, it refocused my energy and I cried from excitement.

My Mom and Dad boarded a plane that morning and arrived at the hospital one hour before she was born. My Mom was in the room when her granddaughter arrived.

Nothing in my life will ever compare to seeing my baby for the first time. It was magical and amazing. Somebody told me to look up and when I did, they were holding her above me. She was here! She was healthy and beautiful and mine! They dropped her on my chest and I sobbed.

Everything else faded away. I only remember holding her in total disbelief. I loved her immediately.

Each day is something new and we are still learning to navigate this life. I have a lot more to share but she just started crying so I will leave you with photos since that's probably what you came here for anyway.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On Baby: Expected Early

Good advice right now.

On Thursday, Nick and I went to my doctor appointment and found out that they are moving the due date up one week. If she is not already here, I will be induced on May 13th (Original due date was May 19th). That is six days away.

Ever since we found out, I have been in a haze. One week early might not seem like a big deal, but there is something about tossing out the due date that threw me for a loop.

There are medical reasons behind the induction. It is not a decision based on schedules or convenience. That being said, everything is fine. There have been a number of small complications along the way. My doctor is wonderful and has been on top of everything, not letting any flag go unchecked. I trust her and I know that every decision is made with my and baby's best interest at heart.

I have been going in for weekly (and now, twice weekly) biophysicals for months. As far as medical procedures go, it's one of the most pleasant. It takes a lot of time but is an ultrasound (I would estimate we have had 17, most people have 3), followed by a non-stress test (involves drinking a CapriSun (Yum!) and monitoring the baby's heartbeat and movement.), followed by a consult with the doctor. Baby has been acing her exams, usually scoring a perfect 8/8 and that has allowed her to stay put for as long as she has.

But after being sent to a specialist, we received the recommendation to induce at 39 weeks. She is a little small, measuring about six pounds, amniotic fluid has remained steady but low, and they had previously recorded elevated pressure in the umbilical artery. The combination of these things, brought us the recommendation and ultimate decision to induce.

So there you go. Maybe more than you wanted. Maybe not enough. I had to write it all down for my own sanity and record keeping. My head is swimming with baby and delivery and so many emotions and I'm told I will forget all of this (yeah!).

Everyone around me is so excited. It is not that simple for me. I wish it was, but it's not. I cannot wait to hold my baby, to finally meet this little girl! I cannot wait for her to be a part of my life. I am thrilled at the idea of not being pregnant, of owning my body again. I am ecstatic to have my parents out here for two weeks. I am as ready as I think you can be. But I am also nervous, scared, anxious, and a thousand other things.

I told my doctor that my goal in this process is to "gather as much information as I can and then not have any expectations." And for the most part, that has worked for me. I ask a lot of questions. I read a lot. I try to prepare myself as much as possible. But when it's all said and done, there is so much out of my control.

I am taking this last bit of time to enjoy the change in weather (finally) and to prepare the house. I feel like there is so much to do but I know that breaking down cardboard and running laundry, ultimately, do not matter. But cleaning does settle my nerves so, I suppose for that reason alone, I will not fight the urge to sort clothes and clean the basement.

As you can probably tell from the disorganization of this post, my brain is not focused. I ask that you forgive my jumbled words and bear with me as this part of the journey comes to a close and a brand new chapter begins.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hometown: Connected

I don't know what I can say that has not already been said, but I know that I can not write about anything else, until I address what happened in Boston. It is hard to believe that it has only been a week. It is hard to believe that it happened at all.

You do not have to know me well, to know that I am from Boston. I live in Minneapolis but all of my family and some of my dearest friends still reside in and around the city. I have never been shy about my pride for my hometown. Boston is a remarkable place and I miss it very much.

Nick has commented to me on a few occasions that the city has a connectedness to it that is intimidating to an outsider. It feels like everyone knows everyone else. The house that my parents live in was built by my great-grandfather and that is not uncommon. Roots run deep and people love their city with a passion that is usually reserved for states and countries.

And it is with that connectedness, that passion, that my city responded to horrific tragedy. Watching my home splattered on national television was heart-wrenching. It felt like a nightmare and it stretched on for days. I sat on my couch trying to learn as much as I could. I flipped channels, yelling at national reporters for mispronunciations and at local reporters for pulling away from coverage to discuss weather and traffic. I endlessly texted and checked facebook and refreshed I worried about my family and friends and I prayed desperately for those I knew were not okay.

I commented in this post that before I go home again, I will have traveled a long way. I could never have imagined what that meant. I wish so badly that I could be there now, to look upon the people and the place and reaffirm that they are there, picking up the pieces and moving forward. It helps to see videos and to hear stories. It helps to know the strength of my city and the humor that peeks through, even in times of horrendous tragedy.
Boston, you have my heart.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Teaser: Baby Name

Kaia practicing her ballet moves.
I probably shouldn't write this. I know I am asking for it, but it's too fun not to share.

As you probably know, we are keeping hush on the baby name until she is born. People judge easily when there isn't a little face attached to the moniker. I have asked our friends and family to not make guesses. Some are better at following this request than others (ahem, Steve and Tracey).

The other night, Nick and I were driving home after date night at this restaurant, when the song I know, that has her name in the title, started playing. Nick had typed her name into Spotify to see what we would find. I was surprised by the results.

I have always thought that her name has a musicality to it, a sing-song sound. My thoughts were confirmed when more than half a dozen songs came up in the search. And maybe I am biased, but I loved each one. The first was pop/rock, then country, and the rest were much older. It makes me happy to hear her name put to music.

Being somebody with a unique name, I know I am setting her up for a lifetime of not finding her name written on combs and bracelets, but at least she will have the music.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The List: In One Year

 The summer after I graduated college, I was living at home and working my first full-time job. I was saving money and planning a move to Minnesota. I was figuring out life after college.

One day on my lunch break, I was reading in the cafeteria when I looked up to see a guy I knew. He was the friend of an ex-boyfriend and I knew he did not think highly of me. Still, it surprised me when we made eye contact and he stared at me with a look of hatred. He held my gaze for as long as I let him and his eyes burned with animosity. I could not stop thinking about it and by the time I left work that day, I felt sick.

It wasn't until that night, going over the image for the millionth time, that I realized something and just like that, let it go. I started thinking about everything that had happened since the last time I saw him. I realized that he did not know me, not really. A list of events from the last year started populating in my head, each one pushed me forward. And suddenly I was too far away to be touched, too far for his eyes and his anger to hurt me.

As soon as I realized this, I went to my computer and started typing. My intention was to write down all that happened and what came out was the list. Each item was a memory and a thousand stories. With every line, I recalled a moment, planned or unplanned, that had transported me. It was the sum of all these parts that reminded me of all that I had accomplished and all that I have left to do.

I shared the list with my parents and a few friends. When at the end of that summer, I packed up my car and moved halfway across the country, my mom presented the list to me in a frame. Again at my wedding, my older sister read the list in lieu of a speech. Today, as I cleaned my office to prepare for my parents to stay here after the baby is born, I found the framed copy. And again, I am reminded.   

In the past year I...
July 5, 2004- July 5, 2005

Traveled to another country alone
Lived in Australia
Learned another culture
Traveled the eastern Australian coast
Met amazing friends
Fell in love
Snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef
Held a koala
Hugged a kangaroo
Ate kangaroo
Danced on a fire bar
Chilled in an ice bar
Traveled to New Zealand
Went bungee jumping
Went white water rafting
Dove out of an airplane
Rode in a jet boat
Hiked up a glacier
Fell through ice
Conquered a fear
Flew in a helicopter
Climbed an iceberg
Tried absinthe
Went on a road trip
Played with dolphins
Stayed in a hostel
Learned to surf
Flew in 30 planes
Saw an opera in Sydney
Saw the Red Sox win the World Series
Traveled to Minnesota
Traveled to Wisconsin
Celebrated with a Valentine
Tried sushi
Lost a passport
Almost lost a loved one
Walked all night for Relay for Life
Did an internship
Wrote my thesis
Decided to move
Graduated college
Turned 22 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Fashion: Melting

 Spring might be coming. She wrote with much trepidation. The past few days have been sunny and melty. Tomorrow is supposed to be 55. In Minnesota that means there will be people outside in shorts. It is ridiculous. The amount of people who wrote on facebook that they drove with windows down yesterday is astounding. It was 37 maybe 40. We are desperate.

I am not immune to the excitement. Today I have been browsing pinterest and getting excited to dress myself post-baby. I have decided to share some of the lovelies with you.

I have collected a few Anthropologie gift cards and I am hoarding them until I am ready to try on and buy a summer dress. They have so many that I like right now but, alas, I must wait. A few favorites:

 Also, for the first time this summer since I was maybe fifteen, I am planning on buying and wearing a one-piece bathing suit. The idea scares me. In my head, I imagine those pretty, vintage bathing suits.

Why does it seem that women's bathing suits took a giant step back at some point? The vintage styles are flattering and lovely. Thankfully it seems that suits are moving in that direction again. But the one pieces from the 90s and 2000s are terrible. The last time I wore I one piece, it was essentially a leotard that flattened your chest and erased curves. And cutting giant strips of fabric from random places gives you weird tan lines and requires a perfect body to pull off.

Tan lines from this would make you look infected.

 Goodbye slouchy sweaters and winter jackets that do not zip. Hello tank tops, maxi dresses, and sandals!

I want this shirt!

Watch, next time I blog, I will be telling you about a new coating of snow. 

I hope the sun is shining wherever you are!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Last Bit of Winter: Momentary Escape

 Happy Spring. Although, it does not feel much like spring. The sun is definitely getting stronger but it is 21 degrees and there are mounds of snow everywhere. I am so over winter, snow, and being inside. I know I am repeating the words of so many others but- come on!

In the last few days, even Toby seems to have hit a wall. He gets so spun up and wants to play but can't stay focused to follow through with our usual games. I think he has cabin fever. It's like my little gray puppy has an internal calendar letting him know that spring is here. He wants out and so do I.

I think this is the first winter that Nick and I have not escaped somewhere warm. Usually there is a trip to break things up, to remind me that winter is long but that summer will come again. It is encouraging to go somewhere that does not suffer winter the way we do. A place where skin can be exposed and where winter does not include frozen sidewalks and icicle clad houses.

  I do not know when I will be somewhere tropical again. It will not be for awhile. I had a dream last night that Nick and I were on a resort on an island. It was amazing. I woke up and could not stop thinking about sunshine, waves, and colorful drinks.

And so I took to pinterest. If I can't make it happen, I can at least imagine where I would go...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Coincidence: Clues and Cues

Inspired by a recent episode of This American Life, I have been thinking a lot about coincidence. I love stories that unite random moments and chance meetings. I am fascinated by unexpected examples of connection that offer temporary proof of a meaningful life.

Since listening to the episode, I am trying to recall the coincidences that have happened to me. I came up with five examples. I ran the anecdotes by Nick and he questioned if they were all illustrations of coincidence. In his opinion, luck and serendipity were at work in a few.

However you want to classify them, these accounts have been plucked from obscurity to represent meaning. Some happened years ago and still, I hold them close to my heart. They have shone a light on ordinary days and created a memory that lives to provide significance.

My most recent instance occurred just a few weeks ago.

When we were in Boston, Nick and I went to a friend's for dinner. It was a forty minute drive from my parents' house and one town over from where my Mom grew up. The streets that take you from the main road to our destination were windy, wooded, and on this night, very snowy. We used Nick's phone for directions and planned on using it for the return trip. When we got out to the car, the map failed to find our location.

We tried to remember our way out and made guesses with each turn. After maybe ten minutes, I knew we were off track. The weather and the narrow roads made it too dangerous to pull over. We finally came upon an opening in the road, a small convenience store parking lot. I parked and called my Mom, hoping the area would be familiar enough for her to direct us home.

I told her the road we had been driving on and the name of the convenience store. She asked for a street sign. Behind us, I saw a street post with two street names and arrows pointing in opposite directions. I read the names off to her. Her voice changed with recognition. She said the street names back with a tongue of familiarity. I confirmed the streets and she let out a breath. She then gave me easy directions to a road that I would know.

The next morning my Mom informed me that I was sitting directly in front of the house where my grandfather was born and raised.

In the episode, it is mentioned that the stories always feel more powerful when they happen to us.  It is hard to view your own life through an objective lens. We desire a life of value and these glimpses show us a path, a larger force at work.

Despite that truth, a quote at the end of the podcast brings together why these stories still matter.

"There's just a poetry to things like this when they happen. There's some kind of beauty in it. There's meaning in the noticing of it at all."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nest: It's the Little Things

When we returned from the baby shower, I washed, sorted, and folded all of the tiny clothes. The crib and dresser will not come in for another 7-9 weeks (who's worried?) so I stacked them in a laundry basket in the baby's closet.

I am deep in the throes of nesting. I want to spend all my time preparing and I get anxious when there is nothing for me to do.

I have to wait for her crib and dresser. I am waiting for a shipment from my Mom with the items we could not pack into our suitcases after the shower. Nick and I have implemented a budget and I am trying to wait until the end of the month to spend money on other baby items (shelf, baskets, curtains, blinds). So right now, I am stuck. I keep measuring her room to see how everything will fit. And sometimes, I just sit in there and look around. Do I sound crazy yet?

As for her tiny clothes- so. much. pink. I knew it was going to happen and I absolutely do not mind but I do love when clothes can be really cute or girly without being pink. It shows a little creativity. My absolute favorite is when clothes have ruffles on the butt.

And a few weeks ago, I found the below image on pinterest. I fell in love. It made me think about summer. I would have purchased it on the spot except it turned out to be instructions on how to sew the outfit. Not going to happen.

 The socks are impossibly small. We did already lose one (it has since been recovered) but I know it's just a matter of time before they start slipping into the land of the missing. I plan on using this clever idea to help mitigate our losses.

The other thing that I want to address is the registry. It is a lot of work.

It is nothing like registering for a wedding. Your wedding is all about things you want. Oh that rug is pretty, check. It is awesome. You get nice towels and matching bowls and it is important, but you are adding things to the life that you currently have. (Example: Nick and I love hosting dinner parties, we should get some items that we can use.)

 When you build a baby registry, it is a lot more involved. You are preparing for a life that you do not yet have. And you are asking for items that will help a tiny human live. (Example: I want to leave my house with this baby, I need to put it somewhere safe.)

Nick and I spent hours researching what we need. We read hundreds of amazon reviews and reached out to friends and family with questions. So much thought went into every item we added. So it shocked me when a friend told me she had trouble picking something out for us because "there wasn't anything special on the registry". I know what she meant and it is a thought I have had before when looking at other registries. But I can tell you now, every item on that registry is special. Changing pads might not be glamorous but I need to put my baby down on something so that I can keep that pretty rug.

 Speaking of special gifts, for my birthday Nick gave me Make Way for Ducklings. If you grew up in New England, chances are you had this book. And if you grew up in Boston, chances are this book was cause for a field trip. If you have no idea what I am talking about, buy this book for a child in your life and then go to the Public Garden in Boston. I posted a picture of them on this blog post.

Nick and I had our wedding photos done in that park.

Also there's this: