Feathered Aspen


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The Pregnant Landlords

Well, our second trimester came and went without much glory…  I may be deluding myself, but I seem to remember feeling a bit more energetic and enthusiastic with the first two pregnancies.  While my nausea did abate and I had more energy than the first trimester, I can barely count on one hand the number of times I thought about forgoing a midday nap.  And I’m still not staying up much past 9, so I feel a bit like a sleepy landmonster.

About a month ago, I started having this sharp pain right around the middle of my spine and I was feeling huge…  Luckily, the pain hasn’t reappeared (except during a long car ride or at the end of a really long day) since week 26, and though I’m waddling by the end of the day, when I look down at my belly, it feels about right for 29 weeks.  I think that’s just how it goes with each successive pregnancy – you get bigger faster, but eventually it’s all about the same.

With the anterior placenta, it took a long time to feel regular, strong movements from out little girl.  At even 17 and 18 weeks, I wasn’t sure I was feeling her every day (whereas with Lu, I felt certain I was feeling her as early as 14 weeks).  But in the past couple of weeks, the movements have been strong enough to shift my whole belly and be visible to others.  Now when I lay down or sit for a bit, I’m almost guaranteed to feel her move.  And that, my friends, is the most magical part of pregnancy.  So strange and so exciting.

This morning I noticed my linea nigra for the first time, and I’ve been seeing the mask creep onto my face the past couple of weeks.  Despite all my best efforts to eat healthy and work out regularly, I feel like I have this winter coat of extra weight everywhere on my body.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, but with my third pregnancy, I also know that this is what my body does to get ready for baby and it’s not excessive and it doesn’t last forever.

The working out is going well.  We were all hit with a bout of the flu last week, so that slowed me down, but otherwise, I run as much as three consecutive miles (woohoo!), and I try to cover 4-6 miles each day running/walking.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I swim laps at the Rec Center for 40 minutes.  It really is so wonderful to be weightless and engage in a form of exercise where the bulk of my belly doesn’t slow me down much.  I can still do flip turns and I just swim at this easy pace, four strokes and a breath, the whole time, covering 35-40 laps.  I can’t say it’s terribly rigorous, but I do feel like it’s a workout.  The only thing I wish I were doing more of was strength.  I’ve had the intention of doing arms and lunges and squats, but…  Yeah.  That’s hardly happened.  Also, yoga.  But I’m thinking that might be part of my birth prep in the last 6-8 weeks.

Looking forward, it’s hard to believe that there are just 11 weeks left until our due date.  Between visitors and holidays, the majority of our weekends are already planned out, and though our to-do list isn’t enormous, I am starting to feel the urge to really get ready, emotionally as much as organizationally.

I know that organizationally, everything will get done, and if it doesn’t, that’ll be ok too.  I still remember that saying from my prenatal yoga teacher when I was expecting Lu:  “babies are born with a sandwich in their hands.”  And it’s true.  There’s not much stuff that you truly need when it comes to babies.  Something warm to dress them in, diapers, a baby carrier and a car seat…  Love.  That’s about it.  Mentally and emotionally, though.  That stuff is important.  I think taking care of your head and heart and doing a little prep there before baby comes is so important, and we haven’t had much time for that recently.

…two week intermission…

Haha!  Where was I? Oh yes.  Mental and emotional readiness.  And I think I was about to tell you that mentally and emotionally, these past few months have been a whirlwind.  Well.  Two weeks have past and not much as changed pregnancy-wise, but as we gain distance from July, August, September, and the first week of October, I am feeling a bit more mentally and emotionally grounded.  Not quite ready, but better.

July, August, and September were just nuts.  After we got back from Bryce Canyon, Joshua jumped into renovations on the basement in our second house.  We decided not to rent the upstairs during the renovations and turn the renovations into a larger single family rental, rather than the up/down rentals we had initially considered.  And even though forgoing a kitchen in the downstairs meant saving on time and money, it still took forever.  Joshua worked, and worked, and worked…  And then he worked some more.  At first, he took off two days a week to spend time with us, but by the second week of July, we knew our plans for a finish date of August 1st were way too ambitious.  So then he started taking just one day off.  And then teacher training started, and he worked M-F at school and spent most of the weekend in the basement, working.  By mid August, Joshua had worked a month straight without taking a single day off, and it was becoming clear that even a September 1st rental date was out of the question.

So he kept going.  We brought out Papa and then Grumpy.  We had a work day and bribed our friends to come over.  For a couple of weeks in October, the girls and I were over there doing as much as we could do, too.  Joshua was at the house after work during the week and all weekend.

By the time I listed the rental, it was September 23rd, and although it wasn’t completely finished, we felt assured that we could pull off the last touches by October 1st…

And then came two very, very stressful weeks.  A year and a half ago when we had listed just our two bedroom, one bath, there had been FLOODS of e-mails and voicemails with interested and motivated potential renters.  And it wasn’t cheap.  But here comes our mistake.  Rather than doing our research, we assumed that we would be able to rent a four bedroom, two bath, single family home in an up-and-coming area for quite a bit more.  It has double the square footage, a large deck, three large family spaces, and a fenced in yard.  Initially, we thought that we would be able to rent the place for 50% more than we had last year, which would make the last three months of hell…  Worth it.  We could pay for a vacation!

48 hours in, we had no responses, and with a heavy heart, I dropped the price $200.  Another 48 hours in, there was only one hopeful lead, and then that fizzled out.  With October 1 approaching fast and the thought of floating the mortgage and losing rent for another month over our heads, we dropped the price another $200.

It was the magic number.  Calls came in and we had at least 8 showings.  The impossible (renting the space by October 1) started to seem possible.  And then an application came in asking if we accepted housing vouchers.

God knows why after all of this we decided to look into housing vouchers, especially when we had two other applications with no such requests, but we decided to look into it.  We had gotten a good feeling from the person applying, and something in us just said, try it.

So with whirlwind efficiency, we filled out an RFTA (Request for Tenancy Approval) which is about 20 pages of questions about us as landlords and about the property.  Our very motivated potential tenant submitted the document to the DHA (Denver Housing Authority) the very next day, and we waited to schedule an inspection.

Although it typically takes two weeks after submitting the RFTA to get an inspection, they expedited the process (yes!  Bureaucracy that can move fast!), and we were able to get an inspection on October 4th.  The inspector walked through the home, opening each of the windows and peeking inside appliances.  When she was through, she announced that she would be back at the end of the day to see that we had installed a thumb lock on the back door, a railing on the steps downstairs, and hung our fire detectors.

And she did.  And then together, the inspector, the tenant, and Joshua signed the lease.

So it was a little bit crazy, and we were nervous the whole time that everything would fall through, but it didn’t.  It worked out.  And you know what?  I feel pretty good about the decision we made to take a risk.  It seems like every report I hear or read on Denver housing and real estate says that gentrification is a huge problem, and the rising costs of housing are pushing out families that have lived here for generations.  So it feels good to be part of the solution, rather than the problem.  We’re providing housing to good tenants who deserve to be able to live and work in the town where they grew up.  And as independent providers of Section 8 housing, we’re offering a nice, newly remodeled single family home in a mixed-income neighborhood, rather than an apartment in a building designated for public housing.  I’ve taught many students who have lived in “projects” like those, and I think most of them would agree that these were not nice or safe places to live.  It was a learning process for us, but I’m glad we had the experience.  If you’re curious and would like to learn more, here’s a link.

What else, you ask?  Well, we took a quick 7 hour drive up to the Black Hills to see our friends, the Devanes, for a weekend in between submitting the RFTA and scheduling an inspection.  So that was both wonderful and a little terrifying to still have everything in limbo.  Once we got back and managed to finally rent the house, we breathed a sigh of relief.  Or rather, I did.  Joshua returned to work and felt overwhelmed by a growing list of things to do at school, so he worked late a few nights that week to catch up.

And then that weekend – the first weekend in nearly three months that we anticipated spending time as a family together, just the four of us, we got nailed with the flu.

On Friday night, Lu puked.  By Saturday morning, I was puking.  Joshua took the girls (Lu had a quick recovery) to go have fun at the pumpkin patch, but Lily was having a resurgence of what was definitely not food poisoning and had hit her on Wednesday.  On Saturday night, Joshua began puking.  This particular bug was a lovely little two-fer.  24 hours of nausea, followed by 24 to 48 hours of feeling somewhat better, and then a little 6 resurgence.  I puked again on Monday night.  Yum.

So yeah.  I think that’s where I left you guys.  We had just emerged from the flu, and from three months of overtime, single parenting, missing Joshua, and just generally feeling like we were totally in over our heads.  And then realizing that after all of that, we are in the exact same financial position we were in last year, month to month.  Because while the basement will certainly add to the value of the property and pay off when we sell, the increase in rent just manages to balance out the increase in our mortgage we took on in the spring when we refinanced to take out money to renovate the basement…  So yeah.  No sweet little vacation bonus there (she weeps).  It sucks, and we’re sad, but I’m also feeling like, well!  It’s done!  We don’t have to do it again!  And it sucks!  But moving on!  We’ve got lives to live, dammit!  We survived on this budget last year, and we’ll do it again this year.

You see what I mean?  Not the greatest mental and emotional preparation for welcoming a new little munchkin into the family in 9 weeks. But that being said, I’m already feeling better.  Two weeks ago, I was just on the other side of everything and feeling like I was getting my bearings.  And now if you asked me how things were going, I’d say we’re doing fine.  Which reminds me of something people say about women and their ability to completely forget/gloss over massive amounts of misery and pain…  Should we talk about labor?!

Haha.  But really.  The other night, I was having some insomnia, and I was all like, oh shit.  I have to give birth in like, two months, and man.  That’s gonna hurt.  And then of course I have this internal struggle like, “no!  Don’t say it’s going to hurt!  It’s going to be fine!  If you think it’s gonna hurt, then it’s gonna hurt!”  And then I’m all like, “but it hurts!  I can’t lie!”

Ok.  I’m going to end this post here with some photos of the rental.  And then I’ll be back for updates on Lily and Lu.

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Our old bedroom

Our old bedroom

The girls' old bedroom

The girls’ old bedroom

I do have new pictures of this space sans all of our stuff.  In the new photos you would see the big ass new house they built in the lot next store.  Seriously huge.  It's a side-by-side duplex three stories high that sold for half a million for each unit.

I do have new pictures of this space sans all of our stuff. In the new photos you would see the big ass new house they built in the lot next store. Seriously huge. It’s a side-by-side duplex three stories high that sold for half a million for each unit.

I'm sad to say our previous renters didn't appreciate pink nearly as much as I do and the "pink room" is now grey...

I’m sad to say our previous renters didn’t appreciate pink nearly as much as I do and the “pink room” is now grey…

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There's the cypress mantle Sarah brought us from NOLA

There’s the cypress mantle Sarah brought us from NOLA

Entryway

Entryway

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More kitchen love

More kitchen love

Joshua designed and bought everything from Ikea and then installed it with the help of his dad.

Joshua designed and bought everything from Ikea and then installed it with the help of his dad.

I miss that farmhouse sink!

I miss that farmhouse sink!

Gorgeous kitchen and huge island.

Gorgeous kitchen and huge island.

Upstairs bathroom

Upstairs bathroom

Front living room (back when we were living there!)

Front living room (back when we were living there!)

Back bedroom on first floor.

Back bedroom on first floor.

Stairs to the basement (now with a railing ;)

Stairs to the basement (now with a railing 😉

New bathroom in basement with shower installation by Grumpy

New bathroom in basement with shower installation by Grumpy

Large family space in basement.

Large family space in basement.

Large bedroom in basement with egress window and structural supports.  All by Joshua (with help from his dad).

Large bedroom in basement with egress window and structural supports. All by Joshua (with help from his dad).

Back deck/back yard.

Back deck/back yard.

Huge back deck.  Perhaps too huge?

Huge back deck. Perhaps too huge?

And that’s a wrap.  Maybe someday Joshua will put up a post about everything he did, but I doubt it.  I think he’s too bruised from the whole experience.  He really did an amazing job.  I can’t believe everything that went into structurally reinforcing the space, electricity, framing, plumbing, drywall, floors, the deck…  And I’m sure a bunch of things I don’t remember or never really understood in the first place.  I never cease to be amazed by his DIY skillz.

And finally, a huge thanks to those of you who helped us:  Papa Tim, thank you so much for the kitchen and the help with all the windows.  I know that Joshua appreciated getting to spend quality time with you and that your expert help was a huge life-saver.  Grumpy Dave, thank you so much for helping with the back part of the house and the bathroom downstairs.  Both the company and your reliable skills are so appreciated.  Mark, Joshua’s former co-worker, put in quite a few hours tuck-pointing and doing other odds jobs, and David spent hours in the sun digging out the egress window.  Our friends, Weston, Mark, Will, and Melanie came over for a long work day and helped clean and finish the deck, and my mom spent hours cleaning the house from top to bottom.  Dan, my mom’s boyfriend, nearly broke his back working on the deck and clearing out mountains of debris from the back yard.  Thank you, thank you so much.  We couldn’t have done it all without you, and having company made it all a bit more bearable.  Compensation in the form of plane tickets, low hourly wages and pizza doesn’t seem nearly enough.  We love and appreciate you guys.

***And now, at the end of this post, I’m realizing what a weird combination of themes we have here…  Pregnancy and renovation.  Although, as my friend Chelsea said, it wouldn’t be an Andert pregnancy if there weren’t renovation involved 😉


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Before she is born

Three months ago, we bought a new house.  Both Joshua and I were excited about the newness and change that accompanies a new home, but I knew enough about home renovation to feel a good bit of trepidation.

Joshua never ceases to amaze me.  He’s a DIY plumber and electrician.  He can build a kitchen and install any appliance.  He’ll look it up on YouTube, call his dad, or buy a book, and he’ll figure it out.  It’s an admirable quality, this can-do attitude.  This Spring, he made the transition from a History Teacher writing his curriculum from scratch to the Dean of Instruction for a new grade in a relatively new high school charter.  He also trained for a 50 mile ultramarathon.

Sometimes, my husband seems like Superman, and sometimes, my husband seems like a crazy person.  I’m comfortable with dichotomies, so let’s just say he’s both.  He’s Superman, and he’s crazy.

The past three months have been difficult.  Between a new house which could only be described as “a challenge” or a “fixer-upper,” an already over-committed husband, and a baby-belly waiting for no man, Superman or crazy, it’s been a test of endurance and sanity.

I’d like to tell you that I’m one of those zen-mamas that takes adversity in stride, finds the calm in the storm, and all that great BS, but who the hell would I be kidding?  I am definitely NOT zen.  When we moved into this new home nearly a month ago, I felt my world slide into chaos.  I had no kitchen, few outlets, no laundry.  Wires were exposed, and there were many gaps in the floor where I could see down into the basement.  At 35 weeks, I was feeling a nearly primal urge to scrub baseboards, launder linens, and windex windows inside and out; instead, I sat paralyzed amid boxes in a construction zone.

Even a task as seemingly simple as hanging artwork had multiple steps: is it an outer wall or inner wall? Lath board and plaster or cement on brick?  Which drill bit do I need and which fastener?  Hanging Ikea frames quickly reduced me to a pregnant mess of tears.  First, there was figuring out how to afix the wire to the frames, then there was the realization that each wire was at a different height, then the complicated mathematical problem of spacing them in an even grid.  It took me hours, and in the end, Joshua had to go back in and redo the fasteners because the entire thing was a catastrophic mess waiting to descend upon a small toddler’s head.

So here I am, pregnant, unskilled in matters of renovation, and unable to perform even the simplest of labors.  My anti-zen mantra went something like this:  “om, no counter, no sink, no stove, no outlets, om, sob, sob.”

We had help.  The Ps let Lily nap at their place probably a dozen times, and they cooked us plenty of meals when we had no kitchen.  Yvonne painted and cleaned up a storm, and K and Jesse helped Joshua move all of our belongings.  Stacy helped me pack up Gray and then went back to clean.  At the end of April, Papa Tim came out to help Joshua with the kitchen.  I can’t imagine doing what we’ve done without them, and I still have a hard time imagining how we did it all, even with them.

On Monday, we finished the “To Do Before Lu is Born List.”  The outlets are wired, the trim is installed, the lights are hung, and the kitchen is done.  Things are unpacked, baby items are put away, and even the front porch is a pleasant place to sit.  The washer and dryer (actually as of this morning) are installed, and we’re nearly finished with all of the loads of laundry.  We vacuumed and mopped, finished painting the trim, and windexed the inside of the windows.  On Tuesday, we hosted friends for dinner.

The house is not done.  There is a maw of a basement, debris all over the yard, two unfinished rooms in the back, nonexistent landscaping in front and back, and the exterior of the house is pretty homely.  But it is enough.  More than enough, really.  It’s a beautiful home, and it’s fairly astounding that Joshua did so much of it all by himself.

This is the story of my last trimester.  I can’t tell it without telling this story as well, but I’d also like to include the things that are a bit more commonplace.

Tomorrow I’m 39 weeks.  It’s been on my mind that Lu could come any day for two weeks now.  I could be pregnant for another day, or I could be pregnant for almost three more weeks.  Who knows?  So here are the stats, big and small, of my second pregnancy.

  • I started showing at 16 weeks.
  • We found out Lu’s gender at 20 weeks.
  • I took maternity leave at 35 weeks.
  • At 38 weeks, I measured 34 cm and had gained 20 lbs, and the midwife scheduled me for an ultrasound.
  • At my ultrasound on Wednesday, we discovered that Lu may be a bit smaller than Lily(who was 7 lbs 5 oz at delivery), but not so small to cause concern.  The guess for Lu at this point is 6 lbs 6 oz.
  • I like being pregnant.  I have a few fairly unglamorous symptoms, but overall, I feel lucky to be able to carry a baby and bring her into the world.
  • As for the unglamorous symptoms:  wicked varicose veins on my left leg, complete with dark purple patches that cover most of my shins and lumpy veins, loose ligaments in my pelvis, strong and frequent braxton hick’s, and cankles that could easily compete in any geriatric ward.
  • Now that I have two pregnancies to compare, here’s what I’d have to say about the differences:  the first trimester was rocky for both Lily and Lu, but it was definitely harder with Lu.  I was nauseated most of the time, EXHAUSTED, and repulsed by a variety of foods and smells.  With Lu, it was mostly the same, but just more intense.  I threw up more often, and it was harder to find time to sleep with a toddler.  The second trimester was pretty similar.  I gained weight and showed more quickly, but in the end, I hit a plateau and found myself at a similar size and weight to where I was with Lily.  The varicose veins were worse the second time around, and I experienced much more back pain this time.  The one thing that did go much better this time around was my exercise regimen.  With Lily, I stopped running at 27 weeks, but I’m still running with Lu.  I had to learn that even if one run was terrible, horrible, miserable, that didn’t mean I would feel the same way the next day.  So, some days I barely run and I mostly walk, but I do still have days where I run nearly two miles (yesterday in fact!).
  • Another thing that I’ve done differently with this second pregnancy is yoga.  You can read an entertaining post on my general feelings towards yoga up until now, but I decided it was time to try it again.  So many people recommend yoga for attempting unmedicated labor, and so I thought, why not?  I bought a five class pack at the Mamahood, and I’m considering buying another for this last bit.  I’ve surprised myself by loving it; for the first time, I’m appreciating the grace of the movement and the mindfulness of breathing.

So this brings me to my hopes for labor.  I’m at peace with waiting for Lu to arrive, but I am drinking raspberry leaf tea by the liter, and I would prefer to deliver before 41 weeks.  I might grumble a bit if I go later than that.  Given my epic labor last time, I have some plans for this time.  They include:  drinking a glass of wine, going to bed, listening to yoga music, concentrating on my breathing.  I plan to keep moving, sit in the water, and maybe even try a few yoga poses.

Above all, I’m excited to meet Lu.  I’m excited to introduce her to Joshua and Lily, to hold her for the first time.  If I deliver her with an unmedicated, vaginal labor, it will be the fulfillment of a hope of mine, but if I learned anything from my first labor, it’s that my hopes and plans are not the same thing as a map or a blue print, and I have to be ok with that, too.  If I should be so lucky as to have another healthy, beautiful little girl, I will be extremely blessed.

So that’s all for now.  In the meantime, we’re enjoying our time together.  On Tuesday, we went to the Science Museum and had friends over for dinner.  Yesterday, we went to the Children’s Museum and Joshua and I had a little date.  Tomorrow, we’re off to the Botanical Gardens and on Saturday, we’re having a playdate with one of Lily’s friends from school.  Today, we drove to Lair O the Bear and played in the river.  It’s been a good few days.


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May

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Oof.  Would you look at that little girl?  She’s dynamite.  On the mornings that we wake up together, she crawls onto the bed and snuggles in close, wrapping her arms around my neck and saying, “my mommy.”  She’s generous with her kisses and hugs in the morning, and man, it’s just the best way to wake up.  She also likes rubbing her face against ours and saying, “mmmm.”

Today, Joshua and I went for a run.  Let me just brag for a moment and say that I am 33 weeks pregnant and still running!  Because I’m super competitive, my goal was 32 weeks.  Stacy ran a 5k at 32 weeks, and I kind of thought she was ironwoman.  Anyway, now that I’ve run six weeks longer than I did with Lily, I’m thinking that I might just try and make it to the end.  This time around, I’ve learned that just because one day feels like the most pathetic run of my life doesn’t mean that I’ll feel the same way tomorrow.  I walk a lot, but I’d say that I’m still running between 60 and 80 percent of my 3 – 4 mile runs.  Today, I ran 2.7 miles before walking.  Because Joshua was pushing the stroller;)  I also have to say that having a running partner has made running much easier.  Between Stacy and Joshua, I’ve run by myself probably twice in the past month.

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Joshua left us after the run to put in another long day at the new house.  We’re moving next weekend, and I’m a little terrified.  Despite Joshua’s long hours, there’s still no bathroom, no sink, no countertops, no electrical in Lily’s room, no hung lights, and plenty of painting left…  I’m just praying this little munchkin in my belly doesn’t plan on an early arrival; otherwise, we’ll have a newborn in a construction zone.

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And speaking of bellies, mine is big.  As you can see, I can barely see my feet anymore, and these days, when I sit down, the top of my uterus shoves up into my lung space and makes me feel as though I’m suffocating a little bit.  I don’t really remember Lily doing this, but Lu seems to have the perfect vantage point to stick her little feet up and kick my ribs.  I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but sometimes, it kind of makes me feel like I’m going to barf.

Also, I think Lu is going to be bigger than Lily.  I can already feel the perfect little shape of her butt, and her knees and feet poke out, too.  I feel like she’s begun to outgrow the belly, and there’s still 7 weeks left!

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After Joshua left, Lily and I headed out to Gallup Café to have brunch with Stacy, Margot, and her mom, Sandy.  We all had delicious bagel sandwiches and coffee, and despite having two little ones along, we had a very pleasant meal.  Afterwards, I had promised to take Lily to the park.  I had been thinking the park was much closer than it actually was, but alas, I think it was more than a half mile.  Carrying Lily much further than half a block isn’t really in the cards these days, so she ended up walking all the way there and all the way back.  She was actually a little champ, and the longest blocks were the last two, when she got pretty tired.

At the park, Lily tried out all the climbing features.  This is a new thing for us, but I’m super impressed by how well she does.  Between ropes and bars, I spot and she climbs.  To be honest, this is way more fun for me than the stairs/slide loop that we’ve been running heretofore.

Anyway, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  I’ve felt so lucky to have this time with Lily.  Spring has given us lots of mommy-daughter time, and so far, this age is my favorite.  We talk and play, and she forges a little more independence every day.  It’s so fun to watch her grow, and I feel so lucky to be her mom.


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All at Once

Lily

It’s been a while since I wrote about Lily’s milestones, and since this blog really the only baby book I have for her, I’d better catch up:

  • Words:  Since Christmas, Lily’s language has really begun to unfold.  About two months ago, we started hearing her string together words.  “Come here.”  “Sit down.”  “Baby sad?”  In Salida, I heard her form her longest sentence (of sorts) yet.  “Daddy ball up in sky?”  (Daddy, will you throw the ball up in the sky?)  Just last night, Lily said, “Margot read book?”  Her vocabulary, of course, is also growing.  She tries out words and many of them sound the same.  “Jacket,”  “Airplane,”  “Oscar,”  “Snack,”  and  “Hungry,” for example, all sound pretty similar.  Nevertheless, she’s communicating, and I love being able to look into her little face as she earnestly repeats the same unintelligible word, over and over again.  “Ball?” “Potty?” “Snack?” I say, guessing.  Finally, if it’s really important, she’ll take my hand and lead me somewhere.
  • Learning:  Last week, Lily and I picked out a potty, big girl undies, a stool, and a red plastic ball with a LED light inside that flashes on impact.  The final item is unrelated, of course, but boy, does this little girl love chasing a flashing light incased in a red ball.  Anyway, that first night, she went on the big girl potty twice, and since then, she’s pulled off nearly three whole days spent entirely in big girl undies.  Diapers?  So passé, she says.  Of course, I’m still putting her in them overnight and during longer trips out and about.  Her school can’t transition her quite yet, either.  But she’s made it through nap and even on stroller-runs without an accident.  Before we had purchased the potty, Lily had used the big girl potty with success probably a dozen times, and she would frequently ask.  I was beginning to think that she might just take up the potty without mishap, but pooping has proved to be a bit more challenging than peeing.  I could tell that she needed to, but every time we tried, it just wouldn’t come…  Until I saw Lily crouching in the corner, looking a little shocked.  We also had a little accident at my birthday dinner where she may very well have told us that she needed the potty, but I just wasn’t paying attention.
  • Preferences:  Would you believe that in five months that have passed since I weaned Lily, she’s asked to nurse every day?  Well, it’s true.  Thankfully, she says it with a little smirk, and when I tease her that she’s being silly, she laughs.  She’s still a hand-down-the-shirt kind of girl, and when mommy’s not around, daddy’s will do.  So much for my devious plan to have her forget the boob and all of it’s glory before Lu comes along…  I’m afraid we may have some heartbreak yet.  Other than boobs, Lily loves kitties (hence her kitty-themed birthday party), Cameron (her best friend at school), pulling wagons and pushing strollers, grocery shopping, “bar bars” (Lara Bars and Kit’s Organic Cliff Bars are our favorite), reading, and going to “Margot’s house.”  In terms of food, she loves fish, asparagus, rice, SOUR CREAM (which she’ll eat by the fistful, if you’re not careful), cheese, bananas, oatmeal, egg whites (but not yolks, yet), tomatoes, kombucha (“Bucha?”), sparkling water, and almond milk.  She’s such a dairy fiend that it’s hard to keep her away, but she takes after the As, so we try to limit her dairy intake.  The girl produces phlegm like it’s her job.  Lily’s other preferences are appearance based.  She likes piggies and ponies, but some days she prefers to wear her hair down.  Don’t worry, she’ll let you know.  When it comes to dressing, she’s got ideas of her own, and sometimes mommy’s ideas are DEFINITELY not what she had in mind.  She loves all of her doting grandparents, music, dancing, drawing, and being outside.  She loves smelling flowers, and she’s terrified of bees (been stung three times in her short life, poor girl).  She has an endearing love for cards, and she likes to fall asleep holding her sippy cup, a book, and either Curious George or one of her kitties.
  • Oof:  Lily is a pretty easy-going little lady.  She smiles a lot, and she’s very sweet.  While she certainly enjoys testing some boundaries, she’ll often clean, share, and walk to bed all by herself, even when she doesn’t want to.  I think our most difficult moments are mostly after nap, when she’s feeling particularly grumpy and sensitive.  Eating hasn’t been a smooth road, either.  Lily’s not terribly picky, but it’s tempting to capitulate to her preferences, rather than try to get her to taste and appreciate other things.  We’re trying, but we’ve definitely made some mistakes.  Around Christmas, I would have said that my biggest struggle with Lily was her rejection.  She went through a phase where it felt like she wanted very little to do with me, but thankfully, that’s mostly passed.  Now, I think our biggest battle is sickness.  Poor little Lily has had either a cold or an ear infection for nearly three months now, and she’s projectile vomited all night long twice now.  As you can imagine, it’s been hard for Lily, but it’s also been hard on us.  I feel like she’s had a cough forever now, and some days I’m convinced that my body will just cease to work on so little sleep.  But it keeps working, and Lily keeps coughing and her nose keeps dripping…  Oh lord.  It’s a crucible.  I think I’ve narrowed down the vomiting to a garlic sensitivity, and yesterday, we went to the doctor and they prescribed a low-grade steroid inhaler to reduce inflammation in Lily’s lungs (plus did a swab for pertussis).  All I know is that after the trauma of giving Lily her inhaler last night, she slept without coughing the whole night, and I woke up this morning feeling like God had personally decided to give me a reprieve and allow me to live for another day.
  • Size:  While I can’t remember exact numbers, Lily is in the top tenth percentile for height and fiftieth percentile for weight (28 lbs. as of yesterday).  Her hair is getting longer and longer, and some days she looks so much like a little girl and so little like the newborn I can barely remember that it makes my heart stop.

Pregnancy

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog with anything pregnancy related.  I’ve been better this time around taking the occasional bump photo, which I’m sure you can see in my little Instagram widget on the bottom right column.  The belly continues to grow, and while I initially found the ease with which my belly popped out for all the world to see a little alarming, I’m feeling a little more calm now that I only have eight weeks left until our due date.  The belly is a sizeable thing, but not of epic proportions.

My legs, though.  Those are epic.  Somewhere around 18 weeks, varicose veins began popping out on my left leg, and since then, it’s evolved into one purple, gnarly mess.  By mid-morning, my ankles are a thing of the past, and my calves are hard as rocks.  The bruise-like veins have spread down to my foot and all the way up to my knee.  It’s not attractive, but it is a little impressive.

Lu had the hiccups for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and her kicks are now just below my ribs.  For some reason, I got the impression the first time around that Lily would be this fiery little lady, because her kicks were so adamant and powerful.  Lu, on the other hand, is a gentle mover.  She moves frequently, but I joke that she doesn’t want to hurt me 🙂

I’m thinking more and more now about labor and a newborn.  I’m glad I took a break from nursing, because now I miss it, and I’m looking forward to it again.  As for labor, I feel wizened.  I’m going to try my best to got without medication, but I also know that if I hit the 30 hour mark again, I will probably do the same thing I did last time.  Only this time I won’t beat myself up about it.  I am nervous about tearing again.  Oof.

As for dreams of a newborn, I spend a lot of time thinking about carrying her close to my chest and wrapping her snuggling in swaddling blankets.  But then I think about summertime in Colorado, and I think she’ll probably just be naked most of the time.

House

Oh my.  We closed in mid-March.  Since then, Joshua has:  demoed the entire basement to get advice from a structural engineer, rewired the entire house, reinforced the mud-room floor, ripped up all the pergo, covered the walls in texture, painted the bedroom and living room, built a privacy deck out back, and installed an entire Ikea kitchen, including appliances, lights, and a breakfast bar.  He’s hired help to dig culverts for water diversion, lay concrete for a new walkway and sidewalk, add plumbing to the kitchen and mudroom, restore all of the painted-shut, broken sashed windows, and install new gutters.

Papa Tim came out to help this past weekend, and they were able to get quite a bit done, but Joshua’s had less help than last time, so most nights he heads over after dinner and doesn’t come back until midnight.  And that’s after a full work day.

Yet to do:  paint the hall, Lily’s bedroom, the sunroom, and the kitchen.  Install cabinet fronts to the kitchen.  Install Ikea bathroom.  Lay floor in the bathroom and kitchen.  Wire the lights and chandeliers I bought off of eBay.  Move in.  All by the second weekend of May.

To do once we’ve moved in:  finish up odds and ends at Gray.  Build out mudroom and craftroom with storage and floors.  Landscape the pile of rubble that is our front yard.  Begin work on the front porch for at least a little curb appeal.

To do in the next couple of years:  install a fireplace.  Refinish the basement into another living room, bathroom, guest room, and storage closet/work space.  Install structural supports.  Put in access to the enormous attic and finish into another bedroom, walk-in closet, and master bathroom.  Lay a patio in the small backyard for barbeques.

Joshua’s lofty goal:  build a carriage house out back for rent.

Does it make you tired just reading about it?  We miss Joshua.

Teaching

There are five and a half weeks left.  We’re in our final unit, and I’ve just completed my final round of formal observation and evaluation.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been teaching for five years.  It feels like a good year to end on:  a nice counting number and my best year of teaching.  Not to mention the five-year loan forgiveness that will virtually erase the last of my student-loan debt.

So this is the story of Ms. A, in a nutshell:

  • Before it all began:  In the Spring of 2007, I applied for a recruiter position within Teach For America.  I was hired, and my official title was “Campus Campaign Coordinator.”  Way back then, my main motivation for applying was the CCC the year before me.  Her name was Alex, and she was a religion major with an art history minor.  I thought she was fun, and I was completely enamored with her plans to go teach in New York City.  After I was hired, I read Savage Inequalities and One Day.  I was definitely drawn to the message, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t first drawn to the idea of having a job right away and going on a new adventure.
  • Accepted:  In the Fall, I was accepted with the first wave of applications, and both Joshua and I were placed in New Orleans and slated to teach middle school science.  Figuring, I better acquire some experience, I continued haranguing the rest of the my class to apply, signed up for two science classes my spring semester, and began working at a Montessori.
  • Institute:  Teach For America held an intensive training for all incoming corps members.  We were in Phoenix, and we spent 14+ hours a day learning about teaching, teaching, and preparing to teach the next day.
  • Year One:  I was hired at Schwarz Academy, a for-profit charter school run by Camelot.  What a crazy year.  There were nine corps members on staff, and eight of us were first years.  Camelot was hired by the RSD to run the alternative school, and we had a constantly changing roster of students who had been expelled from other schools in the district.  That first year, students died.  One was shot by the police, others were shot by rival “cliques.”  Some students were convicted of murder.  One student was shot multiple times in the gut and would wear a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.  My eighth grade students ranged in age from 12 to 17.  Some had tattoos on their faces, some had babies, and some were pregnant.  Many used.  Most lived in projects.  That first year, the police were called onto campus 52 times, and during the second semester, we never made it to fifth period.  We “locked down” after fights, and my main job was to keep students inside a classroom without water or a bathroom for multiple hours a day.  We had limited electricity and few resources, and the Camelot infrastructure was incredibly corrupt.
  • Year Two:  Schwarz was closed, and I was reshuffled into Excel Academy, the RSD run alternative school.  I taught Art and Spanish.  While less violent than our first year, the second was just as hopeless.  Our principal quit mid-year, and another principal was never hired.  Students dropped in and dropped out, died, and had babies.  One student used a screwdriver to stab another student in my classroom, and I was called into court to testify.  My students threatened to rape and brutally murder me every day.
  • Year Off:  After two years of heartache and trauma, Joshua and I took a year off to travel the world.
  • Year Three:  Joshua and I somewhat randomly selected a state on the map.  We choose Colorado.  On the charter school website, we found job openings, and we each applied to five of them.  Within a week, we had interview offers from almost all of them.  After a visit to Denver, we chose West Denver Prep.  Joshua taught at one campus, while I taught at another.  In many ways, this was really my first year of teaching.  I knew how to endure abuse, but I had no idea how to manage a classroom or write a curriculum.  Behavior was still a struggle, and it was a tough year.
  • Year Four:  I stayed at the same school, teaching sixth grade science for a second year.  I gained confidence with management, and I grew to really enjoy writing curriculum.  Behaviors were still challenging, but I saw growth in many of my students.
  • Year Five:  In my third year at the same school, the administration turned over, and I had the strongest managers yet.  We held fast to Teach Like  A Champion practices and executed a level of consistency I hadn’t seen before.  As a result, there were barely any behavioral problems.  I spent the majority of my time and energy on academics, and I saw incredible growth in my students.  I liked my coworkers.

It’s strange that in my best year of teaching that I also realized that I no longer wanted to teach.  It’s as though I had been hoping it would get better, and when it did, I was finally able to see the pieces that weren’t for me.  Lost in my nutshell are the sagas around licensure and pay, and these also contributed to my loss of love for the profession.  Despite having taught for five years and having seen impressive and measurable growth in my students, I am not a certified teacher, and in most states, that would mean another 18 months of school, including six months of student teaching.  As for pay, my network implemented merit-based pay in my fourth year of teaching, and despite policies they have since agreed were unfair and have laid to rest, I was, in a word, screwed.  I now make less money than I did my first year of teaching.

In the end, I find that teaching is both meaningful and demanding.  I believe in what I do; I care about the students; and I’m thankful for the many, many, many things I have learned.  I was so green when I started.  I hadn’t a clue about race or hardship or accountability or what it meant to be an adult.  I’m certain I’ve learned more than I taught any student.  This is meaningful.  And yet, I find the demands are too much.  Many hours, little pay, and the highest of expectations leave me feeling absolutely trampled by May.  I just don’t love it enough to give it what it requires.  I’ve felt my creativity leak out of me and a hard-scrabble determination take it’s place.  I guess that could sound like a good thing, but it’s put lines around my eyes and bent my spine into a permanent curve.  I’m so tired, and the end is never, ever in sight.  I’m so tired, and I will never, ever be good enough.

Part of me is afraid that I’ll leave and come back, and another part of me is afraid that I’ll leave and never come back.  I don’t want to teach, but I don’t want not to teach, either.  So I’m going to try something else.  ‘Cuz like my wake up call said, “Good Morning Ellison.  Lead the life you wish to live, for there is no other.  If not now, then when?”


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Turning Two

Lily turned two yesterday.  She’s a great fan of the feline species, so we decided to throw her a kitty-themed birthday party.  Pulling this off in less than 24 hours was a bit stressful, but with some help, we were able to pull it off.  Joshua picked up Lily and me at the airport at 3:30 PM on April 4.  Once we arrived home, we sat down to write a grocery and to-do list, and then we headed for Kinkos, Whole Foods, and Target.

 

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At Kinkos, we printed off some google images of kitties on cardstock to turn into “Kitty Sticks.”  It was an idea I stole from Pinterest, and I must say they were just as cute in replication 🙂

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At Target, we bought some party supplies and Lily’s birthday outfit, of course.  Both Lily and I were devastated that the pants that we really loved only came in 3T.  They had black and white vertical stripes.  Oh well.  This outfit was pretty cute, too.

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Between Kinkos, Whole Foods (and an unplanned but delicious dinner at Whole Foods), and Target, we didn’t get home until nearly 10 PM.  Needless to say, the three of us were absolutely exhausted, and after carrying Lily for a good portion of the trip, I felt enormously pregnant and my back was screaming.

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The next morning, we made pancakes, Lily’s favorite breakfast, complete with whip cream and strawberries.  Stacy and Margot came over, and it was nice to start the day a little more slowly with company.  But when 9 o’clock rolled around, we leapt into action.  I began cooking, Joshua began cleaning, and so did my mom.  Lily got a bath and then she followed us about, making sure the process went at a speed more befitting a family with a toddler.

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Besides giving the house a thorough cleaning, Joshua took it upon himself to tidy up the yard and lay down some fresh mulch.  That, in addition to half a dozen helium balloons, a couple new balls from Target, and a birthday banner, announced the whole block that it was party time.

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I’m felt pretty proud of our spread, so forgive me if I share too many details.  For dips, I settled on three kinds: artichoke spinach, white bean and tarragon, and hummus.  I found the recipe for the artichoke spinach dip here.  It’s vegan, which kind of blows my mind.  I was telling people at the party that I’m pretty sure that it’s understood that “artichoke spinach” is really code for “my main ingredient is full fat cream and cheese.”  Nevertheless, it was super delicious.  The white bean and tarragon was also super yummy, and the tarragon part was a bit of an improvisation, because Whole Foods didn’t have the rosemary that the recipe called for.

My mom did her magic with the hummus, and I finished out the spread with a kale salad, crackers, cheese, and veggies for dipping.  I didn’t follow a recipe for the salad, but I did try soaking the leaves in salt water and then massaging them for the first time.  The process left the leaves softer and much less bitter than usual.  To finish, I added chick peas, parmesean, and a salad dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, garlic, and pepper.

Finally, for drinks we had beer, champagne, and juice.  I watched enviously as people drank their champagne out of my pretty stemware.

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Just to prove that great minds think alike, when Stacy showed up later in the day to borrow our mixer and cupcake pan, she brought yellow flowers from Whole Foods.  I laughed and showed her the white ones I had bought the night before.  All in all, if you’re going to have double of something, flowers are the item of choice.

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Thankfully, Stacy willingly agreed to bake Lily’s cupcakes, so that was one more task I didn’t have to worry about.  Plus, no matter how much thought or time I put into the food portion of a get-together, Stacy’s baking always steals the show.  She’s just that good.

We finally got Lily down for a nap with less than two hours to go, and I sat down to crank out some decorations, including the “Kitty Sticks” and a few bunting garlands.  There were some extra kitty prints, so I made a garland of them, too.

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Lily’s room was ready for some toddler action.

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Joshua says that the ride home with the helium balloons was pretty thrilling.

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At ten to three, I jumped in the shower, my heart racing just a bit.  Ten minutes is enough time to shower, dress, do my hair, wake up Lily, dress her, and wash the windows, right?!

At five after three, I walked into the living room, thankful that no one had arrived.  When I expressed that relief, Joshua said, “well, yeah.  The party doesn’t start until 3:30.”

So I had time to run a curling iron through my hair and wash the windows, after all.

Lily was so excited the whole evening that I’m pretty sure this is one of the only photos we have of the two of us, and it’s definitely one of the only photos we have of her looking at the camera.

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Although we had invited nearly 40 people, we had 17 in total, including five toddlers and two infants.  It was actually a wonderful number, considering our small space.  Maybe it’s a good idea waiting until less than a week before the birthday party to send out invites?

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Stacy’s cupcakes were super delicious.  She decorated the kids’ ones with dried mango, chocolate chips, pretzels, pepitos, and Annie’s gummies to make cat faces!

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The grown up version was the same, sans the cat faces.  The cake was honey and the frosting was marzipan, and I still have more than a dozen sitting in my kitchen, begging to be eaten.  Yummmmm…  (This coming from a woman who doesn’t even really like cupcakes.)  Lily, needless to say, thought that the cupcakes were the cat’s meow, the cat’s pajamas, the…  You get the picture 😉

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Sadly, Pin the Tail on the Cat, a spin off game I invented wasn’t as winning in execution.  Lily thought the tail-less cat poster was cute, though.  Joshua’s game of hiding little easter eggs stuffed with kitty stickers all over the front yard was far more popular with the toddler subset.

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When it was all said and done, people stayed until nearly 7 o’clock, which I took as a standing ovation for our efforts.  Who stays at kid’s birthday party for three and a half hours?!  It was fun chatting with the moms (and three dads), and the kids seemed like they had a great time.

Afterwards, we cleaned up while Lily played with some of her new gifts, and then, before all three of us collapsed into bed at 8 o’clock, I had Joshua take a couple of photos of the belly…  Seeing as I was all dressed up and on Friday, we hit the third trimester mark at 28 weeks.

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It pretty much blows my mind to think that we’ll have another little girl in the house in 12 weeks!  Just before we went to bed last night, I told LIly two stories.  One was about her day and the party, and the other was about the day she was born.

The kid’s version goes something like this:

The day before you were born, I woke up really early.  I was excited because I knew that you wanted to meet your daddy and I was going to see your face for the first time.  We worked together all day, because it’s hard work trying to get a baby from inside a mommy’s belly out into the world.

We worked all day and all night.  Mommy got really tired, and Daddy stayed with Mommy the whole time.  The next day, we finally figured it out, and you were born!  The doctors handed you to me, and Daddy and I looked into your blue eyes for the first time.  There was a special song playing, and both Daddy and Mommy started crying, because we were so happy to see you.

For the past two years, we’ve looked at you every day, and we’ve thought about how lucky we are to be your Mommy and Daddy.  You’re such a special little girl, and we love you so much.

And Lily’s eyes grow heavy as I’m whispering to her.  She falls asleep, and I feel Lu moving.  In three short months, I get to do it again.

For the grown up version of Lily’s birthday, you can read this post here, and for a look at what we did for Lily’s first birthday, take a look here and here.


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It’s a Girl!

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It’s taken me too long to update the blog with this bit of news…  We found out the gender last Monday, February 10, and then we flirted with social media until Valentine’s Day when we officially announced that we’re having a girl on Instagram.  We are, of course, thrilled that the ultrasound went well and that we’ll have another little girl this summer.  With two girls, I’m really feeling the girl power, and I’m already scheming ways to raise righteous babes.

As for a name…  I know this is very unlike me, y’all, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to keep this a secret.  If for no other reason than I need a challenge.  I have disclosed a nickname, Lu, but you’ll have to wait until this summer to hear her full name in all of it’s glory 😉

In other news, Stacy and Margot came to visit this past week, and we all had a wonderful time.  I’ve been a bit friend-starved since the Ps left, and getting to spend time with Stacy and her beautiful little daughter was so much fun.  Margot is radiant and cuddly, and Joshua, Lily, and I brushed up on our baby skills.  I’m particularly pleased by how interested Lily was in little Margot, and I’m happy to report that I think she’ll be an attentive and loving older sister.  Stacy and I had fun challenging ourselves on some longer runs (me being 21 weeks and her being 3 mos. postpartum), and talking parenthood with one of my closest friends gave me some much needed reflection.

Hoping all is well with you –

Love,

E


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January

  1. I’m 16 weeks pregnant.  I had an appointment with the midwife yesterday, and Lily, Nana, and I heard the heartbeat again.  I felt the first flutters of movement at 15 weeks, but they’re still very faint.  I’m definitely starting to show, and now I remember why I started wearing maternity clothes at this point last time…  I HATE having a tight waistband.  Definitely one of my top five worst pet peeves.  First trimester symptoms have worn off for the most part, but I’m still more tired than I remember being last time.  I’m off of napping, but by 8 PM, I’m absolutely sacked.  Our next appointment is for February 10, and we’ll have our ultrasound then.  Hopefully, my next pregnancy update will include a gender!  (I really have very little instinct on this…  For a while, I was certain that it was a girl, but I’ve been thinking a lot about a boy recently.  Apply 50/50 jokes here.)
  2. We’re into our second week of teaching after the Winter Break, and while New Orleans was fun, it was hardly refreshing.  Luckily, I have just enough energy back that I’m feeling fine.  While I’m not interested in teaching forever, I’m finding things to enjoy in the moment.  Today, I did a “flipped” lesson where I video taped myself last night and then crunched the video onto youtube (you can see it here), and I’ve started doing more jigsaw lessons where I disperse information between three groups and then have them teach each other.  I still haven’t told the students that I’m expecting, and although I had planned to wait until we know the gender, we’ll see if my belly gets in the way 🙂
  3. Thankfully, Lily’s all out rejection of me has slowed down.  I think being in New Orleans threw things off, and since we got back, she’s been much more loving with both of us and hasn’t pushed me away or refused me nearly as much.  I’m so relieved that this particular phase seems to be fizzling out.
  4. Joshua got a new job!  Next year, he’ll be the Dean of Instruction at the high school where he’s teaching now.  He’s super excited, and we’re all really proud of him.  Thankfully, the GRE won’t go to waste; he’ll also be taking classes at CU Denver for a Masters in Educational Psychology.  So we’re definitely in Denver for the next three years.  In the meantime, I’ll be taking prerequisites for a little program of my own (to begin light years from now in 2017).  While there’s still some debate as to where I’ll enroll in that program (Minnesota has an amazing one), Denver is proving harder and harder to leave.
  5. Momentum is gathering in the A household.  With a baby on the way and a new job, we’re tumbling into the near year with lots of grandiose, hair-brained plans (I mean, really, would you expect anything less?).  In the past week alone, Joshua met with a financial advisor, we’ve scheduled an appointment with an attorney to put together a will, and we’ve even met with our realtor to begin the process of refinancing.  Holy smokes, people.  We just don’t know how to live life in the slow lane.
  6. Nana and Grumpy are here for the week, and Lily, for one, is thrilled.  The weather is completely mercurial, and one day it’s snowy and the next it’s in the 50s.  Who knows what the rest of the week will look like.

What’s new with you?  Hope the new year is treating you well.  Lots of love,  E