Friday, September 27, 2013

All Board for a Thomas and Friends Birthday!

I'm dreading the day when birthday parties become a huge production, which has already sort of started. But Zoey is still young enough that I can make her feel special without breaking the bank or my back.

I never had a big birthday party growing up, like my friends seemed to do every year. I brought cupcakes to my kindergarten class then decided to never do that again. These people were mean to me and teased me and now I was giving them fucking cupcakes?!

This year when I asked, Zoey said she wanted a Thomas birthday. Toot toot!

A quick sweep through Pinterest - crack for the Martha Stewarts of the world but might as well be a science lab to us talentless crafters - showed me the possibilities were endless. The party aisles in my neighborhood Target and Party America stores were a different story but I still managed to find some fun things.

Her birthday landed in the middle of the week and on a day Jacob had to work late, so birthday activities were rather limited. Mostly, though, how on earth was I going to throw together a train-themed day?! Lucky for me, there is a museum close to our neighborhood with a train engine out front that - according to Zoey - resembles one of Thomas's friends. We drive passed it all the time so we thought she'd enjoy being able to get up close and person with it. We weren't wrong.

 The best part: walking around the engine and her pointing out and naming things.

 I don't know what this is but she wanted to "go see the horsey."

 When she plays cooking and brings you something she "made," it is always "birthday cakes." When you ask what flavor, it's always "strawberry." So that's exactly what I made: strawberry birthday-cake cupcakes. They're no Katie Cakes Gourmet Cupcakes of Lakeside, California (which are the most amazing thing ever) but a box-mix I was lucky to find in the cupboard. That is, however, my first attempt at homemade cream cheese frosting with the mixer I got for my birthday last year and I'm proud of how it and my first ever real piping job turned out.

 Stupidly, Party America didn't have Thomas cupcake papers or toppers (I learned later they did, I just couldn't find them because they weren't included in the fifth of the wall dedicated to Thomas) so I slapped a Thomas whistle party-favor on top and called it a Thomas Cupcake. She was pleased and that's what matters.

It was her birthday, I could afford to be annoyed for the day. It was funny watching the dogs respond to the whistle, though.

 Thomas didn't mind that we took a break from Thomas-related activities for something she loves just as much: bubbles.

 Then we got dressed in our Tuesday-best and headed out to paint the town Thomas. My friends Ashley and Mer wanted to take me out for cocktails for my birthday but since Jacob was working late, we headed to our favorite neighborhood bar and grill, Apple-grease-your-colon (because they recognize if you're out with your kids, you need easy access to alcohol).

 I would have surprised her with a Thomas balloon but I didn't have an opportunity and thought she'd have fun picking it out anyways. I wasn't wrong.

 Birthday wouldn't be complete without party hats!

 Eli knows how to work it.

Bust my boilers, it's a birthday!

 A table with two children feels like a table with five so it was no secret we had a birthday going on. The waiters gathered and sang a birthday song to Zoey and gave her an ice cream sundae, which she LOVED. She was grinning from ear to ear then shouted, "THANK YOU!" when they were done. I don't have a picture because I was too busy sobbing.

 All Aboard the Thomas birthday! Toot toot! (Let's pause for a moment and recognize Mer as the greatest friend in the world to sit in an Applebee's on Kid's Night with two toddlers, one having a birthday.)

 Second to her Daddy, Mer is only Zoey's other favorite person on the planet.

As we walked into the restaurant, Thomas cupcakes to share with people she likes and who are nice to her, she said to me, "Thank you, Mama. Thank you for my birthday, Mama." Mission: Accomplished. Whew!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Birth Story

I'll tell about Zoey's as-per-her-request Thomas-the-Tank-Engine-themed birthday festivities once they commence but until then I'm still going to make this day about me and how I delivered a child and it only took me 36 hours.

So here is the post-birth post:

My belly button turkey timer never did go off, but two weeks ago, my oven shut off and Bun was done baking. Unfortunately, I had to keep my oven on warm because she wasn't sure she wanted to enter the world quite yet. Having being done with the super-fun roller coaster that is pregnancy, I alternated between being ready to shoot this baby out and freaking the fuck out about having to shoot this baby out. It seemed that neither the baby nor I were quite ready.

My final doctor's appointment was on Bun's due date but I left in tears after learning I was no where near delivering my baby. As much as I loved my doctor, he guesstimated that things would begin to happen in 3-4 days, but I'm certain he said this just so I wouldn't stab him in the forehead with the speculum.

So I continued life as a 10-month pregnant woman. I celebrated my 28th birthday in over-bloated beach-ball style on the couch wishing my birthday guests would just go away so I could sit and stare into space and feel miserable in private. I went to work - although only half-days - even though I had run out of appropriate clothing around month 8. Surprisingly I was more productive but I attribute this to the "nesting" instinct you get right before delivery, and the new girl lighting my anger-flame every morning with, "How you feeling? Anything happening?" No matter how many times I told her, "When I'm not here, then you'll know how I'm feeling," she insisted I would be deep in labor and still come to work. I'm not that dedicated, lady.

And then at midnight exactly one week after Bun was scheduled to arrive, something happened....

That something is known the world-over as contractions. They are known the female-world-over as the most painful, horrific things to ever really happen inside someones insides. To make matters even more enjoyable, intense heartburn decided this was an awesome time to resurface, so not only were my insides being squeezed to death, I was also being engulfed in flames from the inside out.

I read somewhere that you're not supposed to eat while you're in labor. I - along with other soon-to-be mommies on - thought this was foolish. I no longer think this is foolish. Your body is preoccupied with delivering a human so no matter how fantastic those pancakes were, my body didn't want to have anything to do with them. Also, you run the very high risk of pooping on the table.

The intense vice-grip on my uterus began at midnight on the nose, lasting about 40 seconds and happening every 20 minutes. So I slept every 20 minutes from midnight until 7am, and by then they had started coming every 15 minutes. As a general rule, you aren't supposed to check into the hospital until the contractions are every 5 minutes, so for the rest of the day we timed my contractions on my phone's Contraction Timer app. Yes, it took the rest of the day....and well into the night.....and well into the next morning....and well into the next afternoon.

Gradually my contractions inched their way up the speedometer, still lasting only 30-40 seconds but coming every 15 minutes, then every 12 minutes, then every 10 minutes. You're supposed to breathe, but how you remember to do that when it feels like your entire mid-section is being slowly torn away is beyond me. This is where having a birthing coach - or the father - is extremely helpful. Jacob reminded me to breathe, how to breathe, and did it with me. If not for him, the entire excruciating experience would have been even more excruciating-er. He also helped to distract me so I didn't allow myself to tense up or become stressed. We played games, watched television, and made countless trips to the bathroom.

Around my second midnight - 12 hours in - the contractions were still coming every 10 minutes. They were more painful and it was getting harder and harder to distract myself from the pain, which now felt like I was being stabbed repeatedly in the lower back without the instrument ever being removed.

Then in the blink of an eye they were coming every 6 minutes, and then every 2 minutes, starting at 1am. By 1:30 we were on our way to the hospital.

We used to live 40 miles from the hospital. We now live about 3 miles from the hospital and I thank God, for that 10 minute ride was the most excruciating experience I hope to ever know. I would gladly endure bamboo under the fingernails in place of having contractions every 2 minutes in a moving SUV on roads the city refuses to maintain during winter. Poor Jacob wasn't really sure what to do - does he obey the traffic laws because he doesn't want to get us hung up by talking to a police officer; or does he screw all posted signs and lighting to get me to the hospital so Zoey wouldn't be born in the car? Since I was too preoccupied and scared shitless, he was forced to make the decision on his own; to this day, I still have no idea what he chose.

Jacob tried to pull the quintessential dude-move of, "Get out on the curb and I'll find a place to park." I said, "Um, NO!" so he helped me waddle to the door, dressed in one of his t-shirts, his Hustler zip-up hoodie, sweatpants, fake Birkenstock sandals, my hair in a rat's nest, in my long, pink bathrobe, carrying a stuffed Spongebob Squarepants. The security guard offered up a wheelchair after I walked in and posed, "Who's the fucking genius who put the birth center on the second floor?!"

I was only dilated 3cm and by general hospital standards, they won't admit you until you're 4-5cm. But since my contractions were pretty close together and they could see I was changing fast, they thought it best to admit me. I had still been vacillating between extreme fear and anxiousness for it to be over, but when the nurse came back into the room and said, "Good news! You get to stay!" that's when ultimate panic took over and my body started to shake. The nurse brushed it off and said it was the adrenaline pumping through my body since it knew what it was about to have to do; it was my body's way of psyching itself up (and it had, after all, been up for over 24 hours by now).

I made it quite clear even before I was officially admitted that I would be needing an epidural. She said she'd get right on it but it might not be right away. Aside from the 36-total-hour labor, luck was on my side. Just a few minutes after being shown my very own hospital room, the epidural-man came waltzing through my door, cart-o-drugs in tow.

I'm not going to lie, getting the epidural was pretty awful; even more so if you're one of those who's afraid of needles. The only upside is that there is no chance you'll see what is going on. In short, it feels like getting a shot. And then it feels like someone working pebbles up your spine inside of your skin. BUT the contractions are way worse. Plus it takes about 15 minutes for this miracle drug to kick in. Once it did, I was instructed to take a nap.

Throughout the night, I slept through the nurses coming in every 2 hours to check my vitals, and the blood pressure machine that was constantly strapped to my arm; a stipulation for epidural users. At some point in the night Nurse Polly (because she looked like Polly Pocket) came in to tell me they were giving me the drug to induce labor since the sainted epidural slowed my contractions to 10 minutes apart. Shit, as long as I could keep feeling nothing, this could take the rest of my life and that would be just fiiiiinnnnneeee.

By 8am Friday morning (labor officially starting Thursday morning at midnight), Bun still hadn't dropped into my pelvis so Doctor Looks-Like-My-Cousin came in with a crochet hook and broke my water; a step they hoped would make the baby come down. And she did....a little. The contractions continued throughout the rest of the day while the nurses took turns flipping me from side to side like a hot dog in continued effort to bring the Bun closer to the oven door. Around noon, I got the dreaded news....I was 10cm dilated and it was time to push.

Nurse 90's-Bangs came over every 30 seconds to turn down my epidural and ask me what I could feel. I exaggerated as much as I could without coming across like a total liar, but - I swear - as nice as that woman was, if she so much as breathed on that dial, she would be in need of her very own room. Their fear was that I wouldn't know when or how hard to push, thus exhausting myself and putting stress on the baby, but I made a deal with Jacob: "If I'm not pushing hard enough, tell me to push harder." They wanted to see how good of a pusher I was and, it turns out, I was very good. Call it Exhaustive Motivation. And I was given the green light to have a baby.

The doctor doesn't actually come into the room until you've birthed the shoulders, but she didn't have anything else to do so she was in periodically. We had checked into the hospital at 2am Friday morning and I was the only one in labor. Throughout the day, the birthing center filled up with almost-there-mommies and by the time I was ready to start pushing, I was the only one still in active labor.

Doctor Looks-Like-My-Cousin came into the room before I was to start pushing and - with a big smile - said, "You're going to have a baby!" I looked at the space of wall between her and Jacob and burst into tears. No, not tears of joy. Tears of extreme, shit-your-pants-then-change-them-so-you-can-shit-again fear. I was scared of physically getting the baby out of my body, scared of what I would be able to feel, tired from 34-hours of no sleep and a lot of hard work, scared that something would be wrong with her or she'd be deformed in some way, and of what to do with her once she was actually out of my body.

Jacob was the calmest he'd ever been (or that I'd seen him. He told me later, he was anxious beyond the telling of it). Part of that might have been his 30 hours of no-sleep (I let him sleep through a couple of the early contractions), but he never showed signs of crapping his drawers. And throughout my many freak-outs that came when I had the capacity to entertain my fear, Jacob never wavered. He would always calmly stroke my hair and tell me I could do this and everything would be fine. And then he'd shove the oxygen mask back over my face so I couldn't talk anymore.

Pushing Zoey out took about 2 hours. I had allowed a resident to observe my birth, and since no one really had anything else to do, my vagina entertained a roomful of oglers for those 2 hours. They got a clear shot of her head with my first push but Zoey wasn't havin' it. For most of my time spent pushing, she'd move out, then move back in. At one point the doctor feared the umbilical cord was around her neck since her heartbeat was very erratic. After about an hour, the doctor said she wanted to use the vacuum sucker if Zoey's heart rate didn't increase, but thankfully that didn't end up happening.

Finally she popped out, and I use the term "pop" loosely. I could "feel" something emerging from me, although I couldn't really tell where. And while I was working on getting her out, I couldn't determine that any progress was actually being made. All of sudden she was out and I felt relief like I'd never felt before. It was emotional relief, exhaustion, but it was also physical; like my body just heaved a giant sigh.

And just when I was thanking my lucky stars that baby, Jacob, and I had made it across the finish line alive, the doctor said the worst phrase a woman who just gave birth can hear: "Ok, I need you to give me one more big push."

Fuck you.

But I did, and, more out of anger than anything else, shot that placenta out like a water balloon from a cannon.

As soon as Zoey entered the world, Jacob - who had been expertly holding the dead-weight of my leg - was shoved to the side while billions of people bustled around me, sewed me up (baby girl gave me a smidgen of a tear), and helped me keep the slimy baby from slipping off my chest. So I gave him a very important job....When the doctors and nurses asked what her name would be, I looked to Jacob so he could spread the news: she shall be called Zoey, which if that grocery store clerk was correct, means life.

Nurse Likes-to-Turn-Down-My-Epidural sauntered out to the waiting room to usher all of the grandparents back to my room. "She's gorgeous!" She gushed. "Even her cry is cute!"

From there, Zoey Ann was introduced to her family.

And there is a chance I may have pooped on the table.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Age-Old, "What *Do* You Do All Day?

My very good, and tactfully blunt, endearingly honest friend, asked me the other day with a little laugh, "So, no offense; but what *do* you do all day?" If you haven't asked this question then you're most likely thinking it, so I'll attempt to give an answer.

One day I decided to document everything I did throughout the day, what time I did it, and how long it took me. I lost track/got distracted/forgot around 11:30am and by the time I remembered, I consciously blew it off and grabbed my thank-God-it's-nap-time beer. So here goes nothing.

Between 6:45am and 7:45am - Wake up, start the day, throw in a load of laundry. I'm usually up before anyone else, something I do on purpose to have a solid one hour of no one bothering me. The dogs used to make me let them outside but now they know better than to bug me before Zoey wakes up. I usually make/drink coffee, read the news, or this: write. I usually do one load of laundry at minimum a day and feel most inspired to tackle it first thing in the morning.

7:00am or 10:00am - Get breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner together for Jacob to take to work. There's no reason I can't cook and make things, and it turns out its way cheaper and healthier, too. Who knew?

Between 8am and 9am - Make breakfast. Asking Zoey what she wants for breakfast - or any meal, for that matter - is useless; it will always be "eggs and 'tatoes." So this is usually what I make.

Between 9:30am and 10:30am. "Office work." Getting up before the butt-crack of dawn every morning for school has conditioned me to be one of those irritating "morning people." I always took my math classes in the morning because that was when my brain was sharpest. Although I wouldn't necessarily use the term "sharp," my brain functions best in the morning so that is when I do whatever needs to be done with our finances.

10 - 10:30am - Clean up after breakfast. This marks one of three momentous events of cleaning the kitchen, assuming I ignore the post-dinner dishes, as I most often do.

10:30am to 12:30/1:00pm - Daily activity.  "Daily activities" can be anything from going to the playground, to the splash parks when they were still open; to the lake, river (which is now out thanks to a couple of doozy storms that muddied it up), or just running errands.

 Taking over Lake Elmo (or, as she likes to call it, "Elmo Lake").

 Wouldn't you know it, a girl I went to high school with lives in Montana (more importantly, a girl I went to high school with who I actually like). She lives outside of Billings but came into town to run errands so we met up to let her two boys and Zoey wear each other out on one of the last summer-ish days. They played so much that her oldest slept through an entire Costco visit later that afternoon.

 Zoey and Virgil. 

 Zoey, Virgil, and Jasper getting some much-needed water-time.

 Then, of course, it wasn't long before mud was created.

 Zoey and Jasper.

One afternoon I decided to go to the mall, a place that usually gives me anxiety attacks (cruel fate!) but strangely calmed my morning-sickness as I ate pretzel hotdogs and window-shopped when I was pregnant with Zoey.

 Like every mall in the world, ours has a kid's play area. This is either the best idea ever, or the worst. Yes, it's great kids have a place to be kids and - most important - wear them out. But have you ever tried to tell a kid it was time to leave the area to go shopping? Or tell them they needed to suffer through shopping before hitting the play area? Good luck with that.

 Someone clearly enjoyed it. I even tried bribing her to leave with a - what else? - pretzel hotdog but she couldn't be swayed.

 Until she was.

We walked around for only a few minutes. I thought I'd treat her by taking her to the Build-A-Bear Workshop but as we looked around the store and I asked, "Which teddy bear do you want?" She said, "I just want chocolate." So we left in search of chocolate. Total amount spent at mall: 20-cents. Someone call Guinness.

  The mall is now without a bookstore. Blasphemy. So we left the mall and went to Barnes and Noble where - her heaven - the children's section has a Thomas the Tank Engine play set. She played with another little boy about her age while his Grandmother and I looked on in awe as they told us all their names and their train-y function. One day I'll have Zoey explain "shunting." She explains it better than I do and I'm still not exactly sure what it means.

 I find the best stuff on the bargain rack: a Thomas storybook that came with a giant Island of Sodor map (where Thomas and his friends live) and little action figures of all the trains. It's one of her favorite things to play with.

Employing Joey Tribbiani's method of "going into the map."

I won't lie: one of our daily activities lately has been introducing Zoey to the greatness that is shopping. I haven't been shopping in a year but recently came into an annual windfall known as birthday money. Ross, here I come!

 I don't want to brag, but I recently discovered the secret to shopping with children. No, it isn't ignoring their screaming fits as so many mothers seem to employ.

 Find something they'll want to play with that you won't cringe at the price and give it to them straight off. Zoey, here, got cozy, kicked off her shoes and settled in with, what else? Thomas. There is a warning label to this method though: don't dilly-dally. All too often we take for granted the otherwise occupied child and their contentedness is over before it started.

 And, of course, she always benefits in some way from our shopping excursions. I asked what she wants to dress up as for Halloween this year and she's decided a butterfly.

Maybe she'll be the thing to finally cure me of my completely rational fear of butterflies. Nope, probably not. They are the clowns of the insect world.

From 1/1:30pm to 3:30pm is blessed nap-time. It was shortly after this that I got distracted and forgot to continue keeping track of my day.

As a rule I don't have to try very hard to stick to, I don't do anything that resembles work during Zoey's nap. For one, I don't want to wake her or keep her from sleeping. Second, when Zoey is awake, it might take me a little longer because being distracted by her every 30-seconds is inevitable, but there are a lot of instances where she's content playing in her room by herself or watching a program so I'm able to get some things done.

And sometimes I'm lucky enough to get some help. Now I know why you have children: legal slavery.

In any case, afternoon is when I'm busy doing housework (inset second dish-washing here) and preparing something that resembles food. If it's a night Jacob doesn't have to work late, he's usually home about an hour after she wakes up so this is when I prepare dinner. I'm getting better, but somehow preparing what normal people boast as a "30-minute-meal," ends up taking me a good two hours.

If Jacob is working late, Zoey and I will snack until I prepare dinner later in the evening. Cue the third dish-doing. Sometimes we'll take food to him at work, but otherwise just stay home.

I'm not sure how all of this reads to someone who doesn't do it; whether it seems like a lot or everything that can - and does in a working household - get accomplished in a weekend. But take all of this, multiply it by two (because I still have to tend to my own basic needs), and add changing an appendage-flailing child's clothes, brushing the flailing child's hair who is now screaming, wiping a little butt that refuses to stand still even though pee is running down her leg, trying to get someone who doesn't understand the concept of reasoning to agree they shouldn't jump off the arm of the couch, reminding her to eat every few minutes because she's become absolutely entranced in sucking her thumb, arguing with her about not chasing/feeding/climbing on/poking the dogs, arguing with her about pretty much everything, buckling her into the car a la NASA, getting her to blow her nose, trying to convince her there isn't a ghost in the room, answering the same question over and over and over again, having a high-pitched scream stab at your eardrum randomly and for no obvious reason, reminding her not to touch everything in the store, having to hear, "I can have it if I want," in response to saying no at the request of everything she sees, pouting over every thing, having to drop whatever you're doing to take her to the bathroom because holding it isn't something she's physically capable of doing, and basically doing anything and everything she's not physically capable of doing, which - at the moment - is a lot.

Then divide that by the fact that multitasking doesn't actually exist, at least not for anyone with kids. On my way to do/get something, I often find myself taking/doing/getting something else, thinking, I'll just do this real quick since it's on the way, only to get completely side-tracked and forget what I was doing in the first place, ultimately resulting in getting very little actually accomplished. In short, this:

And there aren't any holidays, weekends, or set quittin' time. But when Jacob is home, Zoey couldn't have less to do with me, which was devastating to me when I was working but now I appreciate. I will admit, though, that come weekends, I do take a noticeable break, often forgetting to make dinner plans for those days, and having little interest or energy in doing housework beyond keeping the house sanitary.

The trade off: I do have extra time for the things I enjoy. This - writing - for one; as well as reading, going to the park, making sure the dogs are sufficiently exercised, television programs people would make fun of me for watching, and - the biggest of all - spending time with Zoey. Earlier, I wrote about how I was sure Zoey hated me, and since being home, Jacob and I have noticed a significant difference (read: improvement) in Zoey and I's relationship.

I think Jacob and I are better for it too. It helps that he no longer has to deal with a whiny, weepy wife complaining she doesn't want to leave her baby while also dealing with a cranky toddler who is whining she doesn't want to go to daycare. The other night he actually caught me singing while making dinner (ok, Florida-friends, quit laughing).

Everyone has things to complain about in their daily routine, but mine are more for the sake of making fun of them than actually causing me misery or stress. I'm very appreciative and grateful for my life and all of the people in it right now. I hope that answers your question.