Goings on

We’ve been doing all sorts of fun things lately. Unfortunately, I’ve documented them with my phone camera which isn’t great, but alas, it’s the memory that’s important.

We met up with Lauren, Trevor, and their kids Bryce, Dallin, and Claire in Columbus for a Crew game.

Scotland and Claire are birthday buddies. They were born hours apart. It’s always fun to see the differences between them. Claire’s squeals are much higher, and Scotland is much denser.

There is something so special about seeing your siblings hold your child. Trevor is a great uncle and always jumps at the opportunity to hold Scotland.

My friend Claire came down with me. We played Co-ed soccer together a year ago, so she’s my soccer pal. I just love Claire because she is so open and willing to think deeper. We covered all sorts of topics from religion, to relationships, politics to hair!

Last weekend we hit Parade the Circle, a terrific Juneteenth parade in University Circle. It’s such a tribute to creativity. Mostly it made me miss my nieces since they watched it with us last year.

I had to take a picture of this lady. I hope I’m on stilts when I’m 50!

Scotland looks so different in this picture to me. Oh those cheeks!

Happy Memorial Day

Since Tom needed to work on Monday we commemorated Memorial Day on Sunday.

The Highland Park Cemetery near our house has several veteran sections. Each year they place a small flag at each veteran’s tombstone. It’s a stirring sight, and I’ve always wanted to visit. This year we did. We walked along the rows and rows of graves noting the birth and death dates, the wars fought in, and their station in the armed forces. We contemplated the meaning of patriotism, the freedoms we enjoy, and our duty to our country. Next year we hope to bring along a shovel to clear off some of the tombstones, maybe even plant a flower or two!

Scotland contemplating freedom.

Working towards OUR PhD

Tom has four more weeks before he defends his PhD. About two weeks ago we had a “talk” about how that required him to sacrifice everything to write his dissertation in time. It all boiled down to the fact that he could schedule an hour and a half around dinner time to spend with Scotland and I. I’m an independent woman, and I took it all in stride. I’d be fine, I thought. Well the first two weeks didn’t pan out so hot. My first approach was to simply try to ignore Tom. That way he could do his thing, I could do mine. I immersed myself in all things Scotland letting him fill in the void that Tom’s absence had created. But a baby can’t. I love Tom, he’s my best friend, and I LOVE spending time with him. His sudden absence was really hard on me. I kept trying to shrug it off, thinking “I’m fine.” Silent tensions rose, and finally Tom asked me why. Finally, I had the chance to make sense of all the emotions building up inside of me. It felt good to have all that stress explained. But things couldn’t change, if we want Tom to return to Med school in July he really does have to spend every available hour writing. Last weekend, I asked how I could help. He responded as he usually does, “Kjirsti you’re wonderful just keep doing what you’re doing.” But when I demanded he think of something, he said, “Well, it would really help if you weren’t stressed. I know that my stress tends to stress you out, which further stresses me out. So, do whatever you need to do to stay calm and reassuring. Schedule a massage if you need, make sure you do yoga everyday- I guess that would help.” This was said in a certain amount of jest- “schedule a massage!” I wish! But it was just what I needed to hear. I needed to feel helpful.

Now I’m taking a new approach and it’s working wonderfully. Instead of ignoring Tom, I think about him constantly, wondering how I can make things easier for him at home, how I can help him feel confident, how I can calm his stress. As a result, cleaning the house, making dinner, and taking care of errands are all gifts. I feel involved and helpful. I understand for the first time what it means when a couple says “We got a PhD. . .” Some tasks really do take the cooperation of the whole family. In “The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo,” Paula Huntley describes how to Albanian Kosovars education is a family affair. They don’t go off to college for their own prestige and money making opportunities- but rather because doing so will allow them to go back and take care of their family. As I read this, I thought. Tom’s PhD and later med school and residency are going to have to be family affairs. It doesn’t work when he does his thing and I do mine. Yes, it’s good to be independent, and to have one’s own interests. But we are much happier when we conquer these huge tasks together. Tom has often voiced sympathy that I have gotten the raw end of the deal. That I joined the relationship after he had already set his mind on Medicine. I had no choice in the matter, and yet that very decision will dictate so heavily how our life plays out. As a result, Tom has always been supportive of my pursuing anything I desire, never asking more sacrifice then is absolutely essential. In my own selfishness, I have taken much and offered little. As a result, these past few weeks have come as a bit of a shock. Tom’s complete absorption, out of necessity, in his dissertation has at times left me feeling abandoned. Alone with my baby. How grateful I am for Tom’s inspired words that have helped me turn 180 and see how essential I am in his success, our success. Strangely enough, I feel less like the “desperate housewife” now, when I am spending more time serving him, than I did a few weeks ago, when I spent my time trying to live so independent of him. Yet again, the gospels teachings ring true: “For this cause shall a [woman] leave [her] father and mother, and cleave to [her husband]; and they twain shall be one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Mark 10: 7-9) When Tom and I were sealed in the temple, we were just that, “sealed,” united for eternity. Our happiness and the happiness of our marriage depends on our ability to maintain that seal, not separate it. The more ways we can find to support and sustain one another the stronger our marriage will be.

I admire Tom’s desire to serve the world through medicine and research. His love for challenge and desire to solve hard problems makes him the ideal man to address issues in health care today. I hope I can always support him in this noble pursuit, just as he always supports me.

The advantages of marrying a nerd

Tom sets me up. A couple mornings ago Tom came in and said “look at my phone!” browsing the apps on his screen I saw a new one- wordpress. Sure enough, now I can blog on my phone with one hand while I feed Scotland with the other. Plus I can post pictures and video to the blog from my phone. (Tom posted the picture of Scotland just out of the tub as a trial.)

Now I might actually record my “rocking chair thoughts” in my rocking chair. How I love my nerd!

Happy Birthday Darling!

Sunday was Tom’s birthday. It was a busy weekend for us, so it was nice to have the calm and quite of Sunday to celebrate. Our dear friends Steve, Mary and their sweet daughter Lydia came up to join the festivities. I made Cafe Rio and chocolate cake. The meal turned out delicious, and the company was even better. We brought back old times with several rounds of Nertz. And while things are noticeably changed with two needy babies joining the group, it was wonderful to hearken back to old Oberlin days. This year we were going for creative presents. (Tom and I made a bird house for my birthday.) For Tom’s I surprised him by fostering two kittens from Cleveland’s APL. We’ll have them for two weeks before we have to return them to be adopted out. Scotland’s gift was to clean and detail Tom’s truck. He really was in the baby bjorn for much of the job.

I enjoyed thinking of Tom all week as I planned his birthday. I am so blessed. He is a wonderful husband and father. I often marvel at how fortunate I am to have him. He’s been working SUPER hard to finish up his PhD in the next three weeks. It’s meant that he has been away from home more. It has helped me be more grateful for all the time he spent with me in the past few years. He has always placed us first, and found balance between his work, church callings, and family. I’m glad that Scotland will have him to look to as the image of true manhood. I hope that someday our little boy will be just as happy, helpful, thoughtful, creative, smart, humble, and kind. I love you Tom! Happy Birthday.

I can’t do it all, at least not all at once.

Yesterday, I came across a woman’s blog that left me in complete wonder. How does she do it all? She has six kids, whom she home-schools. She has a perfectly decorated home- mostly white. They raise chickens. She sews and makes everything. She’s part of at least two book clubs. Her husband works long days. She cooks primarily from scratch. Most importantly, she seems really happy. Lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to have a large family- five or six kids, and still pursue one’s personal passions. I’d just assumed that one would have to become passionate about the interests of their children, and let their own individual passions lie low for a while. This woman shook that paradigm. How does she do it?!

Then the thought came, you can’t do it all, but you can choose what you do. Her kids home school so instead of a general music class they each play an instrument. That means the hour they would be in general music class they are practicing at home instead. Their piano teacher comes to their house, saving the mother time driving all six to lessons. (They have two pianos.)  They don’t need gym at school, they all play sports. Perhaps fractions are taught using measuring cups while making cookies. I must say I’ve never considered homeschooling my children. But after scanning through her blog I thought, homeschooling would certainly open up my life to more choice. I’ve always thought, I want my children to have the social interactions that public school provides. And the fact is, I don’t feel confident that I could supply my children with the education I want them to get. But- that’s my choice. If I would prefer my children learn to knit, raise chickens, play an instrument, have lots of creative time to write, create, study and read. If I want them to spend time talking with the elderly, then maybe I should keep them home- they may not learn about dinosaurs and whopping cranes like I did in second grade, would that matter? But wait, that wouldn’t solve the problem of the Mom being depleted of all time to pursue her own individuality. Wouldn’t that just mean she would have her kids home all day. Hmmm. (I think I’m going to have to write this woman and get the lowdown.)

I often daydream about my future family sitting around the house reading. I wonder, should I dedicate Saturday mornings to reading? But then I think, well then when would we do the chores around the house and yard? Well, I have to decide which one is more important. If I want my family to have a lot of reading time, then, as Gretchen Rubin, of “The Happiness Project” points out, we should live in an apartment where we don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn, weeding the flowerbeds, fertilizing, and watering. I can’t do it all, at least not all at once.

If I want to dedicate my time to directing high school musicals, or singing with the local orchestra then perhaps I should hire a cleaning lady a couple of times a week. I might have to shop second hand forever more, and never buy fancy groceries, but if that’s what’s important to me, I could make it work.

I love Gretchen Rubin’s “commandment:” identify the problem. Too often I find myself frustrated and stressed only to realize that I am not really addressing the problem. I was unhappy until I realized, “I sing, but I’m not a singer.”  For many years I was embarrassed about how little I’d read. All it took was shifting to audiobooks- so I could “read” while gardening/washing the dishes etc. and now my “read” list is extensive. These past weeks I’ve read out loud while rocking Scotland, and given up my nightly web-surfing so I could read in bed.

I don’t know that home schooling is in my future, but I’m not going to rule it out. Life is so much more flexible than so many of us make it.

The help

The great thing about any life experience is that it helps you relate with others. I couldn’t agree more with Vicki Iovine’s opinion in “The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy” that motherhood is a sorority and labor is the ultimate hazing.  Until experiencing it, I had little understanding for the help needed after pregnancy. My mother is famous for going out shopping two days after having a baby. I sort of figured that’s how “tough” women handled the whole thing. I was planning on having a similar recovery. I chose to go natural so that I could just leap from the bed after having the baby and go on my merry way. Well, fate thought otherwise. After loosing nearly a third of my blood in the delivery, my first attempt to leave the bed was followed by a dramatic fainting scene that involved my husband barely catching me, and then my unconscious body relieving itself of all the fluids it had intended for the twah-let! I was then labeled a “fall risk” and even given a bracelet stating it. I was not to leave my bed without the assistance of a nurse. A blood transfusion restored some of my energy, and turned my body from its ghastly yellow to a more acceptable pink. Regardless, there would be no “shopping” for me for weeks! My doctor instructed that for the next two weeks I was to only do stairs once or twice a day (I live in a two story home with a basement.) and that I should not drive. Great! So much for being “tough.”

Thankfully, I was the recipient of help. Three wonderful women, and a darling husband all contributed to making sure my two weeks of recovery went smoothly. This post is dedicated to them.

Sabina is my oldest sister. She’s one of my greatest mentors, and one of my best friends. She left her family of five to come out and help. She arrived on my due date, and we spent the next three days trying to induce labor. She commented, we should have bought a pedometer so we could have tracked how many miles we walked those three days. She kept my spirits up and was an enthusiastic divergence to my impatience. After I announced I was ready to go into the hospital, after 21 hours of contractions, she asked what I wanted her to do. I invited her to come. Thank goodness I did! Sabina was my doula, and both Tom and I fear to think how things would have gone had she not been there. Not only was she an encouraging, knowledgeable support. She was the one that jumped into action when the nursing staff was absent. She ended up changing the laundry on the bed every time it was needed, finding me a basin to throw up in, finding a bedpan when I couldn’t leave the bed, reminding the nurses over and over that I needed to get my penicilin for my Beta strep, and demanding that I be checked when after two hours they still hadn’t determined how far along I was. She was the one running out in the hall to try to get help after I fainted, and on several other occasions when the situation demanded some professional help. I was amazed by her tenacity and forwardness. She’s not typically that way, but when the situation called for action she stepped up to the plate. She was the symbol of strength that I needed to bear through the hours of contractions.

She left Tom to care for me the first night in the hospital and returned to our house to spend the night. The next morning she went about preparing the house for our return- freshening everything up,  leaving a sweet note on my dresser, posting a “Welcome Scotland” sign on the nursery, and even painting a wall I had patched in the wrong shade! When I returned home that evening, I burst into tears so abundant was the love I felt from her.

My Mom came the day after Sabina left. Having her own eight children she knew exactly what was needed. She was a whirlwind of help while she was here, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, making sure I was hydrated and fed, and most importantly sitting down to chat and sympathize when nursing pains brought tears to my eyes. She kept my plants watered- reviving several that had been a bit neglected in my final weeks of pregnancy, and even rearranged my living room. She was a listening ear, and a great source of conversation when healing restricted me to a rocking chair most of the day. She lovingly cared for Scotland, staying up late in the night to rock him during his fussy time so I could get some sleep. All this while still maintaining things at home. (One day my ten year old sister called to tell her she forgot her lunch!) I hated for my Mom to spend her rare time away from home cooking and cleaning at my house, but as is her style she approached it with enthusiasm and gusto. She cooked up new recipes, (including the most amazing orange rolls!) ran the stairs- to get exercise, and made use of Tom’s computer saviness to solve some of her technological debacles. I love my mother and admire her so much. Our week together was just what I needed to be reminded of what an amazing woman she is, and how much I hope to one day be like her. She has an absolute testimony of the importance of motherhood, and has always been proud to say “I am a mother!”

Tom’s Mother, Pam, came two days after my Mom left. She too made great sacrifices to come, leaving a father in rehab. By the time she arrived I was much more mobile but still low energy. She assured that I always got a good nap during the day, and that I could get to bed early. Unfortunately, her arrival also coincided with a fair amount of colic for Scotland. She patiently held and rocked and walked around as he arched his back and screamed in pain- unconsolable. She was often able to rock him to sleep, and was always eager to hold him so I could take a shower or get a few things done. We had several great conversations about the adjustments of Motherhood, and how one best meets the needs of one’s children while also attending to one’s own emotional and intellectual needs. She taught me how to keep Scotland warm while I gave him a sponge bath so he wouldn’t cry. She kept the ever flowing stream of laundry washed, and on the last day went through the house cleaning everything- and even washing my bathroom rugs! (I love that, I never get around to washing my rugs!) She delighted us with her red beans and rice and chicken enchiladas. She shared ideas for keeping life organized, and encouraged me to continue my own intellectual pursuits.

Each of these women represents a different kind of “mother.” They each came and helped in their own way, and all left an imprint on my mind of the kind of mother I would like to be. Looking back I wonder how women survive without help after pregnancy. I am so grateful for these three wonderful women who sacrificed their own time and responsibilities to come and be with me, to support me, to love me, and to help me.