Monday, April 25, 2016

Road Trippin' Baby

I am going to try really hard to avoid blogging about my child because, as I've said before, I want to respect her privacy and give her the option to consent to world wide web exposure. But today's post is going to veer into the realm of baby-bragging because she was absolutely awesome this weekend on our road trip adventure.

Rewind to last week when I got the painfully sad news that my uncle died from an undiagnosed heart condition at the age of 61. I hadn't seen him in probably 10 years due to geography, but I've always been fond of him and loved getting updates about him and his family through my mom who was very close to him. My heart grieves for his wife, two children and eight grandchildren.

I struggled with whether or not to go to the funeral, which was in Missouri where he lived, but decided to go, because family. The pastor/chaplain/mother in me has developed a strong sense of family bond lately and on Tuesday of last week I decided I needed to go. Also, I've been very homesick lately, so I'm sure that factored in to the decision as well.

Next came the logistics. The funeral was on Saturday and was about as far away from a major airport as you can get in Missouri. So, that was going to mean flying and driving, or just driving, which was my preference. Time was a factor, as my schedule involves more than just picking lint out of my belly button these days, so I had to look at my obligations this week and move a few things around. It also meant asking my church for a Sunday off, and I am most grateful to the elder who preached in my absence.

I also had to decide between going alone, taking husband and baby, or just baby. My husband had a few things going on this weekend and he'd never met my uncle, so we decided it wasn't crucial for him to be there.  I've flown with just me and baby plenty of times to know that it is doable, but not exactly fun, so I ruled that option out. I went back and forth, weighing the options and considered prices, ultimately deciding driving the 10 hours was the way to go and that I wanted my daughter to come with. My hope is to instill in her a strong sense of family, even for relatives she's never met before. I want to start this early, so that she grows to have an appreciation for the importance of family. I also want to expose her to the joy of road tripping, at least until she can protest and decide she doesn't like it.

So, plans for a road trip with baby commenced.

I consulted the internet, which has an array of advice on the topic. I consulted friends who had driven long distances with their babies and got more helpful guidance. The best advice I got was to time driving around baby's sleep schedule so that she'd sleep most of the way. I armed myself with all of the road-trip-with-baby tools and here is how it went:


2:30am: My alarm goes off and I grab an espresso drink from the fridge, gently get baby from the crib and get in our already packed car to hit the road, hoping baby would just fall asleep as soon as we started driving.

2:45am: Baby is still awake, but not making a peep. She's evidently fascinated by the street lights and probably confused about what is going on. Or maybe she's just enjoying the On Being podcast I'm listening to.

4:15am: Baby finally falls asleep once we reach Waco. My child suffers from severe FOMO, so the fact that she fell asleep at the city limit of Waco cracks me up. I continue listening to podcasts and start to get jittery from the caffeine but am alert and enjoying the trip.

6:30am: We arrive at Sherman, TX, where I'd hoped to make our first stop for breakfast at the lovely Chick-fil-A with an indoor playscape. I'd gotten advice to research good places to stop, and this was the only place between Dallas and Springfield that looked safe, had a play area, and had decent food options, ignoring the messy politics of the restaurant. Unfortunately baby is still asleep. I'm getting hungry and in need of a bathroom stop, but I vowed not to wake up baby, so that I could take advantage of gaining mileage while she slept. By some miracle, she wakes up on her own, just a few miles before we get to the Chick-fil-A. One of the many reasons I think she's the best.

7:30am: After an hour of eating and playing on the playscape, I decide baby has has gotten enough of her wiggles out, so we hit the road again.

7:45am-8:30am: I, very carefully while driving, hand her a new toy every 10 minutes or so after she'd get bored of the one I'd previously given her. Then I experimented with just letting her entertain herself for a while. Turns out, she did just fine on her own and didn't need constant entertainment.

8:30am: Baby plays with her toes and makes faces at herself in the mirror.

8:50am: Baby sleeps while I drive through boring Oklahoma.

10:50am: Baby wakes up and starts to fuss, so I hand her a graham cracker to hold her over until we can stop. I would come to learn that graham crackers are valuable currency for appeasing baby in the car. Totally worth all of the vacuuming I'm going to have to do later.

11:00am: We find a park in Chouteau, OK and play for an hour. I'm not too keen on the lunch options in town, so we drive a bit toward a bigger city, Pryor, which was a big mistake.

Snacking and watching trains. 

12:00pm: Lunch in Pryor. Big mistake. The people there were super grumpy and glared at us the whole time. I had a hard time getting service because the waitresses were too busy tending to the regulars who were squawking "Hey Rhonda, refill my tea!" and "Josie, where's my fried okra?" The food was decent, but I'm seriously considering writing a Yelp review for the restaurant and maybe even for the town in general because I was so unimpressed by them. To be fair, I'd probably be grumpy if I lived in that town.

1:00pm: Back on the road. Baby entertains herself for a while again, and I worry I'm raising a narcissist who loves looking at herself in the mirror too much.

2:00pm: Baby sleeps and I continue to enjoy more podcasts, along with espresso drink #2 of the day.

3:15pm: We arrive in Marshfield, MO and check into our hotel. I cannot say enough nice things about the staff at the Marshfield Holiday Inn, and was thankful for their hospitality after the grumpypants of Pryor treated us so poorly.

Baby and I spend the afternoon, running around the hotel to get some wiggles out after a long day in the car. We lament over the empty pool outside, which meant no swimming. We enjoy dinner at the local cafe and she is in bed by 6:45. Pretty sure I fell asleep at 8:00.


The next morning we got up and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, walked a few laps around the hotel and headed to Lebanon, where the funeral was held. Baby slept on the way and was woken up by a very surprised grandma who didn't know baby was tagging along. Turns out baby snuggles are good for a grandma's broken heart.

The funeral was lovely and I enjoyed meeting people who knew my uncle. We spent the day savoring time with family and meeting a few (2nd? 3rd? I don't know how that works) cousins who had been born since the last time I'd seen my uncle.

3:15pm: Baby starts to fuss, indicating a need for a nap. We say our goodbyes, as we head south and my mom and brother head back to St. Louis where they would catch a flight the next morning.

3:16pm: Baby falls asleep in the car. I enjoy the scenery of the Branson area, feeling good about my decision to go slightly out of our way to take the prettier route through Arkansas.

5:00pm: Baby wakes up and I am ready to stop for dinner. We find a restaurant in Harrison, AR where the server greets us with "I'm so sorry, I've got butter all over my face!" as she wipes her face with a napkin. This confirmed my hunch that they have a butter infuser, filling the air with that good stuff.

5:45pm: Back on the road. I hope baby falls asleep at her usual 7pm bedtime, but she is wide awake and evidently enjoying the scenery as well. She occasionally starts to fuss, but graham crackers solve that problem.

8:30pm: Arrive at our hotel in Little Rock and she falls asleep as soon as her head hits the pack n play.


6:30am: Baby wakes up and we wait for the hotel restaurant to open for breakfast.

7:00am: Breakfast, where baby wooes the waitstaff.

8:00am: More hotel hallway running, a toddler's favorite pastime.

8:45am: We check out of the hotel and I leave a big tip for housekeeping to cover the raisins and crumbs that were embedded in the carpet. I should mention that I tipped pretty high everywhere we went, due to the destructive force of a baby throwing food everywhere. Even left a nice tip in Pryor, OK.

9:00am: We arrive at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site for some history lessons. I tell baby about the "Little Rock Nine" and their bravery.  We walk around the school, praying for peace and justice.

"America Cares" by George Hunt

10:00am: Baby starts to fuss, indicating it is naptime. I debate staying in town until the Bill Clinton Presidential Library opens at 1pm, but decide it would have to wait for another trip. My goal was to follow baby's lead, and I get the sense she is ready to head home. 

10:10am: A quick stop at Starbucks to caffeine up, and we were on the road again, with baby asleep within minutes. 

12:00pm: Baby wakes up just in time for lunch in Texarkana. We look for a place to eat and strike out many times due to it being Sunday and we are in the buckle of the Bible belt. I almost think about going to a church in hopes they'd have some donuts or jello salad for us to eat, but decide I didn't want to have the conversation about me being a clergywoman. Thankfully we find a Tex-Mex place that is open, although I giggle at the Gospel music playing the whole time. 

1:00pm: We finish lunch and play in a grassy area for a while, trying to wear baby out for nap #2. 

1:30pm: Back on the road. Baby doesn't sleep. She's content playing with a book and eating the snacks I hand her. 

2:45pm: Baby gets fussy so we stop at a Sonic in Mt. Vernon, TX where there is an awesome playground with sand. Baby doesn't really like the sand, but she is interested in stealing the shoes that had been left near the tables by children playing in the sand. 

Not liking the sand. 

3:15pm: Back on the road. Baby still doesn't sleep. 

4:15pm: Thinking she's hungry, we stop at some weird boutique-y Wal-Mart in Rockwall, TX, because that's all I could find.  She eats some peas, spills yogurt all over my pants, and runs around in the grass. 

5:00pm: Back on the road. Baby starts to fuss within a few minutes, so I play some Adele and she calms right down. Great baby soothing music. 

6:30pm: More fussing and no sleeping means another rest stop in West, TX. We skip the Kolaches, but get some fresh milk and play in the back of the car because the only grassy area is a dog park. 

7:00pm: Back on the road, dreading my least favorite stretch of I-35 through Temple. 

7:20pm: Baby falls asleep, and I curse I-35 under my breath, wondering why the construction is still a thing there, 4 years after it was there when I used to commute to Temple for an internship. 

8:30pm: We arrive home in Austin, happy to see my husband and agreeing to a no car day Monday to let baby recover from the trip. 

So there you have it. Our epic road trip and baby's first lessons in Towanda-ness. I realize I left out a lot of the details from the trip, particularly talking about the quality time we had together. I managed to stay off of my phone most of the time at our rest stops, and really just spent time with the little one. I have to say I am so thankful we had this time together, seeing family, honoring my uncle and seeing new places I'd never been to before. 

It was nice not having much of an agenda, other than needing to be at the funeral on time. We could go at baby's pace and not have to find restaurants that worked for multiple people's dietary needs/desires. The flexibility and freedom was nice. I'd love to make this our mother-daughter tradition, if she decides she does indeed like road trips. Other than the fussy final hours of the trip, she was a road tripping rock star.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Looking Forward to 5 O'Clock

I have 32 minutes before I get to pick up my kiddo from daycare. Thanks to a meeting getting out way earlier than I anticipated, my afternoon has been wide open, with three extra hours to fill.

I could have worked on my sermon, with that Sunday deadline looming once again.

I could have done some much needed yard work, as the weeds have once again taken over.

I could have cleaned/sanitized the house, something that needs to be done after all three of us have been sick for the past week.

Instead I laughed in the face of productivity and read a book. Like, a fictional book. Something I've struggled to do in the past 10 months partly because my baby brain doesn't allow me to retain anything I've read, and partly because I just haven't had much "me time" to make space for fun reading.

And you know what? It was delightful! As I sat down to read, my mind started to make the calculations of how much we're paying the daycare per hour and I felt a little guilty for forking over that money so that I could enjoy a good book. Shouldn't I have spent those three hours doing something productive? Something work related? Nope. Turns out, what I needed was time to decompress. Time to do something I love. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my kiddo and there's part of me that just wants to spend all of my time with her. With each chapter I finished this afternoon, I'd glance at the clock, excitedly anticipating 5 o'clock when I'd get to pick her up. But I also need to re-energize once in awhile so that I can be more fully present to her and to my church.

The decision to put her in daycare was a very emotional and difficult one. I had hoped to continue what was working before with her spending one day a week with her grandpa, which was awesome. I feel very blessed to have family close by who can care for her. And it isn't so much that I'm anti-daycare. I just sort of anticipated raising my kids how I was raised, because that's what worked for us.  My mom worked from home and sent us to grandparents when she needed to get some real work done. But as it turns out, I need more than just one day and it is really hard trying to work and watch a baby who decided to start walking/opening cabinets/wanting to play with the toilet seat way earlier than I told her she could. I've come to discover, I'm just not that good at multitasking, and it started to feel unfair to both my kiddo and my church because my attention was constantly divided.

So, to daycare she went. And while she had gotten sick both weeks thanks to the petri dish of germs she now plays in twice a week, I have not regretted the decision. I can now block out time to accomplish all of the tasks that I need to get done. I can schedule meetings with churchy people and not worry about the baby trying to pull banners off the wall of the sanctuary. And I can read a book when I have some unexpected free time, only feeling the slightest twinge of guilt.

Would you look at the time? Gotta go pick up my kiddo and savor an evening with her.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Can't Blame These Blues on an Ice Cream Recall

The thing about the postpartum journey is that it is wildly unpredictable. In my experience, one day is great and the next day is a disaster. One day I'm energized and the next day I'm curled up in a ball, unable to take advantage of baby's naptime to sleep or tidy the house because my brain won't shut off and my emotions are all over the place.

Daily joke/cartoon from laughter, funny, jokes, cartoon, positive, books, mental health, depression, bipolar disorder, health, women, stress, mental illness, stigma, medication, faith, book reviews, Prozac, postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, pros, cons, therapy, roller coaster, teacup ride, emotional:

I've consulted with a therapist and I take a weekly mental health inventory to keep tabs on myself. I've been reading Brene Brown's brilliant books and have had some very vulnerable conversations with other mamas who have boldly shared their experience. I'm thankful for that tribe.

I've been struggling with a mild case of postpartum depression, There are certain things that have triggered the blues including house remodel frustrations (a project that was supposed to be done before baby arrived), the death of my grandmother two weeks after baby arrived, homesickness for Colorado and family, and what has proven to be the biggest trigger, which is talking about my birth story.

The first time I had a monstrous wave of sadness was 6 weeks postpartum when I went to a "swap" at the birthing center. These are awesome gatherings where families can bring outgrown clothes and duplicate items to swap with other families who can put them to use. It's also a chance for much needed socialization and getting out of the house.

I saw another mama there whom I had met in the prenatal yoga class. She and I were pretty regular attendees, and I always enjoyed seeing her, though we never connected outside of class. She was still pregnant at the swap, and I think she was due in about 2 weeks. She was delighted to see my baby and that she finally arrived. She recalled being anxious for me as I came to class at 40 weeks...and then 40+2...and then 41 weeks. She asked when the baby finally arrived and I told her 41+6, just under the wire of the 42 week limit when the birthing center automatically refers women to the hospital. Before I could say anymore, like how I did wind up at the hospital and finally a C-section, the other mama said "Oh good! Well the most important thing is that you had her here at the birthing center. I'm so happy for you!" To which I said something like "Yeah, it's great." and then moved on to look at the items available at the swap. I had such an overwhelming wave of shame cloud over me that I couldn't even continue the conversation. I'm sure she figured I was just sleep deprived, which I was.

I absolutely love the birthing center and wouldn't change anything about my decision to receive care there, and I was fortunate to be in a group of very non-judgemental mamas for our birthing/childcare prep class. But I think the birthing center tends to attract a certain clientele that is highly opinionated about "natural" birthing. Many birthing center mamas tend to lean heavily toward vaginal/no drug births, breast is best, anti-circumcision, anti-immunizations, pro-organic and non-GMO. Everything else is considered poor parenting.

It think it is fine for people to feel strongly about these issues and to point toward evidence-based research (so long as it isn't a Jenny McCarthy book), but there needs to be room for grace. A lot of grace. And a realization that sometimes things don't go as planned, and sometimes there is a lot that is out of our control. And maybe, just maybe, every parent is doing the best they can and making the decisions that works the best for their family.

7 months postpartum, I still get bummed out about how labor and birthing went for me. I'll occasionally see an article about how C-section babies are at risk for health problems later in life and how they might not be as emotionally bonded to mama because they didn't get immediate skin-to-skin contact.

But then I look at other mamas who have had their babies via C-section. And they're phenomenal. Some of the best mamas I know had their babies via C-section and I've never thought their children were negatively affected by their entry to the world. Then I look at my own baby and wonder what it would be like if I were anymore bonded and in love with her. I can't even fathom it. When I realize this, I find myself embracing my birth story and empowered by it. I take pride in the fact that I'm a member of a tribe that had a difficult journey but has come through stronger in the end. There are still challenging days, but reflecting on all of this has helped me out of that dark place of postpartum depression and better able to appreciate this new role I find myself in.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Baby vs Cat

I'm going to cheat tonight because my brain is too tired to write anything coherent.

Here is a hilarious comic that perfectly describes parenthood:

Baby Vs. Cat

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mamas in Ministry

This weekend I went to a Presbytery meeting where lots of interesting things happened. And lots of not-so-interesting things happened. But at least there was a cute baby (mine) crawling around on the floor on the second day, after deciding she'd do better staying with me rather than in daycare for day two. I don't know how breastfeeding mamas do it, with working full time and putting kiddo in daycare. I can't figure out how to pump on the go without making it awkward for others!

One of the highlights of the meeting was seeing a friend and former classmate advance on in the ordination process. She eloquently spoke about her vocation journey thus far and at the very end she briefly mentioned that being a woman and a mother gave her a unique perspective in ministry. I so wanted to ask her more about it, but I was nursing my little one at the time and couldn't figure out a way to walk up to the microphone without revealing one or both of my breasts in front of 250 people.

But my mind kept fixating on this idea that being a woman and being a mother does indeed offer us a unique perspective in ministry. Not to say that men and child-free folks don't make good pastors, but I think there is something wonderful about this particular social situation that informs how we go about doing ministry. I so wanted her to share more in front of everyone because it is such an important topic to discuss! Especially in a Presbytery where I have yet to hear a woman preach at a meeting...

Friday, October 23, 2015

In the Care of Strangers

Tonight I write from a motel room with baby girl asleep and rains encroaching on the town from hurricane Patricia. Thankfully this hotel has a door in between the bed area and the sink area, so the little one is tucked away in her own "room" while I'm out here trying to put words together for Sunday. My brain is so tired right now, I think I've started and stopped writing this sermon about 10 times now. Looks like it will be another Saturday night preacher party for me tomorrow.

I'm away from home at a Presbytery meeting and because baby is still breastfeeding, she gets to tag along too. Today was her first experience in a daycare setting with other kiddos. Turns out she does not nap when other kids are around, which made for a major meltdown when we got to the motel tonight. Sorry, neighbors on the other side of the wall.

This was the second time I've left her in the hands of someone whom I just met. The first was a few weeks ago when we left her with babysitter in our hotel while we went to a wedding. Today I left her with a woman who was caring for 4 other children at the same time.

I'd like to think I was pretty chill about both situations, but on the inside I was screaming "PLEASE UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS CHILD AND DON'T WANT ANYTHING TO HAPPEN TO HER!" I have to say it's pretty weird to be on this side of the exchange, after years and years of babysitting kids as a teenager. And as a pre-teen. Remember when it was acceptable to leave your children with the 12 year old from down the street? I was a pretty mature 12 year old, but still. I'm pretty sure there are 12 year olds today who can't stay at home alone without a babysitter.

I remember those nervous parents who got all worked up leaving their kids in my care. I'd laugh because with the exception of one time when a kiddo broke her arm while under my care, nothing usually happened and the kids were perfectly fine.

Today I left my kiddo in the care of this perfectly lovely woman who didn't speak English and probably didn't understand what I meant when I said I'd be back to nurse baby at 2pm, since she fed baby a 6 ounce bottle of "emergency only milk" right before I got there, causing some major discomfort for me when baby wouldn't nurse at all.

So between engorgement issues and a mind worried about baby, I had a hard time focusing at the Presbytery meeting today. I'm sure I'll reach a point where I look forward to the days of dropping kiddo off at daycare, but for now it feels a bit like I've torn off a piece of myself handed it to someone who doesn't really care about it as much as I do.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fresh Air, Fresh Perspective

I just spent a few days in Colorado visiting family and opted not to blog while there. I didn't bring my computer with me, partly because Frontier charges up the wazoo for every item you bring on the plane. But I also just wanted to be present while spending time there. While I enjoy writing, it feels like a task, especially when I'm challenged to blog every day this month. A break from it was pretty nice.

When I was there I found myself inhaling as much fresh air as I could. I know Denver has that brown cloud of nasty pollution, but the air there just seems more fresh than here in Texas. Plus, it is fall there. Like, real fall with colors and chilly mornings. I have to admit it was a bit hard to leave yesterday.

I also found myself gaining a fresh perspective on babycare. I absolutely love my kiddo, but there are days when taking care of her is painfully monotonous. Somedays it feels like all I do is feed her and try to get her to sleep. Somewhere in there I get work done preparing for Sunday, but often that is scattered in between all of the baby needs.

I think I reached a point of being over it.

But when I watched my parents and my brother and my sister-in-law interact with my little one, I was given this fresh perspective on just how amazing she is. I was filled with wonder as I watched her play the same games she plays here at our house, but seeing other people react to them reminded me of just how fun they are. Hearing her make the same annoying noise that she currently loves was different there because there were other people to laugh at it and comment on how ridiculous it is.

And I don't know what it is about people in airports, but they are so gracious and kind to me as I travel with baby. As annoying as it is to lug the diaper bag and gear through the airport and as challenging as it is to keep baby contained for the 2 hour flight, it all seems worth it just to interact with strangers who marvel at her and offer to help me with my bags. It's such a beautiful glimpse of humanity at its best.

So for now, my lungs are clinging to the vestiges of Colorado air and my heart is filled with a new sense of wonderment toward this little child I've been given stewardship of. I'm hoping this lasts a while.