Monday, January 26, 2009

Stillwater, MN

This past weekend was one of those weekends where we came to Sunday evening after a day of cleaning, cooking, eating and travelling and I felt confused as how the entirety of Saturday and Sunday had passed without us seeming to notice it. I guess in some ways that is a mark of a weekend well spent, we were having such an enjoyable time that we didn't even notice the time passing. Saturday was the busiest of these days (Sunday was spent at church and doing some fast and furious loads of laundry and dishes.)

It began early in the morning. Jim had been invited to spend a good chunk of the day out at the Hudson, WI Rod, Gun and Archery Club. One of his coworkers lives over the border in WI and knows of this club. It is perhaps the nicest gun club I have ever been inside of. I think it is because of the rich hunting and fishing history of the area-- the club was established in 1924 and had a wonderful lodge. I took the opportunity to explore the border areas of the state that we haven't taken full advantage of, despite their reputation as quaint and removed from the hectic nature of the Twin Cities.

Hudson is the last city on the border of WI and MN and typically when we are driving through it we are either beginning our long road trip back to MI or are almost home after a long drive, so we tend to zip passed the city, which lies on the shores of the St. Croix River. It is somewhat funny that we have just discovered this area since it is the same river and general area that we will be enjoying in February for the Winter Picnic I recently blogged about. However we found it, I am happy that we did, because I find myself longing for places with a small town feel that are not simply a suburb of The Cities, but independent communities. Hudson is a wonderful small town that hosts events such as the 20th Annual Hot Air Affair where they launch hot air balloons in the dead of winter. While it would be lovely to watch, I certainly don't envy those who will be flying the balloons in the frigid air.

They also have The Octagon House Museum, which I am so excited to see, but is only open during the warmer months of the year. In my college years, I think that we actually discussed this building during an Art and Architecture lecture, and to just happen to come across it was a delight, even though I could only see it from the outside. In Hudson, I also tried to get some pictures from the Lakefront Park .(which is somewhat a misnomer because it is really on the river, although the river here widens to technically be a lake) Jim was wearing long underwear for the day because he was going to be outside for part of it, but I was dressed only in my typical coat and shoes, and not ready for the frigid sub-zero early morning air and only got a few shots of the I 94 and Stillwater Lift Bridge.

The said Stillwater Lift Bridge is a curious structure, which makes even I who drive over The Mississippi River sometimes 8 times a day hesitate. The bridge has a reputation for getting stuck in the UP position and delaying traffic, sometimes for as much as 3 hours and many miles on HWY 36 for those who live in WI, but work in MN. They are discussing eventually altering the bridge and using it only for foot and bike traffic over the river, and replacing it with a modern alternative. The bridge was built in 1931 and has been essentially unaltered since then, and the fact that I had to drive over a structure that was so reputed to malfunction made me nervous.

However, I wanted to explore the city, made famous as the "Birthplace of Minnesota" and once held the first seat of territorial government and now sells antique books and home decor. Really, it is an absolutely perfect example of a quaint small town, and I can't believe it has taken us this long to discover it. We were bemoaning (or really I was feeling sad about) our lack of a Traverse City experience that we had when we lived in MI, except for Duluth, which is really a large city and difficult to navigate, and lo and behold, we have another city that is probably more quaint than TC just 40 minutes from our home on the other side of the Twin Cities.

Unfortunately, it was still early when I arrived at Stillwater, and many of the businesses were keeping "Winter Hours" during this time where many of the tourists and day-trippers were kept at bay by the cold temperatures. However, I made note of several places I wanted to visit, and several options for food once Jim was done in WI. I am already anticipating a summer of visits (probably briefer than I am used to due to diaper changes and feedings) of trips to the Warden's House Museum-- memorializing the Minnesota Territorial Prison, which housed criminals such as the Younger Brothers, who were members of Jesse James' gang.

When I eventually picked up Jim (after a day of shopping and some photography while soaking in the humidity of the Tropical Room at the McNeely Conservatory) we decided to eat at "Shane's on Main" a restaurant offering hot sandwiches, and a view of the lift bridge from the back room. The staff were very friendly and offered us better seats if we were cold sitting by the windows and jokes about the bridge and their view of it frozen in mid-air at times. We were able to both eat soup and homemade sandwiches for under $20, and several more restaurants were similarly priced. (We'll see if this holds true in tourist season.)

Also visited were the now open Midtown Antiques Mall, St. Croix Antiquarian Booksellers and several other home decor. stores. While compiling this list I am also making plans to visit the Antique Radio Company where they sell and repair antique radios, the Chef's Gallery, The Stillwater Farm Store and The River Market Community Co-op for some fresh produce. Wow, that is quite a list, and I haven't even discussed the local state parks that we are now so excited to visit and the riverfront that was too chilly to explore much. That should probably be left until it actually is warm enough to explore, and till we find out how we survive the Winter Picnic.
Friday, January 23, 2009

The Generosity of Family

"Jim is going to need to help you go get the box from the office. It weighs 27 pounds." My father left us this message regarding a package that my Aunt Susie and Grandma had recently informed us was on its way. I had expected some baby onesies, or a bit of fabric, but I was instead shocked as we walked through the dark and cold to the community office and Jim hefted an imposing box onto his shoulder.

"What could be in there?" I wondered out loud as we quickly hurried back home to open it. I was happy that I was able to get my aunt on the phone to talk with her while we walked (one of the few places we get a good signal is outside) and managed to keep her on the phone while we opened the package. What I found were yards upon yards of fabric. Fleece, flannel and cotton. Iron on material for applique-ing, backing for the pillows I'm planning on making, along with several baby blankets (Which I may turn into baby clothes because of the cute pre-applied applique of elephants, snails etc. There was even a Carter's musical elephant which Jim has taken to placing against my belly to soothe the baby in utero. This, and the mounted Star Wars poster that were included in the box for Jim's birthday were two of his favorite items.

I feel so blessed to have family that have read my blog and thought about what they already have that would be a blessing to us. My grandma is an avid sewer who already sent us a Care Bear baby quilt, after the show I loved which also became one of my nicknames. A few weeks ago I was feeling worried over the vast amounts of things we need to purchase for the baby, and while admittedly we do not have any of the big purchases made yet, because of this present I am feeling so relieved about the status of Baby Weston's layette and through a recent visit to a "Once Upon A Child" in one of the fancier communities around us, I am feeling better about some of the other purchases that are weighing on our budget.

Anyways, I have already taken to my sewing machine to make some pieces of clothing we have been talking about whenever we visit a Hancock Fabrics or a Jo Anne's. We always pause by the animal print fabric and laugh at the idea of our son in cow pants or tiger pants, and lo and behold, we received some fleece that was the perfect material for some 6 month pants. For these I used one of the patterns I got at Jo Anne's for 99cents and I learned so much just by using the pattern instead of approximating a match using other clothing pieces. I may have to make myself a matching pair, they look so cozy!

Another fabric that we both delighted in was a yellow fabric covered with playful monkeys, which Jim requested I use soon, and laughed with delight upon seeing the end result when I obliged. He thinks they are the best thing I've ever sewn. I was a bit less pleased because I used a smaller pair of pants than the pattern I had to approximate the size and the rise came out smaller than I was intending. I think they will still be alright as newborn pants, even if they are a little long at that time. But they are soooo cute!
Making things is getting a lot easier for me as I have gotten back in the sewing groove, but my back is not as agreeable as my spirit is to making baby items, so I simply try to do a little bit every day, and have taken over our dining room table with all of my sewing mess. Our main issue is becoming storage for all of our baby blessings. We used a shelf from another area of the house and have placed it in what will probably be its final location in our bedroom and used some IKEA soft red storage boxes and a couple baskets from around the house for his stuff until we invest in our new Malm dressers, which will hold his clothes as well as ours. I've gathered a lot of our "kid stuff," and placed them all on the shelves, although some he won't be able to use for a while and may go back in a box temporarily.
We've also hung his name up above in some letters I've painted from the craft store. Using the IKEA catalog and the internet I tried to match the colors in the fabrics we're going to use after we get the crib, and I think I did pretty well. In the picture you can see the elephant that my Aunt and Grandma sent us resting and waiting for his future owner. additionally we have some shelves to hand that were formerly in our old towel-bar lacking bathroom that aren't needed there any more, but we are waiting to see how the crib feels in various locations before we put any more holes in the walls.
Because I know you, Aunt Susie, at least read this, I will definitely keep you updated on all of my creations from your generosity. And we say thank you, thank you, thank you! I can't wait to show you a live model for the things that I have been making!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009

al-Shabaab and the Minneapolis Connection

The inauguration is over, the pageantry concluded and I am sure that very few Americans took note of one small reference to threats to the inaugural ceremony. However, one specific threat caught my interest, particularly as a Minnesota resident. Fox, as well as other networks mentioned one threat that had been investigated by the Secret Service:

“Authorities monitored a rush of intelligence leads Tuesday at the largest security operation in presidential inauguration history, including a possible threat from an East Africa radical Islamic terrorist group.Law enforcement and intelligence officials received information that people associated with a Somalia-based group, al-Shabaab, might try to travel to the U.S. with plans to disrupt the inauguration, according to a joint FBI/Homeland Security bulletin issued Monday night.”

Probably for many of you, al-Shabaab is simply another in a long list of Islamic terrorist organizations that are operating on the other side of the world, however, this is one organization with ties that hit a bit closer to home for many Minneapolis and greater Minnesota residents.
For a wide variety of reasons, Minnesota is home to the United States largest Somali population. Many of these immigrants have fled their homelands as refugees from the unrest (perhaps best referenced by the book and film, “Black Hawk Down”) In fact, on Lake Street in Minneapolis, near the West Bank of the University of Minnesota and the tragedy of the 35W Bridge collapse over 120 Somali owned and operated business can be found. Unfortunately, also in this area is a high rise apartment complex locally nicknamed “The Crack Stacks” for the poverty of the Somalian residents of the building. Many of those that have fled from Somalia are former doctors and lawyers who are now reduced to filling jobs of manual labor and live lives of poverty.

Even more recently the Somalian community has been rocked by the dissappearance of many of its teenage and young adult males, estimated at as many as 2 dozen “missing boys” have been lured back to the very country their parents have fled, by members of al-Shabaab to execute terrorist attacks in Africa. Said of one bombing:
“It’s believed that one of the suicide bombers was 26-year old Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen and resident of Minneapolis, home to a substantial Somali émigré population. Ahmed moved to Minnesota in 1996 and graduated high school there before becoming one of over a dozen young Somali men to disappear from the area in recent months. All are believed to have returned to Somalia to join the fighting, possibly as suicide bombers. FBI officials will not confirm whether an investigation is under way.”

While the FBI is officially remaining non-commital on the issue, according to local news on Thanksgiving weekend several Somali visitors were prevented from returning to Somalia at the Minneapolis- St. Paul Airport, although they were not officially arrested. However, FBI officials returned the remains of one of the “missing boys” to his parents. Reports one site: "The FBI wouldn’t even confirm if a teenager whose remains the agency returned to his family last month was one of five suicide bombers who attacked government and foreign installations in Somalia, killing 24. Yet almost everyone in the community believes that 19-year-old Shirwa Ahmed, a University of Minnesota student, was indeed a culprit in those attacks."

The same site also reports: “Special agent E. K. Wilson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office in Minneapolis wouldn’t confirm or deny the fate of the “missing boys,” as they are known in the community. He would only say that his agency is aware that an unspecified number of Somali youths have traveled from throughout the United States, including Minneapolis, to “potentially fight in Somalia.””

My husband mentioned that during the day of the inauguration there were several helicopters patrolling the air above downtown Minneapolis, and I am certainly not claiming that this was somehow associated with the perceived threat. However, it did make me wonder what sort of actions were taking place to asses this threat, and how much of this investigation was taking place in my new home.

I am so sad for the families of these teenagers, especially because of all of the unanswered questions associated with the disappearance of their children. They fled Somalia in the hopes of providing a better future for their children here in the United States, and because of the actions of a few men have gone back to Somalia and are choosing in some cases to die there. I have in no way exhausted this topic, and I urge you to look at some of the links I have provided. Much of what has been written is opinion-based, and there is conflict even among the Somali population of whether or not as many boys have gone missing as has been reported and where the actual destinations of some of these teenagers has been.
Monday, January 19, 2009

I confess...

...that our Christmas tree is sitting undecorated on our balcony. It actually doesn't look too bad from the road. :) Makes me look forward to gardening on our balcony this spring.

The first winter we spent out here, we were confused by the number of people that appeared to be celebrating Christmas into February and March by leaving their lights out on their houses, wreaths on doors and garages, and inflatable holiday characters in yards. Finally, we asked someone why this was, and they told us that it simply is too cold, and the ice too dangerous so people tend to leave up their decorations for a lot longer than in other places.

This made sense, although I am still questioning why people had their lights turned on for all of this time, but I guess that is just one of those mysteries I will never know. Last year our tree was down fairly quickly-- we weren't entirely on the up and up with our complex about our having a live tree in our apartment. I ended up taking to it with some gardening shears and the handsaw that Lisa gave me for Christmas the year we lived together in Winchell Way, after another Christmas tree issue.

Our current home is much more amenable to live trees, but sent everyone a note regarding watering of trees, which was an issue since we were gone for over a week, and advising us to dispose of our trees by throwing them over our balconies rather than carting them down the hall, shedding needles. "Please look beforehand for animals and people underneath your balcony." This warning was well advised, but still somewhat humorous coming from the apartment office.

We typically keep the tree up till New Years, but a combination of Jim's horrible work schedule, my being pregnant and unable to throw and cart a tree to the dumpster and the -35 wind chill turned us into the Minnesotans I had been derisive of just one winter ago. Well, the weather has finally broken (it is now a sweltering 22 degrees) and we have had an actual weekend to enjoy being together and Jim being out in daylight, so this issue should be resolved soon. I'm just thankful we don't have to throw the tree from the 3rd floor and avoid hitting cars in the parking lot from a stray gust of wind.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Photo at the Science Muesum of Minnesota

A few days ago I noticed something on my flickr feed that has previously escaped my notice. I was contacted by someone from the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul about using one of my photos in their upcoming exhibit, "Water."

According to the letter I received when I responded to the message,

"The Water exhibit celebrates one of the most basic necessities of human survival. Innovative presentation techniques converge with a variety of interactive activities to let visitors examine the scientific, cultural and environmental aspects of water. Visitors will explore the ways that our societies strain the planet's finite resources and have the opportunity to experience the power of water firsthand."

Running from January 30- April 26, my photo would be used as a part of the program created in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, and run in a slide-show all day for each day that the exhibit runs. There is no pay for this, but it is an honor to be asked among about 39 other photographers and Jim and I will be given a pair of tickets to enter the museum and see the exhibit and I would receive recognition through a photo credit running alongside my work. While not as much of an issue in water-plentiful MN, the scarcity of water is already impacting other areas of the United States and, in a much more dramatic sense, other areas of the world, and I am happy to be a part of making this exhibit more impactful to visitors.

According to Jim Imholte at SMM, "we’d like to add a projection of water in its various states through images taken by photographers in Minnesota." I think that this will have an impact upon MN visitors to the museum, as it will make the issue more relatable to them and allow them to think about the issue as it pertains to their own water resources here which are vital for agriculture, life and tourism of the state.

The photo that they selected was from the visit that Jim and I made to the Obon Festival at Como Park back in later August, when I was newly pregnant and exhausted, but didn't know the reason why yet. Aside from the satisfaction garnered from participating in such a worthwhile exhibit, I also feel a great deal of personal satisfaction for having my work recognized. I feel like I missed so many opportunities during this past fall. Pregnancy, in some ways, has been hard on me, although I'm thankful that my suffering has been limited to exhaustion, round ligament pain and morning sickness. I feel like I am only just now gaining back the time that I have missed, and really getting our home organized the way that I have wanted it to be, had I the energy the whole time that we have lived here.

I am also very much aware that my life will change in dramatic ways once I have firmly entered the realm of mommy-hood and the days where I can spend my time attending festivals, and going on walks simply to take photos will be limited. I know that I am good at things, like writing, being a wife, cooking, photography, making our apartment a home, but I never have felt like I am great at very many things. It feels very vindicating to have one of the few photos I took and one of the very few that I posted during my first trimester of pregnancy considered for something such as this. It feels like an acknowledgement that I do have talent in this realm, and that I do have a voice that people will want to hear.

Ahhh-- It Feels So Good

Sometimes it is the small changes that feel so good in life. Somehow, the change the changes that I just made to the template of this blog make it feel fresh and new to me again, and after over a year of posting here, that is a very good thing.

I love the left-handed profile setting and the new simplistic color scheme. Just what I needed. And the changes have also added much needed space to the text portion of this blog, and make my posts seem not so quite outrageously long.

Baby Sites I Love

I know that I am no expert when it comes to making a home for an infant. Our little one isn't even going to have his own room for a while since he'll be sleeping in the same room as us (in his own crib or nearby bassinet) because statistically this is the best place for newborns to sleep to avoid SIDS and because Jim slept in his parent's room when he was a baby and felt like it was important. However, I know that through thought and planning I can make my little one's first years a wonderful and nurturing experience for him and for his parents.

Thus, in searching for room decor and for our little one's layette, I have looked for baby-oriented websites that cater to this mindset.

One site I love is Ohdeedoh. They offer nursery tours in a wide variety of budgets and tastes, and get the parent's perspective on why they chose the pieces they did and how their life philosophy connects to the space in which they have created to raise their child. From a nursery that takes up just half of mom and dad's walk-in closet, to nurseries in loft apartments and carriage houses, there is a great deal of variety, and individual pieces and stores are often linked to-- and instructions on alterations to store bought pieces are given. It has also let me see our hoped-for Hensvik crib in action, albeit in a girl's nursery.

Found through Ohdeedoh, the Flickr group, "Go to Your Room," and the connected baby group offer real life nurseries that aren't primped and styled for magazines, but have practical insights into decorating for a baby or youngster. Some of the people in the group are just advertising their own creations that they sell on etsy and in other locations, but are easy enough to skip over and focus on the practical inspirations and dramatic before and after photos.

Another site I love came courtesy of my lovely sister-in-law. She made us a pair of delightful baby pants for Christmas and told me upon my receiving a sewing machine about the site Make Baby Stuff. While the sites downloadable patterns are kind of sad, their innovation with making pants out of old adult t-shirts and practical discussions of freezer paper patterns and appliqued onesies is a great thing.

IKEA--Duh. If you have read my blog at all, then you will know of my love for the clean lines, inexpensive prices and joyful attitude toward childhood that I have found in this mammoth store. When I look at the sample nurseries available on their website it makes me happy, and it delights me to see a girl's nursery that has been designed as something other than a pink, green and brown Princess overkill. From my childcare days I have vowed that I would resist this sterotyping, after seeing 3 and 4 year old girls whose only ambition is to be a princess when they grow up. For items that we will purchase new, the bright colors will also allow us to have a gender neutral palette that isn't "Classic Pooh" or simple yellow and green.

BRIO- In a world of plastic toys, it is nice to see a manufacturer that is still making classic wooden toys, many of which were first launched in the 1960s and are still sold, with small alterations, today. They are perhaps best known for their wooden train sets and train tables, but they may also be known for the Toddler Wobbler, Puck and the Daschund pull-along. Their high contrast, but non-frantic color scheme is also good developmentally for young children. My only sadness is that the infant toys are not currently sold in the United States, but I know how quickly time will pass until our son is ready to use the toddler and preschool level toys. While the toys are a bit more expensive than others, the quality is so great, and through back channels we are able to order items at a deep discount.

For instructions on how to make super cute applique onesies, like it or not, Martha Stewart has some great advice. She featured a wonderful etsy seller, Bella Blu, who manufactures onesies and offers construcitive advice on how to make some of your own. This weekend I'm intending to head out and get the necessary items to create some of my own. Because of the patterns available, so far I have made plenty of pants for The Bean, but no shirts. I'm intending on buying a pattern for baby shirts as well as some pre-made onesies that I can work on up at the Coon Rapids JoAnn's Fabrics, which seems to have the best selection of baby fabric as well as a great selection of pre-made appliques and iron-on onesies. I already have some iron on backings, but I bought the wrong type and ended up having to pin my design to the pair of pants I was making.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter Picnic

What's a little -10 windchill when there are hot dogs to be roasted? Recently I received an email from our church small group leader, who also happens to be the small group coordinator for Faith. In July we attended the Independence Day Picnic at Interstate State Park on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota. This email announces a picnic with just as extreme weather as the painfully humid day of the last picnic, only this one announced an event that is just about as far away in temperatures as Minnesota can get.

Winter Picnic XV is a uniquely Minnesotan event where hearty Scandinavians and wanna-be's like us get together and have a picnic at the St. Croix River Boom Site. Hot dogs (or something else for those of us that are pregnant and told to avoid nitrates) hot cocoa and s'mores are served and a fire is laid along the edge of the river. From the photos in the invitation, it looks like a chilly and fun time will be had by all.

I'm really excited because we have had plenty of opportunity to explore places like Ft. Snelling State Park, Interstate State Park, have gone pretty far into Wisconsin and enjoyed the remote beauty of places like Asheville, we have also visited pretty much every park along the Mississippi in the Twin Cities area, but we haven't done much along the St. Croix (which partially forms the border between WI and MN.) The Boom Site, near Stillwater is also on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated as part of the St. Croix National Scenic Waterway. Sadly, it sounds as if it has become a somewhat forgotten site, and I would love to explore a landmark like this that hasn't been overrun by visitors and garbage, although it sounds like the place might be in trouble due to neglect.

It will be strange to consider packing both snowshoes and our orange Kelsyus beach chairs for the same event, but it should be an exciting and frigid time of fun. Long underwear is definitely in order, and I may try to manhandle my bulging belly into a pair of snow pants, although zipping them has been abandoned before it is even attempted. Thanks to my yearly Christmas Stocking, I also have quite the storehouse of pocket hand-warmers that should come in handy.
Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Baby Making Story (Clothes that is.)

For Christmas this year Jim very kindly went on a hunt for something that I have been wanting and looking at pretty much every time we went to a Sears, Target or similar store. A sewing machine. At Target they are right next to the clothing steamers, which Jim has been wanting in lieu of ironing his work clothes with our bulky and old ironing board. (His mom happened to have 2 of these and was eager to give him one so we returned the one that I got him for the holiday and considered the refund savings.)

I was so excited to see that I could now being making baby clothing for our upcoming bundle of joy. Baby clothes are so expensive and worn for such a brief amount of time that it is hard to rationalize spending $10 on a pair of pants that would only last for 2 months. I have a friend from high school who recently welcomed her first son into the world and at less than 2 months, he is already moved out of many of his 0-3 month clothing. I think I am having a shower back in MI where I will get some clothing, but he will probably get mostly newborn clothes, and while I don't know if he will grow as quickly as the aforementioned baby boy, I know that he will need more clothing to supplement the gifts he has already and will receive soon.

I am hoping to find clean used clothing at garage sales, but because of our weather out here in MN, the sales will not likely being until after our son is born, and I do not want to count on my feeling like leaving the house to go hunt through boxes placed on someone's driveway for baby clothing with a 1 month old in tow.

I have visited several used clothing stores in the area, and I was surprised at how expensive clothing is at these stores! I am used to Goodwill and other places offering clothing for 50 cents a piece, but at the best of the used stores, I found infant pants to be $2.99 or $3.99 per pair! If I wanted to pay those sort of rates, I would simply hunt for sales and go to the nearby outlet malls, rather than wear something used from someone we don't know. I did purchase one pair of Children's Place pants to use as a template for my creations that are soft and blue and lined so they should be warm enough to handle the cool springs around here.

I may receive some used clothing from other women at church, but I do not want to lean on the hope of this either. We are relatively new to the church-- since the beginning of last summer-- and the vast majority of women at Faith have given birth to girls. One day while I was working nursery I was pretty much told that I HAD to have a boy to begin to even out the ratio because one woman had given birth to twin boys, and another adopted a boy, but otherwise every child under 1 was a female.

So the easy solution to all of this is to make many of the baby clothing that our little one is going to use, at least for the first months of life. We visited a nearby fabric store and picked up some "practice" material for about a dollar a yard, a fleece remnant for $2.99 a yard that I have already made 2 pairs of pants from and have barely made a dent in, and a plaid quilted fabric that I have made a pair of really cute shorts (patterned after some shorts my mom sent us) and I intend to make overalls out of as well.

It took me a couple tries to get a workable pair of pants. My sis-in-law Jess told me about a great site, where there were pants patterns and other ideas for handmade baby items. However, the baby pants pattern didn't print out in a correct proportion, so I went with creating my own pattern off of pants we already had. I do intend to try out their pattern to make yoga pants out of old t-shirts because it looks too easy and cheap to pass by.

Right now everything is a plain, basic gray fleece that isn't the plaid pattern, so I purchased extremely small remnants and will be making patches using Photoshop and some of my photos of things like geese, and other boy baby appropriate items, iron on fusible webbing and then sewing around the outside. Of course, I'm sure I'll visit the fabric store again to get some other color and patterned materials, as well as to make pillows for the living room and curtains. Other future ideas include, a baby hat (how cute are babies in hats, and how necessary if we want to have fun this summer) a nursing modesty blanket, Boppy cover, a wet bag for diapers, a sling to carry him in, and of course, the thing that scares me most-- cloth diapers. We're still planning on using cloth, and that is one thing that I do have a pattern of, but it is much more complex than my simple pants patterns. We'll see.

(Pictures are to come soon Jessica, I know you asked me about them, but I need to finish one or two things before then. )

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Feeling His Son

I was so excited shortly after we returned to MN that finally, after weeks of feeling him move, Jim was able to share in the same experience with me. People have given us tips, from flashlights placed on my tummy to a cold drink making the baby wake up-- no thank you, but the real problem was that although the movements were quite apparent to me, they are normally strongest in the morning when Jim is at work.

Finally, we were laying in bed and baby started to dance and didn't stop when I moved Jim's hand over. "Did you feel that?" I asked as usual.

"Well, I felt that," he said as another kick poked at my tummy, "was that one?" When I told him yes, yet another kick was felt by us both and made Jim jump a little. Now it really sunk in that he was feeling his son, his baby for the first time. "Wow-- that is him! I can feel my son!"

Jim has asked me to describe what it feels like to me to be able to feel him in me, not just kicking, but simply moving around and getting cozy. I've also been asked by several other people and I think I have said that it is like if you swallowed a fish or a frog and it is now growing and living in you and nudging your insides, but I don't feel like that is actually right. I feel like at times I can feel him being happy or interested (especially when I eat or music is playing) or when he is annoyed (when the seatbelt is cutting in or I am putting on my shoes or Jim is hugging me and it squishes my belly.) It is still hard to believe that I am carrying around a whole person in me, and an increasingly BIG person.

I feel like I am trying to get to know someone simply by the way that they text message or IM on the computer. So much is lost from not using complete sentences, seeing facial expressions or if they are punching the keys with anger or excitement. Smileys can never make up for real emotions shared in person. And I cannot wait to get to have an in person conversation with my little man, even if only one of us will have the ability to talk for a while.

22 Week Appt. and Fundal Height

In a brilliant display of Pregnant Brain, I actually forgot about my monthly OB appt. (I thought it was this Friday instead of last) as Jim and I relaxed at home on one of the last days of holiday vacation-- me feeling yucky and he fulfilling his obsession with "Godfather" on X Box and sat in his new gaming chair. We also managed to short out the power in our bedroom and master bath that day, which took until Sunday to get repaired. Not the best beginning of a New Year I've ever had.

I felt so silly later when I ended up getting violently ill and could have gone to the doctor that very day, but thankfully my doctor's office was good enough to arrange an appt. with me yesterday with the NP, who I happen to love and who I haven't seen since my first prenatal appt. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not leaving enough time to get to my appointment. Typically, Jim insists on coming to my appointments, which I love, but this time because of the rearrangement and the late time of day he couldn't make it. So, I hadn't left the extra time that I normally do for him to meet me in the parking structure and walk to the office. So I found myself with about 2 minutes to hustle from our parking near Loring Park to the office on the Nicollet Mall near Barnes and Noble and the US Bank Tower.

I was already running late, chugging a water bottle in preparation for the regular urine sample when I made a wrong turn and ended up going past the downtown YMCA instead of though Target's skyway-- a mistake that necessitated me running through Macy's menswear department and around in a loop instead of directly to my destination. I'm sure that there have been many funny sights in the skyways, but I don't want to think about the addition that I made-- a maternity coat flying, slightly sweaty, waddling pregnant woman trying to scurry as fast as possible through the Ralph Lauren racks. I saw at least one store clerk simply get out of my way instead of offering his usual, commission-driven offer of assistance.

Finally I made it and was blessed to find that they were running even later than I was on that particular day. I never thought I'd be thankful for their usual slowness. I was able to sit for a few minutes before they called me back to begin the usual round of testing:

Blood Pressure-- good- I think it was 114/60 which amuses me since I was running to the appt. but usually have the ability to bring my BP back down fairly well.

Weight--Pretty much exactly the same as last time, which is frustrating with all of the holiday eating I enjoyed and made myself do. I am fairly sure I would have gained some if not for the nasty flu or whatever that was that I recently had. I am a little concerned that I haven't gained any overall, but they talked to me about it and said that since our baby was in the 51% of size at the 20 week ultrasound and everything else seems good they are not worried. I just want to make sure that he is getting enough nutrients and growing properly, and now I am getting worried about a sudden spurt of growth later on that will give me stretch marks and be harder to get rid of once the baby arrives.

I always thought that I would balloon up right away when pregnant, and so this is still shocking and bit strange to me. (We're hoping that our recent trip to Sam's and the mountains of food we now have should put a little more meat on my bones and on baby's bones.) As far as my growth is concerned, I recently found a piece of paper from '06 that for some reason I had written down my dimensions on, and at that time I had a waist of 32 inches or so and now am carrying around more than 45. All with a net gain of 2 lbs.

Sample- Protein in urine, possible infection. Yippe. Have to wait for a call today. Yay. Very common in pregnancy, but not any more desirable than if I wasn't pregnant.

Fundal Height- (height of uterus) 23 cm. Roughly I should be the same # of cm as I am weeks along, so I'm good, and now from Deann's explanation I can find the top of it myself a lot easier. It is a good distance above my belly button, which is now just a slight indent, but hasn't "Popped" yet. It is another good sign that I am still on track for baby size even though I'm not gaining.

Fetal Heart Rate- 130 bpm. Deann tracked the actual rate, while Dr. Ambur typically just listens to see if it seems normal and can tell from experience if something is wrong, so I'm not sure, but this seemed slightly slower than at other times, but could have been the machine, or could have been the fact that our little man was running away as fast as possible from the Doppler as he could. I think he was remembering the annoyance of the ultrasound wand that wouldn't let him sleep because he kicked the Doppler a couple of times and moved from the centered just under my belly button to lower on the right to as low as possible in the middle, which seems to be one of his new favorite spots and quite an accomplishment since he's almost a foot long now. Lately he has been kicking me in the bladder and cervix, which makes Mommy feel like he is trying to gain entry into the world WAY too soon. Hopefully the annoyance of these sensations will be abated if I really do have a bladder infection and I can get back to sleeping in peace. I think Jim is getting a bit worried about his son being a very busy boy once he is out into the world, and we may have to enter him into sports and other physical activities to channel this energy somewhere. I am trying to look at it like he is simply curious about the world around him and wants to touch it all, even though he can't from inside of his Mommy-house. (Although what Jim thinks is a real possibility.)

Wheezing- Dr. Ambur was going to give me a prescription for an inhaler at my last appt. because of some asthma-like wheezing I've been having when I run, or get in the cold too much or simply get near something I'm allergic to, but had to run out for an emergency delivery last time, so she forgot. I finally got it this time and am excited to have it filled so that I can see if it really will make a difference.

Flu Shot- Got it. Normally I don't because I know of the power of acquired immunity and can normally fight off flu with the help of decongestants and cough drops. However, now I'm leery of taking anything for a cold so I decided just this once to get it. I'm still divided on if it will do any good, or if my immunity hold-over from years of working with little kids will be what really gets me through this winter.

That was about it that was covered at the appointment, at our next one we will probably set up the appointment for the stress-test for gestational diabetes, which I guess is a joy, but could give some good information.
Saturday, January 3, 2009

Real Love from a Real Man

(Warning-- this might be a little, well, a lot gross to some of you.)

Real love is from a man who makes his wife breakfast and lunch because he wants her and their child to eat well and grow big and strong. My real love is a man who brings his wife a blanket covered in dorky dinosaurs when she beings to feel really ill. My real man is a man who comforts his wife as she is violently ill, and cannot even make it to the bathroom, only into the kitchen sink. A real man tells his wife to go lay down and that he will clean up the mess that she has made and gets her a cup of water and kisses her hair, even when it smells like vomit. Real love is a man who will head out to the store to buy Cherry 7 Up because that is what his wife has had since childhood when she has the stomach flu, and Sociables crackers because that is the only thing that sounds like it will help her stomach. Real love is a man who can still say "I love you" when his wife doesn't look or behave like she did before they conceived a child. Real love is a man who doesn't mind spending the last days of his vacation caring for his sick, pregnant wife instead of out enjoying his last few days of freedom. A real man steps up to the plate for his responsibilities as a man and a father, even before his child makes its way out into the world.

A real man just offered to bring me a bite to eat and some more Cherry 7 Up while I sat here writing this.
Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Thanksgiving Post

I know, it has already been a month since Thanksgiving and I have already posted about this, but we have so much to be thankful for at Christmas this year, that I must label this post as being thankful yet again.

As I have mentioned, we decided to stay in the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving so that we could have more time off to visit friends and family at Christmas, and actually enjoy being "back home" instead of simply being caught up in the rush of last minute holiday preparations and events-- which we still managed to do somewhat. Our first major blessing came in the way of the weather for our drives, both to MI and back to MN. We were so worried and hearing about storms across the country-- including co-workers of Jim's who were stuck in Chicago and had to drive back to The Cities because all of their flights had been cancelled because of the ice storm. Indeed, we saw ample evidence of the ice as we circumvented Chicago, but drove the whole 2 day trip (we have begun to take 2 days because it is so much less stressful and is easier on my preggo back) in between two severe storms. We arrived on Saturday and that night the snow began.

Unfortunately we had to miss church at The River and various other plans were cancelled on Sunday, but it turned out to be exactly what we needed as we finished up most of our Christmas shopping and got to spend some time with my parents.

It was so wonderful over the next few days to have weekdays free of work, and for Jim to see daylight, and for me to see my woman friends that I have missed greatly. It has been difficult at times to be pregnant so far from a support netowork that has taken years to develop, and it was great to simply BE around women that know me and have seen so much of my life and journey up until now. I got to have coffee and snacks with Melissa and with Val, who was visiting from Alaska. Of course, talk ranged from babies to how cold it is in both of our new homes, and we caught up on how big both of Melissa's kids are getting. Jim and I were also able to have dinner and talk with Melissa and Paul, which is something we had just started to do as couples before we were offered the promotion out here.

We were also blessed to spend a lot of time with Jim's mom while we were back. She is such an amazing cook and taught us how to roll Filippino egg rolls and make the filling. We joked that she could roll cigars with how fast and tight she creates them. We are going to try our own soon, and although I am sure that ours won't be the same, it is going to be so soothing to have Connie's egg rolls here in MN. They have sustained us through 2 trips home from MI, and are actually perfect car food with how self-contained they are.

Speaking of cars, a few days before the holiday, my parents decided to surprise Jim with his biggest gift-- a present that he has said, "If I had gotten just this and that was all, I would have still said that Christmas was amazing." They decided to gift him (Well both of us) with a remote starter for our car, so that when the wind is howling and the official temperature is -20 or so, before work he can start our car warming up from our dining room. This has already been such a blessing, and is something that Jim uses even if we have only run into a store for 10 minutes and the car is still warm. It also proved very useful in the Mall of America parking garage today when we were looking for our car. Another great feature we use on a daily basis is the remote lock. This will become even more important once we are laden with a car seat and diaper bag for our little one, so it will serve a purpose even in the warmer months.

Even aside from this gift we were abundantly blessed by our family for the Christmas holiday. Gifts included a video game chair, a sewing machine from Honey for me (I'm learning to make baby clothes) a handmade pipe from Andy for Jim, a monopod and new strap for my camera, computer software and a webcam so my family can keep abreast of the changes in my baby bump and say hi to their grandchild by using Skype, baby pants made by Jess (my sister in law) which are so cute and are helping me learn to make baby pants, a wok and tools for Jim, and a clothing steamer. I had actually bought him one, so that he could steam instead of lugging out our ancient ironing board and iron every morning, but then his mom already had one that she could give him. We decided to simply return the one I'd bought and save the money or judiciously use it for baby stuff.

We were also blessed financially, which helps to defray the eekish cost of 2 nights in hotels and the cost of gas to and from MI. My grandma sent us money that we used on a trip to IKEA today. We decided to buy new silverware we have been longing after; we were embarrassed when our small group visited that we ran out of nice utensils. At $7.99 for a 20 piece set, we decided to get 2 and when our turn to host group rolls around again we may get another. We also got some baby storage because "Junior" as Jim has taken to calling him in a way that reminds me of my cousin Eric, has begun to gather a small collection of clothes. It is kind of funny that he has 2 pairs of shoes, a baseball cap, books, washcloths and a BRIO train set, but no place to sleep yet, but all of that will come in time.

Looking at cribs and bedding and curtains made me even more longing for a house, but that is going to have to wait too. Jim and I were convicted by the wisdom of some conversations when we were back home that we need to become even more diligent with our savings if we want to buy a house out here. It is too easy to rationalize small purchases when a house seems far away because housing costs are so crazy out here, but it is increasingly important to us to have a yard for our little one, and we recently discovered that costs are going down (thank you crappy economy I guess) and once we save a down payment we might actually be saving money when we buy a house. There are homes that are now-- gasp!--just less than $100k out here that aren't condemned or filled with toxic mold, or in a location that would make my former law-enforcement officer father abduct me and carry me back to MI.

Our purchasing pursuit is also assisted by the fact that just before the holidays Jim recieved a very good review and even a raise. (He may make me delete that because he hates to tell this stuff online, but I just have to share a bit of my pride in him for all of his hard work.) It feels so great to have everything that he has done and all of the extra work he has taken on be recognized and acknowledged in a time where the economy is struggling so badly. His work also gave everyone a gift card to the MOA that we spent today on a membvership at "Underwater Adventures," the world's largest underground shark tank. We can visit for a year for free and touch sharks and watch them swim overhead. Our little one will get to come for free and will be about 7 months olf before our membership expires. This also gets us half odd anyone else that wants to visit. However, that is a topic for another post.

Blessings to you all!

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