Saturday, November 22, 2008

More Pictures of the Birth Day

Disclaimer: Dan and I have never managed to have a camera with us for the birth of our children. So, this was our first birth with a working camera, and we tried to make up for past births by taking pictures of every thing and every body. Feel free to skip this post if the content is too boring :)

Here I am shortly after arriving at the Family Birth Center reception area. This was between contractions. I wanted to document my belly at its biggest:

Here I am in the triage room. They had just measured my cervix and told me I was an 8. Dan told me to put up 8 fingers and took this shot. I don't know why I look so happy...this must have been between contractions, too:

This is my anaesthesiologist (i.e. favorite person in the whole world). We waited for this shot until the epidural kicked in:

This is the doctor that delivered my baby. I had never met her before, but I liked her a lot. Dan had promised the boys a picture of the crochet hook they use to break my water, so here it is, moments before being put to work:

Thanks to the exquisite timing of Naomi's birth, Bug was able to be with us for the big event. The whole thing happened while all three of my older children were at school:

Here is Naomi's first photo op with her papa. She has been cleaned up and properly swaddled.

This is my labor & delivery nurse, Michele. She was the best:

Naomi's Birth: The Narrative

Eli, Adam, and Esther were all born well before their due dates. Eli was due June 21, born May 24; Adam was due November 11, born October 19; Esther was due May 31, born May 13. So Naomi was due December 6, but starting in the first week of November, I was wondering if she could be born any day. We made it through the time Eli would have been born, Adam would have been born, and then we got to November 18, the day Esther would have been born. On that day, it seemed to me that the baby dropped, but I thought my mind might be playing tricks on me since I knew it was the day Esther would have been born if she had had Naomi's due date. When Eli dropped (the day before he was born), I felt a distinct change from not being able to breathe well (before), to having to pee all the time (after). But throughout the pregnancy with Naomi she felt low, like most of the pressure was down under, not up in my ribs. On the 18th, however, the pressure down low seemed to increase noticeably. Could this be a sign that she is coming? I thought to myself all that day.

In the night, I was awakened a few times by contractions, but went right back to sleep.

At 5:50 a.m. on Wednesday, November 19, my cell phone alarm went off. I got out of bed to take my morning walk with Janie & Elizabeth. I always have some contractions while we are walking, but this time it seemed like I had more. After our walk, as we were standing outside of Janie's house chatting, I continued to feel some contractions. When I walked in my door at 7:15 a.m., I said to Dan & Bug that today might be the day I give birth. Bug was especially excited, but I quickly warned that I could be wrong. Dan asked if he should go into work or not, and I didn't know what to tell him. He was about to take Bug to the mechanic to have her car fixed, so I told him to come back and check in before leaving for Detroit.

When I went to the bathroom, I saw some bloody show (too much information!), which I have only ever seen on the day I give birth. That made me feel a bit more certain that the baby would be born. I did the usual things one does to prepare for a birth: I shaved my legs and washed my hair. Contractions continued, but they did not hurt much at all. I folded laundry. I told Dan to stay at least an hour or so to see what happened. I didn't feel like eating, especially since I have always thrown up right before giving birth. Around 8 or 8:15, while trying to get the kids off for school, we started timing contractions. They were 4-5 minutes apart, and lasting 30-60 seconds. We called the doctor's office and told them we were heading to the hospital.

My contractions still weren't hurting very much, so it seemed strange to be driving to the hospital, but I've learned from past experience that I go fast. I was really hoping to get my epidural before I got to an 8 or 9. We checked in at 9:15 and while waiting in the reception area the contractions started hurting more and more. By the time I got to the triage room, I was begging for my epidural, and when they checked me I was an 8 already. That was good because it got the triage people to take me a little more seriously and hurry things along. I'd been telling them that this was my 4th baby and that I go fast, but I don't think they were paying too much attention until I was an 8.

My labor and delivery nurse, Michele, came to get me and we made our way painfully to the room where I would give birth. I was in so much pain I just stood by the computer station holding onto the desk for support. FINALLY my anaesthesiologist arrived and I had my epidural by 10 a.m. I guess that is pretty fast, but it didn't seem like it at the time. My OB broke my water at 10:30 and I started pushing around 11. It usually only takes me 10-15 minutes to push a baby out, but I pushed this little girl for a good 45 minutes. I was getting worried and it was really hurting, but when her head emerged she was face up, which explained why it was so much harder to birth her than my others. When they put her up on my chest she seemed much tinier than I remember the others being. Later they weighed her and she was my smallest...6 pounds 14.1 ounces and 19.5 inches long. The others were all over 7 pounds and 21 inches. I thought she would be my biggest because she was born the latest (well, just one day closer to her due date than Esther), so she surprised me with her relative tininess.

Friday, November 21, 2008

First set of photos

I got home from the hospital today at about 4:30 p.m. It is wild to be home with four kids...taking care of a newborn is much easier at the hospital. Tonight I will just post a few choice shots of the babe so you can get an idea of what she looks like. More details and photos to come.

In this photo, Naomi has just been born and her umbilical cord cut. She has not yet been cleaned off.

Here she is having some formula to get her blood sugar up. Who is that sexy mama with her?

A few hours after her birth:

The day after her birth:

Here she is all cute and naked with a big ole pacifier in her mouth:

That's all for today, I need to prepare myself for tonight's onslaught.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tater Tot

Hello, DTR here, spouse of Potato Girl. She delivered a healthy baby girl this morning (Wednesday, November 19) at 11:37 a.m. The baby was our smallest yet: 6 lb 14 oz, 19.5 inches long. Mom and baby are great. Lots of pictures were taken, but they're all still on the camera, which is at the hospital (St. Joe's). I imagine PG will write a post with lots of photos and all the details you'd care to know. If there's anything specific you want to know, just leave a comment here. Thanks to everybody who helped us out today, and over the whole pregnancy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Octopus Mother

Last Friday night, September 12, I drove my friends Janie & Becky to Mt. Clemens to attend the opening night of our friend Abbi Israelsen's art exhibit Deep Breath (read more about it here). Here we are, being so cute (L to R: Becky, PG, Janie, Abbi the Artist):

Abbi almost died of accute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) earlier this year, and after she recovered, she agreed to do some fund raising for an ARDS research foundation. As an artist, she decided to donate an original drawing to each person who contributed $50 to her campaign. She has been pushing herself to do a drawing a day for this exhibit. Each of the drawings in the exhibit that has not already been promised to a donor is being sold for $65, and all of that money will go to ARDS research as well.

I had been debating between two drawings that I wanted to buy (scans of all of her drawings are on her blog, Drawing for ARDS), but one of them had already sold by the time I got there, making my choice an easy one. I am the proud new owner of "Octopus Mother."

I can't wait for the exhibit to close on October 3 so that I can bring my favorite new drawing home!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Better Than Christmas

What could be better than waking up Christmas morning to the promise of gifts and family, friends and food? Waking up to the promise of flushing toilets, doing laundry, bathing the filthy children, and washing dishes in the comfort of your own home. Yes, I felt euphoric when I woke up this morning. By 8:30 a.m., Jim, Pete & Pete were already at work digging up the street to fix my sewer main. They were about my favorite people in the world at that moment. By the time I got back from running some errands, around 11 a.m., there was a huge hole full of stinky sewage water where just hours before a black stretch of asphalt had been. I could hear all of the sewage water on the floor of my laundry room being sucked down the drain and out into that hole. Here is a view of the action:

During Esther's nap I checked in and learned that not only was the bad orangeburg pipe running from the curb to the city main in the middle of the street, it was also running at least halfway across my lawn toward the house. It is possible that the only piece of cast iron pipe on the whole thing is a little patch they made near the house in the 1970s. So Jim, Pete & Pete will be replacing the whole thing from the house to the city sewer connection with PVC pipe, and we will be paying the full $9,000. But I am just so happy to know that these problems will be resolved soon!

Around 5 or 6 p.m. when I went out to see what progress had been made, they were finishing up for the day. They had laid the first section of PVC where the original break/ blockage had been, and connected it up to the orangeburg on both sides. They had reconnected the house to the city water line, and we could use all of our plumbing just like normal for the rest of the evening. The first thing I did was give Esther a bath and wash her hair. It took me about 30 minutes to comb out all the tangles after that, and it was a good feeling. The first thing Dan did when he got home from work was to start cleaning the kitchen counters. I put in a load of laundry, and then another. We flushed all the toilets. It was a grand feeling. Tomorrow morning they will disconnect us again so they can finish the job, but I think we'll have our plumbing back to normal again in the evening.

It is amazing how one day you can flush your toilet and it is not enough to make you feel happy and like all of your problems are solved, and then a few days later, that very same act seems like the pinnacle of joy and contentment. I have NEVER enjoyed starting the washer as much as I did tonight. If only each of you could experience this! Just kidding...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sewer Saga Continues

We spent the weekend praying for our pipes, that somehow they could hold everything including the neverending downpour of rain that we got. Sunday night the water was still slightly below the level of the floor, miraculously. Monday morning the water had come up to a few inches over the drain, but was contained in the floor depression and not spreading all over the floor. Monday morning plumber #2 came to the house to use his expensive video equipment and locating equipment to find the exact location of the blockage. He placed a black "X" on our street, about five feet out from the curb, i.e. worst case scenario.

Before plumber #2 arrived, I checked my email. There was a comment from HW about a company she had used for sewer work that she really liked called Perimeter. She even gave me the phone number. After plumber #2 left, I got a phone call from Garn-Girl telling me that she had used a company called Perimeter to have her footing drains disconnected, and she really liked them. When she said that, I got the chills. I felt that these two friends were giving me this information in answer to our prayers for our pipes. I called Steve at Perimeter and set up an appointment for him to come out at 2 p.m. to check out the situation.

Before the revelation about Steve, I had talked to Mitch, plumber #3 about doing the work. I had called him to see when he could come out and was waiting for him to return my call when Garn-Girl called, leading me to call Steve. Right after I hung up with Steve, I saw a man in an unmarked truck park in front of my house and begin inspecting my street and yard. It was Mitch. I was planning to tell him that we'd decided to go with Steve, but I chickened out. I told him we were considering someone else for the job, and would he like to come in to look around so that he could give me a bid. He did, but he didn't look too happy about it. When he left, he promised a verbal bid by the evening and a written bid the next morning. I still have not heard back from him.

Steve showed up at 2 and was super nice, professional, articulate, and thorough. I vastly preferred him to Mitch. He also told me that he could give me a verbal bid that evening and a written bid in the morning.

I didn't get any phone calls from either company last night, but this morning when I got home from taking the boys to school, there was a message from Steve. I also noticed that the city had come and marked up the lawn and street to show where all the buried things are for the excavation. I found out that Steve had called Miss Dig for us yesterday, just in case we decided to go with his company, so that they could get started right away. After verbally agreeing with Steve to do the job, for which we will be charged $5,000 if the problem is just from the curb to the city's main line in the street, or a total of $9,000 if there is also a problem with the pipe running from our house to the curb, I got a call from another friend recommending Steve at Perimeter!

Steve has already brought me paperwork to sign, and will be mobilizing the necessary equipment today. His team will start first thing tomorrow morning. Yay!!! Yay!!!! I can't wait to be able to shower/ bathe, flush toilets, do laundry, dishes, cook, et cetera.

I would like to add that my husband Dan is a genius. Last night, looking around the filthy kitchen full of dirty dishes he said that he knew a way to run the dishwasher without flooding our basement. He disconnected the dishwasher hose from the pipe under the sink and put it in a bucket. Then he ran a full load of dishes and the hose drained into the bucket, which he dumped outside in our bushes. I know we shouldn't be putting dishwashing soap out there, but I really really don't care at this point. I did another load this morning, and it felt great! We could technically do that with the laundry, but it would be a lot more water to dispose of and we'd have to haul it up the basement stairs. For now, I am delighted knowing that we will be back in business tomorrow or the next day. And did I mention that the rain has stopped and the sun is shining in the robin's egg blue sky?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rewards for doing daily work: peace and iTunes

If there was a school for homemakers, I might have flunked out.

I do not like cleaning the house, and instead of just doing it because I'm an adult and it needs to be done, I avoid it. Of course, I don't like living in a dirty house, so I spend a lot of time being unhappy with myself and my surroundings. For the past year or so, I have been trying to grow up. I was motivated after General Conference in April to turn my attention to making dinner and keeping the kitchen clean, after hearing Elder Oaks mention the great force for good eating dinner as a family can have on the children. I am getting much better in that area, and have been rewarded by many pleasant mealtimes with my husband and children and a sense of peace that comes from doing something that I believe is important.

Esther started her new preschool on Wednesday. Each week (except for the handful when I host), she will be spending three hours at one of my friends' houses attending "school" with four other little 2-year-old girls. As I contemplated how to best use my time while she is away, the answer came to me very clearly: clean your house. So this past week, I determined ahead of time that I would clean all three bathrooms on Wednesday. When the time came, I was having a very hard time getting myself to go into bathroom #1. I talked to Dan's sister about it, and she suggested that I give myself some kind of reward if I completed all three bathrooms, perhaps an ice cream cone at the end of the day? I told her that I would much rather buy myself a CD, or even just one song from iTunes. One song from iTunes. That was it. Only $1 spent to motivate and reward myself for a job that most adults just do as a matter of course.

I am delighted to say that I did in fact clean all three bathrooms while Esther was gone, and then thoroughly enjoyed buying my first iTune: "The Story" by Brandi Carlile. Now I'm trying to think of other onerous homemaking tasks that would be worthy of an iTune reward. And, I'm embarrassed to say, I'm spending a bit too much time making lists of the songs I want to buy.

One of Many Reasons I Recommend Renting

Before we bought our house, I dreamed longingly of the day I would own my own place. I pictured how I would keep it clean, decorate and beautify it, tend its yard, plant a garden, cook dinner every night, and even start wearing makeup once I had an actual house to live in. We scraped together every cent we had (and many we didn't) to buy our first house four years ago. We love the neighborhood we live in. We are happy with our house. But there are days, like Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and today, for instance, when we wish we were still renting.

On Wednesday while Esther was at her first day of "preschool" (playing with 4 other girls at a friend's house once a week), I cleaned all three bathrooms (significant accomplishment worthy of its own post). While I was in the basement, I noticed that the toilet could not flush down the bubbles from the cleaner I had used in it. So I got out the plunger and went to work. About ten minutes later, the toilet could still not swallow the bubbles, and I was noticing that each thrust with the plunger caused a corresponding gurgle of water to come up the drain of the sink. I am not a plumber, but I did not think toilet water should be coming up the sink drain.

Later in the day Dan called my attention to the fact that water had risen up and out of the large drain in the basement floor near the washer and dryer. It was just a few inches of water, and since the floor slopes down to the drain, it was contained in the bowl-shaped impression in the floor. But still.

The next morning when Dan's visiting sister tried to flush the basement toilet and then plunge it for many long minutes, in vain, she reminded me that I needed to call a plumber. By then the water had gone back down into the floor drain, but I could see it glistening just under the surface. Luckily for us, our next door neighbor when we lived in our apartment is a plumber, and he came out that very afternoon to investigate. Four and a half hours later, he informed me that something is seriously wrong. The main sewer pipe that takes all the water from the house to the city line in the street is blocked, and he could not get it open, not with all of the tools in his entire van. He gave me the name of a trustworthy friend that does excavating and recommended that I call as soon as possible. I asked him if this is the kind of thing that costs more or less than $1000. He looked at me as though I was a naive child and explained as gently as he could that this could cost us upwards of $10,000. Oh.

The next day, instead of calling the excavator, I went to Ikea. That may, in retrospect, have been a mistake.

Today it started to rain. And rain. And rain. The basement toilet is not flushing, the water level in the basement floor drain is rising, and I decided it might be the right time to call the excavator, Mitch. He told me to call his colleague Dan, the sewage pipe camera guy, to set up an appointment to have the exact location of the blockage pinpointed. Dan told me that he can come Monday morning, but that to protect my home in the meantime, we should not flush ANYTHING but liquid down our toilets, we should avoid doing laundry, and generally use as little water as possible. Did I mention that it is still raining, and the water in that drain appears to still be rising?

So, water (and other liquid-y things) cannot leave our house, and we may have to fork over $12,000 that we don't have if the blockage turns out to be in the street. According to plumber #1's estimate, the blockage is 50-55 feet from our house, putting it right on the curb. If it is in fact not that far from the house, we may be spared the quintuple digit figure. If, however, the blockage is under the street, we will have to pay to have the street ripped up and put back together, thereby plunging us into the highest possible price bracket. Every hour or so I go downstairs to see if the water has risen above the drain. So far it has not. But the dirty laundry is piling up, not to mention the toilet restrictions. Dan (my husband, not the third plumber) has had a pained look on his face all day. I sometimes point out the many benefits to renting a home, and he always argues that we are much better off as home-owners. But today, he is starting to see things my way.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ruby Car

Well, as you can plainly see, I did not manage to keep up with my ambitious start to documenting each and every day of our month-long road trip. Now we are home and I have some other things to write about, so I'm moving on. I hope to go back and fill you in on the rest of the highlights of the trip, but we shall see.

So, on to the latest happenings.

Our beloved 1993 Plymouth Grand Voyager, Ruby, survived the 5,000 + roundtrip drive from Ann Arbor to the Oregon Coast. At the time of our return, just one week ago today, she had driven over 216,000 miles. Before our trip, I just wanted to hang on to Ruby as long as possible, to drive her until she could drive no more. But my heart changed on our trip. She began to leak more and more oil. After one night on Dan's mom's driveway, she had hemorrhaged so much dark fluid that we moved her to the street. The same thing happened after one night in my parents' garage. It was like having a child that you thought was potty trained pee on someone's clean carpet. Her sliding door handle, which used to need to be slammed back into place every month or so, deteriorated to the point of requiring a hard slam or kick every time we wanted to use it. One night on the Oregon Coast her front windshield cracked while we were sleeping, grinning crookedly at us the next morning. On the freeway just outside of Boise, the rearview mirror fell right off without warning (we were able to glue it on the next day). On the final 4 days of our journey, she developed a greasy film across her entire backside, Dan believes from all the burning oil coming out the exhaust pipe. We had to put a new quart of oil in her every single day to get home. By the time we got to Michigan, I just wanted to let her rest in peace. I didn't have the heart to keep putting more money into this poor dear, already so long past her life expectancy.

We had decided before the trip to buy a newer used car in March or April of next year (tax return season), but a day after we got home I started looking on craigslist for something we could buy right away. For awhile the big debate was whether to buy a car we could afford to pay cash for ($5000 or less), which would be newer than Ruby, but still pretty old, or to get a loan and buy something newer. I have wanted the latest safety features, especially side curtain airbags for the second and third row of seats, and to get that we would need to purchase a 2005 or newer Odyssey. Those appeared to be selling for around $18,000 to $20,000. As an afterthought we checked the Honda website and discovered that for just a few more days, we could get a 2008 Odyssey with financing at 2.9% for 5 years. We would have had to pay a much higher interest rate to buy a used car, so we decided to look into that. We ended up getting a brand new van for just $22,000.

Friday, August 29, was the big day when we took our Ruby for her last drive with the family and traded her in for our new "baltic blue" Honda Odyssey, which has yet to be named. The boys are still struggling to forgive us for our betrayal of loyal and brave Ruby car. Esther is pretty fine with it. On Saturday, when I took her to the store in our new car, she just kept saying: "Ruby car all broken. Uncle Jake get new blue car." "Uncle Jake" is Jake Morse, the fine young sales associate at the dealer who sold us our new car. He was only 3 weeks out of training, and it was the first car he's ever sold (he's not really Esther's uncle). I feel pretty guilty to have given up on Ruby, too, but Dan and my parents are assuring me that the decision made sense. I can't tell you how almost obscene it feels to drive this beautiful new car. In one afternoon we upgraded 15 years and almost 200,000 miles.

We are having trouble choosing a name for our new family member. Dan wanted Ulysses or possibly Homer. I wanted Sapphira at first, then Bella, Penelope, and now I'm settled on Babe (Paul Bunyan's big blue ox). The boys wanted Sapphire and now Neptune. Please write in with your vote. And if you see Ruby getting destroyed at the next demolition derby, I'd rather not know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wisconsin to Idaho

Day Two (Thursday, July 24) of our vacation found us driving across Wisconsin on a series of different highways, wondering to ourselves why we thought this route would be faster than getting on the Interstate. Wisconsin was beautiful, though, and we got gas for $3.93 a gallon. We finally got back to the I-94 and traveled across Minnesota (gas $3.79!) and into North Dakota. We made it to our motel in Bismarck by 10:30 p.m. I had agonized over this motel, debating between lowest price and highest likelihood of finding a room that was not nasty. I went for the Days Inn because it had supposedly just been completely remodeled, so I figured it would seem new and nice. I don't know about the rest of the place, but our room had DEFINITELY NOT been recently rennovated. I was super mad that we could have stayed in the Fairfield Inn for the same price, since I figured it would have been nicer. The Super 8 probably would have been nicer, and all of the other cheaper places. But it was 11 p.m. by the time we were all unloaded, and we just dropped into bed. The next morning we enjoyed the free breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns, pancakes, bacon, english muffins, juice, and FRUIT LOOPS. And a few Danishes.

Friday (July 25) we gained an hour by passing from the Central to Mountain time zone. Also, our drive was a bit shorter, so in all the day felt much more manageable. One mile before crossing into Montana, we stopped at a Flying J to get gas. There I purchased a North Dakota snow globe for a certain almost 11-year-old collector I know. Adam was worried that Esther would break it, so he took charge of its safety. In no time he had pulled the plug out of the bottom of it (why?) and it was leaking glitter water all over him. Arrrgh! A day or two later Dan found the plug and restored it, and I think the snow globe will survive.

We stayed on the I-94 through Bozeman, Montana, and then took the highway south through Big Sky. The scenery was beautiful. My favorite part of the trip was being stopped so that a huge herd of about 50 horses could cross the road from their dude ranch over to their pasture. We finally made it to Ashton, Idaho, and then on a series of smaller roads to the Rock Creek Girls' Camp, home of the 2008 Thurman Family Reunion. We arrived at 7:00 p.m., just in time for a dinner of lasagne, salad & garlic bread. Then we bedded down in our A-frame cabin for the night. Next post: all about the Thurman Family Reunion.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Month-Long Vacation, Day One

Hello, I am finally back to a computer and so I will catch you up on our travels and adventures thus far. We left Ann Arbor Wednesday, July 23rd, at 12 noon and drove to Kohler, Wisconsin, to visit my beloved friend LL. We arrived at her house almost exactly 7 hours after we left. She was out on her deck grilling us bratwurst, pinapple, and crook-neck squash. Esther was in heaven to be able to play with Javi & Andres, and to have free reign of the house and yard. Javi has a great climbing structure/ slide/ castle in his back yard that they enjoyed immensely. We had a wonderful meal together that also included grilled asparagus, baked beans, macaroni salad, potato salad, hamburgers, rolls, and a fresh strawberry pie. It was so great to see LL out of her tiny apartment and living in a nice big house with a lovely yard and a white picket fence.

We got the kids down for the night and then LL & I took little Mauri on a walk around the neighborhood. LL lives in the most picturesque, adorable neighborhood on the looks like a set from the movie Pleasantville. The streets are lined with big beautiful trees (which have not, by the way, been decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer as the trees in my neighborhood have). Each house is unique, with a neatly tended yard. The teenaged boys greet you pleasantly when they walk by, making eye contact and speaking intelligibly. The adults wave at you like you are old friends. The children of the entire Village attend one K-12 school, a beautiful brick structure with a pool and lighted tennis courts. There are several lovely parks. The only thing missing from LL's new home is me!

We had a great sleep and a delicious breakfast, and then hit the road for day two of our drive. Goal: Bismarck, North Dakota.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tender Mercies

This afternoon at 3:40 I had my 20 week ultrasound. I have never cared much one way or another if my baby was a boy or a girl, until this pregnancy. I have wanted this baby to be a girl SO BAD. But because I threw up when I was pregnant with my boys and not with Esther, and I threw up with this pregnancy, I've been assuming that this baby must be a boy. I've also resigned myself to the fact that it is a boy because I really really want a girl this time. In the past month or so I've lost all interest in every boy name on my list...I don't like any of them anymore. I can only bring myself to think about the girl names. I've been praying more and more frequently that God would give me a girl this time, knowing that is silly, since He will give me whoever is supposed to be in our family, regardless of my personal preference.

I was really excited for my ultrasound today because of the possibility of a girl, but also a little dreading the moment when I found out the baby is indeed a boy. The technician asked me if I would like to know the gender and I said yes. At first she couldn't get a good view, and moved on to looking at the heart, et cetera. I was now sure that I wouldn't get to find out the gender at all, and would just have to keep waiting. Then, unexpectedly, the technician asked again if I was sure I wanted to know the gender. "Yes!" I said. "It's a girl" she said, pointing out the tell-tale three lines. At that moment I felt the tears well up in my eyes and an overwhelming sense of God's love for me. That sense of his love has stayed with me all day. It seems too good to be true that I could be having my heart's desire of another girl, when really all that matters is that I have a healthy baby.

Right after this glorious moment, there was a knock on the door of our room and one of the receptionists poked her head in. "The father is here" she said. Dan surprised me by driving in from Detroit for the ultrasound! So I got to tell him we are having a girl, and he sat next to me holding my hand the rest of the time. Dan doesn't really like talking about names until the baby is born, but I am obsessed with names, so I made him discuss girl names with me for a few minutes. Luckily for him, it took just moments for me to realize that the only name I like any more is Naomi, and we both like the name Caroline for her middle name (after one of my coolest ancestors, Caroline Farozine Skeen). So I think that we're having a little Naomi Caroline.

When I got back to the Garns' house to pick up the kids, Adam was the first to hear the news. Up until today I've only heard him and Eli say that they want another girl so that they can each have their own little sister, and so that there will be a pair of boys and a pair of girls. But Adam surprised me by looking disappointed and saying that now he won't get to find out what it's like to have a baby brother. I asked Esther if she could say "Naomi" and she yelled "Yomi!" Then she yelled it over and over again, very enthusiastically. Adam wanted to know what the nickname for Naomi could be and I said it could be Yomi, Noki, Nomi...He and Eli liked Nomi because that would be like we had named her after a Gnome. Eli has been voting for "Naomi" all along, so he is content.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Mood, My Kitchen

I'm not depressed right now, just pregnant. That is why I haven't been posting. My mood has been especially good this week since I started making dinner and keeping the kitchen clean again. The inspiration for this was Elder Oaks' "Good Better Best" talk from October 2007 General Conference. One of the things he emphasizes is the importance of eating dinner as a family. I know how good I feel when we all sit down together to eat a meal, and it doesn't happen very often because I so rarely cook or clean the kitchen these days. I've been wanting to get back into those habits since my morning sickness has subsided, but haven't been able to. When I revisited this talk on Sunday, the thought of eating together gave me the motivation I needed to clean up and make dinner. I have kept the kitchen clean all week!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Photos by Jess

Our friends the Mauches stopped by a week or two ago, and Jessica took these pictures of my kids. I love them! Check out her website: Fairy Toes Photography.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We have a little board book that Esther likes to look at. Each page shows a picture of a different face: baby, teddy bear, astronaut, bunny, et cetera. One of the faces in the book is a pirate. The pirate is wearing a red head scarf with white polka dots, and a black eye patch. For a month or so now, Esther has been letting us know whenever she sees a pirate. I, for instance, am a pirate when I come out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my head. Esther is a pirate when we take her shirt up over her head and leave it there around her ears. Her little toy dog is a pirate when Esther stuffs him in a pair of pajama pants with just his head sticking out. Wearing a winter hat also makes you a pirate. One time her white teddy bear became a pirate just by virtue of having a small wet wipe or tissue draped over its head. The other day when we were out in public, we saw a woman wearing a purple head scarf tied just like the pirate's in her picture book. Esther was VERY excited, pointing to this woman and yelling "Pirate! Pirate!" If the woman noticed, she didn't give us any indication. I was relieved, since the whole thing might have been hard to explain to a stranger. But now, if Esther calls you a pirate, you'll know why.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lake Michigan, The Pictures

The beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan:

The boys reveling in the water:

A view of the conservatory at the Frederick Meijer Gardens:

Beautiful orchids inside the conservatory:

The beaver dam "club house" in the children's garden:

Replica of a 1930's farm house at the garden (love that big porch!):

Statue of the American Horse:

The kids digging, Dan relaxing on the beach at P.J. Hoffman State Park (PG in the water with the camera):

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Lake Michigan, The Narrative

We have lived in Michigan almost ten years now and never once visited Lake Michigan. We have visited a few of the other lakes, and the sand was gravelly or rocky, so we just assumed all the lakes were like that. It wasn't until this year that I heard (or read) that the sand on Lake Michigan is soft and white like a "real" beach, and nothing like the other lakes. So I decided we should go check it out for ourselves. I tried to find a camp site for us in one of the many state parks that dot the lake, but they were all full. So I ended up reserving a hotel room at the Residence Inn in Grand Rapids for the night of the 4th.

Wednesday night the 2nd we were enjoying a BBQ with some friends when a huge storm attacked us. The power went off and stayed off until Thursday evening the 3rd. Friday morning the 4th I had pictured us getting up first thing and driving to the beach. Dan, on the other hand, wanted to spend the entire day cleaning the house now that we had power again. We compromised by cleaning from about 6:30 a.m. until noon-ish. Before hitting the road we went to the grocery store to get sandwich fixings for our cooler. Then we drove straight to Saugatuck Dunes State Park, no stopping. I made sandwiches for everyone on my lap while Dan drove the car, managing to smear mustard all over my shirt. We hiked 0.6 miles on a nice wide trail to the beach. I had selected this beach specifically because of the hike in, figuring there would be a much smaller crowd to contend with than a beach with easier access to the parking lot. I was right.

I've been to several beaches in my life, but I've logged the most hours by far at the Oregon Coast. The beaches there are breathtakingly beautiful, but also pretty cold. The water, if you dare to get in, will freeze all your limbs numb so that you can barely stumble back across the sand to your towel when you get out. It is often overcast and rainy there, and even on the sunny days you are likely to encounter a stiff breeze. It is the kind of place where you "lay out" in a sweatshirt. The two beaches we visited on Lake Michigan were not the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to, but it was so much fun to be able to go swimming in the lake without getting chilled to the bone. The water was refreshing, not cold. The sun was shining, there were virtually no clouds, and the sand was soft and hot. There were lots of people there, and everyone set up their towels, blankets, umbrellas, coolers, et cetera in a long line down the beach just a few feet from the water's edge. The first day, we put our stuff way back away from the water, like we always do at the Oregon Coast, but it finally occurred to us that this was not necessary since there is no tide to come in and carry your things away. On the second day we claimed our own spot right by the water, which made it much easier to relax and watch the kids at the same time.

The two little boys went right out into the water. They just kept walking out farther and farther, and Dan and I finally realized one of us should get out there to make sure they were safe. Esther was completely focused on the sand. She virtually never looked up from her digging. It was the most intensely focused play I have ever observed. I kept trying to take pictures of her, but they all look the same, her head bent over her work, no time to look up and smile for the camera. Dan and I just went back and forth from the water to the sunbathing, and it felt like we were in Florida or California, just 2 1/2 short hours from Ann Arbor.

After several hours at Saugatuck Dunes, we drove to Holland, Michigan, to find some Dutch food for dinner. We failed. We ate at the 8th Street Grille instead. I had the all-you-can-eat soup bar for $5.99 with Boston Clam Chowder, Vegetable Beef, and Chicken Corn Chowder. The clam chowder was delicious, and I ate myself silly. Our next stop was the hotel in Grand Rapids, about 30 minutes from the beach. We got there about 9 p.m., and Dan and the boys had to leave almost immediately to make it for the fireworks display downtown. I put our things away, rearranged the furniture to make room for the boys' bed on the floor, and put Esther and myself down for the night. Dan and the boys got back close to midnight.

In the morning we enjoyed the hot breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby, and then made our way to the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park down the road. In two hours we only managed to see about half of the gardens, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly. They have a large, award-winning children's garden that we explored, and Esther was delighted by the many different "club houses" that we found. Then we took a boardwalk through a beautiful wetlands filled with turtles basking on logs in the sun. We enjoyed the farm portion of the garden, and then made our final stop at the giant three-story tall statue of a horse.

We hit the road after that and drove northwest to P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, where we visited the Gillette Visitor's Center, dedicated to the study and explanation of Michigan's sand dunes. Then we had part two of our cooler sandwiches, and made the much shorter walk down to the beach. As predicted, the shorter walk meant much bigger crowds, but we still found a place for ourselves and enjoyed the afternoon together until Adam got bored and started demanding that we head home to Ann Arbor. Esther, too, seemed to lose interest in the beach, and began angrily pouring bucket after bucket of sand on my head while I tried to relax. So we gave up and drove home earlier than planned, with a stop for dinner at Carino's for some Italian food.

I enjoyed our little vacation SO MUCH. I love exploring new places, and we got to see a whole bunch of things for the first time. We felt pretty silly that we'd never made the short drive over to Lake Michigan before, but at least now we know what we were missing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gestational Diabetes

So I took the 3 hour glucose test on Thursday, June 12. Late Friday afternoon, June 13, I got the phone call from the nurse telling me that 3 of my 4 numbers were too high. That earned me the official diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes (GDM). I started following the diabetic diet and testing my blood sugar on Wednesday, June 18. Today I gave my first week's worth of numbers to the nurse. After talking to the doctor, she called me back to tell me that he wanted me to start taking insulin once a day before bed. Groan. The needle that I inject myself with (in the belly) is very fine, and I can hardly feel it going in, but the insulin burns. With Esther, I would get a big red itchy spot at each injection site, and since you are supposed to choose a different site each time, my whole pregnant belly was leopard-speckled. When I told the nurse about this today, she said she would try me on a different type of insulin. I was very optimistic tonight for my first injection, but I think this new kind of insulin (Lantus) burned even more than the old kind! Too early for the red welt, though, so that is good.

Friday, June 13, was also the day that the veins in the back of my right leg started aching and throbbing in a sickening way any time I stood on it. That has never happened before, and it was very discouraging. I read that daily exercise would help my circulation, and I know it will help my blood sugar as well, so Monday morning, June 16, I started getting up a little before 6 a.m. to take a full one hour walk before Dan leaves for work. I am not usually very good at getting up early, especially not consistently, but this time I am extremely motivated by all of my desired health benefits. I have not missed a day since I started, and that is 9 days now!

A few days ago my leg stopped hurting. I imagine that this is due, in part, to the daily walk, but I think it also has to do with a few prayers I've said. I explained to God that I don't mind the morning sickness (which is still going on) or the gestational diabetes...I was expecting both of those things. But the unexpected addition of the leg pain seemed almost more than I could bear. Now the leg pain is gone, and I am so grateful. I think about it every day, and feel loved and strengthened by the thought.

Dan's New Nickname

Every morning, Dan makes himself the same breakfast: yogurt with GrapeNuts. He mixes it up in a big bowl and eats it on his way to work. Esther has become an integral part of this daily ritual, insisting on helping Dan with each step of his meal preparation. For some reason, she calls GrapeNuts "no nuts", an accurate name for them, since they contain neither grapes nor nuts. Whenever Esther refers to Dan's breakfast, she calls it "Poppy No Nuts." She mentions it from time to time throughout the day, and it always brings a little smile, especially to me. We know that she means Poppy's GrapeNuts, but isn't that a great new nickname for Dan all the same? Take my word for it, the next time you see him, Dan would really appreciate being called Poppy No Nuts.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Out of the fire into the frying pan

I had gestational diabetes with Esther, which means that with this pregnancy, instead of waiting to take the 1-hour glucose test until I'm in my 28th week, they wanted me to do it as soon as possible, even as early as 8 weeks. Because I was so sick, I knew that I couldn't go into the lab fasting and then drink that horrible glucola drink and then wait an hour to have my blood taken, because I would throw up. So I waited until this Monday to take the test, at 14 weeks, because I'm finally starting to feel like a human being again. I got the phone call today. My blood sugar was 158, and it is supposed to be under 135. Good times. The next step in this process is the 3-hour glucose test. This is an even funner test that you take if you fail the 1-hour test, in which you go into the lab fasting, get your blood drawn, drink the drink, and then get more blood drawn every hour for three hours. This confirms the diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Then you get to start following the DIABETIC DIET, and doing finger pricks four times a day to test your blood sugar levels.

So finding out about this at week 14 instead of week 28 gives me that much more time to enjoy this whole process. But I definitely prefer what is coming to what is passing. I would give myself 4, 8, 12 shots a day and follow the strictest diet in the world as long as I didn't have to feel sick and throw up. So bring on the diabetes, it is definitely not as bad as the morning sickness.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Weight Loss Secrets

If you have seen me recently, you may have noticed that I'm looking pretty good. That is because I've lost about 7 pounds since I got pregnant. Here are my weight loss secrets:

1. Feel Sick. If you can manage to get yourself a nice stomach virus that makes you feel sick 24 hours a day, you will be on the right path. Motion sickness could also do the trick.
2. Throw Up. Letting your food make it through the whole digestive process really contributes to weight gain. If you throw it up before it moves beyond the stomach, you've saved yourself a world of calories. If you throw up enough, you begin viewing every bite as potential vomit. This really changes the things that look good to you, and can help you loads in the weight loss department.
3. Hate Food. If you are like me when I am not pregnant, you love food. In order to lose weight, simply change this love to hate. Once food is your enemy, your struggle to lose weight will be nearly over.

See how simple it is?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Zofran, My Friend

My midwives gave me a prescription for an anti-nausea medication used for chemotherapy patients that has helped me to stop throwing up. Yay! Now I'm just tired and mildly sick, but I can eat and keep it all down where it belongs. It always amazes me the things I take for granted, like being able to eat food and drink water. My spirits are generally low, but I remember that this is how the first trimester always goes for is hard to feel mentally peppy when my body feels so yucky. As usual, I am telling Dan that this is our LAST baby. He says I always say that. But I really mean it this time!!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Next Post: June or July

Hello dear Readers:

The completely inaccurately named "morning sickness" has set in and I am now laughing that I used to be worried about being tired. I'm totally sick and throwing up, and if I follow patterns from past pregnancies, this should last another 2 months at least. Also, if past pregnancies hold true, this baby is a boy, because Esther, bless her little heart, never caused me to throw up. Today I've thrown up three times. I can't believe I've gone and let this happen to myself AGAIN. Ha Ha, just kidding Baby #4, I love you!!!


Friday, April 18, 2008

Elder Scott's Conference Address

Elder Scott gave a bold talk on abuse at our most recent General Conference. Here is a link to his talk, "To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse." Although abuse is not a problem that I have had to struggle with, I found many of the things he said about Satan's voice very helpful and applicable to depressed thinking.

Monday, April 7, 2008


I know that my friends don't have any extra energy to send, because we're all pretty swamped by life, but after I wrote my last post, I felt much better! I've been making dinner and doing dishes and laundry and stuff. I think that you sent me some energy, or maybe just some loving thoughts and sympathetic vibes, but it worked and I appreciate it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Send Excess Energy Here

What have I been up to lately? Well, mostly napping and sitting around doing not much of anything. I am so tired. I've felt tired before, and I think I've forced myself to get over it, but since I'm pregnant I'm telling myself that my tiredness is legitimate and instead of working through it I'm just giving in. I'm not making dinner, I'm not doing dishes, I'm not folding laundry. I'm just taking deliciously long naps every afternoon when Esther goes down, and going to bed nice and early at night. Life is good when I'm asleep, but when I'm not it is kind of upsettingly messy and out of whack around here. I think soon I will need to figure out how to do slightly easier versions of my daily tasks so that we can survive as a family the next few months. I explained to the boys this afternoon that my body is using all of its strength to make a little baby brain and spine and organs and such. I told them that when the baby is all formed I won't be so tired anymore. I just made that up, I don't know if it is really true, but it comforts me to think it might be.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

7:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, 2008

I am no longer unsure of my status. I am officially pregnant, with a due date of December 2, 2008. I think this test is much easier to read than the first one, don't you? Thanks to everyone for your kind comments!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is it just me, or does the symbol on top look like a plus sign?

I Made Dinner

I just made dinner! Great victory for a day like this. Now I think I'll take a nap.

Emotional Reasoning

Monday I started feeling kind of low. This morning I woke up feeling even worse. Today I feel so tired and blah. I just don't feel like I have the energy or drive or motivation to do anything. It feels like I am drugged or in slow motion or in a heavier gravity than usual. It feels like it requires superhuman strength to make dinner and make lunches and clean the living room, when just a week ago that didn't feel very hard at all. When I don't exert the strength it would take to do my work, I feel bad about myself and my "weak character". I know that if I could make myself do my work in spite of how I'm feeling, I would feel better. If I don't do my work because of how I'm feeling, I'll feel worse. One of the Cognitive Distortions that David Burns talks about it "emotional reasoning." I don't feel like doing the dishes, therefore I cannot do the dishes. If I can get myself to do them anyway, I will have a victory. The thing that needs to be done right now is the dinner preparation. I'm off to the kitchen! Writing this has helped.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dark Day For Potato Girl

Yesterday at church I found out that my dear soulmate LL is moving this Thursday to Wisconsin. I thought I had a few more weeks with her!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"I'm dreaming of a White..." Easter?

This past week our dear Ann Arbor friends, Jordan & Andrea, drove up from Dallas to see us. They arrived Wednesday afternoon and stayed through this morning. When they arrived, their children (Peter 9, Leah 6, Hannah 4 & Matthew 2) were so disappointed that it was freezing cold (for them; it felt warm and wonderful to us!) but there was no snow on the ground. I think that is why the heavens provided us with a beautiful snow storm Friday night! Our poor snow-starved guests from Texas were able to go sledding, build a snowman, do snow angels, throw snowballs, make a snow fort...everything! And we had a beautiful White Easter, just like we've always dreamed of.

Here is Adam sitting on the hood of our car, clearing off the windshield::

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eli's New Blog

I am bursting with pride that my little Eli, oldest child and leader of the younger part of the family, has started his own blog. But because I am a mama bear, I have protected it like crazy, and you must be invited to read it. So far, I have invited his aunts, uncles, grandparents, and teachers. If you would like to receive an invitation to view "The E.J. News", send me an email and your request shall be granted!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Journal Entry: 19 February 1997, Manila

I had a thought on the jeep this morning on our way to Uniwide [a store]. Usually when I’m feeling unhappy/ depressed/ down on myself/ discouraged I feel like God is mad at me or he doesn’t love me or I’m not good enough and that my discouragement is coming from him—Hey [Potato Girl], you’d better clean up this mess you call a life. Then it was as if the curtains were drawn this morning as I read verse 15 of Joseph Smith-History:

“I kneeled and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak.” It caused him to nearly “sink into despair and abandon [himself] to destruction.”

That is Satan, not God. I’m trying to record something the Spirit taught me in a thought, and words aren’t working too well, but it was as if the pieces suddenly fit together in my mind and heart. Pres. Gerratt at dinner saying I need to slam the door on Satan when he tries to discourage me, tell me I’m bad or unworthy. This attack on Joseph Smith right as he was doing his most righteous, correct, important act so far. All of the struggles I’ve had as a missionary to feel good about myself and my efforts. Satan’s affect on Joseph was to bind his tongue, stop his prayer. What happens when I feel worthless and discouraged? I can hardly pray I hate myself so much. I just cry and want to lie on my bed and not get up. I can only think about how pathetic I am—in affect, my tongue is stopped—i.e. I am stopped in the good works I’m doing, I’m immobilized.

Could this come from God? No! It is Satan and I let him in, I encourage him, I tell myself that God is mad at me, that I’m not doing enough, that I’m being cursed. It’s not true, is it? Lately I’ve had a new idea open in my mind, an idea that here I am in the mission field, trying to serve God, trying to let go of the world—why would God be disappointed? I’m here! I’m not perfect—I count the months left, I daydream about home, I often go to bed at 10:40 and not 10:30, and we usually leave 10 minutes late because I always am the last to get ready. I’m not talking to 10 people a day on the jeep. Those are the things that haunt me, and yesterday morning I was crying with despair because somehow my whole mission was a waste and Heavenly Father couldn’t accept it and wouldn’t bless me because I let myself fall in love [with my husband, Dan] before I left and how could a really dedicated person have done that? That’s like being mad at yourself for eating before you start fasting, or something. Weird.

So this morning I realized that next time I feel like that (you know how I cry at most Zone Conferences, for instance) that I can know it is not coming from Heavenly Father, but some jerk-face trying to keep me from doing this good thing I’m doing and to minimize my joy and peace so I won’t be as effective as I could be.

I think of the love I have for these investigators, love I know comes from Heavenly Father, and I have great feelings of patience with their “failings” and take great joy in tiny little right things they do. I don’t ever feel mad at them, I just keep thinking “how can I help them better to figure this out.” Now if I feel like this, if I can look at every other missionary and take great joy in the miracle that they somehow survived in the church long enough to make it on a mission, of all things, that they are worthy to hold a temple recommend (amazing—what would I do if a couple of Bicutan members could get worthy for the temple!)—I don’t care how ineffective they are, I’m just thrilled to think they’ve come this far, especially if they’re trying to be obedient and improve.

So if I feel that for others, and I’m just some punk kid, doesn’t God feel that for me? But more love, more patience and understanding? He doesn’t want me to feel unhappy and failure-like. That would be like one of my investigators berating herself for “only” reading though Enos after the first discussion, while I’m all thrilled she read at all. Okay, but God doesn’t compare us, and I can’t compare myself and say I’m good because there are other people that aren’t even active [in the church]. But still, none of this “God is mad at me” business. (Potato Girl's mission journal 350-351)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mission Journal

I've been thinking a lot about an important depression-related realization I had while serving as a missionary in the Philippines 11 years ago. I've been wishing that I could find the place in my journal where I might have written something about it, but I have had no idea which of the 439 pages might contain the story. All I can remember is sitting on a bus in Manila looking out the window and having an important, life-altering thought come to me. I've been really hoping to find the passage before teaching my next depression lesson in April, so today during Esther's nap, I sat down with the second half of my old mission journal and started reading through every page. I began with the entry for December 19, 1996, looking for any signs of the depressed thinking that plagued me as a missionary. I found several good passages, but when I reached the entry for February 19, 1997, I found exactly what I'd been hoping to locate.

It is late tonight, so I'll ask you to stay tuned for my next post, when I'll start transcribing this important section of my journal.


A few days ago, Esther discovered a new word: "puddle". It has finally been warm enough this week to feel like spring, and we've been outside like crazy. On Wednesday night we were waiting for Dan to get home, so we decided to walk around the block. Esther was wearing her little red leather boots that I love. I let her walk for exercise instead of riding in the stroller. She discovered a puddle, and stepped in it. Oh boy. After that it was nothing but "puddle" "puddle" "puddle"! By the time we got back to the house her feet were soaking wet and dyed red from her little boots. So yesterday I pulled out the orange rain boots and tried them on her. A little big, but completely puddle-proof. So we took another walk trying out all the puddles in those boots. I think she could tell that her feet weren't getting wet and cold. She was very enthusiastic. Now she is very mad when I try to strap her into the stroller, as all she wants to do is walk multiple times through every puddle in the neighborhood. It does my mommy heart good to see her. Let's hear it for waterproof shoes.

Good Times at Happy Wok

Tonight after soccer, Adam was begging to go to Happy Wok for dinner. Dan was stressed out and Esther was melting down as her bed time came and went, so I ended up having a special date with Eli & Adam over beef with broccoli while Dan took Esther home and put her down. We had a fun meal together. When we eat Chinese food the boys love to write the name of each member of our family next to their appropriate Chinese Zodiac sign on the paper place mats. We start with Grandpa Joe and Grandma Linda, go down through me and Dan and all of our brothers and sisters, and finish with Eli, Adam and Esther. They were extra happy tonight because I let each of them order their own beef with broccoli instead of making them share. They pinky swore to each other that they would finish all of the food on their plates. And they both found out that they like the General's Chicken that I always order, and have decided to add that to their repertoire. We sat next to a nice older lady who talked to us throughout our meal. She showed the boys each kind of vegetable she had in her meal, talked to them about the merits of friend rice over white rice, and gave them her leftover wonton strips. She had a cane with pink daisies all over it.

The boys wanted to do something to cheer up Dan, so I suggested we bring him some ice cream. We walked down the strip mall together to Baskin Robbin and picked out a flavor we thought he'd like. The boys especially liked the fact that it was called "Love Potion #31" since that would let him know that we love him. We talked about how when we got home they should go right to bed and obey their sleep rules because that would help Dad to feel better. They came in the house and told Dan they loved him and that we had bought him some ice cream to help him feel better. He seemed to be in a better mood, and is now snuggling with them in their bed. My favorite part of the evening was while we were at Baskin Robbin and Adam kept saying that he was just so grateful to me for taking them out for dinner that he didn't know what to say.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Toxic Sandbox by Libby McDonald

I have to return this book to the library today because someone else has requested it. The Toxic Sandbox is about environmental toxins and how they affect our children's health. The author focuses her research on the following toxins: LEAD, MERCURY, certain chemicals in PLASTICS (phthalates, especially the three most potent ones, which are diethyl phthalate DEHP, dibutyl phthalate DBP, and benzylbutyl phthalate BBP, as well as bisphenol A), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), brominated FLAME RETARDANTS (PBDEs), AIR POLLUTION, and PESTICIDES.

Since February I have been trying to make small choices to protect my family and the environment, to live a more "green" lifestyle. It is overwhelming when I try to figure out everything at once. There is so much material in this book, for example, that I feel like giving up and burying my head in the "toxic" sand like an ostrich. But I must remember Baby Steps! So here is my assessment of what I'm doing in each of these areas.

LEAD. We live in a 1950s ranch, and I'm afraid it is completely contaminated with lead-based paint, dust, et cetera, but I don't know for sure. So far I have done nothing about this. McDonald suggests that I start by finding out exactly what I'm dealing with in terms of the lead in this house. I can find out by buying a home testing kit at the hardware store, or by hiring someone to come out and do a full assessment (look in the yellow pages under Environmental Products & Services). I think that needs to be my first step.

I feel less overwhelmed by the MERCURY thing. I've read the list of contaminated fish several times before today, and I at least know not to buy "albacore" canned tuna. After that I get confused about how much of each kind of fish is safe for each family member to eat. McDonald suggests a simple formula that I can remember: don't eat any of the high-mercury fish ever. Eat the moderate-mercury fish no more than once a month. Eat the low-mercury fish no more than once a week. There are a lot of fish on each of these lists, but the only ones we really eat are canned tuna, salmon, clams, shrimp, and fish sticks. Of those, canned albacore tuna is on the high-mercury list (don't eat ever). Canned light tuna is on the moderate-mercury/ once a month list. Clams, "Pacific" or "wild caught" salmon (NOT "Atlantic" or "farmed" salmon), shrimp, and fish sticks/ fish sandwiches are on the low-mercury list to be eaten no more than once a week. To keep track of when we're eating it, I'm thinking of instituting a Catholic fish Friday type of deal at my house. I've also switched from buying canned tuna to buying canned alaskan salmon (boneless skinless!) so that we can eat "tuna" salad sandwiches more than once a month.

As for the PLASTICS I've been thinking about this, but still feeling overwhelmed by it. I am trying to not buy anything new made of plastic. I'm turning my mind to glass, wood, and metal alternatives. This past Saturday I got rid of all of the plastic toys in the house that the children rarely use and took them to Salvation Army. I'm about to replace my dirty old vinyl shower curtain with a new one, and I'll make sure it is the safe kind. I've been thinking about storing leftovers in our glass containers instead of plastic ones, but I haven't done it yet. McDonald says that more harmful chemicals leach out of plastic when it is heated, so avoid putting hot things into plastic or microwaving plastic. It is probably time for me to just switch all hot foods or foods that I plan to heat up to glass, and use the plastic containers for cold things that will never be heated. I've been saving large glass jars from pickles, etc., instead of recycling them, to use for this purpose. Just FYI, before I move on to the next topic, the phthalates are in soft plastics, like vinyl. Bisphenol A is in polycarbonate, the hard, shiny plastic. Here are some helpful websites: For phthalate-free beauty products go to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics; for phthalate-free toys and home products try Clean Production Action or Greenpeace. For a quick reference on plastic products check out The Green Guide.

For now, I don't have the time or energy to do a thorough reading about PCBs and flame retardants (PBDEs), so here is just a bit of info if you're interested. PCBs were banned by the federal government in 1977, but they are still around. To keep away from them, avoid farmed salmon, which includes all "Atlantic" salmon. Avoid the fatty tissue of meat and dairy products, i.e. choose low or fat-free options (or be a vegan like Michelle!). Get rid of dust around your home.

AIR POLLUTION in one sentence or less: drive less, beware of smelly school bus emissions, don't idle your car.

PESTICIDES can be reduced by buying organic foods. For more on this, see my post on Potato Girl in Michigan about the Dirty Dozen.

Well, that concludes my review of The Toxic Sandbox by Libby McDonald. Good luck, and please write in with any tips you may have for me.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New 'Do

The other day Dan observed that the way I do Esther's hair (one whale spout on top of her head) leaves a lot of loose hair for her to wipe syrup and other goodies in.  He wondered if I knew how to do any other hairstyles that might keep more of her hair out of harm's way?  I'm not really a hair person (and that is an understatement), but I rose to the challenge and came up with this new 'do for Essie Lou:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mid-Winter Break and The Value of Quarters

The last time the boys had time off from school (2 weeks over Christmas), I did no exercise of any kind and gained about ten pounds.  Yes, I can gain weight that easily.  So as we approached their one week long mid-winter break, I started thinking to myself, "I've just finally re-lost the 10 pounds I gained from not exercising at Christmas.  Do I really want to gain it back again from another week of not exercising?"  I made a plan that I would take the three kiddos down to the YMCA first thing every morning so that I could swim while they played together in Child Watch.  The only problem with my plan is that the boys don't like to go to Child Watch, and I usually give in to them when they complain long and loud enough.  So I decided to bribe them.  I offered each boy one quarter for each day that he went to Child Watch with Esther so that I could swim.  And you know what?  For the low, low price of $1.50, I was able to swim three mornings in a row!  On the fourth morning, Thursday, I shoveled Janie's gigantic driveway for exercise instead.  And then, conveniently, it snowed AGAIN, so I got to shovel my own 12 mile long sidewalk for exercise on Friday.  And that concluded my week of exercise while the kids had a break from school.  A smashing success, especially compared to Christmas!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Winter Walk

There is a small forest that borders the boys' elementary school.  Each winter the children make lanterns in art class, and on one snowy night, the lanterns are set out all along the trail through the woods for a walk from 7 to 8 p.m.  Last year Aunt Leslie took the boys, and they had a wonderful time.  I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about until I went for the first time tonight.  It was magical.  There were over 400 lanterns, each lit with a candle, glowing in the snow along either side of a long winding trail.  I kept trying to take pictures of it, but the flash ruined the affect and without the flash you can hardly see anything at all.  I wish I could have captured it for you, but here's the best I could do. This is with the flash:

This is without the flash:

And did I mention that after the walk there was a smorgasborg of free cookies and hot chocolate in the multi-purpose room?  We were especially smitten by the chocolate chunk variety (don't tell Healthy Potato Girl that I said that).

Now I understand why Adam has been saying that he would like us to have one more baby so that we can keep going to the winter walk.  He is afraid that when our family runs out of elementary school students we won't be able to go any more.  Adam, if you're reading this, I want you to know that Dad and I are planning to do the winter walk every year from now on, as long as we live in Ann Arbor, whether we have another baby or not. 

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

In my family of origin, the environment is one of the most important voting issues around.  We vote to protect the environment.  We direct angry thoughts (and sometimes words) toward those who do not.  We believe in Global Warming.  My dad carries a small trash bag with him in his pocket when he takes walks so that he can collect any stray cans and bottles he may find, even though they are not worth a dime (or a nickel or penny, for that matter) in Idaho.  He gives money to The Nature Conservancy.  He considers four-wheelers a vehicle of pure evil and proudly reports anyone he sees riding one in a restricted area.  We are not in favor of drilling for oil in Alaska.  We are in favor of higher standards for fuel efficiency.  We are happy that Dan's new employer uses biodegradable plastic products made from potatoes (and not only because my name is Potato Girl).  We would love to buy a Prius.

But we humans are complex creatures, are we not?  In addition to all of this love for the earth, my family also has a great love for being thrifty and finding a bargain.  Take me for example.  I whole-heartedly support the principles behind organic farming, and for many years I have wanted to buy organic food, but the bottom line always gets in the way. I hate "wasting" money on one thing if I could get something similar for less (apple v.  more expensive apple that looks the same).   It is hard to decide which is more important to me: being green, or being thrifty.  When Dan was still in school I used to promise myself that as soon as he had a "real" job I'd start buying organic.  Then he got his real job and I felt poorer than ever!  I just haven't been able to bring myself to pay twice as much for organic as I pay for conventional. 

Things changed for me in February when I read an article about non-toxic living in Cookie magazine ("Toxic Shock" by Alexandra Zissu), that included paragraphs on cleaning products, organic food, drinking water, building materials, plastics, and toys.  I followed several of the links recommended in the article (try Environmental Working Group or National Resources Defense Council for starters) and did a lot more reading.  I eventually found a column about eating organic on a budget.  The author suggested starting with The Dirty Dozen, something I'd never heard of, and avoiding processed, packaged food.  She pointed out that even buying the organic versions of some products is better than nothing, and as February draws to a close, I am about to finish my first month of organic grocery shopping.  

So, have you heard of The Dirty Dozen?  In the world of organic produce, this refers to the 12 fruits and vegetables that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found to be the most contaminated by pesticide residue, even after washing (and in some cases, even after peeling).  Many people recommend that if you can only afford to switch some of your foodstuffs to organic, you start with these items, listed with the worst first and the "badness" rating out of 100 in parentheses: peaches (100), apples (96), bell peppers (86), celery (85), nectarines (84), strawberries (83), cherries (75), lettuce (69), imported grapes (68), pears (65), spinach (60), potatoes (58).   

I'm not ready to go from 100% conventional to 100% organic, but focusing on The Dirty Dozen has helped me to find a starting place.  I've also added milk, eggs, chicken and beef to my list of organics, although I'd like to switch over from organic to grass-fed beef soon (more on that another time).  The 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the lowest levels of pesticide residue will probably be the last things to go for me, listed here with the best first: onions (1), avocados (1), frozen sweet corn (2), pineapple (7), mango (9), frozen sweet peas (11), asparagus (11), kiwi (14), bananas (16), cabbage (17), broccoli (18), eggplant (19).  
The environmental working group is the source of these rankings.  You can see their full list of 44 fruits and vegetables here, ranked in descending order from worst to best.  

Another thing to consider when you're buying produce is where it was grown and how far it has traveled to get to you.  Produce grown outside of the United States (sort of like recalled toys) may have been treated with far more poisonous pesticides than those allowed in this country, so in general it is a good idea to stick with domestic fruits and vegetables.  I still haven't figured out if that applies to organic produce grown abroad.  If something grown in China says it is organic, can I really trust that?  It seems a bit naive to trust the Chinese government these days, but that is another story too.  In Michigan in the winter, locally grown produce includes things such as ice and snow and not much else, but as we get closer to summer (Summer.  Is that really a seaon?  I'm beginning to wonder...) there will be more and more options.

The other small change I've made this month to help the earth is this: I've purchased a three-pack of gi-normous reusable shopping bags from Costco and now take those to all of the grocery stores with me in lieu of plastic or paper.  If I forget and leave the reusable bags in the car, I just tell the cashier that I don't need a bag, take my groceries in the cart out to my car, and put them in the bags there.

Well, I hope I haven't made any of you four-wheeler enthusiasts out there unduly upset.  I sometimes imagine my dad meeting his demise at the hands of an ATV operator when they realize he's reporting them to the BLM.  If you are of the camp that does not believe in Global Warming, you are welcome to take this post and crumple it up in your hands and throw it in the wastebasket.  But if you've been thinking you might like to do something to help the earth, more power to you.  Remember, a small step is a hundred times better than no step at all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Being Wasteful

Many years ago, when I was doing Weight Watchers, I had a group leader who loved cannoli. She would always tell us that if she were going to save up a bunch of calories to blow on a dessert, she wouldn't blow them on anything less than the perfect cannoli.  

I think I applied this principal successfully yesterday when Dan brought home two half gallons of ice cream for the family.  He brought me a bowl with some of each flavor in it.  I tried the first flavor (cherry cheesecake) and thought, as I was digging in to the second bite, "hmm...not so yummy." After the third bite it occurred to me that I was eating millions and millions of calories that weren't even that good.  So I stopped eating the less yummy flavor (!) and switched over to the other flavor (Mackinac Island fudge).  It was yummy, and I finished it.  Then I left my bowl on the counter with most of the first flavor still in it!  I just let all that "perfectly good" ice cream melt, and then this morning I washed it down the sink.  I am an ice cream bowl licker by nature, and it is unheard of for me to let ice cream "go to waste."  But as my friends Lisa and LL pointed out today, eating calories you don't need is even more wasteful than throwing those calories away.   Now that's something to think about.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Salad Rule

I have a new rule I'm trying to follow when I find myself at a fast food place.  The rule is: order a salad.  I find that when I'm faced with a menu at a place like McDonalds, I want to order the cheapest thing.  That is never a salad.  It bothers me to pay $4 something for a salad when I could get a burger for $1 something.  It seems like I'm not "getting my money's worth", whatever that means.  But I've finally decided that it is better for me to shell out the "big bucks" for the salad than to be "thrifty" and get the lard-bomb hamburger with no redeeming value to speak of (other than price).

This rule has made ordering much easier for me.  Today at Mo's, for instance, there were only two salads on the menu, so I hardly had to think at all.   Not only was my decision easier, but my meal was yummy and I didn't feel sick afterwards.  

Do you have any rules that help you when you're eating on the go?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Napoleon Dynamite Boots

I thought I had my goal-setting class at the YMCA this morning.  Because my sister-in-law Jody was visiting, and because Adam wanted us to come to his school for NAAPID today, I decided that I would just have time to go to my class and then go straight to Adam's school.  So I left my swimming bag at home and went down to the Y in my regular winter footwear, a pair of black shearling Merrell boots.  When I arrived at my classroom, my teacher was in there with a big group of other people having a meeting.  I didn't know what to do.  Esther was playing happily downstairs in Child Watch, Jody was upstairs running on the track, and I didn't have my swimming stuff or any exercise clothes or shoes to wear.  I thought about my boots, and decided that if I can walk the boys to school in them on snowy days, I could walk around the track in them.  So I went up and did some fast walking for 50 minutes.  I felt sort of silly on the track in street clothes and winter boots, but more than that, I felt proud.  It seems to me that in order to fit exercise into my daily life, I have to be determined, flexible, and resourceful.  I have to make it one of my very highest priorities.  I sometimes have to be sneaky.  And today, I had to wear Napoleon Dynamite boots.

How do you fit exercise into your daily routine?  

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chance #3

A few days ago I received a phone call from a woman in the Westland Stake who attended my talk in the Canton Ward.  She asked me to speak at their upcoming stake women's conference on April 19.  I feel very grateful to have yet another opportunity to think about depression and how to best talk about it with a group of LDS women.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Victory at Costco

Today I went to Costco with Janie.  In the past, I have always purchased myself a yummy (read fatty) lunch at the Costco food court after shopping.  A month or two ago I decided that for my health I would try to follow a new rule of only buying the Caesar salad at the food court, instead of my usual chicken bake or pizza.  After a few of those salads I realized that I didn't like them enough to waste the $3.79, and since then I haven't been buying anything at all.  Today Janie bought a chicken bake and I didn't buy anything!  Yay!  She offered to buy one for me, but I wasn't really hungry, so I said no thanks!  Yay!  I came home and had a spinach salad instead.  

Have you had a healthy victory recently?  Write in and let me know about it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Getting Plastered

Last Thursday my friend Annie brought me some key lime pie from Applebees.  The first bite or two was really yummy, but then it started feeling a bit too rich and sweet and my stomach was sick.  I'm strong, though, and I was able to keep right on eating until it was all gone.

A day or two after that I was at Janie's and she had just made a big batch of white chocolate chip orange cookies.  Again, the first one I had was amazing, but I probably had another 5 or 6 (sorry Janie).  By the second or third cookie I was feeling sick but I kept eating them anyway because they were yummy.  But not as yummy as the first one.

On Sunday I was at Julie's and she had made M & M cookie bars for dessert. Again, I kept eating and eating them well past the point of feeling sick.

Last night I was remembering those cookie bars, so I went to the store at 9 p.m. to buy the ingredients to make them.  They came out of the oven around 10:30, and by 11 Dan and I (mostly I) had eaten half of the 9 x 13 pan.  They were nowhere near as yummy as Julie's, but I just kept eating them.  We finished them off this morning for breakfast.  I've felt sick all day from eating them.  But if there were more in the pan right now, I'd go put them in my mouth.

So what is the deal?  One thing that I've been trying to learn is that I need to keep desserts out of my house.  Even something as innocent as a bag of chocolate chips in the freezer or a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch on top of the refrigerator is not safe.  I cannot stop eating sweets until they're gone, even though they make me sick.  And until the sweet food is gone, I won't eat anything else.  If I can keep from buying the yummy stuff at the store, I do pretty well.  The problem I have with that is when I tell myself that I am depriving my children (or husband), and that I need to make (or buy) them a special treat to show them I love them.  I end up eating almost all of the treat and they hardly get any. 

 Then there are always the kind friends that bring over a plate of cookies, or the lunches and dinners at other people's houses, complete with dessert! Not to mention refreshments at church events, Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. etc. etc.  

It feels sort of like I'm an alcoholic who can't control her drinking.  Some people can have just one, but I have to get plastered.  Is there a way I could learn to eat just one serving, and then stop, really stop, or will I have to learn to refrain completely?  Bingeing on desserts does not fall under the heading of healthy lifestyle practices.  Has anyone else out there had this problem?  Have you found anything that helps you?