Merry Christmas

¡Feliz Navidad!

I wish you true peace and joy this Christmas as you consider the many gifts God has given you, and the wonder that our King set aside his throne to make his dwelling among us. 


writing about your life

When can you call yourself a writer?

Ever since first or second grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I devoured books as a child. I got in trouble for reading. My punishments were often, "Go to your room - and NO READING." I loved being transported to another world and escaping reality. I would often woke up with words in my head that I didn't remember learning, so I would have to look them up. The crafting of sentences and stories, the whimsical turns of phrases, the idioms and similes - all of it appealed to me.

I remember writing tons of short stories on my own time in third grade. I had this colony of imaginary friends called the Jhonsons (yes, the spelling is correct - it's pronounced with a somewhat British accent?). Some of the main characters included Baby Jhonson, Baby Supreme Jhonson, Jhonny Jhon Jhonson, Baby Neetle Pea, Mincho, Ma Olson, Baby Olson, Baby Spit Spot, and Professor Ordinary. They were a tight-knit community of wacky personalities. Their arch enemies were the Johnsons (pronounced with more of a midwest accent?) The Johnsons were always trying to sabotage them. For example, one time, they dumped the contents of a trash can onto Baby Spit Spot's front porch. Naturally, B.S.S. suffered from a fainting spell and ended up in the hospital. All the Jhonsons came together to clean up his house while he was gone.

Anyway, the point of all that is to say that in third grade, I think I was a writer. Mainly because I actually wrote.

Fast forward to high school, and my free time became limited. The more activities that filled my life, the less I wrote. College came along, and I added jobs, a social life, and a challenging credit load, and my writing for fun was down to zero. I could no longer call myself a writer.

The desire to write, however, has never left me, which is probably the reason this blog exists. I often feel a bit narcissistic writing anything about myself, which almost prevented me from blogging at all.

In addition to the blog, I've always wanted to record my family's story if not to publish then at least for posterity. That's why when I saw the book Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser at the library, I knew I had to give it a read.

I'm so glad I did! In the very first chapter, these quotes really stood out to me:

"Whatever we call the form - autobiography, memoir, personal history, family history - writing about one's life is a powerful human need"
"Your head is full of memories longing to be written down. But your head is also full of doubts. Can you bring it off? And even if you do bring it off, will anybody care? Who gave you permission to think your story will interest the rest of us?
Well I give you permission. All writers are embarked on a quest of some kind, and you're entitled to go on yours."  
The book is written in the form of Zinsser's own memoir. Every so often he pauses to let you in on his decision-making process and the technical aspects of writing your personal history. He gives practical advice that could actually be implemented into your lifestyle. Writing a memoir (or even just your blog!) actually seems doable.

I felt a renewed zest to make time for reading and writing each day in order to improve my craft. I want to be able to call myself a writer again, and the only way to do that is to write!

If you are looking for writing motivation and practical advice in the form of amusing anecdotes, I would highly recommend this book.

Happy reading and writing!


conversations with your baby

Baby Pip is 6 months old. She has a personality, amusing facial expressions, and can interact with those around her. Whenever she sees a food or beverage, she grunts like a caveman and reaches for it. When she sees me cry or get mad (usually at the dog), she narrows her eyes and gets an impish smile. I'm truly enjoying my days at home with her, especially when I can make her laugh, or when I can get her to take a nap in my arms.

However, as any parent or person who spends time with young children can attest, I sometimes feel downright silly when I talk to her. As interactive as she is, I sometimes wonder if my attempts to teach her shapes, colors, numbers, the alphabet, or songs are fruitless. Is she retaining any of this information? Am I being a typical first time parent who thinks I need to teach my baby all kinds of ridiculous things?

According to this article, no! Babies are just trying to make sense of the world around them, and at 6 months are even starting to understand that the words we say are associated with the things and people around them.

Reading that study gave me the extra boost of energy I needed this week to continue reading bright board books, singing her Spanish songs, or even following her gaze and telling her the name of the thing she is looking at. Sometimes I feel awfully self-aware and ridiculous when I do those things, imagining scores of experienced parents laughing at my attempts to educate a 6 month old about the world around her. Probably, though, that's just human nature to second guess ourselves when we are undertaking a new job.

But the brain research is there. Babies probably understand way more than we give them credit for. So for now, I'll keep telling her that la nieve es blanca, and el perro ladra. We'll keep counting to diez, zehn, or dix during diaper changes. I'll keep exclaiming that her cereal es rico!  and how ese Pablo es tonto. I'll explain how those blocks are cuadrados and that toy is círculo. 

Pip is going to learn about the world around her whether I teach it to her or not. I don't have to get carried away with it (I don't make her listen to Mozart or force her to watch Baby Einstein videos), and there are definitely times I allow her to play by herself (within my line of sight) and discover things on her own. However, the more I talk to her, and respond when she vocalizes, the more she is going to understand. I am by no means in a race to have her reach milestones early, and I really could not care less about how she compares with other babies. I guess I'm just excited to share the beauty of our world and my love for the Spanish language with her. She really is by far my favorite student after all.


traveling with baby

What a whirlwind weekend!

5 of the 6 sisters, my mom, and some friends convened in Chicago this weekend to celebrate my sister Liz's last few weeks as a single lady.

The bachelorette weekend almost didn't happen for a few of us, as our Saturday flight was cancelled on Friday evening due to wintery weather. Disappointed, but not to be defeated, we worked with the wonderful customer service representatives from Southwest Airlines to get on an earlier flight, and all was well with the world again.

Besides the U.S. I have traveled to 9 countries (10 if you count a layover in Iceland), so I have plenty of experience flying. I am one of those people who adores airports and everything they represent. I have a deep reverence for them, and whenever I drive past one, I have a moment of silence to reflect on all the possible destinations I could choose, should I need to flee the country on short notice.

But this was my very first time flying with Baby Pip. One could not ask for a better travel companion (besides my wonderful sister Maggie who helped haul diaper bags and bottles and the like). I wore the baby in the Moby wrap, which made traipsing across the airport and going through security an absolute breeze. Not to mention that every worker we came in contact with at the airport was so helpful and many of them even made Pip laugh!

My #1 recommendation for next time you fly is to get a baby to bring along. If you don't have one of your own, perhaps you could borrow a friend's. I have never gotten such royal treatment as I did when traveling with a baby. Skipping lines, extra help through security, smiles, attention, helping hands, etc. God must have heard my prayers, because Pip was on her best behavior, too! I made sure to bring bottles on the plane to avoid her ears popping during takeoff and landing - although she didn't even seem to mind the descent sans bottle or  pacifier! I didn't experience any screaming baby horror stories this time around…although who knows what our next flight will bring!

Honestly, I didn't even bring toys along for her to play with (minimalist packer right here…), which turned out fine because there was so much for her to take in. People watching is a favorite of hers, along with looking out the window at the scenery and watching a colonial woman churn butter on the wing of the plane. I'm sure as she gets older, more distractions will be necessary to keep her occupied, but at 6 months old she seems perfectly content to creep on other passengers and rake her nails across my face as hard as she can. Also, her newest hobby is shrieking with joy as loud as she can, so she made sure to share that with the fellow passengers as we disembarked the plane.

And now, a few snapshots of our brief time in the windy city.

with auntie molly in the moby

Ultimately it was a fantastic first time flying with baby. I think it was such a success because I had an extra set of hands with me to help lug the extra equipment that accompanies a baby, and because the people at both airports were so incredibly kind and helpful. Pip and I can't wait to travel together many more times in the future, but for now we both look like this:


stream of consciousness - walking the dog in 0° weather

ok here we go! let's get bundled up. first mental and physical hurdle - buttoning 27 snaps on baby's full-body suit. oops! stop rolling over, please, while I try to button you up. oh no! don't cry! I'll do anything. I'll sing Wheels On The Bus at top speed!

wow. how am I winded from wheels on the bus?

onward. time to strap baby into the moby wrap and also, please stop licking my scarf, kid. excellent, you spit your pacifier onto the floor. lemme just bend over with you attached to me and pick that up (out of breath again?) mmmmmk a quick rinse in the sink and voilà. exhale.

crap. I forgot to lay out my hat and gloves on a high surface before wearing the baby. now I have to bend over with her again. and…got it. add the coat, grab a doggie bag, grab the leash, bend over AGAIN to put on the leash. FOR PETE'S SAKE I forgot to put my boots on first. ugh winter boots are so ugly. I can't wait to wear flip flops again. wahhhhh summer.

NO. positive attitude. you decide your mood. you are grateful for the opportunity to wear winter boots?


alright. double check cell phone keys doggy bag dog baby. check check check check check. deep breath, open door.

SON OF A NUTCRACKER it's cold out here. and…yup there it is, the frozen snot and I CAN'T FEEL MY FACE.

think of something positive, anything positive. oh! yes. the cold reminds me that I'm alive. that blast of icy daggers on my skin is a challenge to conquer!

oh! I did not anticipate the hidden ice under the snow on the sidewalk. if I could just step carefully around these patches…screw it I'll just walk on the snow. Pablo! stop pulling on the leash! it's too slippery! poor guy hasn't seen the great outdoors in days. CURSE YOU MINNESOTA.

whew. this baby is getting heavy. it was a lot easier to walk these hills when she was like 10 pounds. but we're doing it! and it's not really so bad out here. psh. windchill of -15. please. child's play. winter can't stop us. we're invincible! we're- BLASTED WRETCH! that wind is swift and painful. a mighty warrior.

maybe we'll just walk to the corner and back. at least the dog got to see the outdoors for more than 20 seconds. he probably hates it as much as I do. I'm sure of it. he probably wants to be snuggled on the couch with hot cocoa - that's probably me, though. but probably his paws are cold. really, it's probably dangerous for us to be out here.

yeah. it's super dangerous. why didn't I think of that before? I'm really just putting the baby and the dog first. we should all just be inside forever and always. even if we are vampires who don't see the light of day because those walking on the sidewalk could peer into our windows and case the joint and come back to steal our things and maybe us, and we have plastic covering the windows now anyway.

why don't we live in one of those states that shuts everything down the minute a snowflake appears? despair. actually, while I'm imagining, why don't we live in a state that doesn't get snowflakes? now we're talking.

and we're back. ok, mental psych-up to take off my glove and get the key out of my jacket pocket. ready? 1, 2, - wait am I going on 3 or after 3? doesn't matter? ok, let's try again. ready, set, go! *theme song from Disney's Hercules running through my head* sweet damn that's a cold doorknob.

arg! that pain in your hands and ears when you come back inside from the cold! and…undo process. strip off hats and gloves, jacket off, undo moby wrap, unleash dog, kick off soggy boots, and…scene.

sweet. it took us 30 minutes to get ready for a 7 minute walk. I probably won't go outside again until spring.

*3 hours later*

cabin fever strikes again.


please don't talk to me, I'm reading

Everyone has their idea of the perfect vacation. Now when I say vacation, I mean a time to relax and escape real life. My dream trips include hiking Machu Picchu and taking a boat from Spain to Morocco.  I crave adventure. But the most relaxing vacation I can imagine is a week on the beach with nothing to do but soak up the sun, swim, and read.

I actually experienced such a vacation at the end of my semester abroad in Ecuador. One week of a novel-a-day laying on a towel in the sand.  No one interrupted my reading time. I didn't really have to talk to anyone.

Since I am no longer on a beach and have actual responsibilities to tend to, uninterrupted reading time is harder to come by. Thus, when I make time to read, it has to be worth my time. As much as I live to read, I have very discerning tastes when it comes to book choice. If it's fiction it has to be well-writen, and if I can't relate to the main character I'm sure not going to finish the book. If it's non-fiction, it must have relevant application to my life. With those qualifications in mind I spend hours perusing the libraries, both virtual and physical to choose the perfect book. (The day I discovered how to borrow books from my Nook was one of the best days of my life.)

With that in mind I would like to start a reading page on this blog. It will be a space where I list and review books I find to be worthwhile, germane, or intriguing. In this way I hope to start a community where one can find recommendations for their next read, and recommend those books they would like to share and discuss with others.

The books I have in mind to discuss so far are

  • Writing About Your Life: A Journey Into the Past  by William Zinsser
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner
  •  The Paris Wife by Paula McLane
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
4 out of 5 of these books are non-fiction. I guess I'm in need of some good fiction to read! 

Any recommendations?


I don't follow directions

alternate title: Nutritional Yeast is NOT the Same as Baker's Yeast. 

But no one likes to hear the word yeast that much. 

Every once and awhile I get a little cocky about something I have absolutely no business being cocky about. Let's take, for instance, my abilities as a "homemaker." (Is that still a thing?)

Since I get to stay home with Pip this year, I fancy myself to be super domestic and knowledgeable on things like "nutrition" and "going green." I have shopped at the local health food coop more than once. My lifestyle is all natural and I am one with mother earth. 

Then mother earth slaps me across the face and says, "No! You are not domestic and nutritious because you don't follow directions."

I suppose it all goes back to my days as a student in elementary school. This is not even a disguised humble brag; it's just a brag: I was smart. I say was in past tense because I think everyone else caught up to me by high school or college. But I started off at the front of the pack. I know this because I read to my kindergarten class when my teacher got a sore throat. I read the Diary of Anne Frank in third grade, and rather enjoyed it! I got to choose my spelling words, so I picked words like antidisestablishmentarianism. Needless to say, I was a know-it-all little hotshot.

So when it came to doing homework assignments, obviously the directions didn't apply to me because I already knew what to do. Those slow kids had to have the work explained to them, but not me. Naturally, I suffered the consequences more than once. My parents would have a serious talk with me.

Parents: Why did you get a B on that test? Didn't you study?
Me: Yeah, I just didn't follow directions on the last section.
Parents: Well that's dumb. You could have gotten an A, but because you rushed through it you didn't do your best.
Me: It's just that the test was really easy so I thought I knew what I was supposed to do.
Parents: We hope you have learned your lesson, young lady.

I didn't.

I think the consequences were not drastic enough for me to take the lesson to heart. If there are any children reading this, just skip the next sentence. Apparently grades in elementary school don't have any bearing on life at all.  There, I said it. So what if I got a B in science class in 5th grade even though I was capable of an A? What effect has that had on my life? None. None, I tell you. Unfortunately this means I kept not following directions throughout my whole life.

There was that time I thought parchment paper and wax paper were the same thing.

Or that time I had to pay a $200 fee to leave Ecuador because I thought my 90 day tourist visa started over if I left the country and came back in.

I rush through things, thinking I know better. Directions are beneath me, and there are too many details that I can't be bothered with. As an adult this is coming back to bite me in the butt.

Anyway, back to being a domestic failure. So because I'm all nutritional and one with mother earth, I decided I would start making bread from scratch. I don't want my family eating all of those added chemicals and preservatives! (I kid you not, there is a half-eaten donut on the table right now. So…) 

So I stopped by the health food coop yesterday to pick up yeast. As I perused the baking aisle, the kindly hippie who was stocking shelves offered to help me. Sure! Where's the yeast, Cosmic Stardust? (By the way, my hippie name is Ryvre Sunburst). He guides me over the the bulk shopping section and naturally I act like I have done this a thousand times, so he walks away. I am left to decipher the many types of yeast before me. I choose nutritional yeast, because it sounds nutritional. I'm confident that all yeasts are basically the same thing, because they all have the word yeast in them. (Say yeast one more time.)

Today was the day I would start my granola lifestyle. I followed the recipe to the letter, determined that this homemade bread would not be another one of my flaky fiascos. I left the hunk of dough to rise, and busied myself with laundry and walking the dog and playing knock all the toys over with the baby. When my timer went off after two hours, I anxiously took a peek at my dough, excited to see how much it had risen.

Despair. It was still just a lump of dough. I took to the internet to discover that no, all yeasts are not created equal. Nutritional yeast is apparently just used for seasoning on popcorn? Well, not to be deterred, I thought that if I baked the bread it might be misshapen, but still somehow delicious? (Because that always works out for me.)

No. It was an ugly lump that was gooey on the inside. And not good gooey, like in a warm brownie. Bad gooey. No one wants gooey bread.

So I guess I still haven't learned my lesson. That lesson is this: pay attention to directions. And follow them. Or else have gooey bread.

The end.


3 spanish podcasts to try

Podcasts are such an easy and passive way to practice a second (or third!) language. When my husband and I were planning a short weekend in Paris, I was very motivated to learn enough basic French to be polite and make small talk. I turned to podcasts on iTunes because they were free, easy to transport, and I could listen to them anywhere. I was a novice in French, so it was important for me to choose a podcast that taught me phrase by phrase, or word by word. In Spanish, however, I am advanced, so I would choose a podcast entirely in Spanish, most likely one that is meant for native speakers.

No matter what level of language you are at, from novice to advanced, you will be able to find a podcast to fit your needs. All it takes is a little bit of research to choose the correct podcast for your level, some down time to listen (try your commute to work, or when you are getting ready in the morning), and voilà, you are becoming more proficient in the language of your choice!

Here are some Spanish podcasts I have found that can work for different levels of proficiency:

Coffee Break Spanish | Radio Lingua Network 

Coffee Break Spanish is a great option if you are just starting out with the language, or you are taking a trip to a Spanish-speaking country and would love to learn a few basic phrases. As the title suggests, it is meant to be a short lesson that can be completed during a coffee break at work. You are guided by Mark, who is quite the linguist! The lessons are numbered, so you can work your way through them. Once you have completed the numbered lessons, there is a third season called Show Time Spanish which is more challenging, and meant to be the next level of Spanish (intermediate learners).

Pros: easy to understand, fairly short (15-25 minutes), often times humorous and fun, there is a student learning along with you, good explanation of grammar

Cons: not taught by a native speaker (although, most high school and college Spanish classes are not taught by a native speaker, either! Mark really does a great job, so this isn't really a con), if you want to review anything you have to pay for the Season Pass which comes with supplements and more explanations. When I did Coffee Break French I found myself listening to episodes several times in order to nail down a phrase or concept.

News in Slow Spanish

Maybe you took a few semesters of Spanish in high school or college and you feel like Coffee Break Spanish is moving a little slow for you. You might consider News in Slow Spanish. You are guided by a native speaker who speaks slowly and clearly for language learners. You have the benefit of an authentic accent and phrasing without the stress of trying to understand a rapid conversation. The content is relevant, as it covers what is going on in the world that week.

Pros: easy to understand, short segments on grammar that was incorporated in that week's reading, an interactive website where you can learn more about what you just listened to, lessons are numbered, content is relevant

Cons: can be a little slow for someone looking for a challenge, one must pay for additional resources on the website

Cuentos a la Luz de la Luna

Cuentos a la Luz de la Luna (stories by the light of the moon) is an authentic resource - by Spanish-speakers for Spanish-speakers. This makes it a good podcast to listen to if you already have a background with the Spanish language, and wish to increase your comprehension of native speakers. It can also help you to learn new vocabulary in context. When the weather was still warm here in Minnesota, I would set my phone on the stroller and play these stories out loud when we went for walks. It never hurts for the baby to be exposed to native speakers, and I enjoy the added challenge of understanding Spanish at a conversational pace.

Pros: about 20 minutes long, the stories are usually funny, narrated by a native speaker

Cons: can be difficult to understand at times, no explanation of new vocabulary or grammar since it is an authentic resource, meant for children, so if you're not into the whole story telling thing, this may not be up your alley.

Those are just 3 of the incredible resources available to someone looking to learn or maintain Spanish as a second language. It is essential that we continue our education into adulthood to keep our brains growing and sharp. Podcasts provide a great way to improve our minds a little bit each day.

winter blues

Well, they arrived much earlier than I thought they would this year.

The winter blues, that is.

The past two days have been in the single digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures, with wind chills well below zero.

There is a reason my alter ego is a beach bum. I never feel more alive than when the sun is drenching my skin in warmth. I love having the option to go barefoot. The simple pleasure of a Cuba Libre on the patio is really all I can ask for out of life.

Unfortunately, I live in Minnesota. And with Minnesota come violent and prolonged winters. They start out innocently enough. First come the autumn chills. Everyone is delighted at the chance to pull on a cozy sweater after that sweltering and humid summer. The mosquitoes are gone, and that breeze sure feels great! But then that first frost of the year sneaks in like an unwelcome houseguest. People are willing to forgive it, though, because the days are still pretty mild and the sun is out and the holidays are coming up. January, February, March, and sometimes April arrive with a fury bringing subzero temperatures and mounds of snow at just the right times to avoid an actual snow day, but to create havoc on the morning commute.

But it's only early December, and already we're experiencing subzero temperatures. It's already that instant headache, snot freezing, painful cold that makes a person want to curse good and loud.

And it never fails to give me the blues.

Too often I write off 7 months of the year as {nothing happening these months, just sitting inside looking up plane tickets to somewhere warm and being lazy on the sofa}.This year, though, I am determined to fight it. I choose how I feel. I choose my mood. I choose my reaction. And this year, I choose to experience, and live it, and be present in it. Instead of waiting for life to begin anew in spring, I choose to be an active participant in life this winter.

But how will I got about doing that? I'll admit, these past 2 days have been tough. I am home with a 6 month old and yellow lab, while my husband is at work. It's easy to feel cooped up and even trapped. Instead, here is how I am deciding to deal with the extreme cold:

  • knowing that life goes on. In Canada, Siberia, Scandanavia, Iceland, etc, the weather is even more extreme than in Minnesota. Life does not stop for cold weather. People still go grocery shopping and have social visits and go to work. It just takes a little more preparation and a lot more layers.
  • looking at the cold as a challenge. I have never been one to shy away from a challenge. Maybe if I look at conquering the cold the same way I view a demanding workout, I will enjoy overcoming the physical discomfort. Maybe?
  • coffee.
  • paradigm shift. Last year, I remember praying for a snow day. Not because I didn't enjoy my job - I loved my job. But it's always nice to have a day to catch up on correcting papers, snuggle on the couch, watch movies, and take the dog outside to run around in the snow. Now I have that opportunity every day. I can use my days to be productive, but also to take it slow and enjoy the little moments. This life is exactly what I hoped for. 
  • get rid of the victim mentality. It is so strange to me that the only area of my life where I play the victim card is winter weather. That stops now. Everything in life is a choice. Of course we don't always choose what happens to us, but we choose how to deal with it. I am not trapped. I have options. 
  • be social. I need to feel the camaraderie of others battling this harsh winter weather. 
  • healthy food and exercise. I will not eat all the donuts. I will work out. I will drink tons of water. I will not use the weather as an excuse to feel sorry for myself, lay on the couch, and eat more chocolate. Easier said than done, am I right?
  • planning a trip. Ok, this is a little bit of an escapist exercise, but it does put me in a better mood when I can at least imagine sipping wine on a sun-drenched plaza in South America.
  • the great outdoors. When it gets below zero, I do have to think of the safety and comfort of a six-month-old, but on the days where it's just uncomfortably cold as opposed to dangerously cold, we can bundle up and explore the surrounding areas. Minnesota has some beautiful landscapes, hiking trails, and state parks just waiting to be explored. 
  • coffee.

Alright winter, do your worst! It cannot possibly be worse than last year (snowstorms through the first week in May) and this time I am ready for you. 

How do you deal with undesirable weather? 


a letter from pregnancy past

Before I found out I was pregnant, I never knew there were so many theories and unwritten rules to follow as an expecting mom. Did our parents do this much research before having babies? Maybe it wasn’t as popular to research, manage, and customize every aspect of our lives. Maybe they just had children, then called the real grown-ups (their parents) when they had questions. I quickly found out when I got pregnant that parenting in today’s world, much like eating, exercising, and managing money, is no longer governed by tradition and common sense, but rather by camps of sparring scientists, gurus, and research which one must read to truly know how to parent (eat, exercise, manage money) the right way. 

Then there was the required reading (and you thought you were done with homework when you graduated college). There is no shortage of resources available to expecting parents. Books about pregnancy, books about giving birth, books about sleep schedules and behavior and eating schedules. Blogs, articles, brochures and pamphlets raise myriad questions, all the while advising that stress is bad for the baby. What can I eat? What can’t I eat? Can I play volleyball? Am I allowed to jump or do sit ups? Is coffee ok? What if the only thing that sounds good first trimester is McDonalds french fries? Why does every food burn my esophagus an hour after eating? Is anything safe? Should I just live in a bubble? The conflicting opinions and research is enough to paralyze any new parent from making any decisions at all, just to avoid the judgment of other parents. 

For someone who hates details as much as me, this could be looked at as a form of torture. I personally couldn’t deal with all the worry and stress on top of the physical ailments that come with early pregnancy, so my approach was simply “it’s fine unless the doctor said no.” I figured, if babies have been surviving and thriving for centuries without all this research and these online mommy-to-be forums, then why should I worry about it? I trust my doctor and my common sense enough to tell me when something is not safe. 

Oddly enough, now that the whole thing is over with, I sometimes look back on those times fondly. I find myself browsing maternity clothes online. I recall the feeling of those little kicks from baby Pip. Well, Past Emily knew this day would come, so she took it upon herself to write a letter to Future Emily. **(Obligatory side note: I do know that the ability to have children is a blessing from God, and am incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to go through it. This is just a lighthearted look back at some of the physical and mental challenges of pregnancy).**  (Also, I am not pregnant again. Just reminiscing). 

Dear non-pregnant me,

Now that you are thin again,without a precious little one growing inside you, you may be fondly reminiscing about that magical time in your life. You may even be considering beginning that journey again. Well, friend, I am here to remind you of exactly what pregnancy was like.

Remember throwing up every morning for 2 months straight? You would wake up, stomach lurching like a wicked hangover without the party. “Try keeping some crackers on their nightstand!” they said. “It’ll help!” Nay. It will not. Post-vomit, you would spend the next 3 hours in a woozy stupor, head on your desk with the occasional trip to the restroom to dry-heave. Your students were concerned, but didn’t even know you were pregnant. So you didn’t even get special treatment.

Remember those blinding headaches? They really complemented the nausea. 

Remember when nothing sounded appetizing except cereal, toast, and fast food?

16 weeks

Remember first trimester exhaustion? 2 p.m. would hit and standing up felt like a chore. Passing out papers was your Everest. If only you could summon up the strength to take a lap of the room before collapsing back into your rolling chair, you considered it a victory.  

Remember when you thought you couldn’t bear it any longer? It was then that second trimester dawned like the first spring day after a Minnesota winter. Angels sang and a feast was prepared to celebrate your first day sans morning sickness. 

Remember when the word of your joyous news was finally out? People beamed when they saw you. Sure, they didn’t make eye contact with you until they scanned your midsection for any sign of a baby bump, but they were so happy for you! That miniature baby bump and ever-so-slight face bloat that made you look like you were indulging in one too many holiday dessert spreads.  You soaked it up, reveling in the attention and the fact that you could still fit in your regular clothes. 

Remember around 20 weeks when you found out the gender of your baby? That first ultrasound was probably one of the most awe-inspiring moments of your life. You got your first glimpse of that beautiful human being growing inside you. You didn’t even mind how uncomfortable your somehow constantly full bladder was making you. 

Also, remember how you thought your bump was HUGE at that time? Ha. 

24 weeks

Remember the moment you realized those once-flowing tops and dresses that you thought would last your entire pregnancy just didn’t hang quite right on a growing baby bump? You didn’t count on the awkward pulling and the accidental midriff, did you? It was then that you broke down and ordered your first round of maternity clothes online. 

Remember the day third trimester hit, and you realized you were reprising semester one? Only this time you were much bigger and your wardrobe options had shrunk significantly. Nausea? Not nearly as bad, sure. But if you didn’t eat first thing upon awakening, it would not be a pleasant morning. Exhaustion? Welcome back, old friend. 

Remember the day you broke down and cried in your classroom? (Don’t worry, it was during your free period). You were already feeling self-conscious of your ever-changing and expanding waistline, and no one would let you forget it. “You’re going to get bigger?” “You have how many weeks left?” “You’re never going to make it to your due date!” Up until that week you were proud of your little baby bump. You felt cute-pregnant. No more. 

Oh, and remember that day you cried in the store because it was the fifth clothing shop you went into that didn’t carry maternity clothes. Seriously, what did women do before the internet? How did people find affordable and cute maternity clothes? I mean, you lived in a suburb of a huge metro, yet you could only find 2 stores that carried maternity clothes. And you were outraged at the thought of paying $24 for a plain v-neck t-shirt that sold for $12 in non-maternity. Oh the humanity! What griefs and trials we bear!

39 weeks

But then, remember the simple joys of relaxing on the couch at night, feeling a symphony of baby kicks, hiccups, and rolls? How you laughed when she would bob her head up against your right ribcage, almost as if she were pushing off with her little toes to let you know she was there! Remember how the dog would snuggle up against your big old belly? If only he knew he was in for a rude awakening when he would no longer be the center of attention. 

Remember how wonderfully people treated you? They rolled out the red carpet, allowing you to skip the line to the bathroom, demanding that you sit and relax even though you knew you were perfectly capable of completing whatever task you were doing. 

Remember how totally worth it all of that was when you finally got to meet little Pip? Definitely worth it. 


Past Emily


family history

This post is in honor of my late grandmother, who passed away this past weekend. Nana lived an incredible life and taught her children and grandchildren so many important lessons about what our true priorities in life should be. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to interview her several years ago about her childhood in London during and after WWII. Here is my take on her story of meeting my grandfather. 

You don’t often think of your grandmother playing hard-to-get. I always assume the dating world was much more civilized back then. There was no playing games, no awkward moments, no scandal. I know how naive that sounds. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Surely human beings have been playing games, misreading cues, and causing scandal since Adam and Eve fell into sin! At the same time, though, when your proper English grandmother tells you she made your grandfather chase her a little bit, it comes as a juicy and shocking surprise. “Nana!” my sisters and I gushed with delight and mock horror when she relayed the beginnings of what was to become our family.

He was a dashing young yeoman from Wisconsin, stationed in London post-World War II. She had been a little girl in London during the War, who had experienced the mandatory evacuation to Wales, the terror of a bomb dropped across the street from her flat, and the camaraderie the people of London shared during wartime. The setting of their first meeting was the day of her brother’s wedding at a drinking club.

Her brother, Phil, had just left for his honeymoon with his new wife. It was only 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and my grandmother Maureen was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Ladies, I think we can all relate to the dread of wasting a new outfit and perfect makeup and hair. Someone has to see it! Fortunately, her friend Eileen was supposed to meet up with her then-boyfriend Jerry at a drinking club, and invited Maureen and some other friends along. It took some convincing, but Maureen’s strict father finally acquiesced and allowed her to go. The new dress would not be in vain!

Once the group arrived at the club, they chose a half-circle booth, and settled in to order. Eileen recognized some Americans she knew, who proceeded to join their table. One gentleman, who (spoiler alert!) turned out to be my grandpa Herb, approached Maureen.

“Would you mind moving over?” 

Indignant, she replied, “Yes I do mind!” as she proceeded to slide in to allow the rude fellow to take a seat. 

“You can buy me a drink.” Bold, Herb. Bold.

“I don’t buy anyone a drink,” Maureen said. It seemed they were not off to a good start. 

According to my Nana, Herb proceeded to ‘talk to her’ the rest of the evening. The way she describes it, it sounds like she couldn’t wait to get out of there and never see this guy again in her life. Then he dropped a bombshell (metaphorically of course.)

“Would you like to go out sometime?” he asked.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to.” Hm. Why didn’t I ever think to try this blunt approach when getting hit on in bars?
Undeterred, Herb continued, “Well, how about Tuesday?”

        “I’m washing my hair Tuesday.” What? How did she get away with using “washing my hair” as an excuse to get out of a whole evening? And how can I apply this to my life?

They proceeded to go through each day of the week, Maureen presumably using more gems for excuses such as, “Wednesday? Oh, on Wednesday I have to iron my socks,” or “Thursday? I wish I could, but it turns out I’m brushing my teeth.” 

Apparently he wore her down, though, because she eventually agreed to a date. They decided to meet at the cinema one afternoon, and Maureen was almost positive he would stand her up. She told herself if he wasn’t there she would just hop right on the next bus and head home. But when she arrived at the Odeon Cinema, there stood Herb dressed in civilian clothes, and if historical fiction movies are telling me the truth, I’m sure he had a bouquet of flowers in his hands, and she was wearing red lipstick. 

Well, one date led to another, and soon the two were seeing each other several times a week. In our day we call this, “we’re not putting a label on anything.” This went on for 8 months. This casual dating didn’t inspire much confidence in Maureen, and she made plans to break it off. 

Now I’m not sure if it really happened this way, but this is how I imagine the scene per my Nana’s description.:

Maureen makes plans with Herb at a neutral location to end the relationship, because it was ‘going nowhere.’ They sit down to a spot of tea and probably crumpets, because it’s London, and Maureen clears her throat emphatically. 

“I don’t think this is going to work. I don’t think we should see each other anymore.” She proceeds to wait dramatically for the heartbreak that will inevitably ensue. 

Herb’s response: “Oh. Will you marry me?

So that was that. Proof that men don’t listen to what women are saying, and that women can be wrong, contrary to popular belief. 

Four months later, in August of 1955, Herbert Otto and Maureen Barnfather were united in holy matrimony. I guess it’s lucky my grandpa Herb was so darn stubborn, and also a bad listener.