Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Bye-Bye, I Love You"

So blessed that Grandpa and Elsa had the chance to meet

Two weeks ago, the world lost an amazing man. One week ago, his family and friends gathered to say good-bye.

I've spent those past weeks claiming that it's not easier to lose someone when the end is expected. But that's not exactly true. It is comforting to know that my grandpa was ready. Ready to join my grandma and my dad and so many of his loved ones. 89 years is a long time to inhabit this earth, and I know that these last months have held their fair amount of suffering. So, for those reasons, it has actually been easier.

But, easy? No. Not even close.

Selfishly, losing a grandparent is like losing a piece of childhood. No matter how old I get, I will forever be someone's "favorite granddaughter." I haven't quite realized that I'm not going to hear those words again.

Grandpa may have been ready, but my mom, brothers, and I were not. We're going to miss him dearly. I could go on and on, relating story after story about my wonderful--and ornery--grandpa. But I won't. Anyone who has had the pleasure of knowing Grandpa has his or her own stories to share. And for those who never got the chance to meet him, such anecdotes wouldn't do him justice.

Instead, I'll end this tribute by sharing a lesson Grandpa taught all of us by both word and deed. Treasure your family. My grandpa most certainly did.

Bye-bye, Grandpa. I love you.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Comparing Apples and Oranges...or, Why I Am Still Avoiding Pinterest

Making comparisons is how I make sense of the world. I'm sure it annoys Jon to no end that when he is describing some technical aspect of his job--or anything, really--I immediately compare the situation to something I know and understand...usually the plotline of an episode of Friends.

I know this about myself, yet I also know that it is so easy to drive oneself crazy by comparing. I do not want to fall into that "Mom Trap" of comparing myself or my child to the creativity of other moms or the incredible talents of other children. Therefore, prior to her arrival, I vowed that I would not get all worked up about when Elsa started hitting developmental milestones in relation to other kids. She will roll over/crawl/walk/talk when she is good and ready to do those things, despite what any book or website says or any other child does. I'm pretty sure she has enough stubbornness coming from both sides to ensure that.

So far, I'm doing well at avoiding these comparisons. Elsa is doing some things she's "supposed" to be doing and others she's not, and we're just fine with the fact that she apparently missed several days of "Baby School" that would have informed her of her developmental timeline.

However, I cannot help myself when it comes to comparing baby weights. Every time I see a baby, I mentally try to figure out how old that child is and how much s/he weighs, comparing both to Miss Elsa's current status. Elsa is on the petite side, causing me constant worry about her physical growth.

I am well aware that if I weren't worried about this, I would most certainly be worried about something else, but for the time being, a lot of my energy is expended thinking about pounds and ounces. Our pediatrician is concerned (albeit not alarmed), prompting several weight checks, but the thing that gets under my skin the most are the comments from random strangers.

I'm sure they're all well-meaning folks, but I do not need to see the surprised look on their faces when I tell them how old my daughter is, to which they reply, "She's so tiny!" The worst is when people ask if Elsa was premature. No, actually, she was a week late and at an average birth weight, thank you very much. Sometimes people should just not talk. It's amazing how one little comment can totally dampen my mood (or brighten my mood, such as when someone remarks how big she's getting).

A wise friend said that there are really only three things one should say to a person with a baby:
1. Congratulations!
2. What a beautiful baby!
3. You are so lucky!

I agree. That's all I really want to hear anyway, from strangers at least.

Surely one of the reasons I am so sensitive about Elsa's size is the hormones that continue to course through my body; I'm pretty sure I'd be sensitive about anything. But the main reason is that I am the one solely responsible for her nutrition, considering her slow growth as a failure on my part to provide what she needs. That might be a bit over-dramatic, but that is how I feel (see earlier comment about hormones).

So, we're working on the whole feeding thing, trying to be as productive and efficient as possible. I'm confident that we're making progress, although I still hold my breath a little every time I put her on a scale. Fortunately, Elsa is doing really well. If she were sickly or unhappy, it would be easier to take more drastic measures to bulk her up, but she's so active and alert...which might be part of the weight gain conundrum. She is able to move around so easily because she's so small (weight-wise--she's actually quite tall)...and all of that moving around burns up calories and keeps her small. Quite the vicious cycle.

Despite this post (or as a result of it?), I'm actually relaxing a bit about the whole weight thing and agreeing with Jon when he's says that she's perfectly Elsa-sized. In fact, I've begun to see the benefits of a petite baby. I know that baby cuteness is skewed toward chunkiness, but I know I'm not alone when in my observation that Elsa is pretty darn cute. Other benefits of our "banana-shaped" baby include, but are not limited to, the following:

*She is not growing out of clothes as quickly (although she is getting too long for several outfits).
*She will be able to use her car seat and other miscellaneous (ridiculously expensive) baby gear items longer.
*She is easier to carry, putting less strain on my tired muscles.
*She is more entertaining to watch now that she is so active.

I guess the whole point of it all is that every baby is unique and grows at his/her own pace. Hard to remember when the world is full of adorable, pudgy babies who follow the growth curve, but important to recognize nonetheless.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Elsa's First Vacation

Earlier this month, we found ourselves with several windfall days before work/school started, so we decided to take Elsa on her very first vacation. Per our usual, this trip was planned at the last minute, but it was a great time for all involved.

In our defense, we couldn't have planned anything too far in advance because we didn't know we would have these bonus days. However, we could have probably decided where we wanted to go at least two days before we left instead of the day before.

At any rate, due to our own time constraints and the fact that we didn't feel we could just show up on someone's doorstep (which we actually did anyway), we were somewhat limited in our destinations. Finally, we decided that we would make a three-city loop: Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta.

Stop #1: Nashville
Since we--Jon and I, at least--have been to Nashville several times, we didn't feel the need to do any "touristy" things, but we thought it would be a good first stop. An added bonus was that some good friends recently moved to Nashville from Memphis, so we thought we could do dinner on Sunday before heading out to Chattanooga in the morning. Elsa napped the entire time, meaning that we made much better time than expected, and we arrived at our friends' house a little earlier than anticipated. We hadn't exactly made plans for lodging that night, thinking we'd figure that part out later, so it didn't take much persuasion for us to graciously accept an offer to stay the night. Our friends insisted--promise!

We found ourselves in the East Nashville neighborhood, which is a part of the city we'd not been to before. There are lots of restaurants within walking distance of our friends' house, and after dinner at a local pizza place, we headed over to an ice cream shop. Elsa has recently decided that she prefers to see the world rather than facing inward, so Jon was holding her in such a way that she could observe the ice cream scooping process. He should not have been surprised, therefore, that as soon as he had his waffle cone in hand, she lunged for it like she has never wanted anything more in her life. I guess kids wanting ice cream is a hard-wired desire.

We enjoyed spending time with our friends so much that we encroached on their hospitality for another day. While they went to work, we spent our Monday leisurely walking to a coffee shop before heading out to the Grand Ole Opry. None of us had ever been there before, so we splurged on the tour. None of us are really country music fans, either, but it was still pretty least until Elsa decided that she was hungry. Not that any of them would ever be reading this, but we apologize to our fellow tour-takers for the crying baby. Anyway, once that need was taken care of, we posed for the tourist photo on stage (which of course we had to buy) and were on our way.

Yup, we're suckers
 Staying an extra day in Nashville also meant that we would be able to get together with a dear friend from Washington for dinner. However, that was still several hours away, so we needed to kill some time. Fortunately, in the massive Opryland complex, there is a Bass Pro Shop. Interesting fish for Elsa to look at=free entertainment. Parent win.

Stop #2: Chattanooga

Perhaps it was the late-ish night out, perhaps it was the run Jon went on in the morning, perhaps it was the delicious brunch we had, perhaps it was the fact that we were traveling with a baby, but for whatever reason, we got a later start than planned on Tuesday. That, countered with the time change, meant that we rolled into Chattanooga mid-afternoon. We had originally planned on staying overnight, but since we spent Monday in Nashville, our visit to Chattanooga was just a couple of hours long. Honestly, we don't know much about the city anyway, so we didn't feel like we missed anything. There was a pretty cool looking aquarium, but we really only had time to stop in the gift shop for Dad to buy Miss Elsa a stuffed penguin and a book...not that Jon's wrapped around her little finger or anything.

We were in town long enough for a snack and a walk. After stopping for lunch--at a brewery, of course--we trekked across one of Chattanooga's many bridges for a nice family walk. Despite the warm weather, there were quite a few other folks out as well.

Dad and daughter out for a stroll
Stop #3: Atlanta

After stretching our legs during our walk, it was back in the car for the rest of the trip to Atlanta. We had to stop a couple of times, so it was a bit late by the time we rolled into town. En route, Jon had secured a hotel, so that was taken care of, but unfortunately it was too late to get dinner anywhere but a 24-hour diner. Not bad, except for the loud bunch of college students sitting across the restaurant. We were initially least until we realized that we have often been that loud, annoying table. (Are we really getting that old?)

Since we only had about half a day in Atlanta, we were pretty limited on what we had time for and therefore tried to get an earlier start on Wednesday morning. I had been to Atlanta years ago for a conference, so I wasn't too upset to miss out on any tourist destinations. The Georgia Aquarium is pretty much the best aquarium ever, but Elsa is too young to truly appreciate it; the fish at Bass Pro were more than satisfactory for her.

One place that was a must-see, however, was IKEA. We have been going through IKEA-withdrawal since we moved to Memphis. In fact, we've gone to great lengths to furnish our apartment here (see The Desk). Baby Girl needed a crib (she's been in a bassinet so far), and Mom and Dad needed some Swedish meatballs, so off to IKEA we went.

We plugged in the address into the car's GPS and set out on our way. Fortunately, our trip took us past the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. I had forgotten about this landmark and was excited to visit again. It was neat to see King's birth home and the inside of his church--which hadn't been open the last time I was there--and extremely important to pay our respects.

At the eternal flame
Elsa was so tuckered out at this point that she fell asleep before Jon even had her strapped in the car seat. We were able to drive to IKEA, crib shop, and eat Swedish meatballs before she woke up. Not surprisingly, she was pretty hungry at this point, so we made use of the family lounge/bathroom. We were big IKEA fans before, but this space--plus the stash of free diapers in said lounge--really won us over.

I knew we had a baby for a reason...
During Elsa's lunch, Jon played a game of Tetris with our luggage and IKEA loot in the back of the car. By the time we were finished, the car was loaded, and we hit the road for our journey back to Memphis.

Elsa has proven herself to be a good traveler thus far, which we're thankful for. I foresee many travel adventures in her future.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

On the Road

Elsa--and Jon and I--survived her first road trip.

And not only survived, but also thrived. With the exception of a few fussy moments that were alleviated by a meal, Elsa slept nearly the entire time. That she is a good traveller bodes very well for us. Neither of our families lives close by, and we can't go very long without taking a trip somewhere.

We knew we wanted to make a trip to the Midwest sometime this summer, and the stars aligned to make that possible at the end of June. Unfortunately, however, we began the trip under a bit of a dark cloud, literally and figuratively.

The only thing I had to do the day before embarking on our eight-hour (sans baby--who knew how much longer it would take this time) journey was pack. Elsa had other plans. She nursed like she was storing up for a winter hibernation, not napping for a significant period of time all day. Needless to say, there was a very frustrated and tired mama throwing clothes in a bag at 11pm.

This also meant that we were not able to load up the car the night before as planned. Jon had to jump into action the morning of our drive, playing a complex game of Tetris in the back of our car. Who knew such a tiny person could require so much stuff?!?

After successfully squeezing all of our stuff into the car, Jon returned to our apartment to make one final adjustment to the batch of beer he'd brewed the day before on Father's Day (a present to himself). Much to his dismay, this aeration caused the beer to overflow slightly into the deep freezer, necessitating an immediate clean-up. To say Jon was frustrated as well would be an understatement.

So, under this figurative dark cloud, we hit the road. Luckily, things brightened up a bit as we settled into driving north through Arkansas toward the bootheel of Missouri. Elsa slept so soundly that we needed to eat before she did.

This is when the literal black cloud rolled in. Our timing was impeccable as we all needed a food/bathroom break moments before the sky opened up. The thunderstorm was right on top of us, and we learned that Elsa is not a fan of lightning. We waited out the storm--which also included hail--at Panera*, enjoying lunch and free wi-fi.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. I spent most of it in the backseat, although rather than entertain Elsa, I think I just made Jon seem like a chauffeur. We arrived at Grandma's house in pretty good time (just in time for dinner, which is the best time), at which point she met us on the porch and swept Elsa out of our arms. Clearly, Grandma was only interested in one of the travelers.

Mom, I know you're reading this, and I jest. We felt extremely welcome and are grateful for the attention you lavished on all of us. It's just that we know who the celebrity is.

Our stay in Missouri was short-lived as we loaded up the next morning and drove to Nebraska. Uncle shared the backseat with Elsa this time, and once again, the trip was not especially noteworthy. Well, except for the runzas. Those were pretty delicious.

The next three days were spent introducing Elsa to grandparents, cousins (and their respective little people), and aunts and uncles. Elsa was a charmer, satisfying the "baby fix" of many a female.  There were lots of special moments, and we took a  lot of pictures**. I'm so glad we were able to make the trip.  

You can't go to Nebraska without wearing your Husker red.

We headed back to Missouri for more family time. Elsa had yet to meet her other uncle, aunt, and cousins, and we did so while taking family pictures. Photos with kids are always a bit of a crap shoot, but all three girls did extremely well; I'm excited to see how the pictures turned out.

Just like in Nebraska, our time in Kansas City was full of introductions and baby snuggles, and even a graduation party for a brand-new Doctor. Again, lots of pictures**. Thank you to everyone who took the time to meet up with us (and if we missed you, until next time). It was lovely sharing/showing off our daughter, and I definitely appreciated the extra help (thanks especially to Grandma and Uncle) as Jon had to get back to Memphis for work several days before Elsa and I had to leave. He took the train in a bit of a roundabout fashion, which I'm sure was quite the adventure (but you'll have to ask him for details).

In order to take the train, he had to have a ticket--obviously--which unfortunately could not be obtained at the suburban train station he was departing from. This meant that we had to go to Union Station in downtown Kansas City. I emphasize we because I went with him, both of us leaving Elsa for the first time. Rather than fret about such a monumental event, I confess that I didn't worry at all and didn't even really miss her. I'm hoping this is because a) we were only gone for a little over an hour and b) Elsa was with my mom...not because I'm a terrible mother.

At the end of the week, it was time for Elsa and I to join Jon back in Memphis. As expected, the drive took much longer than it would have had I been driving solo. What I did not expect, however, was that Elsa was not responsible for the delay.

If I never see another hot pink road sign proclaiming "TRAFFIC INCIDENT AHEAD. BE PREPARED TO STOP" again, it will be too soon. Elsa was a trooper, though, not protesting when the highway turned into a parking lot or when I decided to take detour on some gravel roads.

The combination of these hold-ups plus a fun stop in St. Louis for lunch with a friend caused us to roll into Memphis quite late, but the enthusiastic welcome we received from Jon made it all worthwhile. I think it's safe to say that there will be more roadtrips in our future.

*Not necessarily an endorsement for Panera, although we did frequent at least three throughout the trip.

**If you are interested in viewing any of these pictures, please become a member of our "share site": We prefer to not post pictures of anyone on this blog without their permission, and we don't want to overwhelm anyone with baby pictures unless they want to see them.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Welcome, Elsa!

Elsa Marie: 7lbs., 12oz. & 20"

In an instant*, our lives changed forever.

*An instant that was precipitated by 28 hours of labor. But before I make myself into a martyr, the first 20 were spent at home, prompting me to make the comment that "Labor is pretty anti-climactic." (And yes, I knew it was going to get more painful before it was all over.)

At 8:46am on Friday, May 10th, Jon and I became parents...and like a friend warned us, we've been second-guessing every decision we've made since.

We didn't go into parenthood thinking we would know what we were doing--we at least had that much foresight. And we recognize that Elsa is pretty forgiving of our cluelessness. Nonetheless, the past month has been surreal.

My schedule now revolves around naps and nursing, although the multi-tasking perfectionist in me is fighting that ever-present need to cross things off my to-do list. In a weird way, having the laundry done and dishes put away makes me feel calmer. I admit that I'm an utter failure at the "sleep-when-the-baby-sleeps" concept.

That being confessed, the most important thing we've done in the past month is marvel at the miracle that is our daughter, Elsa Marie. It would be incredibly easy to spend the entire day doing what I have termed "Elsa gazing." While her personality will reveal itself in the coming weeks, months, and years, it is so entertaining to just watch her expressions change with her moods. Even her angry face is cute.

Everyone says that kids grow up fast, and it's true that it's hard to believe that an entire month has gone by. Elsa does indeed possess a super-power that enables her to make time move twice as fast as it used to. Before we know it, an hour or two have gone by, the entirety of which has been spent watching her sleep.

Yet, before we get carried away with clichés and mushy sentiments, I feel it's important to recognize what parents everywhere have known since the beginning of time: having a child is hard. We're constantly trying to figure this little girl out (a task I feel will go on for the rest of our lives). Just when we think we've noticed a pattern in sleeping or eating, for instance, the next day is completely different. There have been moments of confidence and success--back to our birth weight at the two-week check-up!--but for every one of those, there have been numerous parenting fails.

We've experienced fussy nights that end with Elsa sleeping upside down and backwards on Jon's leg as he dozes in the pillow fort he's created to prop them both up. We've experienced growth spurts that result in marathon nursing sessions which leave me with sore wrists, arms, and shoulders (among other things). We've experienced spit-up on the bed, on our clothes, and in our hair, most impressive when it comes out of Elsa's nose. And we've discussed poop--both the color and consistency, as well as the frequency--more than we ever thought we would.

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by all of these challenges (and we are very overwhelmed). It would also be easy to take for granted what a blessing this tiny human being is. So, we're trying to stay balanced and recognize that the very best thing we can do is love this sweet little baby, following God's call to be parents. Despite the inevitable ups and downs, we know that we've only just begun the greatest adventure of our lives. If the past month is any indication, it's going to be quite the journey.

Don't be deceived by her beauty (she is pretty, though, isn't she?)...Elsa was peeing on the couch while this photo was being taken, then spit up immediately afterwards.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Nine Stages of Pregnancy

In honor of today's status as "Official Due Date," I thought I would take the opportunity to share what I have discovered as the stages of my pregnancy journey.

1. Suspicion: Call it an instinct or a hunch, but before I ever took a pregnancy test, I just had a feeling that something was going on in there, and it wasn't just indigestion. Not wanting to jinx it, I still waited a bit before confirming my intuition, leading to...

2. Excitement/Fear/Excitement/Fear/Excitement: A native Missourian (the Show-Me State), I often have to see things in order to believe them. When that blue plus sign revealed itself not once, but twice, I knew our lives were about to change. I remember crying tears of joy, which were immediately followed by some freak-out-holy-crap revelations. Apparently the pregnancy hormones had begun to kick in already.

3. Secrecy: Despite the fear/excitement cycle I found myself in, I knew I wasn't ready to share the big news with anyone but Jon (because he was actually out of town when I found out yet still managed to thwart the awesome way I had planned to tell him...which is another story). Getting pregnant and ending up with a healthy baby 9-10 months later is not the guarantee movies make it out to be, so I certainly wanted to play my cards close. Plus, it was fun to carry around that little secret (pun intended) until the time was right for the big reveal.

4. Sharing: When we passed through the initial danger zone and heard Baby's heartbeat for the first time, we decided to share the news with family and then friends. While we did figure out some creative ways to inform people that they would be grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., we mostly went for the direct approach. I pride myself on maintaining correspondence with faraway friends, but I'm not the best phone person, so when I call out of the blue after several months, it's pretty obvious that there is some big news. Why beat around the bush?

5. Fat or Pregnant?: Anyone with an ounce of tact knows never, ever to ask a woman about her pregnancy unless 100% sure she is indeed pregnant. However, it is weird to be on the other side of this quandary. There were definitely days that I couldn't button my pants and wanted to let perfect strangers know that I was growing human life and not a food baby. Once I officially started wearing maternity clothes, however, all bets were off. In fact, I walked into class one day only to have an outspoken college freshman proclaim, "I knew you was [sic] pregnant!" (keep in mind that I teach developmental writing), which then prompted another student to announce that he thought my "stomach was getting bigger."

6. Overwhelmed: Once the initial excitement of the "baby bump" became routine, reality set in. We are going to be responsible for a real, live human being. We will have to feed said small person, as well as clothe, bathe, diaper, and transport him/her. Of course, the most important part will be loving and caring for/about Baby, but that doesn't mean all of the practical things go away. The to-do lists began to grow and the trips to the baby store grew exponentially. Who knew that such a tiny person could need so much stuff?!?

7. Celebrity: Now that Baby is just about as big as s/he will get (although not the 18 pounds my little brother predicts), and I sometimes feel like I'm wearing a circus tent (I jest--I really do enjoy the fact that my spoon shape has "blossomed" into a ladle), I have become somewhat of a celebrity to friends, acquaintances, and even perfect strangers. I don't mind when people randomly comment on my size, not even the little old lady at church who flat-out told me that I had gotten fat since the last time I'd seen her. I know I won't always view these comments as cute, so I'm trying to embrace them now. We are also enjoying the way that people can't help themselves from predicting the gender of the baby, especially when they scrutinize me as if I'm a crystal ball or something.

8. Waiting: We are just now entering this stage, and so far, it hasn't been so bad. We are planners, however, so it's a little tough not knowing exactly when Baby will make his/her triumphant entry into this world. We do know that Baby will arrive when Baby arrives, so in the meantime, we've been trying to keep ourselves occupied. I'm a natural "nester" who loves to organize, so I've been doing that for a while now, but beyond that, we've done lots of reading, eating out, and general relaxing that won't be quite so easy once Baby shows up.

9. ???: Obviously, I can't comment on labor and delivery yet, since I have no clue what that experience will entail. Despite the books I've read and the videos I've watched, I won't know until I experience it, so please wish us luck in that department, and more importantly, pray for a healthy baby!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Read this Book!

I can officially add book reviewer to my many (unpaid) jobs. Through my involvement with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), I learned of an opportunity to review a not-yet published book. Knowing that I had the luxury of more free time than most of the full-time teachers and professors who also received this query, I decided to do it. Plus, it meant that I got to read a book that no one else did.

Fortunately for me, the book turned out to be really good...and I'm not just saying that (unpaid, remember?). I posted a review to the book-lovers site Goodreads, sent off a blurb to the publisher, and--now that the book is officially published--posted a review to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. What follows is a more specific review:

How I Got Rich Writing C Papers is a must-read for teachers and students alike. Teacher-author Andy Hueller has cleverly disguised an accessible, non-pedantic writing guide as a fun, quick-moving novel about high school senior Charles Remington Dremmel’s (not his real name, of course) graduation legacy. From the parenthetical footnotes to the illustrated grammar metaphors, I felt connected to this narrator and was on the edge of my proverbial seat as I read to find out how he could possibly prepare his classmate-clients to finally write for themselves. It is easy to see how Charles built a successful business of writing essays for his classmates based on his strong writing voice and awareness of the skills teachers are looking for as they assess student writing. And rather than just describe traits of good—and not-so-good—writing, Charles helpfully provides sample A, B, C, and D essays. As a fellow educator, I learned some things about writing myself, especially more effective ways to teach it. I have no shame in “borrowing” Charles/Hueller’s metaphor for explaining the pesky comma splice or encouraging my students to maintain “thought fart journals.” I finished this book re-energized about the teaching of writing and ready to start a Nerf War of my own.

If I haven't made it abundantly clear by now, you should totally buy/read this book.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Great Babymoon Escape

Besides sounding like a 1980s Muppet movie (The Great Muppet Caper, anyone?), our most recent getaway was exactly what we needed. Aware that our ability to just up and leave town for the weekend will soon be limited, both medically and practically, I was desperate to travel.

So desperate that my pregnancy-induced hormones successfully convinced Jon to launch a zero-hour search for nearby bed and breakfasts the Wednesday prior. Due to schedules and work, we knew we wouldn't be able to go far, and we were unimpressed with many of the available options...until Jon stumbled upon Hot Springs, Arkansas.

When I got home that Wednesday, I found Jon at the kitchen table with about six windows open on the computer. He started showing me some accomodations, and I knew he was on to something when he landed on "The Barrett-Browning Room" in a Victorian mansion called the 1884 Wildwood Bed and Breakfast. And then when he stumbled upon one of their relaxation packages entitled The Great Babymoon Escape...

The description from the website says it best, so here it is, verbatim:

"One last getaway before life changes drastically! Let us help you show her she is special! Candles, single rose, petals will be set up in your room as well as chilled non-alcoholic juice to toast to this new addition to your family. On to a full hour private couples massage. Hers will be a prenatal massage given by a certified prenatal massage therapist. His will be a therapeutic massage. A box of chocolates will be waiting to satisfy those cravings and a Victorian stuffed bear will be hers to take home."

It might as well have said The Great Babymoon Escape, Jon & Kristin.

This wouldn't have been much of a story if the room was unavailable, so needless to say, we were able to make the reservation, and on Friday afternoon, we set out for Hot Springs. The three-hour drive wasn't bad, especially considering that Jon was able to leave as soon as I finished class, meaning that we arrived around 6pm.

We headed straight for the bed and breakfast and were immediately greeted by the proprietor. We could tell instantly that we (well, Jon really) had made the right choice. We were given a brief tour of the beautiful home before being taken up to our room. Just before we walked in, the proprietor, David, checked one last time to "make sure everything was perfect." Well, it was, down to the soft music playing. All the little details, such as the rose petals, teddy bear, chocolates, and sparkling juice truly made it special. And I would be lying if I said I didn't notice the strategically placed Elizabeth Barrett-Browning texts.

Our room, upon arrival, really was perfect

Before we even had a chance to ask, David provided us with a list of restaurant recommendations, and we were delighted to discover that it was not an exhaustive list of options in town, but rather a selection of their favorites, complete with recommended dishes and location information. It should come as no surprise that I was pretty hungry by this point, so we headed out to dinner at a cute Italian restaurant in downtown Hot Springs.

It should also not be a surprise that I was tired, so we returned from dinner and went to bed early. We didn't know it at the time, but we had to rest up for the epic breakfast that awaited us in the morning. I can't say that I've ever had a multi-course breakfast before...unless you count the multiple servings of pancakes that my grandpa lovingly forces on us. Our first course consisted of a muffin, which was quiclky followed by a stuffed croissant (stuffed with deliciousness--even the eggs) and fruit. And then to top it off, a beautifully arranged plate of chocolate-covered strawberries, affectionately described by one of our fellow guests as "lady food."

After breakfast, the other proprietor, Rebecca, provided us with a tour of the home. Fortunately the original lady of the house left an extensive record of her life through her diaries, so there was quite a bit of information to be had. I'm sure the other guests had places to be, but they really missed out on some fascinating stories. The private tour worked to our advantage, however, because just as we finished prowling around the servants' quarters (getting me all hyped up to watch Downton Abbey), we found ourselves engaged with Rebecca in a discussion about our mutual experiences living in Europe. Such a small world.

We got to stay in the turret room!

There really wasn't much to do after the tour beside get ready for our couples' massage (what a difficult life we lead), so we headed out and only had to return once because I forgot the gift certificate. That pregnancy brain business is for real. Despite the detour, we still made it on time for our massage...ahhhhh. If I ever find myself rich, regular massages are definitely going to be at the top of my list (after donating to charity, of course).

Feeling very content and relaxed, we made our way back into Hot Springs and strolled through the quaint downtown area (childhood home of former President Bill Clinton, by the way) for a bit before heading to an early steak dinner. Early because we'd had such a large breakfast, there was no need for lunch, and steak...well, is there really a need to explain that?

We headed back to the bed and breakfast to call it a night. After scouring the extensive DVD collection, we settled on vintage Steve Martin and John Cleese and laughed our way through Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as we munched on our fancy box of chocolates. Yes, we are really this exciting.

Our final breakfast the next morning was just as good as the first, consisting of lemon poppyseed bread, sausage havarti egg, and strawberry pancakes. After some time to read and digest, we packed up for the trip back to Memphis. If it sounds like I'm advertising for our bed and breakfast, I totally am. It was a delightful place that I would recommend to anyone. If you ever find yourself in Hot Springs, Arkansas, please do yourself a favor by checking out the 1884 Wildwood Bed and Breakfast.

We did take our time on the way home, stopping in Little Rock for a little sightseeing. We drove past both the Capitol and Central High School (where the Little Rock Nine integrated the school system in 1957). Fortunately the Visitor Center was open at the latter, so we were able to get a dose of history as well, which I certainly appreciated, as I didn't have time to really check it out when I last chaperoned a field trip there a couple of years ago. But the highlight, for Jon, at least, was our stop at Diamond Bear Brewery. What a coincidence that he was able to find a brewery. Slightly tortuous for this pregnant lady, but at least they had root beer on draught.

And so, with that, our "babymoon" concluded. I'm so glad that we were able to get away and also to celebrate five years of marriage (again). Now we're totally ready for Baby...yeah, right.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pink or Blue?

We have decided not to find out the gender of our unborn child. Despite my OCD-like tendencies and anal retentive need to plan and organize, I really like surprises. And what better surprise than the identity of your child? Jon has been on board with this plan from the beginning, although I think his motivation is that he is convinced that whatever the ultrasound revealed would be wrong.

Most people have been very supportive of our decision to be surprised. And several friends/family members have gone this route lately, so it doesn't seem that strange to us. But, there are a few people who seem shocked. How will we know what to buy?!? Well, my answer to that is simple. Even if we knew the gender, we wouldn't go overboard with pink princess gear or blue truck apparel. From an economical standpoint, since we envision having more than one child (although we'll see how #1 goes first), we would like to use as much of this ridiculously expensive stuff again as possible.

And from a philosophical point of view, I feel that just because society wants to dictate our gender roles doesn't mean we have to follow them. If Baby Luigi is a girl, she can wear pink and purple dresses to her heart's content if she wants to. Likewise, she can wear baggy jeans, sneakers, and a baseball cap if she feels like it. But we're not going to force it, at least not all the time (some of those little dresses are pretty cute!). Sadly, there is a bit of a double-standard when it comes to boys and traditionally "girl" attire. Girls can wear boy clothes, but boys can't wear girl clothes. At any rate, what I'm getting at is that we would still have just as much green and yellow as we would blue or pink. And now I'm done with my feminist tangent.

Regardless, it's not like anyone knows anyway. I haven't had an ultrasound since about week 12, so there is no way that anyone could spill the beans (a not-so-secret fear of mine). I know it's a cliché , but we're really just hoping for a healthy baby. I've envisioned both scenarios--boy or girl--in my head and feel like it could go either way. While I initially thought Baby Luigi was a boy, lately, everyone else seems to think girl.

Yup, everyone else.

Because what we've discovered is that not finding out has turned every friend, acquaintance, and even stranger into Miss Cleo of 1-900 infamy. It's actually pretty fun to hear these guesses, as well as the reasoning behind them. And really, with the exception of the recent rash of girl predictions, it's been a pretty even boy/girl split...which is actually statistically accurate.

Some of our favorite reasons follow:

*It's a boy because I just know. -co-worker

*It's a girl because my mom had a girl first. -6-year-old writer (Here's how this conversation went: "What do you have already?" "Neither--this is our first baby." "Oh, then's a girl because I'm the oldest and I'm a girl.")

*It's a girl because your nose isn't getting bigger. And you haven't changed (ie, you aren't irritated all the time). -high school writer

*It's a boy/girl because you're carrying high/low. -multiple armchair doctors (The tricky thing with this one is that no one can seem to decide if carrying low--which I think I am--means boy or girl.)

*It's a boy because your brother has girls. -my mom

So, there you go. Like I told the dentist yesterday, we just hope it's one or the other.


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