We had a good morning making chocolate chip pancakes, watching Clifford, coloring with markers in coloring books, and hanging out in our PJs.

This afternoon I was blessed with some quiet time. My mom took the girls to her house, so I could rest. I have a sinus cold, or maybe a sinus infection, and really don't feel well.

Hopefully next week I'll be up to thinking creatively and posting some new blogs. Right now, my head is stuffed with pressure and I have a headache a lot of the time.

I hope you'll stay tuned... For now it's Kleenex, cold & sinus meds, and tea.



Today the weight of motherhood is heavy.

Today I have a head cold.

Today I had laundry going in both machines simultaneously, but forgot about it.

Today I drank lemon-honey tea.

Today I was embarrassed.

Today I am thankful for a husband who is a partner in life and in parenthood.

Today I feel a little happy and a little sad and not terribly creative.

That's my reality, today.


The Story of You

On Monday, my firstborn daughter will turn 6. I find myself reflecting on her life: 9 months of expecting her, 6 years, 72 months, 312 weeks, 2190 days, 52,560 minutes.

Let's rewind ...

We found out we were pregnant with Hannah one Sunday evening in May of 2003. I was scared and ecstatic all at the same time. I had a textbook pregnancy with Hannah, no problems. Some morning sickness, aches & pains, and outgrew all of my clothes. Halfway through the pregnancy we went in for an ultrasound. I couldn't wait to know if I was carrying a boy or a girl. I thought I was expecting a boy, Jonathan thought it was a girl. During the ultrasound she was sleeping and we couldn't get the money shot. The techs had me drink some apple juice and come back in a hour. Hannah had flipped over, but still had her legs crossed in such a way as to remain modest. I should've guessed right then. I cried in the car on the way home, disappointed not to know what gender our little firstborn was.

We settled on names: Benjamin Jack for a boy, Hannah Elizabeth for a girl. We nicknamed the baby "Benannah." I remember the first baby outfit I bought. I didn't know the gender so it didn't make sense to buy much, but I found a pair of baby blue velour jammies with a little snap dropseat, and I just couldn't resist.

I felt her move for the first time on our wedding anniversary. I've always thought that was special.

We were living in Canada at the time, and when I was 6 months along we moved to Oregon. It was still a mystery as to her gender and identity, but with entering the 3rd trimester it was quite clear that our lives were about to change. Sometime in that last trimester, my sister painted my belly with red & orange flames (which worked remarkably well to disguise the stretch marks) and dubbed me "Hot Mama!" I was mortified but it made for some good laughs.

At 7 months, Jonathan & I made a special trip to a Fetal Fotos ultrasound clinic to find out who was hiding out in there. We took my sister, Melissa. It was a memorable day! I was still thinking "blue", so when the ultrasound technician pointed out the distinguishing parts, I yelled, "Girl!" in complete surprise. It was so amazing to finally KNOW and to be able to call her by her name. We signed the clinic's guest book with her name "Hannah Elizabeth."

From there, we went to Babies 'R Us, because after waiting seven months, I was ready to start shopping! I don't remember specifically many of the little sleepers I picked out, but I'll never forget Jonathan's selection: a little yellow Pooh raincoat. We also purchased her first teddy bear -- very soft with a yellow gingham ribbon bow. We went home on cloud 9 -- we were going to be parents and we were having a DAUGHTER!

At home I couldn't resist popping the video of her ultrasound into the VCR to watch her move again. The next day we took the video AND the bear AND the new raincoat and stack of pink sleepers to show co-workers at work, because boy howdy! We were going to be parents!

The next two months slowly crept by, including Christmas, and when I thought I couldn't get any bigger and couldn't stand the waiting any longer, I went into labor.

22 hours later, at 10:52 p.m. on January 18, 2004, Hannah Elizabeth was born, weighing almost exactly 8 pounds and 20" long. She had just a tiny bit of soft light brown hair, and beautiful blue eyes, one with a fleck of gold. We thought her eyes were trying to change to hazel or brown, but to this day, she has beautiful blue eyes, one with a fleck of gold that many people have commented on.

She was born needing a bit of oxygen, so the first glimpse of my daughter's face was on the screen of my mom's digital camera. I had to stay in bed, so Mom went over to the bassinet where they were working on Hannah and took her picture. 5 or so minutes later, they handed her to me, my daughter!, and I held her and soaked in her face and said to her wise, old-soul, gold-flecked eyes, "Are you Mommy's Little Love?" I remember thinking how very right it was. How she was obviously ours.

It's been almost 6 years since that moment, and she has taught me how to be a mother.

She is the first baby I nursed, the first I rocked to sleep in a nursery softly lit by night-light, the first I sang to, the first to call me "Mama", the first I bathed in the sink, the first I found breathtaking, the first to steal my heart (she now takes it to Kindergarten every day).

Hannah's favorite baby book was Goodnight Moon. That book will always hold a special spot in my heart. She was a fairly happy baby, and as soon as she arrived, I knew I had.

So many memories and moments come to mind when I think of our Hanny-girl: singing her back to sleep at 3 a.m., my grandfather who adored her and called her "the Little Love", her first steps at 8 months, the Thanksgiving she took off walking like a wind-up doll at 10.5 months. Hannah, I have learned throughout her life, is very adventurous and independent. I remember her scaling the bookshelf, rock-climbing fashion, before she could walk. I fondly remember all the walks we went on around our little town, fresh air and seeing people, checking out more books at the library, picking up milk at the grocery store, with her tucked snugly in her Evenflo stroller. I remember the little plastic links that clipped on one end to the stroller frame and on the other end held a tiny board book. I remember her soft pink bunny I bought her when she was 6 weeks old. He was the first stuffed "friend" to accompany her on an outing in her carseat, the first trip being a well-baby appointment. Jonathan & I dubbed her "Bug", for a reason I can't remember now, and we called the bunny "Bug's Bunny."

It was magical to see the world through her eyes, and to see the world look at her. It still is today. What I didn't know when I first held my daughter, was that she would be compassionate and social, independent and head-strong, wise and sensitive, emotional and sweet; that she would be the best of both Jonathan and me. I blink a tear away and know that she's growing further and further from that baby I held, but I look forward with great anticipation to seeing who and what she will become. I think that whatever she does and wherever she goes, she will not be afraid to try new things and she will always know when someone is hurting, and want to make it better.

Happy Birthday, Hannah-girl!


Raising Awareness

Today I want to write about something outside of my usual sphere of interest. This weekend I watched a social documentary called "Walk to Beautiful" about Ethiopian women who suffer from obstetric fistulas. If you have Netflix, you can request the DVD, or watch it instantly on your computer or TV.

A fistula is essentially a hole between the birth canal and one or more internal organs, which causes permanent incontinence of urine and/or stool. What causes a fistula? There are a few different causes, but most commonly it occurs in women in remote areas of the world who do not have professional help during labor & delivery. In Ethiopia, for example, less than 60% of women have anyone trained present for their labor and delivery. When complications arise, which they do in approximately 15% of cases, there is no one there to help get the baby out in a timely manner (via vacuum extraction or Caesarean section), and a woman will literally be in labor for days (called obstructed labor), until the mother and/or the baby die. When a woman survives, commonly the baby does not, and she is left with the devastation of the loss of her child and a fistula.

Due to the stench of constant leaking of urine or feces, the woman is shunned by her husband and community, and forced to create a shelter for herself away from her family and friends. She can no longer work, and is destined to live out the remainder of her days until death alone. Due to lack of information, women will likely not even know what their problem is called, or that there is hope for a complete recovery with a surgical procedure to repair the fistula.

If a woman somehow hears this message of hope, they will often walk for hours or days to the nearest bus stop, enduring a hot, smelly & humiliating bus trip for many more hours or days to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. At the hospital they will meet other women with the same condition. They will be taught about things like domestic violence, rape, and labor & delivery. They will know they are not alone, and will find out what has caused their problem. They will form friendships with the other women there, and be treated with kindness and compassion by the doctors and nurses at the hospital. A doctor will examine them and take a history, asking how long the woman was in labor, if the baby lived or died, and how it was delivered. (One woman on the documentary had been in labor for a week, the baby had died, and eventually it had been 'pulled out' of her. Another woman reported her dead child being removed piece by piece.) I know this is not easy to read, and it's certainly not easy for me to write about. It breaks my heart. After the history & exam, the doctor will tell the woman where the hole is, and explain how it can be repaired.

A trained fistula surgeon will operate, repairing the hole with an intravaginal procedure. The patient will then be cared for post-operatively for about 2 weeks, while she and the medical staff wait to see if the operation was successful. Once her bed is consistently dry (the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has over a 90% success rate), the woman is given a new dress, bus fare, and discharged back to her community, taking with her knowledge to share with the women in her area about the importance of going to a hospital when they are ready to have their baby. According to one Ethiopian woman, "Most people don't know that a hospital can help them, but if they knew, they'd go." At a hospital, women who develop complications during labor or delivery will have doctors to perform a C-section, thereby preventing a fistula caused by prolonged, traumatic labor.

Once back to their village, women are accepted back into their families' homes and slowly they can rebuild a new life. Some women choose not to go back, due to the horrible way in which they were treated. One (very young) woman on the documentary refused to go home, and a nurse at the fistula hospital put her in touch with a lady who runs an orphanage for babies and children whose parents have died of HIV. The young woman went to live there permanently, and I cannot tell you how touched I was to see her paired up with a parentless child, as the director of the orphanage told the child, "This will be your mother now."

Fistulas used to be common in Europe and the United States, but since the development of easily accessible emergent obstetrical care and common practice of using C-section to resolve obstructed labor, the vast majority of fistulas occur in remote places around the world where there are either no hospitals or trained professionals, or where there is a lack of knowledge regarding the importance of laboring at a hospital or near one. Today the World Health Organization estimates there are roughly 2 million women world-wide living with fistula, and another 100,000 women will develop fistula each year. Fistula is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Fistula sufferers are broken physically, socially, and psychologically. Many consider suicide. Their life is essentially ruined. It is a heartbreaking problem, and it's amazing to consider that if I lived in one of these remote areas of Ethiopia, I could easily have lost my firstborn daughter in labor, without a doctor to perform the vacuum extraction that brought her into the world. She was face up and had her arm up by her head, making it impossible for me to deliver her on my own. If the vacuum extraction had not worked, I would have had a C-section. Neither of these options would have been available to me in remote areas of Africa or Asia. I also had a miscarriage and a handful of surgeries as a result. Without access to medical care, I would likely have died from at least three of the problems requiring the surgeries. We are excessively blessed to live in places with hospitals nearby, trained medical professionals, medication, clean water, medical insurance, and nutritious food.

I want to help. I want to do something to give my Ethiopian sisters a chance at recovery and a new life. It costs approximately $450 US dollars to give one woman a fistula repair operation, post-operative care, education, a new dress, and bus fare home. $450! Not just for hope, but for a whole new life.

If you want to help, and I pray some of you do, you can donate to the Fistula Foundation here. Any amount will help. If you want to give the entire $450 to give an Ethiopian woman a new life, participate in the Love-a-Sister program here. There is even an option to have your credit card charged $37.50 monthly for a year. At the end of the year, you will have given $450, the total amount needed to bless an Ethiopian woman.

I thank you for reading and considering. For more information on the Fistula Foundation, click here.


Things We Do

1.) Visit the library and stock up on new & old favorites in the children's section. Watch my girls make a puppet show. My 3 year-old might find new must-have shoes on a random child and ask to try them on. My 5 year-old might arrange all the big stuffed animals around a circular colored table and set them all up reading Curious George. I might sit and scribble in my notebook for 5 minutes, all while being interrupted by the chirpy 3 year-old's need to go potty, or my need to chase said 3 year-old down before she scales the stairs to the (shhhhhh!) adult section. My 5 year-old and I might track down books I read as a child (can I describe these troves as vintage yet?) And undoubtedly, we will leave with so many books & movies in my big tote that my back is nearly out of alignment by the time we get to the car.

2.) Go on a walk to the nearby school playground, where we swing (sometimes even me), slide (last time my 5 year-old slid through a standing puddle from the rain, and left the playground with a wet rump, completely unamused), run pel-mel across the field while Mama cheerleads, "GO! Good running! Wow, you're fast! Look at you, you're flying!!!!" secretly thinking perhaps this will tire them out and they'll sleep REALLY well tonight... "3" loves to stand behind a little plastic ledge and pretend she works at a coffee shop. I have no idea where she learned about coffee.... ;-) "5" likes to play some version of hop scotch and tether ball and she especially loves when there are other kids to interrogate, er...., get acquainted with. I especially love to photograph all of this random merriment.

3.) Enjoy a 15 minute drive to the beach, all the while listening to music and enjoying the relaxation of sitting, which can only be truly appreciated by parents of Small Children Who Love To Run & Climb. 15 minutes that "5" and "3" are buckled safely & securely into their car seats. When we get there we might jump in the tide with our pantlegs rolled up (or, if you're "3" you might just ditch the britches altogether...), make a sandcake with stick-and-feather candles, "3" might chase seagulls or scatter Goldfish crackers for them to snack on, and once again, Mama might recline against a log and attempt to scribble profound thoughts in a notebook for 5 minutes. "5" might pick the little purple wildflowers and "3" will definitely haul rocks about and sort them into piles. Before or afterwards we might take 30 lovely minutes to get a snack at the nearby coffee shop and "3" will play with toys the establishment keeps on hand for kids just like herself, and "5" will definitely ask for a vanilla steamer. We will laugh and fill our bellies to satisfaction and then go home and wash our sandy feet in the bathtub, because Mama likes playing, but also likes tidiness.

4.) Come home from Kindergarten and after-school errands, change into comfy clothes, make tea (or pink milk for "3"), and pile onto the couch all in a heap to decompress. Mama might read 6 or 8 or 10 children's books, or we might watch "Free Willy" (because "5" adores whales), or "Parent Trap" (the new or the old version will do), or if we are feeling particularly sacrificial, watch an episode of "Dora" (because "3" is attached to the little explorer, and her voice which makes Mama's ears bleed, and her little pal Boots the Monkey [probably because of his stylish red footwear]).

5.) Create Art at our dining table where "3" will use crayons and "5" will need markers or colored pens and a host of paper/coloring books, and definitely tape, because "5" has discovered that she can be a veritable ENGINEER if she just has TAPE. If they get really involved in their creations, Mama will (you guessed it) attempt to scribble in her notebook for 5 minutes.

6.) Have tea parties. Sometimes these involve invitations and RSVPs and fine ladies and small descendants and a tea kettle and boxes of tea and silver spoons and a tribe of mugs and a tall glass canister of sugar and a little pitcher of cream. More often, the parties happen at the round coffee table in the living room, atop our finest tablecloth (a baby blanket), laid with our fanciest play teacups (fancy enough to actually chip and shatter) on our fanciest saucers, with tiny silver spoons placed before each large stuffed friend, who answer to names like Tigger, Pooh, and Jagbar the Orangutan (stand-up fellow, that one!)

These are the memories we are making. These are the days and the moments I will remember. These are the things I do when I "don't have time" and have "things I need to do" and when my floor is dirty and the laundry is formed into small mountains by my washing machine. And I never regret it. And after two little girls are snug in their beds, I sometimes stay up late recording our little moments and epic adventures, and I indulge in the quiet and take more than 5 minutes (!), scribbling their little girl dialogue and thought-provoking questions into my notebook and pasting in the photographs that (attempted to) capture the moment.



In my last post I talked about the concept of choosing a word for the year, made popular by blogger Ali Edwards. I've been thinking quite a bit the last few days about what word to choose. I entertained quite a few "candidates" before I decided on my word for 2010:



1. a place in which to rear young
2. a number of birds, etc... inhabiting one such place.
3. a snug retreat or refuge; resting place; home.


1. to build or have a nest.
2. to create and settle into a warm and secure refuge.
3. to fit together or within another or one another.

Lately I've begun to think of cleaning my house as "feathering the nest." It gives the menial and repetitive tasks such a positive, airy slant. I love being home and enjoy making our home a safe, cozy, tidy, functional, supportive place. I like how a nest is where baby birds are nurtured, just as this phase of my life is largely about raising my little girls. I like how it will remind me of my true priority: to create a home and a family.

I want to intentionally create a sacred, loving refuge for the man and little women I treasure.

Have you chosen YOUR word yet?


Just One Word

Several of the blogs I follow are abuzz with the concept of selecting a word for the year. Words I've read about being selected are "Story", "Prosper", "Dance", and more...

I'm doing a lot of thinking about the word I would choose.

The word you choose is meant to be sort of a motto, to help you get back on track and focus on what your priority for the year is, to reflect what your goal or intent is for 2010.

Just one word... what would YOU choose?
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