Monday, June 17, 2013


As of today, I have 12 days standing between me and my departure from the Mojave Desert.  It has been 2 years and 2 months since we first drove out to the base from the northeast side of town.  I looked out my window at the junkyards of Boron and choked back the tears.  I wondered how nice of a trailer home our BAH would pay for.  Luckily I soon discovered civilization (sort of) laid on the other side of the base boundaries.  It has been an interesting few years, to say the least.  I will list for you now the 6 best and 6 worst things about this assignment.  And the 6 worst will be fleeting and silly in comparison to the 6 best, because as much as I never thought it would happen, this place got under my skin.  I really loved our time here, and am sad to leave.  But also, ready to leave.  Let's be real.

The Bad
1) The desert heat and wildlife.  Dozens of 100+ degree days, one after another.   I look like Carrot Top I have so many freckles. And sure, it's kind of neat seeing the coyotes and the bobcats (unless they ate your dog, as is the case with a few acquaintances on base), but the giant spiders are more stomach churning than awe inspiring.  I still haven't seen a snake so I refuse to acknowledge their existence here.  Knock on wood.
2) LA traffic.  One of the few places in the universe where you can get stuck in bumper-to-bumper jams after midnight.
3) The Wizard of Oz-esque winds, and sonic booms that shake the house, set off car alarms, and traumatize Buster.
4) 16 miles to the nearest Target.
5) DSL internet that moves slower than your grandma.
6) CRV on cans and bottles.  So for you non-CA residents, we have to pay a deposit when we buy soda or bottled water, and then bring all our empty cans/bottles to a recycling place to get our deposit back.  It's like they punish people who want to do the right thing and recycle by making it extra inconvenient.  Plus, our local recycling guy was basically like Lurch from the Addams family.  Spooky, ooky, and never in a good mood.

The Good
1) Vallarta's - the Mexican supermercado chain.  The music, the colors, the smells - it makes grocery shopping feel like Carnivale.
2) Living in a donut hole.  There may be nothing here, but there are many things to see around us, two hours or so in every direction.  Just a few things we've seen out here: Vegas, Grand Canyon, White Sands, Petrified Forest, San Diego, LA, and San Francisco. And we still haven't seen half of what there is to see.
3) Eternal sunshine.  I know I complained about the heat on the bad list, but I do enjoy the sunshine here.  The one time it rained this spring my dogs refused to go outside and seemed genuinely confused.  They've forgotten what rain is.  We didn't even own an umbrella until our San Fran trip.  I'm not looking forward to the long wet winters that haunt the Midwest.
4) Leaving behind the house that was our son's first home.  This is totally irrational, but I have been getting all weepy packing up our stuff.  Painting D's room back to white and taking all his froggie decorations off the walls was sad!  We haven't lived here that long, and we're renting, but because this is where our son came home from the hospital and spent his first 9 months, I guess I will always have a sentimental attachment to it.  My mom says, "don't be sad, you get to take D with you!"  And it's true.  As they say, home is where the heart is (and also, where the AF sends you.)
5) Our squadron family.  T's first assignment was school, so it wasn't really a typical AF experience.  It was hard for us to make friends and find a sense of community.  Only days after our arrival here I was invited to my first spouse coffee.  I knew instantly this would be a totally different experience.  I was welcomed and supported by experienced military wives.  We've enjoyed attending all the squadron events like the family picnics and holiday parties.  Also I was so appreciative after the birth of my son when four frozen meals magically showed up at my door from the squadron. We may not have extended family nearby, but we have people who take care of us like family, and that is amazing.  We've been so grateful and privileged to be a part of this squadron and are sad to leave it behind.
6) My friends.  Only a few days after my arrival I was adopted by E, who dragged me to yoga where I met another E, who made me join spouses club.  From there, I have met a flurry of energetic, bright, and hilarious women.  I have many great memories, such as endless strings of baby showers (including my own), learning to play bunco like a real AF wife, hosting girls movie night while we all waited for the guys to return from roll call, road trips to Pasadena, board game nights, lunch playdates at K's, and many more.  Without all of you, this assignment could have been unbearable.  With you, it was a wonderful 2 years of great memories.  I will miss you girls, until our AF paths cross again.  Hopefully not in the desert though.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Flying By

If you've been outside in the high desert recently, you may have noticed that it is one giant tornado of dust.  Yesterday marked the worst weather day since we moved here over two years ago.  The winds were gusting to 75 mph, and all the major highways into town (well one actual highway and a sketchy rural hobo road) closed due to blowing dust and multiple vehicle accidents.  Our neighbors' gross old mattress that has been sitting in their driveway for weeks blew into our yard five or six times.  Each time we dutifully picked it up, put it back in their yard, and used copious amounts of hand sanitizer.  Luckily we had no damage, only some small fallen tree branches and a traumatized labrador retriever.  Today seems much more tranquil.  I am thankful for any day without dirt in my contacts.

We took D to two sporting events this past week. It was a little anxiety inducing, because I generally don't like to drag him all over town, but he did so great.  At the Kings/Wild hockey game in LA, he sported T's giant ear protectors.  Our hometown team, the Wild, played horribly.  There were many drunken Kings fans, some spouting obscenities.  It's funny how being a mother changes your perspective.  That never used to bother me before, but now I'm more sensitive to it, as I know soon I will have a son who will repeat whatever negative language he hears.  I wish people could have a little more respect in the presence of families.  Many an intoxicated lady hit on D and his handsome blue eyes, including a woman who started crying in the restroom when she saw him, saying it made her miss her baby who'd she'd left at home.  It was disappointing that we didn't get to see a better game, but going to the Staples Center is always an interesting outing if nothing else.  Our second event was the Jethawks baseball game in Lancaster.  We went with several other families and saw a great game.  The wind was already swirling though, so we were all huddled together under blankets, teeth chattering.  D was in an energetic mood and didn't really feel like sitting.  His big new thing is pulling himself up, standing, and bouncing up and down.  He finally passed out before the 7th inning stretch.  We checked baseball and hockey off the list, now we just need to get D to a football game!

D has recently begun to challenge his nighttime sleep routine.  After being a champ for the first months, he no longer feels he should have to sleep in his crib.  I know there are many schools of thought on letting them cry it out versus soothing them.  We've been operating somewhere in between, which may be our problem.  I can't stand hearing that cry, like most mothers.  And last night when I checked on him, he was wailing and put his arms up to be picked up, one of the first times he's done that.  I melted.  We do try to let him go 5-10 minutes at a time before rocking him and putting him back in, and do not let him sleep in our bed.  I'll keep you posted on who wins the war, pretty sure I lost the battle last night though.  I have the dark circles under my eyes to prove it.  He's also become temperamental with solid foods after eating well for a month.  Some days he's ravenous, other days he all out boycotts it.  I sort of suspect he may be teething, or perhaps it is just a phase he's going through.  Even taking into account the hard moments, D is overall a joy to be around.  He smiles a million times a day, and has a deep belly giggle that is infectious.  His favorite book is A Monster At The End of this Book featuring Grover.  He likes Elmo's World on Sesame Street.  He calls Buster "Baba," but we're still working on Mama and Dada.  He's sort of crawled once, but went backwards.  His favorite item is Mommy's cell phone.  D is over 7 months old already, I can't believe it!

Time is flying by.  We only have a little over two months left here in the desert.  It is certainly not the most attractive locale in the world.  But it has been an amazing two years.  We've seen the Grand Canyon, Vegas, San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Monterey, White Sands, and much more.  We've been a part of an amazing AF family and have made great new friends.  We had our first son which is a fun adventure that has only just begun. When we go back to Ohio, I will be sure to correct those who say negative things about this assignment.  I will tell them that it is what you make of it, and for our family, it was a wonderful, memorable chapter.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It Lives!!!'s been a while since my last post.  Try an eternity.  I could name any number of excuses: adorable infant son, icky migraines, several seasons of Army Wives on Netflix calling my name, seasonal affective disorder during the windy "winter" months here in the desert, etc.  The point is, I am back!  Think of this post as the renaissance of my blog, a rebirth of sorts.  As you may have guessed, a lot has happened in the last few months that I need to catch you, my loyal readers, up on.

The Big "D"
My afore-mentioned infant son D is now 6 months old!  He is currently wearing 12 month clothing.  His legs are longer than most toddlers.  Not exaggerating.  D is the most amazing little person.  It's true what they say, every day brings something new with a baby.  We've progressed from coos and giggles to glass shattering shrieks and pterodactyl noises, to babbling dadadas and lalalalas (but with some pterodactyl still thrown in for variety).  Being a stay-at-home mommy is the best job in the world.  His coy smile, innocent curiosity, and amazement at the world around him make even the difficult days so rewarding.  Take today: we're coming off of a four day vacation.  His schedule got completely thrown off, especially with daylight savings time on Sunday.  D woke up this morning in full-on dictator mode.  He is quite frankly a tyrant.  I can't put him down or leave him alone without tears.  He refuses to nap.  My hair is full of cereal he rubbed on my head in an angry rage, and my sweats are caked with spitup, drool, and god knows what else.  But when I pick him up and feel his chubby arms wrap around me,those bright baby blues fixed on me, and a mischevious grin creeping onto his lips, I am filled with joy and love.

Family Invasion
We had visits from both sides of our family in the month of December. First, my family rolled in. My big brother came in from the east coast, my little sister from Canada, and my parents from Minnesota.  This marked the first time when all three siblings had been in the same location since July of 2009.  Back then, my brother still had a full head of hair! Just kidding...we'd have to go way further back than that.

T's parents arrived on Christmas, followed by his aunt, uncle, and cousins a few days later.

We loved having a full house around the holidays.  Our families enjoyed the best the high desert has to offer - not much, but lots of hiking, games, and time spent bonding with D, who soaked up all the attention lavished on him.  On New Year's Day T got to go to the Rose Bowl Game.  Wisconsin was playing, which is where he was born, so it was an awesome opportunity to see a hometown team play in a big game at a storied venue.  Granted, they got beaten.  Badly.

God, I hate the Buckeyes.  Nevertheless, the Buckeye State keeps calling us home.  We found out a few months back that we are being stationed at a base in Ohio (again) starting this summer.  It is a great opportunity for T to earn another advanced degree (I am married to such an egghead :)).  Ohio is also a great location to raise a little man - lots of parks, museums, and activities catered to children.  We're looking at buying our first house.  It is very exciting, but is also very stress-inducing!  It feels very adult.  Too adult.  When did we get so old?  We have had a surprisingly great run out here on "the island," and will be sad to leave our friends behind (although pretty much everyone we know is leaving this summer!!).  Our good friends are also headed to Ohio with us, which is awesome.  July marks our official departure from the desert.  We will be staying a few weeks in Minnesota with family before moving onto (hopefully) our new house in Ohio.  Stay posted - our Midwest or Bust adventure has just begun.

Cali Travels
News of our impending departure made us eager to see what we can in California while we still have time.  In late January, we visited San Diego.  T's brother and his girlfriend came from Minnesota and drove down from LA with us.  We stayed in a beautiful hotel near the water.  Highlights included the San Diego Zoo and touring the USS Midway.

After our trip, T's relatives came back to the desert with us for a short visit.  The four of us spent a good 12 hours working on a jigsaw puzzle.  D was our cheerleader. Such is entertainment here.

Last week we went to San Francisco and Monterey.  Touring Alcatraz was a highlight, as T and I are both history buffs. Luckily everyone has headphones in for the audio tour, because D joyously shrieked through the whole thing.  The sun made a rare appearance when we went hiking at the Presidio near the Golden Gate Bridge.

My personal highlight in Monterey was the 19 Mile scenic drive.  D got to put his toes in the sands of the Pacific Ocean, and we saw harbor seals bopping in the water.

The weather was mixed, cold wet winds and chilly temps, but being native Minnesotans we managed with only minimal bitching.  That was probably our last Cali roadtrip.  We may squeeze in a few day trips yet, we're going to an LA Kings hockey game in April, and maybe a Dodgers game in May, but that's it.  Time is flying by.

Miscellaneous Notes
-We got rid of DirecTV and moved to streaming only.  Money-saving, and has opened my eyes to a whole new world of TV.  My favorite? Scandal.  Love Olivia Pope.  I am tempted every morning to chant "I am a gladiator" to myself in the mirror.
-Really sick of everything about the sequester, gun control, health insurance, etc...especially political posts for either side on facebook and social media.  Thinking maybe my sister has the right idea with moving to Canada.
-Did yard work last night and spent the remainder of the evening wheezing and chasing Benedryl.  Whoever said there were no allergens in the desert was a liar.
-Migraines have been straight up nasty lately.  See above post about allergens.  Damn desert.
-I joined the real world with my first smartphone - a Samsung Galaxy S3.  I like being able to access the internet, but it turns out smartphones don't fix the fact that we live in the middle of nowhere - still drops just as many calls as my old hunk of junk phone.
-Buster and Tess are in love with D - they are best friends.  Buster sleeps every night in the nursery. May have to set up some rules of engagement though.  Recently found Buster trying to snuggle with D's bare baby butt during naked playtime.  And caught Tess licking oatmeal off of D's bib.

Whew.  I think that's everything!  I will be sure to update the blog more often going forward.  I am hoping for once a week, but at least twice a month.  There are busy months ahead with lots of life-changing events - stay tuned!

Friday, December 14, 2012

An Austen Addiction

The other night, T and I were watching TV, and as is often the case, there was nothing on.  We have movie channels for a few months (so that we can watch Homeland on Showtime), and while flipping we stumbled on the early 90s thriller The Net.  It features a young Sandra Bullock (but I swear she hasn't aged a day since) and dashing British actor Jeremy Northam (well helllllllloooooo there).  T asked what else Jeremy Northam had been in.  I sighed wistfully, nearly swooning as I responded, "he's Mr. Knightley."  Mr. Knightley is the romantic protagonist in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's novel "Emma."  That movie marked my first exposure to the world of Austen at age 12, and since that day my obsession with it has only grown stronger.

I wish I could put a finger on what it is about Austen's stories that attract me.  Austenland is undeniably...stuffy? Her novels have a proclivity towards run-on sentences overflowing with monotonous flowery descriptions of things like tea and crumpets.  And yet, as much as Austen's world is ruled by a strict caste system, her characters tend to rebel against what is considered "proper."  I think what I love about Austen is her careful crafting of strong and independent female heroines.  It was brave (even dare I say, ballsy) for her to make a career out of creating such progressive representations of women. She did so in a country (Great Britain) that would not allow women such as herself to vote until more than a hundred years after her death.

My favorite Austen novel?  Hands down, Pride and Prejudice.  I love stories with lots and lots of characters with storylines intersecting and chaos ensuing.  The five Bennett sisters provide plenty of romance, drama, and even laughs as they navigate the delicate transition from girlhood to womanhood.  Pride and Prejudice has more laughs than some of Austen's other novels.  It's easy to chuckle at the overbearing Mrs. Bennett (worst prospective mother-in-law EVER) and delight in the schemes of the dastardly Wickham.   Yet Pride and Prejudice also delivers some of Austen's most deeply moving passages.  The letter that a tortured Darcy writes to Elizabeth is achingly romantic.

My favorite Austen film adaptation?  Hands down, Pride and Prejudice.  But no, not the Colin Firth version. I don't care how good Firth looks shirtless in that famous pond scene.  There is no amount of partial nudity that makes a six-part 323 minute miniseries bearable.  Rather, I prefer the more recent Keira Knightley version.  It captures what I perceive to be Austen's intent when she wrote the novel - the laughs and tears that come from issues of family and love.  I cried like a baby at one of the last scenes in the film between Elizabeth (Knightley) and her father (Donald Sutherland, British edition).  I'm such a daddy's girl.  It's one of my go-to movies that I find myself reaching for over and over again.  You know those movies you buy, and then wonder, why did I buy that, I never feel like watching it?.  This is not one of those.

The worst of Austen?  Mansfield Park.  I'm sorry for you Fanny lovers out there, but it is not my favorite.  Fanny is weak, whiny, and obsessed with her cousin.  Gross.  The book and the movie are equally awful.  Poor Frances O'Connor.  Every movie she's in, all I can think is, "oh, there's that annoying b$#%h from Mansfield Park."  Not really a career starter.  This is the type of movie you only watch at 3am when you can't sleep, you're depressed, and the universal remote is out of batteries and you're too lazy to get new ones out of the garage.

New Austen-esque projects I am excited for?  The book and film Austenland.  The book by Shannon Hale is already out, and there is a sequel to it as well.  It is about a woman obsessed with everything Austen who takes a trip to the UK for an Austen themed vacation. Predictably, romance and hijinks ensue. The film starring Keri Russell (Felicity, represent!)  is currently in production.    I can't wait to check out both.

The world of Austen is worth exploring, if you haven't already.  To recap:
Recommended reads: Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.  I haven't read Northanger Abbey or Persuasion, but have heard good things, especially about Persuasion.  As stated earlier, skip Mansfield Park (book and film) unless you're into self-harm.  There are many great works out there written for Austen fans about Austen fans.  One of my favorites is Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter.  You can get through it in about a half hour, but it's a fun thirty minutes.
Recommended films: Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow version preferred to Kate Beckinsale version but both acceptable), Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet version), and Pride and Prejudice.  Also Lost in Austen (PBS/BBC miniseries) and Becoming Jane (semi-factual autobiography of Austen), while not true film adaptations of her novels, are great movies for the devoted fan.  I really wanted to like The Jane Austen Book Club, but it is god-awful.  I can't put my finger on what was wrong with it, in theory it sounded awesome. It's amazing the damage a poorly written screenplay can do.   If Emily Blunt could make one thing disappear off of her IMDB page, I'm guessing it's that.

Jane Austen's works have touched women for generations.  Her characters continue to resonate with us.  They make us laugh, cry, and most importantly, empathize.  We feel a connection to them.  They are our friends, our sisters.  When Elizabeth (Pride and Prejudice) is described as "barely tolerable" by Darcy at the ball, we feel hurt on her behalf and want to slap Darcy for being such a jerk.  When Marianne (Sense and Sensibility) chases pathetically after Willoughby, we want to take her aside and give our girlfriend some tough love.  And when each of the stories conclude, we cheer when the good girls finally get their well-deserved happy endings.  Are Jane Austen's love stories realistic?  Probably not.  Have Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley contributed to women having ridiculously inflated expectations of what men should be capable of romantically?  Hell yes.  And yet, who cares?  There's something to be said for escapism.  As Jane (Anne Hathaway) says in Becoming Jane, "My characters will have, with a little trouble, all that they desire."  And we as a reader (or viewer) will have all that we desire too.  So curl up with a good book, or movie, and enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Adventures in Baby Rearing (and Breathing)

Have you guys ever seen the 80's movie Adventures in Babysitting?  It's a quirky comedy starring Elisabeth Shue as Chris Parker, a responsible babysitter watching her two regular charges on what seems to be an average evening. She receives a call from a frantic friend in need of a ride home.  Chris packs the kids up in the car for what was to be a quick trip to aid the friend.  In typical cinematic fashion, nothing goes as planned.  The trio are forced to weather a wild night punctuated by a shootout, singing in a blues club, and a fraternity party.  Chris makes some questionable choices, which lead to comedic chaos.  But by the time the credits roll, a happy ending is had by all.  That parable sounds a lot like my life lately, except I'm not just sitting a kid, I'm raising one.  Which means I am less adept at seeing the comedy in the chaos, and more likely to wallow in the drama, at least right now.

As I shared in my last post, Baby D had an exciting visit to the hospital a few weeks back.  He's healthy and happy now, but it was a fairly traumatic event for a new mother such as myself.  I've found myself even more worried and anxious about his well-being than I was to begin with (which was plenty).  I also stated in my last post that while difficult, I was finding breastfeeding to be a rewarding experience.  Well, it ceased to feel rewarding after I endured a multi-day migraine, the result of which was a dwindling milk supply and an inability to care for Baby D properly since I was unable to get off the couch and out from under my ice pack.

I made the difficult decision to move to formula feeding.  After a day of feeding him formula, everything seemed to be going well.  I went to make more bottles for the next day, read the side of the formula can, and gasped in horror.  I realized that I had been making the bottles at double the correct concentration.  Somehow, I had committed the ultimate in mental lapses.  And I was convinced I had killed my child.  His pediatrician assured me everything would be fine and that no lasting damage had been done.  Disregarding this, I spent the next few days tied up in knots, watching Baby D for any signs of distress, fretting over every grunt (which for those of you with newborns know, is rather a frequent occurrence).  Baby D was of course, just fine. So I allowed myself to breathe.  For a split second.

Then this weekend I came down with a mild cold.  Probably because all this stressing had weakened my immune system.  Which meant of course, that should those germs spread to Baby D, he would become sick again, no doubt be hospitalized, and it would be all my fault.  And I was convinced I had killed my child (are we seeing a trend here yet?).  I used excess amounts of hand sanitizer, stifled every sneeze, and feared I was spreading disease just by looking at him.  Well the weekend came and went, and Baby D was of course, just fine.  So I allowed myself to breathe.  For now.

This evening was spent with my darling son, fabulous and patient husband, and loyal canines.  We had tummy time with Baby D on the floor.  I marveled at his wide innocent eyes soaking up every new sight and reacting to every new sound.  I delighted in watching the dogs lick his toes and keep watch over him as he napped.   I giggled at his goofy faces as he let out an adorable toot (not so adorable was what inevitably followed).  I sighed with happiness as I looked around the room and silently gave thanks for this wonderful gift, my family. It was a quiet moment of reflection that allowed me to realize that I am never going to be a perfect mother.  The mistakes I've made recently are likely the first of many.  However, I love Baby D fiercely, and will do anything and everything within my power to protect him and keep him safe in this crazy world.  And that truly is enough.

I can't say I won't ever worry or feel guilty again.  I can say though that I will be making a concerted effort to live in the moment, and cherish every second of this beautiful time.  I will do my best to not get bogged down with the details.  They say kids grow up so fast, and that infancy is over in a flash.  Well then - I will give him millions of kisses every day, inhale as much of his baby smell as I can stand, take thousands of pictures and videos, and enjoy each minute.  And maybe someday I'll be able to see the comedy in the chaos too.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Becoming a Mom

One month and one day ago, our lives were forever changed.  We welcomed Baby D into the world on September 4th, 2012.  He weighed 7lbs, 6oz, and measured 20.5." Baby D was (and is) perfect.

If there was one thing I gleaned from watching numerous episodes of "A Baby Story" throughout my pregnancy (other than a feeling of complete terror), it was that labor seldom goes by your birth plan.  Therefore, I didn't really have a set birth plan, beyond that I preferred an epidural if the situation allowed for it.  Well, the situation did not allow for it, and things didn't go as planned.  After a prolonged and painful failed attempt at induction, I ended up with a Caesarean section.  They gave me spinal anesthesia, which worked well but was very disconcerting.  You can't move anything below your waist, and I was convinced I'd be paralyzed for life.  During the procedure I didn't feel much beyond a little pushing and pulling feeling in my abdomen.  A few seconds later, we heard the most beautiful sound in the world - Baby D's cry.  Minutes later they brought him over to me.  His handsome face, that baby smell, the overwhelming emotions of protectiveness and love that swept through was the single most powerful moment of my life so far.  It was hard not to be able to be with him much or hold him in that first hour or so, but it was calming to know T was by his side.  Seeing T instantly transform into a father was amazing.  I think I fell more in love with him than ever.

My legs stayed numb for hours and hours.  The nurses said it was rare for the anesthesia to last so long, which was great news for my anxiety and paranoia.  When Baby D had his first blowout poo, T had to handle it all by himself.  It was the first diaper he had ever changed, poor man.  All I could do was watch helplessly from the bed.  Trial by fire, I guess.  T did a great job holding things together for us in those first 48 hours.  I on the other hand was massively overtired, whacked out on pain medication, and emotionally unstable (thank you, hormones).

There was major overcrowding at the hospital post-delivery (mid-December 2011 must have been a very fertile time for ladies in the AV).  They gave us the option of going home Thursday or Friday, and we chose Friday, until they informed us they'd be moving another family into our room, which was the size of a walk-in closet to begin with.  You couldn't have shot us out of a cannon faster than we hightailed it out of there on Thursday night.  We brought Baby D home, and spent the next few days staring at him in awe.  When the doggies arrived home, they sniffed him briefly, but didn't show much interest at first.  Flash forward to today, they are obsessed with him!  Tess and Buster seem to know now that he is part of their family, and they consider it their calling to protect him (and lick him profusely).

My first few weeks of motherhood were everything all rolled into one: terrifying, difficult, tiring, fun, joyful, and amazing.  Breastfeeding is hard, don't let anyone tell you differently.  I decided to take on the challenge in spite of my concerns over how to treat my migraines while breastfeeding.  I am so glad I did.  Nursing times are precious moments.  Baby D and I get to experience that special bond, and yes, I feel a selfish sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing I am doing something good for my baby.  I certainly don't judge anyone who chooses not to breastfeed, whatever the reasoning.  There may come a time when I am not able to anymore as well.  I've been lucky with my migraines so far, and hope to enjoy it and maintain the breastfeeding as long as I can.

When Baby D was right around 3 weeks old, he developed a fever and rash late one night.  We took him to urgent care, where they told us it was probably an allergy, and to take him to our pediatrician in the morning. The pediatrician sent us to the hospital for a work-up.  They decided to admit him to the hospital, run tests, and keep him for two days until all the test results came back.  This involved inserting an IV into my little angel's arm, which was possibly the worst thing I've ever gone through, and it didn't even happen to me.  The nurse had a hard time getting it in, and his screams of pain pierced my heart.  They also did a spinal tap.  For that one I was sitting in a chair with nurses patting me sympathetically on the back.  I managed to hold it together until T arrived, when I pretty much collapsed into sobs.  Luckily Baby D acted quite healthy during our hospital stay, being very feisty with the nurses when they tried to take his vitals.  The staff in the peds unit was top notch, and they really made a bad situation bearable for us.  After all the tests thankfully came back negative and it was determined he probably had a minor virus, we were able to take Baby D home.  Since our ordeal I have heard from several people who had similar experiences with their newborns.  It seems it is quite common.  Still, I wouldn't wish it on anyone.  We left all the more grateful for Baby D's strength and good health.

We've been home from the hospital for a week now, and in some ways it was like starting all over again.  There has definitely been a readjustment period with the breastfeeding, his sleep schedule, etc.  I couldn't believe it when T informed me that Baby D was one month old yesterday.  It truly has been a whirlwind.   My first month as a mother has been the happiest of my life, even with all the struggles.  I can't wait to watch my baby boy grow big and strong (but not too fast!).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Going "Wild"

Since I am currently over 36 weeks pregnant, my recent adventures are fairly limited.  I can barely tie my own shoes, let alone set out on any outdoor nature excursions.  I'm aching to take the dogs hiking up in the hills behind our neighborhood, or to trek down to San Diego for a swim in the Pacific Ocean.  For now though, until my body becomes my own again, I live vicariously through the adventures of characters in books.  Most recently, I followed the harrowing and uplifting journey of Cheryl Strayed in her memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail."

When I heard there was a popular book out about a twenty-something woman who had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, I was fascinated. Promptly I hit "buy" on my Nook (those e-readers make it way too easy to spend money).  I had never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail (or PCT) until I moved out here to the California desert.  For those who don't know, it is a hiking trail that runs from the Mexican border in southern California, to the Canadian border in Washington.  My husband and I have hiked a portion of it where it crosses through the Angeles National Forest near Wrightwood.  It features such challenges as water supply issues, fallen trees, hungry bears, and poisonous snakes.  For those willing to brave it, the PCT also offers such stunning visual rewards as Mount Hood, Crater Lake, and the Bridge of the Gods, just to name a few.  To hike a substantial portion of the PCT is a major accomplishment for even a seasoned outdoorsman, and most would say to attempt it by yourself is just plain crazy. Just plain crazy is always a promising premise for a good read.  One quiet afternoon, I curled up with my Nook and began to read.  Very early on in Strayed's story, I soon realized that our familiarity with the PCT was only one of many things we had in common.

Strayed also hails from the great state of Minnesota.  She grew up mere miles from the country town where my parents lived when they first got married.  She attended two Minnesotan universities, the University of St. Thomas (my alma mater), and the University of Minnesota (where my little sister recently graduated from).  Her journey on the PCT began outside of the small desert town of Mojave, California, about twenty miles from where I currently live.  Our similarities end with these odd coincidences, but they helped me to establish an initial sense of personal connection with Strayed.

After suffering multiple traumas, most notably the death of her mother and the breakup of her young marriage, Strayed grew enamored with the PCT after reading about it in a hiking guide she happened upon randomly in a Minneapolis store.  She became convinced that hiking the PCT was her destiny, and set off haphazardly to conquer it.  As you may imagine, it didn't start out well.  Strayed lacked the proper preparation, planning, and skills necessary to successfully traverse the rough trail, especially where she began in the unforgiving Mojave desert.  Luckily though, she was taken in by many colorful characters, random strangers who showed her kindness and shared their knowledge.  Notable among them was Ed, a lonely middle-aged man who parked his pop-up camper near the trail and served as a guardian angel for any hikers who passed through.  He occupied his days by feeding his grateful flock feasts of hot dogs and baked beans, and seemed more than fulfilled by it.  The quirky folks described by Strayed as she encountered them along the way really added humor and heart to the story.

When I read reviews of this book, there were many negative comments about how Strayed's telling of the story glorified her irresponsible behavior.  I imagine this is in the same vein as Jon Krakauer's biography  "Into the Wild."  Krakauer received similar criticism as he painted an almost romanticized tale of a young man's attraction to transcendentalism.  This free-spirited (and misguided) man, Christopher McCandless, abandoned his life and possessions to hike alone in Alaska's Denali Park, and eventually died from eating poisonous berries.  While I see the parallels, and Strayed certainly made poor decisions, I don't think she shied away from that at all.  She openly admitted her stupidity, sharing candidly about the time when she nearly fainted from dehydration due to poor planning, or when she was left with only one boot after accidentally dropping one off a cliff.  Strayed told of a specific incident when she was nearly sexually assaulted by a fellow hiker.  This certainly doesn't fall into the "stupidity" category, but does address the fact that she didn't think through the risks of being a female hiking alone, or take any precautions to protect herself from such an occurrence.

Strayed's focus was not on exalting her poor decision-making.  Instead it was an honest and unflinching reflection on her personal journey to achieving emotional independence.  She spent most of her life relying on and reacting to other's actions, especially those of the men in her life.  Spending weeks in solitude on the PCT allowed her to finally establish her own voice.  Strayed found emotions she had been suppressing for years flooding to the surface, and she found healing in the mountains, streams, and trees that surrounded her. Her story is moving, meaningful, and full of wit. I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good read on a hot summer day (we've had a lot of those lately around here).