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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Birth Story (thankfully, it's a short one!)

After a tense last week, and staring into the eyes of having to go to the hospital for an induction if I didn't go into labor by noonish on Wednesday, September 24, I woke up at 6:00 AM with some lower back pain. I got up, and the pain kept cycling, starting in back and eventually being like a ring of discomfort around my entire lower abdomen.

Since James and I were to be at the birthing center by 9:00, I kept a "journal" from 7:40 until 8:40 and found that these contractions, different than but also including the Braxton Hicks contractions I'd been having for weeks, were coming about every 4-7 minutes and lasting for 30ish seconds. They weren't getting stronger, but they weren't going away, either.

At 9, we walked up to the Birthing Center. Natalie, one of the midwives, gave me a very delicious shake made out of orange juice, ice cream, and 2 ounces of castor oil, just to keep the contractions coming (they did weaken on the way up there, and then hit again pretty hard an hour later). She and Stephanie, another midwife, monitored the baby's heart rate, and then we waited.

I was uncomfortable enough that I couldn't lie down, so spent time on the yoga ball and birthing stool. James' mom and her best friend got there a bit after we did, so we visited and hung out. Then my sister and her two girls showed up, so we had a little party.

At around noon, the practice was in session and women were coming in for appointments. I was continuing to have consistent contractions without too much progress, and thought aloud that maybe they would let me go home to labor a bit. I'd already been told to feel free to move around the neighborhood, so Sarah went on a walk around the block with James and me. It was a gorgeous day!

Mackenzie and Hannah stayed with us most of the day, minus trips to McD's for food, and TJ visited with Daphne at the house. I didn't know it, but my parents had also come into town and were at the Nuthaus with D for a while, as well.

This was good, too... until it wasn't. I spent several contractions on my knees on the yoga ball, then realized that I was progressing very quickly. I was in enough pain that I told Stephanie the thought of an internal exam (which I hadn't had since last Friday when we did the membrane sweep) made me want to cry, but she told me we'd time it so that she'd set up and then I'd have a contraction, immediately lie down, and she'd do it super fast.

I was standing there and had a contraction while she was setting up, then she left the room as that contraction was waning. She came right back, but I started to have another contraction, and during that one, my water broke. I hurried up and lay down, she told me I was at 8-9 centimeters and still had a little way to go, so I asked if we could fill up the tub as I knew the pressure was going to become a lot more intense. Stephanie started the water, said it'd be about fifteen minutes, and I did the next three contractions or so on the birthing stool.

The tub wasn't full at that point, not even quite half way, but I HAD to try to get the gravity away as much as possible. Sarah told me that it was deep enough that I could submerge my belly, and it did feel SO much better.

But also, the next contraction I had was very down low and I could see why women say they feel like they have to use the restroom when they're contracting (I had consumed mass quantities of Castor Oil and did not have this problem).

It was 1:10 when I got into the tub, and it took another 5 minutes or so for the water to fill and someone turned it off. I had three increasingly-intense contractions, yelling out while thinking, "I'm not a yelling person! This is crazy!" And Stephanie would see me tensing up and remind me to relax, so I'd answer back snarkily, "I'M TRYING!" And she'd have to say, "I know. Just reminding you."

Here's the deal: I was only in the tub 9 minutes before I had the baby. I wonder if I'd known that going in, whether it might have been easier not to freak out during the pain. What's funny is that once he started crowning, it wasn't as bad as when the pain was further toward the back. Also, I was very fortunate in that, while my contractions were painful and exhausting, causing me a complete lethargy in my muscles, which were shaking with the strain of supporting myself even while buoyant, after every third contraction, I'd have a minute or so where they would abate enough for me to go back into my "sane" brain and relax before the next one started up.

The WORST contraction I had was probably the 4th to the last. Stephanie was getting things ready as fast as she could; I'd progressed super fast in like half an hour, so she'd run out into the hall to grab something, and I said to James and Sarah, "You need to go get her and tell her he's coming."

Stephanie came back in with a Doppler she could use in the water, and she said she was going to see if she could feel the baby's head. Well, I did not like that AT ALL and started screaming not only "the" word that got the kid in "A Christmas Story" in so much trouble, but "Please don't touch me! Stop it!" Like literally screaming hysterically.

Stephanie got very serious and shushed me. She said to stop screaming because it was a waste, but to keep that in and push it down to help the baby get out quicker. She also told me that I might want to lean back to help the baby slip under my pelvic bone; since I'd gotten into the pool, I'd contracted leaning forward on the side of the tub.

I was skeptical that I'd be able to move, but I did, and was able to balance on the edge of the stair/seat so that there was no pressure on anything sensitive. This is, I believe the second to last contraction.

I could tell (but not see; I had to close my eyes against the pain) when his head came out. I begged James and Stephanie to "take him out, please! Get him the rest of the way out!" but it was already better. His shoulders were intense, but not as bad as the head. The rest of him was no big deal. James got to grab him, pull him out of the water, and hand him to me. Enter Malcolm Khrystopher Gatannah at 1:19 PM on September 24. 2014... after 4 hours at the birthing center and probably just under an hour of what felt like work, but only 10 minutes or so of "I can't control my own actions and sounds and words" labor.

My James was an awesome birthing partner. He was right there if I needed him, but didn't do more than I wanted him to. He asked about everything and listened if I said, "I like that, but not this right now." I couldn't look at his face between my really heavy contractions because he was so concerned. I could see it in his face, and I could hear him sniffing. My sister said she gave him a little reassurance that she knew it was hard to watch, but that what I was doing was exactly right. 

Of note: Mal was blue when he was born, and was wrapped up in the cord (which stands to reason; his heart rate reading was usually somewhere behind the cord pulse), both things that might have gotten him whisked off to NICU in a hospital. But he was fine. His APGAR score at 1 minute after birth was 8, and at 5 minutes after birth was 9. His cord was clamped 13 minutes after he was born, and James got to cut it... but not easily. I guess he really REALLY didn't want to leave his mommy, and we might have gotten him out, but he was still kind of holding on.

We stayed in the water until I'd finished the complete delivery, and then when it was time to get out, James took the baby and I hosed off and was treated like an Egyptian princess. Nikki, a midwife intern and a doula, dried me off while my sister prepared my gown and put it over my head. This morning's after-shower routine by myself was a real letdown after all of that.

We got to sit and hold Malcolm for about an hour before Stephanie did the newborn exam.

Grandma Patsy and Aunt Pat were in and out, so they missed a lot of the more colorful and nudity-filled moments. (Although I suppose they were in the entry of the building and actually probably heard more than they're bugging me about.)

8 pounds, 2 ounces! 21 1/4 inches long. Everything checked out great, the only note on his physical was that he was still blue at the extremities when we left.

First diaper. Much less disturbing than changing him, 'cause, you know, meconium. 

My sister took all of the pictures, and she finally got into one! I'm glad she was there, and not just to document everything.

The birth ended up being everything I'd wanted, and we got to go home three hours after Mal was born. We walked home; James carried the baby and Hannah carried my stuff. It was so nice to start and finish the day at home, and to get to hang out with Daphne for the afternoon and evening instead of being tied up at the hospital for 24-48 hours.

I know that there were hundreds of people praying for me to go into labor so I wouldn't have to be transported to the hospital for any emergency intervention. Thank you, people! I am SO grateful! Also, Stephanie said he only looked 41ish weeks, which surprised me not at all. It was a great experience all around. I highly recommend Birthwise Birth Center and Family Services. Such great midwives and laid-back but thorough care.

Today when I looked at my delivery progress notes, they were recording everything I ate, the stuff I was saying to indicate my tolerance of labor, etc. But they also did not insert themselves into the delivery in a way that said, "I'm the boss; you're going to do what I say, and don't ask questions." They will tell you as much or as little as you want about progress, they will conduct as many tests as you want, and not pressure you if you decline.

So happy to be home with our family and looking forward to whatever is to come! Mal had a peaceful (except for my yelling, then his) entry into the world, which hopefully bodes very well for his future.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It's Time!

The midwife has our room ready, and it's time to make our way to the birthing center!

Oh! But we need the diaper bag!

That'd be the breast pump.


Seriously, I could get the bag myself, but James really wants to help.

Yea! He found it!

Daphne tells us to call her when something exciting happens.

And we're off.

It's a short walk; less than 1/5 of a mile. But there is quite an incline.

James happily leads the way, making sure there's no traffic or anything dangerous on the sidewalk.

He flags a little on the way up, but I'm able to help him.

But we *don't* have time for a reading break!

Sometimes, you just have to do whatever works.

Finally here!

We'll let *you* know when something interesting happens, too! :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Acupuncture Roller Coaster

This morning, I had a check-up/check-in at the birthing center. Again, we listened to the baby's heart rate, and as the baby moves, the heart speeds up, just like it's supposed to. They don't even care about me anymore, as we didn't take my blood pressure or pulse, and I didn't weigh or do the urinalysis. I guess it's obvious that I'm fine, although Stephanie did tell me my "energy" is different than it was two weeks ago. Jayme had told me the same kind of thing last week, only she had said, the day after we returned from Schlitterbahn, "Yeah, I don't think you look like a mom who's going to call us in labor tomorrow. Your face doesn't look like it." And Friday, she told me that my face looked ready. I didn't ask for too many details. I don't want to be self-conscious.

Tonight, after bringing Daphne home from her 4-H classes, I had a second appointment with the acupuncturist. She didn't make me do stairs first this time (oh, but I had to do them!). First, we did the needles in kind of the same position as before, except more this time, and lower on the back.

When she put the ones in my left forearm and hand, they hurt quite a bit, especially the one in the hand. I mentioned to her that this weekend, I stopped feeling the little tags they gave me except for the one on my left hand. I told her it had really bothered me when I pressed on it, so I spent a lot of time over the weekend concentrating on that, figuring that if it hurt, it needed attention.

She said, "That's interesting. We associate the left side with emotions, and it reminds us of movement. Both physically and that things are always changing. But since you're overdue, and you have a daughter who's trying to process the baby changes, and your mother-in-law is about to visit... it would make sense that that side would be disturbed."

When she left, I started thinking about it... about how our dinner tonight is likely to be the last dinner that's just the three of us. Things are going to change forever, and although I know that's good, it's a HUGE change, and it's okay to kind of mourn that. Even if I don't go into labor tomorrow (and I'm going to spend most of the day at the birthing center doing "natural" stuff to try to get it going), James' mom will be here (we're totally looking forward to that, by the way; she's never seen where he lives in his adult life!), and at some point during the week she's here, we will have the baby, and then more family and guest and noise and... change. And the fact is, the status quo is pretty awesome.

Pondering this made me cry, and I wondered if my resistance to usher in a change of this magnitude (as opposed to, "Well, it's happening whether we're ready or not!" which is what I wish would happen) is keeping hormones bound up that would otherwise release and start the process. So I tried to surrender any latent/subconscious control or barriers... And, yes, I KNOW how this sounds, but it's very difficult not to get all esoteric when you've spent as much time around alternative providers as I have lately.

After ten minutes, I was mercifully interrupted by the assistant who, I had been told, was going to shock me. Literally.

She put the electrodes at the base of my spine and then this little iPod-looking thing cycled through a series of "stimulations" that started with what felt like a quick knocking and ended up feeling like I had a strongly-vibrating phone stuck in my waistband. Right when it would get to the, "Ick, this is a little too intense" level, the cycle would cut out and restart.

After several repetitions of the cycle, the baby started moving more, and I asked if Rooby liked it or thought it was ridiculous. I think I thought it was ridiculous, because I started laughing about how silly the picture was of my sitting there, back exposed, needles sticking out of my arms, legs, and torso, electrodes iPodding my spine with low-level electricity... Just goofy.

Ten minutes later, I got dressed leaving the Palm Massager in place, and did the stairs again. This was enough movement that it distracted me from the current, which was starting to get irritating, just sitting there.

When I left, I got 4 more mini-acupuncture tabs and we didn't schedule anything else since I'm going to spend Tuesday at the birthing center, doing all sorts of things that can hopefully "naturally" induce labor. I've done all of the stuff I can do at home, so they're going to help me and monitor me all day. I did draw the line at consuming castor oil because 1) I have a hair-trigger digestive system (hello, spinach gives me regrets) and do not wish to be in pain that is not specifically baby-related and 2) everything I've read says it really doesn't seem to work, anyway.

However, I was thinking about it last night, and even though stuff like breast-pumping and consuming certain herbs might qualify as "old wives' tales," that's sort of the whole point of having a midwife. They perform the "services" of helping, assisting, and supporting expectant mothers the way that older, more experienced family and neighborhood women used to do when our society was set up like that. They were literally old wives, and their input and presence was invaluable.

So, while I'm not hugely excited about spending today up the hill hooked up to a milking machine, I'm pretty much willing to do anything (except drinking a "stimulant laxative") short of drug/surgical intervention to see if it will work as a jump-start. 

Here's where I'll be hanging out today, if you need me:

Could be a lot worse. :)

I'm taking my computer (I'm more than half way through "Ugly Betty") and library book, but I could use some lunch! *hint hint* 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday... (I'm singing it in my head)

We had a pretty great day Saturday.

I had to take Daphne to her dad's in the morning, then came home to drop off some paperwork for a friend before I got back out to buy groceries. It rained, which unfortunately didn't cool anything off (again) but was nice while it lasted. Actually, it rained at the grocery store but not at the house.

I didn't really like the eMeals menu for the week, plus I'm feeling lazy and like I won't necessarily be in the mood to chop and plan and do full-out breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day from scratch scratch, so I bought a lot of stuff that lends itself to easy prep (more sandwich fixings than usual, steamable veggies already seasoned, etc.) and also some stuff like mini-bagel pizzas, which were on sale. It's been good that I've had a list in the past, because shopping like I did yesterday is like shopping with permanent PMS.

After groceries, James and I undertook one of the more interactive anecdotal methods to hasten labor. I'm not going to go into much detail about THIS, because it's wrong, but very immediately after, we had some "action." James was out in the hall and got to hear, from the other side of the closed restroom door, my reaction to the progress. It went a little something like this.

SO much wrongness. I was not aware of the passing of this particular bit of biological matter when I was expecting Daphne, and seriously could have lived happily the rest of my life without ever having seen it. But at least it's a step toward delivering, right?

James and I then walked to Arturo's for what was called brunch, but was actually lupper, as we finished up around 3. I'd gotten up pretty early and had eaten both breakfast and lunch on a schedule about 3-4 hours earlier than James, so I just had a cup of fruit but enjoyed hanging out with my man a great deal.

Daphne came home around 6 and we had a nice, quiet night together. I'd not napped so was in bed by 8. I'm taking advantage of all of the sleep I can get right now! I know it's for a limited time only.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Jump Starting?

Because of my recent ultrasound and some other factoring, the midwives moved my "estimated date of delivery" from September 4 to September 8, putting me at post-dates this coming Monday instead of yesterday.

The baby is great, and I'm fine, but that kid just does not seem motivated to move. Today, I went in to the midwife's to make sure the fetal heart rate was good, and to see exactly where the baby is. Also, to see if we could get any "action" over the weekend, we did some stuff. Here 'tis:

Friday, September 19, 9:15 AM

Midwife appointment.

Stephanie had mixed up some herbs for me to take over the weekend. It's labeled "Labor Prep" and has several herbs in it. I'm supposed to take 40 drops every 4 hours, except when I'm sleeping.

Natalie had me do my usual in-office testing. She listened to the fetal heartbeat with the Doppler (they usually just use the stethoscope) for longer than typical, checking to see if the baby's heart rate rose when it moved (it did). She felt for position, then she did the first internal examination I've had so far.

She found good things and made a couple of recommendations. The baby's hand may be jammed up against my bones with its head. She has me trying several positions and exercises to move it up (which seems counter-intuitive) so it can free up its hand.

Natalie tried to do a membrane sweep, but didn't get too far because the baby's still up high enough.

When I got home, I took the first dose of the herbs... and while it tasted pretty bad, there was no creepy metallic aftertaste like I've had with the tinctures I've attempted to take so far. Actually, it kind of burned a little bit, in a pleasant way.

I'm a little sore from the exam, but I'm getting ready to go to an acupuncture session, so maybe that'll take the edge off.

11:30 AM

Acupuncture treatment.

Downstairs from the birthing center is Light Family Acupuncture. Part of my birthing packet included (or was supposed to have included) a gift certificate for a free treatment. I didn't see it, but I still got to use it today. :)

When I first went in, the acupuncturist explained what we were going to do, then she took me into the hallway and told me to walk up the flight of stairs, skipping every other stair. Then to do that five times, coming back downstairs "normally."


I did. And after the stairs, I was supposed to use the restroom, then go get into position for the treatment. When I had ascended and descended the stairs five times, the restroom was occupied, so I went up one more time. Supposedly, the skip-step walking was to encourage the baby to descend some more.

After I'd made use of the facilities, I went into the treatment room... I was wearing a dress with bike shorts under it (my favorite thing for days I have exams where people are going to want to look at my belly), and the acupuncturist had told me that she needed access to my shoulders and lower back. For this reason, she was having me sit on a very comfortable rolling stool, relaxing my head and arms on a few pillows stacked on the acupuncture bed. It's like sleeping in class with your head on the desk, if the teacher provided multiple fluffy headrests. The acupuncturist offered multiple fans, lighting options, more pillows, fewer pillows, and even the heater so I'd be comfortable. (No thanks on that last one!)

What's funny is that she had told me that I could probably just take off my dress and leave my underwear on, but I was welcome to remove everything if I wanted to. Eww. Why? It's one of those things that helps me realize that there are people WAY more in tune with nature and their bodies than I am. I was content to sit on a stool wearing my bike shorts, since other people actually have used and will continue to use the chair.

When the treatment was over, the assistant gave me the skin tag things you see on the left. They're basically like thumb tacks, but tiny acupuncture needles topped by bandage material. She stuck one in each hand and one on the inside of both of my lower legs, telling me that I could push on them throughout the weekend to "stimulate your meridians." Alternately I don't notice them, or they're itchy.

They gave me a list of things like exercises and foods they recommend, as well as essential oils (which I don't have), aromatherapy, and "slippery foods." Oats is the only thing on that list that I actually like.

7:15 PM

Curry for dinner.

Curry was on the list, so James and I walked (another thing I'm supposed to do to help the membrane sweep "work;" I'd walked to TCBY with my sister and her family earlier, too) to Teji's for dinner. The acupuncturist said, "You can do Thai curry or Indian curry; we like that better than Mexican food." What a coincidence! I like Thai or Indian better than Mexican, too.. and if you think that's an easy position to hold, then you don't live in Texas.

I chose the goat curry, because chicken isn't my favorite, and because we had goat several times in Haiti and I remember it fondly. It was just spicy enough that when I was finished, my mouth was ready to be done with it. The naan there is crazy good: huge, light, moist but not too chewy, fresh from the tandoor. And the kheer did a great job of cooling down my face when I was done with the meal.


The membrane sweep made me feel mildly icky for a couple of hours. The acupuncture was relaxing enough. Dinner was delicious, and I love hanging out with my husband. Also, I got rained on three times today, and it felt great because even though it's been rainy, it's still awfully humid and disgusting when the rain isn't actually coming down.

I've also kept up with the evening primrose since last week, and have taken those herbs thrice today.

However, none of these things has sent me into labor... Yet.

Which means one thing: I have to buy groceries tomorrow. Pppth.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: Citrus Lane, Month 2

Well, this is awkward. I'm on my second month of Citrus Lane and still no baby. Oh well! It's always fun getting packages in the mail.

This month, the offerings were financially superior to the ones last month. One by one, we have...

The first thing is this long-sleeved body suit from the Tea Collection. This alone is "worth" (meaning, on the website they charge) more than the $17 I paid for the box. Of course, this one is probably a clearance item, but it's still useful. It also includes a coupon for $25 off, but I'm not too likely to use it, since it's $25 off of a $50 sale, which would be about two onesies. Since we have more clothes than we know what to do with, the coupon is going to expire before I'd actually need anything... So if anyone needs anything, message me and I'll send you the coupon!

Dish soap and a coupon. Mehh, but I'll use it, of course. Better than a kick in the butt!

One full ounce of zinc oxide diaper ointment! And, guess what? Another coupon! I guess that's the point. Give me a taste so I'll buy some more of their stuff. It looks like it's worth about $4 per ounce.

This Hape rainbow "rattle" retails for about $13, and it's made of wood, string, and painted with nontoxic paint. James got a little caught up in playing with it this afternoon. He might not share with the baby.

So... all together, this month's haul had both a retail value and a value perceived to me to be more than $17. Averaging it with last month's box, I'd say I'm slightly ahead of the game so far.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Without planning it, I managed to skip the entire decade of my 30s in the area of pregnancy and childbearing. I had Daphne just after I'd turned 29, and here I am comfortably planted into my early 40s (turned 42 two weeks ago) on the cusp of, as James started to say the other day, "about to pop my baby out..."

There have been some similarities and some differences between these two pregnancies. I don't know that I'd call either one "more" difficult. Just different. So I'm going to compare notes with the pregnancy diary I kept when I was expecting Daphne and my experiences this time and compare and contrast them below, in no particular order:


A. Weight loss and nausea. With Daphne, I lost a whole lot of weight at the beginning of the pregnancy. I was on the verge of illness the entire first trimester. This time, I was "mehh" about some things, and couldn't stomach imagining what I "wanted" to make for dinner, but once I'd prepared food and put it on a plate in front of me, I could eat it.

B. Thought in preparation. I was flummoxed by three questions asked of me at my very first examination when I was expecting Daphne: 1) Do you want a natural childbirth? 2) Do you plan to breastfeed? 3) If it is a boy, will you circumcise? Because of my experiences with the first, these questions had solid answers long before I knew I'd ever have another baby.

C. Stocking up. I'm a bargain shopper; it's just who I am. But with Daphne, our money was SO tight, I always bought the absolute cheapest thing I could find that would work and that I didn't hate. This time around, we've had enough money that I've been able to pick out things I actually want, and then find the best deal on that specific thing. I have avoided buying some things I really did want (like the Hushamok ) because I never felt like they were discounted enough, but our nursery runneth over at this point, and I'm really happy with everything. (P.S. Our nursery is like 95 square feet, so there's not actually too much in there.)

D. Nails. I managed to grow my nails out with Daphne. Not this time.

E. Jobs. I was a property manager then IT something-or-other with a firm in Las Vegas in 2001. I had a mostly-typical 8-5 office job, though I did have to get out and do some inspections. This time, I was working from home as an insurance agent/customer service representative until the end of June, and being able to nap on demand made a HUGE difference in my quality of life.

F. Prenatal care. I could write a whole blog post on this one. In 2001, I was on a fairly typical OB/GYN track. I'd make appointments, sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes (noting that I'd had time to read several magazine articles, write thank you notes, etc.), see the doctor for a good 5-6 minutes, and be done. Or else the doctor would cancel and reschedule my appointments because he'd been out delivering babies. This happened at least a four times in the 5 months I was his patient. This time, I'm under the care of midwives, and have had to wait 5-15 minutes exactly three times: once when the midwife was stuck in traffic (it's Austin), once when another midwife unlocked the doorknob but not the deadbolt, and then last week when someone showed up for a "surprise" first prenatal visit. That time, I got to hang out with the intern/doula, and I loved it because after my vitals and updating the file, we talked about stuff that had nothing to do with my pregnancy, which was nice. I have one hour scheduled for each appointment, and they've all lasted about half an hour to 45 minutes, all face-time with my provider. Additionally, while the doctor told me what to do, the midwives tell me what's available and let me make decisions. I declined genetic testing based on the fact that it would not affect our outcome (read: I wouldn't abort the baby regardless), and a medical doctor would not have "allowed" me to refuse this test, as it help them assign a more specific risk level to my pregnancy (which is already considered "high" in the medical community because of my age). Also, I have not had a vaginal examination yet. I'm at what is on paper 41 weeks, 3 days, and no one is worried about it. I have an ultrasound scheduled for Tuesday, just to make sure baby and placenta are doing okay. If they are, we might even move my due date. There is no rush. This is not an illness. It's nice to be treated as though I'm a normal pregnant lady instead of a high-stakes sick person.

G. Stretch marks. Got the during the last few weeks with Daphne. So far this time, none! But who knows. I could still be two weeks out.

H. Swelling. By the end of my pregnancy with Daphne, my feet would spill out of my shoes at the end of the day. This actually started happening super early this pregnancy, like less than half way in. However, I started going to the chiropractor (for another reason: to turn the baby if that were necessary) and after a few adjustments, the edema was gone! Now that I'm toward the end, I've put on some water weight; I can feel it in my ankles and lower legs, especially when I squat down. But it's NOTHING like it was 13 years ago.

I. Personal maintenance. I'd commented in 2001 that I was disappointed because people kept telling me that at some point, due to hormone stuff from being pregnant, my hair growth would slow down and I wouldn't have to shave anymore. That never happened. It happened this time, though! TMI? Okay. Moving on...


A. Nausea. Regardless of how I've felt, I've never thrown up when expecting.

B. Aversion to reading instructional materials. There is a huge industry built around teaching women who are pregnant what to expect, how to prepare, and how to do things. With Daphne, I figured I'd just intuit a lot of it... and I did. But now I also see that everyone's experience is different, and there are some "choices" you can't make until you're in the thick of the moment, and that probably your friends and the health care professionals who already know you are a much better resource than just one author with just one viewpoint.

C. Registries. Didn't want to. Did just to have a list to remind me of what I needed.Registries make me feel presumptuous and grabby. (Other people's registries don't bother me at all!)

D. Hair. Pregnancy is awesome for my hair. It grows faster, it's thick and lush, and this time, I haven't needed to wash it as often as usual.

E. Family pregnancies. My sister Sarah was expecting Mackenzie when I was pregnant with Daphne. D was born a month and some change before Mackenzie. My sister-in-law Mei Li was expecting Emily during my pregnancy, and Emily made her appearance at the end of July.

F. Meralgia Paresthetica. It was much earlier-onset this time, but the same patch of left outer thigh experiences numbness if I stand too long. I have to stretch out to get the baby sac off of whatever nerve it is or the weird numbness turns to extreme pain. Fortunately, since I got to the bottom of the issue with Daphne, I've known how to fix it this time around.

G. Sports drinks. I don't typically drink Gatorade and the like. But during both pregnancies, I have developed a taste for electrolyte-replacement beverages. It was Gatorade's light blue ice flavor that was my favorite with Daphne. This time, it has been Powerade Zero, any flavor, but not so much during the third trimester. Still, just a weird consistency thing that is not of interest to me when I'm not housing a baby.

H. Exercise. With Daphne, I worked out and walked pretty much until I was due. It felt awesome. This time, it's been some walking but mostly biking. Love it!

I. Chiropractic. Regarding the "F" up there... Chiropractic helped me fix that problem, and this time, it's eliminated my swelling. Love me some chiropractic.

J. Allergies/asthma. Being pregnant seems to take care of my asthma, at least temporarily.

K. Due date. I have always had irregular cycles. When I first went in to see a doctor with Daphne, they put her due date at October 21. Later, when she was measuring smaller, they changed it to November 5. This time, based on the statistical "norms," the 40 week mark fell on September 4... but if you talked to me at all about it, I'm sure you heard that this was not what I thought; I felt it would be later. And I was right. The reason I think this is even more TMI than the shaving thing up there, but you'll just have to trust me. I think I'm just now at the 40 week mark, and "normal" is as much as 42 actual weeks.

There are other things... personal, situation things that make a big difference, but I'm not going into those. Basically, there have been some differences and some similarities, but the biggest thing is that I generally enjoy being pregnant as a whole and am more healthy when I'm carrying a baby. I'm also sensitive and kind of bitchy. But it's 9 months when I'm not self-conscious about my appearance, and everything seems kind of like an adventure.

Thirteen years ago and today. I think I'm aging pretty darn well, and rocking this pregnancy thing, too! :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Marriage and "work"

A very close friend of mine is getting married... well, right now, actually. So I've been thinking a lot about getting hitched lately, and today was reminded of this:

Mindy Kaling has an awesome chapter in her book "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" called "Married People Need to Step It Up." She talks about how many "unhappily married" people she's met, particularly a guy she calls "Tim" who sees it as his mission in life to constantly harp on how difficult it is to be married.

"Tim is the kind of guy who corners you at a party to tell you, vehemently, that marriage is work. And that you have to work on it constantly. And that going to couple's therapy is not only normal but something everyone needs to do... He is convinced that his daily work on his marriage, and his acknowledgment that it is basically a living hell, is modern...

"C'Mon, married people. I don't want to hear about the endless struggles to keep sex exciting, or the work it takes to plan a date night. I want to hear that you guys watch every episode of The Bachelorette together in secret shame, or that one got the other hooked on Breaking Bad and if either watches it without the other, they're dead meat. I want to see you guys high-five each other like teammates on a recreational softball team you both do for fun. I want to hear about it because I know it's possible, and because I want it for myself.

"My parents get along because they are pals...I guess I think happiness can come in a bunch of forms, and maybe a marriage with tons of work makes people feel happy. But part of me still it really so hard to make it work? What happened to being pals? ...And I'm not saying that marriage should always be easy. But we seem to get gloomily worked up about it these days."

In my experience (and, sadly, I've had too much of it), there are two distinct kinds of work that can comprise a marriage. To illustrate, let's say that our married couple is in a small boat, and their goal is to get as far upstream as they can manage.

In one boat, one person paddles consistently and enthusiastically toward the finish line. That person might have started off really enjoying the camaraderie and the view and even the challenge, but at some point realizes that they are losing ground rapidly and growing exhausted. Looking to the partner, the paddler realizes that the other person has affixed a motor to the boat and is not only propelling it with mechanical force in the opposite direction that they're supposed to be going, but is also actively trying to topple the boat.

"What are you doing? We're supposed to be going that way!"

"I know! So why aren't we? You must not be doing this right or we'd be getting closer instead of further away."

And it doesn't matter if the first points out to the second the obvious sabotage; there is no logic here. There is no cooperation. It's a constant fight. It's "work," but it's discouraging, heart-breaking, demeaning, draining work.

I don't believe this is the kind of "work" marriage is supposed to be in the long-term (yeah, we all have our moments, so there are seasons, for sure).

Now, here's the second kind of "work." The couple is in the boat together, both outfitted with paddles and heading in the same direction. They hit trouble spots and have to strategize, figure out their strengths, maybe even improvise tools with what they have on hand. Sometimes, they're extraordinarily successful in navigating the rough waters. Other times, the boat rocks and maybe even capsizes, but they both look out for each other, right things, and help the other scramble back aboard and try it again.

After a bit, the challenges they face together don't seem so daunting as they recognize the rhythms of their teamwork. They actually start to look forward to obstacles because it gives them a chance to tackle something important together.

Sometimes, it's no work at all, and they just get to look around and take in the scenery and marvel in it and each other. Other times, it's more intense, but the peace of being together, of having someone on whom to count, makes even the rough patches infinitely more enjoyable.

My friend who's getting married today? For him and his wife, I pray for the life-affirming work of the second example. He's good for it and he deserves it. Oh, and he will appreciate it, never taking it for granted.

I know this because of my own experience. James tells me sometimes that as much as some of our past relationships have sucked, it's honestly put us into a place where we can fully recognize and embrace what we have together.

The other day, I was telling my sister about different things that have happened that have helped me see that James is the perfect partner for me. She said she thought it the day she saw this picture:

I think I've posted this song before, but there's a line in it that I adore...

"One day I hope to find someone who doesn't mind being embarrassed by me all of the time."

When I told James that this summed up our relationship, he said he'd never be embarrassed by me. I believe him. Any time I have goofy ideas about which I tell him, like the shark picture above, his reaction is almost always, "That's AWESOME!"

While I don't believe in a "soul mate," I definitely know that there are people who are better suited to each other than some pairs might be. Let's face it; Some of us decide independently to choreograph a 5-minute dance to a showtune and whip it out at our 20th high school reunion. And that kind of thing is a lot better if the person who's supposed to love you the most in the world thinks it's fun and quirky and impressive rather than stupid and humiliating.

And some of us accidentally snort our straws up our noses when we're trying to hold a conversation, and those people need unconditional love and acceptance, too.

I am constantly overwhelmed by the blessings of my marriage, and I wish the same thing for my friend and his new wife. I wish it for all of you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

40+6 (but not really)

If you put any stock in this kind of thing, my "estimated date of delivery" (EDD) was nearly a week ago. Since I don't, since I realize that 40 weeks from the last menstrual period (LMP) is only an average and that most women fall anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks and this is all considered very normal, I'm not that fussed about it.

Today, I had an appointment with my midwife, and after holding steady at the same weight for nearly a month, I gained three pounds this past week. I can feel it in my ankles and lower legs: it's fluid. I can maybe see it in my face a bit, too.

Can't help it; still cute.
My blood pressure is still good, the fetal heart rate is super strong, and speeds up when the baby moves. Because "we don't operate in a vacuum," I'm going to have an ultrasound next Tuesday just to make sure we're all doing okay in there. I'm hoping that we'll be able to push the due date back to something more reasonable at that point, to buy me more time. The midwives aren't concerned, but I think they have to do due diligence in order not to look like they're eschewing any kind of medically-acknowledged prudence.

I'm feeling great, health-wise, and am going to attempt to ride my bike this evening for the first time in a couple of weeks. Just two miles, but I've been getting so much sleep and feeling the pull of gravity very heavily when I try to walk or bike so have slacked off a bit this past few days.

Plus, I have been feeling somewhat petulant. This whole being out of sorts thing has shaped up both in my eating habits teetering on "junk food overload" (in order to claim ownership over my body and my desires, instead of catering solely to "the baby," as if to prove I'm not "just" an incubator) and in just being too mehh to get motivated.

In order to calm myself down, yesterday I took to reading articles with titles like "How can I maintain ownership of my body while I'm pregnant?" (there is some great, polite, level-headed advice in there) just to make me feel better about... well, feeling bad. I know that when people ask me about "the baby," and how I'm doing (translation: "Are you planning to move the baby to somewhere outside of your own body soon?"), and talk in concrete terms and with certainty about a child who does not yet seem as real to me as he/she apparently seems to other people that they mean well and are excited for and love us. Mentally. I know this. I get it. But it makes me feel like I'm being reached into without permission, like I don't get to say, "This is where you end and I begin, and right now I'm a pregnant mother of exactly one child, so when YOU talk about this baby in a way that implies I have two children, I feel like you're projecting onto me your hopes and dreams and it is A LOT OF PRESSURE."

This might not make sense to anyone else, but it is my reality. And especially when people refer to the baby possessively. I don't feel like it's "mine" yet. How can it already be yours? We could discuss for hours what this means about my being territorial, or overly-cautious about outcomes based on my age and history, or just being a bitch. But, ultimately, it's how I've been feeling, and that's the way it is.

Last night, when James came home, I knew I was VERY needy. I warned him about it during dinner, that I desperately needed some of his time. And after dinner, I asked him to do something I've never asked him to do before. I asked my sweet husband to sit down on the couch and let me lie my head in his lap, and I asked him to pet me and to talk to me and just let me look at him and feel his presence and be there.

Of course, he did just this. And I know now why it seems like Aish is always jonesing for this kind of attention. Within half an hour, I felt like myself again. I was so calm and happy and rested, and went to bed a little bit after eight o'clock feeling refilled and so much less rebellious.

Later in the night, I woke up to find James in bed. I hadn't awakened when he slipped in, but he was lying on "my" side of the bed, jack-knife straight on a tiny edge, because I was sprawled on my right side with my legs extended to the side, and my arms outstretched, enveloping his pillow.

That man makes sure I feel loved and taken care of; he's the greatest thing ever, and I'm so glad he's my partner in this and in everything.

Saturday, the high is supposed to be 74 degrees, and I plan to spend as much of the day as possible outside (there might be rain; fortunately, I don't melt) and definitely have the doors open and some cross-breeze going, even if it means inviting in the humidity. I always feel like I'm being reborn in the fall. After months of holing up indoors, separated from the sounds and smells of outside by climate control (for which I am infinitely grateful), it feels like reconnecting to the world again, but kind of for the first time. I'm ready!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Clearview Sudbury School

In reading some articles about "unschooling," I came across blog posts on Psychology Today's website written by Peter Gray. Through those, I came upon a list of "alternative" schools in the Austin area, and was specifically drawn to the Clearview Sudbury School, a democratic school just a few miles away.

I checked out Dr. Gray's book "Free to Learn" from the library, and James read some of it before I had to turn it back in. By the time I was finished, I was sold on the Sudbury School model, and James was extremely interested. For this reason, even though my 12-year-old (almost 13) is not interested in going to school, James and I attended an open house/information session at the school a couple of weekends ago.

Alternative Education in Action from Clearview Sudbury on Vimeo.

We really liked the campus, and absolutely adore the learning model. The way I see it, it is everything we remember loving about school (recess, lunch, hanging out with friends) and none of the bull.

For instance: When I was in high school, the last semester of my senior year, it was compulsory for me to take physical education. Well, it was 1990 and my hair (especially the bangs) took at least an hour to dry and fix after a shower, so I wasn't about get icky enough to need to clean up because I had about 12 minutes to change and get to my next class when we were finished. Instead, I'd either stand on the volleyball court and do nothing or I'd just sit on the bleachers. At some point, it hit me that I was wasting my time, and I asked the coach permission to go to the lab and work on my computer science project. She told me that if I didn't stay for class, I'd get an incomplete grade. So my choices were: Show up, don't participate, waste an hour, and get an A; or do something productive that I wanted to do and end up with a C as a final PE grade (and who gets a C in PE? Answer: I did).

The Sudbury model is based on the idea that given the time and resources and left to their own devices, students (in this case, particularly, kids) will learn what they need to know. Yes, including how to read and how to math and all of those things that are necessary to live a functional life in our society.

There is a lot of information to be gleaned on the Sudbury Valley School's YouTube channel, including interviews with graduates and some insight into what goes on in the school on a daily basis. The channel is for the original Sudbury school, but the methods are pretty uniform across the board.

The schools are democratic, meaning that every attendee and staff member gets exactly one vote on items concerning the school, such as which rules to implement, and how to spend money, and which staff to keep on board for the next school year (that's right; each staff is hired for one year and has to be approved by a majority of votes to be kept on).

There are no compulsory studies, though staff will facilitate and/or arrange for classes based on student request and interest. What is mandatory, however, is participation in the daily (as needed, which is typically every day) Judicial Committee meeting. This is where complaints and issues are addressed and consequences are decided upon by the entirety of the school. If an older student wanted to use the kitchen but a younger student hadn't cleaned up his/her mess and did not respond to the older student's request to clean it, then they both show up to present their sides of the matter and the committee hands down a decision.

There is also a weekly school meeting which can be attended by all students and staff that decides things like what insurance to buy, where to appropriate funds, and more intense matters referred by the Judicial Committee (like whether or not to suspend a student).

The students are not separated by age. They're not separated at all, except as they choose. Unless requested by the student, they're never formally evaluated. In other words, there's no comparison to what is considered normative for, say, all 12-year-olds. They're not expected to learn/perform for tests/teachers. They're expected to be responsible for themselves, to make decisions, and to live with the ramifications of those decisions.

After the tour, we were given some paperwork and a wonderful little book called "Like Water" by Mark McCaig. The book is a collection of stories, poems, and essays about Fairhaven, a Sudbury model school in Maryland.

My favorite handout we received was this delightful comparison of the Sudbury model to Montessori, Waldorf, unschooling, etc: "Okay, so you're sort of like..."  One of the contrasts to homeschooling that it contained really struck me: "Children and parents have complex relationships and interdependencies which make it harder for children to discover true independence within the family. In the environment of a Sudbury school, children face direct personal responsibility for their actions, without the emotional baggage that family-based accountability can sometimes carry. In addition, children are more able to develop some important social skills in a democratic school — the ability to tolerate diversity of opinion, to speak out against inappropriate behavior, and to develop and carry out group projects, for example."

My favorite chapter from the book was a stream-of-consciousness piece celebrating ten years of the Fairhaven school, and containing the longest and most beautiful run-on sentences I've ever read, reproduced entirely here:

"When the school's neighbor who owns the soybean field across the stream told me a nudist colony used to occupy this hilltop campus, I thought, of course it did. Freedom runs deep here at Fairhaven -- nowadays people can go barefoot, but not naked; people can talk about sex and drugs and rock and roll, but not do them; well, except for the rock and roll, and I'm cool with that, just ask Robert, or Matt, but some days I feel like Uncle Billy in 'It's a Wonderful Life,' and I've dropped 8 grand in mean old Mr. Potter's lap and he's just waiting for the bank to shut us down, then five o'clock rolls around and we're still here, and little Sunshine and I have just buried her dragonfly after trying to revive it in the sun, and she's asked it to say hello to her cat Lucky, in heaven, and aside from the dragonfly, at day's end nobody's hurt - well, not too bad - and nobody's sued us, and they all do learn to read, and much more, actually, our students are ethical, bright, shining gifts to the world, just talk to them, because now they're coming back to visit as grown-ups, with shoes on their feet, though they might kick them off when they're here, and, like I said, it's five o'clock and my colleagues and I are dancing around the office like George Bailey and Uncle Billy after the bank run and we're holding up our two dollar bills and kissing them cause we're still open, dammit, and the next morning we'll be here and the morning after that and the morning after that and now I'm unlocking the door and it hits me that it's been ten years of dollar bill dances and pristine openings just like the very first morning, ten years of holding miracle water in our hands, water that never disappears, cool water that's clear but if you drink you taste the clay and the greensand, you taste the salt and maybe just the slightest hint, I swear to you, of chocolate.
"So I'm leaning on a porch rail explaining to Ricky that only dictators erect solid gold statues to themselves, therefore, no, I won't be supporting his motion at School Meeting, when I smell the sugar cookies baking and two girls run by saying the Kitchen Corp's taking IOUs and lord almighty what's that sound? It's the echo of billions of footsteps taken in liberty, and I know it's over a billion because Diana has counted hers today and she pokes her head out from the back seat of the red coupe on the way home and says one thousand, five hundred sixty-seven, and I know we'll extrapolate Monday. That's when I decide, Sunshine, that the ghost of Lucky the cat must sometimes leave heaven to join the ghosts of nudists prowling this very campus, that Lucky must rub up against our legs, keeping us open these ten years, and it has never mattered what they do, just that they do it, from Alex's juggling to Chloe's drumming, and you've never seen people who stand so straight up, so true, as these students, never perfect, always perfectly who they are, and that, my friends, is what I'm talking about, this is what we're celebrating, this little haven of big ideas, this is what I appreciate, all of you who've trusted us, who have trusted your children, all you students who have believed in yourselves, you barefooters who will soon commence your tenth season of chasing windblown leaves, yellow and red, who create for me all these days of wide-eyed amazement, and, yes, rock and roll, who spark these incandescent mornings, you brave pioneers who have given me this daily buzz of ten thousand dragonfly moments."

Who wouldn't want that? I mean, I'd love it for me, but since I'm not the demographic, I'd adore it for my daughter.

Here in Austin, the Clearview campus is actually at a church, and located strategically next to a park. It is also across the (very busy) street from Mueller Park and everything new that's being built over there, like the Thinkery (children's museum), a food trailer park, and a bunch of shops. Parents can elect to permit their kids closed campus, extended campus (which includes the parking lot and the adjacent park) or open campus permissions. One of the staff said that lots of students use the open campus option to walk to Starbucks during the day.

In fact, the house that James and I looked at (the one that's still pre-market, marked below with a green oval) is just as convenient to the campus as Mueller.

If you're ready for more information, there are four upcoming opportunities to attend informational meetings; two this month, and two in October. Also, you can contact the school to schedule a visitation day. More is available on their website (click below).

Even if it turns out that my daughter never wants to attend school here, I'm pretty sure we'll end up enrolling the soon-to-arrive kidlet as soon as that's an option. I'm so glad I stumbled upon this information and so grateful to know such a place exists. Check it out!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Denizens

Wednesday night when I got home from buying groceries, it was about 8:30 and had just gotten dark. There was quite a bit of foot traffic on the street, and as I was making my second trip to haul bags from the rear of the van to the porch, a blind guy was walking past. He was on the street instead of the sidewalk (which is probably a good idea given how much the trees have grown over the sidewalks this summer) and called to me, asking if I could help him find Chick-fil-A.

I said, "Yes. You're almost there. See -- ehh, feel this curb on your right? It's about to end, and you just turn right there into the alley--"

"Just walk with me, can you? I'm blind."

Um. Okay. Sure.

James had come out to get some bags and I thought he saw me walk around the corner, but apparently he hadn't.

The guy both apologized for bugging me but kept up a very petulant manner, telling me that he was trying to find the School for the Blind and saying that since Chick-fil-A is "a Christian institution," he was hoping someone there could help him.

He tried to veer toward the restaurant through the Taco Cabana parking lot, but there are both curbs and a waist-high rail you have to climb over (or under, but he was more than 6 feet tall) to take that "short cut."

I told him it would be better to walk further down the alley before turning, and he complained, "How much further is it?"

"It's no further. It's just easier."

Meanwhile, I noticed that Carol, who had darted out the door when I'd left to go to the grocery store, was following me, meowing maybe angrily or worriedly about both how far I was walking away from the house and how far she was having to venture from the house.

"My cat's following us. Can you hear her?" I laughed.

"Are there people standing around outside?"

"Yes. The whole restaurant is outside. They don't have an indoor dining area."

"Are there any employees outside?"

I looked. There weren't. There are typically employees outside during the lunch rush, taking orders before the cars get to the official order speaker. I guess it goes faster that way, because it gives the kitchen more time to prepare the food, although it seems like it would have made more sense just to put the order speakers another 25-30 feet closer to the front of the building.

"But there are people out there?"


Finally we were close enough that I said, "You can just turn left here and walk up that ramp, and you'll be there." I was mildly concerned that he was going to insist I go further, but he didn't. He walked away without saying anything else.

On the way back to the house, I looked for Carol but she had disappeared. I remembered that James had had an encounter several months ago with a man who said he was looking for the School for the Blind. The man told James he could custom-build shoes and asked James' shoe size, promising to craft him a pair of super comfy shoes to bring him later. James ended up driving him somewhere, and don't worry: that's not something I, as a woman, would likely do, especially when it's dark outside and I've already been fantasizing about visiting the little girl's room for like 20 minutes.

Anyway, I was thinking about the encounters we've had here with locals, both transient and more permanent. When you read heart-warming stories about people's interactions with the homeless or orphans or the emotionally needy, they usually have a story arc or some point. Our experience with the interesting assortment of characters with whom we've come into contact here tend to be fleeting. There are only three or four people we see on a regular basis.

The first is "Grandpa," who lives in the crawl space of an attorney's office a couple of blocks away. The first time I noticed him, I was waiting inside Taco Cabana for a 12-pack of their breakfast tacos (because I had a coupon, of course). He came into the restaurant, got a complimentary cup of water, and sat in the main dining room to watch television. He looked "normal," like my dad, except appeared a little scattered and the bottom of the leg of his pants looked like he might have stepped in a creek at some point. His face was also a little scabbed up.

I watched him drink the water, then go back and get more water, some lemon slices, some lime slices, and sugar, then go back to the table to make lemonade. At that point, I started praying he'd stay long enough for me to get my food. When I did, I went over to him and offered him one of each of the 4 varieties of breakfast tacos, which he gladly accepted.

Speaking of Taco Cabana, I have to give them a shout-out because I see homeless and transient people in there all of the time. The McDonald's across the street has signs posted on their windows about how dine-in visits are to be limited to half an hour, a policy I am certain is designed to keep these same people from camping out in the climate control. However, Taco Cabana doesn't seem bothered by them. I've seen people wander in with cups from other restaurants and fill them up at the soda fountain, in full view of the employees, and no one gives them a hard time. Right on, Taco Cabana!

Since first seeing him, we've taken Grandpa food at "his" house (on the weekends, he hangs out more on the porch), kept food on hand to give him when he makes his morning walk-by, and have seen him several places in the neighborhood. He tends to get up and walk from the attorney's office toward campus every morning, and I don't know what he does all day, but he has an apparent schedule.

There are times that he's very "present" and will engage in light conversation, and there are times when he seems very out of it... and those times, he usually looks rougher, too, like he was in some kind of altercation or fall.

Also, one time he called to me when I was riding my bike past the office and asked me to come over there. In that moment, I didn't feel moved to detour, so I told him I'd be back in an hour and would check on him then (after I'd had James join me). When I returned, he'd moved along to somewhere else, so I never found out what he wanted.

Another person we see a lot is this guy whose hair is longer than James' and is all matted into one thick, long dreadlock. I'm not sure where he usually crashes, but he seems very strong, fit, and one of those people who has probably actually selected homelessness as a lifestyle. He is always visiting with people, and doesn't usually have the affect of someone with the same mental disconnects that present themselves so often with...

Crazy Guy. This morning, I mentioned that I haven't seen (read: heard) him in several months. James said he has seen him recently, but that he likely moved on a bit and doesn't stay in the alley behind our house anymore. We used to start every morning with a chorus of him hollering swears out back, but that hasn't happened in some time. It's funny, because we'd also see him very frequently on the sidewalk out front or walking past the Taco Cabana, and when he is in his right mind, he's extremely personable. He will ask how you're doing, and always follows it up with a "Jesus loves you." He also seems mildly offended if you acknowledge that too passively. He insists, "He does. He really does. I'm serious. Think about it and believe it."

There is also a very thin older woman (not to be confused with "Grandma," the lady who walks with her walker past our house several times a week; she actually has a residence here in the area, but I love to see someone of her age and perceived impaired ability getting exercise so regularly) who seems to have some connection to our house. The first time she walked by when I was out on the porch, she'd turned to look at the house. I explained that we'd just moved in, and when she realized there was someone outside and talking to her, she mumbled nervously, apologized, and walked away.

One night, well after bedtime, we were awakened by someone on the porch. I couldn't see out very well, but James could and said it was her. I don't know whether she'd knocked on the door or had dropped something or had moved a chair, but she was sitting down until we looked out and started making noise, then she disappeared around the corner.

One morning just as I got out of the shower, there was a light knock on the front door. It took me a few moments to put on my bath robe and make it to the window, but at that point, she was walking away. She very often stops as she's walking by, and looks at the house, and in the windows, as though she knows someone here or is looking for something.

We have been told by people who have been in the area a long time that this house, especially the giant front porch, was used regularly by homeless people in the months that it was vacant. Maybe this was "her" house just like the attorney's office is Grandpa's house.

Besides those "regulars," we occasionally have the chance to talk to people who are wandering by and just seem to need an ear.

Once, I came home from church on Sunday, and James was siting out on the front steps talking to a man who, during the conversation, pulled out a small notebook with schematics for some kind of deep-space propulsion system he'd designed. He said he was trying to make his way to Boston College to meet with a professor there to show him the plans. He explained how it would work, but that totally went over my head.

Another time, before I moved into the Nuthaus, James met a couple expecting a baby. Since I was getting ready to move out of the RV, he had me call them to see about maybe giving them the RV. After I met Kenneth and Vanessa (and her brother, and their dog) and spoke to them, it became clear that owning a $20,000 mobile home would probably have been more overwhelming to them than a blessing. They'd have to qualify for the rental space where I was parked, and he'd just started a job. Then if something happened that they couldn't pay rent, they'd have to move the RV or lose it. Then there's the insurance. We ended up referring them to Mobile Loaves and Fishes, since they know what they're doing, and I think MLF referred them to LifeWorks, which specializes in helping young families.

Then there was the morning when I was getting ready, actually, to go see the attorney whose office is also Grandpa's house when there was a knock at the door. I opened it, and there was a man standing there who said, "I'm sorry. I... this is going to sound weird, but I just feel like I'm supposed to be here. Does that sound weird?" I told him it did sound a little weird, and asked him how I could help him.

"Do you need anything?" I asked.

"I need a lot of things. Need to get off of drugs. Need a job. Any ideas?

I told him about the ReWork Project, and he asked for the contact information. I was going to write it down for him, but he asked if I had an Android charger so he could get his phone back online. It happens that James has an Android, so I got the charger and said I was getting ready to go out for the morning so he could only have about 15 minutes. I plugged his phone in, he put in the ReWork contact info (to date, I don't believe he's contacted them), and promptly fell asleep on the couch.

When it was time for him to go, I was a little nervous about leaving the house with his knowing I was going, but several minutes later when I did start up the road, he was again asleep on a neighboring porch, a house that was vacant at the time.

One night when I was making dinner, James was on the front porch reading, a lady walked by and started talking to him. Here's a thing I love about my husband: He closed his book, stood up from his chair, and went and sat on the steps so she would know she had his full attention.

I asked Daphne to go tell James that it was time to eat, but she didn't want to interrupt the conversation. I went out to get him, and he invited me over to hear the woman's story. She told me that she was really worried because there were a bunch of "bad guys" down at that house, "You know, the purple one? The one that McDonald's owns?" (Nope and nope.) She said that they were talking about getting lighter fluid and setting some guy on fire. She said they wanted to get arrested because one of them wanted to get into the jail because that's where their intended victim was. She said they had also threatened to stab someone else, and that "they have one of those things you do yard work with, you know that you break up the dirt with the blade? A hoe. They're going to do a Southern-style attack."

She was extremely agitated and said, "I just don't want no one to get hurt. Can you call the police for me? I'd do it myself, but they have my phone."

Of course, I wasn't going to call the police on her behalf, but it occurred to me:

"There's a fire station right there. If you're worried about someone committing arson, they'd be interested to know."

James, too, encouraged her to walk over and she got even more agitated and said, "No, but. Thanks. Thanks for... I have to..." and she wondered off. I could see in James' eyes his hurt for her and frustration about not being able to *do* anything... but we can't. Not in a "big picture" way, anyway. I think the best we can do is to try to be good neighbors during the times we have those opportunities.

P.S. This morning, James said it was kind of funny that we know some of the homeless people better than we know our actual next-door-rental-neighbor. It's true. When he got home yesterday, I happened to be outside seeing a friend off, and while I recognized his car as the one that's always parked in the drive, I thought, "Is *that* what that guy looks like?" I think I have been imagining the previous renter, and honestly have no idea when this guy moved in. James and I had noticed that there are fewer arguments than there used to be.