Links for Friday, July 10, 209

How did it get to be Friday again already? This week just whizzed by!

We had a great Independence Day: mid-day at the lake, home to watch – what else? – Independence Day – then fireworks when it got dark. Stayed up way too late.

Stayed up way too late Sunday night, too, since I took the kids to the drive-in to see Up and The Hannah Montana Movie. Loved Up (I don’t think there is a single Pixar movie I haven’t loved) and was surprised that the second feature was actually pretty good – and had some catchy music that I can’t get out of my head, because my daughter has been singing it ever since.

Went to the gym three times this week and walked on the treadmill. Increased my speed and duration each time. My butt and thighs hurt.

Got a haircut today for the first time in ages – my hair had grown out fairly long, now it’s a little longer than chin-length and layered again. Much cooler for summer.

Tonight, Natalie and I are going to a mother-daughter campout. I will stay for hot dogs and campfire songs and the scavenger hunt, but come home to sleep in my bed so a dozen tween-aged girls don’t keep me awake until o-dark-thirty.

Five days until my sister Debra gets here for a quick two-day visit. Haven’t been able to hug her in real life since her divorce. Can’t wait to get all caught up.

We have two members of our extended family undergoing treatment for cancer. My aunt is having radiation treatments to follow up on a lumpectomy for breast cancer. Kevin’s sister will undergo surgery and then chemotherapy for liver cancer. Prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Well, I’m off to run errands in 20 minutes, so I better get on with the links:

~ This comic is funny, and sadly, true. We love our public library!

~ The Best Books of the Year So Far.

~ ABC is holding a contest for budding song-writers: write a mock theme song for LOST.

~ This video is amazing: A choir uses their hands to simulate a rainstorm – and then they sing Africa.

At Books and Movies recently:

~ My favorite YA fiction, part one
~ Book review: Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult
~ Book review: The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

Have a great weekend!

Links for Friday, a little early

January 10, 2008 Categories: Books , Funnies , Homeschooling , Memories , Parenting , Television , This and That , Videos | 7 Comments  

It’s been a week, that’s all I have to say. We started back to school this week, and, boy, did I feel the three weeks off. Plus, Kevin is mostly working from home now, and with our little house and my freaking out if our schedule gets interrupted – well, let’s just say we all have some adjusting to do. Here are a few highlights:

Snow, snow, and more snow. I don’t know how many inches we have had since Thanksgiving, but I am praying for an early spring. The extended forecast for the next ten days? Snow, snow, snow showers, snow – with a few cloudy days thrown in for good measure. This is the time of year I always start to feel like a grouch about the weather.

Abcess on a tonsil. No, not mine – I don’t have any tonsils anymore. Kevin seemed to be getting over the flu just fine, until his right tonsil swelled up so big that it pushed his uvula (the little dangly thing in the middle) out of position and nearly closed his throat off. A shot of steroids and mega-antibiotics reduced the swelling enough that the doctor could get in there and lance and drain it. Yes, this involved a shot of novicaine into his tonsil, which was then sliced into, spread open, and sucked out. Too much information? Sorry. He was a drugged up sleepy-head for a day or two, and will be on antibiotics for a while, but all is healing nicely.

I Am Legend. Dad and I went and saw this Sunday evening. Quick review: much scarier than I expected; Will Smith is fantastic; surprisingly strong message about God’s sovereignty. If you’re squeamish, skip it; if you’re not and you like sci-fi, see it.

Cable hook-up. After being frustrated that our antenna doesn’t work when it’s snowing, we decided to hook up very basic cable. And I mean basic: NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, FOX, TBS, The Weather Channel, C-Span – and a couple of religious stations with very big-haired people asking for money. But, I can watch my football games – and Lost returns on the 31st! All this for around $15 a month – and no contract, unlike satellite. The kids are happy to be able to watch Cyberchase and Zoom on PBS again.

Did I mention the SNOW?

Well, enough complaining – I have a bunch of links to share. Some will educate, some will make you laugh, all are guaranteed to be a worthy waste of time.

~ Karen Edmisten on Blogging, breaks, and mother guilt.

~ Albert Mohler on The Reading of Books. (I owe someone a hat tip for this, but can’t remember where I saw it.)

~ Why don’t you use the little wench? – hilarious column on the misuse of homophones.

~ For Natalie’s writing assignment this week, she wrote a persuasive essay on why everyone should read the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket.

~ What do I do now? – great video at Lovin’ Life.

~ Moomin Light on watching Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth, duh) for the first time.

~ Beautiful photos of libraries around the world – Hat tip: Sherry at Semicolon.

~ Panoramic views of selected rooms in The Louvre – be sure and look up at the ceilings!

~ Column on why the WGA strike is dragging on.

delurk.jpg

Lastly, I discovered that this week was De-Lurking week in the blogging world. What does that mean? Well, a lurker is someone who reads a blog, but doesn’t comment. I would love to hear from any and all of my readers – if you’ve never commented before, just click on Comment and say “hi.” Have a great weekend!

Kindred spirits

January 3, 2008 Categories: All About Me , Books , Memories | 8 Comments  

I am re-watching You’ve Got Mail. Close to a perfect film: Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, witty dialogue, and books. Early on in the film, Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen, talks about what her mother did when she started her bookstore. That she wasn’t just helping children find books, but she was helping to shape who they would become, because the books we read as children have a direct effect on the kind of people we become.

I started thinking about the people who helped me find the books that shaped who I have become. And wishing that I had a way to thank them, to tell them what a profound impact they made on my life.

Teresa Johnson was one of the librarians at the Sedro Woolley Public Library. My sisters and I spent hours and hours there. This was back in the day when we could holler to Mom, “heading to the library,” hop on our bikes and go. Teresa was a personal friend of the family, and so we had “behind the counter” privileges: we got to stamp books and cards (this was before the computerized age, of course) and help re-shelve books. We also got first look at the new books, before they even hit the shelves! I have Teresa to thank for many of my favorite books, like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the Trixie Belden series, and Anne of Green Gables. There was also this one book from the non-fiction section, but I can’t remember the title. It was a book about a rich man who built a beautiful dollhouse mansion – for his wife or daughters, maybe? The pictures of the dollhouse’s opulent rooms, with absolutely exquisite details – they must have been falling apart by the time my sisters and I were too old to check it out anymore. Our last name, Shannon, nearly filled the check-out card. (Anyone remember the book?)

Teresa didn’t just open my mind to the world of books, however. When my parents went away for a weekend, Teresa would come stay with us, and she would bring her dress-up trunk. A trunk full of old prom and bridesmaid dresses that were the inspiration for hours of imaginative play. I’m sure my future theater major originated in that trunk. Teresa also brought videos of musicals, ballets, and operas. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Pirates of Penzance, The Scarlet Pimpernel.

She didn’t stop with videos, however. She spent her hard-earned money to take my sisters and I to the ballet and to the theater. Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and The Nutcracker as danced by the company of the Pacific Norhtwest Ballet. Symphonies, operettas, and ice skating. A huge part of my taste in music and literature and the arts can be directly traced back to those trips to Seattle. Dick’s Drive-In burgers before the performance, mud pie at Red Robin afterward. What memories.

I got a Christmas card from Teresa – I do every year. She’s still single, still works at the library. And, knowing her heart, there is another generation of girls who are learning to love books, the theater, and the ballet.

Miss Jane Dooling was my eighth grade teacher. That was the only year I spent in Christian school – the tuition paid for because my mom was the church secretary. I have many memories of that year. My first boyfriend. My first kiss. I remember walking to Miss Dooling’s house when news reached us of the Challenger disaster. We sat in her living room in stunned silence, watching the news, not fully able to comprehend what we were witnessing.

And her books. She would bring stacks for me to take home, and as soon as I finished, there was another stack. I don’t remember all the books that I borrowed from her, but one series in particular stands out in my mind – the Betsy Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, with the wonderful line drawings by Lois Lenski. More than the books, though, I remember her unbridled generosity and willingness to share. I was an awkward 8th-grade girl – braces, glasses, the whole bit. But Miss Dooling valued my opinion about the books she loaned me! When I returned a book, she would ask me questions: What was your favorite part? Which character did you like best? Did he or she make the right decision? I learned how to think about my reading from her – more than from any book report I ever wrote during the rest of my school years.

I’m not sure what happened to Miss Jane Dooling. I don’t know if she ever married, if she’s still teaching. But I’m fairly sure of one thing – she is still a book-lover and a book-sharer.

As I now share these books with my own daughter, I am grateful to these two women for opening new worlds to me.

Happy New Year

December 31, 2007 Categories: Blogging , Books , Faith , Holidays , Kid Stuff , Marriage , Memories , Music , Parenting , Writing | 7 Comments  

What are you doing this New Year’s Eve 2007? I am sitting on the couch with my new laptop, watching the kids jump and sing and dance along with their High School Musical game on their new Playstation 2. They are happy, especially since their daddy told them they could stay up until midnight to welcome the New Year. Without asking their mommy. He’s the crazy one – I’ll probably head in to bed, and he’ll be up. And he’s still getting over the flu. He did, however, take a long nap in a quiet house this afternoon while the kids and I were visiting at Michelle’s.

I’m also listening to the song Revival from the CD Revival in Belfast by Robin Marks. We found a new church home this year. It has been nearly two years since we left our old church home. And yet, as soon as this song comes up on my MP3 player, I am fighting back tears. This CD came out when I was worship coordinator at that church, and we did many of these songs on Sunday mornings. Hearing this song brings me right back, and I am sad again. How long until that goes away?

I remember when New Year’s Eve was an occasion to stay up late, party hard and celebrate. I must be getting older, because it is now just fine with me to stay at home with my family, and mentally reminisce about the past year and plan for the new one, while they party around me.

My heart is full tonight, and I want to get these thoughts down before they are gone in the flurry of the rest of the week.

I have many things to be grateful for as I look back on 2007.

We were able to refinance our house and get out of debt. Because of that, and in spite of the fact that Kevin still faces the possibility of unemployment this year, we are better off financially than we were last year at this time. God is good.

I wish you could see what I see right now. Josiah is laying on his back with his ankles crossed, hands under his head. He looks like he should be laying in a hammock. He’s watching his sister and brother sing and compete, and when each song ends, he jumps up and shouts, “You got an A!” (The game grades you on your performance of HSM songs.) And on my MP3 player is playing the song This is a Moment Made for Worshipping by Steven Curtis Chapman. “This is a moment made for worshipping, because this is a moment I’m alive…”

I’m grateful for a husband who believes in my writing to the point that he would buy me a brand new laptop because I need something better for my work. And a husband who bought me a second MP3 player for Christmas, because he remembered that I jokingly said in passing that I needed one for music, one for audiobooks. And he indulges my book obsession.

I’m grateful for friendship. We’ve lived in this town for 10 and a half years now, and during that time I have made many good friends. They have all been exactly what I needed at the time, but each friendship has been for a season. And now, for the first time since I was in college, I feel like I have a true best friend. God ordained that Michelle would move here for me; you’ll never convince me otherwise. Our friendship is still relatively new – although I can hardly believe we just exchanged Christmas gifts for the second time – but I have no doubt that our friendship is for a lifetime. Some things you just know.

All right, answer me this: how can I go from lovingly gazing at my children having fun and thinking about how wonderful it is to be their mother to being completely annoyed that they are interrupting my blogging? My blogging about how grateful I am? For them? (The song on my MP3 player is now Fabulous from High School Musical 2. I’m not as selfish as Sharpay, honest.)

I’m grateful for happy, healthy kids. Other than the occasional cold and flu, my kids are healthy. They are also good kids. Yes, there are days when I want to pull my hair out, but there are also days when the receptionist at the orthodontist’s office tells me how much she enjoys it when we come in, because she knows my kids are well-behaved.

I’m grateful for Natalie. My 11-year-old. Just typing those words makes me sigh. She is changing so fast, from an adorable little girl to a beautiful young lady. She is goofy, feminine, able to break a board with her foot while blushing over the cute boy at Tae Kwon Do, and – most importantly – she has a strong desire to follow Jesus.

I’m grateful for Noah. He’s 9. When Kevin gets the pictures off the camera and onto my computer, I’ll post the picture Kevin snapped while we were opening gifts Christmas Eve. Noah has always been a joy to watch open gifts – he is thrilled with each and every one. And though he loves the Playstation and his camera, the gift that got the biggest smile was Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide of the Fantastical World Around You.

I’m grateful for Jonathan. He’s 8 and his energy is astonishing at times. He is like contained electricity; he buzzes with it. I love the fact that he is now an accomplished reader, and likes to share with me what is happening in his book. It makes me laugh to see how fast he can go from picking on his sister to defending her honor. (Now, I’m listening to Long Train Running’ by The Doobie Brothers: “Without love, where would I be right now?” Yes, my musical taste is varied and odd.)

I’m grateful for Josiah. He’s 6 and still comes running up to me to say, “I know what you need, Mommy. You need a snuggle from me.” And he’s right; I do. As he has completed the familiar pages in Abeka’s Letter and Sounds this year, it has been startling to realize that this is the last time I will be leading a child through this phonics program, the last time I will watch a child experience the joy of reading for the first time. I am now the mother of four readers.

I’m grateful for parents who live close enough that we can watch football games and go to the movies together. I’m grateful that we found a church that our kids love. I’m grateful that there is a (however tentative) peace with our neighbors. I’m grateful that my kids have good friends. I am grateful that we are on our sixth year of homeschooling, and I still enjoy it and I am still convinced that it is the best path for our family. I’m grateful for weekly phone conversations with my sister Andrea, chatting online with my other sister Debra, and visits with my sister Marni while she still lives close enough. I’m grateful for quiet evenings with a book, a glass of Pinot Grigio, and dark chocolate. I’m grateful for 24, Numb3rs and Ballykissangel on DVD. I’m grateful for all the blogs on my blogroll – and some I haven’t added yet – for making me think and laugh, for giving me encouragement, and for suggesting some brilliant books.

May your New Year be filled with books that make you think, friends you can be “you” with, and days bright with joy and laughter.

Home for Christmas

December 15, 2007 Categories: Holidays , Memories | 1 Comment  

This is the essay my sister wrote several years ago about our Christmases when we were kids. It’s long, but she does a wonderful job of describing just what Christmas felt, tasted, and sounded like to us as little girls.

I remember the way the Maple tree looked through our kitchen windows from where I sat at the large, picnic-style table my father had fashioned to accommodate his family of six. You could tell it was cold out looking through the frosty windows at the sky, clear as blue glass. A majestic background for the giant limbs, now bare, that stretched over the drive.

I can still feel the chocolate mint dough sticky on my palms, as I rolled the little balls, dipped them in confectioner’s sugar, and flattened them on the blackened cookie sheet.

Roger Whittaker’s Christmas album, a tradition at our house since before I was born, poured in from the living room, evoking, even then, happy memories of Christmases past and hope for what this present season could bring.

For me, Christmas in our old State Street home was magic. The season was made special by my blessed parents who found their joy in four shining faces and their squeals of delight. I’ve often thought how much more I could have appreciated had I been then as I am now, but nevertheless, my sisters and I immersed ourselves in the season as only children can, with never a thought to growing up and leaving behind our dear house and all its memories.

The Christmas season began officially, for my sisters and I, the day after Thanksgiving when my parents gave permission, at long last, for the large stack of records to be carted down from the upstairs closet. Soon Bing and Frank filled the house with “White Christmas” and “Silent Night.” Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” particularly delighted Debra, who liked to set the record back and hear it again, risking the aggravation of my parents who had never been great fans.

In the evenings we would sit and listen, pouring over the Sears catalogue and furiously writing down page numbers just in case Santa needed any help in filling our stockings.

The next event was the buying of the Christmas tree. My most vivid memories of this are when we were older and my sisters, busy with the “more important things” of teenage years, left the duty to Dad and I. So, on the designated evening, after Dad was home and dinner was finished, we two would set out, bundled up, on a mission to find the perfect tree. We would stop at all the stands in town, and weaving in and out of the rows, Dad would stand a tree up, spin it around for my approval, and together we would pick out it’s various flaws. Too tall, bare on one side, not enough branches at the top, and on and on, until at last we made our choice. To top off the evening and celebrate a successful mission, Dad treated us to ice cream cones, which we licked happily, never minding the cold outside.

Once home, the tree was brought in for the approval of Mama and sisters who weren’t always pleased with our selection, but weren’t at liberty to complain since they’d opted not to come along, and me secretly glad since I’d had Dad all to myself for the evening.

Once the tree was decked we would turn our attention to baking. Mama would take her worn recipe box down from the cupboard and with the box in her lap she would pick out all the holiday favorites and us girls would each choose a recipe. My favorites were lemon bars with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar. Holiday recipes would come and go, stained-glass cookies one year, haystacks the next, but the sugard cookies were always a standard. To us it could not be Christmas until the dough was cut into bells, Santas, crosses and stockings, and each was decorated with colored frosting and red and green sprinkles. Somehow I think more frosting ended up in our bellies than on the cookies, but nonetheless, we conquered the yearly task with zeal, armed with sticky-handled butter knives and the sweet tooth inherent in all the Shannon clan.

Christmas Eve was sometimes spent at Grandma’s house around her tree. There were always presents to open, a foretaste of what would come from under our own tree that beckoned us back home. In later years, when we better understood the reality of the holiday, the night before Christmas was a reminder of the sacredness of what we were truly celebrating. Mama would read those familiar, comforting words aloud, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…” And I would imagine the scene as I had so many times before, almost hearing the rustling of the cattle about Jesus’ cradle as we sang, “Away in a Manger.” I would climb into bed, carols still in my head and my stomach full of cookies and eggnog.

Christmas morning began with four little girls in barefeet and nightgowns racing down to the family room. Our stockings, each one knitted by Mama in red and green, and marked with our initials, waited for us in a row like special friends that only came out to play once a year. The small gifts that rested at the top of each were torn into as Mama snapped pictures and Daddy stood by smiling. The usual bag of bon bons and nuts retrieved from the bottom of each sock and taken down to keep us chewing as we opened the rest of our gifts.

One by one, taking turns, the glittery paper and bows were torn off and boxes were opened to a fresh cry of joy. Each doll was hugged. Mickey Mouse phones were tested.

Some years there were “special” presents – a desk or mirror that Daddy would make. The picture of my Daddy bundled up in his winter coat and heading out to his workshop will forever be etched in the cherished banks of my mind. When there were whisperings and hushes and warnings to keep out of the shop, you knew it was going to be a special Christmas. The cold evenings, the singing of the saw blade, the sanding, the varnish, and the love that shaped each piece, combined to create something worth much more than the wood it was made of. I can see Mama’s tears.

In my case it was a cradle where my Cabbage Patch dolls spent their best days and now waits for my little girls to come play.

Christmas day ended with a family dinner at a table that seemed to stretch for miles covered with so many things that were so easy to spill. There were cousins and new toys to play with while the Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents visited. Christmas went out leaving tired bodies and full tummies in its wake.

I was always a little melancholy the day after Christmas. I knew that soon the tree would be taken apart, the clothes-pin reindeer and paper stars put away for next year’s tree. The cookies and treats would disappear from the cupboard and the stack of records would return to their corner in the closet. The thought of waiting a whole year for the season to come around again saddened my heart. But the school year would pass while last Christmas’ toys kept us company and we’d begin another. Before we knew it Christmas would show once more in the smells of the kitchen, and the sound of our excited giggles.

Of course, we can’t always believe in Santa. The cradles and Mickey Mouse phones make way for a thick volume of Jane Austen and, in Debra’s case, a CD of Elvis’ Greatest Hits. We no longer live in our dear house on State Street with it’s perfect place for a Christmas tree and family gatherings aren’t what they used to be. We cling less to the gifts and more to the baby Jesus. Most of us are married and some are expecting little ones of their own. There are new faces in the family. A niece with Debra’s curly hair and a nephew with my round cheeks. But when we all make it home for Christmas, all grown up with little girl memories, we watch the little ones who find those same old stockings of Mama’s, a sugar cookie or two to decorate themselves, and perhaps, a Roger Whittaker carol to remember always.

by Marni Shannon Stout

September 18, 1999

September 26, 2007 Categories: Kid Stuff , Memories , Parenting | 11 Comments  

Yes, you guessed it – this is another long birth story post. Jonathan turned eight on the 18th, and in searching through my archives I found that I have never recorded his birth story. So, for posterity’s sake – and the few of you who enjoy reading this kind of post – here goes.

Jonathan was due on September 18th, and I went in the day before for one of those once-a-week check-ups that you have at the end of a pregnancy. My blood pressure was sky high, so they took urine and blood and sent me to the hospital for a non-stress test. I had pre-eclampsia when I was pregnant with Natalie, so that was always a concern with fmy other pregnancies.

While I was at the hospital, we determined that the baby was fine, head down, ready to be born. We were expecting a boy, but keeping an open mind because ultrasound isn’t foolproof. The doctor called the hospital and said that my blood and urine were full of the stuff they look for in pre-eclampsia, and told the OB nurse not to let me leave.

We were living with my parents at the time, but my mom was on a missions trip to Israel. Thinking back, I have no idea who was watching Natalie and Noah. It could’ve been my Dad or it could’ve been my youngest sister, Marni, who still lived at home; I’m not sure. Someone was with them, so I didn’t need to worry, and someone also brought me my bag and some reading material. I called Kevin at work and told him I wasn’t coming home and that he needed to take the next day off, since the doctor wanted to start me on Pitocin in the morning to induce labor.

The nurse inserted something into my cervix to help it efface and dilate. Okay, this is the part that is going to be hard to write without getting really, really mad. I had a different doctor then. Now, I have a wonderful doctor. The kids love him, I love him, and I trust him. He comes into the story again later, but the doctor that I had seen all through my pregnancy was, well, I’ll call her Dr. B. No, that won’t work, cause my current doctor is also Dr. B. I’ll call her Dr. X.

The stuff they put into my cervix caused me to start having contractions, so they put my on a monitor to watch the baby’s heart rate. With each and every contraction – and these were extremely mild contractions – his heart rate dipped. The nurses contacted Dr. X, and she said to remove the insert, and she’d see me in the morning. I then attempted to sleep, even though I continued to have mild contractions off and on all night. And, to be honest, who can sleep in the hospital unless you’re on some really good pain meds?

In the morning, they hooked me up to Pitocin. It didn’t take long for my contractions to start in pretty strong. Kevin came in as soon as the Pitocin took effect, and was with me for the rest of it. Again, with every contraction, Jonathan’s heart rate dropped significantly. Dr. X expressed some concern, but then brushed it off as “probably normal.” As labor intensified and his heart rate continuted to dip, Kevin asked her if maybe we should be considering a c-section if the baby couldn’t handle labor. She basically ignored his suggestion and said everything was fine.

When I was dialated far enough to get my epidural, Dr. X tried to talk me into having an intrathecal instead. I had one of those during my labor with Noah. Like an epidural, it takes away the pain of the contractions, but it doesn’t numb you so that you can feel to push. Kevin asked if an intrathecal would be the right kind of anesthesia if we ended up needing a cesarean. She said, “No, but that won’t be an issue.” At that point, Kevin was mad and insisted that I get an epidural, because then if I did need a c-section, they could just turn it up or give me another dose.

The epidural took effect and I had a short amount of time when I was feeling no pain, and then I was dilated to a 10. Dr. X said it was time to push with the next contraction. The contraction came, I pushed, and Jonathan’s heart stopped. Completely stopped – no reading at all, not even on the internal monitor.

At that point, Dr. X yelled, “We need a c-section team – NOW!” and gave me an injection to stop my labor. Since we were at a small, rural hospital, the doctor who was on-call for c-sections was not actually at the hospital, and had to be called in. I turned on my side, and Jonathan’s heart started beating, but it was only beating about 75 beats per minute, which is lower than normal.

Kevin wasn’t allowed in the operating room since it was an emergency and there wasn’t time to get him scrubbed and gowned. He was so worried, but the hospital chaplain, a wonderful man named Bruce, came and sat with him through the whole thing.

Twenty-five minutes from when Dr. X called for a c-section team, Jonathan was born. A nurse later told me this was the fastest time they had ever clocked for a c-section. The surgery itself was a blur – lots of pulling and tuggin and me crying and praying and praying and crying. Remember Dr. B? He was the doctor who came in to perform the surgery and deliver Jonathan. He told me Jonathan was born, and that the cord had been wrapped around his neck. I didn’t hear anything else. It was a minute or two until Jonathan finally pinked up and started crying. A minute doesn’t seem like a very long time, unless it’s a minute in which you are wondering if your baby is going to live.

As soon as Jonathan started crying, I started sobbing, and continued while they sewed me up. I was in shock: exhausted because I had labored all day, and when the epidural wore off, I hurt. A lot.

I held Jonathan, and then they took him into the nursery to monitor him for a while. I was moved into my room, and given an IV of Demoral, which I could administer to myself by the push of a button. What we didn’t know, though, was that Demoral doesn’t work for me a bit. I kept telling the nurse I didn’t think I was getting any medicine, and she looked and said, “Yes, you are, it should be working.” But it wasn’t. A different nurse came on shift, and she came in to massage my uterus and change my sheets, and when she touched me I burst into tears and started moaning from the pain. At that point, they believed me that the the Demoral wasn’t working, and they switched me to morphine. Ah, bliss.

The woman in the room next door was being induced, and she progressed so fast they didn’t have time to move her to a delivery room. She screamed and screamed as her baby was born, and since I was on morphine it was kind of like a bad hallucination. Very surreal.

On day two, I switched to oral pain meds – I think it was hydrocodone. It was at that point that I realized I had a horrible headache. When I was laying flat, I was fine. When I stood up, it was excruciating. I know now that this is the main symptom of an epidural headache, which occurs when the anesthesiologist goofs and makes a small tear in your spinal sac, causing a leak of spinal fluid. So instead of your brain floating nicely above your spine, it settles down onto your spine, and causes the worst headache you can possibly imagine.

Dr. X did not diagnose it as an epidural headache and prescribe complete bed rest and a blood patch to fix the tear. No, she said it was probably just hormones, and had me stay over one more night, then sent me home. It wasn’t until months later that we realized how badly she had goofed, that if she had kept me there and treated me right away, the chances of treatment working were much greater.

This began three months of complete agony. I would literally crawl to the bathroom, cause standing up hurt too badly. Finally, Kevin took me to the ER, where he told them he had been doing some online research and that he thought I had an epidural headache. The doctor at the ER attempted a blood patch, which is a very fun procedure where they take a vial of blood from your arm and then inject it into the epidural site, in the hope that it will clot over the tear and seal it up. Because your back doesn’t like things being injected into your spinal sac, it siezes up with cramping that feels like back labor. Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist didn’t have much experience with this procedure, and so sent me home right afterward instead of having me lay flat for a couple hours. He also said that the procedure doesn’t always work, and if it didn’t, that it would eventually heal on its own, and lots of caffeine is the best treatment for the pain.

The blood patch didn’t work, so I started drinking tons of coffee and Pepsi, and taking Excedrin with caffeine. Which made it real fun trying to sleep when my newborn was sleeping. Oh, I almost forgot – Noah was only 15 months old at the time Jonathan was born. Natalie was not quite three. So I had a 2 1/2 year old, a 1 1/2 year old, and a newborn – and I thought I was dying. It was not a good time.

Kevin was wonderful. He would come home from work, eat dinner, and then go to bed. I would put the kids to bed and give Jonathan his 10 or 11 o’clock feeding, then go to bed. If any of the kids got up in the middle of the night – which of course Jonathan did, around 2 a.m., and often stayed awake for a couple hours – he would get up. I was very glad I had decided not to nurse because of the c-section recovery.

After two and a half months, my doctor sent me down to Spokane to have another blood patch done by an anesthesiologist who was experienced with the procedure. I’m not sure if this one worked, or if my spinal sac started to heal itself, but a few weeks later, the headache was gone.

You want to know the really sad part? I liked Dr. X. She may have been incompetent, but she was a really nice person, and I was so emotionally addicted to people’s approval at the time, that I was too afraid to hurt her feelings. I kept seeing her.

It took her misdiagnosing tension headaches as a sinus infection and putting me on unnecessary antibiotics for three months for me to realize that Kevin was right and I needed to switch doctors. When I started seeing Dr. B as my primary care physician, I told him about the dips in Jonathan’s heart rate during labor and asked what he would have done. He said he didn’t like to second-guess other doctors, but he would not have let labor progress that far with the baby obviously not tolerating it.

Because of the epidural headache, I feel like I missed out on Jonathan’s newborn days. It all seems like a haze in my memory. I do remember switching to Playtex nursers instead of regular bottles because he was so gassy. And after that he was a really happy baby. And a roly poly one! He weighed 20 pounds by 6 months – he had three rolls on each thigh!

And now he is 8. It is so hard to believe. Jonathan Nathanael. Kevin picked his name while I was still pregnant. Both names mean “gift from God.” And after he was born, we truly understood how true that was. He could have died during birth. If the c-section team hadn’t gotten there in record time, who knows? But they did, and he lived. And I thank God for the gift that he is.

Jonathan is all boy. He loves fishing and camping and shooting his BB gun. He likes to wrestle and tell boy jokes. He is a great reader, but hates writing. He likes to get his hands on things and take them apart and put them back together. He’s got a mischievous grin and a twinkle in his eye, and the girls are already noticing him. Lord have mercy!

I love you, Jonathan! I am so happy that God gave us the gift of you.

High School Meme from Lawanda

August 1, 2007 Categories: All About Me , Memes & Quizzes , Memories | 5 Comments  

I saw this meme at Lawanda‘s a while ago, and I’ve been saving it until I had time to do it right.

1. Who was your best friend?
Fran Leanos, Jennifer Jones, Tobi Gaddis

2. Did you play any sports?
Not unless you count our family croquet games on the 4th of July.

3. What kind of car did you drive?
Either my parents huge green station wagon, or a dark blue Plymouth Scamp. I drove the Scamp in college, too, and my friend’s boyfriend had a Dodge Dart of the same year. Those two cars are made by the same manufacturer. Anyway, he figured out that his keys would open and start my car, so he thought it was funny to come on campus while I was in class and move my car from the east parking lot to the west parking lot, or vice versa.

4. It’s Friday night. Where were you?
Probably babysitting or at a movie.

5. Were you a party animal?
No – though I did enjoy cast parties after opening night. But I didn’t really do any drinking in high school.

6. Were you considered a flirt?
Maybe a little bit – but only with guys I knew really well.

7. Were you in the band, orchestra or choir?
Concert choir and jazz choir.

8. Were you a nerd?
Yep. Got really good grades, wore glasses, sang in choir, was in drama and French club – the whole nine yards.

9. Were you ever suspended or expelled?
I got in-school suspension once for the only time I ever skipped school. Had to spend the whole school day in this basement room where the walls were painted the color of split pea soup.

10. Can you sing the fight song?
Not anymore.

11. Who was your favorite teacher?
Mr. Mathews, my choir teacher was number one favorite for being a great teacher and wonderful person. Mr. Jury, my lit teacher for expanding my literature horizons. Mr. Heuterman, my US and world history teacher, for making history interesting.

12. What was your school mascot?
A bear cub.

13. Did you go to the Prom?
No. Our church had a “prom alternative” where we dressed up and went out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Our church at the time was just a tad legalistic about things like dancing.

14. If you could go back, would you?
Not for a million dollars.

15. What do you remember most about graduation?
That it was long and hot. Singing “Lean On Me” with two friends.

16. Where were you on Senior Skip Day?
We didn’t have one. Our principal made an announcement that anyone who participated in a group skip day would not be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony.

17. Did you have a job your senior year?
Yes, I worked afternoons at a financial planner’s office, answering phones and doing filing.

18. Where did you go most often for lunch?
We had a closed campus, so I ate lunch at school.

19. Have you gained weight since then?
Um, yes.

20. What did you do after graduation?
I don’t remember – how sad is that! I’m sure it was something with my family.

21. What year did you graduate?
1990

22. Who was your Senior Prom Date?
Didn’t go.

23. Are you going/did you go to your 10 year reunion?
I didn’t go. The schedule they sent involved meeting at a sports bar, a beergarten, and a BYOB barbecue. Now, I love a glass of red wine – especially with dark chocolate – but I remember what many of the people I graduated with were like in high school, and that itinerary was just an indication that not much had changed. Not my type of party.

Wow – that one brought back memories! Let me know if you play along.

Happy Birthday, Noah!

June 24, 2007 Categories: Kid Stuff , Memories | 6 Comments  

Noah’s birthday was Tuesday, and we celebrated Friday night at the park. His friends were there, Grandmama and Papa were there, and he loved all of his presents. It was a good party. Saturday, Kevin took the boys fishing and Natalie and I had some girl time – we went out to lunch, shopped, had ice cream, and went to a neighbor’s party.

I searched the archives, and there isn’t a birth story post for Noah, so here it is. Feel free to click away if birth stories aren’t your thing! It won’t hurt my feelings, honest. ;)

Noah’s birth was my only “normal” one: I wasn’t induced, and it didn’t end in a c-section. I was induced with Natalie, so I really had no idea what labor was supposed to be like.

I was due on June 9, 1998, which came and went with nary a sign of baby. As did June 10th, 11th, 12th – you get the idea. I tried everything I could think of or had read on the net – short of drinking castor oil. I went out for spicy Mexican food with my parents, then drove home on a bumpy highway in my dad’s trucks that had very poor shocks. Thump, thump, thump – and heartburn – but no baby. Kevin and I tried the other thing, which isn’t exactly graceful when you’re nine-plus months pregnant. No baby.

On the night of the 18th, I walked laps around the house every few minutes. We went to bed, and I woke up at 2 a.m. with contractions. They were fairly mild and I was able to sleep in between them until about 6 a.m. Kevin got up, and I told him I thought it would be a while, so to go ahead to work and I’d call him when it was time to go to the hospital. Of course, right after he left the contractions started coming harder and faster, about 5 minutes apart. We were about 15 minutes from the hospital, so I called Kevin, and Mom and I headed off. I’m trying to remember now who we left Natalie with – she was 18 months old – but I think my youngest sister Marni was living at home. (We lived with my parents in a huge house.)

By the time we reached the hospital, I was having to breathe through the contractions and was getting pretty uncomfortable. We checked in, I got gowned up and put on a monitor and all that jazz. I knew I wanted an epidural, so they started an IV. Kevin got there shortly after we did. I had a little pain medicine in my IV, which had the effect of making me sleepy between the contractions, but didn’t really take the pain away.

As soon as I was dilated enough, I was given an intrathecal. This is like an epidural, but not as strong. It takes away the pain in the uterus and back, but does not completely numb you, so you can still feel to push. I remember thinking this would be just fine. I hadn’t felt the pushing with Natalie’s birth, as I received an epidural right before I was fully dilated, and my sister Andrea had told me that after going through labor, the pushing didn’t really hurt at all. Needless to say, I was very surprised when it came time to push and it hurt like all get out! Thank God, I only had to push three times, and Noah was born. I believe it was sometime around 1 in the afternoon.

He was 7 pounds, 5 ounces, the same as Josiah would weigh when he was born. They were my biggest babies.

I was starving, and so Kevin went out and got me a sandwich from Subway. Not a good idea. I didn’t realize that one of the side effects of the intrathecal was nausea. (The other was itching, which we’ll get into later.) I immediately was sick, and so they gave me some inapsine, a drug for nausea. It’s amazing how at the hospital they give you medicine for everything, where as if I was at home and felt nauseated, I wouldn’t eat much and would just wait for it to pass.

It turned out that I was allergic to inapsine, and it caused me to shake uncontrollably. If I laid perfectly still, the shaking would stop, but if I moved at all, it would start all over again, and I would be shaking so hard the whole bed would vibrate. Remember the itching? Well, it started, so I’d lay still for as long as possible to keep the shaking at bay, but then my face would itch something fierce, and I’d reach up to rub it, and the shaking would start all over again. It took three doses of Benadryl to finally stop it.

My pastor’s wife and her son, who I think was around 8 years old, stopped by during this time, and I think he thought I was dying, with all the shaking and everything. His eyes were like saucers by the time he left. The most amazing thing was that Noah slept through the whole thing, and didn’t wake up until later that afternoon after the shaking had stopped. Good thing, cause I don’t think I could’ve picked him up without dropping him on the floor.

I went home the next day. It was by far my easiest delivery, and he was our easiest baby. He slept through the night at four weeks, a habit he continued until he was several months old. Then teething would wake him up, and he got in the habit of us rocking and feeding him back to sleep. He kept up this habit until long after Jonathan was born when Noah was 15 months old. There is a period of about two years that are simply a sleep-deprived haze. Good thing they’re so worth it.

So that’s the story of how Noah came into the world. We named him Noah because we liked it, and it has since become more and more popular. His middle name is Blair, the same as my father’s middle name and his father’s before him. Since my dad had four daughters, I wanted to pass on his middle name. His father was Robert Blair, my dad is Rodney Blair, and now we have a Noah Blair.

At nine years old, Noah is all boy. He loves to draw, to build Bionicles and with Magnetix and the gear kit we got him, to play Pokemon, and to ride his bike. He also loves his GameBoy, but we’ve been having an extended break from all electronic games, and he’s been spending more time doing creative things and reading. He’s sensitive, and cries at sad movies with me. Bridge to Terabithia just about killed him. He’s still sad about Lucy, our hamster, who died two weeks ago. I thought he had gotten over it, but we saw a segment about hamsters on Blue’s Clues, and he teared up. His Grandma and Papa got him Sea Monkeys for his birthday, and he is very excited to add the eggs to the water tomorrow afternoon, after the water purifier has had time to work.

He is not as affectionate as he used to be, but he will always willingly give me a hug when I ask. He tells me he loves me every day, and sometimes even snuggles up next to me all on his own. He has a special smile that is reserved just for me, and it makes my heart sing every time I see it. He also likes to wink at me from across the room. I, of course, always wink back.

I love you, Noah! I am so proud of the young man you are becoming.

Marriage Meme

March 22, 2007 Categories: Memes & Quizzes , Memories | 11 Comments  

Saw this at Lisa’s place and decided to play along.

1. Where/How did you meet? At a singles’ group at church.

2. How long have you known each other? We met in the spring of ’94 – so 13 years.

3. How long after you met did you start dating? A few months – our first date was on October 1st. I asked him out! (But only after being assured by a friend that he liked me. ~wink~)

4. How long did you date before you were engaged? Three months. We knew after a few weeks that we would get married, but I guess we officially got engaged and started planning the wedding around Christmas.

5. How long was your engagement? Three months. We were married March 31, 1995.

6. How long have you been married? We will be celebrating twelve years a week from Saturday.

7. What is your anniversary? Oops – already answered this one. 3/31/95

8. How many people came to your wedding reception? I am so bad at estimating numbers! Maybe 100? Kevin can correct me if I’m way off.

9. What kind of cake did you serve? I remember what it looked like – but not the flavors! Isn’t that terrible. I’m sure there was some chocolate in there. It was three tiers and had white icing with real purple irises as decor.

10. Where was your wedding? At my grandparent’s house – they had just had it built and it was beautiful!

11. What did you serve for your meal? We did not have a meal. Our wedding was in the evening for family and close friends only, with everyone else invited for the reception after. So we had cake, punch, mints, nuts, etc.

12. How many people were in your wedding party? Two. My best friend from high school, Fran, was the maid of honor, and Kevin’s friend, Glen, was his best man.

13. Are you still friends with them all? No. Fran and I lost touch several years ago, as did Kevin and Glen.

14. Did your spouse cry during the ceremony? He might’ve teared up a little.

15. Most special moment of your wedding day? The prayer. Our friend Joseph, from South Africa, prayed a wonderful prayer of blessing over Kevin and I just before we were pronounced husband and wife.

16. Any funny moments? We opened presents at the reception, and the pastor who had married us had given us a book titled The Gift of Sex. Real fun opening THAT in front of parents, grandparents, little sisters, etc.

17. Any big disasters? Nope.

18. Where did you go on your honeymoon? The Oregon Coast.

19. How long were you gone? We had a whole week off of work, but we only stayed for two nights at the bed and breakfast. Couldn’t afford to stay longer!

20. If you were to do your wedding over, what would you change? Not a thing.

21. What side of the bed do you sleep on? The right.

22. What size is your bed? Queen

23. Greatest strength as a couple? We talk to each other. And we both forgive easily.

24. Greatest challenge as a couple? Being good parents!

25. Who literally pays the bills? Kevin brings home the paycheck, and he tells me which bills need paid, but I write them out and put them in the mail. It’s a joint effort!

26. What is your song? Go There With You by Steven Curtis Chapman

27. What did you dance your first dance to? We didn’t have a dance.

28. Describe your wedding dress: My sister made it and it was perfect! Ivory lace, long sleeves, fitted bodice with sweetheart neckline, handkerchief skirt.

29. What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding? Iris – the small, dark purple kind (I think those are Dutch, right?), delphinium, baby’s breath, bachelor buttons, lots of greens. They were gorgeous!

30. Are your wedding bands engraved? No.

31. How old were you when you got married? I was 22 and Kevin was 29.

Let me know if you decide to play along!

Home for Christmas

December 9, 2006 Categories: Holidays , Memories | 2 Comments  

This is the essay my sister wrote several years ago about our Christmases when we were kids. It’s long, but she does a wonderful job of describing just what Christmas felt, tasted, and sounded like to us as little girls.

I remember the way the Maple tree looked through our kitchen windows from where I sat at the large, picnic-style table my father had fashioned to accommodate his family of six. You could tell it was cold out looking through the frosty windows at the sky, clear as blue glass. A majestic background for the giant limbs, now bare, that stretched over the drive.

I can still feel the chocolate mint dough sticky on my palms, as I rolled the little balls, dipped them in confectioner’s sugar, and flattened them on the blackened cookie sheet.

Roger Whittaker’s Christmas album, a tradition at our house since before I was born, poured in from the living room, evoking, even then, happy memories of Christmases past and hope for what this present season could bring.

For me, Christmas in our old State Street home was magic. The season was made special by my blessed parents who found their joy in four shining faces and their squeals of delight. I’ve often thought how much more I could have appreciated had I been then as I am now, but nevertheless, my sisters and I immersed ourselves in the season as only children can, with never a thought to growing up and leaving behind our dear house and all its memories.

The Christmas season began officially, for my sisters and I, the day after Thanksgiving when my parents gave permission, at long last, for the large stack of records to be carted down from the upstairs closet. Soon Bing and Frank filled the house with “White Christmas” and “Silent Night.” Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” particularly delighted Debra, who liked to set the record back and hear it again, risking the aggravation of my parents who had never been great fans.

In the evenings we would sit and listen, pouring over the Sears catalogue and furiously writing down page numbers just in case Santa needed any help in filling our stockings.

The next event was the buying of the Christmas tree. My most vivid memories of this are when we were older and my sisters, busy with the “more important things” of teenage years, left the duty to Dad and I. So, on the designated evening, after Dad was home and dinner was finished, we two would set out, bundled up, on a mission to find the perfect tree. We would stop at all the stands in town, and weaving in and out of the rows, Dad would stand a tree up, spin it around for my approval, and together we would pick out it’s various flaws. Too tall, bare on one side, not enough branches at the top, and on and on, until at last we made our choice. To top off the evening and celebrate a successful mission, Dad treated us to ice cream cones, which we licked happily, never minding the cold outside.

Once home, the tree was brought in for the approval of Mama and sisters who weren’t always pleased with our selection, but weren’t at liberty to complain since they’d opted not to come along, and me secretly glad since I’d had Dad all to myself for the evening.

Once the tree was decked we would turn our attention to baking. Mama would take her worn recipe box down from the cupboard and with the box in her lap she would pick out all the holiday favorites and us girls would each choose a recipe. My favorites were lemon bars with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar. Holiday recipes would come and go, stained-glass cookies one year, haystacks the next, but the sugard cookies were always a standard. To us it could not be Christmas until the dough was cut into bells, Santas, crosses and stockings, and each was decorated with colored frosting and red and green sprinkles. Somehow I think more frosting ended up in our bellies than on the cookies, but nonetheless, we conquered the yearly task with zeal, armed with sticky-handled butter knives and the sweet tooth inherent in all the Shannon clan.

Christmas Eve was sometimes spent at Grandma’s house around her tree. There were always presents to open, a foretaste of what would come from under our own tree that beckoned us back home. In later years, when we better understood the reality of the holiday, the night before Christmas was a reminder of the sacredness of what we were truly celebrating. Mama would read those familiar, comforting words aloud, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…” And I would imagine the scene as I had so many times before, almost hearing the rustling of the cattle about Jesus’ cradle as we sang, “Away in a Manger.” I would climb into bed, carols still in my head and my stomach full of cookies and eggnog.

Christmas morning began with four little girls in barefeet and nightgowns racing down to the family room. Our stockings, each one knitted by Mama in red and green, and marked with our initials, waited for us in a row like special friends that only came out to play once a year. The small gifts that rested at the top of each were torn into as Mama snapped pictures and Daddy stood by smiling. The usual bag of bon bons and nuts retrieved from the bottom of each sock and taken down to keep us chewing as we opened the rest of our gifts.

One by one, taking turns, the glittery paper and bows were torn off and boxes were opened to a fresh cry of joy. Each doll was hugged. Mickey Mouse phones were tested.

Some years there were “special” presents – a desk or mirror that Daddy would make. The picture of my Daddy bundled up in his winter coat and heading out to his workshop will forever be etched in the cherished banks of my mind. When there were whisperings and hushes and warnings to keep out of the shop, you knew it was going to be a special Christmas. The cold evenings, the singing of the saw blade, the sanding, the varnish, and the love that shaped each piece, combined to create something worth much more than the wood it was made of. I can see Mama’s tears.

In my case it was a cradle where my Cabbage Patch dolls spent their best days and now waits for my little girls to come play.

Christmas day ended with a family dinner at a table that seemed to stretch for miles covered with so many things that were so easy to spill. There were cousins and new toys to play with while the Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents visited. Christmas went out leaving tired bodies and full tummies in its wake.

I was always a little melancholy the day after Christmas. I knew that soon the tree would be taken apart, the clothes-pin reindeer and paper stars put away for next year’s tree. The cookies and treats would disappear from the cupboard and the stack of records would return to their corner in the closet. The thought of waiting a whole year for the season to come around again saddened my heart. But the school year would pass while last Christmas’ toys kept us company and we’d begin another. Before we knew it Christmas would show once more in the smells of the kitchen, and the sound of our excited giggles.

Of course, we can’t always believe in Santa. The cradles and Mickey Mouse phones make way for a thick volume of Jane Austen and, in Debra’s case, a CD of Elvis’ Greatest Hits. We no longer live in our dear house on State Street with it’s perfect place for a Christmas tree and family gatherings aren’t what they used to be. We cling less to the gifts and more to the baby Jesus. Most of us are married and some are expecting little ones of their own. There are new faces in the family. A niece with Debra’s curly hair and a nephew with my round cheeks. But when we all make it home for Christmas, all grown up with little girl memories, we watch the little ones who find those same old stockings of Mama’s, a sugar cookie or two to decorate themselves, and perhaps, a Roger Whittaker carol to remember always.

by Marni Shannon Stout