Merry Christmas

Love, the Christensen family


Two-Month Catch-Up

I can't believe it's been two months since I last blogged! I'm officially a blogging loser. At least this post will be chock full of exciting information because I have so much to catch up on.

Kyle turned 3! To celebrate, my family went to Chuck E. Cheese, and I think the adults had much more fun than the kid! We pooled all of our tickets and used them to get prizes for Kyle, one of which was this:

We opened presents at Grandma's house afterward, and Kyle's favorite present, by far, was this:

For Lucas' Halloween costume, we were planning on re-using the hot dog costume that Kyle wore as a baby. I kept thinking it would be PERFECT if we could find a coordinating costume for Kyle to wear...

The boys looked so cute! Lucas wasn't a huge fan of his costume, so he didn't really wear it for very long. I made sure he still looked festive, though...

Cole and I needed to have costumes for my family's Halloween party, so we decided to stick with the theme:

(In case you can't tell, Cole is Heinz ketchup and I'm French's mustard.)

Lucas keeps growing and growing! He's already outgrown most of his 3-6 month clothes and I've had to start pulling out the next size up--he's a little chunker! He still loves to nurse, and he's started to show a real interest in our food, so we're planning on starting him on solids on Christmas eve--the day after his six-month mark. He is definitely my calm, content child. When I set him down on the floor or in his swing or anywhere else, he'll entertain himself and stay happy unless he gets tired or hungry. He can roll from his belly to his back and vice versa, but he doesn't very often because he's just content to be where he is. He's happy and smiling 90% of the time, and he can always make us laugh and smile.

Kyle is the mover and shaker. He's been potty trained for a couple of months now, and he's still extremely proud of himself every time he goes. He loves to sing the ABCs and has begun to recognize and correctly identify capital letters. He had a BLAST playing outside in the snow--we got more than two feet at our house last month! He's really excited for Christmas, and he keeps thinking of things that he wants "maybe for Christmas" (that's what we tell him when he asks for things and now he says it all the time). He still loves Thomas the Tank Engine (and trains of any kind, really). He's the best big brother and Lucas just loves him.

I'm still enjoying my calling in the Young Women, and I found out that the YW president in my ward wants me to play an active role in helping our girls with their Personal Progress! I've spent a lot of time thinking up activities and ideas to motivate our young women to enjoy working on personal progress and I'm thrilled at the chance it will give me to get to know all of them better. I've recently had a burst of creativity and I've finished several pages in our family scrapbook. I've also finished several backgrounds; all I need to do with those is add pictures. I'm really looking forward to our first Christmas in our house! I committed a holiday faux pas (well, in my opinion) and started putting up the Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. I guess all the snow we got put me in the mood. :) It's been so much fun to have our own space to decorate this year.

Cole left his job in Park City and started working in customer service for Verizon Wireless. He's just about finished with training, and he's already a star! The higher-ups have asked him to apply not only for the supervisor position but also for the trainer position! For now, he's decided to stay on the call floor, in part because the money's better, but also because the hours are more flexible...when he goes back to school! Right now, we're shooting for him starting in the spring or possibly the fall, but we're committed to getting him through as fast as possible. He had to have surgery at the end of October to repair an inguinal hernia. He got all patched up and is feeling good as new!

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun! We spent it with my mom's extended family in Payson. The family has gotten so big that we've started to reserve a church building in order to have enough space for everyone! Cole and I made the stuffing for the big event, which was really neat. We used an old family recipe of Cole's that his mom makes every year, and it turned out really great! I also made a coconut cream pie, which was also a pretty big hit. We played games and ate and had a really good time. We also got together with Cole's family the night before Thanksgiving to play games. It's so nice to have our families so close to each other so we can spend so much time with both of them!

That's about all of the info I have for now. Hopefully I'll be more on the ball with the blogging (but I make no guarantees). :) I'll finish with a picture of my cute boys...oh, how we love them!


3 is a Magic Number

Today, my (first) little man turns 3 years old!

I can't believe how fast time has flown! Kyle is THE coolest 3-year-old around, and I love that I get to hang out with him every day. Here's some things about him that make him the shiz:
  • He LOVES Thomas the Tank Engine. He loves the movies, he loves the toys, he loves the books...you name it, he loves it! Even though there are roughly 7000 different trains on the Island of Sodor, you can bet that Kyle knows and recognizes each different one.
  • His new favorite movie is The Sandlot. He tells us all the time that he's "running fast like Benny" and he loves to wear a baseball cap whenever possible.
  • He is sensitive to the emotions of others. He's quick to say "I'm sorry" if he thinks he caused someone offense, and he always asks us if we need a band-aid if we say "ouch" about ANYTHING.
  • He loves Lucas, and he's a very attentive big brother. He loves to make Lucas smile, and he loves to give Lucas kisses and hugs. They are already on the way to becoming best friends!
  • He's fiercely independent. He loves to do things by himself.
  • He still loves to snuggle.
  • He loves to sing, and one of our favorite things is hearing him sing "BINGO" or the ABCs when he thinks no one is listening.
  • He remembers things that happened months ago and can share amazing amounts of detail about them like they happened yesterday.
  • His favorite song for me to sing to him is "I am a Child of God."
  • He loves to read stories, either by himself or by someone else to him.
  • He has seemingly endless amounts of energy and NEVER STOPS MOVING.
  • He's the best at telling us "I love you" whenever we need it most.
Happy birthday, Kyle-man! We love you!


Feminism and Mormonism

I have a lot of things to blog about, but this is something that is fresh on my mind, so it comes first.
I feel sorry for "Mormon feminists."
In my casual perusal of the internet I've stumbled across websites dedicated to "Mormon feminism" and the drive to make the Church more equal along gender lines. I've spent hours reading threads on these websites, and every time I come away with the same conclusion: Satan is working extra hard to convince women that the Church does not value them.
I'm going to go out on a limb and make the assumption that few, if any, women alive now want to be told they are subordinate to men,or that they are less important, inferior, and of less worth simply because of their gender. I'm going to make another assumption that there is little else that would bother a woman more than being told she is inferior because of her gender. Under these assumptions, it's easy to presume that any woman would bristle at being told any of these fallacious things. I certainly would take offense. Now, if Satan can persuade a woman that the gospel is inherently sexist and that she is valued less because she is a woman, thereby persuading her to leave the Church, then he's accomplished something great. Not only will that woman cease to believe, but she will teach her children not to believe, and they will teach their children not to believe, and so on. By convincing one woman to apostatize Satan has effectively wiped out what could have been generations of belief. That makes Satan's job pretty easy, don't you think?
It seems like women who view the Church as "anti-feminist" are trapped in a never-ending cycle: a woman gets the sense that she is seen as inferior or subordinate to men in the Church, she gets angry and frustrated, she begins searching for all the many ways in which she is viewed as subordinate, which makes her MORE angry, she continues to look for more policies or actions or statements that "validate" her anger, and so on and so forth. To me, this cycle displays a lack of trust in the Lord.
It's true that some things in the Church appear to be anti-feminist at first glance. For instance, only the men are called to hold the Priesthood at this time. The Lord chooses whom He chooses to fulfill this calling, and, for now, that calling has been extended to the worthy men of the Church starting at age 12. That could change. I, personally, don't believe He will extend that calling to women simply because if He did, there would be nothing for the men to do. :) All joking aside, I fully believe that the Lord's extension of the Priesthood to men is not an indication that He loves and values men more than He does women. Yes, there are some members of the Church who believe that is true, but if I got offended at everyone who had an opinion that I thought was stupid, I'd spend my entire life angry. I know the truth, and that is what matters to me.
I know that God loves me. I know He knows who I am. I know that He would not, under any circumstances, want me feeling worthless or less important than anyone else. I have the right and privilege, just like any man, to talk to Him and receive the truth from Him by the power of the Holy Ghost. I also trust that He will never advocate any policy or practice that degrades or belittles me as a woman. I concede that the Lord cannot control all of the actions and opinions of the members of His Church, but if I take offense to those, it is no one's fault but my own and it is my responsibility to resolve those issues.
Let the angry comments commence.


Here is a picture to hold you over for awhile. I will put some more up on Friday!



My Confesssion

Hello, my name is Jessica Christensen and I weigh 165 pounds. Yes, I just posted my actual weight on the internet. And, surprisingly, no, I’m not ashamed of it.
True, it’s 10 pounds more than the high end of my “healthy” weight range. Yes, it’s 40 pounds more than I weighed 4 years ago at my wedding. No, it’s not really where I’d like to be. But, for right now, I’m happy with it, and this is a huge achievement for me.
I am a woman, and, as such, have constantly fallen victim to the self-consciousness and insecurity with my appearance that plagues most, if not all, women. We are constantly bombarded by messages telling us we’re too fat, too skinny, too white, too dark, too tall, too short, too anything at all to be considered beautiful or desirable. The sad thing is, even though we all know there is no “ideal” body type and that what we see in magazines, movies, and on TV are airbrushed, make-upped, over-styled fallacies, we can’t help but feel like we don’t measure up. I’ve always seemed to be especially susceptible, and it only got worse after having kids.
My pregnancy with Kyle left me with stretch marks not only on my belly but on my thighs, calves, and sides. It left me with a “pooch” that never went away, even after losing all of the pregnancy weight and then some. It left me with widened hips and a more robust backside. I absolutely HATED the way I looked. I longed for my trim, narrow pre-pregnancy figure. I longed to fit into my size six jeans again. I was absolutely certain everyone was focusing on my flab every time I went out in public. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. Eventually I became resigned to the fact that I would never be “skinny” again so I should just accept how I looked. But, I still wasn’t happy.
During my pregnancy with Lucas, however, my attitude and outlook began to change. I didn’t stress about how much weight I gained. I didn’t worry about the size of my protruding belly (well, at least not TOO much—I’m not perfect, after all). I knew my body was doing something amazing, something so few can do, something many women would give anything for. How could I hate it? Plus, I realized that I wouldn’t trade anything, not even my 125-pound, size six pre-pregnancy body, for my children and the amazing experiences I had bringing them into the world. After having Lucas, I’ve learned to embrace my body’s changes rather than regret them. I can honestly say I love my new curves! I do, of course, have my insecure days, and I do have goals to improve, but overall, I’m happy with how I look. Plus, my husband can’t get enough of me.  Nothing gives a woman more confidence than knowing someone thinks she’s sexy.
I know my confidence radiates as well. I’ve received more unsolicited compliments on my appearance after having Lucas than I did after having Kyle, even though I was 10 pounds lighter then and I’m still not back to my pre-pregnancy weight yet. I love myself, I am confident, and it shows, and that is what people see, not my tummy pooch.

Family Update

I sincerely apologize for the lack of blogging. Since Lucas’ birth, we’ve tightened our belts a little, and one of the things to go was home internet. Beyond feeling just a little out of touch with the rest of the world, I don’t miss it at all. I spend a lot more time with my kids, my house is cleaner, and I actually make dinner for my family!

Lucas grows and changes every day. He’s an extremely good-natured child. People constantly ask me if he ever cries. The truth is, he rarely does. He is, however, extremely sensitive to the emotions of others and the emotional climate—he’s my little Jasper Hale. He can tell when people around him are tense or angry or upset, and it upsets him. He can also completely change the emotion of the room just by giving us all a huge grin. He loves to coo, and he always looks as though he has a million things to say. We love to just sit and talk to him and listen to him talk back. He already loves Kyle and focuses intensely on him whenever Kyle is around. He loves to watch people and see everything that’s going on. At his two-month appointment, he was more than 4 ½ pounds heavier and 6 inches longer than when he was born. He still loves to eat! He still nurses like a champion, which makes me so happy. I’m still a little paranoid about my milk supply dropping or Lucas deciding he wants to stop nursing, so he’s only had a bottle once—I pumped an ounce of milk and gave it to him to see if he would take a bottle in case I was away from him for too long and he got hungry. He’s only slept through the night once, but I’m not that concerned about it. He is quite a snuggler, and snuggling with him has a soporific effect—it’s nearly impossible to stay awake! He still has to be swaddled to go to sleep, but he doesn’t need a pacifier. He’ll take one, but he prefers to go to sleep without it. He loves to watch the fish mobile in his crib, and he gets so excited when we turn it on. He loves music, and he always gives me huge grins when I sing to him. We’re pretty sure he’s going to have beautiful blue eyes and hair that’s a lighter shade than his brother’s. He has chubby little cheeks that I just love to kiss all the time. He’s my little sunshine baby.

Kyle seems to have changed from a toddler to a kid overnight. I’m constantly amazed at the things that he picks up. The other day, he told me that my hair looked beautiful (for the record, it really didn’t, but I appreciated the admiration). He loves to tell stories to anyone who will listen, even if it’s only himself. He actually talks himself to sleep at night—when he’s lying in bed we can hear him recap his day to himself. He’s a great big brother, and he loves Lucas so much. He knows all of his colors, all of his shapes, and he counts to 20 without much prompting. We’re working on learning the alphabet right now, and he loves to sing the ABC song. I know he’ll pick it up quickly, and after that I’d really like to get a head start on reading. Since he’ll be almost 6 when he goes to kindergarten, my goal is to have him reading before then. I’m confident we’ll be able to get there because he already loves books and has his favorites memorized. He still loves cars, trucks, and trains, and he already identifies cars by make and model rather than color, which I think is kind of quirky. Whenever he sees a suburban, he tells us he sees “grandma’s truck.” Whenever he sees a Chrysler minivan, it’s “Papa’s truck.” We suspect he may turn out to be left-handed. He’s already making a mental list of things that he wants for his birthday next month. J He thrives on routine and some nights, he’s the one who tells us it’s time for him to go to bed. He loves to brush his teeth. He’s quick to say “I’m sorry,” “please,” “thank you,” and, best of all, “I love you.” We still have a tantrum every now and then, but they’re over much faster than before, and they can usually be headed off if we avoid letting him get overtired. He’s growing up so fast, and I can’t believe he’s going to be 3 next month!

I still love being a stay-at-home mom. I’m becoming more and more domestic every day. I’ve perfected my banana bread-making skills, and I recently made my first loaves of zucchini bread. I enjoy cooking more and more each day. There is little that satisfies me more than having a clean kitchen. I don’t mind doing the dishes anymore, unless they pile up. I still hate ironing, and my ironing basket is perpetually full. Poor Cole has to get creative when looking for shirts to wear to work! I’m hoping to start learning how to sew, and I’m hoping to get a sewing machine for Christmas. I’m the Young Women’s secretary in our ward, and I’m finally beginning to feel like I’m supposed to be there. I’m still incredibly intimidated by the women I serve with, who all seem to be creative, crafty, and composed, but I’m trying to learn everything I can from them. I’m almost finished scrapbooking the pictures of my single life. I have a good start on a scrapbook beginning with Cole’s and my wedding. I go to a sort of scrapbooking club one night a month, and by the end of the year I’ll have 44 pages made—I’ll just have to add the pictures! For the first time, I want to try to go running (this is a big deal for me—I hate running). I’m super excited for football season and the premieres of the fall shows, particularly Glee and Bones.

Cole is working hard in Park City and getting ready for the busy upcoming ski season! When he has spare time at work he’s been applying for jobs all over the country, just to get interviewing experience. He’s had phone interviews with a couple of hotels in Arizona and with the Drake Hotel in Chicago. When he’s home he’s been spending time fighting the jungle that is our backyard and trying to tame it into something manageable. He loves to keep our lawn green and well-maintained. He attacked a wasps’ nest on our front porch with a lighter and my hairspray yesterday. He loves to take Kyle outside with him when he’s doing yard work, and Lucas loves to chat with his daddy whenever he can. Cole is terribly effective at scaring the hiccups out of Lucas—but this bears the unfortunate consequence of making Lucas cry hysterically. He still loves to torment Kyle just to make him scream. He teaches Sunday School to the 16- to 18-year-olds in our ward, and he really enjoys it. He loves to snuggle with his boys and is particularly susceptible to Lucas’ soporific charms. He’s extremely excited for football season and hopes the Tennessee Titans will win the Super Bowl this year. He’s become something of a news junkie and listens to KSL news radio in the car to and from work. He has become my connection to the outside world and brings me news updates every day. He’s also excited for the start of Glee and Bones, but he’ll miss watching Wipeout twice a week.
And there's our family update.


Busy Busy Busy!

Life has been crazy in the best possible way. We absolutely love being a family of four!

Kyle is still so enamored of Lucas. I thought that after the novelty wore off that he'd lose interest a little bit, but he's still so excited every time he's around Lucas. He says "Lucas my friend best" all the time, and he always wants to hold and talk to Lucas. I know they're going to be best buddies.

Lucas is still the sweetest little guy! He eats like a champ, which is quite the relief. I was afraid that he'd stop nursing, like Kyle did, but so far, so good. I'm proud to say that Lucas has never had a bottle! (I guess that's not really much of an achievement for most people, but for me, it's a HUGE deal.) He's quickly becoming quite a chunker! Lucas already weighs more than Kyle did at two months, and Lucas was a pound less to start with! The only downside is that I feel like I'm nursing ALL THE TIME...but it's totally worth it. He's sleeping really well. He typically wakes up between 2 and 2:30 and again between 5:30 and 6 to eat. The nicest thing is that I don't nurse him to sleep -- after he finishes eating I lay him down and he falls asleep by himself. That was the hardest thing about Kyle early on -- he wasn't a stellar sleeper. I've been reluctant to move Lucas to his room because it's further for me to go for nighttime feedings, so he's still sleeping in our room. Of course, as soon as I move him I bet he'll sleep through the night...Anyway, Lucas has started to smile pretty frequently now, and I'm secretly pleased that most of his smiles are for me. He has quite a few for his older brother, though, and Daddy gets his fair share. Lucas is becoming a lot more interactive with us, and he's started to coo when we talk to him. It's so fun to have him growing, but I can't believe how time has flown by!

I continue to be amazed at how different my recovery has been after Lucas' birth. I'm convinced that I recovered so well because I didn't have an epidural for this birth...and I've decided that unless I feel it's absolutely necessary, I'm going to forgo pain medication with all subsequent births. At least now I know that I can handle the pain. :) It's just been so worth it to feel so good all the time. It's like I'm still riding the birthing high 7 weeks later.

In other news, my youngest brother-in-law (who is really more like my younger brother) is getting married this weekend! Congratulations to Adam and Joan!

Anyway, that's our boring life update.


My Thoughts on Birth

I've been thinking a lot about birth lately -- about my own experiences and about birth in general. It seems like the "Mommy Wars" begin before children even appear...women argue, judge, and debate over natural vs. medicated, vaginal vs. c-section, spontaneous vs. induced, and pretty much every other choice that one can make regarding labor and delivery. Personally, I think it's ridiculous. I am of the opinion that there is no "RIGHT" way to give birth. There is no cookie cutter scenario into which birth experiences must fit in order to be considered a "success." In my opinion, any labor and delivery experience that results in a healthy infant and mother is a success. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop women from feeling like "failures" when their birth experiences don't go exactly as they expected or even planned.

This is why I haven't made any sort of "plans" for either of my children's births. I didn't take any classes, I didn't read a substantial amount of literature...I based my decisions solely on what felt right to me -- I let the Lord inspire me. With Kyle, it was induction at 41 weeks with an epidural. With Lucas, it was induction 2 days before my due date with no pain medication. Both births were in hospitals, attended by medical personnel. Even though my two experiences were quite different, I don't feel like one was better or "more right" than the other. Because I didn't make any formal "plans" I wasn't let down if things didn't go exactly according to my plan.

I've had a lot of people ask me if I took classes or read books or did any sort or preparing to have an unmedicated birth, and they've all been surprised when I answer "no." The fact is, I feel like I was able to have Lucas without pain medication because I didn't do any of those things. I didn't study Lamaze breathing techniques. I didn't take any classes on the Bradley method or on hypobirthing. I didn't have a birth plan. Avoiding these things was what guaranteed my success, in my mind.

Personally, I feel that birth plans are ridiculous. A statement by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in a recent SELF magazine article on birth sums up exactly how I feel on this subject: "They [birth plans] are rarely made up of crazy requests, but in my opinion, the very act of creating such a contract was to ignore what labor is: something unpredictable that you are in no way qualified to dictate." I can see the merit in having "birth suggestions" or "birth preferences" -- things like, "I want the lights to be kept low," or "I want to listen to music during labor." Those are things you can control. I feel like women who outline how they want their labor to proceed and what procedures they do and don't want performed and other things that are totally out of their control are just setting themselves up for disappointment. Maybe that's pessimistic of me, but there it is. I think birth plans narrow a the scope of a woman's vision because she has her mind set on a specific scenario and won't allow herself any alternative, potentially making an already difficult task nearly impossible. During my labor with Kyle, the pitocin drip kicked me immediately into near-transition-strength contractions, and it was all I could do to get through each one. I was exhausted after only a couple of hours, and I knew there was no way I'd be able to push if my energy was totally spent. Getting an epidural allowed me to rest and prepare myself. But what if I had had my heart set on an unmedicated birth? I would have resisted pain medication as long as possible, if not altogether, and I'm positive my labor would have been prolonged and more difficult on both Kyle and me.

I feel the same way about taking childbirth classes. To me, it just seems ridiculous to pay any amount of money to learn how to have a baby according to someone else's expectations. What happens if I paid money to learn the Bradley method and ended up having an emergency c-section because my baby's heart rate plummeted during labor? Would I feel like my money was wasted? Would I feel like a failure? I think I would. I think most women would. But why? Ms. Brodesser-Akner summed it up beautifully: "Perhaps part of the problem is that our generation of women is so ambitious, so driven, that we don't know how to do anything without quantifying it as a success or failure." I'm already hard enough on myself; I don't need any more reason to feel like a failure. Besides, no amount of money can give a stranger the ability to tell me the best way for ME to have a baby. (You will note that this logic can also apply to medical personnel. I see no reason to pay money to a doctor or midwife that tries to force women into his/her cookie cutter birthing scenario.)

I realize that I am very fortunate. Both of my birthing experiences have gone smoothly and have left me with no regrets or bad feelings. However, I do feel like that is partially due to my following my own inspiration and going with the flow during labor. I wanted very much to have Lucas without pain medication, but I know that if that desire changed during the throes of labor I would have been just as happy with the end result if I had gotten an epidural. 25 years down the road, I don't think it will matter to me whether or not I had pain medication or whether or not I was induced or that I was in a hospital. The most important thing is that I brought beautiful, healthy little lives into this world safely, which is a miracle no matter how it's done.


Lucas Robert Christensen

*Note: I’m going to try and keep this as factual as possible. I have a lot of personal commentary that I’m DYING to share, but I’m reserving it for an entirely different post in an attempt to avoid long-windedness
I woke up the morning of Wednesday, June 23 at around 6 am. I was first on the waiting list for an induction that day, and I had been told to call labor and delivery at 7 to see if they could fit me in. I dozed off and on for the next hour, trying to make the time go by faster (it didn’t work).When 7 rolled around and I made the fateful phone call, this was my answer: “Sure, come on in.”We rolled ourselves out of bed and on the road. We arrived at the hospital and got checked in by 8:15. The nurses assigned us a room, I changed into a gown, and we began a day that felt mostly like a big waiting game.
The first L&D nurse I had was slow and methodical; it seemed like it took her FOREVER to get things done. It took her around an hour to get me attached to the external fetal monitor and the contraction monitor and to start my saline drip. Then, I was finally ready to get started. My doctor came in and broke my water at 9:30 and checked my dilation – 3 cm. I didn’t really start to have any contractions at that point. The nurse took another hour getting my pitocin drip set up, so by 10:30 we were finally in business.
The contractions started off pretty mild – about 4 minutes apart, lasting around a minute. Cole and I watched TV and just kind of chilled for a while. The nurse came in twice to turn up my pitocin drip, so at around 12:30 I was receiving the full amount. She checked my progress – 4 cm.
The rest of the afternoon continued pretty uneventfully. My contractions stayed fairly consistent, I dilated about a cm every two hours, and I had to get up to go the bathroom about a hundred times, thanks to the saline drip. I busted out one of the books that I was saving specifically for the hospital and tried to get some reading done.
Finally, at around 4:30, things started to get a little interesting. The contractions started getting a little faster (every 2 min) and a little harder, and soon I wasn’t able to focus on anything else. I would breathe through the contractions, inhaling and exhaling to a count of 7, and focus on completely relaxing my body between them. I had progressed to a 6, and I began to wonder if I’d be facing down transition in the near future.
Meanwhile, Cole’s mother, Diane, stopped by after work to visit and see how things were going (she told us later she was there for “entertainment” and distraction). It turned out to be a WONDERFUL blessing, because shortly after she arrived, things kicked into high gear. At around 6 my contractions, still coming about every 2 minutes, became extra painful. My new L&D nurse (who was fantastic) lowered the bottom half of my bed (creating a chair-like formation) and brought me a squat bar. I perched on the edge of the bed, rested my feet on the lowered part of the bed, and leaned against the squat bar during contractions. Cole was behind me, putting counter-pressure on my lower back, and Diane was in front of me, talking me through the contractions. In between, I would lean back and almost go into a trance – I tuned out everything around me, closed my eyes, and continued breathing the way I did through contractions. I had progressed to 7 cm, and by 6:30 I was definitely in transition. Soon it was all I could do to keep breathing steadily through the contractions (Diane was INSTRUMENTAL in keeping me focused), and before long I was vocalizing with the pain. The nurse kept asking me if I felt pressure to push, which I didn’t really understand until I FELT it (around 6:45). I started hollering that I needed to push, and the nurse scrambled to call my doctor in. Luckily, his office is 5 minutes from the Women’s Center, and I’m pretty sure he ran over. The nurses got everything set up for delivery and I started pushing at 7. Three minutes later, we had a baby.

They laid him right on my belly and I got to watch Cole cut the umbilical cord. I snuggled him for a few minutes before the nurses took him, cleaned him off, and weighed him – 8 pounds, 4 ounces, 18 ½ inches long. I delivered the placenta, my doctor stitched up my minuscule tear (I think it took one stitch), and the nurses returned the baby to me so I could nurse him. Everything had gone perfectly, and our new little man was healthy and strong.


Nope, No Baby...and Vaycay Extravaganza: A Day of Nature

So...sorry I've been a loser blogger...for two weeks. Unfortunately, I don't even have an exciting reason for the lapse.

FYI, I'm still pregnant. Stubbornly so, in fact.

I was seriously hoping (and, actually, genuinely convinced) that this baby was going to come early. I now know never to trust my intuition again (after all, it told me this baby was a girl, which he most definitely is not). As far as any update goes, I told my doctor I REALLY wanted to go into labor by myself but that I would agree to an induction on my due date -- and only because I'm EXTREMELY confident about my due date being fairly accurate (I tracked my date of ovulation and I'm even pretty sure of the date of conception...sorry for the TMI). My desire to not go "over-due" outweighs my desire to go into labor naturally...anyway, I'm penciled in for an induction on June 23rd, which was the closest day to my due date available. I still have a small amount of hope that I'll go into labor before that, but I'm not really holding my breath. I'm pretty sure this child will be just as strong-willed as his older brother.

Anyway, we'll proceed from where I left off in the story that is our fabulous vacation.

Wednesday morning, we chose another unique-to-SC activity: Brookgreen Gardens. It's a ginormous sculpture garden and wildlife preserve built on four former rice plantations. Since it spans nearly 10,000 acres, it was more than enough to fill our day.

Me, Cole, and Kyle in the "Fun-V" (we watched Iron Man several times during the vaycay, and this car came to be known as such -- but fortunately, it didn't get blown up during our trip).

Kyle sitting in the "bike" (pretty much anything with wheels is a bike to him).

The sculpture gardens were chock-full of (go figure) sculptures, and, as a former Art History buff, I was in heaven. Plus, the scenery was absolutely AMAZING. It was like walking through the secret garden but on a colossal scale.

Just one example of the glorious greenery. There were paths winding here, there, and everywhere. It was totally possible to get absolutely lost, and if I had more than a day, I would have. Some of the members of my family were less-than-excited about all of the sculptural nudity, however...

The gardens were also full of beautiful flowers, and Cole had a blast taking pictures of as many of them as he could find. Here are some lovely water lilies.

Here I am, in all my prego glory, standing in a gorgeous arch.

After wandering though the gardens for a while, we hopped on a little river boat and took a tour of the waterways...which gave us the opportunity to see alligators in a more natural setting.

Here's one of the big guys we saw sunning himself along the river.

After the boat ride, we headed over to the "zoo," which was less like your run-of-the-mill, conventional zoo and more like a wildlife preserve. It contained animals native to the area. We started, of course, with the livestock area.

Kyle telling me what a cow says in front of the cow enclosure.

Kyle soon lost interest in riding on the "bike" so Cole decided he needed a ride.

The best part of this picture is Kyle's face in the bottom left-hand corner...priceless.

The "zoo" was really fascinating. They had an entire section of birds of prey, including two absolutely gorgeous bald eagles. We were even lucky enough to be in that section when the zoo worker brought around their food so we got to see them eat.

We were soon all tuckered out from the walking and the heat (because this was the hottest day we had experienced so far), so we headed back to the cars. Kyle's desire for sleep won out over his desire for Cheetos mid-bag, making this picture possible.

We got back to the condo, where I made the best stir-fry in the universe (really, I did) and we crashed hardcore.

The next installment: Iron Man 2, last day at the beach, and b-day at Planet Hollywood.


Vaycay Extravaganza: A Day of Tourist-ness

We were super tourists on Tuesday. We occupied our time with things specifically found in Myrtle Beach and nowhere else...

We woke up to a gray, gloomy sky on Tuesday morning, so we decided to go to Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum on historic Ocean Boulevard (yes, I know that there are Ripley's museums all over the place...but it's still a big tourist attraction in Myrtle Beach so it counts!)

Playing in the fountain outside of the museum. I absolutely love Kyle's face in this picture.

The first thing we saw after walking in was this 8-foot statue of a man COMPLETELY made of old toys! (And, um...sorry about my little brother's head sticking out from between the guy's legs. I didn't even see that until right this very second. Also, I look very puffy in this picture. I blame the humidity.)

This is a model of the hand of Willie Camper, an 8'5 man who could hold a dozen eggs in one hand unstacked. You know what they say about men with big hands...

This was Kyle's favorite part of the museum. He was mostly freaked out at everything we saw, but they had this machine where kids could "color" a picture by pushing a button and then touching the screen. We had a hard time tearing him away from it.

This was quite possibly the MOST entertaining part of the museum. There was an image of an object at the back of this horned guy's "mouth" and you were supposed to put your hand in the mouth trying to touch it. My sister and I figured something scary would happen, and since we're super big chickens, we got Cole to do it. His facial expression isn't candid (he already knew what happened), but trust me -- Stephanie and I screamed.

After finishing up in the museum and being equally grossed out and amazed at the things we saw, we took a walk up Ocean Boulevard, which my siblings described as "like being in Mexico, only in SC." The street was lined with tiny tourist trap shops, made even dodgier by their proprietors standing outside soliciting potential customers. We ended our stroll soon after we began it and headed back to the condo.

After lunch and a nap (for Kyle and me) we piled into the cars and headed inland to Conway, SC. Conway is a quaint, historic river town on the Waccamaw River.

The Waccamaw is what's called a blackwater river -- a slow-moving river that flows through swamps and wetlands. Blackwater rivers get their characteristic color from tannins leached from decaying vegetation in the water. Conway has a lovely river walk built along the river, so we spent some time meandering along the boardwalk.

Kyle, of course, ran pretty much the whole time.

Cole and me on the river walk.

We found and fed a duck (yes, one duck. I'd always seen them in flocks before, but this was the only one in sight), which was Kyle's favorite part of the afternoon. Good thing I had goldfish crackers in my purse!

After getting our fill of river scenery, we took a short drive around some of the neighborhoods in Conway. We were looking for something specific, which we soon found:

Conway is full of old oak trees that are protected by law. When the streets were built, instead of cutting down the trees, the people simply paved around them. Now you can find several places where there is a tree very literally in the middle of the road.

On our way back from Conway, my dad noticed the car he was driving was having some issues. Apparently the engine was stuck in third gear and the transmission sounded like it was going to fall out (his words, not mine). This induced a little panic on his part and he had to take the car back to the rental place and get another. By coincidence he had to talk to the exact same girl that gave him so much trouble when he initially rented the cars on Saturday...lucky him.

For dinner, we decided to go to one of the seafood buffets that are ubiquitous in Myrtle Beach. Seriously...it's like LDS meetinghouses in Utah. We chose one called the Giant Crab -- it apparently had more than 170 items. It actually was really good! I'm not a seafood fan personally, but they had a station where they cooked pasta to order and a hibachi grill so I had PLENTY to eat. I DID try a bit of crab leg at Cole's request, but I have to stay I'm still not a fan. We also got our first taste of hush puppies, which are fried bits of...something delicious. I'm still not sure what they are exactly, but I'm pretty sure we each ate our weight in them that night. Kyle was over the moon because they had a fish tank with "Nemo" and "Nemo's Dad" (yes, I know his name is Marlin, but for some reason Kyle insists on calling him "Nemo's Dad"). He paid several visits to that fish tank during dinner. We got back to the condo that evening fatter and happier.

In the next installment: a bit of nudity, real alligators, and the zoo.


Off the Subject, But...

Does anyone else have those days where it seems like all of your flaws/shortcomings/deficits hit you in the gut at precisely the same moment and your insecurity has rabid insecure babies that devour you alive?

I've had two of those days...in a row.

Am I the only crazy one?

(If not, what do you do to make them less painful?)


Vaycay Extravaganza: A Day of Chill

Monday morning we were still not quite used to the 2-hour time difference. Kyle woke us up around 10:30 (which is 8:30 Utah time, and his usual time for waking at home) and, much to the chagrin of my siblings, set about waking everyone else up as well. We ate a leisurely breakfast and then hit the beach.

They had beach umbrellas and lounge chairs set up all along the shore and, to our surprise, there were still some available! We quickly commandeered a few spots and set to lounging around. We soon found out why there were so many chairs empty, however...a lifeguard came up and asked us if we wanted to rent them. The cost? $30 for the day. SERIOUSLY?!?! "No, thank you," we said, and moved along.

Kyle hung out with Papa, and the two of them had fun walking towards the waves (while still maintaining their distance, because of both Kyle's hesitation and my dad's tendency to be a mite overprotective).

After getting our fill of sun and sand, we headed back to our rooms to clean up and eat lunch. We attended an "orientation"-type meeting in the resort's activity room, where the activities director gave a rundown of both the on-site and off-site activities the resort sponsored. The draw for the meeting? Free mimosas! We, of course, did not imbibe (in fact, when we declined, one self-proclaimed "southern belle" offered to take all of ours for herself!), but we did get our fill of lemonade and free snacks. Attending the meeting turned out to be quite profitable, because we got ideas for several of our own off-site activities there. We also got to see two older and not quite sober people (including our mimosa-loving "southern belle") engage in some "horse racing" (think sticks with horse heads on them) to win discounted tickets for a big dinner show. Totally worth every second.

After the meeting ended, we decided to check out one of the attractions described in the meeting: Barefoot Landing, an extensive open-air shopping center -- Gateway on steroids, basically. One of the crowd draws for Barefoot Landing is the opportunity to see and take pictures with baby tigers.

They had gorgeous adult tigers as well. In the back is a Siberian tiger, the middle, a Royal White Bengal tiger, and in the front (my personal favorite, which also happens to be quite rare), a Golden Tabby tiger.

They had several baby tigers in glass-walled enclosures, waiting their turn to have their picture taken with eager tourists. The cost for such a picture STARTED at $79. My dad actually said he considered getting our picture taken, but after watching a few of the shoots, we realized that $79 got you about 3 1/2 seconds of holding the animal (basically just long enough to have the picture taken) -- totally not worth it. He said that he would have sprung for it if the handlers let the tourists ACTUALLY hold the tigers.

Since we're dorks, we had to get pictures taken at those ridiculous face cut-outs that are so ubiquitous at touristy locations:

Kyle actually LOVED them, and had to get his picture taken at each one. In this picture, he wasn't quite tall enough to get his face in the hole, so I'm holding him up with one arm and stretching to fit my face in the other hole.

Kyle's favorite store was called "American Vintage." It was actually really cool -- it had all kinds of nostalgia items and statues of old movie stars (like Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and the Blues Brothers). You could even buy sodas in 12 oz. glass bottles. Kyle managed to find a Thomas the Tank Engine train whistle and suckered Papa into buying it for him. He was on cloud nine from then on.
Here he is, blowing the train whistle for the umpteenth time of the afternoon:

Barefoot Landing also has what is called the Alligator Adventure -- one of the largest reptile zoos in the world. We meandered out toward the entrance to find out that they were closing in an hour, so we didn't actually go in (who wants to pay a full day's admission for an hour?). Later, I saw pictures of what the Alligator Adventure looked like, and I decided we didn't miss much. It looked like it was a bunch of alligators laying all over the place. Everyone knows the fun of seeing alligators comes when you have to search for them...right? (Incidentally, we did get an opportunity to see alligators during the trip in a more natural setting, so we definitely didn't miss out).

After calling it an afternoon, my dad took Chris and Brittany back to the condo because they were on dinner duty. The rest of us trekked to Wal-Mart (it's not a complete day in the Kenner family without a trip to Wal-Mart!), where Daniel and Cole tried their hardest to drive my mom crazy (Cole has the annoying habit of filling the basket with useless items, and Daniel did his best to egg Cole on in this). We picked up groceries to last us the rest of the week, and headed back for dinner. Chris and Brittany made delicious tacos, which we INHALED. We settled down to watch Leap Year (good movie!) before hitting the sack.

In tomorrow's post: a giant toy man, car trouble, and a blackwater river.
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