Monday, March 31, 2008

Hilarity in Baby Beard Land

In case you've stopped by and can't handle the extreme sentimentality below, check out Nana G's comment on my Beards Over Babies post. Funny, funny lady.

The Story in Which I Tell of My Deep Love for Shannon Ann and Recount the Events of the Birth of Our First Child

A Preliminary Warning: This story is long. I will break it up into installments to be posted over the course of several days, but some of the posts will still be long. Feel free not to read it. You may not want to after the following warning and disclaimer anyway.

A Warning about the Disclaimer: In the following warning, I say a bad word. But it's okay 'cause I talk about love. A lot.

Disclaimer: This story may sound like the most sentimental ooshy-gooshy lovey-dovey kitsch I have ever written, and maybe it is.

I am usually a firm believer in Emily Dickinson's advice to "tell the truth, but tell it slant," and Jesus' example of telling parables instead of 5 point sermons, preferring indirection, especially in matters of goodness, wonder and love. Too much attention to love and goodness without acknowledgement of the shit that not only happens, but also frequently rains down from ceiling fans is cheap and dishonest.

(This is why I have a hard time with Hollywood happy endings, Thomas Kinkade paintings, and musicals.)

But there are times—seldom as they may be—when unqualified goodness or love, or whatever, shines through so brightly, so unencumbered by the crap that sticks so easily to everything it touches. Those times do happen and this is one of those times. So I am not going to tell it slant; I am going to tell it the way it is.

You have been forewarned.

Let the story begin.

+ + + + +


I have never loved someone so much in my life.

In these last days of Shannon's pregnancy, every five minutes or so I will stop whatever I am doing just to look at her. My eyes will moisten and my chest will swell with pride and unqualified love and I cannot imagine loving anyone more. I can only imagine growing and being with her for the rest of our lives.

(Some of you are probably wondering right about now what heinous act I possibly could have perpetrated against Shannon that would require this degree of online, public schmoopy talk. But I assure you, I write not under marital duress or with any ulterior motive.)

I tell Shannon quite often that I love her.

Usually, though, I do so with the sad knowledge that habitual repetition waters down any statement. It erodes one's ability to feel the full force of the message.
That's why "I love you" can be such a tired phrase.

Sometimes I try to find new ways of saying it but lately, in the final days of Shannon's pregnancy, that novelty hasn't been needed.

Shannon will just be going about her business, sweeping the kitchen or petting the dogs, and I will look at her and a smile will spread from my mouth to my eyes, and she will smirk and, with happy suspicion, say, "Whaaat?"

And I will simply say "I love you."

As she carries my unborn daughter, as we spend our days together in eager anticipation of the arrival of our love-become-flesh, every time I say I love you—that oft uttered phrase that can be so tired—I say it with the full, unmitigated force of its meaning and I am confident that she receives it that way.

+ + + + +

Check back for part 2, when I will stop gushing long enough to start really telling the story.

Also, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,Part 10

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Happy One Month Birthiversary!

Magnolia Grace Rush is now one month old!

She has reached a healthy weight of 11 1/2 pounds (she's gaining over an ounce a day!) and a legnth of 23 inches. According to the chart we have, that puts her in at least the 95th percentile for both. About a week ago, she started smiling and giggling in her sleep and now she is doing it during the day. (I guess it is normal for babies to start practicing things like that in their sleep.) She is able to lift her head pretty far when on her stomach and can hold it pretty steady when she is upright. Maggie is getting much more responsive and interested in the world around her. She will stare for a really long time at the bear on the mobile on her swing and the smiling sun on her play mat. She also spent some time watching Otis yesterday as he lay beside her wagging and chewing his bone. Windows, especially sky lights, can hold her attention the longest. She also really enjoys taking a bath -- she is like a noodle soaking in the warmth of the water. Thankfully, for her parents' sake, she is beginning to sleep for longer periods at night too. :)

Major Blowout!

Maggie started crying at the end of her nap earlier this afternoon a little harder than usual. So I went in expecting that she was hungry. Upon lifting her out of her crib, I noticed the bottom of her sleep-sack was heavy and the arm that I was holding her with was getting wet. Turning her over I discovered a HUGE yellowy-brown spot as well as a matching one in her crib. Somehow Magnolia managed to kick off her diaper! Gross (but hilarious)!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Postpartum, shhh...

So, I've been a mom for about a month now and I've been thinking about a couple things:

1) While the pregnant woman is in vogue, the postpartum one is not. Big-bellied celebrities are all over the covers of magazines these days. Not so much with the chubby, frazzle-haired postpartum ones with dark circles under their eyes. This has been the least glamous time of my life and I want to warn others about it. While talking about pregnancy symptoms seems to be expected, postpartum woes seem to be taboo, with moms discussing topics in whispered tones.

2) It is really hard to be completely honest, even when blogging to an unknown audience. It is easier to just give the highlights and gloss over the hard parts of life, unless they are really funny.

Hopefully this isn't too much information. I'm going to share a little about my journey this last month.

**Lack of Sleep -- Brian has been amazing at taking the night shift without complaining. Even so, I think I can count on my fingers the number of sleep cycles longer than 3 hours I have had in the last two months. I kind of expected that though. What I didn't expect was my sleep position continuing to be limited. About November I had to stop sleeping on my back due to my growing belly. I couldn't wait to be able to sleep on my back. Now, I have to sleep on my back because of my c-section incision and I can't wait to be able to sleep on my side.

**Drugs are nice, but complicated. It is so hard to remember when I took what and trying to find times when I am awake and haven't had food for two hours and won't be eating for another hour to take one kind. They should make it easier for new moms. Drugs also mask the fact that I'm recovering and I end up overdoing it by doing things like walking five miles one afternoon.

**What do you wear? Pregnancy clothes are not necessary, but pre-pregnancy clothes either don't really fit, are not practical for the massive amount of time spent nursing, or are packed away with no time to dig them out.

**On the subject of nursing, I've had the gamut. Our first Saturday home, Maggie spit up what looked like blood with her normal milky substance. Worried, I called the pediatrician's nurse and she had me look for cracks in my nipples. Sure enough my sore nipples were bleeding under the intense strength of my little one's sucking power.

**While in labor, I was constantly asked to describe my pain on a scale of 1 - 10 (1 being barely noticable and 10 being the worst pain of your life). I think for the most part my labor hovered around 5 or 6, spiking to an 8 or 9 during the worst parts. One morning, after dealing with engorgment for a few days, I woke up with level 8 pain in my right breast. I had developed Mastitis, a breast infection. But your kid still has to eat. Luckily, usually it felt better after she ate.

**During pregnancy Brian commented that he had never been a parenthical statement more in his life--"Glad to hear you and baby are healthy (Oh, and you too Brian)." Now I know what he meant. Our labor nurse when she was showing us our room commented in regard to setting the room temperature "During labor you are the princess, but when that baby comes out, its all about her." It was foreshadowing of what was to come. I can't count the times I have heard something to the effect of "I can't wait to see Magnolia" or "I miss Maggie so much" quickly followed by "Oh, and you too." I wonder how Brian is feeling now? Parentheses within parantheses?

**A few days in, the emotional roller coaster began. It seemed like any time I was alone, especially when feeding Magnolia at night, I would start bawling. For a while my feelings of failure for needing to have a c-section and not being able to experience the "pushing" stage of labor were a recurring theme. I definitely had moments of feeling inadequacy. One time I cried because everyone else had sung to Maggie and I hadn't. What kind of mother was I?!? The craziest though (and, people, I'm sorry to say this happened more than once) I realized that if Brian and I live a full life to somewhere in our 80's, Magnolia will be in her 50's and maybe becoming a grandparent, and we will potentially miss out on 20+ years of her life. I actually was grieving missing the end of my child's life during her first month. Then of course I had feelings that I might be going crazy, etc. Needless to say, my doctor went through all of the questions to determine if I had postpartum depression and decided that no I just had the blues. He suggested I take vitamin D and try to curb any negative thoughts.

**Brian has been incredibly patient and supportive in the midst of my neurosis. Not all has been emotional. One night after waking up for the third time to feed, our sheets, which were slightly rumpled and askew, were driving me crazy. I made Brian get up and help me remake our bed. He patiently did it. I felt super bad in the morning.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Postpartum has been really hard in more ways than just the expected sleep deprivation, but, I can't complain too much. It's all been worth it. Last night, we had fortune cookies. Mine said, "You will be rewarded for your hard work this past month." Really, I already have...

Beards Over Babies

Never did I think dinosaurs would offer such cutting insights into my subconscious motivation for growing a beard.

Check out more prehistoric hilarity at the Qwantz page

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What? No cute baby in an Easter dress?!

It's true. For two reasons:

1) Magnolia didn't really sleep last night, so we didn't go to church. It probably would not have been wise for either of us to drive in our sleep-deprived state. Instead we've been lounging around the house in our pajamas.

2) The church we attend is not celebrating Easter this week. Many of you probably know that Brian and I have been attending an Eastern Orthodox church for a couple of years now. The Orthodox Church follows a different calendar than the Western (Catholic and Protestant) Churches. So we will have Easter at the end of April, and at that point I will post cute pictures of Maggie in her Easter dress.

If you want to learn more about why there are two dates for Easter, check out our other blog, Liminal Incense.

For those of you that celebrated Easter today, Christ is Risen!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Justin Elias Owen

Our friends from church, Matt and Amber Owen (Amber is a frequent commenter on this blog) finally had their son, Justin just before midnight on March 19th. We attended the same birth class on the Bradley method. But they too went two weeks overdue and had to adjust their birth plan from their desired non-medicated birth. After a long difficult labor, the Owen family is recovering and getting to know each other.

Last night we got a chance to visit them at the hospital. It was great to see them and compare details of our birth stories with a couple that we have walked through each stage of pregnancy so close together.

Since children are not allowed in the birth center, we left Magnolia with her Auntie Alli for our quick trip. It was a little weird leaving her for the first time. But Alli did a great job as her first babysitter. The following is what we came home to...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Canucks' Newest Mascot

"Go, Canucks, go!"

"Boooo Edmonton!"

"Beat 'em at skating!"

(That one's for you, Scott)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A walk in the woods requires a bath

Yesterday, my sister Alli and I took Magnolia and my two dogs for a walk on North Lake Whatcom Trail. We stopped 1 mile in to let the dogs swim and take some pictures of cute Maggie. One of the wet dogs shook near the camera, thus the blurred spots in the pictures.

Magnolia sported her new bear hat made by her Auntie Alli. It matches her dad's favorite hat with the addition of ears.
Maggie got hungry on our walk. So I fed her while sitting on a log by the lake. But later when we were going over a bumpy part of the trail, she decided to spit it all back up. Alli and I cleaned her up the best we could while in the woods. When we got home I discovered that her hair was crusty with dried milk. Brian and I decided it was a great time for her first real bath.

Not so bad at first...
Then, it got worse.

What a cute toosh! (This one is especially for you Jodi)

Then Maggie and I sacked out exhausted from a long day in our favorite napping places; me in my chair and she on my chest.

For all of you that can't get enough pictures, I started a flickr account for Magnolia pics. Go to to view more from these events. You should be able to share and print any favorites. I'll be working on putting some older ones on there too, so check back often.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cardiff in Surrey

If you're anywhere near Surrey, BC in the next few days go see the Janet Cardiff show at the Surrey Art Gallery before it closes on Sunday.

From the website:
Forty-Part Motet is a sublimely beautiful sound installation created by one of Canada’s most significant contemporary artists.

Janet Cardiff recorded members of the Salisbury Cathedral Choir
performing Spem in Alium, by 16th century English composer
Thomas Tallis, one of the most complex pieces of polyphonic
choral music ever written.

Separate voices emanate from forty speakers. As visitors stroll
past they can single out individual singers. Standing at the
centre, the combined choral harmonies wash over listeners.

Previously shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York,
and at the Tate Gallery in England, the Surrey Art Gallery will
host its first exhibition in British Columbia.

This was one of the most beautiful, goose-bump inducing aural experiences I've ever had. Go alone, close your eyes and get lost in the rapturous polyphony or bring the kids and enjoy a unique--and free!--experience together. If you aren't moved by this you might be dead.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pretty Irish Girl

Growing up in the Gracey family our Irish heritiage was something to be proud of, even if it was only one among many nationalities that made up our background. On St. Patrick's Day, we always had corned beef, roasted potatoes, and my favorite, Irish soda bread. We also always watched the "Irish" Disney movie, Darby O'Gill and the Little People. For those of you that were able to attend our wedding, you may remember Brian toasting me by singing the song "Pretty Irish Girl." This year we didn't do any of the Gracey family traditions, but we all did wear green. Maggie was especially decked out in an outfit from her Nana.
I guess we're not the only ones that dress their baby up and do photo shoots for obscure holidays.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Going, Going, Gone!*

Magnolia lost her umbilical cord stump this morning. She now has a belly button. Will it be an inny or an outy? It is kind of both right now.
*My apologies to all of you readers that are not interested in the mini-milestones of our new little one. This post in particular is for the benefit of Maggie's Grandmas, Great-Grandmas, Great-Great Grandma and any omphaloskeptics out there.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

First Trip

Maybe we are a little too ambitious. Two weeks in and we decided to take a trip to Everett/Seattle with our newborn and two dogs. We had been planning for a month or so to head down South this week because Brian wanted to visit a particular art gallery and listen to an art talk. Maggie's delayed arrival made her a little younger than we anticipated, but we decided to go for it anyway.

Luckily, we could stay at my parents' house in Everett. Even though they are in Hawaii on vacation, my mom made their house all ready for our visit, stocked with necessary supplies that we may have forgotten. I decided to use this as a trial run to see if I packed the right amount of baby essentials -- not to many, not too few. We did pretty well, but may need some refining as you can see by our car. (Note: the back is full with our two dogs and their necessities.) 
It was a nice change of scenery, almost like a little vacation for us. Maggie and I spent a lot of time on their King-size bed resting and watching TV. Our two dogs played like crazy with my parents' dog, which meant I didn't have to exercise them. Brian got to go to this art show. And all of us went to have dinner with my good friend Jacqueline at her new house in West Seattle. 

Brian's parents stopped by on their way to the airport. (They too are on vacation this week.) Due to illness, they haven't been able to spend much time with their new granddaughter. Unfortunately, she spent most of their visit sleeping. 

First Doctor's Visit - Two-Week Check Up

Last Thursday we took Maggie to the Pediatrician for the first time. While filling out all of family medical history paperwork I had to keep reminding myself that "Magnolia" was the patient's name, not "Shannon" and when it said Parent Signature that was where I was to sign. Weird.
Our nurse turned out to be someone that we know through Camp Firwood and Bellingham adult rec soccer, Tara Almassy. It was fun to see her again. She did a great job, despite the fact that Maggie must had inherited her mother's difficult veins.
We waited for a really long time for the doctor. While we waited we started examining our daughter's features trying to decided what part looked like who. When discussing her ears we had the brilliant idea of employing our technology to help us decide. What do you think?

Brian also enjoyed teaching Maggie to be tolerant by molding her face into various funny poses.
Overall, Maggie did great! She was very compliant and deemed extremely healthy. She weighed in at 10 pounds, 3 ounces and measured at 22 3/4"! No wonder she has already outgrown her newborn sized clothes. For those of you that think she is perfect, don't worry. She has a slightly longer than normal bent 4th toe that we will be watching. 

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm Too Precious For My Onesie, Too Precious For My Onesie...

Our friends Meg and Aaron Nelson are wedding photographers and Meg has really been wanting to do a photo shoot by herself. So yesterday we had her over for a photo shoot with Magnolia. We don't have all the pictures yet but you can see a few at their family blog and their photography blog.

Double Precious

After seeing the last blog post, Otis got jealous and insisted on being included.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Thank you, Nana and Grandpa!

This week my mom stayed with us to help with the transition home. She has been an incredible help: making meals, cleaning our house, caring for the dogs, doing countless loads of laundry, and being an ever-willing extra pair of hands to help with Maggie.

My dad came up for the weekend and helped us finish a few projects around the house and got to hold his granddaughter for awhile.

They both left today. Now the real test has begun. We can't wait for your next visit!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Drugs! Drugs! Drugs!

Shannon wanted a drug-free pregnancy and childbirth...but she didn't say anything about after...

They're mostly pain meds and vitamins, and there are some duplicates, but still... That's a lot of orange bottles.

Friday, March 7, 2008

My First Week: Sleeping, Eating, Pooping...

Most of my first week has been full of sleeping, eating, filling my diaper, and trying on lots of my clothes. I do a lot of sleeping during the day with some eating mixed in and at night I like to do a lot of eating with a little sleeping mixed in. Below are some pictures of my favorite places to sleep. Enjoy! ~Maggie
on Mama - my favorite place!

in a bouncy chair hand-me-down from cousin Jamie

nestled in pillows with as little on as possible.

in my carseat, even in a shopping cart.

cuddling with Papa -- I don't make getting up very easy.

in my snuggly sleep sack.

napping with Nana on the couch.

in my jammies (that by the way match Mama's) after eating.

pretty much anywhere...this one was a short snooze in my crib.

in my new swing. Today Momma and Nana put me in here hoping it would keep me awake. It worked for 5 minutes.

Nicknames for Magnolia

Most of the time we plan on calling her Maggie. Sometimes I call her Mags. But one of the things we love about Magnolia's name is its nickname versatility. Here are some potentials. Which do you like best? Can you think of any others?

Lia (Leah)

and my favorite, especially if she decides to be a super hero or crime-fighter: Magno.

We call her Munchkin (and Munchie) too but that doesn't have much to do with her given name besides the alliteration.

Also, I figure we better be prepared for anything the grade school bullies might throw her way, so can you think of any other taunts besides these:

Saggy Maggie

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Day of Firsts

Today, Brian and I took Magnolia for her first outing--to meet my math department at their weekly lunch. It was our first time trying to get ourselves ready with Magnolia under a time constraint.

Needless to say to all of you parents, it took us longer than we expected. I fed Maggie just before we were to leave, hoping I wouldn't have to feed her while we were out. But she decided to add another first: projectile spit up. I had to change my clothes, but luckily she stayed clean.

I usually bring dessert for each teacher's birthday and today was my department head Scott's birthday. So we brought a Mud Pie to celebrate him and a Heath Ice Cream Pie to celebrate Maggie. It was fun to show her off.

Magnolia got really hungry at the end of our visit (since most of what I fed her ended up on my pants). This necessitated another first: breastfeeding in public. Thank goodness for the hooter hider made by my friend Emily. I store it in our diaper bag for just such occasions.

Later that afternoon, we had a home visit by a nurse. She was here to check our vitals that they monitored at the hospital and answer any questions we new parents might have. We laid Maggie on her scale to get her weight and noticed a green stain on her outfit. Another first: blown out diaper.

Maggie checked out beautifully. She is almost back up to her birth weight! I am recovering quickly too. I think it is due to the great care and attention we have received from Papa Brian and Nana Teresa.

Our final first happened twice. I had finished this post and was changing her diaper when she so kindly reminded me. During the last two diaper changes of the day, after I got the dirty diaper off and cleaned her up, but before I managed to get the new one on she peed all over!

Welcome Home Maggie!

"Maggie, are you ready to go home?" Her first time in her car seat.

Tired Brian carrying Maggie and the rest of our stuff to the car.

This mirror used to be empty :)

Here we are! We used the garage stairs to limit the climb for the recovering mommy. Once inside I gave Magnolia the tour of our house. We unpacked our stuff and began to get settled at home again. Then we headed to our doggie daycare to pick up the dogs and introduce them to our new family member.

Otis checking Magnolia out.

Back home: "Who's the human puppy??"

To our surprise, Otis, the one that normally wants to greet everyone with a lick, briefly sniffed Maggie and then went to find his bone. Trudy, on the other hand, was very curious.


Then it was time for our first diaper change at home. Papa does the majority of them.

She blessed us with a diaper full of transition poo.