Making Everyday an Adventure in Marriage, New Parenthood, and Living on a Caribbean Island

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My proudest DIY

I have never been too crafty, but I have always had high aspirations.  I am lucky to have been surrounded by creative people for a while;  my grandmother was a master seemstress: my mom knows how to sew up many different curtains and baby clothes, write caligraphy, ice a 3D easter bunny cake, and was a pretty good photographer using 35mm: Chris(sy) can whip up a smokin hot outfit from a rummage in the thrift store: my hott husband is musical: my dad made me and Aaron cool pegboards and any thing else we wanted made out of wood, metal or plastic:  Aaron designed amazing forts and continues to build spectacular lego cars, planes, and spaceships: Cat puts together the prettiest house: and my aunt Alice quits and crochets.

All this time I have been soaking up these creative talents (with out my sources ever knowing, bwahahaha!) and I started trying things out for our wedding.  I was pretty happy with some of the things I did, but getting ready for my Mary to arrive really kicked me into high gear.  I did something totally original (if you have seen this elsewhere, please don't tell me).

You know you always get a bunch of lovely cards for special occasions, and they are wonderful sentiments, but after you read it, then what?  I feel so guilty thowing them away, and as a result, I have about 500 cards from different days in my life in 3 shoe boxes in my parents' house.  So for my baby shower /new baby cards I made them into a cute decoration for Mary's nursery.

Step 1- pick a shape and make a outline stencil.

Step 2- Trace the stencil on a cute part of the outside of the card and cut it out

Step 3- Write who the card is from on the back side of the cut out.

Repeat 2 and 3 until you have all the pieces you want.

Step 4- evenly space the pieces out on matboard in a grid, I did 5X3

Step 5- place in a frame and hang it up!

Here is my finished product:


I chose to do a tree because we did sort of a bird theme and didn't want to over do the bird thing, and bird live in trees.

I just really, really love this, and it actually turned out well.  I will difinetly be doing this for futute ( :)  ) baby(ies).

Thanks for letting me toot my own horn.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mary's Many Faces

She doesn't usually do the headband thing, but I thought it was a fun pop of color, and she was feeling a little sassy.  










Needless to say, we really, really, really love her.









Sunday, April 15, 2012

You are everything good in this world...

For Mary's bedtime, we have a very consistent routine. We do bath time, which she loves, followed by getting pj's on, then swaddled.  Then, as she is nursing, I tell her that she is everything good in this world, followed by a list of all the good things I hope she will be.  The list changes every night, usually based on the interactions I have had that day, or on my energy level.   The list includes but is not limited to...

patient
kind
passionate(this always makes me tear up, wondering what she will be passionate about...)
humble
generous
honest
unique
respectful
loving
purposeful
smart
funny
selfless
independent
resourceful
faithful
thoughtful
happy
optimistic
etc...

I love this part of the routine and I hope to continue it for a very long time.  I hope it will give her the confidence she needt to be all these things and more, and that if she ever doubts herself, she will know that I am always there to see the best in her.  It also reminds me that Patrick and I have to model these things for her, and I usually spend a good part of the evening reflecting on my actions throughout the day and thinking of how I can better incorporate these traits into my own person.

Then I sing her a couple of songs, say her prayer, and put her to bed.  But its that middle part I like the best.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Home again home again, hippity hop

       My mom used to say that whenever we were getting close to home.  It ends with "cow's in the meadow, sheep's in the pot."   I remember thinking "lucky cows!"  and feeling bad for the sheep.


      The Howell women have landed!  After four months in the blessed USA, Mary and I are back on our home island.  I was seriously dreading the return for many reasons that I will explain below, but mainly because I was a bit fearful of what this island had in store for my infant daughter.  My concerns were not just for Mary, but for myself as well.   I know that God tells us not to be fearful, to trust all things in him, and while I may not have been totally doing that in my head, I think that in returning with said infant daughter, my actions were stronger than my thoughts, and I have been shown that my fears were logical, but unnecessary.

Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and anyone with germ phobias:  be warned, I am not going to hold back.

My top 10 fears, and how we are getting over them-

1.  The heat.  When I left the DR in October, it was so ridiculously hot, it hurt.  I would get home at lunch and go straight to the cold shower, and remain unclothed for as long as possible, and when I absolutely had to dress, put on the lightest, airy-est clothing I could find.  It made me so lethargic and grumpy, and I was nervous to stand up in public places, just knowing there would be sweat marks on my back.  (and my rear.  I originally wasn't going to include this, but you have to know to get the full picture.)  Sleeping at night was a joke, cuddling was out of the question, and exercise....well, I gained plenty of weight in this pregnancy and I can't blame it all on my 8 pound baby.

NOW the weather is quite delightful 90 percent of the time.  Most days I think that I could live everyday with this weather.  I need a sheet at night to be comfortably warm, and I get to wear what I want, with out worry of sweat marks or overheating.  I know that it will get hotter as the summer progresses, but to not have to jump back into heavy heat is a blessing.

2.  The heat and Mary.  Mary has only known chilly.  Her room was kept warm, but the rest of the house was a little chilled, and outside was fa-reezing.  We kept her pretty well layered, and she was swaddled for every nap and bed time.  I was so worried that it would be too hot to swaddle her, that she would become lethargic and miss out on developmental opportunities, that breastfeeding would be so uncomfortable, and that she would be cranky from the discomfort.

Again, the weather is nice.  At night it is cool enough that not only do I swaddle her, but I sometimes put her in her long sleeve footy pj's too.  Most mornings she gets dressed and wears leggings the first part of the day.  During the afternoon and early evening it can get a bit warm, but I just put a cool washcloth on her back and she is fine.  By the time it gets to be that oppressive heat, she will be old enough to sit up in a little swimming pool and appreciate the cool water.

3. Critters (this excludes bugs; they have their own section) We have mice. Lots and lots of mice.  And rats, though we have yet to spot one IN the house.  There are also lizards which while cleaner than mice, are still sort of creepy with their weird blinky eyes and scary fast movements.  In Bombita, it is a common problem that children get their toes nibbled on by the critters that shares their beds, and groups have sent down socks for the kids to at least provide a barrier for the mice to get through.  Also, they leave their droppings EVERYWHERE!  I seriously do no know how they get to some of the surfaces, but their evidence is there.  The worst is that they seem to love our dish rack, so we end up washing our dishes twice, once to clean of the dinner, and once to clean off the poo.  It makes me cringe to think of rodent excrement getting on my dishes, let alone on my baby's bottles, pacifiers, clothes, etc...  it is pretty toxic stuff.

Turns out, in our new house, the mice aren't so bad, and since we no longer live on a wall adjacent to the trash receptacles, I haven't seen any rats!  There was lizard on Mary's mosquito net one time and it jumped into her crib when I shook the net.  I was surprisingly un-bothered by this though. We have some evidence of mice, which I would wipe off, bleach the counter, re wash the dishes they had contaminated and whine and moan to Patrick about it.  The day I went to get a bottle for Mary and there was a piece of poo INSIDE the bottle.  I threw that bottle in the trash can, sterilized everything in sight and put down traps, covering the counters.  You should know that we cannot find any type of trap other than these sticky little panels.  When a mouse steps on to it, it just sticks.  And the mouse fights it.  Sometimes we catch more than one mouse on one trap and the mice fight.  So during the night we hear "squeak squeak squeak squeeeeaaaaaaakkkk

4. Bugs Mainly mosquitoes, but also spiders, and fleas and gnats, and these little things that hurt like a mother trucker, and ants.  We couldn't use a mosquito net because it blocks out all the breezes, even from the fan.  So we used to fumigate the house every night with some spray thing.  I would have to hide in another bedroom so as not to have a three legged baby, and Patrick would spray the house.  That kept the bugs away just long enough for us to fall asleep, but come morning we were covered in bites.  Also, there are cases of malaria and dengue, dangerous.

Again, this time of year the bugs seem to not be so bad.  Mary has a mosquito net over her crib, and we found some all natural bug spray, and our new house is a bit cooler, so we will be able to have a mosquito net too, when the bugs get bad again.  And you know, we'll just do what we can to keep Mary Jo bug free.

5. Finding a trustworthy nanny.  I am so lucky to be able to work from home for the first half of the day, and since our lunch break goes until two, I only have to get a nanny from 2-530.  Even then, I am mostly just across the year, or right next door in the school.  Childcare is so different here, so....illogical and ummmmm, stupid.  I wasn't worried about finding somebody loving, somebody who would do their best with Mary.  I was concerned that it would be hard to find someone that would be willing to learn how we do things with Mary: not putting her on her belly to sleep, putting her on her belly to play as often as possible, not letting her cry it out, swaddling her for any sleep time, helping her keep a sleep schedule, etc...My biggest worry was that if Mary got sick or hurt somehow, their response would be so drastically off base, that it would be more harmful to Mary.

We did find Caco, who also our cleaner and does our laundry (please do not think ill of us for having these services, we only chose to have her because she had cleaned for the last people and we didn't want her to lose her job.)  Caco has three kids and three grand babies close to Mary's age.  She is gentle and calm, unlike most Dominicans.  She is used to us Americans and our weird ways, and has far exceeded my expectations.  She asks me how I like things done and follows through.  We have asked her about different emergency situations and she seems to have a pretty good understanding of the right way to handle things.  Mary LOVES her and Caco sings and dances and plays with her so sweetly.  The only off the wall thing she does is when MJ has the hiccups, she finds a piece of white string, and it HAS to be white, spits on it, balls it up, and places it on Mary's forehead.  Then she sticks her finger in her own mouth to wet it, and makes a cross on Mary's stomach with the saliva.  I have since seen and heard of others doing this, and while it is strange and ineffective, I think I can live with it...

6. My Job. To put it plainly, I did not have a very positive experience in my work environment when I was here before.  I did not want to come back to that.

Its better now.  New people, better understanding of what my job is, and more confidence to do it.

7. Non potable water.  Ingesting water from the tap can lead to parasites, so you see my concerns.  Teeth brushing, dish washing, produce cleaning, showers and baths, etc...the whole game changes.  The parasites are water born, so anything wet with tap water is a danger.  Mary's bath time and breast pump and bottle cleaning were my biggest concerns.  She eats her hands while she's in the tub, and those breast pump and bottle parts are impossible to get dry unless you set them out for a long time.

I wash and sterilize the breast pump parts and bottles in our drinking water, and while it uses up a ton of our water, I don't have to worry about the cleanliness of her meals when I am away.  As far as her bath is concerned, we sort of just do the best we can.  We can't use drinking water for baths, its just too wasteful, so we keep a glass of clean water and use it to wash her face and hands throughout bath time.  We are super watchful for signs of illness, and we know what to do if she develops symptoms of a parasite.

8. Missing our families. We miss them, and we want Mary to know her family.

So we skype and email and do everything we can to stay in touch.  And we still miss our family.

9. Social life (or lack there of).  We just don't really have real friends down here.  Cultural differences, our restricted activities, and maybe a language barrier, play into it being really hard to make connections. Plus, I was more exhausted being pregnant down there than I realized at the time, and that kept me from being much fun, or wanting to have much fun either.

I have made friends with some other new mothers and it is fun to just sit and talk about our babies, which eventually leads into talk about other things which will hopefully lead in to actual friendships.  This doesn't help out with Patrick though, so hopefully he can find a way to make some more connections soon.

10.  The noise.  It is overwhelming at times.  Cars and trucks and motorcycles with out mufflers all gunning is by our house because we have two speed bumps on either side of our driveway, campaign buses with enough speakers for a Foo Fighters concert, ice cream trucks on steroids, chickens, dogs, lizards, bugs, frogs, wild children, unruly adults, gun shots, and the two bars down the street, do not make it easy for this noise sensitive girl(me) to sleep, and I was nervous that my baby wouldn't be able to sleep either.

SO we run a fun in her room to block out some of the noise.  It works pretty well except for when our neighbor's chickens decide to lay their eggs right outside Mary's window during her nap time.  When it is just too much and I can't sleep, I join sleep in her room to benefit from the fan.  We can't have a fan running in both of our rooms because we run them off the inverter and two fans would kill it before the night were through.

THE END
of this ridiculously long blog.





Thursday, February 16, 2012

One Month ....give or take a few weeks.....


I don't know if I am going to do this monthly...my guess is not.  BUT, this first month has been pretty incredible and I really feel like I have to get it down so it doesn't become even more of a blur.

Bringing Mary home from the hospital was the most terrifying, gratifying, proud, and bewildered car ride of my life.  In the hospital it didn't feel permanent, like maybe they were going to see that we were clearly unfit to be Mary's parents and take her back (wherever "back" is).  Once we got in the car though, with our teeny tiny baby in her teeny tiny snow suit, I knewshe was ours forever.  It was, and still is, a glorious feeling.

I don't know why I even start these posts thinking it won't morph into yet another top ten.  I think this will be the last post that isn't just a top ten.  I'll have to think of a new title for this blog, but I really love the top ten thing.

1.  This is huge.  Living with Mary's gradparents.  Four sets of hands to cuddle, comfort, change diapers, and carry are far better than two. And they provide me some time to eat (at least once day) and get a shower (usually once a day).

2.  Patrick has been a natural from the beginning.  Of course he is learning, as we both are, but Mary clearly loves him, and he clearly reciprocates.


3.  Mary sleeps!   We started out getting 3 2-3 hour stretches every night, then 2 4 hour stretches with the occasional 2 hour bonus, and now we routinely have 6-7 hours at a time with a 2 hour bonus round.  Sometimes she even gives us 8 hours!!!  And yet, the other morning I was so tired, I accidentally got a knife instead of a spoon for my yogurt, but I was already sitting down once I realized it and I just didn't have the energy to get up to exchange it.  How am I getting more sleep than the average college student, but performing drastically below the standards set for modern man?


4.  Mary eats well.  She lets me know when it is time, take her fill, and moves on to the next part of her day: usually playing on her tummy time mat.

5. I LOVE breastfeeding.  I feel so close to her, and feeling that needed can do wonderful things for a woman's heart.  I love getting to spend that time with my baby that no one can take away from me.

6.  She recognizes my voice, and has from day one.  Towards the end of the month she would really turn her head when I spoke to her from across the room.  That feels like we really have known each other longer than anybody else, and while that may seem trivial, I still enjoy it.

7.  She loves bath time!  the first two baths were awful, but we got a new bath tub with a sling and now it is the most relaxing thing for her.  She is never fussing in her bath, and if she is unhappy, the sound of the tub filling calms her down.  It is so fun to see her react to the water, and start to splash a little.




8.  Dressing her in her adorable clothes is so much better than dressing any doll (although I don't remember ever playing with dolls, so this must be from my observations of other girls with theirs).  She has great clothes and she just looks so cute in all of them. I love picking out what she will wear fro the day so much, that sometimes I pack an extra extra (the two extras are intentional) outfit because I can't decie what to put her in!



9.  Her bum.  It is just so cute and it fits in my one hand.  Baby bums are the best.



10.  She is already making me a better person.  I want the world to be a better place for her. I want to be a better mom and woman and wife and friend and daughter and sister and aunt for her.  I want to be more gentle, more patient, more fun, healtier, happier, and more selfless for her.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Miss Mary

How do you start off a post to talk about your child being born?

Though this experience of pregnancy and childbirth and our first almost week of parenthood, I would have to be deaf, blind, AND drunk to not know that we are beyond blessed.  I complained about some aspects of pregnancy but I didn't have to be bedridden, have a super restrictive diet, take medications to help my baby grow to full term, and I felt good enough to stay active and happy.  

Childbirth was also a fairly smooth ride (commence birth story)

EEEEEEAAAARLY in the morning on the 26th, I started feeling contractions that weren't really painful, but I knew they were there.  After a few hours of sleeping on and off, we started timing and they were exactly seven minutes apart for about an hour.  At that point they were so weak, and I thought thats how they would stay, that I thought I had this whole labor thing in the bag! We celebrated a belated family Christmas with my parents and my brother and his son and fiance, went sledding (I just watched...), and later that evening started timing again.  The contractions had gotten slightly stronger, but still no more than a "oh, hmm, that ALMOST hurt".  For a few hours they were coming five minutes apart, and PAtrick was urging me to go to the hospital, certain we were on the brink.  Something told me it wasn't quite time, and besides, I wanted to enjoy Christmas dinner at least!  Finally he persuaded me to call my doctor, who of course did not pick up or leave any information what so ever.  SO then he had me call the on call center at the hospital.   Of course the nurse had me come in, but even than I took my own sweet time, confident we would be sent home.  And we were.  I was barely even dilated and the nurse laughed at what we had been calling contractions.  

Almost as soon as we got in to car to go home though, I got my first real contraction.  Shiza. My. Bones.  Holy painfulness.  BUT the pain was offset by the knowledge that labor really was setting in, and that in the next day or two we would be holding our baby girl.

Contractions continued through the night and into the next day, and I was not ABOUT to go tot he hospital too early...again.  I breathed my way through contractions, took a nice relaxing bath while watching the up all night show, until finally Patrick said "ok, that's enough, we're going to the hospital" leaving no room for discussion.  I was so thankful to him for taking the lead, because I was being my stubborn, prideful self, not wanting to be seen as weak for being in pain and wanting to go to the hospital.  I wish I could tell myself it was the hormones making me act like that...
We got to the hospital and were admitted right away.  My contractions were off the chart, so even though I had planned on a natural birth, I decided to try demerol to control the pain for a little while.  It worked perfectly.  I could still feel my contractions, but the pain didn't spread to my back and legs and hips anymore.  It worked like that for about 3 hours, untilthe pain broke through.
Trying to smile through the demerol...

 I was only five centimeters dialated so I went for the epidural.  I have zero regrets about this choice.  It made the whole experience so enjoyable.  The epi only worked 100% on my right side so I was still able to feel when I was having a contraction.  I did stall out at 5 centimeters for about 12 hours though, so they had to rupture my membranes and give me pitocin.  I was bummed about that, but only 2 hours later I was pushing and only 45 minutes after that my baby girl was born!! She weighed 8Lbs 4oz and measured 21".  She is perfectly healthy and has been a fairly calm and happy baby.


 I had a pretty bad tear, but I was so enthralled with holding my love that I didn't notice being stitched up.  The staff were amazing and did everything from there on out  in our room at my request, and Patrick got to help with the first bath.
Mary's first bath was NOT her favorite part of the day.

We came home a little over 24 hours later and now, on her one week birthday, we are more in love than we could have imagined.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Countdown!

I wrote this a few weeks ago, and planned on adding pictures but never got around to it...

Today marks exactly 38 weeks of pregnancy!  This basically means baby H could come waltzing right on into this world any day now.  It makes me really excited but a bit apprehensive as well.  Right now, I am ot worried about the whole becoming a mother thing, the labor and delivery, it no longer being just me and Patrick, or nay of that.  What is keeping me up at night is wondering when that first sign of labor is going to come and what it will be.  It could be Wednesday with random contractions.  Thursday with my water breaking all over the place.  Friday with an onslaught of intense contractions that leave us sprinting to the hospital. Monday with just a liiiitle bit of amniotic fluid, or at my doctors appointment on Tuesday the doctor could just say "Whoa! you're ready to go!"  Sunday it could Colonel Mustard in the library with the candle stick.  You just never know.  How is anybody supposed to prepare themselves when they don't know what is coming?! How is this control happy, feels best with a plan and even better with a back up plan girl supposed to feel even remotely ok with this?!  Deep breath......

So some things I can be certain of (=top ten):
1. Patrick is here!!!!   He flew into Atlanta Thursday night and got to see some friends there (JEALOUS!), then he came into Denver with Tosh and McKinley Friday morning.  I feels so ridiculously good to have him here with me, I cannot even explain.

2. The makeshift Colorado nursery is ready!  It is not really cute, but I have worked really hard to make it more than a room with a particle board desk and a 30 year old couch and a crib thrown in.  It is functional and I don't think she will really mind.

3.  The Dominican nursery Patrick created is beautiful.  He wouldn't let me see it in progress, but he showed me pictures of the final product and I am stunned.  He picked out the paint, painted the walls, set up all the furniture, painted some shelves, hired a guy to write a cute quote on the wall, and as a super surprise, he had a floor to ceiling tree painted on the wall, with little birds resting on the branches.  He even brought in a rocking chair and a little table.  The only thing I did was design our dresser/changing table, which is awesome, gave him a few little thoughts on my vision, and let him run with it.

4.  This baby IS going to be born.  Even if I don't know when.

5.  Aaron and Isaac and Lyndee will be here in a week!

6.  Your mom.

7.  My puppies are here!  I didn't know how much I missed the but I really, really, did.  Especially my girl Mckinley.  She is just such a good dog and has been a constant companion for over six years.  She is pretty aware and weary of changes, so I am glad to have her here with me for a bit before the baby comes to try and prepare her.  Tosh is just so oblivious to world around here, she is always happy!

8.  Colorado is BEAUTIFUL!  Today it is 51 degrees and not even noon yet.  The sky is the bluest blue, and our mountain is so clear, it is breathtaking.

9.  I got a fortune cookie yesterday and the fortune said "you will be meeting some one new this week to your benefit." Ok so maybe I can't be certain that the fortune will come to fruition, but I CAN be certain that I hope it does!

10.  This baby IS going to be born.  I just have to keep telling myself that.