begin again

Tonight, I feel a strange pull towards this old space of mine.

It seems impossible that it's been over a year since my last post -- so many changes since then, chief among them the owner of that tiny little foot. Little Oliver joined us in the summer and I've already learned that motherhood is sweeter the second time around.

Time is tumbling and pushing and wheeling forward with the force of a thousand engines and I'm powerless to stop it. Maybe that's why I'm here tonight, at 2 a.m. when I really should be sleeping. The allure of documenting it all, telling these moments and stories before they slip my grasp seems incredibly important when I think of how quickly my children are growing.

I don't know where this little blog of mine fits in to my life right now -- but I know it will be resurrected or reincarnated somehow. It has to be, for my sake now (I miss writing!) and later (years from now, I'll be glad I made the effort).

isaac's birth story: part four

This is fourth and final part of Isaac's birth story. Catch up here first:
Part One 
Part Two
Part Three

All around me, there is activity. I feel the room filling with people.

As I situate on the bed, I glance at the clock and see that we've passed into the next day.

12:01 a.m.  I know your birthday now. I will celebrate it for the rest of my life.

I am up on my elbows, my legs held back by my mom and Aaron.

The pressure in the lower half of my body is so extreme.


I am burning.


I am being ripped in half.


I can't believe how much noise I am making, how primal and unabashed.


Moaning, screaming, grunting, groaning.


Everything is dark except for the light in front of me, which illuminates the midwife perched serenely on the side of the bed.

I focus only on her face.


I am begging, pleading for answers that will bring relief.

What's happening? Can you see the head? What should I do?

I am terrified.

Push? Now? Please. Help me. Is it almost over? I can't do it. Please.

I draw in a breath, and, calling up every ounce of strength in every molecule in my body, I give one final push.


In a split second, it is over. A flurry of movement, a rush of air, and then, relief.

I feel nothing. The sensation is incredible.

I slump downward and backward toward the bed. I am a shell-shocked survivor, unable to move. But I sense the eyes and energy of everyone in the room shift, so I struggle back up on my elbows to watch as you are pulled up and away from my body. I hear the words, "It's a boy!" but I don't know who says it. I ask if you are okay, and then, I hear your small, angry cry.

You are whisked away by the nurses and doctors. I fall back to the bed in exhaustion.

While I wait to hold you, I look around the room and see shining, radiant faces: your father, your grandparents, the sweet young nurse, the doula, our midwife. Everyone is smiling and crying happy tears. I am amazed at this transformation from pain to pleasure.

Eventually, they place you in my arms.

You are pink and smushed, swaddled and angry. I hold you gingerly, awkwardly, uncertainly. I see your face now, for the first time.

You are beautiful.


The next 24 hours were a blur.

He is having a little trouble breathing.

We're going to transfer him to the nursery for extra oxygen.

The x-rays show dark spots on his lungs.

He needs to be in the NICU for extra attention.

I pulsed with a strange combination of elation and fear.


At 5 lb, 8 oz., he was bigger than we expected. Not long after he was born he began to make a quiet grunting noise, a sign of Neonatal Respiratory Distress. He wasn't getting enough air. We learned that his lungs hadn't fully developed, a fairly common issue in premature boys.

He spent the first four days of his life underneath a plastic oxygen hood, hooked up to a feeding tube, IV and a myriad other monitoring devices. It was nearly impossible to hold him.  After that he received air via a nasal cannula. He developed jaundice, so he wore foam sunglasses to protect his eyes from the phototherapy lights.

The NICU was such a strange and intimidating place, full of contradiction. The brightly colored quilts and stuffed animals stood in stark contrast to the serious nature of what was happening there. The silence was often interrupted by loud beeping monitors and the almost inaudible sound of a tiny baby crying.

Daily, I vacillated between feeling enormously sad at being separated from my child, and feeling enormously guilty for feeling sad. Isaac was one of the healthier babies there; how could I feel sorry for myself when all around us were the translucent bodies of micro-preemies fighting for every single breath?


I was discharged from the hospital two days after he was born, and they told us to expect that Isaac would be in the NICU for about two more weeks after that. The day I left the hospital to go home was one of the worst days of my life.

I stumbled out of the hospital in tears, empty-handed except for a colorful bouquet of flowers in my hand. I looked and felt like a deflated balloon.

My body was empty. I walked into our apartment and cried.


I struggle out of bed. I pick up the clothes that I discarded on the floor last night, and put them on again. I avoid looking into the mirror while brushing my teeth, because I don't want to see what I already know -

I am a mess.

I slip on a pair of moccasins and walk to the refrigerator. I open the freezer and begin methodically packing bags of frozen breastmilk into a little black cooler.

Keys. Purse. Phone.

I drive to the hospital and park in the Visitor's parking lot, which happens to be a million miles from my final destination. And then, I begin to walk:

From my car to the building,
down a long glass enclosed bridge,
through a dingy beige hallway,
around a colorful corridor.

I shuffle along slowly, my breasts overflowing. My body is still bleeding and aching and unable to heal, because instead of resting I am making this trip three times a day.

I am weary.

I wait for the elevator. I go up, then right, then down a short hallway.  I am buzzed in to the reception area. I show my identification, and am buzzed through yet another set of secure doors.

I spend the required three eternal minutes washing my hands, until finally, I am cleared to walk back.

There, in the in the furthest corner of the last bay - I see you.

You unfurl yourself slowly, pressing your tiny foot against the thin bubble surrounding your body. You are unaware that I am transfixed by your every move.

I place my finger to the plastic and instantly I feel your foot react to my touch.

My heart soars.


Early one morning, I exited the freeway and drove west, toward the hospital to visit him again in the NICU. I fiddled with the radio, searching for music to fill the silence. I stopped when I heard this song.

You're just to good to be true
Can't take my eyes off of you

You'd be like heaven to touch
I want to hold you so much

I began to cry: big, heaving, shoulder-shaking cries. Happily, I let the feeling wash over me, because this time it wasn't pain or fear or guilt or disappointment.

It was love.

Oh, pretty baby, now that I've found you stay
And let me love you, baby
let me love you...



I wrote most of this story about a month after he was born, scrawled into a journal in snippets and pieces. Putting it all together these last couple of days has been surprisingly cathartic.

Isaac spent 10 days in the NICU. He came home on a Friday night, and walking out of the hospital together as a family was one of the highlights of my life. He is 2 years old now, happy and healthy.

His arrival was a crash course in letting go and resting in the sovereignty of a kind and loving God.

It exposed ugly areas in me (I never realized just how much I let my need for control, control me); conversely, it brought to light strengths I didn't know I had (my mental toughness during labor surprised my husband, who later admitted that he never thought I'd actually be able to handle the pain).

It broke me open and let me understand and feel love in an entirely new way.

It taught me that a major part of parenthood is simply knowing that our children are not our own. The sooner we commit them into God's hands, the better.

Abraham called the place on the mountain where he was tested with Isaac, "Jehovah Jireh" - The Lord Will Provide (Gen 22:14).

Our beautiful son Isaac is my daily reminder that God provides only His very best to those who trust in Him.

isaac's birth story: part three

This is part three of Isaac's birth story. Catch up here first:
Part One 
Part Two

Suddenly, it was morning.

My nurse was a tall, blonde, athletic woman who greeted us with a smile as she entered the room. I watched as she quickly and efficiently went about her routine checking my vital signs and listening to the baby's heartbeat. She switched out the bag of antibiotics that were being given to me by IV, and asked how I was feeling.

I didn't sleep well, I admitted.

Try to get some rest, she said cheerfully. I'll be back soon with your Pitocin to get things started.


When I was younger and first contemplating things like marriage and pregnancy, the long epidural needle frightened me more than the thought of simply enduring labor pains. As I got older, and my friends began to have babies, it always struck me as funny (and a little odd) to hear them talk about napping and watching television during the late stages of labor. So when I became pregnant myself, I immediately knew that I wanted to try to have a natural, unmedicated birth, with as few interventions as possible.

Which is why, when the nurse said the word Pitocin, my heart sank. Inducing labor with Pitocin was an intervention I had fervently wanted to avoid, but at this point in our situation, I knew I probably didn't have much of a choice.

The gap between what I had hoped to experience and what was actually happening began to widen.


The midwife on duty was apologetic and prone to rambling.

I'm so sorry, she said. I should have come and talked to you before sending in the nurse. It's just that most women can't wait to be induced. We don't get many women who actually want a natural birth these days.

We listened closely as she explained in detail the situation we were in.

I had experienced a Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes (PPROM), a fairly rare situation where the water breaks before the 37th week of pregnancy, prior to the onset of labor. One of the biggest concerns at that point was the risk of infection - the protective amniotic sac was broken, it was no longer able to shield the baby from dangerous and potentially fatal infections.

At 33 weeks, the standard procedure is to use medication to try to keep the baby growing in the womb. At 35 weeks, it's widely accepted that it's safe to induce and deliver.

I was 34 weeks pregnant, a little bit of a gray zone. Sometimes babies do well if delivered that early, and sometimes they do not.

My midwife and the other doctors believed that at this point the risk of infection was greater than the risk of delivering early. They agreed that the best course of action would be to induce and deliver.


Aaron and I spent some time praying and talking about it. I cried and worried that the baby wouldn't be ready. My mind wandered through scenarios and statistics. I cycled through anger and frustration.

But in the end, we agreed to the induction. The decision felt a little like rolling a die or flipping a coin.

Even at that point, despite the obstacles, my midwife was very kind and sensitive to my desire to try to labor without drugs. She knew that the contractions from Pitocin would likely be unmanageable without an epidural, so she offered to first let me try a very small amount of an oral prostaglandin, a drug that ripens the cervix.

Best case scenario, she said, it will kick start your contractions, and then your body will just take over. If it works, you won't even need the Pitocin.


It was three o'clock in the afternoon when I took the prostaglandin.

An hour passed. Aware of what was coming (and not willing to go through it with unshaven legs), I begged my mom to bring me a razor. When she arrived, I showered, and then sat in front of her and let her braid my hair like she used to do when I was a little girl. Her hands were cool and comforting.

I felt a dull ache wrap around my body and squeeze my abdomen. The contractions seemed to be intensifying, but they were still uneven and irregular. Our doula arrived, bearing gifts of candy. She practiced breathing with me while we sat, waiting for something to happen.


At seven o'clock, a new nurse arrived. Her name was the same as mine, and she was young and sweet. At this point my contractions were coming fast and strong. I remember everyone in the room being excited that the prostaglandin had worked - labor had started, I was on my way.

I spent time on the birthing ball, trying to speed things up by bringing the baby down. During contractions, I leaned on my mom while Aaron applied counter-pressure to my back. In between contractions, I was still able to talk a little. Because of the high-risk nature of the pregnancy, I was tethered to the fetal monitoring machine and an IV, so I wasn't able to leave the room.

I shuffled a small path from the ball to the bathroom, from the bathroom to the ball.


Time started to slip away. I remember that at one point I saw blood, and I began to panic because it was a graphic glimpse of the reality of what was happening to my body.

I couldn't handle being upright anymore, so I moved to the bed, where I laid on my side and closed my eyes.

I grasped the bed rail, tightly.


It is dark and late, and I am drowning. I see it looming: a wave. A huge, gigantic wave that I am powerless to escape. I watch as it threatens to overtake me, and then suddenly - impact. The strength of it knocks me down and drags me under, sending me hurtling, flailing, into the void.

I desperately want to breathe.


The pain became so intense that I started to fear every contraction. I became frantic as it would build within my belly, my eyes roaming around the room, my voice desperate and shrill.  I was a wild animal searching for escape. Please help me. Please. Help. Me.

My doula grasped my hands and fixated her eyes on mine. She spoke in a firm, calm voice, and I clung to it. Over and over we faced them down together. 

There and back. She saved me every time.


It was eleven o'clock, maybe later. The contractions were unbearable and I thought I felt the urge to push. The young nurse came and checked my cervix.

Five centimeters, maybe six? she said softly, with an apologetic tone.

I was crushed.  How could I only be halfway there? If the pain was this bad at only five centimeters dilated, I knew I would never be able to handle it during the later, more intense transition period that I had learned about in childbirth class.

I faltered. I began to whimper for something to relieve the pain. Drugs, I whispered forcefully, in between contractions.

I think I need it. I'm pretty sure. Please. I can't do this anymore. I really think I need it now.


My midwife entered the room. She watched me labor for a few minutes, listening to my unsure requests for medication. Something must have caused her to question the young nurse's assessment of five centimeters, because she decided to check me herself.

Nine, she said authoritatively. You're almost there.

I smiled a huge smile. Instantly, I knew I didn't need the drugs after all. The pain was the same, but mentally - a switch had been flipped.

The end was in sight.

Click here to read the final installment: Isaac's Birth Story: Part Four



I accidentally published the rough draft of the final part of Isaac's birth story. So sorry if it was confusing.

The real thing will (finally) be posted tonight or tomorrow. :)

In the meantime, here are the links to the beginning of the story to refresh your memory:


Part One

Part Two

home is wherever i'm with you...

Aaron and I have a really crazy ‘how we met’ story. Maybe I’ll tell it sometime on this blog, but for now, the short version is: our relationship started as a whirlwind long-distance romance that ultimately led to his moving from Ohio to Arizona to be with me (despite the fact that we had been together in person only a handful of times).

We were young and crazy in love. It didn’t matter where we lived, as long as we were together.

We said stuff like that a lot, back then. I have the embarrassingly mushy letters and emails to prove it. I was so head-over-heels for that man that I would have lived in a cardboard box if it meant that we would be together.

That was over eight years ago. Since then, we’ve slowly built a life here in Arizona, in a tiny, 900 square foot apartment (that, ironically, actually resembles a cardboard box in shape and color) in the heart of Central Phoenix.

At first we lived here out of necessity. The rent was cheap and the location was good, perfect for a newlywed couple just starting out. Over time, however, we grew to love the place for its own sake – the quiet community, the wonderful restaurants nearby, the view of the mountains and city lights, and the amazing mountain preserve just steps from our door.

Sure, the carpet is dingy and the fluorescent kitchen lighting makes me cringe. But it’s home. And I love it.

Which is why, when we gave our notice to the apartment complex this weekend that we are planning to move out next month, I cried – big fat hot tears.

An opportunity recently came up for us to move into a bigger place, and we decided we can’t pass it up. I know in my head that it is the right decision; practically speaking, we ran out of space here YEARS ago. Having a kid and expanding our photography business finally pushed us to our limit. It will be amazing to finally have a place to spread out and not feel like a sardine maneuvering for space in a tiny can.

But in my heart I can’t bear to go. I hate to leave behind the place that holds all the memories of my early adult life – that spot in the living room where we proudly placed our first piece of “real” furniture, the bathroom floor where I collapsed when I saw the positive sign on the pregnancy test, the place where Isaac toddled his first few steps.

I’m sentimental, I know.

A few weeks ago, I lucked into a ticket to a show featuring the band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. As they played their hit song “Home” (listen to it here if you haven’t heard it) I sang along to the lyrics:

Let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you

That’s the song that’s getting me through, the song that repeats in my head when I’m packing away our belongings. I’m lucky, because home is STILL wherever I’m with you:

Photo by Scott Foust

thank you + an update

Tonight, out of the blue, my husband approached me and sweetly told me that I was a very good writer and that he didn't think I should shut down my blog.

After giving him my best what-in-the-world-are-you-talking-about face, I suddenly realized: he is as belated a blog reader as I am blog writer.

Oh, I said, smiling. You mean the post I wrote two months ago? That old thing?

And then I laughed, because clearly, we are a perfect match.


I just wanted to pop in and say thank you so much for the insightful, supportive thoughts on my previous post. After reading all the comments, the anxiety I felt about this blog was washed away. You gave me the permission I needed to finally feel okay about simply being a Sometimes Blogger. So, thank you!

I've realized that blogging and writing are two different things. I don't have to be whiz at the former in order to be great at the latter. I'm going to be good at what I'm good at, and then let the rest go.

I wanted to share something that Alfie said, because her comment really hit home:

you don't post everyday because its expected. you post when inspired. and each post is meaningful.

Isn't that perfect? Inspiration, not expectation. If my blog had a mission statement, that would be it.

I'm here, I'm staying, and I'm glad you're going to stay, too.

and the world spins madly on

I let the day go by
I always say goodbye
I watch the stars from my window sill
The whole world is moving and I'm standing still

- the weepies

I've been thinking about this blog a lot lately, wondering if it is time to turn out the lights. I'm here so infrequently that I don't even know if anyone is following along anymore, and even if they are - what's a blog without a community of people listening and talking and sharing? As a blog author, I've failed pretty spectacularly in that department.

The main reason I'm not in this space as often as I would like is simple, but hard to admit: I'm a perfectionist, and more often than not, my unrealistic desire to be the best at everything I do prevents me from doing anything at all.

If I can't blog everyday, then I sit back and think that it's not even worth it to post occasionally.
If I can't plan out dinner meals a week in advance, we end up eating take-out because I already feel like I've failed.
If I can't clean the apartment from top to bottom, then I give up and let things get completely out of control.

It's a certain kind of terrible bondage, this paralyzing feeling of never being able to reach some crazy high standard that I've set. It's a standard that I would never hold to any of my friends, but for some reason think it's okay to impose on myself.

I would love to know if you struggle with this issue, too. I'd also love to know your thoughts on blogs with infrequent posts - do you stick around for the content or do you get tired of waiting and move on?

[Photos by me, taken earlier this year]


"Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?' / Let us go and make our visit." - from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

In 2011, I want to:

be more decisive,
trust my instincts,
believe in my eye + my voice,
shed insecurity,
stop worrying about what other people think,
accept my imperfection.

In a word... confidence.

[photos of me, taken by my husband, with diana]

last christmas

Last Christmas, he saw snow for the first time:

He was almost one year old, and his perfect, almond-shaped brown eyes cut right to my heart:

Like true desert-dwellers, we overdressed:

The snow diffused the sounds, and the lights:

And he (barely) tolerated the striped cap we made him wear. He ripped it off not long after this photo was snapped:

This year, we're staying home. Instead of a picturesque Midwest Christmas, we'll sit by the fire on my parent's back patio, eat tamales, menudo, salsa, flautas and leftover birthday cake, and enjoy the crisp night air. Someone will probably wear flip-flops to dinner, and my brother and I will strike a few ninja poses for the camera. We always do.

Thanks for being a part of my life and always leaving such encouraging and kind comments. I know most people are taking a blog break next week, but I'm hoping to keep my blogging momentum going (4 posts in this month so far! Must be a record for me) and power through the final chapter of Isaac's birth story.

Merry Christmas!

i've got my love to keep me warm

Today is my birthday. I've got two cute men by my side. What more could a girl ask for?

Tonight we're going out for Thai food, then coming back to our place for cake + ice cream + presents. It's the one day out of the year that everyone in my family comes over to our apartment. We're always squished and cramped and sitting on the floor, but I love it. It's going to be a great night!

[Photos by Scott Foust, taken December 2010]

Anatomy of the DIY Gift Wrap: Budget Edition

Is it just me, or do DIY crafts always seem to end up being more expensive than if you went and bought it pre-made at the store? I have such limited space in my home (my bath towels share a shelf with the tool set) that it's impossible for me to stockpile a useful stash of materials. As much as I'd like to, I really can't hold onto old sweaters in the hopes that one day I'll rip them up and use the fabric as decorative accent on gift wrap. Where would I keep them - in my crockpot? It's just not practical right now.

And let's not forget that all that pretty DIY takes a fair amount of time, which is not abundant in the life of a toddler mom/small business owner/wife/wannabe writer.  It takes even more time when you are not naturally design-y (not a word, I know) as well as an indecisive perfectionist. Translation: I'm very good at wasting time on unimportant details because I don't know what I am doing.

So when I get the urge to do something homemade -- fairly frequently, thanks to all the amazing, creative bloggers out there -- I usually end up with a diminished bank account and a discouraged spirit.

I promised that I wouldn't do that to myself this Christmas, despite being completely taken by Summer's luxurious monochromatic gift wrap and Sally's more modern, gilded take and wishing I could create something similar.

I reached into the the closet, pulled out the old, gaudy, drugstore bargain-bin rolls of wrapping paper and forgot about it.


When we opened the three small boxes that store our Christmas decorations, out tumbled a few rolls of wide, shimmery gold metallic ribbon and some tiny, round, gold ornaments. They used to adorn my small, college-apartment Christmas tree, but have sat unused in the box since then.

It gave me a little idea. So I started scrounging deeper - in the Christmas boxes, in the kitchen, in my closet. Here's what I found:

White Yarn
Tiny Gold Ornaments
Wide Gold Ribbon
Skinny Gold + Silver Ribbon
Miscellaneous Buttons
Roll of White Paper

(FYI: The white paper is from my son's art easel that we bought at IKEA. It's the MALA paper, and I'm officially in love with it. Go get a roll. It's heavy and perfect for wrapping).

I decided to try to make some pretty packaging with those items, plus these things from the clearance aisle at Michaels & JoAnn Fabric:

Sheer Ivory Ribbon - .75 cents
1 Yard of Burlap - $3.00
Glitter Leaves - .49 cents
Glitter Gift Bag (to make tags)- $1.29

Total Cost: $5.53

Here's what I ended up with. 

Not bad for under six bucks, if you don't mind me saying so. I'm glad I didn't let my need for perfection stop me from at least trying. It feels simple, but special. Isn't that what do-it-yourself is all about, anyway?

love in details

Years from now, I'll remember that sweet head of baby fine blonde hair. But I might forget the way the wind swept it up into a tiny golden tornado that day.

We have lots of photos of Isaac - an overwhelming number, thanks to the unholy trinity of photography, first-time parenting and digital cameras.

They're all special to me, but I have a soft spot for the details. Someday, when I'm old and he's grown - I know they will bring me a lot of joy. They already do.