We are picking raspberries by the bowl.
The peas are blooming.
The garlic has reached its alien plantform stage.
We water even when it’s raining.
The radishes are out of control.
Back in 2007, Jesse and I were getting ready to leave for the Peace Corps. I had just found out my Granny was sick, and dying. My Granny was Jean West McHugh. We made the decision that should we ever have a daughter, we’d use West as her middle name. A friend joked that if we named her an A name, her initials would be AWW, that that would be very cute. So I decided that my daughter would be Amelia West Williams.
Then I read The History of Love. And Amelia got really popular. And there was a character in The History of Love named Alma. And I changed my mind.
Then we moved to Azerbaijan and learned that alma means apple. And I changed my mind even more.
So Alma was the perfect name. And West was the perfect middle name.
The first woman may have been Eve, but the first girl will always be Alma… Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone’s hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted – wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don’t look at me. If you don’t, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is a lovely book. Alma is a main character, and also all the characters. You can read more about her here.
Alma also means soul, nurturing, and of course apple.
It suits our girl. She loves to say it. It’s unique, but still a name. It is short, and sweet, and sounds good. It feels good to say, the sounds sort of softly mix in your mouth.
I should perhaps explain that we pronounce it with the A’s sounding the same – the a is pronounced as in ‘all,’ ‘almost,’ or ‘Azerbaijan.’. Ahhhhlmahhh.
My grandmother (my mom’s mom) was always a special lady to me. She taught me many things about art, culture, the world, humor, confidence, family, and toughness.
She was born to Oswald and Mabel West. Oswald West was a man ahead of his time. He was Oregon’s 14th governor, from 1911 until 1915. During his time in office he passed laws that gave women the right to vote, end capitol punishment and made Oregon’s coast public land. He also passed prohibition laws, but let’s not hold that against him.
Oswald West had the foresight to make the beaches part of the Oregon highway system, thus ensuring that no one could ever privately own the beaches. Oswald West State Park is named for him. It is one of the most beautiful stretches of the Oregon coast and one of the most beautiful parks in Oregon.
My mom loved him as her grandfather. She called him Go-Go because he would always take her on walks around his Portland neighborhood and down the street to the park. When he died in 1960, the Oregon Journal wrote of him, “perhaps no one in the state’s history leaves a more lasting impression on it than West.”
We gave Alma the middle name West to honor both her great-grandmother and how much she meant to me, and her great-great-grandfather. They left legacies for us as a family, and for the whole state of Oregon.
That’s our girl. Full of spirit, history, and love. Alma West.
We moved into our house in 2009. Ever since, we’ve been trying to improve our backyard, making it beautiful, useful, and fun.
This is basically our to do list:
We have accomplished a lot of our long term goals! Yay!
Here is our current, seasonal list:
See our crazy herb garden?!
The main things I have wanted to do in order to make the backyard pleasant are done.
We have already spent a lot of time in the backyard. Alma and Harriet both love the pool, the green grass, the sprinkler, the flowers. Alma loves being able to go get her own berries.
I have never loved summer, but I kind of feel like summer is awesome this year. I guess all I needed was a place in which to love it!
Being a parent these days is hard. It is because everyone is so good at being parents. In the world of Pinterest, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, we are able to see all the amazing things that everyone else is doing. And we are all obviously doing it all so well. Or at least that’s the vision of ourselves that we are trying to project.
I have been thinking about making a summer to do list. After a quick Pinterest search, I saw what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to create an ‘invitation to play’ everyday for my kids – some activity that I set up that encourages creativity and independence. I’m supposed to make beautiful and creative meals that encourage my kids to eat only organic vegetables. I’m supposed to make sure Alma learns how to write her name before pre-school in the fall – and can do that with organized home school activities everyday at home. I’m supposed to take my girls on educational outings that they will enjoy without tantrums or naps.
Umm. I’m not going to do that.
I mean, I might do some of that, but if I do, it will mostly be an accident. I don’t have time, nor do I see the value in doing such perfectly planned things. I’m not perfect, and I don’t plan on setting perfect expectations. That seems like a perfect way to fail.
I’d rather set some goals that I know will be fun and easy.
I know that I can do these things. No pressure.
I think I can get to the end of my days happy that I did these things. I think I can get to the end of the summer happy that I gave these things to myself and my girls. And if Alma learns to write her name along the way, that’s cool too.
What are you doing this summer?
This is another favorite recipe in our house. We love to eat yummy food, and this recipe has the added benefit of having only whole foods in it.
Most sloppy joe recipes include lots of highly processed foods, like ketchup, brown sugar, mix packets, and barbeque sauce. I’ve taken a few recipes and tweaked them so it only has whole ingredients that we usually have around the house.
If you eat these on homemade whole wheat buns, they will still be whole foods – I will share my recipe for this soon! Of course, if you eat it with store-bought tater tots, it is no longer a whole foods meal. Oh well. It’s still easy, cheap, and incredibly yummy.
Brown the ground beef in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. I like to use my dutch oven since it’s heavy duty and deep. Drain the fat.
Add the onion, pepper, and garlic and cook until the veggies are getting soft.
Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well, and simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If needed, add more water a little at a time. You don’t want it to be too runny.
Here’s the second (and final) birth story I will write. This one isn’t as long, or as hard, but it is just as special and just as beautiful.
Here we go:
We did all of our prenatal care with the Birth Center again. We had such an incredible experience with them that we knew we would use them again if we could. They give the most loving, intelligent, focused, and respectful care possible. I have complete trust in all the midwives – that they will help us make the right decisions for our whole family, all along the way.
One of the policies they have is that you can’t deliver at the Birth Center past 41 weeks. If you pass 41 weeks, you will deliver at the hospital, but still with a midwife.
Once we passed the due date, I felt like the clock started ticking. We had a couple non-stress tests as we got to the end of the 41st week. We discussed our options. We could wait and see, or schedule an easy induction.
I had really wanted to have a natural, non-medical birth with as few interventions as possible. Once I knew we would be out of the tranquil Birth Center atmosphere, I felt like it didn’t really matter anymore. At our non-stress test appointment on August 19th, we talked to Emily, the midwife, about what everything would look like. Here’s the thing – the midwives all take turns being on-call. Whomever is on-call while you are in labor is the midwife who is present for the birth. As I have said, I respect and have faith in all the midwives. But, there is one who I never really felt like I meshed well with. She was always sort of negative in our appointments, and that rubbed me the wrong way. I had loved how positive and supportive both Hilary and Patricia had been during Alma’s labor and delivery. I wanted that kind of support again, and wasn’t sure this midwife could provide that. I looked at the calendar and saw that she wouldn’t be on-call until much later in the week. So with all the information Emily gave me, and the on-call schedule, we decided to induce the following night.
The schedule looked perfect. First, when we would be checking in, would be Hilary. Then Chris would come on early the next morning, then Hilary again. I think Patricia was after Hilary. I figured there was no way on Earth I could go longer than that, especially with an induction. We left the appointment excited and feeling ready. We knew that it would be mere days until we would meet Harriet.
August 20th, 2013
All day long I had been feeling contractions, but I figured they weren’t real. I had thought I was going into labor the week before, so I was determined to be more patient. I also knew that we’d be heading to the hospital later that night, so I might as well just wait and see. I didn’t tell anyone I was feeling the intense, increasingly obviously-labor contractions all day.
We had dinner at my dad’s house. The contractions were getting pretty intense during dinner, but I still tried to ignore them and wait and see.
We left Alma with my dad and step-mom. It was strange saying goodbye to her. I knew we wouldn’t see her again until we had her sister in our arms. I felt sad saying goodbye.
Jesse and I went home to finish packing up. We were expecting a new Kindle to be delivered that night, and really wanted it for the downtime during and after labor. Luckily, it was delivered while we were at my dad’s. We got it all set up and headed down to the hospital. It’s funny, the things we think are important in these big life moments.
When we got the hospital, we didn’t really know what to do. It was about 9:30 at night, so the lobby was pretty quiet. I remember that by this point the contractions were pretty hard. I wanted to lean against the counter, but I was still trying to play it cool. There were some people talking to the information guy who would check in. They kept talking and talking and talking. I remember thinking, “Come on, people! Don’t you see this enormously pregnant woman standing here with bags? Isn’t it obvious we have places to go and people to bring into the world?!?!” Finally he checked us in and called a Labor and Delivery person down to escort us up.
When she got down to the lobby, she acted all put out that we were there. Apparently she hadn’t been notified about the induction and said something like, “Well, since you’re here, I guess you can come up.” I couldn’t believe it. Here we were, all excited and happy.
We got to our room, which happened to be right next door to where Alma was born. We could hear another baby being born in that room.
We got checked in, they got an IV port in my hand, and checked my progress. I was already at 4 cms, and the monitor showed a big contraction every seven minutes, with another small one somewhere between the big ones. The nurse agreed that I was definitely in early labor and called Hilary to see what she suggested. Hilary decided that we should hold off on the induction, and that we could go home to labor if we wanted. I figured – since I was given the choice, and I already had been poked and hooked up to things, and I hated the back and forth during Alma’s labor – that we would just stay.
They put the wireless monitors on me and told us both to go to sleep. This was about 10:30 pm. I told Jesse he should sleep, and I did my best to sleep as well. I’m pretty sure Jesse got a couple good hours of sleep. I dozed and tried, but I never really fell asleep.
August 21, 2013
I woke up around midnight feeling like labor was really, truly upon me. While I know that some people are against constant monitoring, I sort of loved watching the contractions coming and going. It was a clear, tangible sign of what I was feeling. And I loved the comfort of hearing the constant whoosh of Harriet’s little heartbeat. I had a strong sense that we were in this together, and loved to hear her. Sometimes she would move a little bit, and I would lose her heartbeat. I loved moving the monitor around until I found her again. We were both working really hard to get into each others’ arms, and I could feel that energy flowing.
I was trying to concentrate on just breathing during each contraction. I didn’t visualize anything like I did with Alma. I would just find a point in the room to focus on, and breathe deeply until the contraction passed. I often looked at a doorstop high up on the wall.
I thought it was interesting that I wanted to do it on my own. I loved that Jesse was able to sleep. I knew I would need him later, when things got serious, so I wanted him to rest as much as possible. With Alma, I always wanted an outside helper, rubbing my back, talking me through contractions. This time around, I just wanted to be alone, turn inward, be with Harriet.
I did this for about a half hour before I decided to get into the tub. I remember the hot water being great at managing my pain during my first labor.
Jesse came in and sat with me while I was in the tub. I think I was in the bath from about 12:30- 1 or 1:30. I was able to doze a little bit between contractions, then I would grab Jesse’s hand and focus on the faucet during the contractions.
When I got out of the bath, I went to stand by the sink. I knew I was doing it, I was handling things well, I was focused. Things were moving more quickly than with Alma – much more quickly. By 2 I was already 6 cms, and contractions were coming quickly and lasting a long time. They were coming one after another.
There was a moment where I was having a contraction and I thought to myself, “Why am I doing this?” Why was I putting myself through the pain? Here’s the thing – I had seen the Rikki Lake movie just like everyone, so I knew the risks of intervention. But I also had the perspective of our birth class instructor who told us that there is a time and a place for all the interventions. I knew that without the epidural and pitocin that I got with Alma, it might have ended quite differently.
It was the middle of the night, and I was tired. I asked for an epidural at 2:30. I got the epidural at 3:00. I had the same moment of panic and loss of control that I had once I decided to get the epidural. It’s pretty horrible – you finally make the decision that will lead to not having to feel the pain anymore – then you have to wait, all the while feeling contractions. It’s hard not to lose focus. Hilary came in and we talked about how it was going very well. She agreed that an epidural would be a good thing. I was able to sleep a little bit, and Jesse was able to sleep well.
I kept waking up and checking the clock. I knew that Hilary was going off her shift at 7, so I really wanted to have Harriet before then. Sometime in this stretch my water broke.
At 5:00, Hilary came in and checked me. Only 8 cm.
At 7:00, Hilary and Chris were both there for the shift change. They found that I was almost ready, but that my cervix was swollen, but that I was at 9 or 10 cm. Hilary gave me a hug, wished me luck, and left me in Chris’s hands.
At 8:00, Chris had me do a couple practice pushes. She worked on my cervix to get it out of the way since it was still a little swollen.
At 8:45, Jesse was awake and it was time for me to start pushing for real. Chris guessed it would take about a half an hour. I was so encouraged and ready. I remembered some of the good, powerful pushes from my first labor. I was determined to make all my pushes as strong. I would often push 4 or 5 times, sometimes more.
By 9:15, I was wondering why it was taking so long. Chris thought that Harriet was turned in a funny way, and that her shoulder might be in the wrong position. She called to have the OB on call wait outside the door (this happened to be the wife of an old friend from high school, and I was happy to sort of know the OB who might be helping out).
At 9:45, I finally pushed Harriet’s head out. She had her hand up by her face when she came out, so I think that’s why it was harder, and taking longer. I helped catch her, and brought her right to my chest. She was beautiful, but a little bit blue. She wasn’t making much noise, and was pretty limp and somewhat unresponsive. I had wanted to delay cutting the cord until stopped pulsing, but Chris thought Harriet needed some help. She had Jesse cut the cord, then took Harriet into a little room right next to the delivery room. I looked at Jesse and told him to go with her. Chris also told the nurse to call the NICU team down. At this point, I got pretty nervous. It was strange to have Harriet taken away right away. I was just very happy that Jesse was with her.
After a couple minutes, Jesse came out and gave me the thumbs up and told me she was okay. I knew she would be, but it was still scary. In fact, she was fine by the time the NICU team was there. Chris just waved the oxygen mask in front of Harriet’s mouth and nose and she perked up.
She came back to me, and nursed right away. She was so beautiful, and perfect, and different.
Mom brought Alma back to the room. Alma seemed upset and confused. I think it was strange to see me in the strange bed, holding another baby. It was amazing to me to see her as someone else. She went from being my baby Alma, to being a big girl, a big sister.
And Then We Were Four.
That’s the end of the story, but it’s also the beginning. That’s the story of how we became the family that we are now.
Hilary and Chris were both able to come visit us during the day. One of my regrets from Alma’s birth was that I didn’t get a picture of Hilary holding her. I decided that having a photo of Hilary holding Harriet would be almost as good. So below, you can see our wonderful, beautiful, loving, supportive, incredible midwives. Hilary and Chris. They will always be a special part of our daughters’ stories, so will always be important to us.
Friday the 30th: Zyrtec.
Saturday the 31st: Ladies. I went to a ladies luncheon at my friend’s church. I am always so glad to be surrounded by lovely women. I have a bunch in my life.
Sunday the 1st: Strangers.
Monday the 2nd: Anticipation. I love schools
Tuesday the 3rd: Allergist.
Wednesday the 4th: Friends. We had some beers with some great friends. Sweet summertime is upon us.
Thursday the 5th: Steps. Still living my Fit it.
Alma and Harriet are getting a new cousin very, very soon, so that meant it was time for a new quilt! I love this one. It is so cheerful. I’m also really happy with it because it uses only fabrics that I already owned. That means that there are already memories, love, and other babies connected to this quilt. I can see pieces from sheets I made for my friend’s baby, parts of quilts for two of my nephews, Alma’s Halloween costume/apron, Alma’s and Harriet’s weekly photo projects, Harriet’s baby quilt. You see, lots of love.
Our new family member is being born far away in Minnesota, to my step-brother and his wife. They chose to wait until birth to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl. We did this with Alma, and really loved the experience. I think this quilt will be perfect no matter who they have.
The quilting got a little wonky, but hey. Whatever. Gives it that homemade-with-love character. You can’t buy that in a store!
We are all so excited to meet you, little baby. You are already so, so loved. Even though I know it will be quite a while before I get to meet you, I’m glad your parents will be able to wrap you up in this quilt that I made for you, with love.
Here’s some great news for those of you who are art lovers, and live in Oregon – because of a wonderful tax loop-hole, we get to experience amazing masterpieces. As a New York Times article from a few weeks ago explains, when art buyers at the big auction houses in New York buy a new work of art there are huge taxes included; but if these buyers agree to loan their new purchases to museums in tax-friendly states, the buyers can avoid the taxes.
I see this as a win-win, at least for those of us who are able to enjoy these purchases. Another great thing is that these are pieces that are usually in private collections, so they are rarely seen in public. Pretty cool.
My dad told me about this, and about how the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art has both a Van Gogh and a Chagall right now. These are two of my favorite artists. I usually have to travel quite a distance to see their art in person.
My mom also told me about an exhibit that she really loved. So we decided to head down after naps.
I have lots of memories of the U of O Art Museum (as it used to be more simply known) from when I was a kid. I loved the courtyard, with its pool, arches, brick. Back when I was a girl there was a statue in the water, and koi swam around in the pool. My dad says that when he was a student, he would read in the courtyard – and when I took some summer classes, I kept up that tradition. A couple years ago some of our best friends were married in the courtyard.
So, we always start in the courtyard.
After the courtyard, we went upstairs to see the exhibit my mom wanted to show us. It was very impressive. Then we went to look for the Van Gogh. On the way, Alma was intrigued by an installation mixed media piece called “Medusa Smack” by Vanessa Renwick. I wasn’t sure how Alma would feel about it – it is in a dark room, under a huge umbrella, with strange music playing.
Alma was amazed. My mom and I spent most of the time watching Alma’s expression change as the images projected onto the umbrella changed. It was one of those moments when I am so incredibly grateful to get to be her mom. I can’t really explain it. It was art, watching my daughter interact with a piece of art.
We decided that we needed to go back a couple days later, with Jesse and my step-dad.
Another amazing program that the JSMA has right now is a children’s program. They have some backpacks full of exploratory art activities. Alma didn’t really care about what was in the backpack, but she absolutely loved carrying the backpack around the museum.
And one more stop in the courtyard.