Monday, December 15, 2008

All aboard to Bethlehem

Every year in Burnet, Texas, about 50 miles NW of Austin, the First Baptist church opens its Main Street Bethlehem recreation. About an hour's drive, at least 2 hours in line, and you wonder, "This had better be worth it!" It certainly is!

Free or for a donation, you enter into an amazing rock and rustic ancient city complete with a stable cave and manger scene. The live actors entertain showing the way the citizens lived and worked, and always found beautiful ways to incorporate the rumors of the tiny Messiah into their conversations. Roman soldiers, campers, shop keepers, artisans, a tax collector, prisoners, and more, on about an acre of permanent structures. There's a wonderful dinner train that runs between Bethlehem and other surrounding cities, so ignoring the overhead eletrical wires, the few electric lights inside, the modern dress and cameras of the patrons, and the train horn blaring, "All aboard!" you really can believe you might have been there! Be sure to indulge in the baker's sweet bread.

Bethlehem Bread recipe
2 1/2 lbs flour
2 1/4 c milk
2 tsp salt
9 Tb sugar
1/2 c shortening
2 pkg/2 Tb active dry yeast

Combine all ingredients except flour, and pour into a well in the center of flour. Mix well and knead about 10 minutes. Rise until double in size, punch down and rise again. Or, pour all ingredients into bread machine on "dough" cycle as directed by manufacturer.

Roll dough into large rectangles, about 9"x13". Brush top with melted shortening and sprinkle with sugar. Rise until double in size. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until golden. Makes a whole lot. To serve, slice into small rectangles, praise the Messiah, and gobble down. Be sure to pass some through the bars to the prisoner behind you.

If you can make it next year, I highly recommend it! We'll go again. Meet us in the camper's section, and we'll break some bread together.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Merry Christmas from your Pals

Santa came early this year at our neighborhood party. My kids all loved his real beard, and asked for wonderful sorts of things like i-pods, PS DS, and other acronyms I can't afford. Somehow we were all able to find a clean red shirt for the event. Except those who could only find white or burgundy shirts. Close enough, I say! One of the benefits of having a color-blind husband, I guess.
I was hired to do the Santa photos, and at the last minute chickened out and hired a real pro! Which was an excellent decision based on the junk that's been coming out of my camera lately, and the fact that I have a nursing infant. The Santa provided all the props, the photographer had lights and equipment that cost more than my house, and I got the opportunity to observe without any pressure what a print-on-site photo job is really like. I designed all the card templates for the clients to choose from and learned how to use a beautiful portable mini photo lab. And the photographer, as a commercial specialist, didn't quibble over sharing the digital copy with us. By next year, I think I can handle this "grip and grin, print!" type of job. Halfway through the evening, Troy brought me the baby to nurse, and when I brought her back he said he'd rather print photos. So not only did I get to enjoy most of our own party, but he figured out how to get that printer to do things even the photographer hadn't known. So Merry Christmas from our Pals to yours!
For commercial or family photography in the Austin Metro area,

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I'm 5% skinnier today

How to use a body-fat caliper: (and in case you're a little too obsessed like I am, order them here or you can pay full price at

Read the instructions, even if you've already been using the thing for 3 years. That little slider-ma-bob-thingy on there, you're supposed to slide that all the way the right before measuring. That way, when the calipers click into position, that black line on there tells you how many millimeters you've pinched. Do NOT use the edge of the jaws themselves where the yellow line is, that is NOT where you're supposed to read the measurement.
So, instead of 12mm=25% body fat, I'm in fact 9mm=20% body fat. As my goal was to get to 20% body fat, I'm done. Easiest fitness goal I've ever reached. All praise to technical error paired with a touch of idiocy. Now I can be skinny and stupid. I feel my modeling contract coming on.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pink Vinyl dumb bells Rant

WHAT?! This is supposed to be from a bodybuilding web site, and they actually have pink vinyl dumb bells on their header graphic?! I guarantee she didn't get abs like those hefting around silly little wastes of time with ridiculous form! Look at the guy, shredded, a big metal manly heavy weight like that, and you wonder why women are so confused about how to get really lean and fit?
Ladies, let me clear up something for you: you are not a man, and there is NO WAY you're going to get big and bulky like a man if you lift heavy. You want to get beautiful definition? Lift heavy. You want to be lean? Lift heavy. While 90% of your success is how much food you put in your mouth (there's no way you can out-exercise a bad diet), to get what you want from your fitness goals, lift HEAVY! Throw the pink vinyl dumb bells in the trash, and for good measure chuck the turquoise vinyl ones in there too. Unless you have toddlers who lift with you like I do, get rid of 'em because that's all they're good for!

If you freak out at anything over 20lbs, then I'm talkin' to YOU! If you know what you should be doing and not doing it because you're too "lazy" or "girlie," shame on you! But if you really want to be smart about your fitness and doing the wrong thing because you don't know any differently, I'm talkin' to YOU! All the "lift light with high reps for fat loss" advice is just not true.
My golden beginner tip of the day: do 2 sets of 12 reps, or 3 sets of 8 reps as HEAVY as you can lift! By the last 2 you should be suffering failure. If you are trying to lift 12, and only get to 10, that's fine: you're lifting heavy enough. If you get to 12 and say, "I can do 15," then you are almost wasting your time. The only thing I can say to that is, "Doing something is better than doing nothing. Slightly."
Don't give me the "I get too big," excuse. Unless you are on steroids, that really just means you are too fat. Brutal honesty time here. Get your body fat under 20%, even just down to 20%, and tell me you're too big because I'm sure I'll never hear from you.
Trust me on this one. Just try it. Up your weights, never do more than 24 reps of an exercise (2x12 or 3x8 or 4x6), and you'll see what I mean. I lift as heavy as I can safely handle, and it's still not nearly as much weight as my husband can throw in the air. Do you see me sporting guns like a man?
Pink vinyl dumb bells...on a bodybuilding site! Excuse me while I go laugh, except I might have to gag first. And come on, you have to give me credit for not making any dumb bell jokes about this. I guess I just ruined it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all

Yep, that's a big giant dead bird on the table in the back thar. We ain't pullin' no fancy dinner here, but we did pull out the matching non-plastic plates even if we don't got no matching serving dishes. A crock pot full o' stuffing, a giant plastic water pitcher. Tha's all we need. And just pretend you don't see that baby sitting in a Bumbo chair on a raised surface. I promise, no infants were harmed during the making of this picture. Exactly one turkey was killed, tho.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bumbo safety recall

Bumbo Baby Seat has a new warning to prevent injuries from falls, recommending placing a warning label on the seat itself to not place it on tables, counters, hard surfaces, etc. The baby can arch its back and pop right out of the foam seat, causing head injuries when falling back onto a hard surface or off a high surface. The similar product, Bebe Pod, has similar safety issues. So, do I need to order away for the sticker? Does she look like she's going anywhere? Do I look concerned?

And check out the adorable knuckle suck!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

She's cute, and can indeed smile

So here's the proof that I do in fact still have a baby, that she can in fact smile, and that I remember how to blog. She's been "real" smiling in response to our smiles since September 1 (about 3 weeks old), and has been smiling spontaneously since about 5 weeks old. She's now almost 4 months old, and doing all sorts of neat things like sucking on her index finger knuckle rather than her thumb, rolling over, and blowing these really cute spit bubbles while she babbles that I'm sure only a mother can appreciate.
So quit your complaining. I don't feel bad about not posting cutie baby photos, because I don't care about disappointing all 3 readers of this blog, and because she's screaming at me lying on the floor as I try to type about how cute her smiles are. Excuse me while I go play with my adorable baby and see if I get her to smile again, all for your reading pleasure. The things I do for this blog.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Me too, me too!

While taking some smiley photos of the baby, the big sisters wanted in on the action. It's hard for me to take snapshots now, and I find my life's photo history slipping away because I want everything that comes out of the camera to be awesome. But usually, the best photos are those that just happen in a click, because photos are more about how we feel when we look at them rather than all the technical wonderment. Because let's face it, very little of what comes out of my camera is awesome, and this is really how I comfort myself.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yo-yo dieter

Technically, purely, I am a yo-yo dieter. Given the extenuating circumstances of 5 children in 10 years, I forgive myself. But it doesn't make losing weight over and over again any easier. With each year I age and each child I bear, it gets harder, and harder, and harder. And while I absolutely refuse to publicly share my before/after progress photos (a la Body for Life bikini clad overweight model), I will share my CURRENT weight graphs.

My goal progress graph: losing weight is more like skiing moguls than downhill
And my weight loss graph from the past 12 months. Note the pregnancy curve!

While I have the photos, and I can see the progress from 170 to 140 pounds and back and then back again, it's still hard to be high again. While I know I've done it before, and I have the knowledge, tools, and confidence to do it again, it's still hard, every time. While I know it's hard, it's difficult, it sucks, and I hate it, I also know that I've been there before, and it is all worth it! Nothing tastes as good as being thin!

This time around I have changed up my plan a bit, gravitating even more toward the bodybuilding school of thought: lifting heavy/low reps, intense cardio, eating extremely clean (high protein, loads of veggies, eating most of my fruit/carbs around my work outs). I think it suits my body style well, and I've had good success with it before. While my weight loss is slower with all this weight lifting, from the photos I am pleasantly surprised to see the difference in body composition at the same weight. Muscle really does weigh more than fat, and is a whole lot prettier!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cancer sucks

My friend Susan Cummings Grover, age 38, died of breast cancer last Saturday Nov 1, 2008, after 7 years of battle. She leaves behind her husband, Doug, and 3 young daughters age 9, 7, and 3.

Seven years ago, I got a phone call from my friend Susan. We had been trying to coordinate babysitting and date nights, and she told me she couldn't do it then or in the near future, hinting that all was not right. It sounded like some sort of flu, and I offered any help I could to her, taking her children, bringing her a meal, which she refused. She finally broke and told me just how sick she really was, that I couldn't bring in food or take her kids because chemo depressed her immune system, and asking me to keep it quiet as long as I could. She assured me that through fasting and prayer and blessings she knew it wasn't her time, and that she would be around years yet to "afflict" me with her friendship.

Susan lost her mother in a car crash 8 years ago not long before she was diagnosed with cancer. Shortly after, my own mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Susan was the first person I called. If anyone could understand losing a mother too early and that cancer SUCKS, it was her. She didn't tell me I had to enjoy all the time I had left with my mother, that at least she wasn't diagnosed at as young an age as Susan, she just cried with me and kept saying, "Oh, Emma, this sucks!" She listened, she understood, she sincerely grieved with me.

Perky didn't begin to describe her, and optimistic underestimates her. Yet never fake, never false, always sincere with a quirky sense of humor that left us wondering how she could pull it off. She was passionate and driven, and modeled perfection as closely as anyone I have ever met. We shared so many of the same ideas on raising children, marriage and family life, the role of women, finances, politics, religion, yet she bettered me in all of them without ever making me resent her for it. In fact, it made me marvel and inspired me to be more like her. She was so unique, I fear I will never find another friend like her, and regret that I can not count her as a closer friend, that I let that chance slip away, because I know she would have welcomed me as openly as she welcomed everyone with her gracious talent for friendship. Even before she got cancer she was an amazing and inspiring person. Even after she got cancer she was always optimistic and sincere.

Over the years, I have pushed Susan away, not because I thought she would die, but because as her fight started going downhill I was afraid to talk to her about my own mother's losing battle. My mom had pulled away from her cancer support groups because she couldn't handle everyone dying, and I thought Susan would feel the same way getting bad reports from me. My mom always asked about Susan when we talked, and Susan always asked about my mom. I also didn't want to "bother" Susan, because through her amazing gift of friendship you either thought she was your best friend or you wanted her to be. I figured she had myriad people better than me to occupy her precious little time, and I didn't want to steal any time from her family. I didn't want to burden her with me, and in the end I realize that says a lot more about me and my feelings on friendship than her. There was never anyone more genuine, more upbeat, more empathetic, and more supportive than Susan. I realized too late how much I valued her friendship and her unique perspective on everything. How many times did I think, "I need to call Susan for advice," and then not call her? She had a way of giving advice that made you want to do it, that made you believe you could do it, yet never made you feel guilty you hadn't been doing it that way all along!

On one of the occasions I did ask her advice, because I asked as often as I hesitated, regarding marriage and how she and Doug had such an amazing relationship, she replied, "I don't know. He's kinda perfect." It was the only bad advice she ever gave me, because both Doug and I were already married! Her insight, wisdom, and commitment border on supernatural. It seems unfair that someone so gifted at helping other people had to be taken so young, taken away from us who could learn so much from her. Yet that enduring perfection must be the very reason she was called away so early, that she didn't need more time on this earth to accomplish her eternal goals.

Good-bye, Susan. I mourn what we have all lost by losing you, yet even in death you continue to motivate and inspire to me to become better, to not regret the opportunities lost with you, but to seek out every chance to befriend and support those around me. If I cannot find another friend such as you, I will try to emulate you and become that sort of friend to others, no matter how impossible. Because you helped me see what I could accomplish, and how the effort is more important than the result; your valiant battle with cancer proved that to me.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween diet

Levi came home sick from school and didn’t get to go trick or treating, so I took my 3 daughters while Troy stayed home with him and the baby. Taya was a dead cowgirl, Olivia a mermaid, and Julia the frog princess with a lipstick smack on her cheek who forgot to wear her crown! And I am a princess too: can you figure out which one?

Now comes the difficult diet part of the year, even harder than birthday season in the summer! I want warm, mushy, comfort food, and we all know that's just a lot of high-calorie carbs that call my name and taunt me with their delicious temptations to over indulge even though I already stole most of my kids' Halloween chocolates and still have to save up for pie season where I call out for help to somebody please save me!

I'm sure I can weather the seasonal holiday storm with both my figure and my wallet intact just like I have every year. Except those years when I got fat. And set my credit card on fire. Not like that. One of those other good years!

What I need to do is eat what we ate for Halloween dinner, because although it tasted very good the thought of what it emulated made me pretty queasy and was a very effective appetite control. Black bat wings (chicken with black food coloring), slimy maggots (orzo pasta in cheese sauce), blood smoothie with mosquitoes (strawberry lemonade slush with raisins), bloody eyeballs (cherry pie filling), dried scabs (dried cranberries), brain (half a grapefruit), vomit (cinnamon apple sauce with dried apple chunks), and moldy slime salad (broccoli and carrot puree). Next year I'll invite you over too.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Always behind the camera, never in the photo

We needed family photos with ALL of us in it that did not involve self timers or any running! I found an Austin photography duo on Craiglist looking to expand their portfolio, and figured 5 small kids would give them some great experience working with large families! We wore pink for the girls and blue for the boys, but with all that pink we had to balance it out with blue jeans.

For family and commercial photography in the Austin area, LR Concept Photography

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Am I allowed to post with no photos?

Frequently I don't blog because I don't have any photos to post. I tried Google to see if this was a rule, and apparently it's not. So I'm going to stop feeling guilty about a) not blogging more often because I don't have a photo to post with it, and b) blogging without a photo. After that, I'm going to find more things to not feel guilty about. I'm thinking of adding things to the list such as not cleaning my house because I have a newborn, making my husband clean the house because I have a newborn, (technically, he also has a newborn, but if we're looking at percentages here she's more my newborn than his), not making dinner because I have a newborn, not eating veggies because I have a newborn (any excuse to eat less veggies, and let's be honest: it's a lot of standing there chopping, and I need two hands for that. My left arm is on loan to my newborn), and writing grammatically incorrect extremely long sentences thinking that enough punctuation is a good mask for writing extremely long sentences that are grammatically incorrect. But while I tend to feel guilty for a lot of little things, at the end of the day I have to sit down, ponder, and come to the conclusion that yes, in fact, I am amazing. The whole woman, hear me roar, yada yada and whatever.

Updates, 'cause isn't that what blogs are about? Except that they're more about photos.

Emma: lost 8 pounds. Yay! Only 20 more to go. If you ask how I did it, just be prepared that you don't want to hear the answer. Diet and exercise. I count calories. I restrict calories. Yes, being skinny sucks sometimes.

Troy: lost more weight than me. He went on a diet for moral support, yet he's a dog and loses weight faster than me, which actually makes it harder for me to diet. At least he's eating all the veggies with me. I even taught him how to chop them efficiently like a real chef so I don't have to. One more thing to add to my less guilt list.

Taya: still growing. She even has pimples now. I'm hoping they get really bad right about the time we put braces on her, and that awkward phase lasts until right before she meets her future husband in college.

Levi: it's his birthday today! He is now 7 and hasn't been kicked out of first grade yet. Apparently the incidences of screaming and wrestling have gone down, and we've stopped getting so much hate mail. His birthday is the same day as his principal's, and when the school called to ask if they could put him on the morning video announcements about it, I saw the school name on caller ID and just cringed. I realized it's not always bad news, that someone isn't always in the nurse's office for a playground bump, or that someone isn't always in the principal's office because of poor behavior. Sometimes it's because they have the same birthday. At least once a year.

Olivia: loves kindergarten! She has the same teacher that Levi had last year, so the teacher's prepared for any shenanigans. Liv loves to "work it" with that "shy" smile and sit on everyone's lap and be the center of attention while pretending she doesn't want to be! She loves holding the baby, even if she's screaming, and considers it a badge of honor when she can get her to calm down. I need to bottle that.

Julia: is the BIG sister. She's as smart as a stinker. When offered two choices, she always comes up with secret choice number 3 and outsmarts us. When offered two choices, toddlers are supposed to assume those are the only choices and choose one! She knows we're dumber than she is and knows how to get her own way.

Zoey: started smiling! She still spends a lot of time smiling at the ceiling fan, though. Sometimes she smiles at us, and sometimes we think she's smiling at us until we realize the ceiling fan above our heads actually commands more attention and respect than we do. Still, it's cute. And I have photos of her smiling, I just haven't taken them off the card so I can post them because, you guessed it, I have a newborn. But they're coming. I promise. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The 28th lives on

Today, while thinking "someone's birthday should have been today," I realized that we haven't broken our 28th streak after all.

We were married on Feb 28th
Taya was born April 28th
Levi was born Sep 28th
Liv was born July 28th

and then little Julia came along, born on time just to be difficult when it was the only time in history any mother WANTED be 8 days overdue, and "broke" our streak by being born on June 20th! We lamented she was SO CLOSE, if we say it fast enough the twentieth SOUNDS close enough to twenty-eighth. Or add just a little o on top of the zero to make an 8, so close!

But then arrives Zoey and saves Julia by being born on the 8th, so we could just split the difference between the two and keep our tradition alive. What a way to make her cool 08/08/08 birthday even cooler and redeem her sister in the process. My sister Jennifer asked me, "How do you keep doing this?!" I wish we believed in numerology, because then we'd be the luckiest people I know.

Because such things in life are of the utmost importance. Forget mortgages, world hunger, psychologically traumatizing our children with our poor parenting techniques. As long as our lucky number run of 28 stays alive, all is well in the world.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Photoshop is lonely

I've been working on the laptop for over a week now, which means all my photos and Photoshop are on my desktop and haven't been touched during that entire time! Wow, it's been really wonderful. I'm not working this month, so no student feedback to give, no photo shoots to proof (well, they are just waiting patiently for me), and no new photos to post on my blog!!! That's the only downside. I have TAKEN a LOT of photos, those are time sensitive with a newborn, but Photoshop will be there anytime. Hopefully it doesn't contact a divorce attorney during our separation as we hope to work things out and get back together someday.

Surely I will miss my little PS soon enough. For now, I just read a lot of interesting web sites, watched a LOT of Olympics on my DVR, and held the baby. A LOT.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kanga, meet cuckoo Roo!

Tonight I got a call from my sister. Several of the girls were visiting my dad, and he mentioned he's going to call our baby, "Kanga."

Confused, they asked, "Kanga, like kangaroo? Why?"

His reply, "Because they named their baby Joey."

"JOEY?! It's Zoey! With a Z!"

He said on the birth announcement that cursive Z looks just like a J, it was an honest mistake, and that he didn't read the rest of the post to learn our fascinating reasoning behind the name, our spelling explanation, nor any other information relevant to a doting grandfather.

She told me, "He's sitting there in the chair with his arms crossed just beet red he's so embarrassed!" Well, he should be. For TWO WEEKS he thought his new granddaugther's name was Joey. Not that it's not a nice name, even for a girl, it's just that it's the WRONG name!

Mom was such a fun target to tease (I wonder where I get it from...), so it's so wonderful of Dad to fill in that role now. I just hope he can take it as well as he has always dished it out! Go, Dad: we love you and hope you continue to keep us entertained!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Top 5 Reasons pregnancy is easier than a newborn

5. I'm uncomfortable
- Uncomfortable? Try afterpains. For a 5th child. Now tell me how uncomfortable you are!

4. I can't sleep
- This one blows me away. How about 2 am feedings? 4am feedings. 5am feedings.

3. I want my body back
- Newsflash: now the parasite is just on the outside, still literally sucking away at you. And you may as well cut off your left arm for all the use you'll get out of it once you're hauling around the baby for the next, oh, six or twelve months.

2. I'm getting anxious
- I hate to break it to you. Nevermind, I love breaking it to you! If your pregnancy stress level isn't high enough, your newborn stress level will be an improvement, for sure.

1. I want to meet my baby
- I didn't get pregnant to stay pregnant forever: I got pregnant to have a baby! I didn't have a baby to complain about waking up in the middle of the night or comforting a crying infant. I had a baby to love and provide for. And while pregnancy is definitely a lot easier than being a parent, especially a parent to a newborn, nothing can replace those newborn snuggly days, that rewarding responsibility of caring for someone else's every need, that exultant feeling of accomplishment, or that first moment meeting the precious child with whom you'll share the rest of your lives. Somehow it doesn't feel like a chore, it's a joy. I love this little person more than seems possible. I love my baby!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Photographing newborns is really hard

They wriggle around and squirm and make noises and sometimes even messes, and just when you think you've gotten dad to cooperate, the baby starts doing the same thing! And then when I've caught all that tiny newborn goodness, I get of photo of an "unrolled" baby that looks MONTHS old rather than 5 days. At which point I start wondering how that enormous thing ever fit inside me, much less made it out somehow!

Try some sleeping shots, maybe they'll cooperate better? Until they wake up and start screaming and squirming!
Troy and Zoey 5 days old. Well, Zoey is 5 days. Troy is 34, I think. Years, that is, not days.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

names and more names

Naming a baby is so hard for me. It's not just that it's difficult for Troy and I to agree on anything even remotely similar, but it's such a step of turning this perfect miracle in a real-life, normal, ordinary person. This is the fastest we've ever named a baby, mostly because I named our last baby, so Troy just picked out any name he liked for this one!

She was born on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics: 08.08.08, which is a very lucky day in China because the word for 8, ba, sounds so close to the word for wealth that many people believe the number 8 is linked to prosperity.

And it just so happens both of her names also have Greek origins.
Zoey: life
Nicole: victorious people (or victory for Nike, another Olympic reference?)

Troy wanted her middle name to be something like "fifth born" because Julia's middle name Tess is Greek for "fourth born." But Penta or Quinta were the only (awful) options we found. He said how about, "Nickel?" So we take a normal name, Nicole, and turn it into our own private source of humor. I think for Zoe, he just likes that name, and it meets all my criteria: something everyone has heard of, but don't really know many or any. Short, or has a good short nickname. Ends in a vowel like all of our other names do. And Most of us have 4 letters in our name, and we both like the spelling of Zoey better than Zoe. My "rule" is to spell things normally, the way they're supposed to be pronounced, nothing fancy or freaky. So in this case it's just easier to pronounce with the y on the end! Like our first child: Taya isn't spelled Téa because it was too hard to pronounce when spelled the "real" way.

When I made the birth announcement a couple of weeks ago (with blanks waiting to be filled in), Troy requested her Chinese zodiac animal be on there somewhere (year of the rat). At that time we weren't thinking anything about any Chinese traditions or Olympics, we didn't even suspect I'd go that overdue! So she gets a number 5 for 5th born and a little mouse hiding in there.

So there we have it! A named baby, it took less than 2 weeks (WOW for us!), and the little history behind it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Baby Girl Powell is HERE!

Our new baby arrived this morning, 08/08/08 at 9:33am, 20", 7lbs 13 oz (Levi was bigger, but she is the biggest girl), at exactly one week overdue. Labor was about 11 hours, from 10:30pm-9:30am. The midwife showed up at 9am, and I was dilated to an 8. That was so frustrating because 8-10cm is the hardest part of labor. I was already exhausted and really getting discouraged. This was my first labor where I had more pain relief in a seated position than walking, so I sat in the tub for about 20 minutes. Suddenly, she just descended, and I had to push her out! I hadn't planned to deliver in the water, but at a certain point there's no turning back. She was incredibly purple and didn't cry much, but nursed really well and had a great heart rate and breathing.
We got to sleep a little, but now she is awake and just gazing around. Troy is enjoying his turn to hold her after all these months. Last night we went out for a walk (it's wonderful our oldest can now stay home with the other kids, so we put them all in bed and headed out). After coming home and going to bed, Troy rubbed my belly and kept telling her, "Come out, sweetie." Not long after I started having "real" contractions. I told him to go to sleep, and about 3am left our room to listen to an audio book, snooze a bit on the sofa, and walk around. The kids woke up to mommy in labor, and were excited to go play at their friends' houses and see their new sister when they come back home.
I'm so glad labor is over, and so glad to meet my new daughter, yet a bit sad that it's over. Giving birth is such a unique and amazing experience!

I'm in labor

I am such a slow poke! It's 3:20am, and I've been in labor since about 10:30pm. It's gotten to the point where I'm more comfortable walking around than lying down, so here I am trying to find something to do in the dark. Half of me keeps wanting to stall so I can get some sleep. The other half just wants to push the baby out and lie down and snuggle with her while we sleep! That moment is the best part of a home birth: crawling into my own bed with my tiny newborn, perfectly comfortable, and snoozing for a few hours.
But hopefully I don't stall, as I can hardly stand doing this again. Delivering a baby isn't painful, but labor is terrible. Not knowing how many more hours I have to endure is extremely difficult, mentally, and given my anxiety level going into it already, I need to be done! Maybe it'll be fast, maybe she'll be born on 08/08/08 and I can just go back to sleep!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Still pregnant

Now I'm overdue, which is fine by me, but I start to worry the more days go by as overdue babies start to develop health concerns as conditions inside their warm little home start to deteriorate. I have started poking at her regularly to make sure she's still moving around: a very quiet, still little one! If anything, I look slightly smaller now, tighter, as it's like there's less fluid in there now.
I had myself resting a lot the past 2 weeks, but now I'm up and around more, working out, cleaning, walking. My feet are killing me! I've never been one to believe one can affect starting labor, but bed rest must be effective if so many women have to do that to prevent pre-term labor! The opposite must also hold true, right?
It makes me so sad, trying to get her to come out. Reluctantly trying.

Friday, August 01, 2008

It's my DUE DATE!

It's my due date today: and as usual I waited until the last minute to get maternity photos taken! I set up my studio lights, and my friend and neighbor who has a camera similar to mine came over and took these using my camera. We got a few that turned out nicely! The family photos need some serious head swapping in Photoshop, as usual, but mission accomplished!

I'm not in a hurry for this baby to arrive, I am happy that I am still pregnant. There's nothing like it, and I want to stretch out every moment. I have the rest of her life to not be pregnant with her, so she can be patient if I can be patient.

On the other hand, I have never had this much anxiety before a birth. Knowing I'll deliver at home again, knowing there's no pain killer at the ready, and just having had a natural birth at home 2 years ago that is still so fresh in my brain means that I know exactly what I'm getting myself into! Every time I think labor MIGHT be starting, I get started freaking out! We are excited and nervous and all of those other emotions that go along with such a momentous event.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another mother's funeral

My friends lost their mother last weekend: a Saturday morning, just like mine. Her funeral is today, but I don't think I can handle going. She was 55 years old! Mother of 7. Uterine cancer that got into her lymph system. My mom was 64, young enough, but at least she got to see all of her children married and have their own children. My dear Ruth and Aaron: my heart aches for you, my soul cries for you. Welcome to the crappiest club on earth.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Liv is Five!

Olivia turned 5, and she is never as bouncy or bubbly or hyper as on her "special day," (of which she frequently reminds us). In fact, every time someone else got a chance to have a photo taken, she'd say with those turned-down eyebrows, "It's not HER special day!"

Now I'm no expert on black and white photography, so usually when you see one that's b/w, it means I really screwed up the photo and had to save it! Outdoor on-camera flash photography still eludes me, but I didn't feel like setting up my studio lights: I hardly felt like doing anything!

One more birthday to go this season, and Levi is chomping at the bit for it to finally get here. Except for this baby's birthday, which gives me fits of anxiety just thinking about it. My sister had her baby today! Same day as Liv's birthday: suddenly it seems so much more real, and I'm kind of freaking out about it. Any day now, maybe this weekend, and Liv thinks her new little sister is her very own birthday gift!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

15 more minutes

Mommy was on TV again for Total Mommy Fitness: the trainer Tatum joked that as their current token pregnant lady I've become their mascot, LOL! Baby due in just a few days, so I think that title will be pretty short lived. This time I got to talk, and got a nasty profile shot exercising at 9 months pregnant: just cruelty! The kids had a blast playing in the sprinklers at the park, but only Julia was brave enough to come exercise in front of the camera with me.
Click here to see video, only works using IE (no Firefox, sorry guys!)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I'm a wedding photographer. Stop laughing

I shot my first wedding last weekend. When she first asked me, I laughed and said, "You realize that's about 2 days before I'm due?" She said they weren't going to hire a photographer, so I figured even if I had a baby or felt like crap and bailed out, or totally screwed up every photo, nothing lost! While none of the photos will find their way onto the cover of Bride magazine, and I did get a lot of "wadders," (what do you call digital photos you just delete? Deleters?) I was really pleased that we captured some good shots of them! Even better, Ryan gave my kids piano lessons this summer, and we all enjoyed the chance to get to know him better. I'm really excited for both of them. If only everyone's marriage could be as good as mine and Troy's the world would probably spin around faster or something else along those lines.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Who is that ugly old lady?

My birthday! Troy was in Alaska most of the day, I picked him up from the airport around 3pm. I made my own cookie cake and cookie-dough ice cream, which my kids thought was sad! But he wasn't here to do it for me, and I'd rather eat cookies than whine about making it myself. All was not lost, for tired as he was, he rounded up the kids and gave me the rest of the day off my swollen pregnant feet!

32 shouldn't feel old, I don't feel old, I don't think I look old, but sometimes...those snapshots never do me any favors. You'd think Troy would want to me me look good, but I think he just barely graduated from the "say cheese and push the button" photography. It's fun he's finally getting into it. We're both artistic science nerds, so it's right up our alley.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Alaska AGAIN

Troy left for Alaska Friday afternoon: he picked me up from the airport on Thursday at 6pm, and by 11am the next morning we were on our way back. I challenged him to catch 200 lbs of fish, as if he's some sort of power lifter in the Olympics. Sadly, he wouldn't do the puffing breathing exercises those lifters do before trying to accomplish such a goal, so I'm unsure if the challenge will be met. If only he'd not been too proud to breathe like an idiot. I'm about to have a baby, and so weird breathing does not phase me in the least. Hopefully he brings back a lot of fish and doesn't smell like any. It's just a cheap ploy by me to stretch my grocery budget: I have to pay for groceries, but he has to pay for his own trip, so it's like he just threw $1,000 worth of fish into my freezer that I didn't have to "pay" for. Yeah, what's ours is ours, whatever, it's all about what Quicken says!
2005 Halibut haul

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Idaho alone

I traveled to Idaho by myself last week to teach a Photoshop tranining seminar to the tech teachers at Malad High School (yeah, I know you've never heard of Malad, and probably not even Idaho!) Since Troy's parents live only 2 hours from Malad, and moved back from China the NIGHT before I arrived, I stayed with them. Luckily, or maybe not, perhaps just coincidentally, Troy's younger brother and his wife and 2 kids were up for the weekend to bless the new baby, and Troy's sister and her husband and 3 kids were visiting on a summer trip. With 3 brothers that live locally, it was a house full of people! Lots of cousins for my kids to play with had any of them been there.
We had Christmas in July, which was actually kind of sad seeing what we give up in family relationships as the price for living so far away. But weighing pros and cons I know Austin is the best place for our family, and while it is sometimes a heavy price not having any extended family or old friends, it's still worth it because Troy's job is such a rare blessing. How many grown men actually get paid a 40-hour week for about 10 actual hours? Well, 20 hours on a busy week.

And just because Shaun asked, the only Photoshop here is pasting the top of Russ's head back on. The tripod got bumped, I guess, and we had a little shrinkage. He's too tall anyway!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Swim Team

With nearly every large neighborhood in the area home to its own Jr. Olympic pool, swim team starts young here! This is Taya and Levi's first year, and they're having a great time. Neither of them are any good (I hope they don't read this for many years, but it's sadly true :0), but they love the meets and the excitement. Levi has won 3 ribbons, 2 for swimming on a relay team with really fast boys, and the other for coming in first (in the "slow" heat, but it's a ribbon!) I'm so proud of their hard work, and that they're swimming in suits I sewed for them. I've found a new love for swimming in the past several years, learning the strokes from the internet so I can swim laps for exercise, and I really enjoy watching their meets.

Both of their coaches swam in the Olympic trials, 1 coach advancing to the semi-finals in 2 events, which really lit the kids' fire for swimming! It's great they're staying active, learning, and interested. They've both improved drastically since the beginning of the season, though they're ready for it to be over. One more regional meet, and they're very excited both to swim and to be done!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Look, kids, Mom's on TV!

I was asked by a local trainer to film a spot on our 24-hour Austin news channel about exercise during pregnancy. Even though the trainer and the reporter were freakishly tiny (about 5'2" and 100lbs after eating Thanksgiving dinner), and I felt like an Amazon next to them, it was still fun to do. The trainer even offered me some free sessions, which was unexpected and very welcome! Of course, the kids think it's awesome that Mommy was on TV, and I'm just hoping this doesn't count towards my 15 minutes of fame: dream big! Well, dream on, I guess.

Troy is how old?

A few days before the event Troy asked me, "Now, am I going to be 32? 35?" I told him he knows what year he was born and to do the math himself! "Ah, 34, then. Right?" When did I ever end up being married to a middle-aged man? I guess it was about the same time I started to approach middle age too. How sad. I actually put all 34 candles on his "cake" (really pudding cream pies, I don't think anyone in our family actually prefers cake! With 2 birthdays in 6 days that's fine with me), and it was really a lot of candles. Whipped topping cooks with that many candles on it, just in case you're thinking of repeating it, so work fast and use loooong candles!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Julia's birthday, 6/20/06 (Troy says it's the "same" as his on 6/26), and all of a sudden she's TWO! Every photo I took she said, "Lemme seeeeee!!!!" and when I turned the camera around to show her the LCD screen she'd explode into peals of laughter! She was so excited to blow out her own candles. Five minutes before the celebration she had no idea what a birthday was, but suddenly she was the center of attention and couldn't have been a bigger ham. She should have just had an ice cream cake since she really only ate the frosting and ice cream anyway. That's okay: she has enough siblings to eat all the cake.
A few days before her birthday she decided she was ready to use the potty, and so it begins. She's been doing really well with very few accidents, but training this little when they can't even climb onto the potty by themselves is like mommy racing against time. After the new baby arrives, we'll see how long the potty habit lasts!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

My shingle

Not that having business cards makes for an official business, and neither does a tax ID number, but I figure if I really want to make a go of this...someday...or rather some year when my kids are older, I need to run it like a business now!
I am still just doing friends' photoshoots, and some of them are even paying me for it! I love creating the photos all the way through to the digital scrapbook pages. Now all I need is a web site. Well, not ALL I need. Some paying clients would be nice too. Though I still have a hard time handing out my card and saying, "I'm a photographer," with a straight face.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Old crush and new friends

Troy's high school "crush" came to visit: I'm not exactly sure how they revived contact, but I think she found me through my web profile at work, or something benign like that? Rebecca and her husband Ryan were visiting San Antonio for his cousin's wedding, and they spent a night and day at our house.

Of course we brought them to work out in the morning, to the Botanical gardens for photo ops, and the Salt Lick Barbeque. We thought it might be awkward, but as soon as they walked in the door we were all like best friends.

He called them after the visit, and when she said, "Hello," Troy said, "I need to talk to Ryan." So much for social graces, Troy. No wonder she wouldn't date you!
Oddly enough, when visiting her blog she had some photos of her good friend, my sister's best friend from high school. Small world. Not small enough, as we'd love it if we could get together with Becca and Ryan more often. Four peas in a pod describes it pretty well.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Birthday season has begun

Taya’s birthday was today: the first in the season of all of our birthdays. We have 1 in April, 2 in June, 3 in July, and 1 in September.
It’s hard to believe how fast her ten years has flown by. In some ways it’s so vivid when she was a baby, and in other ways I have a hard time remembering her any other way. I’ve decided this is my favorite age. I used to think that about 18m-2y was the best as they’re learning to talk, and everything they do is so cute, but she’s so loving and appreciative of everything, does as she’s told, never gives attitude or drama. Not sure how long that will last, but we’re enjoying her so much! And is it just me, or does she look just like a better version of me?

After her "photo shoot," she was overjoyed to find cake and gifts! We didn't have a 1 nor a 0 candle, so she made "math" candles by adding up the numbers to make 10. The more she can blow out, the better. Just wait until she's 30 or 40 or 50 and realizes that's just a lot of candles, less is more!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Levi's tooth, first in, first out

After all that work as a baby to cut this thing in, all the tears and fussing, there it goes simple as anything. He was near the end of kindergarten when he lost it, and was beginning to fear he'd be the only one in his class not to have lost a tooth before the end of the year, even though he was the oldest kid in class! When the tooth fell out, his adult tooth was already peeking out behind it. We were hoping his cracked front tooth would fall out first, since he cracked it when he fell and broke his leg, and now it's gray, loose, and has a bit of an infection in the root. The pediatric dentist said to leave it alone and let it fall out on its own. The tooth fairy rewarded him generously for his patience, and he regularly wiggles all his teeth to find out which one is next to go "down!"

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday

We pulled off the corny act today, all dressed up matching, but when else but Easter can we do that?

The girls' dresses were done in plenty of time! Though I will admit I had to redo the lace and rose on the baby's at the last minute on Saturday afternoon, and stitched the rose back on in the car on the way to church. That last part reminded me of Mom: after nagging her to at least get started on my wedding dress, she snapped back, "Have any of you girls ever gone to a dance, much less her own wedding DRESSLESS?!" As usual, she was right, and I nagged no more, showing up to my wedding in a gorgeous gown she made for me.

The weather in Austin was gorgeous today, despite the gloomy forecast. Even though it was windy, and not as much cloud cover as I was hoping for, we got some photos that don't make me want to cry. Almost. As the mother and photographer, I try too hard and make it not so much fun.

Levi and Troy got matching new white shirts with navy pants and orange ties, as if they didn't look enough like age-disparate twins already. I wore my navy floral skirt with white jacket and Photoshopped orange shirt (it's really a dark coral red, but hey, it matched one of the dot colors on the dresses! And everyone's Photoshopped-on heads to get one decent group shot will match the shirt, at least.) Julia and Livia loved their new white shoes, and Levi said, "Daddy and me look sharp!"
For a closer view of the girls' dresses, see my sewing site here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Grief is an odd thing: you feel what you feel whether it’s logical or “kind” or even appropriate. I’ve always thought I should let myself progress through any feelings I have during a grief phase as it helps me get over it faster! My mother is gone, and I needed to get what I wanted, something to make me happy, a brother for my son, and I didn't get it.

We struggled with infertility after our first was born, as have my sisters, so I well know what a blessing any child is, no matter the gender or even the health status! And yet, illogical as it is, I still feel “It’s too soon, I wanted a brother for Levi, etc, etc,” coupled with the “count your blessings, you have a boy already, etc, etc.”

My husband had a blessing years ago that said some things that really made me think we’d have 2 sons, and we have always both felt strongly about having 5 kids. I didn’t want another one and neither did he, but we both felt something pulling on us to have another, and I honestly thought it was because it was our other son “calling” to us. Coupled with my mom’s death, it’s hard to look on the bright side. Her passing has really shaken my faith in general, and I'm having a very difficult time seeing any sort of plan or reason to anything. When God doesn't bless us with our desires, It would be easier for me to say, "It's God's will," but I have no idea how I feel about that, if there is a "will" other than my own directing my life.

Here’s a scrapbook page I made after the first ultrasound, before we knew the gender, when I was trying to come to terms with the “too soon,” and now I’ll soon get over the “wrong gender!” I frankly was much more sad about our 4th child being another girl, I got over it. This one being a girl doesn’t bother me nearly as much. I’m just confused! Given my mom’s history we always thought I’d have my hysterectomy after this baby, my doctors all advise it before age 35, I do not want 6 children, we are done having children. I don’t mind at all that this one is another girl, I am not grieving at having a girl. I love little girls! I am just grieving we won’t ever have another boy! If that makes any sense…

" What were we thinking? Apparently not clearly enough!
I always wanted 5 kids, I think he did too. But now?
In the end, it doesn’t make much difference.
It would have been in a few months anyway.
Somehow, it’s so easy to forget when it was difficult,
to take for granted the miracle, to put too stringent
restrictions on when, what gender, where, how.
But in the end, it doesn’t make much difference.
You are ours now. We are yours. You belong to our hearts
and we forever to yours.
So how can we quibble when we see the miracle?
The beat of your tiny heart that has already captured us,
the waving of your tiny arms as if to say hello already,
the kicking of infinitesimal feet reminding me you are there.
In our hearts, forever."

Monday, March 17, 2008

One more girl

We're expecting another baby! We had our 20-week ultrasound today and found out it's another girl! That makes 4 girls and 1 lonely boy in the mix. We'll have to make a lot of pink walls and fluffy dresses, and some frugal weddings!