Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: What's Coming

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

Today, I’m 19 weeks pregnant. I think.

Hang on. Let me check my online pregnancy calendar.

(Insert cheesy hold music here.)

OK. I’m back. And it’s true – the calendar says 19 weeks. But dang if I can remember it without help. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older or more tired or too distracted. But I’m just not focused on this pregnancy like I have been the others.

I suppose that’s the curse of being the fourth child. Nothing you do is original. You are always following in the wide swatch cut for you by your older siblings. And it’s true – I’m still amazed at each little baby kick, and the ultrasound yesterday was thrilling (especially since it allowed us to discover the sex of the babe in utero). But it doesn’t pop with the same fizz as that first pregnancy.

Do you remember your first trip down mommy-to-be lane? Everything is new. Every turn is exciting – and a little scary. You don’t know what to expect, even after you’ve poured over “What To Expect when You’re Expecting.” You know EXACTLY how far along you are (18 weeks, 5 days), you know exactly when the third trimester will begin. Your doctors appointments are booked months in advance, and you’re already obsessing over which kind of pacifier to buy.

And this time, for me? I’m just wondering when we have to move the toddler out of the crib. (Do you think the night before the new baby comes is too late?)

Still. I know it’s a miracle. I remind myself every day to appreciate this, to treasure this. If all goes as planned, I won’t be walking down this path again.

And every curve is a joy. Even if I know it’s coming.

Kelly’s fourth child is coming May 2010, which still seems like a long way off to her. You can find her personal blog at Love Well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: Need to Know

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I haven’t confirmed this scientifically, but I’m convinced there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who can wait until the birth of their baby to find out the sex, and those who must know the minute it’s physically possible.

I’m squarely in the second group. I have never, not for one nanosecond, had the urge to let it be a surprise. I don’t mind if you want to wait. Many of my good friends have waited, and while I may have threatened to bribe their OB with chocolate until I was given access to the raw ultrasound tape, I certainly respect their choice.

I just don’t relate to it.

Here’s why:

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can plan for the future.
Yes, this pegs me as a planner, but it’s a label I embrace. I love to organize, to research, to strategize. If I know the sex of the baby before birth, I can get gender-specific bedding and blankets. I can paint the nursery. I can also let myself get sucked in by the appropriate side of Carter’s. (When it comes to baby clothes, resistance is futile.)

Knowing if we’re having a boy or girl also allows my husband and I to start playing The Name Game – but with only half the entrants. We are horrible at deciding on names together (usually, my top 5 are his never-in-a-million-years, and vice versa), and narrowing the field and giving us a few months to discuss is hugely helpful.

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can stop torturing myself.
When I was pregnant two years ago, I was slightly obsessed with the gender of the baby. I think it was because I had a miscarriage earlier that same year, so by the time we got around to the ultrasound for Teyla in September, I felt like I had been pregnant since January. (Which I had been, almost. There wasn’t much time between the miscarriage and the next conception.) The internal debate of boy versus girl threatened to take over my life. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the question was finally answered.

Conversely, I’ve watched friends who were determined to wait drive themselves crazy the last four months of the pregnancy as they agonize and cry and fret over the possibilities. Usually, they are secretly longing for one gender over the other, and the weight of knowing their hopes could be crushed in a few short weeks (or granted, depending on the outcome) makes “the surprise” a burden.

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can deal with any emotional fall-out before the birth.
This relates closely to the last point, but let me give a personal example. When I was pregnant with our second baby, the pregnancy was almost identical to my first. This led me to believe I was having another girl. It wasn’t something I admitted openly; it was more of a subconscious belief.

So my soul reverberated with shock when my OB announced, “It’s a boy!” at our 18-week ultrasound. I was ashamed of this at the time, but it took me weeks to come to grips with the boy diagnosis. I actually needed a short window to grieve the girl I thought I was carrying and get excited about the boy who was entering out lives. By the time he was born, I was thrilled to welcome Connor. Finding out his sex early gave me a chance to walk the emotional minefield before his birth, instead of after.

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can bond with the baby.
Maybe this is just me, but I have a hard time bonding with a gender-neutral alien. Once I know the sex of the baby, he or she becomes very real to me. It helps me to get excited and psyched for the last days of pregnancy.

This is also helpful for our older children, who definitely have opinions on what the sex of the next baby should be. If we can tell them now, “It’s a brother (or it’s a sister),” they have a chance to accept our new family dynamics and get excited about reality, instead of counting on something that may not be.

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can focus on the birth of the baby during delivery.
Many of my friends who elect to wait say, “Oh, but I want a surprise on delivery day!” I understand that; I was never tempted to open my Christmas presents early for that very reason.

But childbirth tends to be a surprise in itself. It’s complicated, astonishing and rarely what you expect. My first two deliveries were dramatic, each in their own way. (With Connor, we barely made it to the hospital before I started pushing.) So I’m perfectly happy spreading out my surprises over the course of the pregnancy. Because no matter when you find out if you’re having a girl or a boy, it’s always a surprise – be it at 20 weeks or 40.

So what about you? Are you like me? Or would you rather wait? And if you like to wait, please chime in with your own reasoning behind your decision. This is intensely personal and there’s ample space for both opinions. I'd love to hear your take.

Before she was a SAHM, Kelly was a TV news producer and newspaper editor, which further explains her need-to-know appetite. She currently blogs, without copy editors, at Love Well. And yes, her ultrasound is next week, in case that wasn't obvious.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: The Box

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I was sitting in my toddler’s room last night, surfing the Internet and waiting for her to go to sleep, when I heard the faint toot of a horn. “Beep, beep, beep.”

Then an over-enthusiastic voice added, “Let’s go!”

At first, I chalked it up to one of the older kids playing a game when they should be laying quietly in their beds. I jotted a mental note -- “Must go take away game as soon as Teyla is asleep” – and went back to scanning the headlines.

Then I heard it again. And again. And again.

And then I recognized it. I wasn’t hearing a game or an electronic book. I was hearing the cloying sounds of a baby toy, deposited deep in the bottom of the box of infant toys stored under Teyla’s crib.


Why was it going off now, at 9:30 on a wintery night, when it had been stowed and silent for the previous six months without incident?

I have no idea. I only know this toy – a small steering wheel, for the record – has annoyed me since the day it was given to me. Not only does it have more buttons and baubles than my first car, but it lacks one crucial element that betrays it was designed personally by Beelzebub in the very bowels of hell.

It doesn’t have an off switch.

That means, there was no way to make the beeping sound (take it either way) stop without digging out the steering wheel and pounding it with a sledgehammer .

So I did (except for the sledgehammer part). In the process, I had to turn on the lights, take the toddler out of her crib, move most of the toddler’s bedroom furniture, take the toy – and its neighbor, a stackable tower of stars also without an off switch – to the kitchen to remove the batteries and then spend five minutes trying to stuff the Junk in the Box back to its proper place while simultaneously shutting the lid.

By the time it was over, the toddler was wide awake, the wall was dented from the crib slamming into it and I was a sweating, quivering mound of incensed pregnant lady.

That box, stuffed with rattles and blocks and the bouncy seat and a red-black-and-white play mat, used to make me nostalgic. All those baby memories, stored in a blue bin. I couldn’t imagine the day I’d get rid of it.

Suddenly, now, I can. Not only can I imagine it, but the thought makes me smile.

And that’s how I know this is my last baby.

Kelly is pregnant with her fourth -- and oh-so-final -- baby. She's excited about having one more infant, but she's getting a little overwhelmed with saving all the stuff. You can read more about her life at her personal blog, Love Well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: Movement

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I felt the baby move last week.

I was laying in the dark, waiting for sleep to descend, when I felt little flutters way, way, WAY down in my abdomen. I was tempted to chalk it up to gas, and truthfully, I’m never sure about those first baby movements. "Did I just feel what I think I feel? Could it be a muscle twitch? Maybe my liver just quivered?"

But then I remember that I’ve been through this three times before and I’m 37 and at this point in my life, I darn well better be able to tell the difference between a kink in the tubing and a baby.

I lay there in the dark, willing the little sensations to keep going.

They did.

And I grinned back to the angels surrounding my bed.

Fast forward to last Friday. It was my 15-week OB check, and since it was the day after Thanksgiving, I took the whole family with me. (Because nothing says I’ve got my crazy on like taking three small children and your husband to the doctor’s office.)

As she was taking my blood pressure, my nurse asked if I’d felt the baby move yet. I answered a tentative yes.

She helped me up on the table to search for the baby’s heartbeat. It was slow in coming. I wasn’t really worried. Typically, my placentas form in the front, which muffles both sound and movement coming from the baby. So while the nurse listened and moved and listened and moved (and my husband, more alarmed than me, came over to stand at my side), I tried to feel. I tried to shut out all the other sensations in the room and be one with my uterus.

All of a sudden, we heard the heartbeat. The characteristic loud swooshing rang loud from the Doppler’s speakers.

And then it stopped.

“Darn. The baby must have moved,” moaned the nurse.

“Try over here,” I said, pointing to my left side. I thought maybe, just maybe, I had felt a little bubble over there right when the heartbeat stopped.

She moved the Doppler. And the heartbeat came back into range.

Oh yeah. I know what I’m doing.

I can feel the baby move.

Kelly is currently 16 weeks pregnant, although if you see her after she’s eaten dinner, you might think she’s closer to 25. She blogs at Love Well.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Because Sometimes The Small Things ARE the Big Things

By Kelly

There are days, as a SAHM, when I’m tempted to be less than thankful.

I look around at the mess in the living room and the spilled pasta in the kitchen and the bad attitudes on the sofa (also known as my children), and I feel itchy and grouchy. My jeans chafe on my growing belly, and my heart chafes at the shrinking of my world.

I want to run away, as in physically get in my car and retreat to a quiet coffee shop where adults talk in quiet voices and jazz plays in the background and I can hear myself think. (“Hello? Anyone in there?”) But since I believe Big Bad Government frowns on grown-ups leaving three children alone, I do the next best thing: I grab my laptop and go online.

And it’s here, as I read through my Google Reader and peruse Twitter, that I remember how blessed I am. Because of the this fabulous fellowship we call the blog world, I am not alone. And you people – you remind me of good things. You encourage me – literally, you infuse me with courage.

Because of the wonder of the Internet, I can read about how an American living in Africa is reminded of our everyday richness. I can nod my head in affirmation at the thought that “in excess, there is emptiness.” (What an awesome reminder two days before Black Friday.) I can cry at the realization that in the Divine Paradox, the pendulum swing between immeasurable joy and unspeakable grief can be quick and, ultimately, safe. I can even laugh my head off at the companionship we parents share when our children refuse to sleep.

In the grand scheme this virtual camaraderie, is a small thing. I realize that. I am blessed because I have a God who loves me, who encircles me with His presence. I am blessed because I have three children and one on the way. I am blessed because God restored my marriage.

But I am also blessed because of you. So thank you. Thank you for being part of my Internet world, for offering me your friendship and your time and your thoughts.

I am awash in riches.

What blessing, big or small, are you most thankful for this year?

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: The Spinach Can Wait

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I remember my first pregnancy so vividly.

I remember being snarly and sick and wanting to die, TO DIE, during the first trimester. (Note: Some things don’t change.)

(Another note, and yes, I realize this is my second, but I’m pregnant so I think I’m entitled: During that first pregnancy, I was teaching a high school media class – which means I taught teenagers to shoot and edit video and we watched “The Matrix” a lot and I was still one of the worst teachers in the history of teaching – and I shared an office with a 22-year-old male teacher who was absolutely sweet and adorable in an Eddie Haskell kind of way. One day, when I was particularly grouchy and whiny and I was laying my head down on my desk every 10 seconds and groaning, he gently asked, “Are you OK?” At which point I got up, walked straight to our office door, slammed it, whirled to face him and snapped, “I’m pregnant!” Poor boy. Up to that point, I had never seen that kind of fear in another human.)

So where was I? Oh yes. First pregnancy. Memories.

I remember being so overjoyed once I hit the second trimester to realize that I got my life back, I tried to do everything right for that little one inside of me. I followed all the standard advice. I exercised. I took prenatal vitamins. I stayed away from sushi. I tried to eat a balanced diet. And for the first time in my life, I ate an inordinate amount of vegetables.

My habit was to eat one cup of raw spinach (which is a lot of raw spinach if you pack it in) each day, whether I liked it or not. I considered it my afternoon snack. It didn’t taste all that great, without dressing or icing or chocolate. But every afternoon, you would find me at my desk, dutifully munching along like a cow with her cud, until my plastic baggie was empty of greens. And I did it all for my baby.

By the time I was pregnant with my second, I was less diligent with diet. I didn’t even pretend to exercise. (I figured it was enough I was chasing a toddler all day.) I ate lunch meat and even the occasional hot dog.

And these days, now that I’m pregnant with number four? Well. Let’s just say I might consider a balanced diet one that doesn’t shift on my McDonald’s tray as I carry it from the counter to the ketchup bar. And vegetables? I haven’t had a naked vegetable since September. They make me gag.

I know it will get better. I’m just now entering the second trimester, which means I have lots of time to regain my sense of self, my sense of propriety, my sense of healthy living.

But right now? I’m so happy to be nausea-free, I think I’ll have some ice cream. I think the baby will be just fine with mint chocolate chip.

The spinach can wait.

Kelly blogs about her family, her faith and her love affair with food at her blog, Love Well. She would also like to point out that her oldest child is very, very smart, which she credits to the spinach.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: Milestone

By Kelly

I’m 13 weeks pregnant today.

Depending on which pregnancy book you read, I’m either at the tail end of the first trimester or on the cusp of the blessed second.

It doesn’t matter greatly to me. More important is that I’ve passed the 12-week mark, because that’s how far along I was in 2007 when I miscarried.

I don’t think it’s unusual for anyone who’s gone through pregnancy loss – be it an early miscarriage, a late-term death or even a stillbirth – to breathe a sigh of relief when they pass that date where everything changed. (See the touching 19-2 post at I Should Be Folding Laundry for proof.)

It’s a strange thing, but for some reason, our minds and hearts attach great significance to making it beyond that milestone. Intellectually, we know it doesn’t mean things couldn’t still go wrong. We also know the date of the last loss doesn’t necessarily have value. Statistics tell us 20-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage these days. (In that sense, I’m right in line with the numbers, since I’ve been pregnant five times and one ended in a miscarriage.) So it doesn't matter, really, when we miscarried. It rarely means all our pregnancies will have the same sad end.

But cold statistics don’t ease the pain. A baby lost is a baby loved, a baby missed. Our mother hearts grieve that we’ll never get to know that little one this side of heaven.

Maybe that’s why we attach significance to the passing of this anniversary. Not only is it a way for us to move on and secure more hope for the baby we are currently expecting, it’s a way for us to remember the ones we miss.

And that's a milestone worth marking.

You can read more about my miscarriage here. But if you’re dealing with pregnancy loss, I also recommend you read this post by Molly Piper, who’s little girl was stillborn at 40 weeks. It’s also helpful for anyone who’s walking down the path of grief with a friend.

Kelly blogs at Love Well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: The Heartbeat

By Kelly

I still remember the first time I heard my baby’s heartbeat.

It was January 5, 2001. I was sick and miserable. I had never been sure I even wanted children. Now, deep in the throes of first trimester yuck, I was even less sure.

My husband accompanied me to my first OB appointment. We had no idea what to expect. I went through the usual pre-visit routine – urine sample, weight check, blood pressure, please enjoy this lovely paper gown and wait for the doctor.

When the OB came in, she asked a few questions then informed us she wanted to check for the baby’s heartbeat. We had no idea how far along I was – long story – so we were both surprised and intrigued. She squirted the goo on my stomach, plugged in what looked like a toy microphone and pressed it into my abdomen.

It took a minute, but then we heard it – the tell-tale sound of a baby’s heartbeat in utero.

And my life changed forever.

I wrote in my journal later that day:
I’m not exactly a pregnancy novice. I mean, almost all of my close friends have been through this process before me. So I knew that people talk about hearing the heartbeat in terms normally reserved for the Second Coming. I really didn’t think that I would be that extreme.

But it was really an amazing experience.

Maybe it was extra-special because we weren’t expecting to hear it. But when [the doctor] moved the sonar microphone over to my right side and we heard that distinctive “woom-woom-woom” … well, it blew me out of the water.

Then, to make things even more otherworldly, the baby moved – and of course, I didn’t feel a thing! It was so weird to lay there and think that I have whole other human being living inside of me – and I can’t really tell.

Wow. I’m still thrilled.

Shock and awe. I’ve never gotten over it.

This past Friday, at my 12-week OB check, I got to hear this baby’s heartbeat. It took a while to find, but all of a sudden, there it was. Loud. Fast. Strong. “Woom-woom-woom-woom.”

My OB grinned. I grinned back.

And my own heart began to beat in time with that little one.

I hope I never get over it.

Kelly is currently expecting her fourth and final child. She blogs about her life, faith and family at Love Well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: Baby Bump

By Kelly

So I’m finally hitting the 12 week mark with this pregnancy, and the first trimester fog is starting to lift, thanks in part to the miracle combo of Unisom-B6.

And I’m already showing.

Hello baby bump, hello awkward glances from strangers who wonder if I’m truly expecting another baby or just dipping into the Halloween candy reserve a little too often.

I don’t remember showing this early before. Ever.

With my last pregnancy, I didn’t wear maternity clothes until I was near 18 weeks.  Granted, my first and second trimesters were in the summer, and summer clothing is more casual and loose-fitting.

But still. Twelve weeks and I’m already pulling out the maternity shirts.

Color me surprised.

Some friends who’ve heard me puzzle over my new, ummm, shape, have pointed out, in the kindest way possible, that it’s only natural. Not only am I older (I’m even of advanced maternal age), my abdominal muscles ain’t what they used to be. So it makes sense that they took advantage of this weak moment to get in touch with their California roots and hang out.

It reminded me of the wise words I read in my favorite pregnancy manual.
Generally, the stomach of a woman who has had a baby before will pooch out about five minutes after conception, and she will look obviously pregnant in the first three months. Most of us pregnant with our second or subsequent children have never failed to comment on how big we got immediately. It must have something to do with the stomach muscles not ever being as taut again after the first pregnancy has yanked them apart.
- "The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy: Or Everything Your Doctor Won't Tell You"

So tell me. I’m not alone, right? Someone else out there must have needed maternity clothes before they’ve even had their first official OB check. (Mine is Friday.)

Kelly is currently pregnant with her fourth and final child, a journey she's chronicling here at 5 Minutes for Parenting with the Pregnancy Journal. You can read her personal blog at Love Well.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pregnancy Journal - To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

By Kelly

I woke up this morning and saw Corey standing in the middle of the bedroom getting dressed for work. The kids were bouncing on some cushions on the floor, which they undoubtedly stripped off my white reading chairs in the corner. I struggled to get out of bed and join the party, but I was so groggy. My eyelids just wouldn’t stay open. I actually ended up walking around the room with my eyes closed, wondering why I couldn’t shake the woozy.

And then I woke up.

No one was in the room but me. I was laying in bed in sweat-soaked pajamas, struggling to distinguish reality from my dreams.

Such is the sleep of a pregnant woman.

I crave sleep during the first trimester, not only because I’m extra-tired, but because sleep offers the only sure respite I have from the nausea. So I sleep as often as I can. I go to bed at the earliest time possible. I nap every afternoon with my toddler. I’ve even been known to fall asleep during a showing of “Sesame Street” and/or the Vikings-Packers Monday Night Football game.

But for all the benefit of sleep, it’s the dreams that make headlines.

Last night, I dreamed I was living in a small town on the shore of Lake Superior. It was winter and everything was white and snowy and desolate. I was trying to talk Joel Flieschman, he of “Northern Exposure”: fame, into walking out on Lake Superior since it was frozen solid. “It’s what the locals do,” I assured him. He said he’d prefer to go somewhere not so windy (and it’s true, towns along the Great Lakes are boisterous in the winter) and talk “eye-to-eye.” (Like that even makes sense!) I was explaining to him that the only way to get away from the wind was to go up and over the hill when I woke up.

I had two other bizarre, Technicolor dreams last night, but I don’t want to bore you with the details – although I could, because I remember them vividly.

The point is, we pregnant women dream strange dreams.

I can’t figure out if it’s because our bodies are freaking out on us, possibly causing a tidal wave of hormones in our brains to rewire our normal REM patterns. Or maybe it’s just because we wake up all the time to pee, thus making dream recollection an easier feat.

Either way, I bet you still remember your most bizarre pregnancy dream. Hit me with it. And if it includes obscure (but beloved) TV characters from a hit show in the 90s, you get bonus points.

Kelly is currently expecting her fourth child, which means she has a lot of pregnancy dreams stored in her gray matter. She blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pregnancy Journal: "Morning" Sickness

By Kelly

Welcome back to the Pregnancy Journal here at 5 Minutes for Parenting. You can find more information about this project here.

You know those medical professionals who say each pregnancy is different?

Hogwash. In my experience, it’s hogwash.

Each of my pregnancies – and this is my fifth – have been identical. I start out fine, excited and a little mystified at the reality that I’m pregnant.

A few days after I test positive, I start to feel queasy.

And two weeks later – almost to the hour – I’m laying on the couch, nauseous to the point of moaning, wishing I could just throw up already and get it over with so I could have a few minutes of relief.

But I don’t throw up. This is my particular brand of pregnancy. I’m just nauseous 24-7 from week six to week twelve.

As far as difficult pregnancies go, I know this is a small cross to bear. I have a good friend who is due in early December, and she’s still throwing up an a regular basis. Technically, she has hyperemesis gravidarum, which is the medical term for throwing up every five minutes. During her first trimester, she required an IV of fluids to keep her hydrated and an IV of Zofran to help her make it to the shower. She’s doing better now. We see each other at school, and she’s upright and smiling and able to walk her kids to class without having to rush to the bathroom.

So I know it could be worse.

But as my friend told me, that’s a small consolation when you are laying on your couch in misery, and you know dinner needs to be cooked but you’d rather die than touch raw meat at the moment, and your kids are hungry and tired of watching TV for entertainment and no one is coming to rescue you.

When my sister-in-law was pregnant last year, I sent her an e-mail asking how she was holding up.

She e-mailed back: “I’m rotting from the inside out.”

Yes. That’s it exactly.

Pregnancy. It’s not for wimps.

So how about you: Did you suffer from "morning" sickness? Or are you one of the lucky ones who escaped this pregnancy hurdle? Tell me your story. It will distract me from my misery.

Kelly is currently 10 weeks pregnant, which means she's nearing the end of the nausea fog. Once the fog has lifted, she plans to blog regularly again about her family, her faith, foibles and her favorite foodsat her personal blog, Love Well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pregnancy Journal

By Kelly

Women, as a collective, share many things. Stories about buying our first bra, getting our first period and waiting for that high-school crush to call can unite a disparate group and cause instant camaraderie to well up.

But nothing really touches the symbiotic topics of pregnancy and childbirth. It can ignite a firestorm of conversation. "How long did you throw up? Yeah, me too." "And that heartburn! Didn't you want to call a firefighter some nights and say, 'Help me out here!'" "And then I started pushing, and I thought I was going to die from the pain."

I love that. I love that moms, no matter their ages or backgrounds, share this common theme in the story. No one understands it like us. No one has lived it like us. And while each of our chapters in the story is unique, we all share an understanding of this unique calling of motherhood.

Certainly, I am just one voice among many. But because I am also launching down this path for the fifth -- and most likely, final -- time, I thought I'd keep a journal of this pregnancy here at 5 Minutes for Parenting. It won't be a recording of my weight and the baby's development. Rather, I hope it will be a reflection on this amazing, weird journey of pregnancy. (Today's entry is actually a few weeks old, but I thought you might like to hear how we discovered I'm with child.)

Please add your voice to the conversation as we travel these next 35 weeks together. There is nothing I love more than a good pregnancy story. I can't wait to hear your experiences.


It’s one of those moments that makes you doubt your senses.

I took a pregnancy test last week, secretly hoping, but not expecting a positive result. My hands shook as I waited for the test liquid (discreet, no?) to spread down the stick. I watched as a solid line showed up (the negative line) and then the test line (so I knew I did it correctly). And then, ever so faintly, so pale I didn’t trust my eyes, I saw a plus sign appear in the result window.

Or at least I thought I did. I looked. I turned it in the light. I looked again. Faint. Oh so faint. Weak, like my breathing at that moment.

I decided to call it a negative and test again in a few days.

And that re-test day was today.

By this point, I had a stronger suspicion. There was nothing definite – no symptoms, other than a missed period. And even that is questionable, given my irregular history.

But I still wondered. Six days after a dim maybe-I-need-glasses test result. Could it really be?

It could.

It is.

I’m pregnant.


I tested first thing in the morning, to take advantage of that morning pee. I was hurrying, lest the kids – who don’t understand the concept of privacy – push through the bathroom store and see Mom putting a lid on something she just took out of the potty. My hands shook – again. But my hands shake every time I take a pregnancy test. There’s so much life-changing potential in that little plastic stick.

The plus signed showed up immediately. Immediately. No doubting, no wondering. It was definite.

Corey was in the shower, unaware that everything was about to change.

I stuck my head behind the shower curtain and held up the positive test.

He squinted.

“I’m pregnant!” I mouthed through the thunder of water.

His eyes got big. He focused more intently on the test.

“Really?” he grinned.

I grinned back.

But we didn’t have long to rejoice. It was only the third day of school for Natalie, and the all-important first day of kindergarten for Connor. I had to get ready for the day, make sure backpacks were packed, clothes were on, lunches were ready. Mom was needed.

I shoved the positive test deep into my bathroom drawer, behind the floss and under the hair shine serum. For now, it’s a secret between me and Corey and the God who sees this little one.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


By Kelly

I was quickly changing the baby from pajamas to clothes this morning – which could describe any morning during the school year, really – when my five-year-old walked into the room, shot me a big grin and said, “I brushed my teeth before I put my clothes on today, Mommy.”

The following thoughts shot through my mind like lightning:

“That’s strange. He hates brushing his teeth. And he’s never done it first thing. But he’s telling me this voluntarily. Why?”

And then the direct hit: “Could he be lying?”

I helped a chubby arm through an sleeve and glanced at my son, still beaming with an angelic smile. “Are you sure, buddy?” I said. “Because that’s not like you.”

“I did!” he insisted, although I saw his grin falter.

I set the baby on the ground and walked into the bathroom. I felt his toothbrush. It was dry.

I came out and looked him in the eye. “Buddy, don’t lie to me. Your toothbrush isn’t even wet. The sink isn’t wet.”

He looked away.

“It’s far more serious to lie to me than to not brush your teeth,” I gently warned. “Because then I can’t trust you. And that changes everything.”

He still didn’t look at me, but I could see from the embarrassed flush that my message was getting through. He took the toothbrush out of my hand and walked directly to the sink.

Two minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom with a bigger smile, fresher breath and a clean conscience.

“I did it, Mom, I really did it this time.”

“Good buddy. I’m glad. But I think you owe me an apology for lying.”

He threw himself into a vice grip around my waist.

“I’m sorry, Mommy.”

“I’m glad, buddy,” I said.

And I am glad. I’m glad I was able to catch him so simply, I’m glad he responded to my correction without retort.

Because I’m older and wiser, and I know what a life of duplicity bears. It’s a seed I don’t want planted.
The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree
I planted,---they have torn me---and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
- Lord Byron, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A SAHM Moment

By Kelly

I pulled into the garage this afternoon a little after 1:00, with the following list of urgent concerns.

1. Corey needed me to e-mail him some directions immediately; he was going to be leaving the office in 5 minutes.
2. I had two Trader Joe's bags in the back of the mini-van.
3. One was packed with frozen vegetables, which had already been in the car for two hours.
4. The other was packed with fresh flowers, which had been out of water for two hours; I could see the tulips wilting.
5. Teyla had a stinky diaper.
6. She was also throwing a fit because I wouldn't give her the churro she could see in the front seat.
7. Connor was halfway through his quesadilla lunch and needed something to drink ASAP lest he choke and die.
8. I really, really needed to go to the bathroom.
9. I was really, really hungry. My footlong tuna Subway I had just picked up was calling my name.
10. The phone was ringing.

Which task do you do first?

Leave a comment here first. Then you can click over to Kelly's personal blog, Love Well, to see what she prioritized.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


By Kelly

Corey and I went for a walk after dinner tonight. The older kids were playing with friends in the neighborhood, laughing and riding bikes in the golden, evening twilight. So it was just me, my husband, our 20-month-old Teyla and the dog.

Corey and I chatted about Natalie’s first day of third grade and the possibility of the weather turning cooler later in the week. Teyla, puppy-like, shrieked with joy to be out of the house and ran circles between our legs. The dog pranced at the end of her leash, nose up, ears alert. You never know when a squirrel is going to pop out of a bush.

We walked to the end of our development to a place where the forest meets the city. The tree tops were gilded with sunshine. We let the dog off her leash for a few minutes, and let Teyla explore the wildflowers growing next to the road and the few yellow and orange leaves on the ground that have already fled their summer home.

It was all so ordinary. The smell of stir-fried garlic and onions lingered on my fingers, and Teyla stopped to study a bug crawling on the ground.

Yet, for just a moment, it wasn’t ordinary at all. I forgot all about Teyla’s short nap and the spilled milk before dinner and the hassle of putting away a weekend’s worth of toys in one morning.

Instead, I just was.

I was a wife. A mother. A woman who overflowed with gratitude for the beauty of everyday life.

I picked up my curly-headed daughter and tucked my hand into my husband’s arm and headed toward one of the best gifts I know – home.

Kelly can also be found blogging at Love Well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Air Travel, Not Scare Travel: Navigating the Not-So-Friendly Skies with your Kids

By Kelly

I knew we’d get the looks. Anyone traveling by plane with three kids, as we did last week, is bound to be on the receiving end of a few “please don’t sit by me” glances. And when we walked up to security, it’s amazing to watch the gait of our fellow travelers quicken, as they try to get ahead of us in line.

But they need not worry. Our family travels a lot, and at this stage, the kids are experts at navigating the complex world of air travel.

My husband and I have gotten more savvy too. When we first started flying with our children, we carefully read all the travel tips for parents on the web. (Some good lists here, here and here.) And we gleaned a lot of ideas from those tip-sheets.

But we’ve also compiled a few less-obvious tactics of our own. Which I’m sharing with you today, for free. I know. My generosity is astounding.

If possible, fly at naptime.
The best time of day for families to fly is a debated topic among experts. Some recommend that families fly as early as possible, to avoid the inevitable delays that snowball throughout the day. Some recommend traveling late at night, the better to score empty seats on the plane.

But we’ve found the early and late flights are almost always occupied by business people, who are the least friendly when it comes to children. So if possible, we try to fly around lunchtime, which gives us the best chance that one of the kids will fall asleep for part of the flight. Plus, the mid-day flights tend to be filled with fellow families and traveling grandparents, which makes for a friendlier group.

Pack healthy snacks and empty sippy cups.
I think everyone knows the airlines no longer serve meals mid-flight. A few still pass out complimentary bags of pretzels and peanuts. (Warning: If your child has a peanut allergy, be sure to call ahead and ask.) A few others sell small snack boxes for $5 or so, which are filled with processed, high-fat, high-sodium junk food. Naturally, my kids love the snack boxes, and to be honest, we’ve bought them on many a trip. The kids will spend 30-45 minutes investigating the contents of that tiny box.

But most of the time, I want my family to eat healthier than processed cheese spread and sausage sticks. So I pack a bag of baby carrots, sliced apples, sugar snap peas and raisins to snack on during the flight.

Best tip: I also pack disposable sippy cups – even for the older kids – and I ask the flight attendants to pour the complimentary beverages right in. That way, I don’t have to worry about a lapful of icy cold apple juice. And yes, I learned this one the hard way.

Don’t bring a stroller unless you have to.
Obviously, if you have a newborn, bring a stroller. Not only is it impossible to carry those newborn carseats without making your knees look like you sustained a Mafia attack, the stroller comes in handy for carrying the extra gear you need for a newborn.

But once your baby is a toddler, and loathe to ride in a seat when he or she could walk, ditch the stroller. You have to fold it down to take it through security, go on elevators instead of escalators at key junctures through the airport, and it makes it harder to maneuver in a crowd.

We went stroller-less on our trip to Colorado last week and we pleasantly surprised at how freeing it was. There were times when we needed to carry our toddler, just to keep up the pace. But overall, it made the trip much easier.

Do look for airport playgrounds.
Airport playgrounds are a fairly new idea, but what an idea, especially since it’s wise for families to arrive at the airport extra early for their flight. Almost half the major U.S. airports have playgrounds these days. It might not be near your gate, but if you have time, letting the kids get their wiggles out by running around a miniature air control tower is the perfect pre-boarding activity.

Don’t overpack toys.
I used to pack a huge bag of toys for each of my children. After all, we had four hours of time to fill between Minneapolis and California. What if they weren’t properly occupied?

Then I found that they were more interested in investigating the contents of the seatback pocket than the coloring books that I brought from home. And each time they wanted something new, I had to bend down and pull out the bag from under the seat in front of me and hold my breath while I scrounged around for the requested plaything.

These days, I let the older kids back a small bag of toys themselves. (My son uses his school lunchbox. That’s the perfect size.) And for the baby, I pack some books, a Color Wonder coloring book and that’s all. It works just fine.

Look for creative play opportunities on the plane.
The seatbelts alone have occupied my kids for 15 minutes. Push in. Click. Pull up. Click. What if I turn it around? What if I try the one on the seat next to me? What if I swing it around my head and hit my sibling in the mouth?

They are also amused by the flight safety pamphlets (all those colors and comic book pictures) and the Sky Mall catalog (we use it to play I Spy). They love to look out the window and talk about what they see on the ground. Even the teeny, tiny bathrooms offer tons of diversions.

Never underestimate a child’s smile to light the way.
A couple of years ago, I flew by myself with my two oldest kids (at the time, 5 and 3) to visit my family in San Jose. I was nervous about flying solo, and the fact that I was flying in the busy post-Christmas rush didn’t help.

As we waited in the long security line, one of the most dour TSA officers I’ve ever seen sat near the front and shouted out instructions. “Have your boarding passes and picture IDs out and accessible! Do not try to bring on liquid of more than 3 ounces! This includes water, coffee, hair spray shampoo and the jam your Grandma gave you as a gift!”

She didn’t sound friendly. My kids were in awe of her fierce manner. I figured she would be the type to look sternly at my ID and then frown at the children before barking at us to move ahead.

But lo and behold, when she saw the kids, her whole demeanor changed.  Her voice softened and her face broke into something like a smile and she leaned over and said, “And where are you two traveling today?” My five-year-old, emboldened by the new tone, immediately started sharing our plans of time with Grammie and Papa and the new baby cousin that was soon to be born and a possible trip to Disneyland to see Mickey and Minnie.

The TSA agent listened attentively, even as she was stamping our boarding passes. Then she smiled at me, winked at the kids and waved us through.

Sometimes, traveling with kids is a blessing in disguise.

When she's not traveling or defeating the piles of post-vacation laundry, Kelly blogs at her personal blog, Love Well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brotherly Love

By Kelly

I carry the baby from the bathroom. She’s wrapped in a hooded towel like a plump, wet burrito.

Her brother, wrapped in his own towel combo, trails behind and makes the following announcement about his sister.

“Mom, tomorrow night, I’m going to marry Teyla.”

I pause. It’s true that my family tree can be traced back to Kentucky. (In which case the tree is a wreath, ha, ha.) But I still didn’t see this coming.

(Not to mention I haven’t sent invitations.)

“Well buddy,” I say as I dry off the squirming bride-to-be, “you don’t usually marry someone from your family.”

He frowns.

“In fact, in some states, it’s against the law to marry your brother or sister,” I add solemnly, the weight of the United States government on my side.

“Hmmm,” he says doubtfully.

I feel compelled to add evidence to my case.

“Dad’s not my brother, you know. He wasn’t in my family when I was a little girl.”

Connor chuckles, still unsure that I’m telling the truth. After all, from what he can tell, Corey and I have been related forever. Why shouldn’t we have grown up side by side, fighting and laughing and playing together since the beginning of time?

“Mo-om,” he says, and he rolls his eyes and shakes his head and walks away with all the dignity of a near naked five-year-old.

In lieu of gifts, please send money for counseling.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well -- which takes on a whole new meaning in light of this post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

That House

By Kelly

A Tuesday in mid-August doesn’t seem the most likely day for a dream to come true.

Even when it dawns sunny and bright and filled with the sing-song of birds and toddlers, the ordinariness is louder than the potential within.

That’s how my day started yesterday. A yawn, some coffee. Wipe a nose, pour some cereal, check the headlines, change a diaper.

Then it gained momentum, and like a snowball rolling downhill, it picked up speed and intensity. A friend came to visit with her two-month-old baby. Another friend called to announce she was in town unexpectedly; would my daughter want to play with her daughter? The doorbell rang. The bikes piled up.

And suddenly, I was that house.

You know. That house. The one in the neighborhood that seems to have children swarming in and out of the doors like so many bees in a hive.  The one where sidewalk chalk etchings permanently decorate the driveway. The one where kids laugh and yell and instigate games of “Hike and Seek” and “Boy-Girl War.”

When I was growing up, our neighborhood was like an ad for suburbia. There were kids everywhere. My younger siblings were always out playing with friends and riding bikes to so-and-so’s house and catching fireflies in the communal backyards.

But since there were no kids my age in the neighborhood – I had the misfortune of being born too early in the 70s, apparently – I had no neighborhood friends. I spent most of my days indoors, reading a book while hanging upside down from the sofa or recording jingles on my very own tape deck for my personalized radio station (KLLY – The Music Of My Life).

It wasn’t until I was a leader in our church’s youth group that I started to envy the houses that were so comfortable with kids they appeared to have their own magnetic pull. Sunday evenings, when we would visit homes for “drop-ins,” I would watch from the corner amazed as parents welcomed scores of teenagers into their homes and proceeded to hand out cans of soda, bags of popcorn and the inevitable bandages and towels (for water balloon fights) without batting an eyelash.

I secretly hoped that someday, if I were to have children, I would have that kind of house. The kind that welcomed instead of warned, that shrugged when a ball knocked over a plant, that traded control for chaos and restraint for joy.

And that’s why I smiled inwardly yesterday at every “Mom! Can we have a snack?” and “Mom, we’re thirsty!” and “Mom, we need more bandages for the animal hospital!” Even the door slams and shrieks of laughter and spilled ice cream didn’t damper my delight.

Because in the middle of the craziness, I recognized a dream come true.

Even – or maybe especially – on a Tuesday in August.

Kelly's personal blog is Love Well, which she views as an extension of her choatic home. Feel free to stop by. And bring your kids. The more the merrier.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Multiple Channels

By Kelly

There are days when I wonder what it would be like to parent an only child.

Oddly enough, the thought isn't entertained on the days when my three children turn into heathen monkeys.

Rather, it lingers on days that are easy, when each child seems to shine brightly as their own, unique creation. Natalie, 8, might be drawing or imagining worlds for her tiny plastic animals. Connor, 5, is probably playing Legos, creating new forts to house his band of brothers to fight the bad guys. And Teyla, 1, a toddler now really, alternately chatters and shrieks as she follows me around the house, eager to help me unload the dishwasher or fold the towels as long as she can be next to "Mah-mee."

On days like that, I look around and wonder how I can take it all in. It's like trying to watch my three favorite TV programs simultaneously. I want to grab the cosmic pause button and put a couple on hold so I can really focus in on the action, the plot, the character development of just one.

I miss so much when all three are playing at the same time. And it tends to be noisy and chaotic and sometimes even tense when the channels overlap and compete.

But this is my life. We aren't a one channel household.

So I drink another cup of coffee, the better to keep up with the rampaging horde, and I open my heart wide and try to take in as much as I can.

I wish I didn't have to miss a minute. Because each show is the best thing I've ever seen.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, which is like her own version of a DVR for her life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Full-Time Mom

By Kelly

As we were driving home from the final soccer game of the season yesterday morning, I looked in the rearview mirror and asked the kids, “So are you having a fun summer so far?”

“So far!” wailed Natalie, eight years and one day old. “Summer is over!”

“No it’s not,” I retorted. “Let me look at the calendar once we stop. School starts late this year, because Labor Day is late.”

I pulled out my new Blackberry at the next light (motto: More Horsepower in a Phone That I’ll Ever Need) and consulted my calendar app.

“There are three, four, five, six weeks of summer vacation left, Natalie! And we’ve only had four, six, seven so far. That means summer is just a little more than halfway over.”

“Oh,” she sighed, relief tingeing her voice. “That’s good.”

We pulled into the driveway. I pushed the automatic buttons to open all the doors on the minivan, unbuckled the baby from her car seat and started to unload the soccer gear from the field and the milk and bananas from the grocery store.

Natalie straddled her bike and said, “I guess six weeks is better than Dad. He only gets two weeks of summer each year.”

Connor, backing his own bike out of the garage, chimed in, “And Saturdays and Sundays.”

“True,” I said with a smile. “He does get weekends off. But everyone gets weekends. Except for people who work unusual shifts. Like Papa, since he was a pastor, always worked on Sundays. So he took Fridays off instead.”

I grabbed the sidewalk chalk out of Teyla’s mouth and turned to see Natalie wearing a quizzical expression.

“But Mom,” she said, “if you’re the cook, the driver, the ultimate survivor, the doctor, the cooker, your man thinks you’re a looker, you work all day and you never get paid, when do you get time off? Moms never get vacation. Or even Saturdays and Sundays.”

True, Natalie. True. We do it for the love of the job.

Besides, as Go Fish says, nobody could afford us anyway.

Kelly is a full-time mom to three kids and a part-time blogger at Love Well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Breakfast Surprise

By Kelly

Wednesday morning, if all goes as planned, my husband and I will pounce on the kids as soon as they wake up and whisk them away to a surprise breakfast at a real, live restaurant. Even as you are reading this, I will be sitting at a sticky table with three animated children who will be quivering with excitement over the unanticipated turn of their morning. (Pray for me.)

It might be the first surprise stunt we’ve ever pulled on them. Typically, when we have something fun in the future, I’m too excited to keep the good news to myself. Tiny comments slip out during everyday conversation until the kids know something is up.

But a breakfast in pajamas, as soon as they stumble out of bed? They know nothing. They suspect nothing. And I think the amazement will make their day.

The idea for the breakfast surprise started with our love of the children’s book "Every Friday," written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. (He’s also the creator of "Oswald," if you’re an old-school Noggin fan.) It’s the story of a father and son and their weekly ritual of walking to the local diner for breakfast every Friday. As they walk, they watch the neighborhood come to life and share simple joys. The journey culminates with pancakes and conversation a promise that another breakfast is waiting the very next week.

Connor, my five-year-old, half-believes the story is about him. It casts that kind of spell.

And of course, the story is about much more than a walk and a meal.

But, then again, so is our surprise breakfast this morning.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You Think That's Funny?

By Kelly

My daughter started giggling before she started speaking.

“Mom, remember in that movie about the dogs and the cat trying to get home ["Homeward Bound" for  the uninitiated] when the cat said, ‘Oh, you missed me butt-face.’ That was so funny, wasn’t it?”

Um. Yeah. I guess there’s a certain je ne sais quoi humor there.

Thankfully, I was spared an out-loud reply, since Connor, my five-year-old, launched into  his own catalog of favorite lines and quips. It ended, as it always does, with a recitation of knock-knock jokes.

And I use the term joke loosely.

“Mom, knock-knock”

“Who’s there?”

”Red truck.”

“Red truck who?”

”Red truck because Indiana Jones fell off his motorcycle.”

Um. Yeah.

Studies have shown that humor is an important milestone in childhood development. Babies start to smile when they are only a few weeks old, and most are laughing at games like peek-a-boo or strawberries-on-the-tummy by the time they turn one.

By the time a child is old enough for kindergarten, he or she will laugh at physical comedy (which is the only explanation for “Tom & Jerry”) and loud burps at the dinner table. They will think it’s funny if a parent tries to put a sock on their ear or sing a song in a funny voice, both of which are out of ordinary for a world they now recognize has some order.

When they enter grade-school, kids make another developmental leap into logical and language humor. Enter the knock-knock joke.

Problem is, as most of us discover, the truly funny material is gone in about 90 seconds. Which leaves us with the dregs of the nonsensical jokes that make us wince and groan and eventually want to throw a few rotten tomatoes at the off-spring of our hearts.

Obviously, the best rule when dealing with kids and their jokes is to laugh first, think later. Just as we don’t expect a seven-year-old to enjoy an evening of Shakespeare, we don’t expect a five-year-old to have the wit of G.K. Chesterton.

Still, there’s nothing in the rulebook that says we can’t help them along with a few well-placed jokes that contain, you know, actual humor.

So let’s do each other a favor today, and share your best knock-knock joke in the comments. It doesn’t have to be stellar. Just guaranteed to make a grade-schooler laugh.

I’ll start.


“Who’s there?”


“Irish who?”

“Irish you would stop telling knock-knock jokes and go wash your hands for dinner.”

Your turn.

Kelly makes jokes all the time at her personal blog, Love Well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Family Camp 101

By Kelly

“Mom, I’m done eating. Can I go play now?”

I scanned the plate across the table and the excited seven-year-old next to it.

“Sure honey,” I acquiesced. “Have fun.”

And with that, my daughter was out the door, on her way to fish. Or maybe swim. Or possibly make some sand art. Or play on the playground.

I wasn’t sure. And honestly, it wasn’t that important. I knew I’d find her later.

For now, I was content to sit and drink my coffee, stare into space and think deep thoughts. (Or finish my salad, clean up the fruit left on my kids’ plates and try to keep Teyla from eating the stray croutons under the buffet line. Take your pick.)

Such is life at family camp.

If you haven’t been to family camp – or intergenerational camp, if you’re feeling pretentious – don’t be fooled by the moniker. It most definitely isn’t camping. It’s more of a vacation designed to promote relaxation and family togetherness. And it’s a trend taking off.

According to the American Camping Association, the number of family camps has grown by a whopping 215% over the last 15 years. In comparison, the number of traditional, kid-centric overnight camps has stayed the same.

The reasons? They are as plentiful as fireflies on a summer’s night.

Affordability – It’s the Economy Stupid

Probably the number one reason families consider family camp is its affordability, especially when compared to a traditional vacation. My family just got home from family camp, and for our family of five, it cost a little more than $1,000 for an all-inclusive week of fun. That fee included our hotel-like room, our linens, two mid-week “cleanings” (to get rid of the sand on the floor and trade out towels), 15 fabulous meals and activities galore on a crystal-clear Minnesota lake.

Luxury family camps can run into the $4,000 range, but most middle-of-the-road camps can be customized to fit your budget. Need to save money? Choose a no-frills cabin with a bathroom within walking distance. Want more privacy? Stay in a lodge, where you’ll sleep on a real bed in the comfort of air conditioning. Either way, chances are good you’ll spend less for five nights at camp than you would for five nights at a hotel.

Togetherness – Focus on YOUR Family

This is your chance to leave the laptop, the iPod, the Blackberry at home and try social networking IRL.

Teach your kids to fish. (Or let your kids teach you.) Play foosball. Take out a canoe. Jump off the end of the dock. Build a sand castle. Attempt a ropes course. Sing some silly songs. Eat a s’more or three. Say “yes” when your kids ask you to push them on the swing or play UNO or read them a book.

It’s all about being together without the distractions of modern life. Don’t worry about making the distinction between quality and quantity. At family camp, you can have both.

Freedom – Kids Rule

Last year was our first family camp experience, and it blew my mind that I could release my children from lunch to go do whatever they wished without me having to worry about them. (Try doing that at Olive Garden. Something tells me they don’t mean it literally when they say, “When you’re here, you’re family.”)

Obviously, this depends on the age of your children – as I learned firsthand last week when I spent the majority of my time chasing my toddler off the fishing dock. But if your kids are at least five years of age, camp offers a taste of autonomy. Typically, the camp grounds aren’t big enough for them to get lost. Fun things to do are around every corner. And there is a plethora of adults watching them. Which segues nicely with the next point….

Counselors and Staff – Your New Best Friends

Most family camps come staffed with wonderful, wacky counselors who are there to help you and your kids have a great time. They do everything from lead the weekly variety show to lifeguard the waterfront to teach arts and crafts. Your kids will adore them, and you’ll love having an extra set of eyes and hands to get through the week. If you’re lucky, you might also end up at a family camp that schedules child-care hours, so the parents can be free to indulge in a nap, a ropes course or a water-ski challenge without having to worry about their little ones.

Choices – To Schedule or Not

Depending on your personality, you might want a week free of schedules and agendas. Or you might want something more planned. Family camp accommodates both ideals.

Our camp puts together a calendar for each day – 8:20 Flag Raising, 9:30 Chapel, 1:00 Water Olympics, 4:00 Canteen Opens – but guests are free to participate as much or as little as they want. There’s no pressure to put in your time just because you are there. After all, it’s your vacation. Make it fit you.

Returning Guests – The Real Reason It’s Called Family Camp

Sound ideal? It can be. That’s why many camps find that the same families return year after year. Spend a week eating, laughing and playing with strangers, and you might find yourself with some new friends.

Or you might bring your own friends. We first heard about family camp from some friends who were recruiting other families to attend with them. A big part of family camp for us is the lure of seeing those same faces each summer.

Some even use family camp as a mini family reunion. At our camp, there is an extended family who’s been coming to family camp for 30+ years. It’s a great time for grandparents to see their grandkids, cousins to reconnect with cousins and adult siblings to renew the rivalry (kidding) at a place where you can dictate the level of togetherness and personal space.

To be fair, family camp has a few cons to balance the pros. It can be difficult for a family with very young children to navigate the free time without the comforts (read: restraints) of home. Some parents might not be comfortable with their kids having that much freedom. And a few might be startled by the level of craziness camp seems to inspire.

But in the end, the fun of camp seems to knead the knots out of even the most stress-out family. And that’s the whole point of vacation, isn’t it?

You can see pictures from Kelly's week of family camp at her personal blog, Love Well. Please note that sand lip gloss isn't offered at all camps.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cotton Candy

By Kelly

Ever since I was a little girl, I've been fascinated by cotton candy.

Maybe it was because it was such an rare treat. In the days of yore (read: the 1970s), cotton candy was reserved for the circus or the fair or some other infrequent-but-storied event. I loved to stand next to the cotton candy booth and watch the proprietor swirl a thin, paper cone in a seemingly empty bin and emerge with a cumulonimbus cloud of gossamer pink, precariously balanced on a tiny point.

"Here you go, sweetie," he would say to the lucky buyer, who would carefully take hold of the beautiful concoction and delicately try to find a place to bite.

So it goes without saying that, when our church was looking for volunteers to work at various booths during the annual community picnic, I jumped at the chance to work in the cotton candy booth.

It was a gorgeous Sunday night in late summer. The sun shone brightly; the light already held flecks of autumnal gold.

After the outdoor service, Corey and I gathered the kids and scooted through the dinner line (hot dogs, carrots, watermelon and chips) since I was first shift at the booth.

And that's how I found myself standing next to a machine that was spinning a cloud of pink sugar, clumsily wielding paper cones around the circle, passing off lopsided mounds of cotton candy to a throng of eager children.

The night was breezy, and I was near the edge of a picnic shelter. The wind caught errant wisps of candy and blew them into the crowd. Kids waiting in line opened their mouths to pluck a sparkling sample right out of the air. Delicate strands stuck to my arms, my face, my hair. (So intent and gleeful was I as Cotton Candy Maker Extraordinaire that I discovered this fact only when small children grinned my direction and shouted, "Mom, look at her hair!")

Halfway through my shift, I looked up and saw my daughter before me. Natalie was wearing plaid sherbet-colored shorts and a pink polo shirt. Her skin was tan, her hair pulled back in a pink headband. She looked utterly delighted.

“Why Natalie!” I exclaimed, as if she were my favorite customer, which, in fact, she was. “So happy to see you here tonight! Here you go!” And I handed her a cone heavy with sweetness.

“Thanks Mom,” she giggled, before turning to find Uncle Jon among the crowd.

Later, on the way home, when she was crashing like a little addict from an overdose of sugar, she sat in the back of the minivan and sobbed because the snow cone booth had run out of syrup before she'd gotten one. Suddenly, she sat up straight, found her composure and said, “Mom, do you know why I stood in your line to get cotton candy, besides the fact that yours was pink and that’s my favorite color?”

“No, Natalie," I answered, scanning her face in my rear view mirror. "Why?"

“Because you are my favorite person, Mom,” she said. "And I love you."

This post was originally published August 2008 on Kelly's personal blog, Love Well. She's at family camp this week, where she is too busy following her toddler around camp to write something new. But she'll be back next week, rested and refreshed, and extra happy for the toys at home.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


By Kelly

I set my squirming, squealing 17-month-old daughter into the bathtub last night, then ducked around the corner to grab a towel and washcloth out of the cabinet.

Her rage was immediate and deafening.

I apparently didn’t have permission to leave her side – to split atoms, as it were. In her mind, we are one right now. Mama-Teyla or Teyla-Mama. Always together, never apart.

Until we are. And then the world tips off its axis and threatens to implode under the weight of her mingled sorrow and wrath.

I don’t remember separation anxiety at this age with my older two children. (Of course, most days I feel grateful to remember my name, so maybe it’s just that my brain is melting like a snow cone in August.) They had their moment of tears in the nursery and their times of pouting when my husband and I would go on a date.

But this sweet little baby – she isn’t just sad when I walk out of the room. She’s furious that I would have the audacity to leave her behind. Even leaving the room ahead of her, especially if I need to walk around the corner out of sight, is grounds for a tantrum.

Lucky for her – and for those who’s eardrums are within range – I don’t leave her that often. And at this age, it’s easy to round the corner, pick her up and set everything right again. It only takes a tight hug, a couple of tickles and a reassurance that “Mama is still here.”

I only wish it could always be that easy.

Kelly-Teyla also blogs at Love Well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Soccer Mom

By Kelly

I earned a new badge today.

I am now, officially, a soccer mom.

My five-year-old son started practicing with a bunch of fellow pre-kindergarteners this morning. I don’t know who was more excited, him or me. Because this isn’t just his first venture into team sports – it’s also mine.

The way my parents tell it, back in the 1970s when I grew up, children weren’t automatically enrolled in sports as soon as they started to walk. In fact, the female children weren’t generally signed up for sports at all. (Especially in the South, where my Mom was raised. In those parts, a girl playing sports was sighed over, seeing as she was a bit confused about obvious gender roles.)

Thus, I grew up without ever playing a sport. And looking back, that might have been God’s first blessing over my life. Because my eyes are disparate, I have almost no depth perception. In practical terms, I can’t tell that the ball barreling toward my face is six inches from breaking my nose.

Which is a liability on the field.

Also? I throw like a girl.

By the time I got to high school, and it was acceptable and even encouraged for girls to play sports, I was way past the time period where I would risk my self-esteem by learning something new. So I left the sports playing to my brother – who is an incredible athlete – and I stuck to things that were easy for me, like writing and getting good grades and drama and talking on the phone.

Since God has a profound sense of humor, I married a jock. My husband has played and excelled at every sport known to man. When we were dating, it was a bit of game.

“Junior high.”
“Swim club.”
“Martial arts?”
“Black belt in four styles.”
“Never turned professional, but could have.”

You name it, he did it. To my amusement, his lifestyle preference continued even after the wedding. Suddenly, I was immersed in competitive softball and flag football. I learned to keep a scorebook (to earn my keep), and I spent many balmy evenings at the batting cage and driving range.

I didn’t play. But I started to see the value in sports. The teamwork. The camaraderie. The exercise. The discipline. The broken bones.

Deep in my soul, a nugget of regret took root. I wished I could go back and do it over. Chances are, I would never have excelled at t-ball or soccer. But maybe I would have been a great swimmer or diver or skater.


So when my son said he wanted to learn to play soccer this summer, I eagerly agreed. This is uncharted territory for both of us. But I’m excited to watch him try. I hope he learns to work hard, have fun and show grace in victory and defeat. I’m looking forward to sitting on the sidelines, marveling at his growth and cheering his every kick.

I just hope he doesn’t kick the ball toward me. Because soccer mom badge or not, I still won’t be able to duck before it smacks me in the face.

Kelly’s preferred sport these days is blogging, which she does at her personal blog, Love Well.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An A+ Family

By Kelly

I tried not to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to listen.

“Some families are just out of control,” said one of the voices. “I mean, seriously.”

I glanced sideways at the table next to ours. We were sitting in the dining room of a nice hotel, enjoying the final moments of the breakfast buffet, along with a few other families and some late-rising stragglers.

The table next to us was in the second category. Three young men sat around it, looking like they’d just rolled out of bed. Wrinkled t-shirts, grungy jeans, unshaven faces, they nursed cups of coffee and toasted bagels as they winced at the noises surrounding them.

“I know,” said another young man at the table. “It’s like, can’t you control your kids? Who’s in charge here, anyway?”

I knew immediately who they were talking about.

At the other end of the dining room, a family was at Def-Con 1. A baby, probably around eight months old, was screaming – and I mean SCREAMING – in his high chair. His older sister, probably three, was doing laps around the table, incensed that her parents wouldn’t get her another bowl of Lucky Charms from the buffet. “But I want it! I WANT IT!” she shrieked.

Her parents, equal parts exasperated and mortified, were trying their best not to escalate the situation. “Honey, you need to sit down,” they hissed, attempting to ignore the dark looks shooting their way. “You’ve got to finish the Lucky Charms you have before you get more.”

“Noooooo! I don’t want to! I want more NOW!” countered the girl, as she squirmed out of her dad’s reach.

The commotion made it harder to snoop on the band members. (Note: I don’t really know if they were part of a band. But that’s how I had them pegged at this point.)

“They should give grades to parents,” suggested one of the men.

“I know! Like, I’d give them a D-,” said another, gesturing toward the meltdown underway.

Snickers all around.

“And this family?” said another, jerking his head toward our table. (My ears pricked.) “I’d give this family an A+. These parents know what they’re doing.”

An A+?!?!

I looked at my tablemates. My kids were sitting nicely on their seats. Natalie was adding yet another packet of butter to her English muffin. Connor was eating his Raisin Bran silently, his eyes fixed on the situation at the other end of the dining room. Teyla was thoughtfully mashing a banana. Corey was stirring his coffee.

My heart and my head swelled to three times their normal size.

“Well,” I thought to myself. “Yes. Obviously, my children are angels. And we're not perfect, but Corey and I are pretty good parents. We try to have fun with our kids but still enforce boundaries. We would never let them….”

And then I started laughing to myself. Because as much as I wanted to pretend, I knew with every cell in my body that this A+ moment was just that – a moment. No family looks good all the time, and I doubted the family at the other end of the dining room was really as big of a disaster as they appeared.

Thankfully, we were at a different hotel the next morning, so the band wasn’t at breakfast when my older two decided to crawl on the carpet like miniature commandos because they were bored. They didn’t see the baby discover a piece of petrified bacon under one of the tables and pop it into her mouth before I could grab it. (Building her immunity. Building her immunity.) They didn’t see the sugar packets that were hastily stuffed back into the holder after the baby spilled them out for the third time, or the coffee that was sloshed, or the food that was wasted because “it doesn’t taste good anymore.”

Because the truth is, we can go from an A+ to a D- in 20 minutes flat.

My only hope is that we're eventually graded on a curve.

Kelly grades herself on a daily basis at her personal blog, Love Well.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Lilacs

By Kelly

The lilacs are blooming.

Nothing says early summer to me quite like a bush rich with amethyst blossoms. They are ubiquitous right now, strewn willy-nilly around the neighborhood, equally at home on a freeway overpass as they are in the front yard of a much-loved cottage. The air is perfumed with their innocent sweetness.

Next week, they’ll be gone. I’ve been furtively gathering small bouquets when I can – I keep clippers in my car – so I can savor the lilacs’ fleeting luxury.

But the best part about the lilacs this year is the realization that my children share this joy with me. They’ve been helping me spot neglected lilac bushes on public property, where we might stop to snag a few blossoms. They’ve buried their noses deep into the purple flowers and closed their eyes to sniff. “Mmmmm, Mom. That does smell good.” And just today, I heard my oldest daughter sigh and say, “The lilacs on that bush are already fading, Mom.”

It satisfies a longing in my heart that I didn’t even know I had until now – a longing for my children to share the sensory cues of “home” with me.

I spent most of my growing up years in Minnesota, and they were happy, carefree, innocent years. To me, home is the croaking of tree frogs on a summer’s night, the sight of sunlight sparkling on a crisp blue lake, ice skates slicing across a frozen pond, abundant green leaves changing to auburn and pumpkin and gold. It’s hockey and snow days and the fevered anticipation of spring and the joyride of summer and the State Fair and pine forests and water everywhere you look.

But since my husband and I moved to Southern California shortly after we got married, with the intent to stay in San Diego until The Big Earthquake carried us into the Pacific, I thought all those markers of home would be mine alone. I ventured that our future children would associate home with sunny days and cool nights, the sound of fighter jets roaring overhead and the smell of salt breezes off the ocean.

And while I accepted my future, I also secretly mourned the shared legacy of home. I knew that a trip back to the Midwest once a year wouldn’t be enough to put Minnesota into their DNA.

I never imagined that someday, my children would come to love the lilacs as much as I.

It is a gift as lovely and as delightful as the flower itself.

Kelly makes her home in the blogosphere at Love Well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lessons Learned

By Kelly

To parent successfully, one must be both teacher and student.

Here is what I’ve learned from my children this past week. Note: This is an abridged version.

Dialing 911 even in the middle of sequence still calls 911.

Guess which 16-month-old doesn’t get to play with the phone anymore?

Personal aside to the weary but kind 911 operator who called me back two separate times to make sure I was really OK: Bless you. And yes, I'd tell you if something was wrong.

I have boogers hidden all over my house.

This lesson comes courtesy of my seven-year-old daughter, who recently picked up (ahem) the habit of picking her nose. When I asked her how she might cope with a successful digging expedition, she replied with startling nonchalance, “Oh, if I get boogers, I just hide them somewhere you can’t find them. I’ve got boogers hidden all over the house.”

Good to know.

Blueberries make a great snack for toddlers.

I never tried them out on my older two kids, thinking their little palates wouldn’t approve. But Teyla eats them like they are candy.

Blueberries make for some dark diapers.

Black as the blackest midnight on a stormy night.

It’s possible to be full of dinner yet still have room for dessert.

This is a lesson I should have learned when I was a child, seeing as I used it on my parents all the time. I clearly remember picturing my stomach as a large bag with pockets lining the inside; each pocket was labeled with the food it was designed to contain. Thus, I could be full of chicken but not full of ice cream.

Apparently, I passed on that freaky stomach to my children.

I am more refreshed after my children nap than after I nap.

My 16-month-old took a three-hour nap today. I cleaned my whole house, started the laundry, watered the plants and sewed up a hole in one of Natalie’s stuffed horses. Apparently, the Nap Fairy also carries some mini-Martha Stewart dust in her pouch.

Whole milk + sippy cup + day at the beach = sippy cup in the garbage.

Memorial Day indeed. The smell alone will ensure it stays with me forever.

Luke Skywalker has a brother.

My five-year-old son insists this is true. Also? Indiana Jones is his father.

Harrison Ford gets around, apparently.

What did you learn this week?

You can find more life lessons about boogers and the familal lines of Lego minifigures at Kelly's personal blog, Love Well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Year-End Project

By Kelly

The state of Minnesota apparently took an Instant Summer pill today. It’s so beautiful outside, it hurts. (Or maybe that’s just the 97-degree sunshine hitting my arms.) The kids in our neighborhood are riding bikes, shouting greetings, begging for another popsicle. According to one little girl, her whole body is boiling! As if we live on the sun or in Houston or something.

But my daughter, my seven-year-old who loves to draw with sidewalk chalk and pet the dogs and ride her bike to the pond on the corner, isn’t outside. Rather, she’s restricted to the kitchen table this fine afternoon, working on a year-end project assigned by her second grade teacher.

Lest I be misunderstood, let me say up front: I revere teachers. I taught high school for a year and a half – a media class, which isn’t even a real subject – and every morning, I woke up and prayed for the flu. It was that miserable. Teaching is a calling, a gift, a ministry. I’m in awe that there are people who love this job and love my kids and pass on knowledge with creativity and wit and patience.

But the homework. Oy. The homework. And in the spring, no less.

This is new territory for me, since Natalie is my oldest. I’m still a guppy in the school of school. But I’ve heard the grumbling about homework for years. What does it really accomplish? Isn’t it just busy work? Wouldn’t it be better for kids to have that time for their family? What happens when projects are assigned that are clearly beyond the ability of the child to handle?

And then, the biggest irritant of all – the year-end project. Seems teachers just can’t resist assigning one last, comprehensive project a mere feet before the student cross the finish line – and that project is almost always something that involves the whole family.

It’s like those college professors who pile on the paperwork near the end of the semester, right before finals, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they aren’t the only professor in the world.

Doubling the pain for us in the Upper Midwest is that, by the middle of May, it’s finally nice enough for the kids to play outside. I don’t mind gigantic projects in January, when there is nothing else to do but watch the snow fall and the thermometer break. But when it’s 85 and sunny and the lilacs are blooming and the gardens are being planted? Homework seems downright malicious.

But what can a guppy parent do? Nothing, I think.

So tonight, we’ll eat ice cream indoors, while we fill her covered wagon with things a typical pioneer family might have taken on their trip out west. (I’m not sure the Ingalls’ horses were as glittery or as purple as the Polly Pocket horse pulling our wagon. Clearly, our wagon is headed for Vegas.) (Come to think of it, Natalie did add a small deck of cards a few minutes ago. Double-down, Pa. Double-down.)

Then we’ll pack it carefully for the trip to school tomorrow and turn it in with a flourish.

Because nothing says Instant Summer like no homework for three months. Hallelujah and amen.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well -- once she's done with her homework, of course.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Do Over

By Kelly

The morning has not gone well.

I had hoped to get up early and write, something I rarely do, but hold as an option of last resort when my brain is too mushy to be creative after the kids go to bed. (And last night, my brain was mushy by 9:00 PM; I almost fell asleep reading “Amelia Bedelia.” Do you have any idea how hard it is to say Amelia Bedelia when your jaw is going slack? Try it. Amelia Bedelia. Amelia Bedelia. Amelia Bedelia. That’s almost impossible for me to say on the best of days.)

So. I set my alarm for 6:00 AM and hoped for a few blessed moments alone. To think. To maybe drink some coffee in peace. To hear the quiet.

But ‘twas not to be. The baby got up at 5:30, irritable and scowling, obviously not even sure she wanted to be  awake yet. (“You and me both, kid,” I sighed to myself.) I spent the next hour trying to get her back to sleep. But she never settled. At 6:30, I gave up. I carried the cranky baby downstairs, the better not to wake her older siblings, and turned on the TV. Maybe “Blue’s Clues” could buy me a few minutes of peace.

But ‘twas not to be. The older kids, who are tuned in to such things, heard the quiet blip of the TV turning on and quickly joined me on the couch, rubbing their eyes and pleading for an early morning showing of “Special Agent Oso,” their new favorite show. Too tired and annoyed to stick with the household rule of “no TV on school mornings,” I flipped the channel and decided to take a shower before writing. Surely, in the shower, I could find a few moments alone to think and create and generally pull myself out of the Forest of Frustration.

But ‘twas not to be. No sooner had I gotten into the shower than the baby started playing Peek-A-Boo with the curtain. Then, sensing a weakness, she ransacked the cabinets, spilling all the Q-Tips on the floor and shredding the toilet paper, which I had neglected to remove from the holder before I got into the shower.

And on it went. The kids started fighting as soon as the TV went off. “He hit me! He kicked me and hit me and spit at me and he doesn’t even care!” I couldn’t decide what to wear. The dog sat in her kennel and looked at me with weary eyes, wondering if I was every going to get around to taking her for a walk. The baby picked up a bag of small balloons from the game Balloon Lagoon, spilled them on the kitchen floor and proceeded to throw handfuls of them down the air vent. (Better than eating Polly Pocket’s shoes, though. I think.) Connor refused to brush his teeth unless I helped him. Natalie pouted because I wouldn’t hear her case for “why brothers should get a spanking every time they hit me.” And because my husband, the barista in our family, is out of town, I had no coffee.

I was snarky and exasperated. Like the weather outside my window, I felt gray and hazy and heavy with irritation.

We drove to school – after I ran up three flights of stairs to get a pair of socks for the baby since I couldn’t find her second sandal. The older kids, feeling the tension, ate pretzels (also known as “breakfast” on mornings like today) and tried to make small talk during the drive.

More than anything, I wanted a do over.

Outside Natalie’s classroom, I knelt down and gave her a big hug and said, “You know I’m not mad at you, right?”

She smiled in a knowing sort of way. “I know.”

“And you know I love you, right? More than anything in the world.”

“I know.”

I put on the baby’s socks and shoes, and we continued down the school hallways to take Connor to his preschool class. I was deep in my thoughts, brooding really, when a parent going the other way said, “Wow, someone’s sure happy this morning.”

Ummmm. Excuse me? Happy?!?

Then I realized she was pointing to the baby. The baby, who had woken up grumpy and whiny, was now toddling the hallways, swinging her arms in front of her in a lighthearted fashion. Her eyes were twinkling and inquisitive. Every few feet, she would stop to gaze at the colorful pictures on the wall, remnants of the recent school art show. And at each stop, she would loudly sigh, “Ooooooo!” with a musical, deep voice, then shriek loudly, swing her arms some more and move on to the next attraction.

Yes. Happy. That’s what she was. She was happy. She was in the moment, not weighed down by a morning gone awry. She was awash in the joy of discovery, eager to see what might be around the next corner.


And in that instant, she did magic.

She gave me a perfect do over.

This post is dedicated to the box of Dora the Explorer Band-Aids that were destroyed while I wrote it. Because even happy babies need entertaining.

Kelly also writes at her personal blog, Love Well. That is, if she has enough Band-Aids.