Friday, September 30, 2011

TMI: The Post-Partum Body

Here beginneth the third chapter of the Book of Yoga Pants, wherein I battle back from my I-bore-a-baby body one final time. 

At the moment, my body is a strange assortment of lumps and bumps. There is dough everywhere. It is a study in fabric draping, except that it is not fabric hanging around, it is my skin. 
Until just a few days ago, my incision was still covered in steri-strips. There were so many of them that they looked like a row of long, skinny teeth smiling across my lower abdomen. It was a pretty goofy smile. Half cute, half horror flick. The strips itched like crazy, and I am so happy they are gone. My body is all mine again now.

The incision site is still a bit temperamental--stinging and pulling one moment, and then the next it seems to be without nerve endings at all, as though nothing ever happened. 
And yes, there’s a flappy underbelly thing going on. I know it will be with me for a long, long time.
My breasts are on fire a lot of the time. They weigh about 8 pounds each. They hurt so much and get so engorged that they are hot to the touch. Thankfully, Bronwen doesn’t seem to mind. I am fantasizing about the cabbage leaf and quark treatment. My chest pulls me over with its weight. It gives me headaches. Pumping helps.

The breast weight and my hesitancy to really stand up straight and stretch out my lower abdomen make me feel like I am walking around like the hunchback of Notre Dame. This, in turn, makes my back ache. I am trying to channel my two grandmothers and stand up tall and proud, rolling those shoulders up and back and down...
I long to exercise. I satisfy myself with meager walks around the neighborhood. 

I am attempting to make healthy eating choices, but I will be the first to admit that there are way too many carbs and sweets in the rotation these days.

I know, I know. I can already hear you. I'm not even three weeks post-partum. People tell me I'm looking great (and I love them for it), and for the most part I am in fact pretty well. But underneath the surface, underneath the clothing, is a body which is a foreign landscape to me right now. I am doing my best to be patient with it, but we all know patience is not my greatest strength.

I am trying to treasure all that comes with renewed mommyhood--and I really, truly treasure so much right now--but the physical limitations are making me crazy. Just a little. A manageable crazy. A typical "me" level of crazy.

Yours from the couch,
The GM

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Anatomy of a Mini: part three

Moving right along in the mini album. (Cover is here. Part one is here. Part two is here.) These pages are fairly self-explanatory, so I won't go into great (and often boring) detail.

But I will say this about the "enjoy" layout below: the blue butterfly hiding Madelyn's private parts and the orange/pink circle on Jillson do not actually appear on the layout in the album. In the album, they are 100% nakey. I just felt the girls might prefer it if I did NOT share their private parts with the entire internet.

A rare photo of the Gutsy Family pre-kids:

A favorite quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt (thank you, 10th grade American history class), paired nicely with a photo from the Gutsy Dad's marathon and another from a stations-of-the-cross hike through the German countryside.

Unfortunately, when these two pages ended up next to each other in the finished album, the result was rather busy. Na ja.

"Cherish" turned out to be one of my favorite layouts in the album -- our crazy life by the numbers. (And one of the more recent pictures of us. Since I made this album in August, this is the only photo in which Bronwen "appears.")

Only one more installment to go!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Photo Shoot Struggles

I tried very hard to take some adorable two-week-old pictures of Bronwen Eliza on Monday. She was not pleased. This was the best shot I could get:

Things got a little better when I added in the "props," aka Big Sister and Double Big Sister.

God only knows what they were planning to do:

Time to review the "don't bite your friends" episode of Yo Gabba Gabba:

I thought a little dress might help cheer Bronwen up. I was wrong. Again, this was the best shot I could get:

At least, later on, when Bronnie fell asleep on the couch, I was able to get a cute sleeping picture with the phone. Love those CHEEKS!

Today we had Bronwen Eliza's two-week check-up, and she passed with flying colors.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anatomy of a Mini: part two

More pages from the 10th anniversary album that I made for the Gutsy Dad. (The cover can be seen here; the opening pages are shown in this post.)

This layout shows a picture from our actual wedding--the one that happened ten years ago. (Photos of me in a big white dress, appearing elsewhere in this album, are from Wedding #2, which happened only 9 years ago.) 

The prompt word "share" reminded me of this favorite quotation from Buddha. I definitely believe that happiness grows when it is shared. (Please see footnote about my Sing & Smile campaign, below, for more on this topic.) But I also believe that the opposite is true: burdens must also be shared. How else can you lessen them?

This has got to be one of my favorite family portraits of all time. Madelyn is featured, um, prominently. Jillson is barely visible. All you see of the Gutsy Dad is his hands. And yet it really holds a whole lot of wonder for me.

One of the challenges I faced in putting this book together is that I could not choose the focus words -- those were chosen for me. I knew I wanted to address certain themes, so I enjoyed trying to figure out which words to use for what theme, and what photos would help augment the theme. 

We live in a strange state of acquiring more, but trying to do with less. It's tricky for me to explain. But there are times when I can look around at the man and girls I love and think this is it; I need no more than this. This is never truer than at the end of a long separation.

Here's a look at the two pages together:

And that's it for today, dear friends.
The GM


The Sing & Smile campaign:
As many of you know, I love singing in choirs. It helps that I also love church music. I know not everyone is a singer (and maybe more people would enjoy church more if they didn't feel forced to sing?), but sometimes--as a choir member--it bums me out to process down the aisles, singing my little guts out, only to see people with their faces buried glumly in their hymnals or--worse--staring into space, determined not to sing, not to even look at any of those weirdo singers walking down the aisle. So, shortly after joining the choir in Kansas City, I decided to launch a one-woman sing & smile campaign. Why should I allow grumpy parishioners to ruin the fun for me? Do I really need to pretend not to see them? Nope. I have enough theater training to know how to throw a dazzling smile. So now I sing and smile and thoroughly enjoy myself. I make it a point to smile and make eye contact with as many people as possible. (Not in a creepy way; more like a "hey, how are you?" way. At least that's my intent.) There hasn't been a single Sunday since I started my smile campaign that I haven't smiled, from ear to ear, while singing the processional hymn. Every now and then it pays off -- one grumpy person gets snapped out of gloominess and smiles back. It is true that these people may be smiling back because I look kind of crazy and they are trying not to laugh or display annoyance. It is also possible that not a single one of them is willing, suddenly, to sing. But it's also possible that these people are actually happy. And that is enough. To me, this is happiness shared.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Music Mojo: K'Naan's "Wavin' Flag"

A few things: The Gutsy Dad went back to work today (paternity leave over), which means he left the house before 5:00am. My alarm went off at 6:00am, which afforded me just the right amount of time to do the New & Improved (Now With Breastfeeding!) Morning Routine all by myself.

Guess what? All four Gutsy Girls (ages ranging from 2 weeks to 35 years) made it to the bus stop in time to put Miss Jillson on the bus. 

I believe I went above and beyond the call of duty when I showed up wearing actual clothes (no pjs or sweats) and a supportive bra. Ever the optimist, I wore a cute Red Sox t-shirt.

I cannot believe Bronwen is already two weeks old. That was a really fast two weeks. More on this topic later, I'm sure.

Madelyn and I are hanging at home today with Bronnie, catching up on to-dos. Maddie is playing the piano. She hops down periodically, trots over to the sleeping baby, and coos: "wobby nobby lobby baby Bwon-winn..." I have no idea what "wobby nobby lobby" means, only that it is pure Madelyn--her version of "aw, what a cute little baby." She says it A LOT.

Kitchen clean-up this morning was greatly aided by the following song, which I am still listening to on repeat, getting myself stoked up for tonight's episode of The Sing-Off:

Yes, yes I do have a thing for South African music. Love the beat. Love the group singing, the choral-like harmonies, the power this music has to uplift. Apartheid, Coca-Cola, and World Cup soccer issues aside, I just really love a good shout out for freedom. (Makes this song perfect for a dorky, collegiate a cappella anthem, no?) I mean, when was the last time an American pop song helped the USA "come together?" Mm hmm. 
When I get older I will be stronger.
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag. 
So wave your flag. Now wave your flag. And wave your flag.
Today the shameless Gutsies are letting their freak flags fly.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Guard Dog

Tilly has been waiting patiently for this moment for almost two weeks. She has been asking and asking and asking. Finally, just the other day, it came. She was allowed on the couch next to the baby.

Tilly has always loved snuggling with the babies, and while we try to keep her away so as to avoid accidental sitting-upon-the-baby incidents, there's only so long you can hold off when those big, brown, pleading eyes practically weep: "Please may I sleep next to her? Pleeeease?"

Tilly & Bronwen, September 21, 2011

Tilly & Madelyn, January 12, 2009 

Tilly & Jillson, July 29, 2006

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Anatomy of a Mini: part one

Realizing this may be of interest only to my scrappy friends (and to those of you who are diehard romantics), I thought I'd devote some time to the innards of the anniversary mini-scrapbook I made for the Gutsy Dad.

At the end of August I participated in a free two-week workshop from BPC called "Words to Live By." Every day, for 12 days, a different instructor introduced a special word with thoughts and ideas about how to interpret it creatively. I challenged myself to view each of those words in the context of my decade of married life.  

These are the results.

A word or two about the album: this is a 6 x 6 mini album, which started out completely naked. I love this size. Jump rings and the lack of page protectors make it possible for the pages to be as chunky as you want. It's very easy to use 4x6 photos (full bleed), crop photos down to fit inside, or to reprint favorite photos at much smaller sizes at home. I also love the freedom of being able to have elements hanging off the margins of the pages.  

The cover of this album can be viewed here. It's the first time I've stitched through so many layers (the chipboard letters, the patterned paper, the cover itself), and I am so pleased the needle held. I didn't trust the adhesive on those letters and took a cue from Karen Grunberg to stitch across the bottom of the letters.

Above and below you can see the title page. Since the album cover had that cute window through which to see and read the "words to live by" tag, I felt I had to do something to protect the printed tag from smearing. What you may or may not be able to see upon closer examination is that I added a page (the aqua strip) connected to a 4x6 transparency overlay.  In the photo above, the overlay is over the right-hand page. Below, the overlay is "open," and the title page is exposed.

Our first word was "give." I could've gone in a million directions with this word. Ultimately, I decided to focus on the greatest gift I have received from the Gutsy Dad: strength.

The photo is from our second wedding. (I'm fairly certain you can click on the photo below to read the journaling.) I think my favorite thing about this spread is the pennant I made (upper right).

That's it for today. Stay tuned for future installments detailing the innards of this mini-book.

Yours in scrap-geekiness,
The GM

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Madelyn makes sense of the new world order.

Out of the blue, while playing:

Madelyn: Papa, you are not pregga-nent. 
Gutsy Dad: Nope, I'm not.
M: You are just a boy. 
GD: That's right.
M: You are married to my mom.
GD: Exactly.

And also:

Madelyn: Mommy, you are not pregga-nent any more.
Gutsy Mom: That's right.
M: My baby came out of your belly.
GM: Yes, she did.
M: With a hat on.
GM: Umm...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today Makes Ten

Today, the Gutsy Dad and I celebrated our 10th anniversary (of our actual, first wedding) by having a perfectly regular day.

The day began with baby hiccups at 2:30am. Audio courtesy of a slightly groggy Gutsy Mom and her iPhone:

In the (real) morning, all five of us went to the bus stop together.

The Gutsy Dad went running with Madelyn in the jogging stroller; I paid bills online and made some business calls.

We thought about going out to lunch so we made ourselves presentable, but then we remembered the deli where we wanted to eat is closed on Mondays. So, instead we stayed home (looking presentable for each other) and ate some of the awesome church ladies' food.

We read naptime stories with Bronwen and Madelyn.

While Maddie napped, we gave Bronwen her first at-home bath, made some inky footprints of her adorable tootsies, weighed her, and took 300,000 photos of her since she is officially one week old today. (She weighed in at 6 lbs 15.5 oz, up an ounce and a half from her discharge weight.) Scroll to the end for the adorable baby photos.

While Bronwen napped, we opened anniversary presents: gorgeous cranberry & sienna pottery which my parents brought back from Village Pottery on Prince Edward Island. I absolutely adore the colors in these ceramics. The Gutsy Dad and I have been collecting this pottery for a few years, but our collection took a serious hit last year when a shelf fell off the wall and shattered most of our pieces. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for re-starting our collection!

And I gave the Gutsy Dad this mini-book which I made in August and have been dying to share with him.  I'll share the inside pages with you in the days ahead. 

After Jillson came home, we read stories and practiced sight words, and then the entire Gutsy clan went on a family walk. Please note the random head gear fashioned by the girls out of scrapbooking paper. These fashions were designed primarily by Madelyn. She and Jillson had "crowns;" Jillson's was modified into a helmet-topping loop thing. Zephie tore her paper collar off in the first 30 seconds of the walk; Tilly kept hers on. 

I still can't believe Jillson is finally riding her bike as well as she is.

Dinner was again courtesy of the church ladies: tomato basil soup with garlic bread, green beans, and fresh corn off the cob. Iced tea. Kinder Schoko from our German neighbor for dessert.

Now the Gutsy Dad and I are watching the season premiere of The Sing-Off, snuggling with the littlest diva, and enjoying vanilla ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce.

I loved today.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Week Ago Today

I love playing the "week ago today" game or the "last year on this day" game or the "it was five years ago this week" game, which is a trait I believe I inherited from my father. So here we go.

Just last week, I was really enjoying looking like this. I mean it. I really loved being big and beautiful and pregnant. I did not enjoy the physical discomforts, of course, but I really tried to revel in my state, knowing it would be my last time.

Just last week we were deeply focused on these two:

Yes, those are the two fur kids in our graciously huge shower. Why are they in the penalty box? Because they are on elaborate bathing schedules these days. Yup, the pups chose the month before the baby came to have all sorts of issues come to a head. (Auerbachian friends will not be surprised.)

Tilly's seborrhea resurfaced, she developed an "interesting" growth in her private parts, and while under anesthesia to deal with said growth (and to have her teeth cleaned) she revealed to us not one, but two lumps in her mouth which were promptly removed. Thankfully, the lumps and growths all proved to be benign, and after a course of antibiotics and with regular shampoos for her seborrhea, she seems to be doing just fine. Phew.

Meanwhile, Zephie's allergies and/or nerves took over and she developed two crazy hot spot areas. Her benign fatty belly lump (present since 2006) started growing rapidly. Another trip to the vet, another day of anesthesia, and she has emerged with clean teeth, three removed lumps (including the very large one on her belly), and her own shampoo schedule for allergies. She, too, has just finished her course of meds, so we can simply focus on her two incision sites, one of which has a seroma. (This requires a trip to the vet every few days to have the site drained; we're hoping this ends next week.)

And then there's their arthritis.

Oh. Wait. What? Hm? What's that you say? You came here for cute baby pictures and were confronted instead by the phrase "interesting growth in her private parts?" 

Okay. I know you aren't THRILLED to be reading about my geriatric dogs' health issues (kind of like a visit to an old folks' home, no?), but they are my girlies, too. They are part of my real life. And they were DEFINITELY part of my last week.

Anyway. Back to that last week. Tilly got in a few last minute snuggles with the belly:

We (the human Gutsies) went out for a "Final Friday as Four" dinner at the Upper Crust:

On Sunday, we went to church as usual. I am glad we went, for many reasons. Most superficially, I was excited to wear one of my favorite maternity dresses one last time. These are pretty much the final belly shots. (By the same time the next day, Bronwen was out!)

A side note about church: September 11th is hard for me for personal reasons. Going to church always helps this. It particularly helped this week that our priest gave an intelligent and honest sermon about forgiving our enemies. I got pretty teary. Forgiveness is something I have a very hard time practicing. I struggle to see how forgiving others for their wrongdoings helps me; it helps the other, certainly, but I seem to be able to move on just fine without it. I've also been thinking about forgiveness quite a bit thanks to Unbroken. But I digress.

By the end of church, we felt wrapped in love (and laden with meals), and we headed home to pack bags for the hospital.

Shortly, Meme and Kiki and their dog, Charlotte, arrived and, as usual, they got right into the swing of things. Mom made us an awesome "Abschiedsfest" dinner of oven-baked "fried" chicken, corn and corn bread from the farmer's market (my requests), and salad to make us feel virtuous. There was also a delicious homemade peach pie. (Heaven!)

At story time, the Gutsy Dad snuggled with three girls. (L to R: Zephie, Tilly, Charlotte.) 

While Meme and Kiki were in charge of the stories.

I just watched and basked and rubbed my belly, counting my many, many blessings.

Friday, September 16, 2011

They Are So Into Her

And I love it. 

Of course they are still pushing many buttons these days, but not with regard to the baby. They love her. Jillson comes flying off the bus at the end of the day to run home to see "her" baby. Madelyn chooses one of her own lovies (often her most prized) every night to give to Bronwen to sleep with.

Finally for today, I leave you with our new and improved family portrait, Gutsy Style (i.e. with no two people smiling or looking at the camera at the same time.) God only knows when we'll get it together to get a picture with all five of us in it again!