Thursday, July 17, 2008

Retrospective: On Stay-at-Home Motherhood

The conclusion of our adventures in Denmark marked the “equality point” of Michael’s and my ventures as primary caregivers of our children. Michael was home with John for ten months after my maternity leave and I was the stay-at-home parent for our ten-month stint in Copenhagen. I thought of our trip as a chance to “try on” being a stay-at-home parent and, as you’ve read, its had it’s ups and downs.

I very clearly remember the moment when the glow of staying home wore off. On this particular day I tripped and fell quite ungracefully on the bus, experienced a heavy dose of ‘Mom guilt’ from a well-meaning acquaintance, locked John and myself out of the apartment, thought I'd lost our digital camera, cried openly for a whole city block over it until I realized the camera was in the back pocket of the stroller, and then was pooped on by a rather large bird. At dinner that night every time John would accidentally drop food on the floor, I felt like crying. Later I consoled myself by going to the mall, child and stroller-free, to ride up and down the escalator, and it was then I knew the honeymoon was over.

I spent the majority of this year trying to negotiate a new identity of sorts for myself. So much had to change – even down to things like my "personal fashion concept" – business casual is great for the professional world but not so much for Mother World. The success of my day was measured in the cleanliness of my apartment, the number of tantrums my toddler had and if I managed to get both children to nap at the same time when it was once measured in things more tangible and permanent. I discovered to my chagrin that new acquaintance’s initial impression of me was that I was "just a mom" when I still thought of myself as a working professional. And I came to hate how trivial and dismissive the word "mom" or especially "mommy" seemed when applied as a label. But I’ve slowly been learning how to find my way through all of this; allowing myself a little time away to exercise some of the skill sets I particularly enjoyed in my professional life, getting enough sleep at night, and learning to be as confident in myself as a primary caregiver as I was as a professional.

At the core though I’m both surprised and not surprised to find that I genuinely like my children and actually enjoy seeing their small selves grow and blossom up close on a daily basis. I get lots of little comments about how close they are in age and how energetic John is, all with an undercurrent of "how-in-the-world-do-you-survive-I-would-never-want-to-live-your-life." But I am not sorry and I don’t pity myself. I love that John already doesn’t remember a time when there wasn’t James, and even now you can see a bond of brotherhood between them. They’re both energetic but it’s a focused energy that is full of infectious enthusiasm.

This coming year I’ll be back for another round of staying at home. There are many reasons why this makes sense – lack of affordable quality childcare on short notice and possibly only being in our new home for one year among other reasons. And while I have persistent internal questions about whether I’m being a good model of womanhood for my sons and as we face certain negative financial implications of my not working full time, I’m rather looking forward to it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Six

We've been staying with my parents since returning to the States. Saturday we left for Texas to visit Michael's family for most the month of July. We strategically planned it so the first leg of the journey was nap time, and the last half of the journey would be during the kid's bedtime. And for the most part everything went according to plan. We were delayed a bit when John got car sick about an hour after dinner, and another delay when we had to stop to assuage James who is cutting his first tooth. Early Sunday morning - our 6th anniversary - found us at a Shell station somewhere in Arkansas; nursing a baby in the car, air smelling like sulfur, my teeth with that gross road trip fuzziness, splitting a pint of Blue Bell ice cream with the man who is so much a part of me that I can barely remember what life was like before there was us.

I chiseled out a bite of ice cream with my flimsy plastic spork, James nursing away, smiling at the memory of the two young kids that we were that day.

"Here's to us."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Retrospective: On Repatriating

We returned to the Homeland three weeks ago today. We were only gone for 10 months but those months were packed with Large Life Events, let alone the challenges of learning to navigate a new country and culture. I prepped myself for our return to our old community by reminding myself that it wouldn’t be the same as when we left.

It feels exactly the same. Down to the same songs playing on the radio.

I feel a little like a time traveler who had spent a year away on a crazy adventure, returning to the day after she left and is shocked to find things haven’t changed as much as she has changed.

Don’t get me wrong. There is something profoundly comfortable in the familiarity of coming home. After a year of feeling mildly off balance and somewhat self-conscious every time I stepped onto the Copenhagen streets, it’s amazing being able to read a menu with ease and not have to start every conversation with an apology for only speaking English.

But I’m also been walloped over the head by certain aspects of America that never really noticed before. Like we drive everywhere. And I get that we’re a vast, VAST country that had never had the need to consider space issues – there is little stopping us from continuing to build out. But while we’re at it, can’t we put in a few sidewalks? While in Copenhagen I got in the habit of walking and I since arriving home I get the itch to take a long walk each day. This weekend I was out doing some shopping at one of our sprawling American strip malls and since I had some time to kill I decided to save a little of my $3.93 per gallon gas and walk across the better part of Hamburg to another store. That’s when I realized there were no sidewalks or cross walks. To be fair, this particular location is the most poorly conceived strip mall ever. I will never forget getting stuck in that parking lot for 45 long minutes one December weekend, slowly feeling the Christmas spirit ooze out of me. But still.

In setting myself up to expect everything to be different I believe that I somehow expected that “America” a nation/culture/people at large would have changed as much as I have over this past year. As if it somehow would have taken steps to put in significant bike lanes and produce a truly affordable hybrid SUV. That it would have given up Coke and chips and ice cream because it’s too expensive to buy, and hang it’s laundry outside because it was just ridiculous to pay $4 to dry one load too.

We’re home. It’s really, really great. But it feels profoundly different. And the same.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Keys

Poor John. In Denmark we would let him play with our keys when we returned from a trip out. All the doors in our little flat had key holes and he could entertain himself for about a half hour pretending to unlock doors.

And then we arrived in America and suddenly key rings included rubbery buttons that were just perfect for chubby little toddler fingers – as John discovered early one morning when he climbed silently out of his Pack ‘n’ Play at 6:00am.

A loud car alarm went off. My Dad got up to investigate a minute or so later and found John standing at the door, keys in hand, brow furrowed with concern.

“HONK,” John said imitating this new noise that was just introducing itself into his Toddler World. “HONK. HONK.”

Now his old fun toy is off limits. Poor John.

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Ode to Apple

Our laptop is taking a week-long vacation at a nearby Apple Store for a few hardware and cosmetic concerns. This is all being done for free since my beloved MacBook is still under warranty. I love Apple - especially their great service.

I've been stewing over a few retrospectives that I hope to post here when MacBook is safely home again. (Look out. She's going to get all "deep" and "philosophical.")

Until then.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Photo Friday


At the Lock and Key
Originally uploaded by TilleyShots

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Snakes on a Plane

From the moment we found out Michael had the Fulbright I was dreading the flight back to the States knowing John would be almost two. It's just not the best age for flying. Bless their hearts and all that. But I became more hopeful when we got a flight that left Copenhagen at 3:30pm rather than the normal crack-of-dawn flight. This way John's bedtime would fall right in the middle of the nine-hour transatlantic flight. I wasn't worried about James since it's super easy to fly with kids who aren't yet mobile and who are still breastfed. Nurse them during take off and landing to protect their ears, and then the hum of the plane puts them to sleep. Easy-peasy.

We get our four carry-ons, car seat and stroller on the plane in record time, switch seats with a Very Kind Guy so we can all sit together in back middle row of the plane, and start to breath easy. And then discover the one thing John wants to do more than anything is kick the seat of the Very Kind Guy who is now front of us. We pulled out all the new toys we had saved to entertain John on the flight. We plugged him into Horton Hears A Who. We tried distracting him and threatening him. We each took a foot and held it. Four hours later, Very Kind Guy was into his sixth glass of wine and John finally fell asleep. I hope he knew we were doing everything we could think of.

To every person who has had a small child kick the back of their seat on a long international flight, I apologize.

The rest of the journey was physically taxing, but uneventful. We made it through customs in O'Hare at what felt like midnight to all four of us without incident. My first order of business after getting our ridiculous amount of baggage through customs, finding our way to the domestic gate and calling my mother was to buy a super-sized, corn syrup filled, icy cup of McDonalds Coke.

It tasted like America.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Doctor Who

Almost six years ago Michael started his doctoral journey and it all cumulated today with the defense of his dissertation. In between the beginning and the end were two masters degrees (one for each of us), two children, three moves – one of them abroad, one Fulbright, rich times, poor times and the better part of our 20-something life. And Michael celebrated, as only he can, with a bucket of chicken and Blue Bell ice cream.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Photo Friday


Cities & Knights, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.


We did make it home in one piece. Posting will recommence once I get my fill of Cities & Knights.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Long "Hej Hej" (Goodbye)

I've reached that point - less than 48 hours from our departure - where I remember once again why I dislike moving so much. The constant disarray, trying not to openly sob when your toddler's first little friend gives you a hug goodbye and strategizing about how to pack all your most essential earthly possessions into seven checked bags and four carry-ons. And trying not to think too creatively about all the possible horrors of hauling those 11 bags, two small children, one stroller, one carseat and one Snugli from one continent to another between the hours of what will feel like 3:30pm-6:00am.

I'm excited about going home. Early Wednesday morning when we first plant our feet back in the Homeland will be a very happy time. But for now it's just one last goodbye to Copenhagen and the wonderful people we met here. And lots of Shawarma for dinner.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Photo Friday

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Well, in Denmark..."

One thing I've noticed about people who live abroad is their tendency to compare everything back to their time overseas. I have the feeling that I could be particularly obnoxious about this so I'm going to try to get it out of my system now.

Well, in Denmark gas is about $9.00 per gallon. In Denmark you pay a car tax that is 110 percent of the value of the car. They had great public transportation in Copenhagen. In Copenhagen you didn't feel like you were taking your life in your hands each time to decided to bike in traffic because there are dedicated bike lanes.

In Denmark we fit four people into a 527 square foot, one-bedroom apartment and it wasn't so bad. In Denmark we didn't have a big refrigerator, an oven, a dishwasher, or a dryer but it was doable for 10 months (though I will be happier than a 1950s housewife to have those things again).

In Denmark we had about five bakeries within a three block radius and would buy the most delicious breads and danishes.

In Denmark the sun would go down at 3:30pm in the winter and 10:30pm in the summer. Just before we left Michael would wear my black out eye goggles that I bought for the plane, and each night I would make some crack about them ("To the batcave, Batman!").

In Denmark they have universal health care and I had really great experiences with their maternity care system.

In Denmark they don't have a word in Danish that translates "please."

In Denmark beer costs less than bottled water and Coke.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gingered Fresh Lemonade

The weather is sunny and warm here in Copenhagen, we've been doing a lot of picnic-ing lately and even grilled out with friends a few weekends back, all of which puts me in the mood for lemonade. I've been dreaming about the best homemade lemonade I ever had and managed to dig up the recipe.

Gingered Fresh Lemonade
(from Sunkist.com)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup crystallized ginger cut into thin strips
2 strips (about 3 inches) fresh lemon peel (removed with vegetable peeler)
3 ½ cups cold water
1 ¼ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 lemon, cut into cartwheel slices for garnish

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup water, sugar, ginger and lemon peel to a boil. Reduce heat and briskly simmer for 15 minutes. Remove and discard lemon peel. Add 3½ cups cold water and lemon juice. Chill several hours or overnight in a covered container. Serve in tall glasses over ice cubes and a few lemon slices.

Makes 6 servings

Friday, May 30, 2008

Photo Friday


Dyrehave (Deer Park), originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And now that I'm finally getting it, it's time to leave

I am a little surprised by how profoundly sad I am at the prospect of leaving Copenhagen. We're going back to a wonderful community near my family in a few weeks, but we're also leaving a wonderful community with people who became our family. Copenhagen and I were finally getting to know each other too. I've figured out how to most economically shop in her stores. I know how to signal with the bus driver to figure out if there is room for the stroller on the bus. I can get anywhere on public transportation with ease and (almost) don't flinch at the prospect of a 18 mile bike ride. I've gotten over seeing 16-year-olds buying beer, people sunbathing in their underwear and children left in their prams to nap on the sidewalk. I've come to have a feel for the rhythms of the city; the church bells that peal out the hours, the scores of religious holidays in a largely secular nation, the harsh darkness of winter and the piercing rays of the summer sun. And I roll my eyes along with the rest of the Danes at the tourist who take pictures of me out with the kids in the Christiania bike.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oh crap. There is a cartoon character on my blog.

James is at that great age where he is beginning to find his voice. Lots of "ahgoo" and "looo" and something else that I can only describe as talking whale, which is strikingly like the character Dory in Finding Nemo.

"Maaaamaaaa.... Iiiieeeee aaammmmmmmmmm a-waaaaaaK.... feeeeeeeeeed meeeeeeeee???? oooooooohhhhh....... iiiieeee poooooooood......."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Assistens Kirkegård

Early Saturday morning we hopped on the bikes and went off in search of the grave of the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard's one-time fiancée, Regina Olsen. The Danish cemeteries are absolutely beautiful. They are popular public green spaces - we saw a number of people jogging around the gravel paths, walking their dogs, and laying out reading books. They are so full of life that it's hard to remember they are a memorial to the dead. We picked up danishes and coffee on the way, and had a picnic breakfast. And also managed to take our first halfway decent family picture.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Photo Friday Saturday


Regina Olsen, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.


Regina was Kierkegaard's fiancée at one point in his life until he decided he didn't want to (basically) subject her to a life with him. Kierkegaard wrote The Seducer's Diary to help Regina recover from the affair in hopes that it would prompt her to despise him. Just some more good ol' nineteenth century drama.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

These Choices

This generally tends to be a transitional time of year for our family since we seem to be forever wed to the academic calendar. I've been thinking a lot about choices lately; choosing to support a partner through grad school, choosing to have a child, choosing the hope of future successes doing what you love over short term security, choosing to leave a wonderful job to run off and live in Europe, choosing to have another child and, oh, have him in another country. I've often thought we never seem to do life the easy way but I honestly wouldn't change anything if I had it to do over again (other than leaving for the hospital about 23 minutes earlier).

The Big Fear about coming here to Denmark was that the philosophy job market would fail Michael and we'd be stuck on the exit end of the Fulbright without anything to go home to. Looking for work in academe is a cold, soul-crushing process that defies all other norms in real world job searches. Suffice it to say that it hasn't been an easy year in that respect. But there is a job waiting for us when we go back and it just so happens that we somehow managed to end up one small town over from the city we left last August in a job market were you go where the job is and hope you don't end up in the one place you swore you'd never live.

We have a plane ticket home and a place to go. Our adventure here ends June 10.

Monday, May 19, 2008

First Hair Cut

You may have noticed from some of our Flickr pictures that John finally received his first hair cut. He was pretty much a baldy when we got here, but as of the end of April had developed a head full of pretty blond ringlets. Those pretty blond ringlets generally looked dirty and ratty unless they were within 30 minutes of being shampooed so I finally made the decision to trim them.

I have friends who talked about how hard it was to cut their kid's hair for the first time and how much they cried. But they also tend to be the kind of people who cry over almost all of their children's "first" - first time they rollover, crawl, walk. I remember being sad when John grew out of his newborn onesies and stopped nursing, but other than that I was leading the cheerleading section on all of his other firsts. So I calmly and rationally made this decision to chop off his hair and thought it wouldn't be a problem.

I made the first snip and immediately regretted it. Unfortunately cutting a toddlers hair is like deciding to ride on a roller coaster. It is wild and fast and there is no getting off. I had about 7.8 seconds to complete his first hair cut before he jumped off the chair so there was little time for pausing and tearfully reflecting on John's babyhood as I grabbed fingerfulls of hair and quickly whacked them off. And the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent in a fragile emotional state unbecoming of a woman of my self-perceived maturity and "it's just hair!" good sense. Serves me right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Probably the Best Beer in Town

As I'm sure you've gathered from the subject of this past week’s Photo Friday, I finally made it out to the Carlsberg Brewery for their tour. Michael isn’t a fan of beer so he volunteered to stay back with the boys while Joel and Robyn, Adam, Joel’s father and I made the trip out to the brewery. The tour is only 50 kr (about $10) and includes a visit to the Guinness Book of World Records largest collection of beer bottles, a history of Carlsberg beer gallery, a walk through the Carlsberg Brewery stables and a two glass sample of various Carlsberg beers. We had to rush a bit through the tour so we could make it to the end before the bar closed at 4:00p, but not before we learned how beer is a part of a well-rounded Danish breakfast, how back in the day Carlsberg workers were given a four liter daily allowance of beer, and Abraham Lincoln quotes can be found everywhere – including Denmark.

Incidentally, Carlsberg beer’s slogan is "Probably the Best Beer in Town" (mentioned forever ago here.) Which to someone with a marketing background sounded like the worst slogan ever. Probably the best beer? I finally figured out that this was more of a tongue-in-cheek jab at Danish culture that really looks down on any one who claims to be better than anyone else. In Danish culture you strive to be normal and non-unique as possible. It explains a lot; the standardized names for children and the modest marketing slogans.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Photo Friday

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Charlottenlund Beach

Somewhere along the way I remember reading a statistic about how much of Denmark is coastal. It was some significant amount - we'll say 60 percent. We currently live less than two miles away from a beach. The thing is I keep forgetting it's there. I'm an inland girl. I was 21 the first time I laid eyes on an ocean. I grew up water skiing on lakes and rivers instead. My parents were never beach people. Or camping people. For that matter they were barely even vacation people other than the trips we'd make to DC which were more about the educational experience than for the purpose of relaxing. When we first got to Copenhagen we took John out to our local beach and then it got cold and dark three days later and we never went back.

We've been having absolutely fantastic weather here in Copenhagen for the past two weeks. Sunny, mid-70s and everything is in bloom. This is largely why you haven't heard much from me this week as we've been trying to live as much as possible outside soaking in the sunshine after the long, dark winter. We finally made it out to a beach again this past weekend with our friends Robyn and Joel. This time we went up to the Charlottenlund Beach north of us. Being a freckle face, just the word "beach" makes me sunburn so I wasn't expecting to do much other than spend the majority of the trip slathering SPF 85 on my kiddies and myself. But the Charlottenlund Beach was primarily grassy park with a number of large shade trees and a beach at the end of it. On one end was the earthen remands of the Charlottenlund Fort and across the street was a lovely Danish cafe. And the grounds of the Charlottenlund Slot to walk through on your way to and from the train station. Lovely. Picturesque. This is a beach my lily white skin and general dislike of sand can get behind.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day



The question is which one will be John and which one will be James?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Photo Friday


Three Months, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

30

He's an old soul this husband of mine. Today his body took another step toward catching up with himself.

Happy birthday. I love you, babe.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Stick'em Up

There are a lot of things I didn't know were controversial until I became a mother. Things like breastfeeding in public, letting your baby cry themselves to sleep and circumcision. Another something that falls in that category is vaccinating your children.

James just had his first round of shots today (they start later in Denmark than in the States) and I've been reading up on the issue a little more lately. The best recent article I've read on the subject that seems to go beyond both extremes in the vaccination debate is The Needle and the Studies Done published recently in Brain, Child. It seemed to give a fair hearing to both sides of the argument and offers a middle ground (complete with the necessary Dr. Sears endorsement).

I've never had a good grasp on why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children but I tended to take a "live and let live" attitude toward the whole thing. Largely because I thought that not vaccinating a child was only risking infection in the nonvaccinated child. But then I was reading in passing about the measles outbreak in the States. Measles is still an active disease that effects 20 million people each year. In this case it was brought in by travelers and picked up by nonvaccinated children who in some cases passed it along to infants who haven't yet had their MMR vaccine. Infants like James.

To me this goes a little beyond live and let live.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 4

May 4 is the anniversary of the end of the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. There is a tradition in Denmark where people place candles in their windows on this day to commemorate the end of the Five Dark Years of occupation by showing off that black-out curtains were no longer needed.

If you're looking for a short synopsis of the Danish World War II experience, check out the Newbery Award winning children's book Number the Starsby Lois Lowry. It tells the story of how the Danes were able to save the majority of their Jewish population by smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats.

I've also always liked the story of the Danish King Christian X who stayed in Denmark during the occupation - unlike the monarchs of other occupied countries - and would ride his horse unarmed through the streets of Copenhagen every morning, a symbol of national solidarity and his ongoing battle to reclaim national sovereignty.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Photo Friday


Rainy Days Suck, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Friends Like These

On Monday I got to tag along with Michael and the rest of his Fulbright colleagues for a tour of the Danish Parliament by a top member of the Danish Social Democratic party and a dinner later that evening. As a former Political Science undergrad, I ate up getting an inside look at the Danish parliamentarian government. And the dinner afterward with a side of great conversation with a collection of Fulbright scholars and American embassy diplomats was a real treat. All of this was made possible by our friends Robyn and Joel who spent a huge chunk of a busy Monday workday playing with, chasing after and changing the many diapers of my two little people.

One thing I've really come to appreciate about expat living is how quickly and how strongly connections between people who sometimes share little besides their nationality develop. People are naturally drawn toward those who are like themselves - single, married, married with kid, married with multiple kids all in middle school, single parent with high school kid who doesn't take school seriously, married parents with kid in college who has troublesome boyfriend, etc. - though we miss out when we segregate ourselves like this.

Within the next 18 months or so it's likely that we'll move into a completely new American community where we have no ties to family or friends. I tend to think it's unlikely that I'll find another working, childless couple who will take time off work to volunteer their babysitting services so a stay-at-home mom can spend time out with her husband and his colleagues. Sadly the thought never crossed my mind when I was in a similar position before we started popping out the kiddies.

Thanks Robyn and Joel!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Peethz"

About a week ago we taught John how to say "please" when he wants something. He'll request something and then one of us will prompt in a smiley, sing-song voice, "What do you say???" and he'll respond with, "peethz!"

The please concept is still a little lost on him. A few days after our "please" breakthrough I was fussing at him for not doing what I told him to do.

"You may not do that, John! What did Mama say?"

"Peethz"

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Photo Friday Saturday


Sleepy Saturday Afternoon, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Golden Cream of Potato Soup

I think everyone grew up with some kind of potato soup that their mother, grandmother or friend's mom would make. This is my own little mother's recipe - one of those great carb-filled comfort foods that you need from time-to-time.

Golden Cream of Potato Soup
6 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
2 cups water
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped onions
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3 cups milk
¾ pound Velveeta

Bring to potatoes, celery, carrots, onions and water to boil. Stir in bouillon cubes, parsley, salt and pepper and simmer for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Reduce heat to low. Add milk and Velveeta stirring carefully to avoid scorching.

Serve with homemade biscuits made with a little fresh ground pepper.


If you live in a country without Velveeta (*cough* Denmark *cough*) you can substitute any cheese that works well in a cheese fondue like Jarlsberg, Emmenthaler (both Swiss-style) and Gruyere.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Passports and Things Like Them

What is it about driver’s license, school ID and passport photos? Regardless of how hard you try to do your hair just right, wear just the right short of shirt and focus on keeping a pleasant expression, you always end up looking like the walking dead. This is also true for the most youthful and darling among us as you can see from poor James’ passport photo. Next week we have an appointment at the American embassy to register James as an American citizen and apply for his passport and social security number.

One interesting thing I learned from going through the process of getting James’ Danish birth certificate is Danes aren’t required to give their children an official name until six months after they’re born. That must be nice for those people who take longer than nine months to agree on a name. Traditionally Danish children don’t have a name until it is announced at the child’s baptism; for example the now 1-year-old Danish Princess Isabella’s name wasn’t revealed to the public until her baptism. This is also why birth certificates are handled through your local church parish and not a regular state agency like it’s done back in the States.

Lucky for James his passport is only good for five year. On the other hand I have to show customs officials a picture of my bloated, eight-months-pregnant face for another eight years.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Photo Friday


Who Likes Shawarma?!, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Walk 5 Miles in My Shoes

Now that the weather is nicer, the boys and I have been spending a lot of time outdoors. Between the Christiania Bike and the double stroller we have been covering a lot of ground; out to the beach, into the center city, down to Christiania to feed the swans. I do it primarily because it entertains John, and James naps really well with the constant motion of the stroller and the bike. But I also take these long outings because they're good exercise. I tend to be one of those people who exercise grudgingly and without joy. But I find myself trying to lengthen walks and bike rides to melt the baby fat off my midsection kill time.

That's how I ended up on a five mile walk today (thanks for the distance measurements Gmaps pedometer). And any moment now my legs are going to turn black and fall off.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

I'm slowly getting back into cooking now that James is generally only waking up once at night and new patterns of juggling my two babies are falling into place. Last night I attempted a new recipe from my friend Karen over at Curious Lyle for Vegetarian Sloppy Joes. They were delicious and I ate more than I care to admit (nursing makes me feel like a bottomless pit).

I used red wine vinegar rather than white vinegar as it was what I had on hand and that tasted fine. These were very spicy as I used Mexene chili powder though a milder chili powder would likely make them more child-friendly.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

8 kaiser rolls

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, green pepper, and garlic: saute until tender. Stir in tomatoes, chili powder, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Stir in kidney beans, and cook an additional 5 minutes.

3. Cut a 1/4 inch slice off the top of each kaiser roll; set aside. Hollow out the center of each roll, leaving about 1/2 inch thick shells; reserve the inside of rolls for other uses.

4. Spoon bean mixture evenly into rolls and replace tops. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Good Fella

My Dad very kindly offered to do our taxes for us this year since he had all our tax paperwork and I strongly suspect he enjoys playing with TurboTax. Because of that we ended up spending more time than usual on the phone together over the weekend confirming details related to tax-like things.

Dad turned 60 last year but looks much younger. He's a humble man; I didn't realize until a few years ago when I was helping him put together a resume for a consulting job that he had been The Man in charge of a whole state's bank regulatory agency before he retired. I think he was so good at his job because he's such a natural judge of character. Dad has a soft southern drawl and the highest compliment he can pay is to say someone is a "good fella." He was the one who showed me how to give John his first bath and trim his tiny newborn fingernails (two things that are much harder than they look!).

Before we left for Denmark last August, I had been encouraging my Dad to check out all the free podcasts he could download on iTunes since he had just acquired my sister Rosalie's old Nano when she upgraded. Dad is reasonably technologically savvy but the podcast concept seemed a little foreign to him.

Then this weekend while were waiting for TurboTax to spin its wheels and give us our magic refund number, Dad commented, "I've been checking out those podcasts you told me about. There is a lot of really interesting stuff out there." He went on to detail the podcasts he discovered on baseball, genealogies, finances and every other topic that he finds interesting.

The next step is getting him to try putting those podcasts on the iPod.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Our Linguist

Language acquisition is such a great thing for a child. Finally being able to articulate what one is thinking. Communicating clearly with the people you love most. Today John spoke his first three word sentence as Michael was putting a fresh diaper on James:

"Bye-bye baby wee-wee."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Photo Friday


Christiania Biking, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.


And this week's other Photo Friday contender.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Things I Get Way Too Excited About

Riding the Escalator - I always ride the elevators when I'm taking public transportation due to the stroller and if I get caught during rush hour will sometimes have to wait an incredibly long time to get where I'm trying to go. About five weeks into my life as a stay-at-home mother, I got my first few hours away from John and the highlight of my outing was riding up and down the escalator at the local mall. Pathetic but true.

Using the Bathroom Unmolested - Which sounds crase but I can't think of another way to put it. You wouldn't think this was such a big deal until the bathroom becomes your only place of semi-privacy; a place to collect your thoughts and just be still for the 60 precious seconds you might have. Or perhaps longer if:

Both Children Are Napping at the Same Time - It's like a little miracle. And it's happening right now.

Decalf Starbucks Coffee - It's my afternoon treat obsession. I have yet to find good decalf coffee in this country and Starbucks only lives at the Copenhagen airport. It's my little taste of home.

Buttoning Into My Old Jeans - Thank you breastfeeding.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sha...warma!

One of our favorite things about Copenhagen are all the great shawarma shops. It's meat on a stick at its best. Shawarma night used to be a special treat that we'd enjoy once or twice a month but in these weeks since James arrived we've been frequenting our favorite local shawarma shop about once a week.

Our increased patronization became real to us Sunday night when Michael walked in the shop door and the owner already knew our order and which language to give it in.

"Two larges. One with chilis."

"Um. Yes, that's us."

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Gracious Covenant


Baptismal Day
Originally uploaded by TilleyShots

Just as God included the children of Abraham in the gracious covenant, God, who is rich in mercy and love, includes all of God's children in his covenant. God's promises are spoken in the waters of baptism. And as they grow, we teach them that they have been set apart in baptism as God's own children, bound to each other by the Holy Spirit, and joined to Christ's loving ministry for the life of the world, so that they may respond to God in faith and commitment.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Photo Friday


Post, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Things that make you go: "Haha"

The Slate.com Hillary Clinton Deathwatch. Current chance of winning the Democratic nomination sitting at 9.9 percent.

Monday, March 31, 2008

He Gets It

Michael spent about ten months as a stay-at-home dad/dissertating graduate student and I've come to really appreciate that circumstances worked out to make that our best option at the time. It's made us both very understanding of where the other is coming from; both from the stay-at-home side of things and the working parent side. He understands how you can spend a whole day with a child and seemingly get nothing accomplished besides brushing your teeth (if you’re lucky), and I get that he is pulled strongly in two very different directions – work and home. He goes out of his way to give me time away from the boys and I do my best to not add any unnecessary pressure to stay home when he needs to be at work.

It’s also nice to be able to express the frustrations that come from spending one’s day with two small children and have your spouse tell you they know exactly where you’re coming from, and how they often felt equal if not greater frustration caring for only one child.

It helps to know you’re in this together, and the one closest to you shares all the frustrations, joys, trials and moments of pure hilarity that come with parenthood.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Photo Friday


Christianshavn, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.



I thought about using this one instead.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hello Pipe Dream

From Slate.com: Clinton-Obama, Obama-Clinton: How they could run together and take turns being president.

I think it's telling that this article is entirely a discussion of legality while nothing is devoted to how two great egos would have to bend to make this happen, let alone make it happen and somehow not be a complete train wreck.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Easter Egg Hunt

The toddler Easter egg hunt is such a funny ritual. Teams of small children wandering around a yard picking up brightly colored plastic eggs trailed closely by their parents who are documenting the experience moment-by-moment with cameras. When they're not taking pictures or videos, the parental units are pointing to and encouraging the collection of these eggs. And if you're in Copenhagen, add to that scenario falling snow and all the children dressed in unisuits.

At some point this afternoon I pulled the camera away from my face, after spending a couple of minutes trying to convince John that plastic eggs were so much more interesting than soccer balls, and had to laugh.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Photo Friday


Unwilling Kisses, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hot Crossed Buns

In honor of Holy Week, I emailed my Ragamuffin Cooking Club friend Phil for his family Hot Crossed Bun recipe. Hot Crossed Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday with the glazed cross on the buns representing the crucifixion.

Hot Crossed Buns
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup orange juice, divided
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
3-4 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup currants or raisins
6 cup flour, divided

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dissolve yeast in 3/4 cups of warm orange juice (110-115 degrees F). [Phil notes: usually this has to stand until foamy or 5-10 min, but most yeast here is rapid/highly active and this step isn't always necessary]. Add yeast mixture, butter, sugar, eggs, additional 1/2 cup of warm orange juice, orange peel, salt, cinnamon, and 3 cups flour. Beat till smooth.

Add raisins. Stir in remaining flour as needed to form soft dough, which should be a bit stickier than standard bread dough. Knead for six to eight minutes until smooth.

Place in greased bowl, cover, let rise until doubled. Punch dough down and roll into about 22 pieces. Place two inches apart on cookie sheet, cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 min.

After buns cool, mix confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla into a thick paste and frost buns with a simple cross.


And don't forget to sing!

Hot cross buns,
One a penny buns,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hard Day's Night

When I was a new mother working full-time, my goal was always to spend as much time as possible with my son. Each moment I had with him was really special because so much of my time was spent separated from him. I've found over the past many months that has switched to where I now looking forward with almost equal anticipation to time I spend away from my children. And that is unsettling for me.

This is a challenging time in motherhood - these first few weeks after my sister left and while James is still getting up every 3-4 hours at night. And while Michael is wonderful about coming home early, helping with household chores and being incredibly understanding and supportive, I'm often tired and frustrated as I attempt to negotiate life with two small children. As much as I know it's good to take breaks and spend time apart from my children, as I truly believe it makes me a better mother when I am with them, I still have the nagging feeling it's a personal failing that I'm not more patient and loving.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Firsts

It's funny how one day can encompass so many firsts.

Like the first time I sat up all night with a fussy baby. Poor James was not feeling well for some reason and seemingly could only find comfort in the arms of his parents. So he and I cuddled the night away with me catching a few catnaps whenever he was able to find a few stretches of relief from whatever it was that was troubling him.

Or the first time I lost one of my children in a public place. John, James and I were in the toy store at the mall. Fueled by hunger and the weariness preceding naptime, John didn’t want to return to his stroller and ran to the back of the store. With James strapped to me in the Snuggli, I turned to grab the stroller and started toward the back of the store after him. And then quickly back to the front. No sign of John. Five minutes or an eternity later I found him three stores down right before he ran into the pet store to visit with the birds.

Or the first real snow of the winter. Here it is St. Patrick’s Day and instead of green beer we have a couple of inches of snow. It snowed all afternoon and I got to enjoy it in the best possible way: inside my warm apartment, with hot drinks, snuggly babies and a big pot of hot soup.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Photo Friday


Down the Stairs in Shadow, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Vegetable Orzo Soup

This is a great soup for spring because it is full of the promise of summer's farmers markets yet has the warmth needed for chilly spring days. It was also my introduction to the fennel bulb.

Vegetable Orzo Soup

1/2 c. dry white beans
4 c. water
3 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 c. fennel bulb, white part chopped
3 sprigs parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t. salt
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or one 14oz can diced tomatoes)
8 oz frozen green beans
1/3 c. dried orzo

Bring to beans and water to boil, cook for two minutes, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, for one hour. Drain beans and return to pot with chicken broth and next eight ingredients. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Add zucchini, tomatoes and green beans. Cook for an additional 15 minutes. Add orzo 10 minutes before serving. Top with basil pesto and parmesan when served.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Arriving Late to the Party

Terry Gross loves The Wire. You know, Terry Gross. The host of NPR's Fresh Air. I started downloading the podcast of the radio program shortly after we arrived in Denmark and generally really enjoy the subject matter. Discussions of books, movies, current events that have nothing whatsoever to do with childrearing, infant sleep patterns or random toddler behavior.

It's how I came to discover there was a television show on HBO called The Wire, which is apparently completely fascinating if one is to judge by the fact Fresh Air devoted seven interviews to the show in barely over three months. By interview #3 I was annoyed, by interview #5 I was voicing complaints to people who clearly didn't care (my husband and my toddler), and by interview #7 I begrudgingly suggested to Michael we add the show to our queue of mass media to not-very-legally download. I suppose it was inevitable as I discovered late last night that The Wire is #85 on the list of Stuff White People Like.

I learned that I'm already on board the choo-choo train by liking coffee, downloading podcasts to my iPod and... huh, what do you know... public radio.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blogging One-Handed

You may have noticed I have a new blogging category: blogging one-handed. Lately my prime blogging hours are in the middle of the night while I'm nursing James. If there were such a thing as The Breastfeeding Olympics I probably wouldn't qualify for One-Handed Typing as I'm terrifically slow. And I wouldn't be a competitor in Side-Lie Nursing or Ring Sling Nursing either. Though I would at least have a fighting chance at the silver for Discreet Nursing (Age 0-3 Months).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Riddle Me This

Why won't my toddler eat apple peels when he will eat orange peels?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Photo Friday


One Month 3.7.08, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

News Alert: New Moms Forget Stuff and Feel Like Idiots When They Do

Postpartum changes may bring on 'momnesia'

I love the subtitle: "Coping usually takes a few adjustments — plus, a sense of humor helps!"

Ok, Mickey. Whatever you say.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Snow!? Wait! Don't Blink!

This morning presented a beautiful blue sky and bright sun here in Copenhagen. It was mid-40s and John, James and I took a long walk to the grocery and through one of the lovely graveyards close to our house. We came in for lunch around 11:00 and about 30 minutes later I noticed it had gotten cloudy. It was snowing!

The unknowing might think, "Hey, you live way up north. It must snow, like, every day there." But this is only the third time I've seen snow this winter. Copenhagen winter is more about the rain, wind and the never ending gray and darkness. I've come to believe that the whole reason Danes party so hard and for so long at Christmas is to get through the dark, dark winter season. Because the dark seems almost nice when you string it full of twinkle lights.

And in the length of time it took to read the paragraph above, the snow cloud blew past and the sun came out again.

"In like a lion"... pfth! Uh-huh.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Room of One's Own

We bought a baby book for James shortly before he was born and I was flipping through it over the weekend, filling out bits and pieces of it here and there. I came up a little short when I got to the page that asked for a picture of the baby's room.

When we were expecting John, one of my favorite parts of preparing for his birth was creating his nursery. Now we're living in a one bedroom, 538 square foot apartment with four people rather than a two bedroom, 750 square foot apartment with three. So no official nursery for James. It's the downside to being born in Europe to parents living on an educational grant.

But this afternoon as I was rigging up my version of a baby mobile above James' bassinet I realized that he sort of does have a nursery. It's located in the casement of our living room window and comes complete with storage space for clothes, blankets and slings, his carrycot bed, and is "artfully" decorated with colorful foam bath toys.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

One for the Children

James is making up for his runt-like birth weight by putting it on at an incredible rate:

Birth: 6 pounds, 10 ounces
1 Week: 8 pounds, 2 ounces for a gain of 1 pound, 8 ounces
3 Weeks: 10 pounds, 5 ounces for a gain of 2 pounds, 3 ounces

Even though he started life weighing over two pounds less than his big brother, he weighs just as much now as John did at three weeks. His little face is all chubbed out complete with double chin and his skinny little newborn legs have filled out. This combined with his propensity for nursing all the time have scored him some new lovable nicknames like: Little Piggy, Wilbur (think Charlotte’s Web), and Chubby Hubby.

James is sleeping well as far as newborns go; he usually goes to bed around 8:00p and wakes up at 11:00p, 2:30a, 5:30a and 8:30a. Sleep deprivation is just a fact of life for me these days but, if we’re lucky like we were with John, he’ll be sleeping through the night in a few weeks.

I really enjoy seeing how different James and John already are. James likes to be swaddled up tight to sleep where John couldn’t stand it; James is such a cuddle bug where John needed his space; and, perhaps because he was smaller at the beginning and greatly dislikes being on his stomach, James has rolled over from tummy-to-back three times. About a year ago I had a friend back home who told me he rolled off his parent’s bed when he was a month old and, being a freshly educated (and arrogant) student of all things related to child development, I basically suggested that he must be wrong and he should call his mother so she could set him straight. Shows what I know.

Meanwhile, since James’ arrival, John has suddenly aged and gotten at least 50 pounds heavier. In the last 3-4 weeks he’s picked up many new words and jabbers conversationally with other people and on his play cell phone. He’s always generally been a friendly child but now he can say “Hi!” so when we’re out walking he’ll wave and say “Hi-ee! Hi-ee!” to everyone he meets. The elderly Danish people he encounters on our numerous daily walks eat this up.

John is my big helper – he knows how to throw away James’ diapers in the diaper pail and is pretty good at bringing me things while I’m nursing James if I need them. Michael bought a small wooden car and truck puzzle for him and he really enjoys working that. He’s also very into his daily walk and will stand near the door shortly after breakfast (or sometimes shortly after he gets out of bed at 6:00a) saying, "Waaa-ak! Waaa-ak! Waaa-ak!" The kid likes his exercise.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Photo Friday


Hints of Spring, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Political Matters

I’ve been surprised by how closely the Danes pay attention to American politics. In many cases they are more on top of things than even myself, the PoliSci undergrad and masters degree holder who specialized political communication.

My most recent conversation with a native Dane on American politics happened just shortly after James’ birth in the delivery room. A nurse asked where we were from and, after finding out that we were from the States, wanted to know which state we were from and which candidate we were planning to vote for in the primaries. I explained how the state we currently reside in didn’t get on board the “Let Move Up Our Primary So We’ll MATTER” train so by the time May rolls around I fully expect the McCain v. Obama showdown to be set in stone.

The nurse persisted and wanted to know exactly what we thought of Hillary, McCain, Obama and company, and I gave her a couple of ill-formed impressions of their leadership abilities, how I expected their administrations would affect our foreign policy, et cetera, based far too heavily on the few episodes of The A Daily Show we pick up here. It’s hard to imagine Americans caring so much about any other country’s political elections.

.

And off topic: let’s here it for Michael who today completed the first full draft of his dissertation! Editing his final chapter was one of the last things I did before going into labor (and it wasn’t my best work given that I missed a reference to “Knight of Infinite Regression”). And given the challenges that life with a newborn and 19-month-old offer, his meeting his goal to complete a full draft by the end of February is especially noteworthy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Brotherly Love

This may be a bit premature but a number of people have asked how John is adjusting to having a new brother, especially given my trepidation leading up to James’ birth. With a little over two weeks of Big Brotherhood under his belt I’m happy to report that John seems to be adjusting really well and doesn’t seem to be acting out toward Michael or I either. No poop smearing yet.

First thing in the morning, John demands to know where "bebe" is and wants to kiss and hold him. When I put James on his stomach for "tummy time" I'll prop up one of the Black on Whiteor White on Blackbooks in front of him to look at (a simple girl's Baby Einstein). John has started copying me by propping up more of his own books in front of James. And this morning I woke up to John pushing James around in his imaginary race car.

For people that really love us, here is the super-long YouTube video of John and James meeting for the first time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Photo Friday


Brotherly Love, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Less Writing - More Reading

Two weeks ago my little speedster entered the world and today he began his two week growth spurt right on cue. A growth spurt is characterized by nursing long and often, and I find I'm not very proficient at typing one-handed. So I spend a lot of time refreshing Shrook, looking for new blogs and interesting newspaper articles, and pecking out short Facebook wall posts and status updates.

Or if it's 3:00a, I strap on the neck pillow I bought for our transatlantic night flight to Copenhagen and snooze during Jimsy's middle of the night snacks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What’s in a Name?

We’ve begun the process of registering James with the local church parish and applying for his Danish birth certificate. This brings up one interesting feature of The Danish Way of Doing: all Danish children’s names must be chosen from a list of approximately 7,000 approved baby names provided by the government. If you want to be a little wild and name your child something like Violet or Apple or Brooklyn, you have to apply for permission (and likely will be denied).

I found an interesting article in the New York Times discussing this facet of Danish cultural homogenization:

In Denmark, a country that embraces rules with the same gusto that Italy defies them, choosing a first and last name for a child is a serious, multitiered affair, governed by law and subject to the approval of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs.

At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark's innocents - the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state's view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents' lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. Denmark, like much of Scandinavia, prizes sameness, not uniqueness, just as it values usefulness, not frivolousness.

I think the good people behind Babies Named a Bad, Bad Thing would sympathize.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Photo Friday

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lost in Translation

James had his first home health nurse visit this morning. (I love, love, love that they come to your home to do this). I'm a little too tired to give you the nitty gritty details of his amazing growth but this story was worth sacrificing 15 precious minutes of sleep for:

I mentioned to the nurse that I was concerned about the content of James' poops (these are among the things that consume way to much of Michael's and my nighttime pillow talk since becoming parents).

Nurse: Poop. I don't know that word.
Me: You know. Bowel movement. Stool. Not pee, but the other thing.
Nurse: Oh, you mean making shit!

Yes. Precisely.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Speedy Baby James: A Birth Story

I have distinct memories during this pregnancy of three separate people telling me that the second birth is much faster than the first. They weren’t kidding.

They tell you labor is never how you expect it to be. With John I imagined a horribly long, unpredictable labor, and it ended up being a textbook labor that only lasted 12 hours. With James I was expecting the same experience except perhaps shorter. Ha. There was almost nothing about this labor that mirrored my first.

This birth can pretty much be summed up as “Zero to 140.” With zero being me sitting on my bed watching an episode of Veronica Mars while having mild contractions and 140 being the speed in kilometers per hour the cab was going down the Danish interstate about an hour later; me in the backseat trumpeting at the top of my voice, "I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB! I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB!"

The morning of my due date Michael and I got to sleep in until 9:30a because my sister Rachel had arrived two days before and took care of John when he got up at 6:00. Rachel and I made plans to stop by the mall before my midwife appointment at 1:00p. I started feeling a little crampy around 10:30 or 11:00 – around the time we started our half-mile walk to the mall.

We had lunch at Amager Centret and then walked a few blocks over to the midwife’s office. Camilla (my regular midwife) was on vacation so I saw her substitute. We had a brief talk about how Danes handle post-dates; at 10 days post-date you go to the hospital for a vaginal check and then at 14 days post-date they induce. Then she palpitated the baby who was still right-lying – and told me she could still move the head a bit which indicated it wasn’t quite engaged – typical of second pregnancies. She estimated James was about 3900 grams – or about 8 pounds 8 ounces.

We were planning to stop back by the mall on the way home so Rachel could go to H&M, but John had a diaper blowout so we headed home. I was kind of glad because I was feeling more crampy and uncomfortable. We got home at 2:00p and I was happy to see Michael was already back from the library where he had been working on some dissertation changes. John and Rachel both laid down for a nap. I was pretty sure at this point I was having true contractions that were going to amount to something later. I puttered around for a bit folding laundry, putting a few last things in my hospital bag and checking email. Michael was encouraging me to lie down but I told him I didn’t feel like it, so we settled on watching Veronica Mars while he insisted on timing my contractions. So we watched two episodes back-to-back; when I felt a contraction starting I would tap him on the leg, he’d start the stopwatch and then stop it when I tapped him again. We never paused the show though I started to ask him to put counter-pressure on my lower back at some point during the second episode.

Around 4:00p, John was up from his nap and, even though he wasn’t being disruptive, I really didn’t want to be around him in anticipation of the harder contractions to come. Michael and I moved into the bedroom and watched another episode while Rachel entertained John in the living room. Toward the end of the episode, I had to close my eyes and focus during contractions. Once the show ended close to 5:00p, Michael told me the contractions were floating around 45-60 seconds long and 5-6 minutes apart. Two weeks before Camilla told me to call in to the clinic when contractions were about 60 seconds long, 5 minutes apart and had been that way for about an hour. I decided to call in, though I thought it was a bit premature, in part because I felt like we needed to leave. The clinic picked up and told me to call the Hospital because they were so busy. This perturbed me, surprisingly not because I was so interested in doing the whole Danish birth clinic thing, but because I had this nagging feeling we really needed to leave.

I spoke with a hospital-side midwife who suggested that we wait another hour, though she made it clear we could come if we felt we should – just that we should call again before we left. I hung up the phone and immediately had two much stronger contractions much closer together that I moaned a bit through. I told Michael it was time to go and he immediately called a cab. I remember trying to give John a hug and kiss – he was playing with Rachel’s iPod and ran into the bedroom to show me. Then I called the midwife back and told her we were on our way.

I stepped into my Crocs and decided to use the bathroom before we left. While I was sitting there I felt like I needed to pass gas and then suddenly my water broke with a small pop and I realized that what I was really feeling was an urge to push just as I launched into a huge transitional contraction. Michael called out that the cab was there. I yelled at him to shut up. He came to the door and asked what was wrong. I expressed at the top of my voice that I was having a contraction, roared loudly and cried that I didn’t want John to see me like this. Michael later told me that he rolled his eyes at Rachel to let her know I was just freaking out and not to think anything was wrong.

I was completely torn by the strong urge to not move and the equally strong urge to get to the hospital as fast as we possibly could. But I hustled into the calf-length, black wool London Fog coat my friend Robyn gave me – the only coat that somewhat covered my baby belly – and charged down the stairs toward the cab. I called out for the cab driver and Michael to hurry and launched into another mind blowing contraction right as the wheels started to roll. It felt like I’d been picked up by a tornado.

The next 20 minutes are fragments of memories – holding myself off the seat with my arms and leaning toward my right side because it hurt too much to sit; waiting endlessly for the cab driver to turn left onto Amagerbrogade dodging bikes and two lanes of rush hour traffic; Michael patting my leg and telling me to relax; my expressing every thought that came into my head at the loudest possible volume; WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT; I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB; I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB; a car driving slowly and then stopping in the middle of the road blocking us; the cab driver honking insistently; between contractions my praying that God would make them move and get us to the hospital; the cab driver jumping out the car and telling the driver the situation before the punk finally drove off; blazing down the interstate; MY BODY IS PUSHING THE BABY OUT; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; I CAN’T STOP IT; Michael telling me that I’m doing a great job and we’re almost there; the contraction stops and I think "Yes, we will make it. Everything will be ok"; I drop my head back on Michael’s shoulder and see the most beautiful piece of Copenhagen sunset sky; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; OH GOD; I reach down and can feel the baby’s head crowning; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; IT’S RIGHT THERE; Michael calmly telling me that’s good because the stretching will keep me from tearing - we’re almost there - here’s the exit - you’re doing a great job; I struggle to follow my Bradley labor training – low pitched roars, allowing my body to do it’s work – yet doing so only seems to make the baby advance even more quickly down the birth canal; THE BABY IS COMING; I feel the ring of fire and pull off one of my pants legs and half of my underwear; I FEEL THE HEAD; the baby’s head is out and my palm is around it; the cab suddenly pulls up to the maternity wing of the hospital and the cab driver jumps out and runs in for assistance; THE BABY NEEDS TO BE BORN NOW; GET SOMEBODY; THE BABY NEEDS TO BE BORN NOW; Michael looks over and sees James’ head and shoulders, realizing for the first time what I was getting at when I said "The baby’s head is right there," then jumps out of the cab to run around to my side.

In those few seconds alone, I was suddenly gripped with the notion that I needed to push the baby out IMMEDIATELY and voluntarily pushed for the first time. James plopped out onto my coat just as Michael opened the door on the other side. Michael picked him up and handed James to me, and to my immense relief he immediately started to cry. I could see from the light in the cab that he was pink and healthy, and he quickly calmed.

A nurse entered the cab behind me and rubbed James with a towel and piled more towels on him to keep him warm. They brought a stretcher to my side of the cab and helped me maneuver around my coat, the part of my pants that were still on and the umbilical cord. We were rolled down the hall into a delivery room, with me holding a quiet James close as I watched the ceiling tiles pass above my head and sighed a huge sigh of relief. Relief that James was fine; that labor was over; that we were in the competent hands of medical professionals.

.

Ten days before James’ birth I read a fascinating blog post from a Brooklyn midwife about how the taxicab birth narrative can shape other women’s childbirth plans. Everyone seemingly has a friend of a friend who has given birth in a cab and it can fundamentally form their choice of homebirth or hospital birth, how they prepare for labor and delivery, etc. To be honest, I am somewhat compelled to tell this story in so much detail because I feel the need to justify the fact that I DID end up having a baby in a taxicab. I consider myself to be fairly ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding and being prepared for childbirth; from taking independent childbirth classes to reading extensively about birth to having experienced an unmedicated childbirth once before. Yet I was still surprised by the overwhelming force that is childbirth; unpredictable, powerful and unharnessed. And its ability to go from nothing to something in the blink of an eye.

But I also should say that as much as I was overwhelmed by the speed and uncontrollable force of James’ arrival, I sit here days later still unable to be "traumatized" by the experience. It was extremely uncomfortable bouncing along in the back of a cab during transition and my body’s involuntary second stage pushing, but being knowledgeable about the birth process helped considerably in my ability to control the one thing I could control about the whole experience – my reaction to it. It helped me focus when I was frantic. And I had some notion of what was normal and abnormal about delivery that gave me some peace of mind that James was ok even if he was exiting my body at 140 kilometers per hour.

I am a little sorry that I missed out on trying the labor tub. Not sorry enough to wish that I had been in labor much longer though.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Not a Raisin

I'm working on a write up of the events surrounding James' birth but life with a newborn has been slowing me down. Until then, a little something fun from dinner tonight:

After he finished his dinner John held James for a few minutes in the infant bouncy chair Michael had set up earlier that day. Michael, Rachel and I were still finishing dinner shortly thereafter when John walked around the table toward me, a puzzled look on his face, holding something out in his chubby little fingers for me to take. He hands me what looked like a gooey raisin, and I stared at it for a minute before I realized I had just been looking at the gooey raisin an hour or so before when I was changing James' diaper.

John had picked up his brothers umbilical stump where it had fallen off unnoticed and tried to eat it. Not finding it to his liking, he pulled it out of his mouth and, like all things he finds distasteful, presented it to me.

Yummy.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Photo Friday


Sweet Baby James, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.


7 February 2008
5:52pm
6 pounds, 10 ounces
19 1/2 inches

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super-Duper Extra Spectacular TUESDAY

It was a BIG day yesterday. It was Super Tuesday back in the States. My sister Rachel arrived to help out with John and the new baby bringing with her all kinds of American goodies like Kraft macaroni and cheese and JIF peanut butter. And the Danes celebrated Fastelavn - or Carnival Day, the Danish Mardi Gras.

One way you celebrate Fastelavn is with Fastelavnsbollers - custard cream filled flaky pastries of goodness! They were even better than they look.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Easy Gourmet-Like Tortellini

The freezer space in our college room dorm sized refrigerator is a bit small to say the least so there isn't much of an option for freezing meals ahead of time to pull out for dinner after the baby is born. But, you know, these limitations are just opportunities for creative culinary creations. Or as creative as one can manage after going through one of the greatest physical challenges unique to women. Here is one of my go-to meals:

Easy Gourmet-Like Tortellini

500 gram package of dried tortellini
2 tablespoons pesto
1 tablespoon olive oil
Grated parmesan cheese to taste

Boil tortellini in a pot of salted water per package directions. After draining, return to pot and drizzle olive oil over tortellini and stir in pesto. Top with freshly grated parmesan. Serve with a "made it from scratch" attitude.


This is a complicated recipe so here is a little visual aid:

Friday, February 1, 2008

Photo Friday


Pretzel Time, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Bebe! Bebe!"

For the past many months I've been asking around to various "mom-friends" about how best to help my toddler transition to having a new baby sibling in the house. I've gotten not so much advice as much as horror stories about the insanity the introduction of new siblings sometimes unleashes. My favorite one involved a toddler who acted out by taking off his diaper and rubbing poo on every imaginable surface including in between his board books. So it's not without some measure of trepidation that I await John's reaction to his new baby brother.

One hopeful sign though - yesterday we made a stop at a children's second-hand store in our neighborhood. Michael took John down to the basement to play with the toys and when I followed I found John parked in front of a child-sized stroller pointing excitedly at a baby doll.

"Mama! Bebe! Bebe!"

He pointed our the "bebe's" eyes and, at our suggestion that he give the baby doll a hug and kiss, he carefully picked the baby doll up by the neck and planted a big wet one on the doll's head. From there he continued to carry the baby doll around by the neck looking for the noisy toy telephone he remembered playing with the previous week.

So the upside is he apparently likes toys that look like babies though we will have to work on his handling technique.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fake It 'Til You Make It

It's been a quiet few days here on the blog this week. I had some unexpected time and energy on Monday that I used to do a number of things around the apartment. If you had stopped by around 10:30 Monday morning you could have seen the comical sight of a very pregnant woman crouched in her tiny bathroom scrubbing a toilet. Or later on, making chicken and dumplings, wiping out her microwave and mini-fridge, cleaning her coffee maker, adding things to her hospital bag and, later, buying a carrycot that a friend found on a local Internet re-sale site so her baby will actually have his own place to sleep. There is actually a special name in Pregnancy World for this phenomenon: nesting.

So I'm worn out Monday night and head to bed. And then wake up around 2:30a having contractions. These peter on for a few hours - just strong enough and just often enough to prevent sleep. And I blearily made a made a couple of deals with God at various points in the night. How about these stop for now and then come back after I've had a good night's sleep? Please? Please please please?

And they did eventually stop. Though not before they had thoroughly convinced Michael that a taxi ride to the hospital was in our immediate future. And led to some frantic Man Nesting: filling out a Fulbright form with a 31st deadline, renewing library books and Mr. Cleaning our living room and kitchen. This is one of those times I'm really glad to be married to an academic and his flexible schedule.

I'm 39 weeks tomorrow.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Photo Friday


Preparing for Baby, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My 38 Week Crash Danish Prenatal Class

My midwife double booked an appointment with me today so she could take some extra time to answer any questions I might have about birthing under the Danish system. I wasn't able to take any Danish prenatal classes since they are all in Danish, so this was quite thoughtful of her. Michael was there with me to listen in and ask any follow-up questions thought he primarily held a recuperating John during our visit.

I had already asked my most pressing questions related to childbirth in Denmark at my first appointment back in October. Besides delivering a healthy baby, my two main goals in any childbirth are to avoid a c-section and avoid undo trauma to nature's intended exit for the baby. Those goals ultimately led me to train for an unmedicated childbirth with my first, American hospital birth. (And believe me, you do have to "train" for labor just like you would train to run a marathon). So early on I had some specific questions answered about standard Danish hospital policies regarding such things as second stage labor and episiotomies.

So today's questions were more about just figuring out basic practices, a What To Expect When You're Delivering in Denmark. Here are a few highlights:

  • They recommend you call the hospital or birth center (which ever place you plan to birth) when your contractions are about five minutes apart and lasting about 60 seconds. At that point they will ask questions about the progress of your labor, listen to you have a contraction over the phone and advise on how long you should likely wait before you come in.
  • Labor tubs are available in the birth clinic and some midwives are willing to allow you to proceed with a water birth. I gathered that there is some internal controversy about water birthing and it is neither encouraged nor discouraged.
  • The standard post-birth is for the parents and baby to be left alone to rest in the birth room for an hour or two following delivery of the placenta, any necessary stitching and confirmation the baby is fine. If the baby has trouble getting started post-birth, it appears that they go to some length to insure that baby and mother are not separated. If the baby requires transfer to the NICU, the father goes with the baby and the mother is encouraged to follow the baby as soon as possible.
  • The minimum stay post-birth is six hours. If you opt to leave at that point, your midwife will do two home follow-up visits. If you opt to leave after 12 hours, your midwife will do one home follow-up visit. The normal stay is two nights though that can be extended if you are having trouble with breastfeeding.
  • At 11:30a (during weekdays?) a physical therapist from the hospital holds a meeting with new moms demonstrating postpartum exercises.
  • I was given a booklet outlining various pain relief options available including: the labor tub, massage, happy gas, acupuncture and, way at the back, an epidural.
There were a few other questions related to where the taxi should drop us off and what time the kitchen closes so we can be sure to order food if it looks like the baby won't make an appearance before then.

After today's visit, I feel like I'm ready to have a baby again.