Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Post NICU Life

Thank you all from far and wide for the good wishes and support on the arrival of Gray and the month-long stay in the NICU. He was discharged this past Thursday so we’ve been home as a family adjusting to each other and our new schedule. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions from joy to tiredness and frustration– for all of us! Even though he’s a month old, it’s like bringing a complete newborn home and trying to figure out which end is up. The amount of random Amazon purchases for baby that we’ve made in the last few days probably speaks to our often cluelessness about what to do with a new baby.

Some day I’ll have the emotional bandwidth to write Gray’s birth story, if only for us as a family to remember the journey we went through as a family. The month-long saga is not something I’d wish on anyone– leaving the hospital every day without your baby to come home to a house with baby things everywhere is difficult in ways I don’t think I have the words to describe. And yet, I have such an intense level of gratitude for the month that we were there– the care Gray received allowed him to bounce back from what could have been a very different outcome in our life. NICU nurses are true angels on earth not only in what they do for the babies they care for, but for how they support and teach the families- and they do it for more than just Mom and Dad. As we’ve entered into the new parent sleepy phase with midnight and 3AM feedings, I even had a moment of missing the NICU because of the around the clock care that allowed us to sleep every night and sleep in a few weekend mornings too.

Having a baby in the NICU is incredibly difficult in the postpartum weeks- not just the fact that you’re recovering from birth, but missing out on a lot of the early bonding which is so important. Gray was born on a Monday, but I wasn’t able to hold him until late Friday of the same week. And yet that difficulty is also paired with gratitude for having time and space to heal from emergency surgery. There were definitely more than a few tough moments of getting in the car, needing help showering, etc. where I was relieved my baby was safe at hospital while I was healing at home. A million high fives to Moms who have a C-section and then come home with baby 3-4 days later– you are serious real-life super heroes.

Gray’s birth has re-ignited my faith in the power of prayer, love, and things bigger than us. It affirmed my belief in guardian angels, being in the right place at the right time, and counting blessings big and small. It’s opened an emotional part of myself that I imagine happens with many mothers regardless of how their child came into the world. It reminded me that family and true friends who are family rise to the occasion when a crisis happens. Amid the crazy bad news of the world, it reminded me how good and kind people are, even complete strangers who Gray and I will never meet who prayed for our family and his health/recovery.

They say a baby changes everything, but I think Baby Gray has been more of an inspiration than his little 36 day old self can realize.

 

A Quick Update

A quick life update!

Life threw us a huge curveball on Monday, May 20th when our son, Gray, decided to enter the world four weeks early. His birth was fast, furious, and traumatic for both of us, but at least for me I was out of the hospital four days later. Gray is still in the NICU and will be for the foreseeable future, although his dad and I are about ready to steal him away to go home ( is it stealing if it’s your baby?) We’re head over heels in love with the blue-eyes, dark haired little boy who is amazing us every moment at the strides he’s made in his 15 days of life ( now if he could only get the eating/feeding thing down!)

In any case, I’m now in another club no one wants to be in– a NICU mother. It’s heartbreaking, stressful, overwhelming, boring, tiring, and about a million other things in between. The wins are amazing, the setbacks are heartbreaking, and we’ve only been there 15 days. Today I overheard docs talking about a baby who has been there 120 days. l literally cannot imagine because I’m about to lose my mind.

This is all to say  it might be quiet around these parts for awhile. It’s funny because in between Gray’s feedings, meeting with OT, docs, and other happenings, the day goes by quickly and slow all at the same time. Q and I are making it through- he dealt with the brunt of the scary stuff for the first 2 weeks of Gray’s life while I was healing from an emergency c-section that’s left me quite sore. He had to go back to work this week and is trying to spend the nights at NICU with our little guy. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.

Some day, when I’m off this emotional roller coaster, I’ll write up his birth story, if for no other reason than it might help me put together the timeline of what happened– from the time I called the hospital that my water broke, to the time Gray was born was only about 2.5 hours so it was a whirlwind that I’m still not sure I completely understand ( and not sure I want to quite yet).

It’ll be quiet over here for bit until we get Gray home and get our new life together– not sure how long that’ll be, so wishing you all a lovely June and start of summer!

Friday Finds May 2019

Knitting as a World War II spy tool– so cool!

A woman recorded over 30 years of TV history and her collection of Betamax and VHS tapes are now being digitized.

A history of cribs and other contraptions to get babies to sleep over the years— those window cribs are crazy!

Book Review: The Song of the Jade Lily

Synopsis:

A gripping historical novel that tells the little-known story of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai during WWII.

1939: Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East”. Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.

2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother’s history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother’s own past in Shanghai.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family—and herself.

The Song of the Jade Lily is a lush, provocative, and beautiful story of friendship, motherhood, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage that can shape us all.

My review: 4 stars

I didn’t mean to read two World War II era novels right on top of each other, but it was interesting to do so because they both were quite different and both exposed stories of World War II that I didn’t know anything about which is always great.

The dual timeline trope definitely seems like a trend in the past few years with historical fiction and depending on how it’s handled, what the purpose is with moving story lines forward and similar questions, I am all for it. It works in this case very well I think because most of the arc of the novel is from the contemporary point of view of Alexandra, as opposed to this back and forth with the historical story and it not being clear what the ultimate story line is.

Buy the book here!

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: Resistance Women

Synopsis:

After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

My review: So far, 4 stars!

I say so far because, in full disclosure, I haven’t finished reading it yet. At 608 pages, it is a pretty dense book and with baby boy arriving in 4 weeks, my brain can only handle so much at one time. It has nothing to do with the writing, the story, or the author’s approach and everything to do with baby brain!

The author has been on my to-read list for a few years so I jumped at the chance to finally read some of her work. Add in my favorite time period of World War II  and I’m really glad I have this book in my hands. As a historian who is particularly interested in women’s history, I am also a huge fan of the publishing trend in the last few years of highlighting hidden women’s stories throughout various time periods, but especially during the life-changing era of World War II.

The book is rich in detail and it’s clear Chiaverini did  A LOT of research on this book which I appreciate on many levels. The book also covers an expanse of time– 1929 through 1946– and follows three women. These factors alone would make the book long, but when Chiaverini adds in her masterful storytelling and dialogue, it’s pretty easy to see how the book came to be 600 pages (I wonder what the earlier drafts looked like!). I appreciate the expanded time period because so often in World War II era fiction it jumps right into Hitler and things going terribly without the slow buildup that led to his rise in power.

One of the reasons I like historical fiction as a genre is because it brings life to often well-known events and provides creative personal insights. What I like even more is when I learn about something I had no clue about before. I’ve read a few novels about the various resistance movements during World War II (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah being one of my favorites), but this book is based on the German- based spy/resistance movement based in Berlin called the Red Orchestra, which I had never heard of before. This is definitely the area where Chiaverini’s research comes through because there are a lot of facts and information ( I’ve been googling a lot while reading) but they aren’t boring and don’t read like non-fiction.

I’m hoping this weekend I’ll have plenty of relaxation time in my sunroom to finish the book!

Buy the book here!

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

May!

What a whirlwind in April! It was quite dreary in my neck of the woods, raining 21 out of the 30 days of the month. There were a few nice days in there, but this past month definitely lends true to the “April showers bring May flowers” rhyme.

With a lot going on in April, I was still productive- we got a roof contractor all set up, mortgage stuff mostly figured out, and got a few small DIY projects done.

Baby’s room is just about ready to go- this weekend, I’ll organize all the stuff we received from our baby shower and fingers crossed, the crib should be delivered on Monday.

I did not get around to selling my wedding ring so that’s definitely going to happen this month.

Q and I also didn’t go anywhere, but we’re still hoping to at least do a little day thing in the next few weeks. I’m fairly uncomfy sitting for more than an hour so we’ll probably just take a little car ride to somewhere fun for lunch on a Saturday or something just to get out of the house and mind off of all the things still to do.

So May is pretty much a continuation of April goals, with mostly more baby prep.

We’ve procrastinated for a long time and are finally reaching the ‘holy krap, there’s going to be a tiny human here in 6 weeks time!’ mode. Car seats to install, clothes to wash, freezer to fill up, and so much more.

The dreary weather of April has us way behind on yard work- every weekend it either rained or we had something going on so between Q and his 13 year old niece is who desperate for her own money, we hope to get a lot of the spring cleanup stuff done and get some flowers before baby comes.

The countdown is on!

 

 

Friday Finds April 2019

I’ve never been to Paris, but the images of the burned Notre Dame Cathedral were just heartbreaking. If you need something to lift your spirits in the face of that sadness, here’s a story about the priest, fire brigade, and human chain that worked tirelessly to save the relics that were in the church.

Novelists who became spies– I think I have a book about writers/artists/actors being spies in World War II on my own bookshelf that I haven’t read yet.

In case you’re enjoying some Easter candy: why chocolate bunnies are hollow.

Speaking of chocolate, Mr. Hershey almost was on the Titanic! 7 famous people who missed the sailing of the Titanic.

How Nancy Drew inspired a generation. I was a big fan of Nancy Drew books too!

Flannels in plaid prints may be on their way out for spring and summer lighter plaids, but the history of the print–more correctly referred to as a tartan is pretty interesting.

The woman who made Tupperware a household name.

 

5 on Friday: Random Thoughts about Pregnancy

  • I’m in the beginning of my third trimester with just about 2 months from my due date in June. So far, so good! Baby boy is healthy and things going along well. It’s still a little strange to think that when the summer comes, there’s a new little human who I’m responsible for and who will rely on me.
  • There are so many things family and friends never told me about being pregnant. I heard about the aches, the heartburn, and pregnancy brain, but no one told me about the weird dreams, the development of carpal tunnel, and honestly, all the gas/burping (sorry if it’s TMI).
  • Shopping for maternity clothes sucks almost as much as shopping for regular clothes does for me. Thank goodness tunics and leggings are acceptable attire because buying maternity pants for work is even more dreadful than buying regular work pants. I’ve scored some great finds secondhand and now that weather has finally change in my neck of the woods, will likely be relying mostly on dresses.
  • There are way too many baby products out there and picking one random car seat from the other really is a crap shoot. Even reading all the various reviews, best product listings, and so on, it’s beyond overwhelming. I don’t know if we chose the right stuff, we just picked stuff based on our gut.
  • I haven’t had any weird cravings. When I was pretty sick during the first trimester, I wanted cold stuff all the time, mostly because it didn’t smell. I did crave pickles a lot but that’s because I had a pretty constant metallic taste in my mouth and the acid of the pickles helped counteract it. Lately, it’s been cold dairy products- cheese, ice cream, and milk. I’ve probably had more glasses of milk in the past few months than I did in the previous 3 years!

April Goals

April arrives- the month where I basically pushed off everything that needs to get done before baby comes because work is crazy in March. It turned out to be far less stressful than it has in past years, but I was thankful we didn’t have a lot going on so that I could unwind on the weekends which has been much needed.

Even with a lot going on at work, I accomplished all the goals for March!

I had a lovely day off from work on my birthday which ended up being a true day off because we had a work snow day (our only one this year!) so there wasn’t even the worry of work emails piling up that day.

Our purging/organizing is going REALLY WELL. I have one more attic bin to go through and then a few things in the basement, but we’ve cleaned out a lot and have a run to the donation center on our weekend to- do list. Last weekend, Q cleaned and organized the basement, we moved down the bed so we have room for a crib, and now just need to figure out what to do with a few pieces of furniture that don’t fit anywhere.

I bought a new pillow which within a few days eliminated my weird neck/shoulder pain. Of course, being 7 months pregnant has brought on other discomforts to sleep, but the neck/shoulder stuff was bothering me all day and night so happy this was an easy fix.

Now onto April.

We have A LOT in April– our baby class and baby shower, Easter, and a few other fun things like a long weekend together, Game of Thrones premiere, and I’m going to see David Sedaris next week ( I cannot wait!). Plus we’re in the home stretch for baby!

This month, I hope to…..

Get some house stuff done: Estimates for roof, interior/exterior painting, spring yard cleanup, mortgage, and a few other random things.

Finish baby’s room: once crib and rocking chair come at end of month, we need to hang wall art and find a bookshelf.

Sell my wedding ring: I’ve been divorced for just about 7 years, and the ring is definitely out of sight, out of mind, but I want to really get rid of my previous life before my new one starts with baby.

Enjoy a long weekend with Q: We probably aren’t going to do more than a day trip, but we took a weekend off together to do something and it’s also Game of Thrones weekend so we took the Monday off because we’re weird.

 

 

 

A Decade of Home Ownership

Today marks ten years of owning my home!

So much of life has changed in these 10 years: when I bought the house, I was young and in love, about to get engaged, and ready to start my life with someone. 10 years later, I have a significant other who has truly showed me the meaning of partnership and love, and we’re about to embark on a new chapter of our life together and expand our family. In a decade of living the house has seen a lot of life go through it and as the saying goes “if only the walls could talk.”

This image is taken from Google Streetview which apparently made its way through our neighborhood sometime last summer because the hosta plants on the front left are gone now ( in an effort to get rid of some invasive weeds, we killed them which is saying a lot for a hearty plant like hostas). The evergreen that I bought 10 years ago to cover up my gas meter on the front of my house grew pretty close to the house and rather tall so Q lopped off the top of it this past fall. It’s always funny to me to look at progression of trees and shrubs in pictures over the years to see how quickly things grow that you look at every day, but don’t ever really see their growth. That little evergreen was one of the first purchases for the house with my then-fiance/now ex-husband from Lowe’s (funny how we remember little details like that too!)

And of course, in 10 years, there have been numerous frustrations (a fire in the lot next door where we feared we would lost our house), lots of painting (fences, ceilings, walls), and various upgrades, but for the most part our little house has remained the same, a happy place for me during both the rough and happy moments of life. It’s not perfect- it’s 1930s bungalow style layout is limited with one tiny bathroom and 2 bedrooms, it’s close to the main road and can be loud, and we don’t love living in the town I grew up in as much as I used to (though to be fair, I never thought I’d stay, but things happen in life and you go with it).

It’ll always be the place where I learned who I was and took a stand for my own life in getting a divorce. It’s the place where Q told me he loved me for the first time, and where we’ll bring our little boy home to in June. It’s not our forever home, but it’ll always be my first house and a huge part of my life.

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