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Book Report: 2014 Whitney Awards Historical Finalists

I’m kind of fanatical about having purpose and structure in my reading. I can’t just pick a book off a shelf and go for it. I even have a hard time reading from recommendations. Ten years ago I started making my way through the list of Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction, and I rarely departed from my agenda. When I was pregnant, I switched over to a near-exclusive focus on pregnancy and childbirth books. But post-Soren, I’ve been in a reading funk. Many of the Pulitzers are just too heavy for my frazzled mom brain. Parenting books are OK here and there, but you just can’t do too many of those in succession. So I welcomed the invitation from my Segullah cohorts to read through the five Whitney Awards finalists in the historical category and then cast my vote.

Here are my brief reviews of those five novels, ordered alphabetically by author.

Softly Falling, by Carla Kelly (Sweetwater Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort Media and Publishing)

softly falling by Carla KellyThe intriguing Lily Carteret is transplanted from her privileged life in England to the rough Wyoming Territory, only to learn that her alcoholic father has gambled away his cattle ranch. As Lily adjusts to the harsh conditions of her new home, she’s befriended by a number of charming characters — especially Jack, the handsome but illiterate cowboy who quickly falls for Lily. The bulk of the story takes place during a very long, grim winter (known a century ago as “the big die-off”), where Jack, Lily, and the others on the ranch work tirelessly to save the cattle and themselves.

Kelly’s characters and historical details were the highlights of the book for me. The drama of the terrible winter provided constant tension, but the pacing of the story was incredibly slow. It was a long, long winter, and the reader definitely feels this (for better or for worse — and for me it was for worse). The action was also very sluggish, but with just enough blips of excitement to keep me going. The dialogue between the protagonists felt contrived, at times, but the characters overall were engaging and pleasant to follow.

Eve: In the Beginning, by H.B. Moore (Mirror Press)

Eve in the Beginning by H.B. Moore

This fictionalization of the story of Adam and Eve dives into the struggles of our first mother, first in the seemingly perfect Garden of Eden and then in the harsh and pain-filled real world. The tale includes the basic stages we’re familiar with from the Bible — Eve partakes, Adam joins her, and they are cast out of the Garden. But Moore throws in a number of possible scenarios that I found to be very thought provoking, like a tragic miscarriage, incredibly challenging weather and living conditions, and problems between Adam and Eve as they attempt to become united in marriage.

I really liked the voice of Eve — she was curious and inquisitive, yet largely faithful amidst her trials. Adam, though much more rigid in his obedience, was not self-righteous in his devotion to Elohim, and I appreciated the way he cared for his wife even when he didn’t agree with her. Lucifer was present throughout the book and was as eerie as one would expect, providing constant confusion and manipulation. I was surprised (as were Adam and Eve) by the overwhelming silence of Elohim — I kept waiting for him to come to the rescue and make it evident that He was mindful of them. But, such is life. The story was well crafted and really nicely written, though there were a few moments that felt redundant as Adam and Eve blundered along, trying to find their way.

An Ocean atween Us, by Angela Morrison (self published)

An Ocean atween Us by Angela Morrison

The first book in a new series, “An Ocean atween Us” tells of 19th century Scottish coal pits, young love and heartbreak, physical hardships, and family bonds that are put to the test. Will Glover leaves the love of his life and begrudgingly joins his family in a grueling journey across the ocean for a new start that is every bit as disappointing as he expects it to be. The new opportunity in North America is filled with hardship for the entire family, and it is ultimately left to Will to care for the family and bring himself out of his estrangement from happiness.

In her author’s note, Morrison said she spent more than a decade researching her family’s Scottish history for this novel, including trips to coal mines in three countries. Her desire for authenticity is readily apparent — the book’s narration uses a flavor of the Scots language  (which, for some readers, will be a little too authentic, as the brogue at times feels distracting), and the historical details were on point. I loved this story’s strong family bonds and the importance of home, which remained constant despite the protagonist’s choice to wallow far too long in his self-inflicted pain. Though Will’s pining after his first love grows old quickly, the book’s overall narrative is skillfully crafted and consistently engaging.

Deadly Alliance, by A.L. Sowards (Covenant Communications)

Deadly Alliance by A.L. Sowards“Deadly Alliance” is the final book in a trilogy, though it works just as well as a stand-alone novel (which is how I read it — I actually had no idea there were two other books). Like “An Ocean atween Us,” it was abundantly clear that Sowards had done her due diligence on the time and place she wrote about — World War II in Italy and Yugoslavia. The novel follows Peter Eddy and his commando team as they drop behind enemy lines, unaware that they’ve been deployed on a suicide mission. Meanwhile, Peter’s girlfriend Genevieve, an OSS spy, finds herself battling new enemies as well. With heart-pounding plot twists and turns aplenty, Peter, Genevieve, and their various comrades experience plenty of action, with true-to-the-era violence and death.

Deadly Alliance” drew me in quickly and kept me hooked right through the last page (although the far-fetched finale disappointed me a little). The history was, at times, hard to follow, but it didn’t detract from my interest in the book. The characters were well drawn and appealing — or hateful, in the case of the enemies who played significant roles. I appreciated the believable dialogue and the relationships that felt so genuine. Overall, this book was my favorite in the category — strongest writing, most intricate plot, realistic narrative, and great characters.

Gone for a Soldier, by Marsha Ward (WestWard Books)

Gone for a Soldier

Part war story, part love story, “Gone for a Soldier” features a range of characters (11 members of the Owen family, plus a few love interests and fellow soldiers), with each chapter rotating between different characters’ perspectives. Rulon Owens, the central figure, moves quickly to enlist in the war after Virginia secedes from the Union — but not before asking for the hand of his love, Mary Hillbrands. Off at war, Rulon sees and feels it all — his tent-mate threatens him regularly, he aches to be with his new wife and their new son, and he struggles physically through battles with the impossible-to-defeat Union army. At home, Mary faces her own battle for independence from parents who disapprove of her marriage.

Like a few others in this category, this novel was rich in historical details and authentic in its language, relationships, and descriptions of day-to-day living. The narrative became increasingly realistic as well-loved characters faced death and debilitating injuries, leaving relationships and situations unresolved, which was surely the case during the Civil War as lives were cut short or changed dramatically. I enjoyed the flow from chapter to chapter with the focus on different characters and different storylines, and at times I found myself growing anxious to get back to Mary’s situation or Ben’s adventure to learn what would come next. “Gone for a Soldier” kept me engrossed and tugged at my emotions more than a time or two — which doesn’t happen easily.

March 2015

Our March was an exciting one…

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Soren and I have worked the gym into our morning routine once or twice a week now that he magically enjoys the gym child care. On this sunny day we felt like we’d earned ourselves a little treat at the Paris Creperie. Soren had no idea what was coming.

But he knew it was a treat and he knew it involved chocolate.

But he knew it was a treat and he knew it involved chocolate.

When they asked for my name at the counter, I didn't know it was to monogram my crepe! That's new.

When they asked for my name at the counter, I didn’t know it was to monogram my crepe! That’s new.

Heaven.

Heaven.

We practically licked the plate.

We practically licked the plate.

A few documentations of afternoon playtime:

My favorite part in this one is the way he says, “Not really” (around 0:18).

Getting to the temple as it opens is always a good start to the day. Brightest blue skies ever at 6:45 a.m.!

Getting to the temple as it opens is always a good start to the day. Brightest blue skies ever at 6:45 a.m.!

Soren is wild about grapefruits. Great-grandma and great-grandpa Hepp have sent us a couple boxes of their amazing Arizona-grown fruit. We're spoiled!

Soren is wild about grapefruits. Great-grandma and great-grandpa Hepp have sent us a couple boxes of their amazing Arizona-grown fruit. We’re spoiled!

And then we made our annual pilgrimage to Texas! For being an early bird, this one doesn't look too lively at 6 a.m. at the airport.

And then we made our annual pilgrimage to Texas! For being an early bird, this one doesn’t look too lively at 6 a.m. at the airport.

He loves nothing more than to talk about and watch airport trucks.

He loves nothing more than to talk about and watch airport trucks.

We LOVE Austin. So much to do there! We had lots of fun exploring Zilker Park and the trail along the river. I accompanied Soren and Isaac on a nice train ride around the park.

We LOVE Austin. So much to do there! We had lots of fun exploring Zilker Park and the trail along the river. I accompanied Soren and Isaac on a nice train ride around the park.

My heart.

My heart.

During the long Boston winter Soren forgot how to play on playgrounds. He was the most awkward kid in Austin. And he asked me multiple times, "Where's their snow?"

During the long Boston winter Soren forgot how to play on playgrounds. He was the most awkward kid in Austin. And he asked me multiple times, “Where’s their snow?”

Digging was no problem, though. He was probably pretending it was a snow shovel.

Digging was no problem, though. He was probably pretending it was a snow shovel.

First ice cream cone at age 2.5.

First ice cream cone at age 2.5.

Another day, another nature walk.

Another day, another nature walk.

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Springtime has brought back Soren’s affection for rocks.

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Page drove up from San Antonio to play for the day and chauffeur us back to her house. The Austin Nature and Science Center was SO great.

Page drove up from San Antonio to play for the day and chauffeur us back to her house. The Austin Nature and Science Center was SO great.

Just digging for dinosaur bones.

Just digging for dinosaur bones.

BFFs

BFFs

The AC in Page's van wasn't quite working, and the drive was a HOT one. Page gave the kids permission to remove their clothes. Soren passed out from heat stroke. Not really, but his nap was super sweaty.

The AC in Page’s van wasn’t quite working, and the drive was a HOT one. Page gave the kids permission to remove their clothes. Soren passed out from heat stroke. Not really, but his nap was super sweaty.

You know it's a good nap when the paci falls out.

You know it’s a good nap when the paci falls out.

More nature exploration, this time in San Antonio.

More nature exploration, this time in San Antonio.

Cousins

Cousins

These two didn't spend much time together, but they did meet for snack time one day. "You have yogurt on your face!"

These two didn’t spend much time interacting, but they did meet for snack time one day. “You have yogurt on your face!”

Faye makes getting up from naps extra fun.

Faye makes getting up from naps extra fun.

Ev is a great worker man companion.

Ev is a great worker man companion.

Backyards are the only thing that get me close to nostalgia for suburban life. I'm trying to convince Tim to let me get a trampoline for our driveway in Boston.

Backyards are the only thing that get me close to nostalgia for suburban life. I’m trying to convince Tim to let me get a trampoline for our driveway in Boston.

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Oopsies

Oopsies

Sometimes life is too short to pull up your pants.

Sometimes life is too short to pull up your pants.

Our flight home, with a layover, was MUCH more enjoyable than the five-hour nonstop. I even got some reading time while Soren napped on my lap. But the highlight of all highlights was the surprise we found at the back of the plane. PENGUINS. Actual penguins were on our flight. They were en route to Philadelphia from the San Antonio Sea World, and they absolutely made my day.

Our flight home, with a layover, was MUCH more enjoyable than the five-hour nonstop. I even got some reading time while Soren napped on my lap. But the highlight of all highlights was the surprise we found at the back of the plane. PENGUINS. Actual penguins were on our flight. They were en route to Philadelphia from the San Antonio Sea World, and they absolutely made my day.

What good is a layover if you can't enjoy a $7 slice of pizza while you wait?

What good is a layover if you can’t enjoy a $7 slice of pizza while you wait?

Then back to Boston and back to coat weather. I had to video the way Soren removes his coat, because it’s one of those cute things you just don’t want to forget and you know it probably won’t happen again next winter. He unzips the coat, spins around until it falls off, and then promptly picks it up and hands it to me. Of course he doesn’t do it quite right in this video, but you get the idea.

We paid a visit to the Mallard family one Saturday afternoon. Soren didn't mind ruining other people's photos while he played duck, duck, goose.

We paid a visit to the Mallard family one Saturday afternoon. Soren didn’t mind ruining other people’s photos while he played duck, duck, goose.

At the end of March Soren and I took off again, this time for Virginia and North Carolina.

We arrived at the Outer Banks on a chilly Sunday afternoon, but that didn't stop us from saying a quick hello to our beach.

We arrived at the Outer Banks on a chilly Sunday afternoon, but that didn’t stop us from saying a quick hello to our beach.

Monday wasn't much better. Kinda rainy, kinda cold, and really windy.

Monday wasn’t much better. Kinda rainy, kinda cold, and really windy.

Back at the beach house, Soren made my day when he spied this bag of cheetos and asked if he could have a carrot. I didn't catch the question on video, but I got his reaction when he took a bite.

Back at the beach house, Soren made my day when he spied this bag of cheese puffs and asked if he could have a carrot. I didn’t catch the question on video, but I got his reaction when he took a bite.

And then, it was April! Guess I’ll have to finish those beach pictures later.

February 2015

If I had to sum up the month of February in one word, it would be SNOW. We’ve had a grand time breaking weather records like crazy. We’re not sure if we’ll know what to do with ourselves once spring arrives — we can’t really remember what grass looks like!

(With no pictures to be found on my real camera, our February update is essentially a compilation of my Instagram and YouTube uploads.)

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Despite what you see here, Soren doesn’t actually mind the snow and cold. In our family we don’t believe in “snow days.” No matter the forecast, we attempt to go about our business. I abide by the philosophy that snowstorms are the best times to go out, because the roads are mostly free of cars and because we avoid cabin fever. On this particular day, the second big snowstorm of the year was in full force. No travel or parking bans had been put in place yet, so we made our way out to the gym. While I worked out I watched plow after plow drive by my car, quickly building up a wall of snow between me and the street. By the time we got out to the car, there were at least four inches on the car itself. I eventually got us back on the road, and we slipped and slid all the way home (getting stuck no fewer than four times). By the time we got to our driveway, about eight inches of fresh snow were blocking my way. I parked the car in the middle of the street and started shoveling frantically, but to no avail. The five-foot walls of snow on either side of the driveway made it impossible for me to enter the narrow path. I eventually found a place to park on the street, thanks to some stranger who had shoveled out a spot without leaving a space saver. Soren thought the whole thing was pretty exciting until I tried to take a picture of him on our porch.

It was a little easier to get around the next day. Back in business.

It was a little easier to get around the next day. Back in business.

Sometimes toy tools are the only thing that can fix a "broken" scooter.

Sometimes toy tools are the only thing that can fix a “broken” scooter.

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Another day, another snow storm. Soren asked to shovel, so I obliged.

Another day, another snow storm. Soren asked to shovel, so I obliged.

Taking a stroll around the block.

Taking a stroll around the block.

Hot chocolate date with my love.

Hot chocolate date with my love.

That afternoon, Tim quit work early to build Soren a snow cave.

That afternoon, Tim quit work early to build Soren a snow cave.

Then we walked to the "park," which is now a field of snow four feet deep.

Then we walked to the “park,” which is now a field of snow four feet deep (Soren isn’t all the way down to the ground here).

That's a trash can.

That’s a trash can.

Home, sweet home.

Home, sweet home.

We borrowed a friend's baby for a trip to Wegman's one morning. Two kids is so easy.

We borrowed a friend’s baby for a trip to Wegman’s one morning. Two kids is so easy. When it’s for one hour.

You know how with toddlers, sometimes you do something once and then it becomes a thing? A thing you have to do EVERY TIME or the world is not right? One day, after a bath, Soren wanted to snuggle in his towel, so we grabbed a couple books off his shelf and read. Now, that's the routine. Bath, then books while cuddling.

You know how with toddlers, sometimes you do something once and then it becomes a thing? A thing you have to do EVERY TIME or the world is not right? One day, after a bath, Soren wanted to snuggle in his towel, so we grabbed a couple books off his shelf and read. Now, that’s the routine. Bath, then books and cuddles.

For our family's Valentine's Day love dinner we enjoyed stuffed flank steak (Tim), mushroom risotto (me), and roasted asparagus (both of us). For dessert, lots of chocolatey goodness from Tatte.

For our family’s Valentine’s Day love dinner we enjoyed stuffed flank steak (Tim), mushroom risotto (me), and roasted asparagus (both of us). For dessert, lots of chocolatey goodness from Tatte.

Icicles can be both beautiful and terrifying. This one hung from our neighbor's roof for a solid month before falling recently. The picture doesn't do it justice, but it was about 10 feet long!

Icicles can be both beautiful and terrifying. This one hung from our neighbor’s roof for a solid month before falling recently. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was about 10 feet long!

I cannot count how many times Tim brought an icicle into the house during the month of February.

I cannot count how many times Tim brought an icicle into the house during the month of February.

Just the right height.

Just the right height.

My parents came to town to get in on the snow action, so Tim and I took advantage of their babysitting services. Single-digit temps never stopped me from going out for ice cream.

My parents came to town to get in on the snow action, so Tim and I took advantage of their babysitting services. Single-digit temps have never stopped me from going out for ice cream.

We paid a visit to Taza for some of our favorite chocolates in the world. I'm really proud that Soren still doesn't know what candy is, but he's wild about dark chocolate.

We paid a visit to Taza for some of our favorite chocolates in the world. I’m really proud that Soren still doesn’t know what candy is, but he’s wild about dark chocolate.

Sunday morning snow hike. This is one of the many snow farms nearby, and Soren can't get enough of the action (dump trucks and loaders are involved).

Sunday morning snow hike. This is one of the many snow farms nearby, and Soren can’t get enough of the action (dump trucks and loaders are involved).

I'd love to know how this duck made it up there.

I’d love to know how this duck made it up there.

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My mom set Soren up with a box lid of rice while she was in town (it quickly became a “construction site”), and he’s been playing with it for three weeks straight.

This video shows another well-loved toy. (Visit the Whoville Creations Etsy shop to see more fun block puzzles. Tim’s aunt is the genius behind the shop.)

 

He's back at it with his box of rice. Nothing super significant about this picture or this moment, but Soren had me laughing my head off all day and I wanted to remember a piece of our day. We had just returned from Wegman's for a grocery and dinner date, and while driving we stopped at a red light next to a car with super loud music. Soren explained to me, "That car's music is bumpin'." A few minutes later, I said something about how the traffic was bad and I had chosen a bad route. Soren asked, "Was that dumb?" Next, we were discussing a nearby construction site and Soren let me know, "You can just call it a site." And he said it as if he had some insider knowledge on construction lingo.

Back at it with the box of rice. There isn’t anything super significant about this picture or this moment, but Soren and I had had some great conversations right around then, and I wanted to remember a piece of our day. We had just returned from Wegman’s for a grocery and dinner date, and while driving we stopped at a red light next to a car with super loud music. Soren explained to me, “That car’s music is bumpin’.” A few minutes later, I said something about how the traffic was bad and I had chosen a bad route. Soren asked, “Was that dumb?” Next, we were discussing a nearby construction site and Soren let me know, “You can just call it a site.” And he said it as if he had some insider knowledge on construction lingo. He’s awesome.

The Indecisive Vaccinator

Where do I fall in the great vaccine debate? Smack dab in the middle.
At two years old, this kid is partially vaccinated and perfectly healthy.

At two years old, this kid is partially vaccinated and perfectly healthy.

I pass by our pediatrician’s office building a few times a week, and every time I have the exact same thought: “I should call right now and schedule an immunization appointment for Soren. Or… maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.”

At two and a half years old, my son should have received about 27 shots. Instead, his shot record booklet is collecting dust on some corner of my desk. He’s received a couple of DTaP doses, a Hib shot or two. The PCV13 seemed like a mostly good idea. But polio? Nah. Who even gets polio in the United States? And the rotavirus vax? No thanks — babies can get rotavirus even if they’ve received the vaccine. And I know the autism/MMR theory has been debunked, but that one still gives me the heeby jeebies. Isn’t it still a little unnerving that the connection between autism and vaccines is still believed so strongly by many intelligent people?

During my 39.5 weeks of pregnancy, I pored over the literature. I was meticulous about what I put in my own body, avoiding even Tylenol when the crazy hormonal headaches hit. I abandoned my face wash to prevent salicylic acid from touching my skin. I birthed my sweet baby without medications or interventions, then breastfed him for more than two years. I used coconut oil when his bum got rashy (which didn’t happen much, thanks to cloth diapers) and slathered him with a super safe but ridiculously priced sunscreen on our beach days. When he hit six months and seemed ready for solid food, you better believe his first bites of roasted broccoli were organic.

So being skeptical about vaccines was a no-brainer for me. I mean, is it really a good idea to inject an hours-old baby with aluminum and formaldehyde for a disease (hepatitis B) that’s transmitted through sexual contact? Is it wise to blindly vaccinate when our country’s recent history includes things like the swine flu fiasco and a flu vaccine that is merely 23% effective?

We decided to embark on a delayed vaccination schedule for Soren, focusing on the immunizations that bring the greatest benefits; we also decided to allow just one shot at a time, and never any of the whopper combo vaccines. (This has made for some interesting discussions with the pediatrician. When he walks into the room his first words are, “OK, let’s negotiate. Five shots today.” I respond with a firm, “one.” He comes down to three, I hold fast at one, and eventually he surrenders to the mother’s wishes.)

At two months old, Soren should've received five shots. But we weren't ready. When I drilled the pediatrician on the necessity of the hep B shot at birth, his answer was, "Does he have a girlfriend?" That's my kind of pediatrician.

At two months old, Soren should’ve received five shots. But we weren’t ready. When I drilled the pediatrician on the necessity of the hep B shot at birth, his answer was, “Does he have a girlfriend?” That’s my kind of pediatrician.

But we never exactly put our proposed vaccination “schedule” on paper. And as overwhelmed new parents often experience, our best-laid plans quickly went awry. The result was a vaccination here and a vaccination there, mostly when we happened to be visiting the doctor for a well check-up anyway, and mostly when I’d taken time to research the particular shot right before the appointment. Not exactly a solid method.

Sometimes I blame my busy schedule for preventing me from finding ample time to study the issue out and really determine which side I’m on. But the truth is that I simply can’t decide. I’m not an anti-vaxxer. But I’m not fully on board with the whole thing. I like the idea of everyone vaccinating for the good of the community. But I’m also selfish. I want to believe the research. But when there aren’t any solid studies on long-term side effects, how can I?

So where do I fall in the great vaccine debate? I’m on both sides and I’m on neither side. I’m smack dab in the middle.

I’m certain I’ll never feel that vaccinations are free of risks. I realize they’re probably safe. The benefits of vaccinating my child most likely outweigh the costs. But it’s very possible I’ll remain on the fence forever. So what’s an indecisive mom to do? For now, I’ll continue to follow my instincts, vaccinating occasionally and somewhat haphazardly. Am I wrong? Some doctors would say so. The most passionate anti-vaxxers might disagree with me.

But being on this middle ground has shown me that all of us have the same goal — to keep our children healthy and safe from disease. The way we each go about it, however, is quite different. It’s all part of the great experiment we call parenting. And aren’t we all just giving it our best shot?

Book Report: Trucks, Trains, and Other Things That Go

With literally hundreds of books to choose from at the library each week, you’d think it would be a cinch to bring home a stack of winners for a 2-year-old. Unfortunately, you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Or its title. Or its illustrations.

But after two years of scouring our library’s “transportation” section, I think we’ve nailed down the top 10 children’s books (and authors!) that feature trucks, machines, trains, buses, planes, and the ever-popular pickle car. Here are our greatest “things that go” picture book hits.

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Roadwork

1. Roadwork by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Low

“Load the dirt. Load the dirt. Scoop and swing and drop. Slam it down into the truck. Bump! Whump! Whop!” This rhyming, rhythmic read-aloud lays out every step of the construction process with simple language and vibrant art. We also love the final page of the book, which details the much-loved construction equipment (and clues parents in to the real names of the machines).

Other favorites by Sally Sutton: Demolition and Construction (which are equally adored at our house, as both follow the poetic pattern found in “Roadwork”).

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Machines Go to Work

2. Machines Go to Work by William Low

Low has pioneered the use of digital painting in children’s books, and there’s something wonderfully mesmerizing about his realistic illustrations. The fun in this book is the surprising twists that come when little fingers lift the gatefolds, morphing borderless two-page spreads into three-page murals. Questions are asked, and then each machine’s true intention is revealed in the answer. When the firetruck comes roaring to the scene of an emergency, are the trees on fire? No! A kitten is stuck, waiting to be rescued.

If you read the book with slightly older children, show them this neat YouTube clip of the artist at work. He’s a fascinating guy (a native New Yorker who was born in the back of a cab), and I never would’ve imagined the book’s illustrations could have started out as scribbles on a computer screen.

Other favorites by William Low: Machines Go to Work in the City

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Red Car Red Bus

3. Red Car, Red Bus by Susan Steggall

This picture book is both simple and brimming with clever details. The text and accompanying vehicles offer basic lessons in patterns and sequencing, so even a two-year-old can “read” the story. The illustrations are the real focal point, though — each page is filled with collages made from textured and torn paper (some handmade, some manufactured), and the amusing background storylines entice us into opening this book again and again.

Other favorites by Susan Steggall:  The Diggers Are Coming

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Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

4. Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry

Goldbug. Pickle car. Broom-o-cycle. Bananamobile. Need I say more? When a children’s book stays in print for 40+ years, you know it’s a winner. And I love any book that can absorb a two-year-old without adult involvement.

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Little Blue Truck

5. Little Blue Truck by Alice Shertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Little Blue and his devoted barnyard posse won our hearts the first time we opened the book. The first few pages of the story introduce each animal and offer a chance to practice all those fun farm sounds (baa, moo, oink, croak) — perfect for the pre-verbal and just-talking stages. The plot thickens when a pompous dump truck finds himself sunk deep in the mud, and Little Blue demonstrates that “a lot depends on a helping hand from a few good friends.” This heartwarming tale never gets old (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s only a few dollars on Amazon — definitely one to own).

Other favorites by Alice Shertle: Little Blue Truck Leads the Way

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Fire Engine Man

6. Fire Engine Man by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha

I’ll be honest — the first few times I read this book with Soren, I was like, “What’s the big deal? I could’ve written that.” Sentences like “I like to squirt down fires” and “I love fire engines” didn’t immediately enchant me. But Soren was obsessed. And I guess it makes sense: The main character, a child, takes on the role of a real-life firefighter, driving a fire truck, sleeping at the fire station, and fighting fires. Every little kid’s dream, right? So now I’ve come around to really enjoy this and the authors’ other similar books, loving that they spark my little one’s imagination.

Other favorites by Zimmerman and Clemesha: Train Man, Digger Man, and Trashy Town

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I Am a Backhoe

7. I Am a Backhoe, by Anna Grossnickle Hines

This quick read was big at our house well before Soren turned one, so it’s got staying power. The book’s little protagonist pretends to be a backhoe, a crane truck, a roller, a bulldozer, and then a dump truck, with illustrations of the bright, massive machines shown behind him. I love the way this book encourages pretend play — “I dig my hand into the sand, my scooper hand. Dig. Dig. Dig. Lift, turn, tip. I am… a backhoe.”

Other favorites by Anna Grossnickle Hines (how about that name?): I Am a Tyrannosaurus

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20 Big Trucks

8. 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street by Mark Lee, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

If I could design the perfect day for my machine-loving man-child, it would mimic the scenario that plays out in “20 Big Trucks.” After an ice-cream truck breaks down in the middle of the street, a host of other exciting vehicles — a crane truck, moving vans, a cement mixer, a truck carrying squealing pigs — creates a giant traffic jam around the block. This counting book is a fun read aloud with its cheerful rhymes and detailed illustrations, and it doesn’t hurt that the yellow-helmeted youngster featured on every page saves the day in the end.

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Things That Go

9. The Big Book of Things that Go by DK Publishing

Every home library needs a few good DK books. I picked this one up at a thrift store for a dollar or two, and it’s received a lot of love over the last couple of years. Name any vehicle — camper van, tanker truck, breakdown train — and you’re sure to find its photograph on the pages of this book. I’ve loved learning the proper names for different machines (and boats and trains) so I don’t have to refer to everything as a “digger.” This is another no-parents-needed book —  it’s always a bonus when your toddler is able to happily “read” to himself!

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Who Made This Cake

10. Who Made This Cake by Chihiro Nakagawa, illustrated by Junji Koyose

Who made this cake? I’ll tell you who. It’s a bunch of miniature construction workers operating big machines. Front-end loaders scoop up flour and sugar, excavators outfitted with whisks beat the eggs, and a helicopter delivers the finishing touches. Totally bizarre. But really fun.

January 2015

I’m not a resolution-maker, but there is something magical about the newness of January. I love a fresh start. We drove back to Boston from Virginia on the first day of the new year, which gave us plenty of time to talk about our plans and hopes and dreams for 2015.

Soren had to be Adriel's doctor one last time before leaving Grandmama and Pappy's house.

Soren had to be Adriel’s doctor one last time before leaving Grandmama and Pappy’s house.

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Checking the heartbeat via the mouth. Very effective.

Although I don’t have any photos to illustrate this, I must document the saddest part of our January. Soren decided to call it quits with the breastmilk. My 29-month-old darling no longer needs me. It had been a gradual process, so the first day of no nursing didn’t seem very out of the ordinary. But the idea was a little bit heartbreaking. I guess it’s time to have another baby.

Soren's sleep habits still get out of whack once every few weeks. Every so often, he'll wake up early from his nap, crying his lights out. If I bring him into my bed quickly enough, he'll fall back asleep snuggled up next to me. And then I try to put my to-do list out of my head and enjoy the moment.

Soren’s sleep habits still get out of whack once every few weeks. Every so often, he’ll wake up early from his nap, crying his lights out. If I bring him into my bed quickly enough, he’ll fall back asleep snuggled up next to me. And then I try to put my to-do list out of my head and enjoy the moment.

My heart melts a little bit when Soren plays both creatively and independently. This one was, "Mama, comeeyah [come here]. They're watchin' traffic."

My heart melts a little bit when Soren plays both creatively and independently. This one was, “Mama, comeeyah [come here]. They’re watchin’ traffic.”

We decided this year to have a family theme each month, with applicable goals and activities to work on throughout the month. January’s theme became “Get Stuff Done,” and the idea was to take care of all the unfinished projects we’d begun in 2014. One such project (of about 30) was to take family pictures and send out some very late New Year’s cards. Since we’re dumb, we didn’t take advantage of December’s pleasant weather for photo taking. Instead, we ventured out on January 10, the first day we had nothing else on the calendar. It was about 15 degrees out. And WINDY. And there was snow on the ground. So basically a really bad day to try to take pictures outside. We dragged a friend along who is not a photographer, handed her our camera set to automatic, and we took some pictures.

They mostly looked like this.

They mostly looked like this.

And then we would jump in the warm car and scan through the photos and realize we all looked frozen and stupid, so we'd drive to another Cambridge spot and try again. Tim and Soren would stay in the car while Rachael and I would scout out a spot that didn't look like ugly winter. How about a random stone wall at the divinity school?

And then we would jump in the warm car and scan through the photos and realize we all looked frozen and stupid, so we’d drive to another Cambridge spot and try again. Tim and Soren would stay in the car while Rachael and I would scout out a spot that didn’t look like ugly winter. How about a random stone wall at the divinity school?

They mostly looked like this.

Finally, we told Soren we’d get hot chocolate after if we could just take a few more photos. I’m pretty sure he’s crying out, “HOT CHOCOLATE” here.

This was literally the only photo out of about 100 that worked. Soren's not looking so hot, but we all have our eyes open and that's good enough for me.

This was literally the only photo out of about 100 that worked. Soren’s not looking so hot, but we all have our eyes open and that’s good enough for me. Now that it’s early February I think I’ll mail out our cards. Want one? Send me your address.

Sometimes we just take selfies.

Sometimes we just take selfies.

Tim's grandparents sent us a few packages filled with fresh Arizona citrus. When we found the boxes on the doorstep, Soren told me, "I'll carry them cause Mama's too heavy." Ooooookay.

Tim’s grandparents sent us a few packages filled with fresh Arizona citrus. When we found the boxes on the doorstep, Soren told me, “I’ll carry them cause Mama’s too heavy.” Ooooookay.

Just a regular day at playgroup, building the "longest train in the world."

Just a regular day at playgroup, building the “longest train in the world.” The best is when you watch Soren attach magnetic train cars together and you hear him talking about “positives and negatives” under his breath.

Tim's parents flew in for MLK day weekend, so we paid a visit to the Museum of Science together. Soren explored a spaceship.

Tim’s parents flew in for MLK day weekend, so we paid a visit to the Museum of Science together. Soren explored a spaceship.

I let Soren sit in the dinosaur's footprint before I saw the sign. Promise.

I let Soren sit in the dinosaur’s footprint before I saw the sign.

The next weekend we got our first real snow storm of the winter. Half a foot fell pretty quickly, so we went out first thing to play.

The next weekend we got our first real snowstorm of the winter. Half a foot fell pretty quickly, so we went out first thing to play.

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I ditched the sledding party early to go shovel the driveway, and this snowman disaster happened in my absence.

I ditched the sledding party early to go shovel the driveway, and this snowman disaster happened in my absence. Not sure why they selected a spot under some heavy tree cover.

Saturday, January 24 was officially the best night of my life. I saw Garth Brooks in the flesh.

Saturday, January 24 was officially the best night of my life. I saw Garth Brooks in the flesh.

"Better than our wedding night?" Tim asked hesitantly. Sorry.

“Better than our wedding night?” Tim asked hesitantly. Sorry. It’s Garth.

A few days later we got another dusting of snow, adding two feet to what was already on the ground. Tim had shoveling duty this time.

A few days later we got another dusting of snow, adding two feet to what was already on the ground. Tim had shoveling duty this time. Sometimes we wonder why we were so desperate for a driveway when we moved in?

The blizzard was a little bizarre since it was incredibly windy. In some spots, there were four feet of snow, and in others there was no accumulation.

The blizzard was a little bizarre since it was incredibly windy. In some spots, there were four feet of snow, in others there was no accumulation. Exhibit A.

Everyone was Instagramming and Facebooking about their awesome snow day fun, but it turns out snow days are hard work when you're cooped up with a two-year-old. So... we took down our Christmas tree. January 27. Is that a record?

Everyone was Instagramming and Facebooking about their awesome snow day fun, but it turns out snow days are hard work when you’re cooped up with a two-year-old. So… we took down our Christmas tree. January 27. Is that a record?

I refused to stay indoors the next day. Out we went.

The day after the blizzard was sunny and just warm enough to melt some of the snow. I refused to stay indoors again. Out we went.

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Schools were canceled, so we were expecting to fight for parking and dino-viewing space at Harvard's Museum of Natural History. Turns out we were the only ones who made it outside. We had the place to ourselves and had the time of our lives.

Schools were canceled, so we were expecting to fight for parking and dino-viewing space at Harvard’s Museum of Natural History. Turns out we were the only ones who made it outside. We had the place to ourselves and had the time of our lives.

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That day was also my six-year Bosto-versary. Pizza was the obvious choice. (The green eggs and ham pizza from Proper Slice is a weird winner for us. Pesto, mozz, prosciutto, red bliss potatoes, perfectly cooked eggs. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.) Celebrating a Bosto-versary in the middle of a blizzard is very fitting. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Part of our monthly family theme includes a song and a scripture that we sing/read each morning. We’ve been using this scripture study method for a few months, and Soren largely ignores the scripture reading part, opting to play while Tim and I say the scripture. On the last day of the month, I told him I’d give him a chocolate chip if he’d say the scripture with us. Turns out the little stinker had the whole thing memorized all along. His voice is pretty quiet in the video, and he’s really hard to understand, but here’s the text of Doctrine & Covenants 58:27 if you want to try to catch what he’s saying: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” This kid kills me.

A Few of My Favorite Things: Mom Edition

Sometimes, when you really love something, you just need to spread the news. So let me tell you about a few of my favorite things right now.

IKEA Patrull Bathtub MatBeing a bit of a helicopter parent, I rarely leave the room when Soren is bathing. To put my mind at ease that he wouldn’t slip and fall to his death, I bought a set of non-slip shower treads at Home Depot. And I hated them. Half of them peeled off within the first few days, and the entire attempt was worthless since the circles covered such a tiny portion of the tub floor.

And then, while browsing at IKEA, I stumbled upon the cutest bathtub mat I’d ever beheld. And it was only $5. And Soren and I both love it. It nearly covers the entire length and width of the tub, and the plentiful suction cups on the bottom make it easy to securely attach it and then pull the whole thing up after each bath. The handy holes are perfect for hanging the mat to dry (although good luck finding a suction hook that will both stick to shower tile and hold up the alligator). Best of all, you can throw the mat in the washing machine to keep it as clean and fresh as the day you bought it. (Don’t live near an IKEA? Amazon sells the matfor around $10, which is double the IKEA price but still a pretty great deal.)

IKEA Patrull alligator bath mat
Electrolux (by Sanitaire) Canister VacuumThe fact that I can call a vacuum a “favorite thing” is practically a miracle. See, I hate cleaning. I enjoy a tidy, well organized home, but I simply hate cleaning it. When Tim and I first got married and realized there were no more roommates to clean the floors, we figured we better purchase a vacuum for all 550 square feet of our apartment. We picked up a cheap Hoover stick vac and figured we were set. It wasn’t quite the worst vacuum in the world, but it was really only good for super light use. Once we upgraded to a two-bedroom apartment and got a few floor rugs, I knew it was time for something more serious. I’d been admiring the Dysons at Costco for years, but didn’t think now  was the time to spend $400 on a vacuum. So I went with a $100 Hoover upright, and after using it once I wanted to kill myself. It was colossal, really awkward to maneuver, and it consistently shot dust and dirt out the back.

For my next attempt at purchasing a vacuum, I read review after review online and felt more confused than ever. So I got smart. I went to an actual vacuum store. And I don’t know why anyone would do it any other way. Those people are geniuses! They advised me based on the size of my house, the types of rugs I have, and what style of vacuum I might like to use. They knew I was lusting after a Dyson (and they did have plenty of them in their store), but they also knew it wasn’t the best choice. Bless them. They set me up with an Electrolux canister vac, and I’ve been in heaven ever since.

Elextrolux by Sanitaire Canister Vacuum

3 Sprouts Storage BinWe hit a breaking point with the toys a few months ago. Most of Soren’s playthings had a home in some way or another, but the Duplos were a little out of control. Surprisingly, IKEA had nothing to offer me. I had resigned myself to the notion that we’d be swimming in Duplos forever when I saw a delightful storage bin at a friend’s apartment. It seemed perfectly crafted, really sturdy, and it was large. I was certain it was a fancy-pants baby boutique item way out of my price range, so I was amazed to find it on Amazon for just $20. Best of all, you can choose from a dozen different animals. When I asked Soren which he wanted, his initial choice was a pink elephant. Is it wrong that I went with my top pick instead? The same brand has other really tempting toy chests and laundry bins and wall organizers. And I better stop there before I fall for any more of them.

3 Sprouts Fox Storage Toy Bin

Acure Organics Shampoo. I am generally the last person anyone would want to look to for advice on anything hair or beauty related. The extent of my makeup routine is mascara once or twice a week. I’ve used my blow dryer about three times in the last three years. BUT, I’ve learned a thing or two while switching to more natural products in my bathroom over the past few years.

For nearly a year I did the “no ‘poo” method, using baking soda for shampoo and apple cider vinegar for conditioner. And I really loved it. But I started reading about how the combination of BS and ACV can potentially damage the hair or mess with the pH or something. And I got scared. So then I tested another DIY shampoo — coconut milk and aloe vera juice. And I looked like a walking oil slick. No go. Next, I moved on to Honest’s shampoo and body wash combo. I liked it. The scent was nice, it lathered fairly well (for a natural shampoo), and I appreciated the convenience of using one bottle to wash my hair and my body (and Soren’s). But when the last bottle was almost empty, I wondered if I should switch things up and see if I could love another shampoo more. I polled a group of friends, and the answer was nearly unanimous: Acure. With Acure, it was love at first wash. The scent is kind of powerful but really incredible — I actually look forward to my two hair-washing days each week because I’m so crazy about the smell. It lathers way better than Honest’s shampoo. And my hair is a little less frizzy than it once was. Try it.

Acure Shampoo

Onaroo Alarm ClockWho drops $40 on a clock for a one-year-old? I’ll tell you who — it’s the very same mom who needed a breathing monitor, a video monitor, a lifetime supply of glow-in-the-dark pacifiers,  and a $150 sleep consultation to get her kid (and herself) to sleep through the night. But seriously, this clock saved our sanity when Soren was nearly two and waking up for the day at 4:45 a.m. Every day. We’d tried absolutely everything, and his early rising was all but killing us. Enter the toddler clock. Using Troublesome Tots’ article as our how-to, we introduced the clock and haven’t looked back. And now we all get out of bed at 6:30 a.m. each day and we feel like a million bucks! He often wakes around 5:45 or 6 a.m., but he stays quiet and laying down until the clock’s green light tells him it’s morning. I’m so glad we introduced it before Soren turned two, because I think his habit of waiting for the green light will be super useful when (if?) we eventually move him to a toddler bed.

Onaroo American Innovative Alarm Clock

Misoprostol and Me: My Experience Using Misoprostol for Miscarriage

Most posts on this blog are written to archive our family’s history or to show off pictures of Soren for the grandparents. This one? Not so much. When I was searching the internet for information about misoprostol for miscarriage, I found other women’s experiences, posted on forums and personal blogs, so so helpful. So I’ll add another story to the world wide web, in hopes that it’ll help some other searching soul who is preparing for her own miscarriage. (A separate post describing more of the background on the miscarriage can be found here.)

Oh, and warning: Slightly graphic content ahead. Dad, this post is not for you.

On the day I learned, via abdominal and vaginal ultrasounds, that my pregnancy had “failed,” my midwife wrote me prescriptions for misoprostol and oxycodone. She advised me to wait a week for a confirmatory ultrasound, so it was strange to have the prescriptions and two-page miscarriage instruction sheet sitting on my dining room table for seven days while I waited, waited, waited.

After the follow-up ultrasounds showed the fetus was, in fact, not viable, I met with my midwife again and peppered her with questions about what the physical experience would be like. Tim and I had read five or six detailed accounts online of others’ experiences with misoprostol for miscarriage, and each person seemed to have a very different story. Among other questions, I asked if I would be awake all night if I inserted the pills at bedtime, as she recommended? How painful would it be? How much bleeding is too much? Or not enough? Would I know when I’d passed the fetus? What if I didn’t feel like I could flush the toilet? Should I eat a lot in advance in case I’m nauseous during the process and can’t eat then? Should I consider scheduling a D&C instead? How will we know if it’s successful? Would I be able to travel by Christmas?

I felt fairly confident in our plan to go forward with the misoprostol, and Tim and I decided we would get the miscarriage party started around 5 or 6 p.m. — late enough that I’d only have a couple hours on my own (while Tim would take care of Soren and put him to bed) but early enough that we’d have a good four or five hours before our own bedtime. As 5 p.m. approached, I started feeling really nervous, and a little anticipatory nausea hit me. And then we realized we needed to tend to other really important things, like dinner. Tim somehow convinced me that a Chipotle salad bowl was the perfect pre-miscarriage meal — not too heavy, but substantial enough to carry me through whatever blood loss and pain might come my way. To be honest, that dinner kind of hit the spot. But it did push our plans back by a bit.

7:15 p.m. I placed a towel on my side of the bed, then laid down with two bottles of pills and a glass of water by my side. I placed the four misoprostol tablets, one by one, as far into my vagina as I could reach. I popped one oxycodone pill right after. (I’m generally pretty against pain medication, antibiotics, etc. I birthed Soren completely naturally, I had a cavity filled a few months ago with no numbing, and I rarely turn to Advil for headaches. But in this instance, I didn’t hesitate to take the strong stuff. Doctor’s orders.)

And then, the waiting began. I was in the middle of reading The Bishop’s Wife, which was kind of fascinating, so I welcomed the forced bed rest. My instructions were to lay flat for at least four hours after taking the miso, so I considered myself ready for bed.

8:45 p.m. I started feeling super drowsy. Nap time. Figured it’d be good to rest up now in case I was awake a lot during the night.

9:30 p.m. Super weird dreams brought me out of my semi-slumber. My book — and the oxy — must have had some influence, because I was having crazy visions of abusive men trying to kill their wives. I woke up feeling a tiny bit dizzy and a little nauseous, but mostly normal. The mildest of cramps started to come on right around then, but they were so slight I wasn’t even sure I was feeling anything. Time for more waiting. We watched an episode or two of Parenthood — fun date night!

11 p.m. Nothing’s happening! I was expecting full on cramps and bleeding at this point. Since I was pain free and feeling totally normal, we decided to call it a night and turn out the lights. I had no trouble falling asleep, and most of my nerves had been settled by the oxy.

12:30 a.m. Woke up in an absolute panic that someone had entered the house and was standing next to Soren’s crib, ready to snatch him up. I startled Tim awake to have him check the monitor. Safe and sound. Must be the drugs.

1:30 a.m. Woke up to the feeling of warm blood — finally! This might be working! I went back to sleep, figuring I had some time before I’d need to change my pad.

3:30 a.m. Woke up again and felt like I should go to the bathroom to see how things were progressing. Tim insisted on accompanying me, which was a really good idea. As soon as I stood up, I felt a rush of blood come out, along with a very large clot — possibly the embryonic sac itself. Because it fell into my pad, I was really interested in looking at it. It was around three inches long and definitely looked like more than just blood. Not wanting to flush the possible fetus down the toilet, I asked Tim to save it. I sat on the toilet for a little while, figuring it made more sense to bleed there instead of quickly filling up another pad while laying in bed. I started to feel lightheaded and weak, so I leaned forward against Tim, who was standing in front of me. And then I guess I passed out. I’ve fainted probably five other times in my life, but it had been a good 10 years or so since the last time, so this caught me by surprise. And it really freaked Tim out. He caught me from falling off the toilet and cracking my head open, then eventually I jolted up, still totally out of it. The next thing I was remotely conscious of was someone saying my name, over and over. In real life, it was Tim, but in my passed-out state the voice sounded completely foreign — and I remember feeling like I was intentionally ignoring it. Strange how our bodies/minds do things like that. Eventually, I came to but felt pretty confused about what was going on. Tim escorted me back to bed, and I felt absolutely wiped. And Tim was terrified about my ghostly white face. He fed me apple slices with peanut butter to get some protein in me, and then I took a second dose of the oxy. I still hadn’t felt any pain to this point — and hardly any discomfort — but I was nervous I’d get hit if I didn’t keep ahead of the pain with the meds.

5 a.m. Of course Soren began crying and whimpering, “I want mama” from his bed. I swear he knows when something is going on that makes me unavailable. Luckily, he quieted quickly, and we all fell back asleep until 6:30 a.m., when Soren gets up for the day (his choosing, not ours).

6:30 a.m. Tim force fed me a bowl of cereal with strawberries, letting me know I was still super pale and was not allowed to make my way to the bathroom until I had some food in me.

7:30 a.m. 12 hours in. Realizing my pad was full, I crawled to the bathroom — so four hours since the last time I’d changed my pad. Another enormous clot came out, but this time it went into the toilet and I didn’t feel the need to fish it out for saving or inspection. After making it back to the bed, I was exhausted. I tried to read Soren a story while Tim showered, but halfway through the book I had to put it down — my arms couldn’t handle it!

8:30 a.m. I finished my book and took another dose of oxy, just in case. But realizing the drugs might be what was causing my lightheadedness and dizziness, I decided to make it my last dose. I still had felt no pain, so I figured I could move to Tylenol if cutting off the oxy led to some discomfort. Also to combat my weakness and complete lack of energy, Tim was practically pouring juice down my throat to keep me hydrated. He made an excellent nurse.

10 a.m. Started feeling really hungry, so I snacked on blackberries and a Cliff bar. (Note that this is all still taking place in my bed. I didn’t feel quite ready to get up and walk around.) I was so thrilled to realize I had felt normal about hunger and eating through all of this. I had been so worried I’d be too nauseous to eat, but that never was a problem for me. I’d read plenty of accounts where people vomited throughout the experience, so I was really pleased with my situation so far (minus the fainting incident). It all seemed a little too easy, which made me nervous the whole things wouldn’t be successful.

11:30 a.m. Another accompanied trip to bathroom showed a super full pad (again, a four-hour span) and a few decent-sized clots. I lunched in bed, then laid back down for a nap. Eating and reading sure was exhausting.

3 p.m. Another pad change, but it wasn’t incredibly full. No more pain meds, and still no pain.

7 p.m. 24 hours in. The bleeding really let up by the 24-hour mark, and the only discomfort I felt was a headache, probably due to all the crazy hormonal changes happening. I was feeling really worried that it hadn’t “worked.” But my body was definitely feeling the blood loss. I felt pretty drained and void of all strength. A good friend delivered a Vietnamese feast to us, so we had a family picnic in my bed. I didn’t even have enough energy to care that Soren was dropping noodles and peanut sauce all over our “picnic blanket”!

In the middle of the month we hit a small bump in the road that is our life plan. One night, when I was physically incapable of leaving my bed, a dear friend delivered a Vietnamese feast. Soren was thrilled when it turned into a bedroom picnic. Noodles and peanut sauce everywhere.

It was the perfect night for takeout!

Day 2: Not much action during the next 7 p.m. to 7 p.m. period (Saturday). I slept alright, but felt pretty exhausted in the morning. Bleeding was light most of the day. I took a shower, which felt incredible. Tim hovered in the bathroom, terrified I’d pass out again. I took a few naps here and there, and in the evening I made it outside! I walked the short distance from the house to the car, then we drove around to look at Christmas lights, sharing a Rancatore’s frappe among the three of us. Nice to be outside, but really nice to get back home to bed.

Day 3: On Sunday, after 48 hours in, I woke up with an incredible headache. Anytime I tried to stand up I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I napped while Tim and Soren went to church. Around midday I could feel a lot more blood coming. I took a shower, and blood was just streaming out of me. Through the afternoon, I had to change my pad a few times in quick succession, and there were a few more large clots. By evening things slowed down again. This gave me hope that things were happening as we’d wished!

Soren didn't seem to mind a few days of playtime with dad while I laid around in bed. Although he did spend plenty of time cuddling up to me.

Spending hours upon hours in bed got old really fast. Soren didn’t seem to miss me too much. He did come join me for lots of cuddles, though.

Day 4: On Monday, I headed for the doctor’s office, where my blood work showed that my hCG levels had dropped from 88,000 (the day before the miscarriage) to 11,000 — a good sign, but not conclusive. The midwife recommended returning in a week for more bloodwork. Today was the first day I started to feel a little more “normal.” Still weak, still tired, but capable of picking things up around the house and doing a little more than just laying in bed.

Days 5, 6, 7: On day 5 the midwife said we were clear to travel for the holidays, so we jumped in the car and spent the next 10 hours traveling from Boston to Virginia. My body was feeling pretty good, and the bleeding was light enough that we didn’t need to make more than a couple stops to fill the car with gas and to get dinner. The day after  we arrived, though, (day 6) I was spent. I wouldn’t have expected a road trip to take it out of me, but I was completely drained. My mom and husband ordered me to stay on the couch while they pumped me full of water, iron supplements, and food. The next day — day 7 — was Christmas, and I felt a little closer to normal. A little stronger, no headaches, and very little bleeding.

From there, things have gotten better each day. On day 18 I returned to the doctor’s office for another hCG check, and the results showed my levels had dropped to 586. A huge drop, but not quite low enough to mark this whole thing as “finished.” I’ll go back in a week for another check, but I feel optimistic that we can call it a day — now that it’s been a month since I first got the news that the pregnancy was not viable.

All in all, I think my misoprostol for miscarriage experience was incredibly ideal. I felt no physical pain, and I was fortunate to be among the 80% of women for whom it works first try. Although doing a D&C in the hospital might have guaranteed successful results more quickly, I’d go with misoprostol at home every time after my experience. Now we’ll just hope I never have the need to choose again!

December 2014

Could there be a more festive month than December? It’s January 9, and I’ve yet to put my tree away — I just can’t bear to say goodbye to the season. It was a month of highs and lows, but filled with lots of holiday joy.

I came home one evening to Tim and Soren "folding laundry."

I came home one evening to Tim and Soren “folding laundry.”

Soren is still as much of a book lover as he’s ever been. Each week he approaches the librarians to ask about a book or author he’s been thinking about. He knows the names of half a dozen authors and likes to check out multiple books by one author. One of our favorites of late is April Sayre, and Soren has memorized her book, “Go, Go, Grapes.” I tried to catch him “reading” it on video and was semi-successful.

One afternoon Soren took emptying the dishwasher into his own hands. Anything with wheels is Soren's favorite thing.

One afternoon Soren took emptying the dishwasher into his own hands. Anything with wheels is Soren’s favorite thing.

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Just a regular morning conversation:

Another from the same day. Soren told me his Duplo people were “having a meeting.” I asked what the meeting was about and he said, “Heavenly Father.” He didn’t quite repeat the performance for the video, but close.

That night, Soren and I were enjoying dinner when he told me, out of the blue, that the pasta was “mighty tasty.” Melted my heart.

 

Soren spends a lot of time by my side in the kitchen. During this cooking moment, his best quote was, "It's a gondola!"

Soren spends a lot of time by my side in the kitchen. During this cooking moment, his best quote was, “It’s a gondola!”

"Now it's a bridge!"

“Now it’s a bridge!”

Every Monday after storytime at the library, Soren veers right when we should be heading left to go home. The fire station is like a magnet for my boy.

Every Monday after storytime at the library, Soren veers right when we should be heading left to go home. The fire station is like a magnet for my boy.

In the middle of the month we hit a small bump in the road that is our life plan. One night, when I was physically incapable of leaving my bed, a dear friend delivered a Vietnamese feast. Soren was thrilled when it turned into a bedroom picnic. Noodles and peanut sauce everywhere.

In the middle of the month we hit a small bump in the road that is our life plan. One night, when I was physically incapable of leaving my bed, a dear friend delivered a Vietnamese feast. Soren was thrilled when it turned into a bedroom picnic. Noodles and peanut sauce everywhere.

Soren didn't seem to mind a few days of playtime with dad while I laid around in bed. Although he did spend plenty of time cuddling up to me.

Soren didn’t seem to mind a few days of playtime with dad while I laid around in bed. Although he did spend plenty of time cuddling up to me.

Two days post-miscarriage I needed to get out of the house. I successfully made it from the house to the car, then we drove around looking at Christmas lights (and eating a most delicious frappe from Rancatore's). We swung by the temple to show Soren the condensed version of a life-size nativity. I took photos from the car, while Tim surely taught Soren something really important about the temple or the birth of the Savior or something.

Two days post-miscarriage I needed to get out of the house. I successfully made it from the house to the car, then we drove around looking at Christmas lights (and eating a most delicious frappe from Rancatore’s). We swung by the temple to show Soren the condensed version of a life-size nativity. I took photos from the car while Tim surely taught Soren something really important about the temple or the birth of the Savior or something.

We got the green light from the midwife two days before Christmas, so we jumped in the car and headed south for Virginia. I spent Christmas Eve day on the couch while Tim and my mom forced water and iron pills and water down my throat. By Christmas morning I was ready to party.

We got the green light from the midwife two days before Christmas, so we jumped in the car and headed south for Virginia. I spent Christmas Eve day on the couch while Tim and my mom forced water and iron pills and food down my throat. By Christmas morning I was ready to party.

Had to document the first present of the morning. Who knew happiness could be bought with a $5 potato head from Amazon.com?

Had to document the first present of the morning. Who knew happiness could be bought with a $5 Mr. Potato Head from Amazon?

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Don’t mind the eerie yellow glow from my failed attempt at shooting in manual. There wasn’t much light in the room, OK?

Truman and Soren had a few minor Christmas tiffs, but they still love each other.

Truman and Soren had a few minor Christmas tiffs, but they still love each other.

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New sparkly boots from Grandmama!

The other big winner of the day was the giant firetruck I happened to acquire for free. It's pretty much the greatest thing Soren has ever seen.

The other big winner of the day was the giant firetruck I happened to acquire for free. It’s pretty much the greatest thing Soren has ever seen.

Evidence that he couldn't put it down. It had to accompany us on our drive to Aunt Mel's for the Christmas feast. While we were there, Truman took a sharpie to the truck and literally marked it with a T. Magic Eraser to the rescue!

Evidence that he couldn’t put the firetruck down. It had to accompany us on our drive to Aunt Mel’s for the Christmas feast. While we were there, Truman took a sharpie to the truck and literally marked it with a T. Magic Eraser to the rescue!

The 26th was the perfect day for a trip to the zoo. Sunshine, 50 degrees, and lots of active animals. All nine cousins are pictured here, although Everett is hard to spot beneath the anteater.

The 26th was the perfect day for a trip to the zoo. Sunshine, 50 degrees, and lots of active animals. I had a hard time deciding whether to go — a day at home to rest in peace and quiet sounded lovely, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle missing out on the fun (I experience a lot of FOMO). My dad came up with the perfect solution — a wheelchair. I walked around for a solid hour before succumbing to being pushed around. I don’t think I regret that we didn’t get any photos of that. All nine cousins are pictured here, although Everett is hard to spot beneath the anteater.

Three little monkeys watching Mei Xiang (or is it Tian Tian?) in the panda house.

Three little monkeys watching Mei Xiang (or is it Tian Tian?) in the panda house.

I never would've expected the armadillos to be such a hit.

I never would’ve expected the armadillos to be such a hit.

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The next morning was another downtown day. Soren and Ev played around the Capitol Christmas tree while I waited in line at the Botanic Garden.

The next morning was another downtown day. Soren and Ev played around the Capitol Christmas tree while I waited in line at the Botanic Garden.

When we were in Virginia last July, Adriel asked Soren incessantly if she could hold him. Every time, he held out his hand to refuse. This time, he was all for it. These two had some great times together.

When we were in Virginia last July, Adriel asked Soren incessantly if she could hold him. Every time, he held out his hand to refuse. This time, he was all for it. These two had some great times together.

After a 45-minute wait, and after finally getting our party of 15 together, we made it inside. Soren's first stop was the water at the Garden Court. It's a miracle none of the kids ended up submerged.

After a 45-minute wait, and after finally getting our party of 15 together, we made it inside. Soren’s first stop was the water at the Garden Court. It’s a miracle none of the kids ended up submerged.

And then, the moment we'd been waiting for — the trains!

And then, the moment we’d been waiting for — the trains!

Quick flashback moment: One year ago.

Quick flashback moment: One year ago.

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Just one more flashback.

Just one more flashback.

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The day was too perfect to stop there (60 degrees!) so we had a picnic by the reflecting pool. Nine cousins and two grandparents.

The day was too perfect to stop there (60 degrees!) so we had a picnic by the reflecting pool. Note that Soren is the only kid with a coat on — I tried taking it off, but his shirt was drenched from playing in the fountains at the Botanic Garden.

Most of the kids were terrified of the birds that got a little friendly with our food. Soren's response? "I want to hold them!"

Most of the kids were terrified of the birds that got a little friendly with our food. Soren’s response? “I want to touch them!”

I couldn't bear to go back home with such dreamy weather, so we opted for a stroller nap. No complaints from this kid.

I couldn’t bear to go back home with such dreamy weather, so we opted for a stroller nap. No complaints from this kid (if he’s offered a pacifier, that is).

There is probably no memorial more fun and picture-worthy than the FDR.  Here are a few cousins waiting in a bread line.

There is probably no memorial more fun and picture-worthy than the FDR. One day I should go through all my old photos and compile every FDR memorial picture I have since it opened in 1997. Here are a few cousins waiting in a bread line.

Everett requested I take this picture.

Everett requested I take this picture.

Soren woke up in time to explore half the site. Despite the crowd of people waiting their turn to touch FDR and Fala, Soren took his sweet time.

Soren woke up in time to explore half the site. Despite the crowd of people waiting their turn to touch FDR and Fala, Soren took his sweet time examining the statues.

And attempting to take a ride on the dog.

And attempting to take a ride on the dog.

Rock climbing.

Rock climbing.

I had parked by the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument, so we spent a few minutes there before heading home. Soren ran circles around the giant MLK for a good 15 minutes.

I had parked by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, so we spent a few minutes there before heading home. Soren ran circles around the giant MLK for a good 15 minutes.

He probably made his way into a dozen families' photos. This was an especially good photo bomb.

He probably made his way into a dozen family pictures as he ran about. This time, he stopped to join one family for a nice photo bomb.

Had to get one more shot of all nine grandkiddies together.

Had to get one more shot of all nine grandkiddies together.

And then a silly pose.

And then a silly pose.

These two were born a month apart, so we made them hold hands.

These two were born a month apart, so we made them hold hands.

We celebrated second Christmas on the 28th so the whole family could partake of the annual Bethlehem dinner. And second Christmas means more presents!

We celebrated second Christmas on the 28th so the whole family could partake of the annual Bethlehem dinner. And second Christmas means more presents! Soren is so fancy — he’s still decked out in church clothes when the other eight are in their jammies.

I wish I had taken more photos of the kids playing. My mom's house is chock full of toys, and the kids just played and played for hours. Once my old Lego collection came out, Tim had no complaints about participating.

I wish I had taken more photos of the kids playing. My mom’s house is chock full of toys, and the kids just played and played for hours. Once my old Lego collection came out, Tim had no complaints about participating. (Don’t mind Soren’s towel-ed getup. I think he was on his way to bed after a bath.)

Speaking of baths...

Speaking of baths…

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And to finish off the month, I saw a movie in the theater for the first time in two-and-a-half years. Fun to sit between two popcorn-loving little girls.

And to finish off the month, I saw a movie in the theater for the first time in two-and-a-half years. (And it was the first time ever for Carson and Ev!) Fun to sit between two popcorn-loving little girls.

Miscarriage Sucks

My grandma was ardent in her disapproval of the word “sucks.” It’s not ladylike, it’s not very professional (not that I claim to be either ladylike or professional), and out of respect and admiration for Gram I’ve always tried to avoid uttering the word.

So I was a little caught off guard when my midwife used the phrase, “it sucks” twice while we talked — through tears — about my failed pregnancy. But I quickly realized why she said it. It’s the perfect word to describe miscarriage. Miscarriage can be all at once sad and physically painful and confusing and traumatic. But none of those words captures it all. So my preference is to describe miscarriage simply as “sucky.”

I knew I was pregnant the very day I missed my period in October. My cycle had been exactly regular, and although it had barely been three months since I’d had my IUD removed, it felt like it was taking forever to get pregnant. I would’ve taken a pregnancy test that very day, but I was fresh out. (I have a tendency to take pregnancy tests willy nilly. I stock up at the dollar store then go through them like candy.) The next day I picked up a couple more New Choice pregnancy tests, then took one the minute I walked in the door. No surprise to me — pregnant! To be doubly sure, I took another test a week later — confirmed! With Soren, I had waited a few weeks following the missed period to take a test — I didn’t want to be disappointed. But when symptoms had started appearing, I felt safe to verify it. This time around, I enjoyed a few blissful weeks of pregnancy knowledge without the inevitable first trimester symptoms.

And this time around, I decided to break the rules about announcing. With Soren we waited the recommended 12 weeks, excited to keep our happy secret between us for a little while. This time, I saw no reason to keep quiet. I was a mere six weeks along when I told a mom friend at a playgroup. At church I spilled the beans to a couple of friends. My entire family knew quite early. And word got around from there. I was fully aware that 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage and that I wasn’t out of the “safe zone.” But I didn’t foresee miscarriage as being something I’d need to keep secret.

Around the six-week mark, the first trimester experience really began. All the books tell you a lack of nausea is a bad sign, so we were a little relieved that all those lovely early pregnancy symptoms were fully present and began right when they were supposed to. The nausea seemed to be worse than when I was pregnant with Soren, and, unfortunately, I couldn’t baby myself quite like I could when I was childless. All the food woes were just the same — nothing sounded good, but I was so so hungry, always. I would wake up desperate for cold, fresh fruit. Tim would dutifully bring me raspberries or grapes or apple slices in bed around 6 a.m. Saltines and seltzer water were permanent fixtures on my nightstand. Some days I took little naps when Soren would go down, but I generally just stayed tired all the time. I didn’t remember the night time peeing starting so early with Soren — I thought that was a third trimester thing when the growing uterus begins shoving into the bladder. But, alas, the 2 a.m. trips to the bathroom began right away this time — which is normal — but I must have blocked that from my memory after the first pregnancy. Overall, the first trimester is a drag, and the experience was reassuringly fitting into all the descriptions of a healthy pregnancy.

And just the same as with Soren, I had the usual fears about a spontaneous miscarriage or showing up at my first appointment only to learn there’s no heartbeat. My first prenatal appointment was scheduled for a few days after I’d hit the 10-week mark. I don’t remember feeling any special urgency to get in and get checked, but I was definitely looking forward to the appointment to have my fears put to rest (and plus, I have really fond memories of our first appointment with the midwife during my pregnancy with Soren). I was actually initially scheduled to go in right around nine weeks, but Tim had a meeting he couldn’t move and he wanted to join me, so we postponed by a week. At the time, this seemed like no big deal. But it ends up that the earlier appointment might have led to a much less stressful situation than the way the timing actually played out! Oops.

So we made the familiar trek to Mount Auburn Hospital, happy to see familiar faces at Dr. Hardiman’s office after my two-year hiatus from their prenatal care. Josefina made her usual jokes about Dr. Hardiman’s patients having the cutest babies, with Soren as proof of the theory. We made our way back to one of the rooms, where midwife Carrie drilled us with all the questions about our health, our family medical history, and so on. We talked some about the first trimester and how it was all going, and with everything seemingly on track she began her first attempt at finding the heartbeat. No luck. She let us know this was completely normal, since it can depend on the positioning of all that stuff inside me. After a good long try, she made a vaginal attempt. Still nothing. At this point, she said that was still “normal,” but I’d need to have an ultrasound to better detect the heartbeat. I can’t say I knew for certain at that point that the ultimate news would be bad, but I didn’t exactly have an abundance of hope. I asked her what the odds were that this would be OK, and she estimated 70/30 in our favor. She said we had the option of going down to radiology right then to wait for an opening, or we could schedule it for the following Monday. What kind of crazy person would choose to go home and hang out for a few days, wondering all the while whether the fetus was still viable? With Soren, the only ultrasound we ever wanted was the 20-week gender check. And I’m very much opposed to the superfluous ultrasounds many doctors offer or recommend to low-risk patients. A piece of me wondered if I should just go on home and wait for my body to let me know if this pregnancy was healthy or not. But I decided that if there was a chance my pregnancy was over, I had to know as soon as possible.

So we made our way downstairs, and I sent Tim and Soren home for lunch and naps. I must have been in a bit of a panic, because I couldn’t think of a single person who might be able to come fetch me from the hospital in the middle of a Thursday afternoon. I didn’t feel especially worried, but I was drawing a blank on names. Fortunately (and likely following some divine intervention), a good friend texted me right at that moment to let me know she was heading to Costco and she’d love to pick up groceries for me. After a quick call, my ride was lined up (as well as a delivery of grapes and strawberries).

The waiting room was a depressing sight. It was full and it was smelly. I didn’t have much more than my phone with me, and I was kicking myself for not bringing my laptop to catch up on work. After catching up on emails, Instagram, Facebook, scriptures, Pinterest, and a few articles in my Pocket, I was getting antsy. And I was starving. For me, skipping lunch when pregnant (or not) is a bad, bad idea, but I was terrified that if I left the waiting room I’d miss my spot. About an hour and a half in, I decided to prepare myself for what might come by Googling “no heartbeat 10 weeks.” The results were about what I expected, but it was good to scroll through the many forums and personal experiences to hear how others dealt with it.

Eventually, an ultrasound tech brought me into one of the rooms and began the abdominal scan. I hate that they’re not allowed to say anything to you about what they’re seeing. I stared at her face the entire time, trying to read what she might be thinking. But nothing. She finished up and let me know they’d need to do the vaginal ultrasound next. At this point I felt more certain that the news was bad — there is no way a healthy pregnancy at 10 or 11 weeks would necessitate abdominal and vaginal heartbeat checks and then both abdominal and vaginal ultrasounds. She performed the second ultrasound, then left me to go share the images with the radiologist, who would return with her to give me the rundown. An eternity later, I heard them approach the door, and I listened to him ask her, “So should I just tell her now?” I had already been teary off and on, but this did it for me. They both entered the room, and the radiologist — with unexpectedly good bedside manner — let me know the ultrasounds indicated a failed pregnancy. The fetus appeared to have stopped growing at six weeks — more than a month ago — and no heartbeat was detected. There were also other “suspicious” findings in the ultrasound, like an enlarged yolk sac, which is another indicator of a failed pregnancy (though a non-specific one, meaning it can’t be used as conclusive evidence). When it happens this way (not spontaneously) it’s called a missed miscarriage. The words confirmed my assumptions, but they weren’t easy to hear.

The second blow came with the news from the radiologist and the midwife that I should return to the hospital in 7-10 days for a second ultrasound to confirm everything. This was absolutely baffling to me. You tell me I have a failed pregnancy, but you want me to go home and continue to be pregnant? But their reasoning is this: With a fetus six weeks along, it’s feasible that the heartbeat wouldn’t be detected. However, I knew — and they agreed — that it was pretty much impossible that I would only be six weeks along. If a woman had had very irregular periods and wasn’t certain when she became pregnant, this might be possible. But I was regular to the day, and multiple pregnancy tests confirmed everything way back in October. I was also 100% certain it wouldn’t have been conceivable (pun a little bit intended) for me to become pregnant after the day I “thought” I missed my period. Let’s just say my first trimester experience isn’t exactly conducive to, uh, intimacy.

While discussing all this with Carrie, she agreed that I could feel confident that the pregnancy was over, and I could opt to induce the miscarriage at my leisure. But she and Dr. Hardiman couldn’t make that their official recommendation, because they have to base everything on the ultrasound results and the medical literature. This made for a tricky decision, compounded by the fact that we were scheduled to fly to Missouri in less than a week. So we talked about my options:

1) Go against the “official” recommendation and induce the miscarriage before the confirmatory ultrasound. This was initially most appealing to me. I didn’t want to be pregnant for another second. I didn’t want to continue to experience the first trimester when there would be no reward at the end of it. And I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s holiday plans. But I also felt a tiny bit of hesitation making the decision to abort without an official recommendation from the professionals.

2) Continue with our travel plans, and schedule an ultrasound in Missouri, after which I could induce the miscarriage there. Nothing about having a miscarriage at your in-laws’ house sounds attractive. I was envisioning the many walks I’d need to take from Tim’s childhood bedroom to the bathroom we’d share with his siblings, and then potentially having to wait my turn while blood is pouring out of me. And then what if I had to go in for a D&C? I know it’s a fairly routine and low-risk procedure, but doing it at a strange hospital in the middle of Missouri just didn’t strike me as a great idea.

3) Continue with our travel plans, and take care of everything upon returning to Boston in three weeks. No way.

4) Cancel our trip, hang out in Boston, and return to Mount Auburn in a week. I didn’t initially consider this option — we’d spent a lot of money on plane tickets that we wouldn’t likely get back. And people were expecting us to be in Missouri for Christmas. We knew they’d understand the extreme circumstances, but we also knew there would be a lot of disappointment and possible nudging to change our travel plans to simply work around the miscarriage.

I asked Carrie what she would do in my shoes. She knew option one was my preference. She thought about it for awhile. And then she said she’d cancel the trip. I sort of wrote this off, since it didn’t seem like an option to me. She wrote me prescriptions for misoprostol (to induce the miscarriage) and oxycodone (for the pain) in case I decided to do it at home in the next few days or in Missouri after a follow-up ultrasound. I told her I’d call her the next day and let her know what I would do, and then off I went for blood work (to get a baseline for my hCG levels).

My poor friend and ride home had been waiting for me for an hour at this point, and I was so relieved to finally be leaving. It was almost 4 p.m., so I’d been at the hospital for five hours and my extreme hunger wasn’t helping my out-of-whack emotions. This wonderful friend brought me a perfect brown bag lunch, which made everything feel a little bit better.

At home, Tim and I talked and talked and talked some more. (And I cried and cried and cried some more. Tim didn’t.) Too many decisions to make. And I hate making decisions. None of the options was jumping out as the best. I won’t prolong this by giving the play-by-play on all the thoughts I had during the evening and night about how we could make this work, but in the morning a wise friend called and gave some wonderful advice that led me to feel perfectly content about canceling our trip to Missouri. What I wasn’t even considering before suddenly felt like the best and most obvious choice. Tim was fully onboard, and so after 24 hours of super high stress levels, we had our answer and we didn’t look back.

Tim babied me on Friday and let me spend the day feeling sick and sad in bed. Each day from there got a little easier, and by the time Thursday rolled around I was desperate to move on with the physical part of the miscarriage. So much waiting! It was nice to be completely non-emotional during the second appointment so I could converse easily with the ultrasound tech (who said these situations are “wicked sad” for her every time) and radiologist while they did the two ultrasounds (again, abdominal and vaginal). Everything was just as I expected it to be — zero changes from the week before. It was quite a relief to know we could now take the next steps. I went upstairs to chat about it with Carrie and make a plan.

I had a lot of questions about how the actual miscarriage would play out. Tim and I had read online five or six detailed accounts of others’ experiences with misoprostol for miscarriage, and each person seemed to have a very different story. If I inserted the pills at night, as she recommended, would I be awake all night? How painful would it be? How much bleeding is too much? Or not enough? Would I know when I’d passed the fetus? What if I didn’t feel like I could flush the toilet? Should I eat a lot in advance in case I’m nauseous during the process and can’t eat then? Should I consider scheduling a D&C instead? How will we know if it’s successful? Will I be able to travel by Christmas?

After more blood work to check hCG levels, I was on my way and felt confident in our plan. I stopped off at Target to fill my prescriptions and to pick up a few stocking stuffers. And then home to meet Tim and Soren as they made their way back from playgroup. We had about six more hours of normal life before entering the unknown world of the physical miscarriage.

Since we found others’ detailed misoprostol stories so helpful in knowing what to expect, I’ve written up a separate account of those gory details, to be posted soon. But the one sentence summary is this: I placed the medication (and popped an oxycodone) around 7 p.m. on a Thursday, then spent the next few days laying around, reading, sleeping, watching a few shows, and bleeding. And waiting. And wondering if the miscarriage had been 100% successful. So much of this experience has involved waiting, waiting, waiting for things to happen. After those few days we still weren’t certain if everything had “worked.”

Monday — three days before Christmas — was the first day I started getting back into real life. Doctor visit for blood work, library with Soren for story time, and a little Christmas prep and house organizing (though Tim did a phenomenal job of maintaining the house while I was down). I learned my hCG levels had fallen from 88,000 on Thursday to 11,000 — a good sign, but not conclusive quite yet. On Tuesday we headed down to Virginia a bit spontaneously after getting the go-ahead from the midwife. It was wonderful to continue my recovery on my mom’s couch with loads of nieces and nephews running wild around the house. After returning to Boston, I paid yet another visit to the doctor’s office for more blood work, and my hCG level had dropped down to 586. So things are still progressing as we’d hoped, but they haven’t declared me to be fully in the clear. I’ll return again next week for them to draw blood again, and I’m hoping that’ll be the end of it.

It’s now almost exactly one month after my first appointment, and I’m feeling totally back to normal (aside from the fact that we’re not 100% the physical part is over). Emotionally, I’m totally fine. I know that some women mourn the loss for months and years (or forever) after. That’s definitely not the case for me. Sure, it was a difficult experience, but I can’t say that I’d felt any strong connection to the unborn (I didn’t with Soren, either, when I was just 11 weeks pregnant.) This has caused me to think some about whether I believe life begins at conception — in this instance, I’m not sold on the idea that there was ever a spirit in the tiny body that wasn’t meant to survive.

More than anything, the miscarriage has been an exercise in practicing patience. In my dream world, I’d have kids just a couple years apart, but as it turns out I didn’t feel ready until a few months ago. That would’ve put the two at three years apart. Now, who knows? Apparently, it’s not up to me. The other lesson learned is that being the recipient of service from good friends and Relief Society sisters feels incredible. Without anyone being asked to help, four separate church sisters brought dinner over, two long-distance besties sent groceries and a dinner delivery, one former visiting teacher scrubbed my bathroom until it was cleaner that it had ever been, a new friend came over and spent two hours playing with Soren, two other women dropped by with cookies, and a good friend and neighbor came over with a fun gift of face masks and foot scrubs and treats. It was far more than I deserved or probably needed, but it all felt absolutely amazing. I would never have guessed that so many people would have cared enough to go to such lengths to make sure I was OK.

To close out this longest journal entry ever, I must say that I feel completely optimistic about my childbearing future, and I think in the long run we’ll view this as just a tiny bump in the road of life. Overall, life is really, really great. And I’m thinking there is even more greatness in store.