Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weekend At My Parents

We've been in the car an aweful lot lately. I don't mind so much, but Chloë is not a fan of being strapped in her car seat for more than a few minutes. One of us usually winds up riding in the back seat with her, and keeping her company. A happy baby is so nice to travel with.

So we drove up to my parent's house after Bryan got off work on Friday. We went to a couple of low key events, but mostly just rested and relaxed. Dad and I were both fighting migraines, just for old time's sake, I think. Katie drove up from Sandpoint on Saturday, and we even had a little early birthday party for her. We had chili for dinner, which is on of my sister's favorites. My mom's chili is so amazing.

I made a carrot cake from scratch with cream cheese frosting. Chloë really enjoyed licking the egg beaters after the frosting. Note: never use a blue plastic bowl for beating your frosting. Those little blue flecks won't be sprinkles.

Chloë did really well with the birthday song and watching Aunt Katie blow out the candles. We're practicing for her big day in a few weeks.

Birthday bread made by my dad. His secret ingredient? Kombucha.

This is what gifts look like when they're from my dad.

And since Aunt Katie is fluent in French, they had some joint birthday presents this year: a couple of children's books, in French of course. Here they are reading to each other.

What my parent's house looks like. Lots of bones and skulls, and lots and lots of paintings on the walls. The big skull is a bison skull. It's huge.

A rare moment of sisterly affection caught on camera.

The baby eating the kombucha bread. She loved it, and even preferred it over ritz crackers and cheerios.

Having a moment with Uncle Isaiah.

Emptying the block bucket. My dad made the blocks for my sister almost 30 years ago.

Bedtime bottle and story with Aunt Katie.

Friday, May 27, 2011

College Years

I have never journaled about college. I just didn't keep a journal then. I journaled quite a bit until my mid teens, but it just phased out. So here, for my own sake in 10 or 20 or 50 years is a very brief account of those years.

I got the acceptance letter to the University of Idaho's Biology program for Pre-Nursing. It was the Spring of 2003. Two years after I "finished" my homeschool studies and got my GED, I had a plan and I was ready to face the world.

I felt so lost that first day. It was late August of 2003. I was wearing a baby blue tank top. Somehow I ended up with a master list of classes from the previous semester, and wound up sitting in the wrong class for 10 minutes. I was so embarrassed. I ducked out as best as I could, found the right class, and worked as hard as I knew how. The Anatomy class I was taking that first semester was difficult. So many new words and concepts lecture after lecture... actin and myosin, sphenoid, ethnoid, sella turcica, osteoclasts and osteoblasts... And then there was the lab. The cadaver lab. It was so strange. Feeling the cool touch of corpses soaked in formaldehyde. Turning bones over and over in my hands, running my finger along the rough tuberosities... holding a human brain in my hands. But I conquered that class. My textbook was meticulously highlighted and underlined. I had old tests and flash cards everywhere. At the end of my freshman year, I applied for a paid and accredited position as a Teacher's Assistant for the upcoming year. And I got it. By the end of my first year I'd gained a rich friendship with a fun girl named Katie White. We were both in anatomy and physiology, went to Campus Crusade's Prime Time together every week, and I spent lots of time with her at her parent's big house on C street.

Sophomore year I was taking a full load... Genetics, Statistics, Organic Chemistry, and I had joined the University's Jazz Choir. The choir was amazing. Headed up by a Dan Bukvich, we did more hymns and oldies than actual jazz. We had lots of small concerts. We sang at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. Bukvich wrote a 50 minute Mass that all 250 of us memorized. We traveled to Seattle to perform it. And I was teaching anatomy lab. And physiolgy the next semester. Me. Little me. To smart people twice my age that were going to become doctors. To dumb kids that obviously didn't study and made up the most hilarious anatomical terms. To fraternity losers that thought I was stupid enough to give them "just a little hint" if they smiled nicely and winked. It was hard work. Tuesday were my longest days, teaching a lab from 8 to 11, going to classes all day, then another lab from 6 to 9. But I loved it.

I was meeting new people and doing new things. But not dumb "college" things... things like staying up most of the night to study or finish that paper. Things like going to new churches and bible studies. Things like learning that it was easy to live on $200 a month when rent was $125. Things like how to dissect a human body in legal and respectful manner. Things like learning to look past an unhealthy body image. Things like how to sneak on to the roofs of buildings and grain elevators; not to spray paint or smoke illegal substances, but just because... and to talk late into the night with a dashing young man I had met that year. Bryan something. That one guy. There was something about him.

I introduced my friend Katie to Bryan and his roommates, Luke and Alex. And one of their old high school friends-Lynnessa-started showing up. Katie and I become close friends with Lynnessa, and it seemed Katie and Luke hit it off pretty well. Alex and Lynnessa seemed interested in each other. But Bryan and I were just friends. Really.

And then I applied to the Nursing Program at Lewis Clark State College. My prerequisites were right on track with their program, but wouldn't have lined up with any other nursing schools. So I only applied to one school. My grades were good. Not a shoo in 4.0, but 3.7 had to be considered... right?

I sobbed when I got the acceptance letter. I called my parents. I called my sister who was teaching in France for the year. I called Bryan: the guy that I found myself falling for. The guy that left a tiny little piece of paper under my windshield wiper on Easter Sunday. It said I Love You.

I considered moving to Lewiston since LCSC was there. But it was only 50 minutes away. I knew that I would commute for classes, but that it would be more difficult to commute for church and say, seeing friends in the evening. So I stayed in Moscow and started car pooling with other girls in my new class. There were 45 of us, total. 7 or 8 dropped over the next two years, but the rest of us survived.

Our class was close. I started studying a lot with Janette, one of the girls that had actually been in my A and P classes. She was married, spunky, and moral. We would study and cram together, and quiz each other on the drive down. We cried together when she told me the story of the hysterical mother who brought her lifeless baby to the ER the first day she had clinicals there. We cried when we admitted to each other that we didn't know if we could finish the program... it was too hard.

I tried to learn as much as I could possibly cram into my brain. You can't crush Protonix. Nose to ear to sternum was the length to measure for a GI tube. How to write lame care plans. Starting IVs. How to write really long and boring research papers. Maintaining a sterile field. How to delegate. What every sign and symptom for every single disease is. How to "communicate therapeutically." That you aren't supposed to wear your stethoscope around your neck if you're in a room with man who says he'll kill you. How to bring someone back to life.

Those two years were kind of a blur. Especially since 12 of us were part of the Accelerated Program, which meant we crammed three years into two. I wore a navy blue scrub top and white scrub pants for two years. I saw the old and dying, the young and dying, the sick restored to health, new life brought into the world. And I knew this was what I wanted to do. What I was meant to do. At least until God called me to something greater.

During my first year of nursing school, Bryan and I finally started dating. Shortly after, we were both in Alex and Lynnessa's wedding. Bryan was finishing up his last year of Mechanical Engineering at the U of I, and when he graduated, he decided that he wasn't going to move away while I was still in school. There really weren't any engineering jobs in this area, so he tried something different: he applied at the small economics firm in town. And got it. That summer we were both in Luke and Katie's wedding. I was even Katie's Maid of Honor. A week later, Bryan asked me to marry him. I told him "of course, you goose." We got married on the Thanksgiving break of my last year of nursing school, and had Alex, Lynnessa, Luke, and Katie in our wedding.

Maybe I wouldn't be a travel nurse after all.

And then. I was done. It seemed I had been working towards that goal for eternity, and suddenly, I was talking at the Senior Symposium, and then that was it. Done. No more blue scrubs and horrible white pants.

So I graduated. Four years ago. On May 19th, 2007.

This is how excited Bryan and I were to be done with college.

The three most important people in my life: my husband and my parents. The ones that encouraged me to pursue a crazy life in medicine, hugged me and prayed for me constantly, and knew that I could do it, even when I wasn't sure if I could. Sappy and cliché, yes. But true.

My dear sister showed up the the Nursing School Pining Ceremony wearing a dress almost identical to mine. Of course. We'd been trying to avoid matching outfits since we were kids.

After the pinning ceremony. So happy.

All ready for the big graduation ceremony.

In the crowd, waiting. I had a pink duct tape beta on my cap. A Greek B. For Bess, Botkin and Blakey. And because I was homeschooled and we liked dorky things like dead languages.


I was Bess Blakey, GN. Graduate Nurse. When I passed the national boards (the dreaded NCLEX), I became Bess Blakey BSN RN.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Little Oregon Trip

Bryan, Chloë and I drove to Oregon recently to go to a friend's wedding, and we had a great weekend. We hadn't been out of town in what seemed like a very long time. Traveling with a baby requires more effort and planning than when it was just the two of us. And it's especially tricky when the usually happy baby is sad and whiney because she's teething. Poor thing. She was such a trooper.

The first evening we spent near Salem with some of my oldest friends, and had what felt like a little mini reunion with some more of the old friends. We had a great time laughing, catching up , reminiscing and watching the kids play and run around.

Saturday we hung out for a bit, then did some shopping at an outlet mall, hit up Starbuck's happy hour, and made sure we made it to the church in the plenty of time for the wedding. Bryan and I have had bad luck in the past with traveling to go to a wedding, and then almost missing it because of traffic. So we got to the church two hours early. Ha.

It was a beautiful wedding. Ammy was gorgeous. Eric never looked so happy. The reception was great, with good food and lots of dancing. Since Ammy is originally from the Moscow area, and Eric lived here for a while too, we had lots of friends there and had a great time. Our poor baby wasn't the happiest, since she'd been teething all day and was tired since she didn't really have a nap, but we toughed it out.

My friend Ali took this picture of my poor, exhausted baby. Even passed out, she's adorable.
We stayed the next two nights with a kind family from the church there that offered to put us up.

Sunday we relaxed, hung out with the Bride's family, ate doughnuts, and went to a great Irish Pub called Highland Stillhouse in Oregon city. We had fabulous fish and chips, and Bryan had a sausage wrapped in bacon, dipped in batter, and deep fried. I think it should have been called the Widow Maker instead of The Braveheart Sausage.

Later we met up with other friends Tim and Leah and went out to Kenny and Zuke's for an early dinner.

Bryan got this picture on his iPhone of Chloë and Tim.

We loved the sandwiches that were taller than they were wide. And it was great to see Tim and Leah and catch up with them. We sure do like our Oregon friends.

We had some down time that evening, so we stopped at a little park along the Willamette River and pulled out the camera for the first and only time on our trip. A handsome pair of geese waddled out of the water, followed my seven adorable goslings. Chloë seemed a little unsure of them. Maybe it was because we were crumbling up her crackers and throwing them at the geese.

We had a great little trip to Oregon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

11 Months Old

We were out of town again this last weekend, so I've been catching up on things, including sleep. But here's what has been going on with my baby this last month. I went a little overboard with the videos, but the baby's Aunt Katie was asking for some. So here goes!

Chloë officially started to crawl this month! Almost a month ago she just decided she was going to make it happen. There were a few days where she could crawl three or four paces, and then flop onto her belly to army crawl. Then one day, I watched her crawl across the house. Slowly, but deliberately. And then she had it. The poor baby somehow loses traction and slips once and a while, falling forward and slamming her chin on the hard wood floors. Her two sharp little bottom teeth are not kind to her upper gums, and there is blood and loud cries for a minute or so, and then she has a nice bruise for a week. She is a tough one.

She pulls herself up on just about everything now, and can usually figure out how to get down, too. She likes to walk along the coffee table, and will inspect anything that I might have left there.

One day she randomly backed herself off the couch. Now she does it whenever she gets tired of my kisses.

She has been cutting her first upper teeth, complete with the sad whimpers at night, fever, and the super drooling and diapers to go with it. Three out of four of the teeth have broken through the gums in the last week and a half, and we're hoping to see the fourth and be done with teething for a while. She has just been so sad, and we have had lots of cuddle time.

When she isn't overcome with sadness, she plays well by herself for short periods of time. She likes to inspect and figure out toys and look at books.

Still a very active baby, I worry just a little about making sure she's getting enough calories. She seems so skinny compared to most of my friend's babies close to her age. I know she is completely fine and healthy, but her rolls just aren't as abundant as they used to be. Clothes are getting tricky. Her tiny waist and stubby legs means she is still wearing 3-6 month size pants. Which is hilarious. They look so tiny, but they fit her perfectly. Shirts that are 6-12 month size fit her pretty well, but long sleeves aren't quite long enough any more. Anything size 12-18 month fits her well in length, but is very baggy. Good thing she's a baby and doesn't seem to care how well her clothes fit. Her eyes are still mostly blue, and her hair is getting longer. We haven't tried pigtails yet, but she does the fauxhawk quite well, I think.

She is such a weird eater. She still loves to nurse. She gets excited and starts grunting in anticipation when she sees me pull the nursing cover out of the diaper bag. But, we've slowly been cutting back and introducing more solids. This month we realized that she is not a fan of bland food. Chicken and rice mash, pureed? Yuck. But add garlic, chili powder, cumin and salt, and she goes crazy. We stumbled upon this realization after her daddy let her taste some mexican rice, and she started bleating with delight. We've been feeding her lots of leftover chicken biryani: a dish with chicken, rice, broccoli, coconut milk, onions, green chillies, tomatoes, salt, chili powder, garlic, ginger, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves. I think she has a palate advanced far beyond her 11 months. She also loves to chew on all kinds of bread, crackers and chips. She does pretty well gnawing off bite size pieces, and sometimes uses her bottom teeth like little saw blades, sawing a cracker or cheerio back and forth for fun, I think. She'll still eat cheerios, but I get the feeling she thinks they're a little dull. When she's eating something she likes, she'll rock back and forth in her highchair. But if she's eating something she is really excited about, she will wiggle side to side. Since she's been extra picky this last week with her teething, I've been introducing all sorts of new things in an attempt to get her to eat more. I'm still avoiding giving her dairy, egg whites, peanuts and strawberries.

Speaking of wiggling, this baby can dance. She'll move her whole body back and forth; hips, shoulders, head... she certainly hasn't seen anyone dance like that, so it just amazes me how innate it is to groove to music. If she isn't standing and can't dance, she'll hold her arm out, palm down, and move her hand up and down and side to side to the rhythm. She'll move to just about anything with a tune or a beat, from my cell phone ringing, to her daddy's loud electric noise, to the hymns at church. She's just too cute.

She's a face maker. Licking her upper lip, scrunching up her face, puckering (she leans in for great kisses, by the way), or doing a classic bitter-beer face, she's a hoot to watch.

Chloë understands so much, sometimes I'm just amazed. One day she just put her hands together and started clapping. I said "good job, you're clapping!" and then she would preform for anyone who asked her if she could clap. In fact, she starts clapping if she hears applause of any nature (live, a random YouTube clip, etc.), even if she can't see anyone else clapping. She also signs "please" now, and will just sit there, patting her chest eagerly if she's being fed.

She's going through another round of separation anxiety. When it is just the two of us at home, she will usually start sobbing if I leave the room unless she is engrossed in some toy. So we hang out a lot. She does like other people, when they're around. Occasionally it will take her a little while to warm up to someone new, and then she likes to be her hammy little self. Sometimes she will act shy and touch her cheek to her shrugged shoulder, but usually she just wants to show off and will wave and clap like she's the center of the universe.

She understand so many simple commands, and it is so amazing to see her contemplate the sounds we make. We made a fire in our fireplace a couple of weeks ago, and we pointed to it and said "No touch. Hot." She looked at the flickering flames for a while, and then pointed and said "dot. Dot."

Whenever I ask her to say "Mama," she looks at me and usually says "Dada." And I'll say "no no no, say MA MA." "DA DA." I don't know if it's her own little game that she knows she's winning or what, but it's kind of cute. She likes to babble when she's playing, but she seems to have developed some particular noises when she's sad or tired, especially "mmmmmmmm-hmm" and "duh daaaa duh daaaaaa."

She likes to experiment with noises, including her recent "ptah ptah" sounds.

And there's this funny lip bubbling thing she does.

She is still not very good at sleeping. Her naps are sporadic and hard to predict, as is her bedtime. Sometimes she'll sleep pretty well at night, and sometimes she wakes up frequently. She has been sleeping in her crib most nights, but I still have a soft spot for bringing her to bed with me if she's sick or having a rough night.

Less than a month until my baby turns one. Woah.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Easter Fest

Saturday, May 7th was Trinity Reformed Church's 3rd Annual Easter Festival. When the final RSVP head count rolled in a few days before the feast, my friend Sarah and I had to do a little last minute scrambling to make sure we could feed everyone. We had assumed we would have something close to last year's count of 380, so when the numbers came in at 449, we knew we had underestimated all of the planning we'd been doing for months. Neither of us had ever organized dinner for that many people before, so we recruited some wonderful ladies from church to help us cook the main dish. As it was, I made seven batches of the biryani recipe I adapted to feed 10, and let me tell ya, it was a lot of food. Of course, when I calculated how much food we would need, I was thinking of how much my hungry brothers can eat in a sitting. I kept forgetting that we had lots of families... women and children who don't (usually) eat as much as a starving college guy. Needless to say, we overestimated a bit with the main dish, but I was glad we didn't run out of food altogether. The naan we made disappeared in a hurry, but I guess that means everyone liked it, right?

We had some great college kids recruited to help in the kitchen, and when we arrived to begin getting everything ready, people just started showing up to help. We were overwhelmed, and so glad that everything went as smoothly as it did. I even got to sit down and eat, hold my baby, enjoy a little bit of the entertainment, and take a few pictures.

Dinner. For 450 people. After the kids had eaten and rushed off to play games outside.

After dinner was out on the tables, but before the dishes started pouring in, I had a few minutes with my baby. Bryan was so great spending most of the day with her and keeping her happy while I rushed around like mad woman.

The Stervensons (being Abby, Josh and Caleb for this set) started us off with some fun entertainment and music.

Grace's Ezra watching the show.

Bryan's sister Christa hosted "Penalty Pictionary," which was hilarious. Here is Christa's sister Jessie drawing Norway. As a penalty for losing the last round, Tyler wears a dunce cap decked out with a fairy wand and tinsel.

My sweet husband, doing what he did all day.

There were all sorts of awesome things going on for the kids outside, including:

(Abra's Ophelia bobbin' for apples.)

Jacob and Bethany's adorably handsome Micah.

Then after dinner, kid's games, and entertainment, there was dancing. Live music and even a caller... everyone had a great time.

Sarah (in plaid) took a few minutes to enjoy the dancing.

And these were the leftovers. I was very happy that we didn't have to throw any of it away (waste not, want not, my mother always said), and we sent most of it home with families and college guys. Chloë has been eating it every day since then, too.

Dishes took a while, but we had more help than we knew what to do with. And what a joyful crew of dishwashers we had. There was lots of laughter and even more singing, from Disney classics to 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. It was so much fun, and made me think back to washing dishes at Camp Of The Risen Son, oh, 15 years ago. We got out of there an hour earlier than the clean up crew did last year, so we considered that to be a huge accomplishment. It was a wonderful evening, and we were so grateful for the many hands that helped.