Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wherein Thora Complains for Lack of a Book

While living in England I've read English books as my theme for reading. Since Avram and I have been married, I've usually had a theme for books that I'm reading; not every single book, of course, but sort of an over arching I'm attempting/pretending to improve myself and justify my favorite hobby of all time by reading uplifting literature/classics. For well over a year I focused on the King Arthur legend. I read the Malory, I read the Mabinogien (the Welsh tales; I like them because Guinevere is faithful to Arthur; it's before Lancelot was even invented). I read lots of other stories, including modern redactions. Whilst in England I've focused more on British books from the last 200 years, such as Brideshead Revisited. When we return to America, I've decided that my next theme is going to be American Classics, because of how inspiring it was to read To Kill a Mockingbird, so I'm going to get serious with my William Faulkner and Willa Cather (actually, I think I've already read all the Willa that I mean to; Death Comes for the Archbishop and My Antonia, but her name was the only one that came to mind).

I like reading literature; I like having my thoughts provoked and horizons broadened. Even writing about literature, especially writing about literature, can provoke and broaden even more. Too bad that's not what this post's about. This post's about all the other books that I read, that can't be classed into my reading as a productive hobby. Like the Wheel of Time Series. Books that I like to read, because of the plots and magic systems, and romance (well, only sometimes on that mark in the Wheel of Time Series), and because I like fantasy. Books that often have plots that I begin forgetting as soon as I've closed the back cover, but that's okay, because then when I go back and reread them later, the plot's as good as new.

I decided recently that my repository for literature was filled up, and so decided to turn to my long-neglected reading of the Wheel of Time. Now, for those readers who have read the series, you can understand why I've neglected it. There are currently 11 books, all of them dog-killers, and with an increasingly complex plot and characters, and for many years no end in sight. Then Robert Jordan (may he rest in peace) had the audacity to up and die of a rare blood disease before he'd written the final book of the series. Even before this I have to admit that I'd never even read books 10 and 11 because I'd lost the thread of the series inside of myself, so the last time I had read WofT was as a senior in High School, when I'd reread the entire series before reading the then-new 9th book.

Seven years later, and after they've announced that the final book will still be published, with (LDS) author Brandon Sanderson completing book 12 using Robert Jordan's notes and written section as an outline (Robert Jordan left notes on how all the plot points will be resolved, so in all of the important resolutions it'll be what he wanted), I decided that I really ought to bring myself up to speed with "Randland" as many on the Internet call the world.

Avram got the book for me at the Library, and for several days it sat in our bookshelf. Finally I mustered the strength to pick it up. I opened to the prologue, set 3,000 years before the action in the book, and promptly shut the book again. Two days later, I tried again, and made it through the prologue, and then began the actual book. Two paragraphs in, I shut the book again. Two days later, I once again decided that I could begin the monumental task that is reading this series, and committed myself to actually give it a fair chance.

Why the reluctance? Well, it's a mighty big world, and a mighty long journey, even for a quick reader such as myself, and the sheer weight of coming words, heartache, annoying Nynaeve braid tugging and Rand off-putting character developments caused my blood to slow and a chill in my marrow, which culminated in my repeatedly closing the book instead of actually reading it.

But I persevered though, and read the book. And then my obsession fully re-awoke, and I haunted Internet sites about the book and its plots and characters, especially the bad guys, who are more complex than anything, and considering my mind's like a steel sieve, I hadn't hardly remembered at all. I finished The Eye of the World (the first book) on Monday, but had to wait until Thursday, when we went to town to get passport photos for Elisheva (20 pounds for four ugly pictures; yikes! Good thing we love our daughter, and want to take her home with us), because then we went to the library as well. Except, shame of all shames, the library only currently had books 4, 6, and 9! Grrr. And it costs .85 pence (equivalent to $1.70) to reserve a book, and I'm cheap. So this means that I probably won't get to read the next book until we return to America, where thankfully Avram's dad has a copy of every single book in the series.

And knowing my memory, I won't remember what happened in the first book by that point.

I've been satiating my desire for reading the book by continuing to read about the books, but for some reason it's just not the same. Go figure.

(On re-reading through this I realize that I didn't actually talk about my impressions on reading the book again after so long. I'm very impressed with the read-through so far; I think that although the plot is so large that it's easy to get lost in, if I read them all in a row, and also use the handy FAQs site as a reference, I can keep track of it [and the Forsaken]).

Also, as a question for those who do read the books, do you think Rand will die? Avram and I both tend to, although after having reread through all the prophecies, it seems that maybe he could take up being a wandering beggar afterwards; not very Rand-like, but oft prophesied (well, him with a beggar's staff, at least).

Another question: are there any series that are obsession-causing for you?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Just a small note: the other day Elisheva was fussing in the evening. I was walking around with her, to help, and suddenly realized how much I missed having Samuel over, to walk my children around. When Lydia was a baby, I never had to hold during her fussy evenings; Samuel would always hold her, and walk with her, and sing French songs to her. Elisheva is of a much more calm disposition than Lydia was a young baby, but she still has her moments. So, Samuel, when are you going to come over and sing French to her? We're free anytime.

Seriously, thanks for always being the best uncle.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Lydia and I have been working on letters this past week. Since last Sunday, when I realized that she actually knew some letters, I've been finding out what other letters she has memorized. So far it's J (she always says "Jesus!" when she sees it), A, B, D, E, L, M, P, S, Y and O (well, it's the one letter she can write, but she doesn't always identify it right off). Avram's mom sent Lydia a card game/flash cards with pictures and letters on them a while ago. Lydia has always had fun playing with them, but now I've been using them as flashcards with her, which she also really likes. We'll spend about ten minutes at a time, several times each day, identifying the letters on each card, and then usually I'll also write out the alphabet while singing the song to her, and then write out her favourite words (Lydia, Mama, Daddy, Baby, Jesus, Elisheva). It's like a baby form of homeschooling, and at least for this amount every day, it's fun to do.

The last week has brought a lot of progress in this; this morning at the breakfast table she pointed to the milk carton and said "P! S!" (from Pints), so she can see the letters not just in a "formal" setting.

The funny thing is, although she's totally getting close to reading, she doesn't talk in complete sentences at all, nor has she learned the Alphabet song at all either. I don't usually think about how Lydia is a really slow talker until I was looking at a lot of blogs from our old Wymount ward, where a lot of the women have kids right around Lydia's age. They often mention things that their kids say, and it surprised me a lot, because Lydia has never said anything close to that complex. In fact, she only speaks in nouns and the occasional imperative verb. She understands full well everything we say, but for some reason this hasn't transferred to speech. I must admit that as I've realized just how slow of a talker she is that I've struggled to not feel frustrated over it, or to not worry that Lydia will never talk, or talk extremely late.

So in a way it makes me glad that she's precocious on reading, because she's so unprecocious in speaking. Actually, Lydia is a darling girl, and as Avram's mom says, she's very good at making connections, but precocious is not really a word I would use to describe her. That's fine; every personality has its unique challenges and benefits, and although precocious children are usually considered "best" (by their own parents, at least; and maybe by themselves. I always wanted to think of myself as precocious, and whether I was really or not, I certainly was an outgoing, chattery girl), I think every personality type has their own things to offer. Lydia is really quite shy and quiet around groups; only in the last month or so has she even said any words at all in Nursery, and she still doesn't play with the other children, nor does she sing along with the songs. Although she does soak everything in; she's always singing songs from Nursery to herself, and absolutely loves to go to Nursery. But she has her other strengths, one of them apparently a love of reading and writing.

A blog that I read talked about how her daughter is loud and crazy, but also outgoing, etc. And as I read it, I realized how much this doesn't describe Lydia. Lydia will sit through sacrament meeting quite well; she just likes for us to show her her Jesus Book, and write words for her. And for a minute, I was worried that Lydia was on the 'road to nerdom' as the post says, but then I decided that on the other hand I really enjoy the ins and outs of her personality, although it's not a flashy one.

I wonder what Elisheva's personality will be like; will she be shy? outgoing? Already her and Lydia are different; Elisheva doesn't mind at all being laid down to sleep on her own, and she takes good, long naps. Lydia didn't lie down for a truly separate nap until she was about four months old. So who knows what the future will see for my two girls.

I guess as a parent one of the largest tasks and challenges is to bring out and help develop each of your children's unique personality, so that the best sides are dominant, and the harder sides are downplayed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I miss Wymount! (And a sub-post, Social Rejects)

I've just spent all morning (well, when I wasn't cuddling Elisheva, or attempting to find the mysteriously dissappeared crackers in our Kitchen for Lydia, or...) looking at blogs from old Ward members/neighbors at Wymount, the family student housing at BYU. It was really quite inspirational; a few are still at Wymount, but many are scattered across the nation (and including us, abroad as well), with our young families and new jobs/schools/etc. Also, the faith of all of my old ward friends was really quite inspirational. It's funny; none of them know I have a blog, so it's not like they're even going to read this.

I love the Church (I realize that I'll casually reference the Church, without explanation, in case someone reads who isn't a member, so now they'll know what I'm talking about.) I love reading blogs of people I know (or don't know), and see their testimonies, and hear about their little life trials and triumphs.

Also, a bunch of them had this meme that I like, so here goes:
What is his name? Avram
How long have you been together? We met almost four and a half years ago in January 2004, dated from May-August of that year, broke up for forever on August 18, then got engaged out of comparative nowhere on Sept 18/19 (I was in Egypt, he was in Provo, so it was different days for each of us), and got married for forever (for real this time) on April 22, 2005.

How long did you date? Umm, so I guess I just answered this question, because I write so much, but for four months, and then there was a month off, and then we were engaged for seven months.

How old his he? 26 - he'll be 27 August 13th.
Who eats more? Avram.
Who said I love you first? Definitely Avram. We had been dating for only a week, and I had some friends visiting, who were the sister and brother-in-law of the boy I wanted to marry (long story), and so I asked Avram to pretend like we weren't dating, although the particular reasoning of this escapes me now, and somehow in this conversation Avram told me he loved me, but at the time I just felt more awkward than anything else because he was supposed to be a casual person to date over the Summer, and it was obvious that this wasn't going to be the case...

Who is taller?
Avram; four inches taller. He's short for a guy, at 5'7'', but as my friend Michele says, he's Thora sized (I'm 5'3'').

Who can sing better? I think we probably both sing about the same, but Avram has more confidence in his singing, and that goes really far.
Who is smarter? Avram can read faster than I can, and he also has a better memory than me, but I'm better at reading the instructions, and that has to count for something.
Who does the laundry? Currently Avram does most of it, bless him (what a British thing to say. Random people will always be blessing me, or my children, and usually they're not even religious). At the end of my pregnancy I couldn't haul our laundry bag up two flights of stairs, and since Elisheva came he's still done the vast majority of it. And he hates doing laundry, so it's even extra special.

Who pays the bills? I do. I like redoing our finances, and looking at our budget, and things. He's dealt with a lot more financial things since coming to England, though, probably because there's a lot more that's in his name only.

Who sleeps on the right side? Avram does. Although really we both just sleep in our separate twin beds, like a fifty's TV show.

Who mows the lawn? We haven't had a lawn yet, but when we do I hope it's my job. I love mowing lawns, and then maybe he can get a more boring job, like cleaning out the bathroom.
Who cooks dinner? I'm sad to say Avram, not because I don't love his cooking, (I do), but because I love to cook, and it's kind of funny how in the last few months I've done almost no cooking. Avram has been doing most of the household tasks for the last few months, to help me out. Really, I don't do much of anything; my excuse used to be that I was growing a baby, and now it's that I'm recovering. I'm starting to take the job back over, mostly; it's one part of homemaking that I have down, and I enjoy! Avram and I do like to cook together, as well.

Who drives? I have to laugh at this. I do; Avram doesn't have a driver's license, and never has. He's always been terrified of accidents, and the power of life and death that we take into our hands when we drive. But...Avram has realized that he needs to start driving, so that he can help in the Church, and then also to help the family out, in case I couldn't drive for something. Also, I've bribed him that I'll buy him a role-playing game book when he gets his license, and his Mom said she'd get him one as well. So the plan is this Summer in Virginia he'll finally get his license. The funny thing is, he knows how to drive perfectly well, even a stick, he just lacks the practice and confidence (and official paperwork, of course). The only time he's ever driven for me was the three hour trip back from our honeymoon.
Who is more stubborn? Hard question. Many things I'm more stubborn on, but there are occasional things that Avram won't budge on. He lets me have my way, usually, though.

Who kissed who first?Avram kissed me, after we had been sitting on cold cement steps outside until four in the morning, staring at each other. It was his first kiss, and he afterwards infamously said something about me being a better companion than a cocker spaniel (it's a quote from a Fred Astaire movie that I completely didn't get, having never seen any Fred Astaire movies until after this point. Avram maintains it was a good thing to say.) I've been giving him a hard time about this ever since (the quote, not the kiss). Even after we broke up, in the month interim I still maintained that he was the best kisser I had ever dated, so it's a good thing we got married.

Who asked who out first? I told I liked him first. We didn't go on our first date until we were already an item. Avram took me to the Brick Oven, a pizza restaurant in Provo, and he also brought me Lilies (Avram usually has given me lilies over any other flower, and always says "I LIKE LILIES" (It's hard to speak in all Caps, it turns out), a reference to the book Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett.)
Who proposed? Hard question. According to Avram, he did. See, once when we were dating, on June 6, 2004, in fact, we were talking about how if we ever did end up getting married, there would be no proposal, because by that point the other boy I wanted to marry and I wouldn't have worked out, and we already knew that if I didn't marry him, we wanted to get married, and so then we would. So then I was saying it was sad we would never have a proposal, so Avram said, "Will you marry me?" Then I made him get up and kneel (we were both sitting down, on another cement staircase, this time at Botany Pond at BYU), and I stood up, and I had him say it again, so that way it was more official-like. I then said, "Maybe someday." Avram maintains that if I had said yes, that we would have gotten married then, but clearly he knew I wasn't going to say yes, so it wasn't that bad that I didn't, right? Anyway, I was was right about us never having any other proposal. When I did decide to marry Avram in Egypt, after several emails back and forth, he called me, and we started talking about wedding dates, and I realized that although we weren't officially engaged, we definitely knew we were going to get married, so I told him "yes" over the phone. He didn't know what I was referring to at first (I just said it out of nowhere in the middle of the conversation), but once he did, he was speechless. Then three months later he gave me my ring,when I came back from Egypt. So...there was no real proposal, or at least no traditional one. I wish there was. I'm sure you do too; than this answer would have been a lot shorter!

Who has more friends? Real, live friends? What are those? We're social rejects (subject of another post needing to be written). Really, we came out of the same friend group at BYU, so I'd say we have about the same, because most of our friends are the exact same people. I tend to be more of a social butterfly, so I probably have a larger friend group from that group, but Avram's is probably more sincere of one.
Who is more sensitive? Avram. Sad to say, sensitive is not really one of my positive traits (I have others though, I'm not a complete clod).

Who has more siblings? I do; Nine siblings.

Who wears the pants in the family? I would say both of us. Avram usually presides over our family, but I'm much more likely to conduct things.

So, moving on.

Reading all these blogs made me miss Wymount a lot. I loved living there. On the other hand, though, reading about the people who are still there made me realize that it really was our time to move on, and that if we had remained in Wymount for forever that would have been worse than leaving and missing it. I do miss it, though. I loved our ward, and neighbors, and our apartment. Of course, this is tied up with thoughts like, I miss our belongings. I know that life isn't all about material possessions, but that doesn't mean that I would like to have our material possessions again. Or decorations on the walls. I never decorated our apartment here because we were only here for nine months, and more importantly because I would have to first buy, and then try to move home or abandon here whatever I did buy to do so.

Sometimes when I'm lonesome for America and people and friends and a life, I'll mentally walk around my Wymount apartment, and remember how things were, like how our wedding and family pictures were set up like a triptych on our wall, or how comfortable our big plaid couch was to lie on. And in my memories, my house is always spotless, because why would I want to remember it any other way, and so it's especially nice to "visit." I find this very comforting, for some reason.

I was going to wait and start a new post, but now I'm segueing (you should have seen the creative spelling that had until spell-check thankfully fixed it) into it anyway, so here goes.

The Social Rejects

After Avram and I left BYU last year after graduation, we moved to Virginia for five months. There we lived in the middle of the country on 20 acres of tick-infested forest, with his parents and brother Luke and sister Sariah. Aside from socializing with them we never really did anything social (well, we went to Church activities) with others. This was partly because I knew that we were only going to be there for five months, and so I didn't feel really settled down, and so I never made any effort to become close to the members of our ward, and they don't really live in a neighborhood to be social in, either. Also, his ward had very few young couples in it, because it's expensive enough to live in Northern Virginia that most of the families weren't our age, and none were in our stage of life (still in school, that is). It was a great ward, and I'm excited to be back there this Summer, though. But the end result was we had no social life.

Then we came here, and once again I love our ward here, and there are even a lot of young couples and families, but when we first came I was morning sick all the time, and then it was winter and cold and dark all the time, and we never wanted to go anywhere, and then we didn't have any money to spend anyway, and then I was really pregnant, and had a hard time doing a lot, and now we have a newborn, and are getting ready to go home, and all this has added up to no social life here. We do go to our ward activities, if we can, and we've had a few activities with the Purcells, but we live way out on the bus system, so it's never super convenient for us to go to Oxford, or for others to come here. And the students in the program are great, but their lives are structured so differently from ours, and most of them aren't married, and no one else has children, so we've only rarely done things with them, although we're friendly with all of them.

So now it's been a year, and we are friendship starved. Although back in Provo I had had the same friend group for six years, and Avram for 3 and a half (ever since he came there), so it's been so long since I've made new friends that I worry I've forgotten how, or even worse, that now I'm in such a different stage of life, that I don't really have the time/make the effort to make new friends.

I'd like friends, though. I dream of women to talk to, to shop with, of play-dates for Lydia (she only sees other children at Church on Sundays currently), of couples to hang out with, and have good, intellectual conversations with. I miss our conversations with Matt and Sarah that ran until the wee hours of the morning. And always having Samuel, and then Samuel and Aleatha over for dinners. And running to Michele's house when Avram was really busy with schoolwork, and messing around with her. And Travis' speeches, and mystic's guild, and, and....

Making couple friendships is such a delicate balance, because you have to both individually like each respective part, and the whole together. Ok, so the previous sentence is very cryptic, but what I meant was that Avram and the husband have to get along, and I and the wife do, but then we also have to have a group synergy, for lack of a better word, when we're all together. Sarah's sister, who goes to Ohio State, along with her husband contacted me through my last post, and it made me excited about making new friends in Ohio. After all, anyone related to the Reeds are good people, in our experience.

Also, I'm planning on actually making an effort to make new friends once we go to Ohio, something that I freely admit I haven't done at the last two places, and so really have nothing to complain about, since I didn't make the effort anyway. Like I'm planning to invite people to our house for dinner, and things. Just writing this makes me realize that part of it is that I'm scared of new friendships. I love my old ones so much that the thought of replacing them hurts. Not that they are replaced; after all, I still keep in touch with them, and like the old girl scout song (so I know it's not just a girl scout song, but that's where I heard it first) goes, "Make new friends, and keep the old, one is silver, and the other gold." But the thought of having to put in so much effort, when I already have friends I love - that's what hurts. But as much as I'm still friends with our college group, I know that I as a person need friends where I am right now as well, and that once I have made friends in this stage of life, I can become just as close to them also.

Things of the heart are so hard.

Partly too, I've never had a group of "married friends," especially not with Children. On the one hand, this means that the idea of having friends who have spouses, and even children is really exciting; we could maybe switch off babysitting with them for date nights, because we won't be able to afford baby sitters. And Lydia could have someone to play with when we get together. But on the other hand, people with kids have always struck me as old, and in a different stage of life. I know, I have two kids, but when all my friends had none or were single, I still felt hip and cool. If all my friends had kids, I would start worrying I was practically middle-aged. On second thought, if I actually had real, live friends, I would probably do things with them, and not obsess over imaginary worries on my blog at all.

And then on top of all this, I worry that I've lost the touch of social things. When my parents came and visited us, after we got back from France, sometimes Avram and I would turn on a game on our computer (you can play lots of games for one trial hour), like scrabble or something, and play that together, and then I would feel bad, because we weren't being social, but it's hard to share a computer screen with more than two people. And I realized then that Avram and I were definitely social rejects. Last night for fun Avram and I browsed the Internet together. I looked up cloth diapers, which we're planning on switching to if we move to an apartment that has a washer and drier, and Avram looked up cool dice for gaming. And this was our social part of the evening.

I know that we've partly developed weird habits socially because we don't have any of our normal things here, like physical games, and a life, and friends, but I still worry that I'll finally get back to places with all of the above, and I'll have forgotten how to communicate in person. I'll have to ask people around me to "chat" with me online for a meaningful talk, and then I'll know that I'm officially and forever a social reject.

I realize that this may sound a little negative. I'm not meaning to be. I do have faith that my rusty social skills will come back to me in Ohio, and that when we're attempting to actually make friends, and when we feel settled enough to make the physical and emotional effort to meet people that we'll be able to find friends aplently.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bragging Mama

Lydia loves to have us write out names and things, and have us spell them out for her. She also loves to “write,” which writing is little chicken scratches and circles. Today at church she had me write for her, and first I wrote her name, which I spelled out for her. Then I wrote “Mama,” but hadn't spelled it out for her, or said the word Mama, because I was trying to remain quiet during the meeting, seeing that we were sitting on the very front row and center, in front of the speaker who could hear every word Lydia said.

Lydia looked at the word Mama, and then said, “M-a-m-a” very clearly. Then I wrote Daddy, and although Lydia didn't completely spell it out on her own (she can do the D-a, but then the double d's confuse her every time), she did say Daddy without me telling her what I was writing. I maintain that my daughter is a two year old reading genius. Avram points out that letter recognition and spelling out a word we've spelt for her a million times before isn't reading, and although he has the facts on his side, I'm still very impressed by her pre-reading skills.

Also this weekend, yesterday in fact, Elisheva smiled at both Avram and I respectively. These weren't unconscious sleep smiles, either, but full blown grins when she was wide awake. And she's not even three weeks old yet!

Yep, my children are practically ready for Calculus.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What Our Parenting Produces

Around 1:30 pm today I was in the bedroom with Elisheva, reading Little Women (which I finished today), while Lydia played out in the living room. Suddenly I noticed it was extremely quiet, so I wandered out to see what had become of Lydia, and I saw this:
my little girl, sound asleep. Isn't she darling? I love being a mother, even if I am bad about routines, like actually putting my daughter to sleep instead of making her crash on her own.

Lydia also has a hidden dark side:
According to Avram, she's clearly an ally of his arch nemesis, the rooster Von Schnerk, who's trying to take over the world. (Yeah, I don't get it either, you'd have to ask Avram about this rooster, although I do admire Lydia's prowess at goatee growing).

And finally, in order to not exclude Elisheva Anne:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Books and Food; What Else Do You Need?

Ta-da! Internet! In our home! Isn't technology amazing? To celebrate, I've spent far too long on the Internet already today. Although, to be fair, I thought I had completely recovered from birth, and so went to a church production of "From Cumorah's Hill" last Saturday, and it turns out I hadn't fully recovered, and all the activity was too much for me. So now I've been trying to take it really easy and comfortable-like, which mainly means sitting around the house reading, and trying to convince Lydia to not mess the house up, since I don't want to make Avram clean it up. So it's actually been a very nice change to have the Internet on where I can reach it from my comfy Living Room chair.

I've started Little Women, which is a lot preachier than I remember it being the last time I read it. Regardless, it's fun to read because of all the nice memories I have of it, like the first time I read the book, and I was in third grade at Bennion Elementary, where I did full time ELP (extended learning program - a gifted school thingy), and I rode the city buses to and from school (by myself, I might add, and I was only nine. Not only did my Mom not think this was weird, no one else seemed to, either. My, how times have changed). I remember once on the bus, when I was reading Little Women for the first time ever, I reached the part where Beth dies, and I sat bawling my eyes out, while simultaneously trying to hide it because I was embarrassed to be crying in public. Good times.

The edition I'm reading right now is a British one, and is annotated for a British audience, which I love, because then you get things like: "Beth clapped her hands, regardless of the hot biscuit* she held," and then in the back of the book, "American biscuits resemble English scones and are usually eaten hot, with butter."

The book also defines buckwheat pancakes and other such food 'oddities.' It's fun to be more in the know than the average assumed reader.

Speaking of food and reading, whenever I read a book with strong food passages/mentions/culture associated with it, I pick up a hankering for that very food. Like when I read Lord of the Rings, I'm always eating chunks of meat, with buttered bread and sliced cheese and apples, because for some reason in my mind this adds up to traveling food. Or of course, there are the Little House books, which always send me into a cooking tizzy; I even have the Little House cookbook, although my personal copy is completely hashed, without any cover at all, and half of the index fallen off, from all the use I've given it.

Reading To Kill a Mockingbird (as a note to Camilla; I don't know how I managed to miss being assigned this book in all my years of schooling either. It chalked on point up to Avram; we're always being variously surprised by the other's comparative ignorance of some piece of knowledge or literature. If it's something he hasn't read, than I usually make some comment about homeschooling missing things, and if it's something that I haven't Avram will be surprised at how public schooling could miss it.) made my latent (very, very latent) Southern tendencies come out, and that night for dinner I made Southern fried chicken (except for in the oven, so it wasn't completely artery clogging, while still tasting very good because I still used real butter) and cornbread. I would have had butter beans too, because they always seem to be going on about them in Southern books, but I don't actually know what they are. Avram thinks they are probably lima beans, and a quick check on the Internet seems to support that theory. As I heartily dislike lima beans, maybe it was a good thing I didn't have access to them, because then I may have made them in a fit of Southerness, but that doesn't mean anyone in our house, myself included, would have eaten them.

What I need to do is find a book that makes me think of fresh vegetables and fruit, and not of chocolate or anything with sugar in it, and read that book. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Some Stuff

After five days without any Internet contact (yes, our home Internet still doesn't work. But the guy to fix it is here today, on this very estate, so hopefully things will change very soon. I'm in the Manor, currently) I got on, and everyone had updated. I've spent forever reading everyone's lovely blogs, and it made me so happy, and grateful even that all of you write and read blogs, so that way I can feel and be in contact with you, even if you're super far away. One of the sad things about going home to America soon is that I'll still be far away from most everyone that I know.

Not much has been happening to us lately. Yesterday we went to Oxford, and I bought clothing, because I couldn't stand the heat anymore without some sort of reprieve in the wardrobe department. I'm very impressed with the underbelly of Oxford clothing prices. Ok, so underbelly as a word doesn't exactly fit there, but I liked the word so much I just had to leave it in the sentence. I bought three shirts and a pair of flip-flops (with blue glitter, even) for ten pounds and fifty pence at one store, Primark. The real deal of the day, though was at the Next clearance store. Primark is a new department store, but most of their clothes are made out of cheap materials, and frankly the vast majority of their offerings rate a high level on the tacky scale. Next is a higher end department store (comparatively, at least), and so their clearance store has all the joys of better made clothing while still being cheap (although they too have many clothes up their on the tacky scale. I have a sneaking suspicion this is just British styles currently, or maybe just world wide styles; I wasn't up on American styles by any means). One thing the store doesn't have, though, is the joy of any dressing rooms. Even DI has dressing rooms, but maybe it's part of the clearance appeal. So I did the time-honored approach of trying on the skirt I ended up buying over my clothing while standing in the middle of the store. You do what you can. Although Primark had dressing rooms, the line was so long that I ended up trying on their shirts over my clothes while standing in the middle of the store as well.

I'm classy, I admit it. Not as classy as the girl next to me, who did the same as I did, minus keeping her own clothes on while trying on the new ones, but I still try.

Still the skirt I bought that is cute and black and flared and looks like Linen (I think it's a linen blend) and knee length, and originally cost 20-30 pounds only cost me three pounds. Now that's my kind of clothes buying. I only wish Michele, my true shopping buddy in life were there with me. Avram wished she were there as well, because that meant that he wouldn't have to be there with me, while holding Elisheva and trying to keep track of Lydia.

Life with two children while traveling around certainly involves more stuff; I felt like we looked homeless, we were carting so much around with us. Sadly no one stopped and gave us money, though.

Otherwise in our life Avram is working steadily to finish his thesis. It has to be 15,000 words (which isn't very long, really; only about 30 pages), and he currently has around 10,5o0 done. He just needs to write a conclusion and finesse the rest of it, and then can turn it in to his supervisor to be edited and constructively commented over. It's due in about two and a half weeks, so everything is working well and on a good timetable.

Also we missed making a regular appointment to register Elisheva and get her a passport with the US government consulate in London, because they're made three months in advance, and we didn't find this out until a week ago, when the closest appointments were July 10th, and we were due to fly home on June 20th. Luckily they fit us into an emergency appointment on June 2nd. The only difficulty is it's at 8:30 am, and so we'll have to travel to London around four in the morning that day, which will be interesting (getting to Oxford to get to London, mainly). Avram's excited, though, because since we'll be in London already we're planning on visiting the British Museum for any time we have left after our appointment. He's currently torn between seeing the Egyptian sights, specifically the mummies, and the medieval collection, which is amazing as well (so we read). I'm hoping to squeeze in both, somehow.

A final note: Avram finally made me read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I had been dragging my feet because it had always sounded like a depressing book, but having now read it I must admit it's not depressing, and in fact was incredibly well written and a pleasure to read. So you should all read it too.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pictures Galore

Just a note first: We have officially named and registered our daughter. Her name is Elisheva Anne Shannon. Anne is both because it's a traditional English name, and then also after Anne of Green Gables, my best friend of the fictional world.

This is mainly just a pictures post. First off, as I talked about Lydia in a recent post, and her obsession with the bouncy chair, here is visual evidence of this fact. She put herself to sleep for the night in this first one.

Last Friday the students here had a party for Elisheva's birth and for another student, Daniel, and his new wife. Daniel took pictures at it, and he has a lot better camera and camera skills than I do, so I thought I'd post some of his pictures:

Elisheva's first trip outside.

Avram thinking.

That's all, folks.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Confessions of a Blogger

I'd really like to be writing this as an on-line journal post, but I'm not. I'm merely writing in my open office because, once again, our Internet isn't working. For the last month or so it's been very on and off, and so I never know whether I'll be able to see the wider world beyond my desktop. Of course, invariably I feel like I'm missing something crucial or important and urgent, only to finally gain access a day or two (or even a week, in one case) later, and realize that no, nothing actually did happen. No one (or maybe just one) on my entire links list would have updated, and since I wasn't on to write a post, no one commented on the unwritten post that remained in my head, so my site is boring as well. As Avram said to me once in an email, when our Internet hadn't been working for several days, and then finally did again, “there's nothing more depressing than not being able to get on the Internet, then finally getting on, and nothing has happened while you were away.”

It's the potential of events that keeps me glued; maybe my sister sold her house, or maybe my other sister's husband heard from the slow-poke government agency he's applied for, or maybe someone I know has suddenly gotten married/pregnant/died, and I won't know until I can check my email, and my blogs and everyone else's blogs that I don't even know, just to be reassured once again that nothing has actually occurred in their lives, at least not worth noting on-line.

I think I'm addicted to the Internet. Just the rush of being on isn't enough; I keep on needing more and more of a rush, which is why I think I keep on reading more and more blogs (traditional surfing I find to be very boring, and I can never think of anything to look up on Google when I'm actually on the Internet, just later when it's not working), in an effort to up my chances of hearing at least something new and different when I get on-line. Also, I go through withdrawals, another sign of addiction. A funny thing to note is after several days without Internet, I actually feel more free; I keep the house cleaner, knit more, read more, and spend more time with Lydia. Based on that alone it sounds like I aught to get rid of the Internet all together, but on the other hand, I also feel more and more unconnected with those I care about the longer I'm off, and I feel very isolated (which partly has something to do with where I live. The two comments I invariably get when people come to visit me here [which happens a lot because currently every dinner is provided by a different sister from the Relief Society] is how beautiful it is out here, and also how isolated it is.])

I hazard that I'm not alone in this new-fangled Internet disease; how many of you would notice if your Internet stopped working every few days, sometimes for days at a time? Would it disrupt your life any?

To change change the topic slightly for a minute, although I'll tie it back in in a moment, my Mother hated the television throughout my childhood (and continuing through to today, as a matter of fact). We usually had a television, because they have a habit of just appearing in homes, like secret mould in corner closets. People were constantly giving us them, just as fast as she could get rid of the last one. At a certain point, we just kept the junky old one that we had, with fake-wood plastic sides, and that was constantly in need of rabbit ear antennas it usually didn't get. Although older siblings, friends and even strangers seemed to be constantly offering to upgrade this TV, my Mother kept being emotionally convinced that one day she would succeed in ultimately getting rid of this one as well, and so refused any upgrades because we didn't need them; we didn't need a TV at all. We also never subscribed to cable (I didn't know this was considered standard in many homes until I was an adult), and the only movies I can specifically remember owning as a child were Cinderella and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

All of this didn't stop me from still being influenced by the TV of my day, nor from watching too many episodes of Full House, or TGIF Fridays, or even Tiny Tunes, Darkwing Duck, and Chip and Dale. Especially as I grew older, more and more TV watching occurred in our home, not to mention some pointless hours also spent in front of our Super Nintendo, playing Earthworm Jim, Mario RPG, or Final Fantasy II (that is until one of our baby rabbits we periodically brought inside to play with chewed through the cord, and forever ended video games in our home).

However, as I became an adult, I realized that I echoed my mother more than I had realized growing up; I too didn't, and still don't want a TV in my home. This was something that Avram and I always agreed on, and so we never even thought of buying one upon our marriage. I've never regretted not having a TV; we watch movies on our computer (although I would like to get a TV someday to use solely as a viewing monitor, and not hook it up for television showing, because I do get tired of squinting at a computer screen across the room from me), listen or watch conference on the Internet, and basically haven't missed having a TV at all.

I feel like we spent our time better this way, and don't get sucked into hours of silly sitcoms and commercials. In fact, now when I'm around a TV, I find I have no patience for watching it, and tire easily of the noise and flashiness of it all, not to mention the inane dialogue. Dare I say it, I've even felt a little proud of how un-dependent we are on modern “necessities” (including cell phones), and how maybe we're even better people, because we're not wasting our time with TV, and how much better balanced my children will be, without television.

I've felt proud until I recently realized that the time waster of the future isn't television, or at least television alone; it's the Internet. And referring back to my first topic, I spend plenty of time on the Internet/thinking about blogs I read or posts I write/wanting to get on the Internet when it's not working. And although I believe the Internet has greater potential for good than TV does, and it's what allows me to keep in touch so well with my family and friends back in America, the Internet also has its fair share of noise and flashiness, as well as ads that function as commercials on most pages. Plus there never was so much mis-information at my fingertips.

In contrast to TV I can't even contemplate getting rid of our Internet, let alone our computer. Really in today's world, computers are essential; Avram had to have a laptop for his program here, and it's a good thing he does, because unlike the good old Harold B. Lee library at BYU, the multifarious libraries here (they're completely decentralized, and so each of the 39 colleges has its own library, plus each department, like the Theology library, or the Oriental Institute Library, as well as the library here at Yarnton Manor, called the Mueller Library, all three of which Avram uses on a regular basis, have their own short and irregular hours. That's not even counting the central library, the Bodleian, which despite having every book published in Britain on hand, doesn't let you check a single one out, so is also very limiting in its own way).

All this means that unlike at BYU, where I at least managed to write all of my papers on the fourth floor of the HBL library, Avram finds it very necessary to use our laptop at home. And although technically I know that the Internet, at least at home, is still not a necessity, it sure feels like one to me. After all, we all survived before there was Internet, and even managed to enjoy life as well. Avram has essential school email he has to check every day (they even made him sign a form saying he would do so), I could manage just moving to phone and paper contact. But I don't like to contemplate such a move, and as cheap as I am, Internet always goes into planning a budget, whether it's living somewhere with the Internet included, or paying for it ourselves.

I've been thinking a lot about the Internet, and as it plays into Elder Dallin H. Oak's talk, “Good, Better, Best,” and trying to make my time on the Internet into the better and best category, and not just good (or even worse, not bad, but not much else either) category. I foresee that this is a balance I'll be working on for a while to come, as I predict will be for many of you. After all, the Internet is the wave of the future that we're all riding, hopefully with uplifting and well spent time in the meanwhile.

*Addendum. It's now tomorrow, and I've sneaked over to the Manor house to use the network here, since our house still doesn't have access to it. We think it's a problem with the router, but we seem to be on the bottom of everyone's priority list, so it may be a while until it's fixed, and it keeps on breaking anyway. It's sinfully exciting to have Internet, though, even if just for a half hour or so. Also, I realized partly I use the Internet so much here because in a large part it's also my social life here, and so without it my only social outlet is my immediate family.

Ramblings in the Fields and in the Mind

Lydia and I (and Elisheva, of course) went walking today. Since January the weather here in Oxfordshire has been flirting with spring. First the snowdrops came up; little white delicate flowers that bloom in the wayside, but as the name indicates, they are more of an anomaly of a flower rather than a true harbinger of spring. Early in February the daffodils and narcissus arrived as well, filling the gardens and wild stretches with yellow and white color alike. Still, the days continued; cold, but not so cold as to feel really wintry, nor yet warm enough to put away our winter coats, either. Also, the rain continued; not steadily, but usually just for a bit every day, as a continuous reminder of winter's remaining grip.

For the last week though, it's actually been sunny and warm outside, and suddenly I find myself in the midst of a full blown spring, with the lilacs blooming and Queen Anne's Lace growing in profusion in the wild beyond the Manor grounds, and a warm, gentle breeze twisting my hair around. I almost don't know how to deal with it, it's so unexpected. My wardrobe doesn't quite know what to do, either. I packed spring/summer clothing for Lydia, and Avram never wears shorts, so his summer clothes are essentially the same as his winter ones, but for myself I only had room for fall clothing, and then my maternity clothes. But now I neither want to, nor is it feasible to wear the majority of either set, and so my clothing is now drastically limited. Part of me wants to go and buy a few things just to last out the next six weeks, but then I remember that whatever we don't spend here gets exchanged into dollars, and the exchange rate is nice enough that this information temporarily quells my desire for new clothes paid for in British Pounds. So for now I'm limping along on maternity pants and my least maternity looking shirts, but at least I get to limp along while taking long walks outside, enjoying the sunshine.

Lydia is such a good walker now; we probably walked upwards of half a mile, and she only wanted to be carried when we were by the nettles (there were tons of them out in the wild fields), and never because of tiredness. She's such a good daughter. She also seems to have an innate understanding of potentially dangerous things, like cars and staplers. When a car passes us while we're walking, she'll stop and press herself up against the wall (almost all houses here have a fence or a wall around them, especially on our street) until it's gone. It's so nice to not have to worry about here running out into the street. In fact, I have a hard time convincing her to cross the street even when there are no cars around.

I realize that I don't write about Lydia a lot; at least, not things that she does and such. I don't really know why I don't, except for that this must be the way I record keep. I really do need to stop and say something about both of my girls, though. I love them so much; sometimes I look at both of them, or I'll be holding both of them, and my heart just swells with love and gratitude for Lydia and Elisheva. The first few days of Elisheva's life I didn't feel this way; mostly I just felt a little overwhelmed with both of them. Elisheva wasn't hard at all to take care of, but Lydia was a stretch for me while taking care of Elisheva. Lydia has loved Elisheva from the minute she saw her; she loves to hold her, and kiss her, and generally just maul her. Lydia has felt the pinch of being a big sister though. She has had more than her fair share of tantrums since the birth, as well as having her baby regression moments. The most noticeable one of these is Lydia's massive attachment to the baby bouncy chair. Lydia honestly believes it belongs to her, and usually has to be majorly convinced to let Elisheva sit in it at all. I don't mind her regressing a little; after all, her entire world has shifted, and (although she may not realize this yet) it's never going back to how it was before. Seeing the life of the oldest child; the years of complete and only attention, but also then being “displaced” for the first time, I don't think I envy being the oldest. Besides, all of our parenting methods are being tried out on Lydia, already just with our second I am much more aware of what to do, in regards to sleeping and things like that than we did with Lydia.

So far I find my days with them revolve around achieving an afternoon nap. If I can get Lydia to take one, I get to sleep as well, and then we're all happy. I did my first dishes yesterday, and it wasn't bad at all. I actually feel much more competent and able to do things on this side of my confinement (I had an older sister in the ward call and offer congratulations, and she actually did refer to my confinement. I loved it, how old fashioned of her) than I did at the end of my pregnancy. Today's my due date, and if I imagine still being pregnant at this point, my mind boggles. I just hope the rest of my children are similarly early, because I fear I've become spoiled as to the timing of births. It helps to not be overwhelmed that the Relief Society sisters are still bringing meals over (they took the weekend and May Day off, so today and tomorrow are our last meals); that was six meals total, which is twice as much as I got when I had Lydia. The Relief Society compassionate service committee leader, René Hill, has arranged so much; six meals, women to come and visit, and even people to call to make sure I'm doing alright. Another sister in the ward, Gwyneth Talputt, stopped by as well, with a cake she had made so that when others came to visit and see the baby we could offer them some refreshment. Well, no one came and visited us at all in the next few days, so Avram and I had to resort to eating it ourselves.

I think people are determined to keep me fattened up from my pregnancy; in addition to the previous said cake, we've also been given fudgy home-made brownies, a massive chocolate bar (it's as large as a sheet of paper), home-made pumpkin bread with chocolate chips (that was from an American, of course), chocolate trifle, and a mix for a dutch apple tart, which is like apple pie, but the crust is a butter cookie. In fact, I'm eating a piece of the last right now. Avram and Lydia both don't like cooked apples, so it's fallen on me to consume this last massively delicious and yet fattening-just-to-look-at dessert. That's partly why I went on a walk today, as well as one last night with Avram; if I don't start moving around I'm going to grow into a great gelatinous cube.

On a completely different note (see, I know this post has entirely wandered off of the original topic, but without the Internet to move on to, and with both Avram and Lydia gone shopping [which I would have gone with them, but I'm waiting at home for our dinner to arrive. It's 6:30 pm, but dinner here is usually later than in America, and so it hadn't come yet, and still hasn't in fact, when they left] I have nothing else to distract me. I know that I could finish the dishes, but I'm also holding Elisheva, and I can't accomplish both at the same time.) I can't believe that in only six weeks from today we fly back to America. One the one hand I'll really miss England; I've grown used to living here, we no longer find the food unusual enough to write about, we know a lot of the ward, and the fact that it's also not the same cold weather we had since September through April helps my appreciation of this country as well. On the other hand, I'm excited to move on to doctoral school, and to feel really settled in an area. Since a year ago when we left Provo we've been on the move; first Virginia, now here, and then we'll stop over in Virginia for another two months before finally settling in Columbus. I often entertain myself while falling asleep with planning how I'm going to arrange the furniture in our apartment at “Buckeye Village” - the family married housing for OSU. They have a floor plan on-line, so I know the basic outlines of the rooms. Also I get excited about starting to pay off our student loans, rather than accrue more loans.

Still right now the birds are singing, a gentle, scented breeze is blowing in through the open window, and outside looks like the Garden of Eden, so I'm having a hard time getting excited about returning to a Virginia Summer. I am used to dry heat, and so the high humidity plus heat of Virginia, mixed with living in a house without air conditioning nearly did me in last summer. I know that I'm a wimp; I've come to realize over the years that as much as I would love to have been a pioneer, I'm not into the greater physical discomforts they had to endure at all, like really high heat without reprieve, especially with wearing as much clothing as they did. I wonder if Ohio will be really humid or not? I've lived in the Midwest before, but it was in Wisconsin, and I left both summers I lived there, so I really don't know what it'll be like.

I will really miss our ward as well. I just love the members here; they are all so Christlike and giving. I feel so needy here, both with having been pregnant and then now having a new baby, as well as not having a car and so always needing a ride to church (the buses don't run early enough from where we live to take them). But the ward has always reached out to us, and not seemed to mind at all how we always seem to be taking from them, and never giving back. It makes me determined to be better at giving myself, especially with offering my car for people. If I hadn't already thought that the other two wards we've been in since being married were also really great wards, I think I would have a harder time leaving this one, but I comfort myself that the ward in Ohio will be great as well, ultimately because the Church is great wherever one is, and there are Christlike people all over the world.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Somewhere, Over the Rainbow...

Whenever I'm pregnant I suffer from morbidity. As in, when I was pregnant with Lydia, and I worked in Orem and lived in Provo, every day when I drove home through the sleet and snow in mid winter, Avram getting a call from the hospital of my accident and death would run through my mind. Not that I tried to dwell on it, but it was like watching a movie in my head. Sometimes I would even begin crying as the sadness of my untimely death rolled through my mind. It was bad enough that Avram didn't like me driving alone anywhere, because every time I did I would imagine car accidents and death.

Avram's death also seemed imminent at any moment. I often thought of what I was supposed to do as a 23 year old widow with a new baby coming, and where would I go to live, and how was I going to survive without him. I thought of ways I could meet a new husband as soon as possible, so that I wouldn't have to be unmarried. I even wondered if I could convince my then-unmarried brother-in-law to marry me, just so I wouldn't have to find new in-laws, and then according to the bible, all the kids would belong to Avram anyway. (Don't worry, Samuel, it's not like I had a crush on you. And don't worry, Aleatha, now that he's married, I'll just have to get Luke to marry me if this happens).

During this last pregnancy with Elisheva I was also similarly convinced. Thankfully I haven't had a car to drive in England, so I never worry about car accidents. Mainly I just worried about birthing accidents. I have at various times while living here planned out funerals for all members of the family, I have pondered whether family would fly out here (or even should; after all, if I'm already dead then there's no point, right?), and how in the world Avram would take care of two daughters without me, although one day in tears I did make him promise to keep Lydia and Elisheva with him, no matter how hard it was, rather then farm them out to others to raise.

I was reminded of this when I listened to IZ sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on my sister's blog. I absolutely love that version of the song, and want it at my funeral; it's a good poignant song, but still is happy enough in its own sad way that I wouldn't feel like my funeral would be a downer. Also, I want people to donate to the PEF fund, like they asked for President Hinckley's funeral, I am very insistent on an upright headstone (which seems to be very common here, as apposed to in America), I want to be buried in the Yarnton Cemetery, which happens to be right by the Manor, so it would be like being buried in my home here (which is a positive thing in my mind), and I've asked Avram to plant a permanent flowering bush, like a miniature rosebush, or maybe plant perennial flowers on my grave, so that way I'll have flowers every year (he promised to do so under pain of wifely anger).

Thankfully I have a husband is very understanding; he takes me seriously, and has variously promised in recent months to do all I ask him about my funeral, burial (although he thinks I ought to be shipped back to America, but I wouldn't want my dead body crossing the world for two reasons. The first, is it's romantic to be the young wife, buried in far off England, and the second is I'm cheap, and it's probably really expensive to ship a dead body; much more than a living one. Avram did say that if my relatives wanted to fly over for the funeral, he wouldn't dissuade them, because if they needed to say their goodbyes, it would be worth the money to do so {I thought that maybe they shouldn't come, because it would cost too much}), and raising our daughters afterwards. At the same time, his complete faith that I won't die, now will anything else untoward happen reassures me as well. (As you can tell by his intercepted comments that he thinks I'm a little ridiculous about it all).

Now that I'm not pregnant I haven't thought of my morbid pregnant tendencies until I heard that song, and it brought it all back to me. It reminds me of how Anne of Green Gables was making a cake once as a child, and was thinking of how someday her best friend Diana would get married, and Anne would be left alone, and she cried so hard, she forgot some essential ingredient, like the flour. I guess I'm just sentimental (Avram added silly here, and that I'm so weird). It's not like I'm depressed when I'm pregnant; I don't want to die, nor do I want him or our children to either. I don't actually fear it, either; I don't avoid driving, I don't feel particularly dangerous when I am driving. Neither do I avoid any other activities. It's more like I have a heightened awareness of life and death all around me, particularly for myself and those I love. Maybe all the life creating inside of me is offset by my thoughts of death contingency plans. (Avram intercepts here and comments that maybe I'm just crazy).

Sometimes I think I like being sentimental, though. I even like the word. Do any of you ever get weird thoughts in Pregnancy? Or just in general?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My Soapbox and My Story

Note: This post is all about labor and birth. It includes words like vaginal, and describes me in labor, as well as addressing controversial birthing topics. Also, it's eight pages long, and probably full of grammar and spelling errors because I couldn't even bring myself to spend the time rereading through it, and the spell checker only worked on half of it. Proceed with all due caution.

At long last I'm returning to the blogging world. Except have I ever mentioned that I hate the word blog? It's so ugly, and although I'm sure it has made it into the Oxford English Dictionary as a real and official word, I still don't think it's legitimate. So right now I'm going to say, I'm returning to the journaling world. After all, my pen and paper journal probably has been consumed by cobwebs by now, so this is really the only journal I keep. Moving on...

So I want to write about birthing Elisheva, but I didn't immediately run home and post about it, partly because our Internet has been on the fritz off and on (actually for the last month. At first it was really tiresome to not have the Internet for days at a time, but then actually I began to feel strangely free and unencumbered, but that's a topic for another time.) but also because I've told the blow by blow account to my mom, and honestly it's kind of boring, and ultimately unimportant and story impeding details kept on creeping into the account. So I've been waiting until I had a spin on it, a take on the topic that didn't detail things like the food ordering system in England in Hospitals, or how I feel about nausea the day after a baby's birth (Horrible. Her whole first day was kind of a blur, I was so out of it).

For this post I'm going to climb up on my soapbox, and defend natural labors, and why I feel so strongly about having them. Often throughout my two pregnancies people from close friends to strangers would rant and rave about how could I think of having a natural labor, when the technology exists to have a relatively painless one. I've been presented with analogies, like if I had a toothache, would I have a dentist work on my teeth without pain medication? How is that different from childbirth? I've had people ask me if I take Tylenol or Ibuprofen, and that's medicine, so why am I against using medicine for a larger thing? I usually just murmur that I believe in natural childbirth, and leave it at that, because as pushy and opinionated as I am, which is aplenty on both accounts, I hate confrontations and controversial subjects when I know that I already don't agree with the person I'm conversing with.

That doesn't mean that I don't have a fully formed and thought out opinion on this, and this birth made me think about my stance even more, so I'd like to take some Internet space to be controversial and preachy for my opinion. I don't mind if you don't agree with me, after all, most people don't on this subject.

My mother had five natural births. In fact, the last two births were home ones, and although I don't know about my sister born two years after me, I do know I was at my little brother's birth when I was four years old, because I remember it. (another controversial subject. In my memory, I wasn't disturbed by the birth at all, but I have to admit, I myself feel uncomfortable at the thought of even being around Lydia for labor, let alone a birth.) So I always grew up with the idea of naturally birthing a child as a very normal and doable thing. Don't get me wrong, my mother thought that labor was hard and painful, and absolutely did not look forward to it. But she was for natural births.

Once I myself was pregnant, I began to read a lot of medical literature and opinions from doctors, midwives, and anecdotal thoughts from mothers about natural vs. medicated labors. Although I came in with a bias already, I found that my basically groundless opinion increasingly became grounded in favor of natural births.

I want to take this paragraph here, and say that I am very grateful for modern technology. I have a sister who has had to have two c-sections because her body doesn't labor on its own, and I'm eternally grateful that her two daughters are her and safe and healthy. I have two other sisters that after gargantuanly long labors both got stuck at 8 cm dilation for five hours, and after sticking it out that long they both opted for an epidural, which let them sleep and rejuvenate so that they could actually birth their babies, whom I also love and adore. I know that induction can in so many cases save a pregnancy, help prevent worsening and possibly life threatening health problems like placenta previa. I am absolutely not against using medical aids to help make a safer and/or possible live birth.

I also don't believe that you must pay the price of pain to be a mother. Once again hearkening back to my c-section sister, she is fully a mother, and it would be ridiculous to think that her motherhood, or love for her baby is in anyway compromised by having a surgery. I have another sister (for those who don't know, I have seven sisters, so I have a lot of up close examples of motherhood and births) who has an adopted son. She is completely his mother, although he didn't come from her body, and she experienced no physical pain or process to bring him forth to this world (although plenty of other pain and processes). I don't think that natural birth is a rite of passage that marks an exclusive motherhood club, and if it does, certainly no one has sent me a membership card. As my mother says, no one is handing out awards in motherhood, so we don't need to beat ourselves up if we have a medicated birth, even if we planned for a natural one.

I still believe in trying for a natural birth, though, and my reasons are medical, not emotional (although like any opinion, I do feel strongly emotional about my medically grounded thoughts). Birth is a natural process; it's not a disease or illness, it doesn't need to be treated to come about. Now, of course I am talking about in the vast majority of situations; as I've already addressed, there are times and seasons for everything, and some babies do need convincing to come out. But for most pregnancies, and most labors if left alone, a natural birth would produce a healthy baby and mother. Although in most labors medication also produces a healthy baby and mother, ultimately my aversion to intervention of any sort stems back to the fact that one intervention often leads to a cycle of medical interventions, made necessary by the previous one, that all too often can result in a c-section. A necessary c-section, but only made necessary by the chain reaction of medical "help" given to the labor.

I recently read a CNN article about how the percentage of women who are dying in childbirth has risen for the first time in decades in America, and how this increase is caused by (in addition to more diabetes in pregnancy) the rise in c-sections in America, which does increase the risk of birth, because c-section can rarely have sever side effects, the worst being death.

To have an epidural, you must have an IV for fluids on continuously, you're usually not allowed to eat in case of nausea, a side effect of epidurals; epidurals usually slow labors down, which isn't that big of a deal, but if your labor goes on for too long, or if your water is broken for too long, many American hospitals and doctors will push for a c-section; epidurals call for more continuous monitoring of the baby, sometimes internally, which in and of itself can cause problems for the baby if it involves an artificial rupture of the membranes. The largest direct consequence of an epidural is that it numbs your lower half of your body, which means that you're confined to a bed, and by default are in the least useful positions and method of working with labor and contractions and gravity to bring the baby out. Also, in the birth itself ventouse (vacuum extraction) and forceps are more common, because the mother often can't feel the pushing urge as well, nor can she move to a position to birth the baby with gravity, so the baby ends up have to come out essentially uphill, which all too often is impossible without the help of these outside aids. Of course, if forceps or ventouse don't work, especially the latter, than a c-section is all but inevitable. Also, another possible complication occurs since the epidural makes it near impossible for the mother to get into a position that widens her pelvis and vaginal opening, so often an episiotomy is needed to make room for the baby's head to emerge, or without an episiotomy up to third degree tearing can occur.

None of these potential spiraling of medications takes into account that the epidural affects the baby, as all drugs in pregnancy cross through to the uterus, and widespread use of epidurals are recent enough in world history that we don't know the long term effect of epidurals on babies.

Now, I know that this previous list is a worst case scenario list; that many of these negative side effects never occur in most labors with epidurals. Also, I know that things can go wrong in natural labor; women get too exhausted to labor effectively any more, tearing occurs in natural births as well, and nausea is well known to natural-laboring mothers, not just epiduralled (I love making up words) ones. However, once the choice for an epidural has been made, the possible side effects and consequences stack up much higher and faster than in a natural labor. In a natural labor a women has the most options and choices; she can labor in water, if available, which is an effective (I used it with Lydia), method of pain relief; she can labor while moving, she can eat to keep up energy, she can work with the contractions to help the baby come, she can move freely because she's tied to neither monitors nor an IV.

Inductions also start this cycle of interventions, because the contractions are harder and longer from the beginning, and much more difficult to cope with than natural contractions (from what I've heard and read), and also because with an induction you're tied to an IV, it's harder to be moving and laboring effectively, so epidurals almost always accompany an induction.

In answer to all the women I've never told my true opinion to, no, getting an epidural is not like getting pain medication for dental work; it doesn't spiral into more and more medical interventions that can end up in major surgery instead of a relatively easy to recover from birth. And it doesn't potentially affect another human being for me to have pain medication for dental work, nor when I take Ibuprofen for other aches and pains. If there was a way to have a painless, medicated birth that didn't complicate the labor medically, and also allowed for optimal healthy delivering techniques, I wouldn't be opposed to it at all. I'm not opposed to medicine, just unnecessary health complications.

So that's my soapbox.

This all relates to Elisheva and her birth, because induction became a real option with her labor, and all of my convictions for having naturally occurring labors and deliveries were called up and examined in the face of reality and my own life.

I really wanted to have Elisheva early, partly because I felt very done with the pregnancy (despite having no real pregnancy complaints; I was just done), and partly because of the logistics of moving back to America on June 2oth, and all that entails with a passport for Elisheva, etc. However, I didn't feel like I would go early, and although I had told Avram on Saturday, April 26 that it was the perfect day for having a baby, absolutely nothing had happened, nor did I expect it to. The next day, Sunday, I asked Lydia when Elisheva was coming, and she said "now," to which answer Avram and I had a good laugh. Maybe Lydia knew something we didn't, though.

Last Sunday night, April 27th, I told Avram that the next day was a bad day for labor (I had been rating each day's potentiality for labor and birth for the past week) because the house was messy, dishes needed to be done, he would be gone all day, etc. Of course, at five am the next morning, eleven days before my due date, my waters broke, but without any starting of labor. My midwife had told me to go to the hospital if my waters broke (not a necessary thing to do normally; in Britain they won't make you be induced until your waters have been broken for 96 hours without labor), because I needed to have an IV for Group B Strep, and it needed to be given at least four hours before the birth, or little Elisheva would be given the antibiotics via an IV every four hours for her first 48 hours of life, and as quick as I had Lydia (six hours start to finish), it would be good to get to the hospital to start the IV.

So we dinked around until a more Godly hour (well, Six), and then called the hospital to let them know we were coming, and we also called our ride to the hospital, as well as Lydia's babysitter for the duration, to have her come. She made her way to us, and we eventually arrived at the hospital, John Radcliffe, at eight am. Also, Avram had to call and wake his parents in Virginia, so they could email his boss and tell her he couldn't come in because of my going to the hospital, because our Internet wasn't working, and hadn't been for the last whole week, and he hadn't yet gotten her phone number for contact info. They also retrieved my parent's phone number off of the Internet, yet another thing that we hadn't done, because we had assumed we would have the Internet right there at our disposal. Oh well for modern technology.

Once at the hospital I was monitored, and yep, my waters had broken, and nope, nothing was happening. They were very busy that morning, and so Avram and I spent the next four hours hanging out in an admissions room by ourselves, while the midwife on duty periodically came in and talked to us, or checked on us. She was trying to round up the antibiotics for us, but needed a doctor for some part of it, and the doctor on duty kept on getting called to the theatre or to someone who was actually in labor, and so who automatically rated higher up on the scale than us. Finally at noon, four hours of a whole lot of nothing later, the antibiotics were administered (it took twenty minutes). Ideally after this Avram and I wanted to leave the hospital and walk around the neighborhood, but they didn't want me to leave the hospital with the vin-flow (called a hep loc, basically just the place the IV goes in for) in my hand, so we moved our things up to an empty bed on one of the recovery floors, and then spent the next four hours walking briskly up and down the corridors of the hospital, trying to encourage my body to go into natural labor. During all of this time, the only person to mention induction had been myself, specifying that I didn't want it, and was intended to do all I could to wait for/bring on the onset of labor naturally. The midwives seemed fine with this, and no one the whole day ever brought up a deadline for labor start, or anything.

It made me really grateful to be in Britain for this birth, because they are a lot more laid back about birth and labor in general; in the states I'm sure they would have been very antsy for induction. Actually every thing about the labor and birth aspects were great here (the recovery though...that's for later in this post).

By five pm I was at my wits end; we had been at the hospital for nine hours with no sign of labor. I missed my daughter Lydia, whom I had never been away from for that long, I was impatient to meet this new incoming daughter, who showed no signs of appearing, I was physically and emotionally tired of attempting to start labor by all that walking, and I was almost ready to ask to be induced just to get things started. I would have mild contractions about every five minutes while walking the halls, but then when I sat down they would taper to ten , then fifteen minutes apart, and then stop altogether. The visiting hours for husbands ended at nine pm, and I didn't know what to do with Avram then if I wasn't in labor, because in the delivery suite husbands are welcome at all times, we were currently housed in the recovery halls, and so he would have to leave me, but then if I did start labor in the middle of the night, there would be no way for him to get back to the hospital to be with me. Also, I didn't think I could last beyond the next morning without just asking to be induced anyway, and at that point, I was starting to wonder if I would ask the next morning, why not just right then.

All of my carefully researched thoughts on medical interventions in labor came into hard questioning at that point. On the one hand I still firmly believed all of the previous facts I talked about with epidurals and any medical intervention that started spiraling down the intervention line. Actually, the admissions midwife felt the same way I did; for that matter, all of the midwives I came into contact with felt this way. But I felt so beaten down in the hospital; not by the staff, but by the sheer boredom of waiting, and of not knowing when and how I'd go into labor. And frankly, I really wanted to meet my next daughter, but she felt so far away, although so close because whether labor happened that night or not, relatively speaking her birth was still very imminent.

I discussed all this with Avram, and he counseled me to put off asking for an induction, because if I did, he felt I would end up regretting it. He's always saving me from my own doubts, and helping me live up to what I know I really want for birth. When I was in labor with Lydia it didn't build up slowly, but the contractions came hard and fast almost from the very beginning. They tell you at the beginning of labor to watch a movie, or sleep, or make a casserole to freeze for after the birth, and I couldn't even talk, let alone walk during my early contractions, and so I thought I had a really low pain threshold, and wouldn't be able to handle the later part of labor naturally. When we were at the hospital, and they were checking to see if I could be admitted, I started begging the orderly hooking me up to be monitored (a requirement for admission) for an epidural. It was really quite pathetic, because even knowing I didn't want interventions, my mores broke as soon as it was hard. Thankfully Avram still had his head on straight, and encouraged me to wait and see, and not opt immediately for an epidural, and of course, once I began working with my contractions instead of fighting them, I didn't even think of asking for medication again. This time he saved me again, and I realized that desperation wasn't a good reason for intervention.

We agreed to go on one last walk, so Avram could get his dinner from the cafeteria, and then return to my room where I could get dinner, and at that point we would stop going on walks, since they didn't seem to be doing any good, and were wearing me down. Once again I got contractions every five minutes while walking, but once again they slowed down to ten minutes, and then fifteen minutes apart once back in my room, while I ate dinner. I tried not to think about it, and at this point Avram found a wifi network he could connect to with our laptop we had with us, and we did all the catching up online that we had missed over the last week, including posting the notice about me being in the hospital on my journal here (notice the nice avoidance of the word blog there), which posted about six thirty pm.

Although I had stopped really paying attention, this time the contractions hadn't completely stopped, but were still coming every ten to fifteen minutes, and they felt stronger than the previous ones. We dinked around some more on the Internet, but by seven I began to hope and believe that I was actually in labor, at least the early stages, so I had Avram turn it off, because my contractions need my (and thus his) attentions when they came.

For me labor is like a very fast (and painful) train; you can't get off, and it starts and just goes and goes without much time for contemplation of what's happening until the end of the line, which isn't too far away, although it feels like forever, mainly because I don't know how long it will take to get there.

Having my water break first and then having mild contractions all day long while attempting to start labor was like taking a bicycle and trying to get it going fast enough to catch up with a fast train; very futile feeling. I began to suspect that I had finally caught up to the train, when suddenly instead of wishing with all of my heart that these contractions would turn into real labor, I began wishing for an exit from the train, and for the contractions to stop and go away, because I had changed my mind about wanting labor at all, ever. Having had two very different beginning labor experiences, I far prefer the first, which just took me by surprise, rather than the slow, contemplating beginning.

By this time it was about seven fifteen, and contractions were about five minutes apart. This is also around the time I lost track of both how often my contractions happened, other than close together, and of the time in general. The midwife had been in a couple of times to our bed, which was one of four beds in a room kept for pregnant women with complications, like high blood pressure and such. It was full, and although there were curtains around each bed area for privacy, I began to feel awkward because I was audibly in labor during contractions, and I didn't like laboring in front of other pregnant strangers. Mostly I just felt bad for them having to hear me. Somehow, though, the midwife kept on managing to miss being in with me during a contraction, and so as of yet she had nothing to go on for me going into labor except mine and Avram's comments that we thought I might be in early labor.

Finally around this time she saw me have a contraction, as Avram talked me through it, and then I burst into tears as soon as it was done, for no real reason (besides hormones, probably). Talk began of moving me to the delivery ward, but by this time it was 7:30, and a shift change (all the times given her on out are by reconstruction later), and I was due for another dose of IV at 8:00 pm, so between the changing of shifts and the rounding up of the antibiotics, and resolving whether to give them to me there, or in the delivery suite, I had neither moved nor had my antibiotics by about 8:15 pm.

By this point, being the fast laborer that I guess I am, I was definitely in the throes of labor, and not in the early stages at all. The method I used for natural laboring this time involved revolving my hips while on hands and knees during a contraction, while also taking short breaths in through my nose, and releasing them through my mouth while vocalizing in a low voice, that was almost like moaning (I'm sorry if this is too much information for you, but if you've kept on reading this far, which is currently at 4160 words, or about five and a half pages single spa. ced, then I guess you're not going to be put off by a little moaning). Well, I was on all fours on my hospital bed, and at first I didn't vocalize at all, but just breathed into my pillows. Then I moaned into my pillows (by the way, I found this a very effective way to naturally labor, that helped the pain a lot, and gave me something to do during each contraction, and didn't take a lot of training or thought, but really came very naturally and organically), and by this point, I had thrown things like maintaining a social face to the wind, and was lowing through each frequent contraction as loud and free as it came.

Thankfully about this point, the new midwife on duty came, and did and internal examination, and I was at four cm, and so finally, finally they decided to just save the IV for the delivery suite, and at about 8:30 the midwife came with a wheelchair to take me to delivery. Avram apologized to all of the pregnant strangers as we left, which I appreciated. (I returned to the same floor for recovery, just the room next door, and I sort of avoided going by my room of the previous day, because I did feel very awkward in memory for having being in the midst of labor with them, but thankfully I never saw anyone from that room).

The elevators we used to go down the four floors to the delivery suite we just the public ones, and when we got on they were empty, but at the very next floor about ten people got on (these are very large elevators), and right then another contraction hit, so I had more lovely witnesses to my laboring and lowing. I still had the presence of mind to feel badly for them, but I guess it was their own fault, for being in a maternity ward visiting in the first place.

The midwife, Helen, took us to a room dimly lit (perfect for labor), and I had Avram help me down onto a yoga mat they have for labors (they also have bean bags. I love how supportive this country is of natural laboring; I never even touched the bed until around an hour after delivery). I felt really hot during this labor, and yet couldn't do anything about it up in our previous room, and so here I had him strip off all my clothes in between contractions, while midwives and students and such came in and out. There's nothing like being in labor to abolish all sense of modesty, or any socially acceptable behavior for what feels better.

Helen had me try Gas and Air at this point, which is laughing gas. It's very popular here in Britain, to the point that they're always really surprised we don't use it at all for labors in America. Laughing gas is actually one form of pain relief that doesn't spiral into intervention (because it leaves your system as soon as you start breathing it), and it has no medical side effects, but it's kind of a love/hate thing, where some women can even imagine laboring without it, while others hate the disorientation they feel using it. I was pretty sure I wouldn't like it, because if you're already using a method of coping it usually interrupts that, but I let her have me try it for a few breaths. You have to only breath in and out with your mouth, though, and that interfeared with my breathing, and it tastes funny and medicinal, and I didn't like it and spit it out, and that was my whole experience with alternate forms of pain relief.

Very soon after we moved, I went through transition (so about 8:45), although of course I didn't know it at the time. I just started saying things like, "I want to go home" or the classic, "I don't want a baby anymore." Also, I told Avram a very true sentiment for me, "I believe in natural labors in theory, and after I have them, I'm very glad that I did, but I don't like laboring naturally in the middle." Which is very true for me; I believe medically they're better, and even emotionally I felt so in control of the labor, and of birthing, and so aware of everything. But that doesn't mean I enjoy the pain, or the experience while being in it.

I also started pushing involuntarily during contractions, which worried me because only a half hour before I had been at only 4 cm, and I was worried that I was pushing prematurely, and was going to tire myself out. Also, I had only been in labor at that point for about two and a half hours, counting the early easy contractions, and so it didn't feel like it had been long enough yet. Regardless, I had a very capable midwife, Krystina, and her lovely young student, and Krystina encouraged me to listen to my body, to not feel like I needed to artificially push the baby out, but to just go with the contraction where it took me. Also, she was very happy to have a birth on all fours to show her student, because so far all of Hannah's (the student's) births had been on beds, and as she said after the birth, she wanted Hannah to see a birth that the midwives weren't in there doing everything, but more as a supporting cast while the mother did the birthing.

By the way, the nice method of natural birthing went out the window during my transition; I couldn't breath in any more (too painful), and instead of lowing, it was a lot more like really loud yelling (although still helpful for pain relief), and at one point I transitioned into a scream I didn't know I was capable of producing. After this I only had pushing contractions, so that was probably Elisheva moving out of the uterus and down the birthing canal.

Although it felt like a long time, I was only pushing for nine minutes (according to my birthing notes), and then she came half out in one contraction (according to Avram she looked around opened one eye, and then gave an indignant squawk), and then more gentle easing, and there she was, a new little baby to the world, born at 9:17 pm. Actually, according to my birthing notes, I only had a one hour and two minute labor, but I think they started counting from when Helen examined me at four cm, and I definitely felt in labor before that point, so I count it about a three hour labor from start to finish.

I got everything I wanted from my birth plan; no IV for fluid (in fact, although I was set up for an IV, the needle was a skinny one only for meds; it wasn't large enough to even accommodate the kind of IV needed to keep up fluids), no pressure for induction, or pain relief, or anything. Also, they had clearly read it, because I asked the midwives in it to talk to my husband about anything during labor, because I'm not very coherent during labor (who really is?), and they did when they had any questions. And I had a natural third stage (ie, from birth until delivery of the placenta), something they don't usually do here, instead opting for a shot that causes the placenta to deliver. Elisheva was left attached to the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsating with blood, then the midwife had Avram cut it, and then 12 minutes after birth, so just a few minutes after this, I delivered the placenta. As the student Hannah put it, I couldn't have had a faster third stage even if I had had the shot anyway. Also, I didn't tear at all, which has made recovery from labor really easy (on the physical side at least; I'm still overwhelmed at the idea of doing dishes, although I've decided that tomorrow I'll resume dish duty, at least partially).

Then Avram and I were left alone with Elisheva while I cuddled her skin to skin on my chest; that was nice to just be calm and together, and then they helped me up to the bed, where I gave Elisheva her first feed. Elisheva was a thumbsucker in the womb; we saw it during one scan, and during another scan her thumb hovered next to her mouth the whole time. Two minutes after she was born, she was sucking her thumb, and I had resigned myself to a thumbsucker. But after her first feed, she has rejected her thumb every since. She'll still suck on mine and Avram's fingers (for as long as we'll let her, but I get tired after a half hour of it), but I guess her own are too small for her to feel satisfied anymore. So she ends up wanting to nurse a lot, partially just to suck. It's hard enough that although I hate them, if it continues much longer I may give in and buy a guckie (what we call pacifiers) to give my poor fingers a break.

So that was her birth. They weighed her and such, and she weighed 3.27 kg, which is about 7 lbs, 4 oz. They don't measure the length here (they also don't give babies a bath, which actually wasn't a problem. She was covered with vernix, which had all basically rubbed in by the time she was dressed, and then I later cleaned off her hair with some wet paper towels, and she's been fine ever since), but I borrowed the pediatrician's tape measure the next day, and would estimate she's somewhere around 20-21 inches long.

Avram called the Dicks, who were watching Lydia, and let them know Elisheva had been born, and they came and gave him a ride home, which was especially nice because they live a half hour south of Oxford (where the hospital was), and we live about ten minutes north of Oxford, so it's a long trip completely out of their way, but by this point no buses were running to Yarnton, so otherwise he was planning to walk home at eleven at night.

Then they took me back up to the same floor, where the staff all welcomed me back, and congratulated me on such a short labor, etc. (It's funny, because people will congratulate me on having such short, efficient labors, like I did something to cause it. Don't get me wrong; I'd rather be in labor for a short time than a long one, but I don't think I was extra good in the pre-existance to get them, or something.)

Here my love affair with the NHS system ended. Avram and I both absolutely loved the care of the midwives in the hospital and community, and Avram especially felt like they were more competant at the birth here than they were in America at Lydia's birth. However, sharing a recovery room with three other women was not my idea of a good time. You can rent a private room for 70 Pounds Sterling a night, but we're cheap and students, and so never even considered it. I was settled in my room at one am, but didn't sleep until after three am because a women was sawing logs continuously all night long. I finally fell into fitful dozing from three to six am, but that was it, because then they hand out medication for the day, and everyone's up and moving, so it's impossible to sleep anymore.

I was nauseous the whole day, and ended up throwing up all over my bed, and so they did a bunch of blood work on me, because they were concerned, but all was well, and I certainly wasn't going to spend another night away from my Lydia with the snoring wonder, so I went home at 7:00 pm on Tuesday night. So, I recommend the private room, but otherwise I was very, very happy with the hospital birth I ended up with.

We still haven't named Elisheva officially; Avram's going to register her birth this Thursday, and we'll do it then. So, we don't have a middle name for her yet, but we will by Thursday.

So that's my soapbox, and my story.