Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I can do ALL the things!

My friend Catherine wrote a beautiful post the other day. And it struck my heart, since I have similar desires to love and serve. I have been struggling with service lately, feeling that I need to do more to help those around me, not just my family. In the past I have reached WAY past my capacities by volunteering to do all sorts of things and providing myself, and as a result my family, with too much stress. Realizing that I can't do everything and that my family is most important, I pulled back from everyone else and focused on only them.  This was very good for us all. But I now feel like I've got my life a little bit more in order and have the time and energy to help out a few other people.

This always seemed daunting to me. I can't make dinner for other people every week. "Service" always seemed to mean the big things. I know it's not and thanks to this past weekend's general conference and especially to the message from our Prophet, Thomas Monson, I know that I can do it. I know that as I pray for opportunities to help the people around me, I will receive them. God knows I don't have it together enough to do those big servicey deeds.  He can direct me to those people who need a compliment, or some cookies, or a hug. I give really good hugs. I know that I can still help people by showing them love.

AND I know that I can do anything. If I'm meant to do it, Heavenly Father will give the the strength. I may not be able to do it all at the same time, but eventually, I will get it done.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brooks Lowell Ralph

Born December 7, 2012 at 5:33 a.m. He weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces and measured 20 inches long. He’s adorable.

Good story: (It’s a birth story, how could it not be good? Also long, you’ve been warned.)

So Brandon was working as a contractor for The North Face.  Great company, good job, kind of stressful, ended in September.  Begin again the search for a job. Sigh.  This time around it took 6 weeks instead of the incredible 2 weeks he was unemployed in May.  I loved it though. And so did Maggie. There is something to be said for having Brandon home all day every day. We missed him a lot when he went back to work in November, this time as a contractor for The Gap Inc. Much better job, less stressful, and he’s got great coworkers. Crossing our fingers and saying our prayers, but it looks like he’ll be able to stay on more permanently!

DSC_0257So 6 weeks, no insurance. I didn’t mind so much skipping the awful glucose test or not getting on that scale that obviously doesn’t know what it’s talking about. It did start me worrying a bit though when we found out he had to work 4 weeks before insurance kicked in… which meant December 1st. Now, I wasn’t due til the 15th, so we were counting on everything being ok, but I got a temporary PPO plan to cover that month where he might have come and we would have been unable to pay for him. 

Brandon so kindly demanded that I take that last week of November very easy.  I had to spend time watching Netflix and sitting my butt on the couch doing nothing and feeling no guilt. The no guilt thing didn’t work out so well, but I did watch some great shows and movies. North and South, Into the Woods, Mirror Mirror, From Time to Time and I started Sherlock. December 1st rolled around. Woo Hoo! We’d made it! We had insurance! I went to our ward Relief Society Christmas Brunch.  And started contracting. 

IMG_0451They were just Braxton Hicks, because they didn’t hurt, but they were 3-7 minutes apart. I thoroughly worried Brandon by sending him a text that he needed to get the baby seat out of storage just in case. I got home 3 hours later and proceeded to do all those things you’re supposed to do the weeks ahead to prepare for a baby coming. I had avoided doing them before fearing he might come just because I was ready for him, even though we were uninsured.  I continued to contract regularly all day but since they didn’t hurt I went to sleep for the night. I woke up the next morning still contracting, but irregularly and found out my mom was on her way, driving down from Boise. I love her! I’m so glad and grateful she came and was able to help out so much. Over the next 5 days I continued to contract, had a doctor’s appointment (dilated to a 3 and 70% effaced) Monday, and a false alarm trip to the hospital (still only a 3) on Wednesday. I was determined to be in real labor before we went to the hospital again. 

I woke up at 2:30 Friday morning very uncomfortable. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I took a shower, which woke Brandon up. By the time the hot water ran out I was officially in pain and bleeding. Not something you’d normally be happy about, but I totally was! I wanted to try to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t lay down, so I told him to wake up my mom and we’d head to the hospital.  Our wall sharing neighbors had our baby monitor from Wednesdays trip to the hospital, so we turned that on in Maggie’s room and texted our neighbor to say we were leaving. She went over and got Maggie when she heard her wake up in the morning. Thanks again Monica!! By the time we were getting in the car I was done.  I could not fathom why anyone would purposefully go through that pain when there were perfectly good epidurals to be had.

DSC_0285We arrived at the hospital at 4:30 where I plopped myself in a wheelchair that barely fit through the doorways gripping the armrests and grinning through the pain at security guards and nurses congratulating me.  Why did they insist on talking to me when I could barely think coherently? And all the nurses in Labor and Delivery were chatting at the nurses station when we got there looking all surprised to see me. Hello?!? Having a baby! Get up and get me drugs! To receive an epidural you have to have an IV so you’re hydrated…I look like I was in one crazy intense volleyball game from the bruises on my forearms.  After they finally got a line into my hand and the instrument table set up they called the doctor.  Shouldn’t she be there already?  Amid the crazy amounts of pain, frustration at being poked so many times and anger with the doctor for taking forever, Brandon says, “So  this seems like a good time to decide his name, right? You aren’t too busy right now or anything…” Lucky for him I know he was being sarcastic, but really all I could think was, “FRICKIN FRICKER! That’s all I got for a name right now.” 

The nurse checked me again before calling the anesthesiologist because I told her I felt like I needed to push, turns out I was fully dilated and basically about to explode. Sigh, guess I was having this one natural after all. It’s what I wanted, right? I could totally do this. Women have been doing it for thousands of years. My body was made to push this baby out! Yea, I gave myself a pep talk. I needed it! I’d never shook from pain before. It was intense. I had to stop looking at my mom when I was in the middle of contraction because she had this awful worried look on her face. I tried to hide how much pain I was in because I didn’t want to worry my mom and Brandon.  Later she told me it was really hard to see me going through that pain, since she knew what it was like.

DSC_0302I had wanted to try using a squatting bar. I figure hey, if you’re going natural and have bothered to actually write out a birth plan why not try something different?  By the time they got it on the bed I was really ready to push but the doctor had just arrived. They all kept telling me I didn’t need the bar, I could just lay back a little and he’d slide right out. I think a squatting birth causes a few logistical problems for the doctor. They have to catch the baby while kind of being underneath you…I get their hesitation to let me use it. So doc is finally all gowned and slippered and hair netted and gloved up (it seriously took her forEVER to get all dressed) she tries to get around the squatting bar to break the water, ends up going under it. Amid gushing water they convince me to just lay back and they take away the bar and I pushed. Brandon was by my head on my right, telling me I was doing great, to keep going. I pushed again and out came his head! At this point Brandon starts laughing. Doc turned the baby’s head and body to the side and he was out with one more push. 

IMG_0444She put him directly onto my chest, gooey and bloody, all covered in vernix (the white goo) and lanugo(the fuzzy hair).  I loved him. Immediately. With his purple face and huge lips and perfect little nose. Brandon came in closer, kissed me and told me I was amazing!  Our little man was amazing. Then Brandon cut the cord and the doctor pulled out that nasty placenta, which hurt.  I couldn’t stop staring at this beautiful baby though. I couldn’t believe he was mine! I was so happy! After weighing him and wrapping him in warm blankets, they handed him back. Only one hour in the hospital and I had my little boy! He latched quickly and ate for almost an hour and a half! He is such a good eater, and I am so grateful.  Maggie wasn’t as good, and we ended up having to supplement with formula. 

Brandon went home around 7 to shower and get Maggie and breakfast for my mom and him. Maggie was so happy to see me!  I loved being able to give her a big hug and talk about how the baby had come out of my tummy. She did not want to share my lap with him, but we did get her to give him a kiss before she pushed him away.  DSC_0236After a bit of talking and exploring the room she sat on the bed with me and opened her present from baby brother. I’d read on a blog somewhere that older siblings responded well to a new baby when you make the atmosphere as positive as possible.  What could be more positive than presents?  I found this Me Reader at Costco.  It came with 8 books and had buttons to push to read the stories out loud.  She absolutely LOVES it!! She knows it came from Brooks and every so often when she’s playing with it we’ll hear, “Thank you Brooks for my Me Reader!” DSC_0253

We still weren’t set on his name until Maggie got there and she said his name was Brooks not Miles. Ok. It would be hard and confusing to convince her that we were switching his name. Plus it’s the one that had stuck the longest without being hated.  We had a really hard time finding any names that one of us didn’t dislike. Eli was one we’d both liked when we were talking about names for Maggie.  And Brandon pulled Miles out of nowhere about a month before the little man was born. The weird thing is, both Brandon and I felt that if he had been born the day before his name would have been Miles. Brooks grows on me every day. I do like it.

DSC_0271Sarah came to visit us in the hospital and brought me a delicious smoothie. Jon and Jenna showed up for a bit that evening to meet little Brooks. Then I sent everyone home around 8 to go get a good nights sleep.  Someone should since we had all been up for a really long time, and I knew Brandon would not sleep well in that hospital chair-bed-thing. After a rough night with a kid who all of sudden wanted to eat every hour, I was glad to see Brandon the next morning. I convinced the doctors to let me go home that day. YAY! As good as the free food was, I knew I’d sleep better in my own bed.

If I’d known I’d have to go through 3 doctor’s appointments, one a circumcision in the next week because I skipped out of the hospital a day early, I might have stayed. Oh well. My mom was there to help out. And WOW was she a help.  I don’t know how I would have made it through that first week without her.  I have an awesome mom, just so you all know.  She did the dishes every day, took care of Maggie, made delicious food, made me nap, helped set up Christmas decorations, and took Brooks at night until he needed to feed. We even got Maggie to school a couple days that week.  I felt amazingly accomplished.

DSC_0283Now Brooks is 3 weeks old. It is not easy. I am so grateful to have Brandon.  I would be crazy without him. He’s been off this week for Christmas, and been getting up with Maggie so I can sleep in (yesterday til 11!!) I’m storing up all the sleep I can get now for when he has to go back to work. Sigh. I am so blessed. When I look at my children I get this swelling of joy in my chest. I am so happy! I love my little family! And morning cuddles. I love those.


Monday, November 19, 2012


So I know it's almost Thanksgiving and all, but this is inspired by deep knowledge not a random thought related to an upcoming holiday. The coincidence is nice though.
I am so blessed! I have a great family! We're healthy. Brandon has a job. Maggie loves her school. We're going to have a little man join our family soon. Brandon WANTS me to be lazy, I mean take it easy, which results in infinitely less guilt when I do nothing. Which is increasing in frequency. We're happy! We've got a nice home. We have enough food and clothes and junk we don't need, but for which I am still grateful. I know and love my Savior. We have a wonderful ward family and lots of fantastic friends! I have a good life.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Getting closer to now

March was filled with another lucky visit with my family! Alecia’s leaving on her mission meant it would be the last time I would get to see her for at least 18 months.  Maggie and I flew into SLC stayed with my Grandparents for a few daysmalecia (3)

stopped to play in the sand and water at the Dinosaur Museum at Thanksgiving Point malecia (4)

and saw Alecia off to the MTC. 

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Then the whole family headed west to take us home. Luckily the kids were off school for spring break!  We stopped at Sutter’s Mill and went through the little museum there.  You like our cute bonnets, I know you do. :)malecia (17)Before we headed the rest of the way home, my dad stopped and helped us pan for gold for about an hour.  It was so much fun!  There is such a rush after sifting through so many rocks to find little flakes of butter yellow GOLD.  malecia (18)My dad likes to pawn off his obsession so when he buys a plot in Alaska to mine, we’ll all want to come join him. (HAHAHAHA! – no thanks) It is cool though. Maggie entertained herself almost the whole time we were panning by spinning and walking on the gravel.  Man, she loves that stuff.malecia (6)My brother found some gold! He was very excited by the whole business.malecia (7)And we found some very friendly ducks by the river at Sutter’s Mill. malecia (8)It’s a neat little place.  I totally recommend it to anyone interested.

We got home and, of course took the obligatory drive around San Francisco.  We’ve found a fun little beach, Baker by name, that has a beautiful view of the Golden Gate bridge malecia (14)

and some fun artillery bunkers to walk around.malecia (9) malecia (15)malecia (10)

Alex got attacked by a wave…hehe. malecia (2)

We played lawn, I mean beach, darts and my dad passed the time searching for buried treasure.malecia (16)

The rest of us went to Fisherman’s Wharf, saw the old timey arcade and went into the submarine! Super neato, and cramped.malecia (13)Maggie took some rest time in the stroller, chillin’ while the rest of us had to walk. She just makes herself comfortable wherever she’s at.malecia (11)

And she loves her Grandma Jeffery. I really love being around family.malecia (12)

April – These are our fabulous neighbors.  Monica, James, and their daughter Kim are next door.  They are some of our favorite people in the ward. We’re lucky, since we have to share a wall of our duplex with someone, that its them. Pam and Tex live across the street and spoil the begeebers out of their granddaughter Aly.  When she’s not around, they vicariously care for her by bringing popsicles and toys to Maggie and Kim.  Two of the sweetest, most generous people I know. :)zapril (2)We were able to participate in a local Beeping Easter Egg Hunt for Maggie.  It was amazing! More details? (1)

Easter morning we opened a wonderful package from Grandma and Grandpa Ralph.  She loved her cute presents.zapril (4)

After church we had a little egg hunt in our backyard zapril (5)zapril (7)zapril (9)with Monica and James, and Jon and Jenna came up for the day.  The kids had TONS of fun finding eggs. zapril (8) We need to play more hide and seek.  It encourages active searching, which is something Maggie needs to work on.

And this is what happens when you don’t change your camera settings after going outside. We’ll pretend like I wanted this effect on purpose. Happy Day of Resurrection!zapril (6)

May brought prom, a surprise to my friend Ann, when her son told her the day before.  She quickly put together a wonderful welcome for this beautiful girl, asking me to get some pictures.  They were fun, and super cute!

zooo (1)zooo (2)

Brandon had the joy of being laid off…. He’s such a good worker! He immediately went to work doing everything he could to find a new job, and in the mean time get unemployment and keep our insurance, taking care of his family like a champ! In the mean time we took advantage of him being home to take a family trip to the zoo. zooo (3)Brandon’s favorites were the giraffes.  Especially watching this one not bend it’s legs, but spread them to get a drink. zooo (4)Maggie likes the petting zoo, not necessarily to touch the animals, but she likes walking in the hay.  zooo (5)Our zoo is awesome. Oh, wait I already bragged. Here’s the alligator in the sand zooo (6)zoo2and the tiny little waterfall stream thing for the kids to get wet in zooo (7)and last but not least: The Carousel! At first, she hated it. Brandon was just laughing as she was crying…zooThen he switched to the Panda. Good move, Dad! zoo1The panda went up and down, where the giraffe was stationary.  Actual movement makes the carousel much more fun.  She still talks about riding the panda at the zoo. :)

We lucked out that Brandon was able to get in contact with a contracting company through a friend in our ward.  Two weeks after being laid off he was working at the Northface.  It’s a delightful company that really takes care of his employees.  He’s doing some marketing project management…or something. Sounds complicated and kind of stressful, but he’s thriving under the pressure. He really hates being bored at work, so this is great for him.  We are truly blessed.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More catching up

January – My family was able to come out to visit! Kendra got home from her mission, and Alecia had put in her papers.  She was able to get her endowment done at the Oakland Temple.  It was so neat to be in the temple with my family!!! jDSC_0518~

We went to Muir Beach looking for the perfect senior picture spot and some tide pools. jDSC_0172

We were too late for the starfish, but we got great pictures of Danielle.ann 1

This is one of Maggie’s favorite books. It’s called Special Something and it’s filled with all sorts of textures and encourages searching for something lost.  It’s really great, and of course, she knows all the words. :)jDSC_0540-2

The week after my family left was filled with packing.  jDSC_0546-2We moved just 2 miles down the road to a fabulous duplex.  And thank you SO much to all those who helped with the move.  We were done in like 2 hours!  We live right next to some of our best friends and on the same street as about 10 other families in our ward.  It’s cheap and has a yard, and our own appliances. I love it here!

February - Filled with One of my favorite parts of our new place - I get to paint! I love painting and decorating. It really helps me feel like its my home.

Here’s my collage in the living room and an art piece hanging in the dining room, made from toilet paper rolls:fDSC_0075-2afDsc_0076-1

Yes! My kitchen has a bright teal wall! I love it so much! I still need to finish the rest of the kitchen, but when you first look in it looks good, so I haven’t bothered with it. And Maggie is helping with the dishes again. I love her!fDSC_0627-2

We had a delicious steak dinner for Valentine’s DayfDSC_0663-2

And Maggie started school!! It’s like pre-preschool. Here’s more about that: