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January 27, 2006

Cracks

Our flat here in Vermillion has always been a little askew. Our kitchen floor lists toward the window, the hardwood in the bedroom has a distinctive, curvaceous bow, and if you glance at the chandelier in the living room, you’ll get a sinking feeling that you may be developing sea legs as the room appears to sway and bend.

In short, our home, HMS Snug-as-a-Bug, has been slowly sinking into the earth for the past eighty years.

This week our landlord and a handyman chum have been busy little gnomes, tunneling and digging and strutting under our feet, resurfacing only for food and rest when the sun sinks below the horizon. Akin to the rats of NIMH, the goal of their efforts has been to stabilize our sinking home.

Today, they seemed to make brilliant progress on the project with especially thunderous banging that caused some signs of our home’s touch-and-go state.

Kitchen Fault Line

We like to call it

Fear not, Dear Readers, we have renter's insurance.

January 21, 2006

Ultrasound Update

EthelRed in profile

Yesterday, we marveled at the growth and development of our young expectation during our thirty-two week ultrasound, and collected the following factoids:

EthelRed is in vertex position (head down).

Thursday, during our Childbirth class, Joel, using his forearms, gripped either side of my hips, practicing a comfort measure that I like to call The Vice. A time-honored pain relief tactic, The Vice encourages the bones of the pelvis to shift ever-so-slightly (approximately a millimeter or two) and provides relief when the baby’s head is pushing on the mother’s sacrum. The Vice brought such relief to my back – alleviating aches I didn’t even realize that I was having – that I concluded that EthelRed must be head down. Having my instincts validated at this appointment today made me feel like I’m in touch with the secret plans going on inside my body.

She is still a She.

We had a brief conversation before our appointment about the possibility of an alteration of our gender expectations … It went something like, “Have you thought about EthelRed’s maybe being a boy?” “Yeah. (pause) The boy’s name still works for me.” “Me, too.” After re-confirming her gender early on in our appointment, I looked at the grainy, moving ultrasound images of her face and wondered, “Are you a C--------? Or, perhaps a M-------? Or, what about an A-------?” Our Name Game has evolved into The Name of the Day, in which we suggest a first and middle name, valid only for that day. In addition to taking the pressure off the responsibility of naming, it allows us an opportunity to play around a bit with combinations in hopes of stumbling upon just the thing. (Joel’s note: Aimee is the prime and reining champion of the Name of the Day. I tend to have a Name of the Week. Or perhaps month. I like to think this is attributable to a steadiness of disposition, rather than a lack of imagination.)

She weighs about 4.5 lbs.

I’m glad that she seems to have found a use for all the extra bowls of Raisin Bran I’ve been eating. Although I have trouble eating large portions at any one meal, I have cleverly avoided heartburn and dyspepsia by eating several small meals throughout the day. The effect of these little bites is that I feel like I’m always eating, so it’s good to see pounds added to someone else’s waistline.

We calculated a new estimated due date based on her height, weight, and head and abdominal circumferences: March 13th, 2006.

Although the watchword of labor and delivery seems to be flexibility, our new due date has been deemed “auspicious” and “favorable” by Joel as it falls on the Monday just after our Spring Break vacation from the classroom. In an ideal world … Well, a person can dream can they?!?!

I have mentioned that she’s flipped into a good birthing position?

What a relief.

January 18, 2006

School's On!

The Board of Regents (or whomever is in charge of scheduling) granted University of South Dakota students an extra week during the Winter Holidays to rest and recuperate from the rigors of fall term. We had one full, seven-day period to enjoy one more sledding outing or to share a few more cups of tea with a visiting relation or to read two more paperback novels.

Upon returning to the classroom today, I found that many of my Nursing School compatriots used their time as I had. Like me, my classmates’ extra week of vacation was squandered by sleeping late and generally lying around all day.

The boredom of our added holiday free time has had its desired effect …

This morning, I bounded out of bed at 7:16, an hour in which I had not seen the dawn of day in a month, and pressed a pot of coffee. Cheerfully, I showered, dressed, and breakfasted while listening to the morning’s news. With my first class due to commence at ten o’ clock, I bustled around the house, organizing my orientation materials, sharpening pencils, and carefully packing my backpack. Feeling chipper and happy despite the chill, I almost skipped the six blocks from my front door to Old Main and my classroom. During our two-hour class, nearly everyone expressed an eager, can-do! attitude in tackling tricky dosage math problems, signing up for the semester’s 225 clinical hours, completing electrocardiogram worksheets, and asking detailed, dynamic questions about the syllabus.

And so we begin this final semester of Nursing School … Winter vacation, I hardly knew ye.

January 17, 2006

Weekend Work Captured

JoelComputer2.jpg

This Martin Luther King weekend, Joel celebrated non-violence and peaceful protest by completing an engrossing 21-page paper entitled The Pharmacology of Pain. During many visits to his office-style bunker, offering sustenance and encouragement (or distraction, if you ask Joel), I found that he rarely strayed from the above pose.

January 13, 2006

Vignettes from Last Night’s Childbirth Preparedness Class

The scene opens in a mauve and gray boardroom, lit by gently buzzing fluorescent lights. Two long conference tables are positioned side-by-side in the center of the room with several chairs neatly tucked under the tabletop. A small wall clock reads 6:58. A cheerful looking woman, wearing maybe twelve identification badges and university-style t-shirt promoting the hospital to illustrate her authority, is struggling with a television and VCR in one corner of the room. Pregnant women and men in various states of winter dress and physical discomfort wander into the room …

Joel (within moments of sitting down, noticing a small cart laden with muffins and juices): Do you want a muffin?
Aimee (aghast): No! Nobody’s offered us a muffin yet!
Joel: Well, they’ve written “prenatal” on the plastic wrap, and we’re prenatal!

Later, the instructor explains factors that affect labor progression.

Instructor: Sometimes the size and shape of a Mom’s pelvis can affect labor progression. Sometimes, Moms are just too small. It’s a freak thing.

One wonders if use of the word 'freak' at any time during perinatal period is appropriate.

Another helpful tip from our instructor to illustrate the change in cervical size during labor was the visual images of imagining one’s cervix grow from the size of a ketchup bottle neck to the size of a mayonnaise jar neck. Joel, recognizing my intolerance of mayonnaise, helpfully suggests, “You don’t have to picture a mayo jar if you’d prefer not to.”

During this class, we received many helpful packets containing how-to guides, advertisements and formula coupons. One packet, printed by diaper mogul Pampers, offered several suggestions for the first weeks postpartum, e.g. “New parents sometimes feel overwhelmed and out of touch with the rest of the world. You can help ease the stress of this time by planning ahead to have some support.” A worksheet follows these thoughts with some direct questions:

1. Who will help you after you go home?
What will they do?
How soon will they be available?
2. Who will do the following?
Cooking
Laundry
Housecleaning
Grocery shopping … etc.

Who, indeed!?! Terrifying questions, especially when we consider that with the addition of EthelRed to our cramped household, any live-in help would have to be a three-inch tall fairy. Who in Toadsland is ready to sign up?

The Pampers guidebook also asks: "Who is a good listener and will want to hear your birth story?" A dark question that strikes to the heart of new parent vulnerability ... Who knew that Pampers was so thoughtful?

Later, during a break, the muffins and juice were finally offered. Joel turned to me and said, “Other men are getting their ladies water. Do you want water? I want to be like them.”

And isn’t that what Childbirth Preparation is all about, after all? Our universal needs for re-assurance, affirmation, and glasses of water.

January 12, 2006

The State of the Union

Each year, we greet the anniversary of our marriage with the State of the Union.

The State of the Union typically happens spontaneously, but always in December or January. Memorable addresses have occurred while dining at Portland’s South Park restaurant over a plate of squid ink pasta and while strolling along a snowy sidewalk in a subdivision near St. Cloud. The topic(s) of the reflection has faithfully remained, Us. Last year, we marveled at our ease in acclimating to the Midwest, after such a delightful sojourn in Portland, the city of our spirits. We celebrated our return to theatre with Julius Caesar and trumpeted our academic achievements and new medical knowledge.

This year’s reflection left us stunned …

Remember The Crucible?

Mr. Putnam (Rusty) and Mrs. Proctor (Aimee) show off their Seventeenth Century dance stylings

Remember our Spring Break trip to Portland?

At Edgefield, Pam and Megan get ready to sink a fantastic putt while Joel looks on

Remember living in that Meth Lab of an apartment?
Remember the first time we went to the UCC on Easter Sunday?
Remember that time we made those little lime-mint drinks and solidified our relationship with Steve and Jill?

Joel & Jill in a classic pose (with wine) at a Vermillion Community Theatre fundraiser

Remember that time we went to France!?

Lunching on the lawn at Chambord

Remember that time we played Adelaide and Sky in Guys and Dolls?

A happy ending with Adelaide (Aimee), Nathan (Steve), Sky (Joel), Sarah (Gretchen) and friends

Remember meeting all those townsfolk during Guys and Dolls?
Remember how quiet summertime in Vermillion was?
Remember all that researching Joel did at the Human Services Center?
Remember when the Wurzbergers visited and we got stuck on the Missouri River?

Do-gooders rescue stranded boaters, Mame, Don, and Aimee, on the Missouri River

Remember when we found out we were pregnant?

In Utero EthelRed

And that’s just through July …

Of course, the State of the Union is not merely a list of reflections, but is also a formal discussion of goals, foibles, wishes, aspirations, and so on. We usually ask each other for constructive criticism on our spousing (i.e. ability to spouse), whether we’re communicating well, if we feel that the housework is equitable. This year, Joel expressed regret that his schoolwork occasionally made him distant and/or crabby. Aimee reassured him that she hadn’t noticed. Aimee suggested that she was becoming very inward and homebound, and Joel pointed out all of her involvement and activity. We agree to small goals, test the waters, and do a lot of complimenting.

There may come a time when we need to be more critical. Long-simmering issues may boil over and need to be mopped up. Maybe, for right now, the State of the Union is mostly practice.

January 10, 2006

Sewing Fit

One of my goals for my New Year was to create a few little heirloom pieces for EthelRed’s layette during these early January weeks before heading back to the chaos of classrooms and clinicals.

Shortly after we returned to Vermillion, I purchased all the necessary bamboo knitting sticks in baby-sized “miniscule” and scads of cotton skeins in varieties of dyed and not-dyed hues with images of tiny hats, jumpers, and blankets in mind. I also bought a couple of yards of flannel fabric and elastic to fashion a fitted sheet for a custom-made, heritage cradle (More on the lineage of that piece of furniture will follow after its February arrival).

All last week my fingers flew frenziedly, making Stitch n’ Bitch’s Big Bad Baby Blanket. It’s a project that I’ve been wanting to try for sometime now, owing almost exclusively to the fact that a knitted blanket is somewhat of a rarity. Because blankets are typically composed of many, many stitches to obtain the desired length and width and because you have to keep all your stitches on your needles when knitting, you need a super long pair of needles or one circular needle to accomplish this feat. S n’ B’s directions suggest the use of the circular needle, so that’s what I’ve used to great success!

Aimee knitting.jpg

But, here’s the rub: All this knitting – which is easily interrupted for a glass of water, supper, a stroll around the block, or a bath – has put me out of sewing practice. Further, knitting allows me to just sit there, clicking away peacefully, while I watch Batali versus Cambell in Battle Cheese. Sewing requires a lot of acrobatics. It's up and down and up and down with all the machinery, cutting, ironing, and unabbreviated, obtuse instructions (Who among you, besides my mom – who I had to call and ask – knows what “overcasting” means?). The clever, spatially oriented costume constructor me has been replaced by a mindless, happy knit one, purl two-er.

It took me nearly four hours of seam-ripping, zig-zagging, and over-dramatizing to make this simple fitted sheet for my great expectation’s bed. Don’t look too closely at the hem, please.

Aimee sewing.jpg

And now, to add insult to injury, I have to fold it!

January 9, 2006

Hand-Me-Down, Please!

We’ve begun to frequent a little shop called Dick and Jane’s. Maybe a year and some-odd months ago, one of our downtown storefronts started to advertise used children’s clothing in the window instead of antique glassware and furniture. At the time, I remember thinking, “What a great thing for the people in this town who have kids,” and I walked on by …

Until recently, that is.

Since we’ve turned into the third trimester of our pregnancy, Joel and I have patronized Dick and Jane’s no less than four times, checking price tags on adorable dresses and rompers, judging whether or not we might safety tuck our expected child into a sturdy, inexpensive car seat that comes without instructions, and testing Baby Bjorn-style carriers with battery-operated Barney dolls that say “I love you!” and “Let’s be friends!” as we attempt to jam its posed legs through holes in the carrier’s base.

In addition to ready-to-wear, gently used items for EthelRed, we’ve snagged second-hand clothes for ourselves, as Dick and Jane’s boasts both a rack of ample maternity jeans and formal wear, as well as a room full of adult-sized sweaters, shoes, slacks, and suits. To Joel and I, Dick and Jane’s is like Valhalla, where perfectly-good clothing goes to be reborn. (In point of fact, I don’t know that Norse Mythology subscribes to the philosophy of reincarnation, so perhaps my metaphor is a bit mixed … Nevertheless, you get the point, I think.) (Joel's note: If said used clothing is eternally warring with frost giants, this metaphor is perfect!)

As a child, I wore threads of Garage Sales Galore. Each year, from those Early-Bird Spring Cleaning sales to Last Chance Before the Snow Flies sales, the women in my family schooled me in Garage Sale methodology: how to spot a yard sale sign at two hundred feet, speeding along at 55 MPH; when to barter and when to pay the suggested price; how to know instinctively, based on a quick drive-by assessment whether or not a sale is deemed “a dud”; and, separating the wheat from the chaff, or finding the Guess jeans and priceless antique pottery in a mélange of Harlequin romance novels, oily car parts, and tabletop lamps from the mid-80s.

Alas, this careful training and education has fallen a bit by the wayside during my five years of marriage. In short, Joel finds Garage Sales distasteful. And yet, he, the beneficiary of scores of hand-me-down jeans, socks, books, and sandwiches as a child, cherishes the deals he teases out of shopping trips to the Goodwill Store. Furthermore, he seems to revel in reclaiming used furniture from street corners and people’s basements. For example, recently, a neighbor lady had placed a cat-scratched, worn old wingback out on the curb to be taken by passers-by or by trash collectors. Joel tromped me outside, in the midst of a rainstorm, to assess the potential use of the chair in our living arrangements. To me, nothing says “Leave It” like a musty, saggy old lady armchair perched atop a muddy puddle on the sidewalk. (Joel's note: But it was a wingback!)

So, we meet in the middle, in the glorious bounty of the second-hand shop.

January 3, 2006

Suturing

The day before our microbiology final we had our suturing lab. I knew what was coming; I had done my best to steel myself for the inevitable; I had made sure to eat a bland breakfast in case of catastrophe, but I was still taken aback by what I saw: 60 pigs’ feet, severed at the elbow. We were each handed one as we walked into the room and, of course, I dropped mine.

Most of my classmates think I’m a vegetarian. I’m not, I’ll happily munch on beef, chicken, fish, lamb, kittens, angels.... But when it comes time to order pizza for a lunch conference, I’m the only student who asks for cheese. Most likely all of our readers already know this, but in case we’ve garnered a huge following without realizing it, I’ll briefly explain: I don’t eat pork because I feel a kinship with pigs. And in Vermillion, South Dakota, that which comes on top of pizzas is made of pigsflesh.

So, I had to learn to suture. Being able to close a surgery is one of the great benefits I’ll enjoy during my clinical rotations next year (in a lot of places, med students are elbowed out of the way by surgical residents) and it was important to learn the rudiments in a safe environment. On a realistic model. “Why not use the cadavers?” I asked myself. We had a whole room full of them just downstairs, just lying (laying? should I use the term for the inanimate?) around, probably bored out of their skulls. The answer, of course, is that a lot of my classmates (and probably a lot of my professors) always found the cadavers distasteful and smelly. And anyway it was more convenient to use pig’s feet in the comfort of our own classroom than to put on labcoats and grungy clothes for the cadaver lab. As our instructors walked around making cruel slashes in the tissue for us to sew closed, I tried to use humor to make myself more comfortable. “W-what a beautiful sacrifice of all those Thalidomide babies to give us their flippers!” I announced to my table, to a few chuckles and a few shocked expressions. "Mutter-mutter pigeaters," I thought to myself.

January 2, 2006

Archives!

As I have a big pharmacology test on Friday (have I mentioned that I hate pharm? I do! Very much!), I'm procrastinating by accomplishing various semi-useful tasks. Perhaps the most useful is the re-collection of our entries pre-website crash for your enjoyment!

You can access them under the "Archives" heading on the right-hand column. After May of 2004, I stopped adding them as individual entries and began sticking them in as whole months. You'll also notice that none of them have photos or comments. I may add some photos later (Wicked Stepsister just isn't the same without Kelli's pictures), depending on how JD feels about more of his memory being used up.

January 1, 2006

Christmas Remembrances

On December 25th, we drove north to Superior, Wisconsin to celebrate the Christmas festivities with a pack of blithe-spirited Mirons. Due to our late morning arrival, the assembled were eagerly poised and ready to tear into the Christmas largesse at our appearance. What could we do but heartily comply?

Mmmm ... Tasty

Each year, the Mirons open a series of edible stocking stuffers intended to satiate appetites while the Christmas turkey roasts and bastes in the oven. Here, in the true holiday spirit, Joel’s be-decked father, Doug, enjoys a prized stocking stuffer: a tasty beer.

How sweet is that bunting?!?

Later during the gift-giving ceremonies, we opened a package to discover a small child-sized bunting intended for EthelRed, created by her Knitting Master (future) Aunt Phoebe.

The Case of the Difficult Purple-Colored Puzzle Pieces

Yet another Miron family tradition is herein depicted: Joel’s brother, Josh, his wife, Stéphanie, and Joel piece together a mystery puzzle sent by Joel’s grandmother, Mar, for all to enjoy. The puzzle was completed on Boxing Day, but unfortunately the mystery remains unsolved.

A favorite pastime of adults and youth alike: throwing rocks into the water

The rarely observed Witch Woman of the West End, Lake Superior

Our travels to Superior also included a brisk beach walk along the shores of Lake Superior, and an afternoon of ice-skating near downtown Duluth.

Where future Christmas vacations will lead one can never tell, but this year’s adventure was a true gem, thanks in great part to the hospitality and welcome of Joel’s sister, Phoebe, and her beau, Dave.

Thanks, you two!