Wednesday, February 8, 2012

30 before 30: i scuba dived

When we visited Maui in 2006, I planned on hiking, snorkeling and relaxing. For the most part, that is exactly what happened. But then a friend of ours asked if I wanted to go scuba diving, and I said yes.

I am a pretty adventerous person. I like to try new things. But the ocean has always scared me a lot a little because the currents are strong and the animals are wild. Although I know that it is unlikely I will be attacked by a shark, I am still terrified of it happening. Plus when you scuba dive you are underwater and, you know, BREATHING THROUGH A TANK. Oh ya, totally natural.

I don't remember all the details, but basically it comes down to this: if you are with a master diver, you can take a brief training session and go scuba diving without becoming scuba certified. I was shaking when I jumped in the water the first time and demonstrated the necessary skills. My heart was pounding so I focused on the breathing and repeating the instructions over and over again in my head.

And then I was scuba diving.

I thought that the mask, tank and breathing apparatus would make me feel weighed down and claustrophobic, but the amazing thing about scuba diving is that it is freeing.

It is difficult to describe the feeling of scuba diving. I felt empowered as I did something that should be impossible for the human body to do, but tiny as I experienced how small and fragile I am. I was weightless. It was beautiful to experience the ocean by being in the ocean. I felt like I became part of the environment that surrounded me. It is simultaneously silent as all noise of the world disappears, but loud with the sound of your own breath.

Simply stated, it was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever had. I felt free. I was at peace.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

30 before 30: cooking from scratch

I am blogging my way through 30 things I have done before I turn 30! This is a bit of an extension of the blog I already wrote about cooking.

I will never forget when I learned that you could make pancakes from scratch. I was having some sort of morning emergency that necessitated pancakes but there was no Bisquick to be found. Oh, woe is me. What will I do with NO PANCAKES?!

And then my roommate said: "Why don't you just make them from scratch?"

Umm, excuse me? You mean to say that you can make pancakes without a box? I was flabbergasted. And intrigued. Ladies and gentleman, I am here to tell you that yes, indeed, you can make pancakes by mixing milk, eggs, melted butter, vanilla, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. I follow the recipe from my cooking Bible, "The Joy of Cooking" but there are plenty of recipes out there.

I make GOOD pancakes. Don't believe me? Be here on Saturday mornings. You won't be disappointed.

I've learned from my mom that most things that seem complicated can be made from scratch. And I have learned through experience that I find great joy in creating things out of nothing.

Today at work Brandon and I were discussing our dinner plans. His dinner suggestion required tortillas, which I told him required a trip to the store. Then my coworker spoke up and said, "why don't you make them?"

So? I made them. I made tortillas from scratch. They were delicious.

Dough. Rolling out the dough. Cooking the tortilla. YUM, tortillas.

We are a society that loves instant gratification and quick, easy solutions. Trust me, there are days when I choose the easy way to feed my family. But I am proud that I am capable of making my food for my family from scratch. I am proud that I can control the ingredients that go into our bodies. And I am happy to show love to them through the food prepared by my own hands.

Monday, February 6, 2012

30 before 30: US travel

You'd think it was planned... I counted up the states that I've stepped foot in and it turns out I've been to 30 states. I've been to 30 states in 30 years. Pretty cool, right?

At least two of these were just for flight layovers, but most of them were destinations, or at least extended stop overs. I've been lucky to travel so much in my life and I am grateful for the people I have met and the experiences I've had along the way! I am sure I could write a long story about many of these... but instead I'll just give a quick explanation of what I did there.
  1. Alaska: in 2000 we took a cruise to Alaska to celebrate my Papa’s 90th birthday! We went to Juneau, Sitka and Skagway.
  2. Arizona: visited my grandmother who was living in Tucson. It was my first time flying alone!
  3. California: I live here, so I imagine I have a lot of stories to tell about this state.
  4. Colorado: Brandon lived in Denver for a year and half. This city is amazing and I was lucky to visit him several times. We dined in downtown Denver, hiked in the Rockies and visited Breckenridge. Brandon once asked me to move to Denver. If he had asked me to marry him, I would have moved there. I LOVE Colorado!
  5. Connecticut: part of our East Coast trip that started in Vermont, took us north to Canada and then back to New York City.
  6. Delaware: same East Coast trip.
  7. Florida: my parents took us on a surprise trip... they didn't tell us where we were going. When we got to the airport and found out we were connecting to Orlando, we started screaming. It was awesome.
  8. Hawaii: Maui, oh Maui. I have been to Maui four times (I think) with my family. I love, love, love Maui and I can't wait to go back with my husband and family.
  9. Idaho: Couer d'Alene. Beautiful!
  10. Illinois: I have flown through Chicago lots of times... but spent a bit of time there on my way to...
  11. Indiana: I WENT TO VISIT NOTRE DAME!!!
  12. Maine: Part of our East Coast trip. We spent a few nights here on the coast. Gorgeous.
  13. Maryland: Visited Maryland when I went to DC.
  14. Massachusetts: I've been to Boston and Cape Cod.
  15. Michigan: One of my favorite trips! We visited our friends in Kalamazoo and then went to Mackinac-- an island with no motorized vehicles. This whole trip was amazing. It deserves its own post.
  16. Minnesota: this is one of those states that only experienced my presence during a layover.
  17. Montana: When we visited Couer d'Alene we drove to Montana. I can't explain why, but somewhere there is a picture of me standing in front of the "Welcome to Montana" sign!
  18. Nevada: Reno, Vegas and driving through Nevada to get to Utah.
  19. New Hampshire: Part of our great East Coast tour. I remember that we had a really good dinner here...
  20. New Jersey: Went to New Jersey when we were in NYC. I don't remember why.
  21. New Mexico: I went with my parents to Santa Fe for a business trip, and we took a day trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico to visit the town my grandmother grew up in. Very humbling to visit the place where she grew up and experience such a beautiful state like New Mexico.
  22. New York: I went to New York City for the first time when I was 16 to see the Macy's 4th of July fireworks celebration. I went back again two more times for the 4th of July celebration. How lucky to experience New York that way!
  23. Oregon: We spent many summer vacations in Black Butte. I have hiked and biked miles and miles of that state. I LOVE OREGON!
  24. Rhode Island: Yup, part of the great East Coast tour.
  25. Tennessee: one of my flight layover states. But this is definitely a place I want to visit again!
  26. Texas: We flew into Houston and then drove to Galveston to leave for a cruise!
  27. Utah: We spent one summer vacation outside of Park City. Hiking, biking and a near death experience involving a lightning storm.
  28. Vermont: The starting point of our great East Coast tour. We arrived in Stowe, Vermont with no luggage and bought oversized t-shirts from the visitor center to sleep in. I also remember Vermont for the Ben and Jerry's factory. YUM.
  29. Virginia: I stayed in Alexandria when I visited DC for the first time.
  30. Washington: For as "close" as this state is, I haven't spent enough time there. We flew into Spokane and drove to Couer d'Alene. Seattle is on the top of places I want to visit!
There is my not-so-brief history of visiting 3o states in America... here is to crossing off the last 20 in the next 20 years!
+ the District of Columbia: my grandma took me to DC when I was in fifth grade. I was there for three days so we crammed a lot in, but I did get a private tour of one of the FBI buildings because she knew someone who worked there! My whole family went back in 2009 (on our way to Ireland!) when my friend Richard got married. It was a blast!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

30 by 30: love of books

My parents started reading with me as a child. I remember my dad laying with me and reading to me when I was just a little girl. I loved it. My love of books comes from my parents who are both avid readers themselves. My parents always read before bed, a habit that I learned from them.

When I was a kid I used to read all the time. When I got home from school I would sit on the couch and read. I read late into the night, even after my mom told me to turn off the light. I couldn't get enough of books. By the time I was in middle school I would try to read whatever my mom was reading.

I am a romantic and a bit of a pack rat, therefore I have book shelves full of books that I have been saving for my kids. My favorites like Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, Ender's Game and A Wrinkle in Time are all stashed away in different rooms of my house, waiting for my kids to be old enough to read the books I loved so deeply.

I know that I can't make my kids love reading, but I hope that our daily reading habits and watching Brandon and I read will be enough to spark their own joy for books.

Today I am much busier than I ever have been before and I have less time to read. But my joy for books is still great and I love any opportunity I have to read!

What book do you love that you hope your children will love too?

30 by 30: the gang

Oh holy moly, 30 blogs in 30 days is a lot! My sister has been in town so I am a few days behind... playing catch up now! I am blogging my way through 30 by 30...

The Gang

Sometime in the late 80s my mom joined a local moms group. She formed a close relationship with a few other moms and they started a friendship that has lasted 25 years. There are five moms (and dads too!) who have helped raised me, who have loved me, supported me and who even fought over who would be giving me a bridal shower. When I had my girls, they were here with meals and offers to clean, watch babies and cook.

In our five families there are 11 kids. We range in age from 24 to 31, six girls and five boys. We vacationed together and spent Friday nights in Mexican restaurants. We spent years on the same swim team, dancing in the same dance studio and attending the same schools. We found each other dates to school dances and sometimes went together. We competed against each and with each other. We laughed. We fought. We argued over forts and video games and who was the smartest.

We grew up together because we had to. Our parents were friends and it meant that our social plans were dictated by them. It wasn't always easy. We are 11 individuals with distinct personalities, interests and opinions.

Today we are friends by choice.

It is hard for me to verbalize how important these people are to me. When I try to describe them to others all I can say is they are like family. I've certainly spent more time with them than a lot of family members. Some of them stood up for us in our wedding and every one of them attended. One of them is the godfather to one of our kids. They are the ones I want to email first when I have news.

A few years ago we decided to have a reunion trip each year. Now that we are spread across the country, seeing each other is more difficult. But this trip, which includes our growing group of spouses, shows how important we are to each other. We have known each other for almost 25 years, since we were children, and today we choose to be together.

I am so grateful and blessed to have these ten people in my life. Our relationships have not always been easy, but they have been worth it. When I think about what I want for my own kids, it is a group of families like I grew up with, with friends like I have. Thank you Matt, Dina, Richard, Cristina, Sarah, Kevin, Sara, Allison, Ryan and Brian. (That's in order of age. I think!)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

30 before 30: I breastfed twins

I am blogging my way through 30 things I have done before I turn 30! Today's post is partially a recycle from a post I wrote a year ago (almost to the day!) (you don't really need to read the link since most of the post is here).

My girls were born at 33 weeks, 5 days. I knew I wouldn't be having that amazing bonding experience where they place the baby on the chest and have that immediate connection when baby starts to nurse. Nope, my experience was even close.

In fact, I was still recovering from my c-section and hadn't even seen my girls when the nurses rolled in a hospital grade breast pump and got me started on expressing milk. Although I planned on breastfeeding, no one ever really asked me. So I diligently started pumping every three hours, even through the night. Very quickly I was producing more than enough milk for my little preemies in the NICU.

It wasn't until my girls were nearly ready to leave the hospital that the nurses suggest that we give breastfeeding a try. Until that point I was pumping and they were eating expressed milk. Grace tried to nurse first and really had no interest. So she went back to the bottle. Several days later we tried with Ana. She was better but clearly still needed to take a bottle as well. My babies were less than 5 pounds and they sent me home with them without any clear plan on how to feed them. I had never successfully breastfed before bringing them home at two weeks of age.

Despite what "they" say, breastfeeding is at first completely unnatural. It feels awkward and strange. Add in an enormous pillow for support and there is nothing discreet or normal feeling about holding a baby to your boob. There was no way for me to fail at pumping, so I stuck with my machine for the first few weeks my girls were home. Eventually pumping became a chore while breastfeeding felt unsuccessful. The girls had a painful latch and ate poorly from the breast. I had to give them a bottle after every feeding. It was time consuming. It was awkward. It was painful.

I hated breastfeeding. While I was also not particularly fond of my relationship with the pump, at least it didn't hurt and wasn't frustrating. The nurses, lactation consultants and the books all said that breastfeeding should never be painful. They are full of shit. It hurt and it hurt badly. There were moments of pure pain when I cried as the girls latched on. There were moments where I wanted to scream and give up.

To top it off, I felt no bonding as a result of breastfeeding. Everything I'd read said that breastfeeding allowed for a special bond between mom and baby. I saw it only as a means to an end.

I don't know why I didn't give up. At 3 weeks I was miserable. At 4 weeks I was still in pain. At 5 weeks I was sure that I was going to give up. So I started setting small goals. Instead of thinking about nursing for 6 months, I gave myself permission to reevaluate every week. I started to increase the number of times I tried to nurse. In the beginning I only nursed once a day. By 12 weeks I nursed 7-8 times a day (per girl). At some point it just clicked for us; suddenly the girls' latch improved, eventually the pain disappeared and slowly but surely I replaced the bottles with the breast.

By the time we mastered nursing, I didn't even like the one time a day that the girls get a bottle (pediatrician ordered-- a formula supplement for preemies with higher calorie content). I came to appreciate that there was no prep work, no dishes and my ability to do it anywhere.

And most importantly, I fell in love with that time with my girls. Occasionally I tandem fed (read: feed both at the same time), but usually I prefered to take my time with each girl. Sure, it slowed down the pace of my day, but it gave me a moment to observe each one. They were distinct in their eating style, in their sounds and in their needs. With twins I spent most of my day bouncing between the two of them, so I learned to appreciate the opportunity to just be with one for a few short minutes.

By the time I went back to work, we were nursing nearly every session. I went back three days a week and reestablished a relationship with my pump. I desperately missed nursing my babies when I was gone, but I looked forward to any time they wanted to nurse in the mornings, afternoons or evenings.

In the beginning of August Grace started to refuse me. By the middle of August we were done nursing. I was so sad to be done nursing her. I was scared it would cause problems that I was only nursing Ana. But it went on fine and I continued to love my moments with Ana. I found other ways to share quiet moments with Grace. Just short of 14 months Ana also stopped nursing. I was devastated to be totally done nursing my babies. Many days I still miss those quiet, peaceful moments that only we shared.

But I am also proud. I nursed my babies. For nine months I nursed twins and I nursed Ana for almost 14 months. I feel accomplished and I am proud.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

30 before 30: Master's degree

When I started working at Loretto I had completed a handful of undergraduate education courses and had spent several summers teaching and directing a summer camp for elementary school kids. I was completely qualified on content, but felt I needed more teacher training. Although I do believe a lot of teaching is an innate quality, and, I believe teaching can be learned while doing, I knew that I needed more training to be as good a teacher as I wanted to be. So in my second year of teaching I simultaneously began a program to earn my Master in Education.

Many of my courses were amazing for helping me to become a better teacher. After every course I went home thinking about how to apply what I had learned in my classroom. I took courses that helped me employ different techniques, challenged my philosophies on learning and encouraged technology in the classroom. I can honestly say that I became a better teacher because of things I learned during my master's program.

I completed my entire degree while teaching full time. It took three years. In my final year of courses I wrote my thesis about Baby Think It Over, the electronic babies used to teach students about the demands of parenting. It was a program that I facilitated as a teacher and it was fun and fascinating to learn about as a method of teaching about teen parenting.

I started my final semester just days before I found out that Loretto was closing. And I received my diploma just days before I closed up my classroom and moved on to a new career.

Today I work in an entirely different industry, but I am grateful for what I learned while earning my master's degree. I met a lot of wonderful people. The technology courses have served me even in a different field and learning about different theories and philosophies of education have helped me to better understand the varying needs of people. But mostly I am grateful that those three years helped me to be a better teacher to the young women who sat in my classroom. And if anything I learned and put into practice helped any one of them to learn, then it was three years well spent.