Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nesting Notes

So the past month or so has been pretty fun…except for feeling like a penguin with elephant feet. At last I’ve been able to do some hardcore nesting. I have been accumulating a prize-winning cloth diaper stash, sewing nursing pads, washing and folding side-snap t-shirts, and reading up on how to do a baby massage.

Here are a few of the skills I’ve been working to acquire. (Special thanks to Kristie Ann, Kathy’s baby doll, for being my guinea pig.)

I made myself this stretchy wrap out of a length of knit fabric. There is a bit of a learning curve regarding how to use it. I practiced on myself, but with my huge belly it wasn’t very accurate, so I had to practice on Tim as well.

I have learned to fold a flat diaper. I had no leaks in my trial run. We’ll see how it goes on the real baby.

And here is my rendition of the Happiest Baby on the Block swaddle. This baby isn’t going anywhere.

In the process of assembling baby’s necessities, I have noticed an interesting tendency. It seems that manufacturers of baby products have an irresistible compunction to choose ridiculous names for their products. Some of the best ones have to do with diapering and breastfeeding. Apparently even though we’re all adults, we still think there’s something giggle-worthy about butts and boobs.

Top 5 cloth diaper brand names:
5. FuzziBunz
4. Thirsties (that just grosses me out when I think about it)
3. Happy Heiny’s
2. Cutiepoops
1. Tinkle Traps

Top 5 breastfeeding products:
5. Breast pump: Medela Pump-in-Style (seriously, some things just aren’t chic)
4. Nursing cover: Udder Covers
3. Feeding pillow: My Brest Friend
2. Nursing cover: Hooter Hiders
1. Nursing top: Pika Bubi

So on to some real news. It looks like we’re having the baby on Monday. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of being induced. I mean, seriously, I spent four months trying to stay pregnant, and now that everyone is ready, she won’t budge! Apparently I have a cervix of steel. But anyway, the doctors all think it’s best if she comes before her due date. I guess because of her kidney problem, the longer she stays in there the more dangerous it becomes for her. So of course we’ll do what we have to. I’m sure excited to meet her!

One last unrelated note. I was at the hospital the other day, and this lady gets one of those grins on her face that people get when they see a hugely pregnant person, and she says, “Do you know what you’re having?” I tell her we’re having a girl, and she responds, “Well, as long as it’s healthy. Maybe you’ll have a boy next time.” I didn’t know how to respond except to play along, so I said, “We can only hope,” and walked away. Seriously? I didn’t know people still thought like that. I should have told her not to worry because we’re moving to Africa and in about fourteen years I’m sure we can get at least a dozen head of cattle for her.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What we almost named our baby

Naming babies was really easy until I had a real baby to name.

I am a baby name critic from way back. Kathy likes to help me hone my skills by reading me birth announcements from hospital websites. I rate the name on a scale of 1 to 10 and then give detailed critique full of the type of adjectives one would expect to encounter in a wine-tasting.

Blake Oliver: Smooth flow; should age well. Oliver has that distinctive Old World flavor so reminiscent of London street vendors. Blake gives a modern tang, but without that overbearing tartness of the more trendy Drake.

Ariana Elle: The first whiff smacks of a Disney princess, and the aftertaste leaves one craving obstruents.

This makes for a fine hobby until one has to name a real baby, a living being who will have to wear this name for the next 80 years. It will have to wear well through all kinds of terrain: cruel kids on the playground, the teenage quest for conformity, the young adult quest for individuality, the job market, the marriage market...what name could possibly fulfill all that we require of it?

And just when you think you've hit the jackpot, there's always that attack from unexpected corners. I had several beautiful names picked out, but when I thought to check the initials, I kept running into words: RAM, HAM, ARM (not that that has to be a deal-breaker; Mac, my college roommate, carried off her unmarried ARM initials beautifully, as well as her married initials - ARF).

At one point, we really thought we had a winner: Tessa. Cute but not too cutesy, recognizable but not too popular, feminine but not frilly. I tried to think of everything, including how it would work in Tanzania. I knew it would be easy for Swahili speakers to pronounce, because it fits right into Bantu phonology. Then one day I had a funny feeling - it fit TOO well into Bantu phonology. So well that it might already be a I looked it up:

Tesa: to torture, torment, hound, harass, or persecute

Thwarted again! And what a close call - I came a hair's breadth away from getting myself into quite a cross-cultural pickle. "Nice to meet you, Pastor. This is my husband, Tim, and our daughter, Persecution."

So, back to the drawing board. We've been searching the cybersources for new inspiration, dusting off some old favorites, and shuffling around our top choices looking for that magical combination. Sorry to disappoint anyone wanting a sneak preview, but all name deliberations are top secret until Babymac70 makes her grand debut. This is our firm policy for three reasons:

1. People are more friendly to names when they are already attached to adorable babies. "You named him Artaxerxes??? Let me see a picture....well, isn't he the sweetest thing! I always liked Artie as a nickname."

2. We reserve the right to change our minds up until the last possible moment. Can't have everyone get used to calling her Delphinium and then have her pop out looking much more like a Myrtle.

3. We need time to screen all of our options with a Swahili-English dictionary.

Let's hear your votes! What name would you suggest for Babymac70?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wanting to want to

This past week, we lost a wonderful friend and mentor, Bob Martin. Some of you may have known him. For those who didn't, I'll try to sum up this amazing man in a few sentences before going on to share something I learned from him.

Bob was the most genuinely humble person I've ever known. Despite being a highly educated theology professor, he allowed no one to call him by anything but his first name. He cared for people actively and insightfully, especially for people who might easily be passed over. He made you feel like you were doing him a favor by letting him minister to you. He had many successful ministries as a preacher and professor, but his greatest legacy was the personal faith that he exhibited and the beautiful relationship he had with Mary Lou, his wife of 59 years.

Bob retired from teaching in his late 70's, but he never retired from ministry. Even after their retirement, Bob and Mary Lou helped revive a small rural church and supported many missionaries, including us. They repeatedly invited us to come and stay with them in North Carolina, and I am ever so glad we had the chance to do that last winter. Staying in their home was like being in a different dimension; every activity, from cooking green beans to watching the nightly news, seemed bathed in grace, and I felt like I was walking with living legends.

I only took one class with Bob at Johnson Bible College, a three-week summer school course on the Gospel of John that met every morning from 8-11. I don't remember much of anything that Bob said about the book of John; it was his rabbit trails that were the most memorable. Out of all the things I've heard or read on the theology unanswered prayer, none has impacted me more deeply or been recalled so frequently as the story Bob told about the death of his four-year-old granddaughter after a long battle with aplastic anemia. You can talk theology all you want, but there is nothing that strengthens the faith like seeing someone who has been through a valley and can be completely honest about what they don't understand, yet their faith is still strong.

But I can only say so much about what another person's struggle has meant to me, so I'll move on to share one more simple but deep lesson I learned in Bob's class, one that I had always felt to be true but was never able to articulate. Bob once told us that he was convinced that the problem of not living up to the standards that God has set for the Christian life is not an issue of people wanting to live a holy life but not being able to. Rather, the problem is that our desire to love God more, to serve more faithfully, or to live more purely, is not truly a desire to do these things, but a desire to be the kind of person who wants to do these things.

"I want to want to do the right thing," Bob said, "but I if I could ever get past the point where I want to want to, and arrive at the point where I truly want to, then I believe that I would."

The simple honesty of that statement has always astounded me. Because isn't that exactly what it's like when we struggle with sin or with apathy in our relationship with God? I find myself praying things like, "God, keep me from doing this again," or "Help me to love you more." And the very reason that I pray these things is because I know I do not really want to stop sinning; if I really wanted to, if I felt that the benefits of living a holy life were superior to the benefits of sinning, I probably would have stopped already. And passion for God increases with the natural progression of faith as we go through trials and let go of our own control over our lives, but who really wants to go through that process when we could just pray directly for the end result?

One time when this was especially relevant for me was during those confusing years when I was scoping out the missionary idea. I am SO not the kind of person who becomes a missionary. I hate the outdoors, and I have practically zero experience with personal evangelism. But God planted the thought in my head, and I felt obligated to give it a fair hearing. I was pretty sure what it was all about, though; I kind of thought it was an Abraham thing. You know how Abraham had his knife out and was ready to shiv Isaac, but God sent that angel to say, "Ok! You passed! I can tell you're serious. Now put the knife down." Well, I figured this was what God had in mind for me. If I could just get to the point where I could honestly say that I was ready to go on the mission field, I knew God would say, "Wonderful! Since you're so willing to give up everything and follow me, here's a surprise: you can stay exactly where you are!"

The problem was that being willing meant being willing even if I didn't get that last minute reprieve, because God is excellent at calling people's bluffs. So I spent years going through the motions of being a missionary inquirer without actually wanting to be a missionary. But there must have been some grace at work along the way, because for once in my life, wanting to want to actually turned into wanting to. It's like how C.S. Lewis says that the best way to become a good person is by pretending to be a good person. Well, apparently the best way to develop a heart for missions is by pretending to have one.

Even after going on our internship in Tanzania, I still didn't truly want to go back. Months later, Tim and I were sitting in our cinder block apartment in Knoxville, trying to decide where to go from there. We knew that we didn't want to be staying in that apartment and living off of tips from Red Lobster forever, and it was time to choose between getting real jobs and buying a house or signing our lives away to PBT. And and that point I'm not sure I even wanted to want to. But we both knew one thing by this time, something I had inadvertently learned in my years of stringing recruiters along: we were born to do this. We could do something else, and maybe God would even accept it as a consolation effort, but we would always wonder what would have happened if we'd said yes.

So we sent Scott Graves an e-mail that he'd been waiting for for about five years, and we signed our lives away. And somehow from that point on, I experienced something new. I wanted to go. And it's a good thing, because I don't think I could get through the humbling experience of raising support or the rigor of grad school or the heart-break of preparing to leave my family on the fumes of wanting to want to.

I wish I knew if there was a cohesive point to all this. Maybe it's that we need to be honest about where we are on the wanting to want to vs. wanting to continuum, because there really is a possibility of getting from one side to the other, but it's so easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we're already at the point of truly wanting to. Maybe it's that we don't have to wait until we truly want to before stepping out of the boat, that faith can follow action, or that the action itself is the best kind of faith.

I'm not sure. It will be a long time before I have anything worth saying in a theology class, if ever. But one thing I learned from Bob is that you can put an idea out there for people even if you don't have all the answers. That sometimes we learn a lot just from hearing one another's thoughts and finding out that we have the same questions.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reproduction: it's not for the faint of heart

Fair warning: If you don't want to listen to my whining, just skip this one.

Ok, so seriously, some people make this baby thing look so easy. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones who - oops - get pregnant with a honeymoon baby and then quit their jobs and become cloth diapering, organic homemade baby food making, scrapbooking Babywise aficianados...and then continue popping another baby out every 18 months or so - probably have twins at some point - and then decide to homeschool. They look adorable when they're pregnant; they can have a successful grocery shopping trip with one kid sitting in the cart, another slung on their back, and one still in the oven.

Yeah, those people. Why do I resent them so much? Because I'm so stinking jealous.

Now, let me explain before I go any further where I'm coming from. I just got a call from the doctor's office to let me know that I failed the 1-hour glucose test and I have to come back to Evansville on Monday for the 3-hour test...the one with four blood draws. Now, lots of people fail the first test; objectively, it's not a big deal. But it just felt like that proverbial straw that broke the pregnant camel's back. I can't catch a break!

When I was little, I wanted to have fourteen kids, I think because I kept coming up with baby names I wanted to use. Anyway, I love being conservative, and there's something about the Dugger lifestyle that makes me lightheaded. I was itching to get married before I was out of high school. When I finally caught Tim at 22, I already felt like an old maid.

I would have had a baby the first year if it were up to me, but the best-laid plans often get thwarted by lack of insurance and other such unromantic factors. By the time we were finally ready to start a family, I could feel my biological clock ticking like a car bomb. At this point, I was down to wanting five kids, but I calculated that I still had time to gestate them all before I hit 35.

Almost a year and a half later, I still wasn't pregnant. I was convinced that I was barren, and that the reason was because God knew there was nothing I wanted more than to be a mother. I must have wanted it too much, because it sure seemed like I was being punished. Somewhere in my religious upbringing I picked up the idea of a sadistic God who likes to take away the thing we love the most, just to teach us a lesson. I wouldn't have verbalized it or preached it to anyone else, but I couldn't shake the expectation that that was the way He would always deal with me.

Anyway, one day the test was positive. I dragged Tim to CVS at 6:00 in the morning to buy one of those digital tests that you can't misread. Another positive. The next day, I made Tim drive through rush hour traffic to Babies R Us so I could properly revel in my happiness. It seemed too good to be true.

Two weeks later, I'm in the campus clinic being told, "It sounds like your body is trying to miscarry." I knew it was too good to be true.

At eight weeks we had an ultrasound. The doctor said it was a beautiful heartbeat. So we went home filled with joy again and started spreading the news.

Two more weeks, and we're back at the doctor's office because I'm bleeding again. Of course, too good to be true; I should have known. Another ultrasound, and there's our baby wiggling around without a care in the world.

Then things started going well for a while. The baby starting kicking, I started showing. At 20 weeks, we found out we're having a girl. We stopped at Wal-Mart and bought a baby doll and a "Little Princess" picture frame for my dad's office.

Less than 24 hours later, I'm in the hospital with a fetal monitor strapped to my barely-rounded belly, my heart racing from a shot of terbutaline.

I never should have got my hopes up. It really was too good to be true.

My doctor comes into the hospital room, assesses my condition, and then says, "Also, we were going to call you on Monday. There were a couple of areas of concern on the baby's ultrasound from yesterday."

For the next several days, I'm too worried about keeping my bun in the oven to think too hard about said bun's long-term prognosis.

Two weeks later, we're sitting with a genetic counselor, listening to facts and figures. "The nuchal fold looks a little generous, and the left kidney is dilated. Both of these can be indicators of Down syndrome." Yes, we understand. No, we don't need an amnio. No, we wouldn't be terminating if we got a positive diagnosis.

I never thought pregnancy would be a time of such fear. I thought it would be easy. My body is supposed to know what to do, right? Women have been doing this since the beginning of time, and the vast majority of the time it comes off without a hitch.

So why do I seem to be so incompetent at child-bearing? And why can't I have a few weeks' peace to enjoy something I've been looking forward to all my life, without feeling like disaster is looming around every corner?

The relevant insight came to me one of those first mornings when I was on my knees in tears, praying over and over, "Please don't take my baby...please let me raise this child." I started asking myself when I would relax. When I make it past the first trimester; then I'll feel safe.

What if she's born too early to survive? What if she's full-term, but something goes wrong during delivery?

Ok, once she's born, then I'll stop worrying.

What about SIDS?

Fine, when she's a year old.

She could choke on a hot dog. She could fall in a swimming pool. She could get leukemia. She could get in a crash with a drunk driver.

Well...then I guess...I can do one of two things.

I can worry every day that I'll lose her, or I can enjoy every day that I have her with me. I can fret about whether she'll be "healthy", whether she'll be able to fulfill all the dreams I have for her and experience all the life moments that I'm already anticipating...

Or I can trust. I can believe that God is not in the business of finding people who have too much hope and pulling the rug out from under them. I can lay my baby in His hands every day, knowing He will do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." I can start believing that this is not too good to be true.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Tim and I have a great passion for a well-made portmanteau. For those of you who are not linguistic nerds, a portmanteau is a word that is made by combining two other words. Some common examples are chocoholic (chocolate + alcoholic) and ginormous (gigantic + enormous).

The quest for golden portmanteaux has become so ingrained into our lives that we habitually create them as part of our everyday conversation. We're always trying them on for size, looking for one that has that special ring. Here is a typical conversation from our newlywed days:

Tim: Would the most powerful of all the potatoes be called the potentato?
Erin: Oh, that's a good portmanteau!
Tim: ...Portmantato!

Here are a few of my favorites that we've collected over the years:

Manpoo (man + shampoo) - shampoo for men

Tabernannequin (tabernacle + mannequin) - a mannequin found in a phone booth (building on the fact that the Feast of Booths is also sometimes translated as the Feast of Tabernacles)...and yes, there is such a thing as a tabernannequin; there was one permanently stationed in someone's front yard in Knoxville

Gripples (grip + nipples) - those little rubber dots on the bottom of things like laptop computers, which keep the equipment from sliding around

Fauxtatoes (faux + potatoes) - a diet food that looks like mashed potatoes but is actually made of pureed cauliflower

I encourage you to make the creation of portmanteaux a part of your daily routine. I think you will find it most fulfilling.

I would love to hear any original portmanteaux that you have heard or created, or that you can make up on the spot!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bed Rest Blues

Bed rest seems like a good time to start a blog. Because, what else can I do?

First topic: bed rest. Because, what else is there to talk about?

I know what you're thinking. "I would love to be on bed rest. Sounds like a vacation!" Or perhaps, "Enjoy it while you can, because once the baby gets here, you won't get any more rest - ever!"

During my first trimester when I was queasy and exhausted, completely burned out on linguistics, and preparing for the move to Illinois, I did fantasize about being placed on bed rest, imagining it as some kind of serene extended spa visit with attendants to fan me with peacock plumes and feed me seedless grapes and bon-bons.

On the other hand, many of my fellow bed rest prisoners make their sentence out to be worse than death. The languishing, the muscle atrophy, the insidious bowel irregularities! Oh, to be free from our chains and allowed to do pilates and bake cookies like in the days of our pre-gestation! Once we walked like carefree vagabonds through retail stores and ate like emperors at greasy spoon restaurants on every street corner! Yada, yada, yada.

The honest truth is, as in most cases, between these two extremes, and my subjective opinion of my predicament varies from hour to hour. Here's a run-down of the pros and cons:


1. The no-pressure (or at least low-pressure) aspect is truly nice. I was so worn out by the end of grad school that the first few weeks of bed rest were a welcome reprieve.

2. I really do have people waiting on me hand and foot, and I fully recognize that this may never happen again. Tim and my Mom take turns being at my beck and call, bringing me apple slices, rubbing my sore back, and setting up our incomprehensible entertainment system to play Little House on the Prairie episodes.

3. People write, call, and sometimes even visit me to give me encouragement. I didn't know how many prayer warriors I had until this little setback, but they're everywhere. I might not have known how many people cared about us and our baby otherwise.

4. I get to spend lots of time appreciating the experience of being pregnant. It's easier to feel baby's every move when I'm completely still. I can write in the baby's journal whenever I have the notion. And I have all the time I could wish for to explore baby names and read up on things like childbirth and infant care.


1. Sometimes I really am bored to tears. It's not that I don't have anything to do; it's just that sometimes I really want to do something different! Like sew baby clothes or make macaroni and cheese or go to Wal-Mart and buy shampoo.

2. I'm missing out on a lot. Tim is taking our big trip without me, and getting to see so many of our friends one last time before we leave the country for three years. It tears me up that I am missing that opportunity. Next week is Homecoming at JBC - our five-year class reunion, no less - and I wanted so badly to see everyone.

3. They're not kidding about the insidious bowel irregularities, not to mention heartburn and indigestion. Combine the already sluggish peristalsis of pregnancy with the effects of being horizontal 24/7; add to that the need to cram as many calories as possible (because, like many bed-resters, I'm not gaining enough weight) into an ever-shrinking stomach space, and you have a recipe for digestive disaster.

4. It's not always as relaxing as it sounds. There's nothing calming about timing contractions when you are only halfway through your pregnancy. When they get worse, there's the agonizing back-and-forth about whether it's bad enough to go back to the hospital. All I want is to keep my baby safe, and my worst fear is that I'll fail to do that and she will have to suffer as a result.

So that's how it is. It's not the way I would have chosen to spend the next three months, but with every change in plans, there are unexpected blessings. Besides those listed above, I get to spend this time with my parents, which is really special. And I think that every challenge we've faced in starting a family has helped us to realize how blessed we are to have this baby; despite numerous problems that have plagued us almost since the day we found out we were expecting (and even before), she's still there, kicking and rolling and growing strong inside me. And when all is said and done, that's the only thing that really matters to me.