Monday, November 25, 2013

The House That Built Me

My junior year in high school, I bought my first car – a maroon 1985 Mazda 626 LX hatchback with a digital speedometer and the world’s ugliest tape deck. Desperate to get a CD player, I saved up enough money picking and cleaning golf balls at Cottonwood Lakes Driving Range to purchase an Aiwa CSD X217 stereo from Best Buy. They had to install it at the store, so one day, I convinced my mom to go hang out with me while Best Buy technicians made my dreams come true. About an hour into the process, the techs determined they needed to fully remove the front seats in order to get to the proper wiring, so we waited and waited, perusing Target and other Lancaster Mall venues. Meanwhile, Schirle Elementary School students were released for the day and my nine-year-old brother hopped on the bus to head home. The bus dropped Shane off at our driveway and he popped up the three steps to our front porch, like any other day.
The door was locked.
I’m sure he thought that was strange.
On his tiptoes, he peered through the window on the door, and through the lacy curtains, all he could see was smoke.
Smoke filling the house – and the TV flashing through the haze.
He thought I was trapped inside.
Pounding on the door, Shane was in a terror.
Drivers flying down River Road on that day probably didn’t even notice the little boy with a backpack, waving at them to slow down and save his sister inside his smoke-filled house.
By God’s grace, within minutes of Shane’s arrival, my dad pulled up – home from work. Jingling his mound of keys, my dad opened the house – smoke billowing out and fire alarms screaming.
My dad ran in to find smoke seeping out of the oven.
Not long after, my mom and I pulled up. I was still upset that my car lay in pieces in the Best Buy garage, but my mom gasped in sudden realization that she had left a chicken cooking for waaay too long.
It became a running joke – after the nine-year-old’s tears were dried and our entire wardrobes quite literally taken to the cleaners. Instead of the girl with the cool new stereo, I was the girl whose every possession reeked of burnt chicken.

Twenty-eight years of stories. 
I moved into 3251 River Road South at the age of 4 months – nearly the same age as Piper is now. Four years of home school within its walls taught me how to read, write and get done with school quick so we could go outside and play. 

The couple of acres of tangly forest which wrapped around our house served as our playground. Rarely did we swing hammers when constructing our forts, opting for vines and branches and old tires recovered along the busy road. We’d stockpile treasures of broken pottery, golf balls, license plates and glass bottles, keeping them safe for who knows what. Toting BB guns and plastic buckets, Steven and Blake were always hunting for birds and Lindsay and I were always, always hunting for golf balls. It was like a year-long Easter egg hunt – except we got money instead of candy. 

I wonder whose idea it was – to sell the golf balls.
Regardless of where the idea came from, for as long as I can remember, we would find the golf balls, take them home, wash them, sort them into egg cartons according to brand and color, and then peddle our wares to the golfers on the 6th and 8th greens of Cottonwood Lakes Golf Course.

There were rules, of course.
Rule #1: Hide behind a tree when the golfers are teeing off.
Rule #2: Hide until the golfers are done putting.
Rule #3: Be polite. Our signature phrase: “Would you like to buy some golf balls?”
Rule #4: Stick to the price: 25 cents a ball.
Rule #5: Don’t walk on the greens. My dad was a greenskeeper at Illahe Hills Country Club for a good chunk of our childhood and would not have us messing up Cottonwood’s greens. I remember once we actually paid to golf at Cottonwood with my dad and I felt so special that I got to WALK on the forbidden greens. 

As we got braver and people started expecting our appearances, we offered other services, like acting as spotters for wayward tee shots that came crashing down around our hiding places. One time, the owner of the golf course came and told us to stop selling golf balls because he had his own business of selling used balls – for a dollar each. Eventually, another guy bought the place and so we kept on selling.

Back to the house. 

Steven taught me how to ride his black BMX bike on the front lawn.

We used to hole up downstairs clawing through huge buckets of Legos for that ONE piece we needed to finish yet another project.

One time my dad slammed the bathroom window on his hand, which was only saved by his wedding ring.

Many times, my mom attempted to be a taxidermist with moles she clubbed to death in the front yard and two beavers she found as road kill.

Many toys, since burned in my mom’s awful backyard bonfires – the Ewok house, the jumping mattress.

Shooting the heads off my Barbie dolls with my new BB gun.

Steven always beating me at tennis baseball in the back yard – over the garage = home run!

Stepping on a bees nest while searching for a sewer ball. This was not fun.

Wrestling with dad.

Oatmeal and raisins every morning.

Adventures in Odyssey.

Whittling with my new Swiss Army Knife. Can you tell I was a tomboy?

Always, always stepping in chicken poop and always, always hating chickens – except for Alberta and Bachelor Buttons.
 Fletcher, Whiskers, Joe, Chi-Sox, Baylee and Ry Leigh.

It’s been a rough 2 months…but I only hid a few tears behind my lens as I took pictures of my childhood home being demolished today. When we walked up to the construction zone, the man driving the excavator stopped his work.
 I told him not to mind us, just keep on working. I could tell he felt like a criminal when he genuinely said, “I don’t want to. This is the house you grew up in.”

 But he had to keep going. And I had to watch. It’s not every day you get to see something so stalwart crumble – a scrap pile of your life.

Those trees, those arches, those walls, those stairs, those floors.

It is such a comfort to know that the things of this world may fade, but my eternal security lies in the hands of a God so much greater than this world.
There is a time for everything … a time to plant and a time to uproot … a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh.

Maybe now it’s time to laugh.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Piper's birth day

So for the sake of record keeping, here is Piper's birth story...

On August 10, 2013, I was 1 day past my due date and ready to have this baby. We’d been taking advantage of the beautiful summer nights, going for walks to the popsicle store (much to Cayden’s excitement). 
I’d counted contractions on the 7th, and again on the 9th, but finally on the evening of the 10th, I could tell something was different about these contractions. Around 9:30pm, they started coming regularly, every 10-11 minutes. By 11:45pm, they were starting to get painful, and ranging 3-5 minutes apart. When we called Seihwa to come watch Cayden, it was just after midnight. I wanted to take a shower before leaving for the hospital, but my contractions were painfully coming in waves every 2 minutes, making it not so relaxing. 
We got to the hospital around 12:45am, August 11th. They took me up to a room and checked my cervix around 1am, hooking me up to the monitors as well. I tried going to the bathroom, but that was not a good idea as getting up and down was super uncomfortable with contractions still coming ever 3-5 minutes. Unfortunately, the nurse said I was only 3-4 cm, which was only one more than when I had been checked 3 ½ days earlier. She talked to Dr. Lee, who said we could go home and wait or stay at the hospital for two more hours and get checked again. I knew that this was the real thing, so I told them I was staying, but if I didn't progress any further in those two hours, they were going to send me home! At this point, my contractions were 5-6 minutes apart and I threw up for the first time in this pregnancy.
Around 3:30am, the nurse came in to check my cervix again and thankfully I was 6 cm and fully effaced – yay! Even though they had told us they couldn't officially admit us to the hospital yet, the nurse said she had already admitted us because she (like myself) knew that we weren't going home anytime soon after she saw me lose my breakfast.
Bryan’s parents and Carrie showed up around 5am, just in time to see me during the most painful contractions. I was quietly working through them, but they didn't stay long in the room, regardless.
The contractions were getting very intense, but I was trying not to clench up against the pain, and instead focused on relaxing and breathing very deeply. I think this helped me progress quicker, and by 5:30am, I was ready for the epidural. I think I could have done it without the epidural, but I kind of figured “why?” After the epidural, life was great, but I think the doctors forgot about me. 
By the time they did check me, nearly 4 hours later, I was “complete” with only a small lip of cervix left. The nurses called Amey Lee to come and break my water to get things moving. When she came in to break the water, the head was visible, along with a bubble formed by the bag of water. Dr. Lee told me look at the bubble, so I leaned forward, causing Piper’s head to begin to crown, and causing everyone in the room to yell out “woah, woah, stop!” My crouching forward had almost been enough to get Piper out, but they weren't quite ready, so I leaned back again to wait. After much preparation for an explosion of the water bag (complete with the nurses and Dr. Lee wearing goggles and holding up splash guards), nothing exciting actually happened when Dr. Lee pulled on the bubble, breaking the bag. 
I pushed once and out came Piper’s head. Dr. Lee quickly put up her hands and told me to stop pushing because Piper (like Cayden) had the cord wrapped around her neck. I could hear Piper’s gurgly little cry, even before she came all the way out. Guess her name is appropriate, because she’s had good pipes from the start! Dr. Lee snipped off the cord and then I pushed one more time, and out she came! It was 10:03am and it was amazingly fast. 
Piper had meconium all over her, but they wiped her off a bit and then handed 7 pound, 7 ounce Piper Grace to me. Her hands and feet were purple, and I could already see that she was tongue tied, just like Cayden.
When she came out, one of the nurses commented that she had strawberry blonde hair. I was amazed she could tell the color of her hair because it just looked dark brown to me! Eventually, her strawberry blonde hair did show itself, but it took a few rounds with Johnson & Johnson to get there!

She had the screachiest cry I’ve ever heard – we called it her pterodactyl cry because that’s what it made me think of. Throughout her first days, she would sometimes just let out this screech that was so high-pitched, but then be fine. Even at night, which was a little unnerving.

By 11am, our family had met Piper, and Seihwa, Jane and Lois showed up with Cayden at 12:15pm, and Cayden got meet her little sister for the first time. 
Upon seeing Piper, Cayden turned to my mom and said, “I have a baby sister!” and to me, she said, “She’s got tiny little eyes!” She also expressed her desire to take a bath with her, which was probably spurred on by her excitement to play with baby sister’s new bath toys she got for her baby shower. 

Even more exciting were all the presents Cayden got…a box of goodies from Aunt Lauren and the long-searched-for Dr. Kit from Piper, which Julie had finally found for me at Toy R Us after I had searched all over Corvallis for it.

 Around 1pm, a very red, screaming Piper got her first bath from nurse Sarah.
Once the water was running over her head, she calmed down, and looked so much like Cayden getting her first bath.
By 4pm we were moved into the much smaller recovery room, where people started to stream in to see us. 
It being Sunday, a bunch of college and high school students came to see us after church. At one point, there were 16 Asians in our room, all clamoring to hold little Piper (except for Michelle, who was afraid to hold her). 
Everyone signed a photo mat to put around the “Piper” puzzle Carrie and other waiting room family members had put together that morning.

Through all the ruckus, Piper either slept or looked around in wonder at all the faces. She hardly cried, as long as she was being held – a pattern that continues to this day!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Growing like weeds

Expecting another girl is quite the phenomenon.
There is no frantic need to cover up purple walls or 
exchange headbands for miniature neckties.
 Cayden doesn't have a hint of jealousy (yet) and keeps telling me how "baby sisser" is going to sleep in her bed WITH her and wear all her old clothes because Cayden's head is too big for them now. 
 There are a few things left to do, but really, if baby sister came today, 
I wouldn't be worried. 
Diaperless, yes, but not worried. 
 I keep telling myself that my world is about to be rocked, contemplating how I'm going to go to Winco with a newborn and a 2-year-old in tow (where will the groceries fit?) and wondering if I will ever have time for a nap...
 There is an overarching sense of peace, though. 
While I DO NOT consider myself an expert on girls, I am so thankful that I know at least a little bit. 
I'm also thankful that I can take both of my children into the women's dressing room at the pool, even after they turn 6. 
 I'm so excited to see what this baby girl looks like. 
Cayden has changed so much from her initial dark hair and dark blue eyes...but will baby sister look like Cayden as a baby? 
Will baby sister keep her blue eyes like me or get Bryan's eyes like Cayden?
Will she sleep through the night right away or take 8 months and 3 nights of crying it out, like her big sister?
 Is it normal to wonder how you could love another little person as much as you love your firstborn? 
Because I wonder that. 
Everyone tells me that I will love her just as much, and I think when she arrives, it will be a lesson in God's equal, abundant love for all of his children.  
 We are delightfully burdened with raising two little girls in this world of ever-increasing selfishness. 
I can't imagine the challenges that are headed our way. 
 I consider these the easy years.  
 These are the years when we lose sleep because our babies need us, 
not because they are out past dark and you hear sirens racing by.
 These are the years that they want to be like us. 
 The question is, will we be people we want them to emulate? 
 I see my daughter sitting her doll in the corner and talking sternly to her, 
" means no." 
Then, after the timer buzzes, she sets her baby against her chest 
and pats her on the butt and says, "it's ok."
I see her genuine compassion and wish I could say she got that from me, 
but I know this is an area where she is teaching me.
I hear her singing "Yes, Jesus...belong" (Jesus loves me) and I see the joy she brings into other people's lives and I pray that this is always the way things are.
Raising girls is a blessing.