Day 4: Oslo

Good evening! It’s was our final full day in Oslo. We hit the road for Stavanger in the morning. We started our the day at Vingeland Park — an amazing sculpture garden commissioned by Gustav Vingeland. The volume of Gustav’s work makes me think he was compulsive in his work or perhaps he had more of a supervisory role in getting things done. The park covers several acres and includes at least a hundred, larger than life sculptures of people at all stages of life.

Vingeland Park

We also visited his museum where we got to learn more about his planning and the process he used to create the bronze works.

Next, we visited the Oslo City museum, which was just okay. Not being from Norway, I had trouble distinguishing how this place was really different from the Norwegian Folk museum. In concept, I assumed it would focus on Oslo, but in reality, what stuck out to me was more popular culture and 80’s and 90’s history. We grabbed lunch from Deli de Luca at the recommendation of Rick Steve’s (love Rick!) Joe say this place reminded him of Quik Trip without the gas, which was a pretty good assessment. Next, we did some shopping — I bought a couple coats and some presents for Hattie. We also visited a thrift store and I found a pretty awesome dress for 140 NOK (about 18 dollars). I have a feeling this is going to be my only good Norwegian shopping stat — oh well!

After shopping, we headed over to the Akerhaus Fortress where we walked the grounds and also toured the Norwegian Resistance Museum. 400,000 Nazi’s occupied Norway during WWII and the country really held their own in resistance throughout the German occupation. Again, this museum was a heavy, but I learned a ton, and I really have a lot of respect for the strong will and ethics of Norway.

After the museum closed, we brought a picnic supper to the Ekeberg sculpture garden, which overlooks the sea.

To wrap up the day, we walked over to the National Opera House. While we’re not opera fans, this place is cool because you can climb up on top of the building and stand on the roof. The building looks like an iceberg, with a ton of penguins (tourists) climbing on it.

Norwegian National Opera House

Our walking stats fell just shy of yesterday’s numbers– 9.41 miles — uff-dah!

Oslo: Day 3

Today was our first full day in Oslo and it was perhaps the most amazing day of travel I’ve ever had. We woke up early and had a traditional organic Norwegian breakfast at Goat, the restaurant attached to our hotel. The apple, carrot and beet salad was quite good as was the cheese and crackers, and fresh bread.

GOAT Oslo Norway Organic Breakfast

We set off for the information center at Grand Central station, and enjoyed sites along the way. We booked two 48 hour Oslo passes, which allow you to uses public transportation and gain admission to most museums. The nice thing about these passes is you can write the date and time on them yourself, so they ‘start’ exactly when you want them to. This was great, because a free city walking tour was scheduled to leave the information center 5 minutes after we arrived. We joined the tour, and learned some fun stories about the buildings located nearest to the City Center and Norwegian culture.

Oslo CIty Walking Tour

I’ll share two interesting Norwegian facts — one — young people are “required” to serve in the military for a year. It’s a loose requirement because if you decide you don’t want to, that’s generally okay. Norway seems pretty easy-going in regards to individual choice. Interesting fact — two — houses are generally painted 3 colors, and historically, this was an indication of wealth with the better off living in white houses, middle class in yellow houses and the people of least means living in red houses.

Next, we did a tour of City Hall. The walking tour used to go into city hall together, but our guide explained that within the last two weeks, they upgraded their security protocol, similar to an airport. So, we parted ways with the tour in order to get a closer look at city hall. City halls are generally not places of interest to me personally — but this one is actually pretty special. It’s where the Nobel Prizes are awarded every year on December 10.

Oslo City Hall

I was pretty excited to finally see this place in person, as Concordia, my undergrad, had a unique focus on the Nobel Peace Prize and hosted a biannual forum that replaced most of our classes for 3 academic calendar days.  I also did undergraduate research for a faculty member on peace education for children during May seminar one year.  These experiences aren’t ones I think of often, but when I stop to think about it, they’re woven into who I am today.  The tour focuses on the murals and their historical meaning.  Near the end of our tour, a choral wedding processional marched down the stairs.  I, too, might consider a Wednesday morning city hall wedding if I lived in Oslo!

Nobel Peace Center

Next up we visited the Nobel Prize Center.  The first floor is currently dedicated to nature and sustainability — the exhibit was creative and beautiful, but not overly informative.  The second floor was dedicated to the 2018 peace prize winner —  Dr Denis Mukwege — who has treated 44,000 war victims of sexual violence.  The exhibit was incredibly informative and emotionally moving.  The final exhibit is dedicated to all peace prize winners over time.  It’s beautiful and you could easily spend a half day in there if you were committed to thoroughness.  But, my sense is, most people skim through, focusing on the people they recognize, before moving on.

Nobel Peace Center

Next, we took a ferry boat over to the Bugdoy neighborhood to visit several museums.  We started out at the Norwegian Folk Museum, which was felt incredibly familiar to me, despite this being my first trip!  My family is Norwegian and their pride in this hardy culture has stayed with them despite a few generations of geographical separation.  The museum is open air, and includes several different period homes and town buildings which were moved onto museum grounds and restored.  There are also people dressed in period clothing who perform demonstrations and answer questions.  The  genuine stave chapel was cool to see (Joe and I got married in a replica stave chapel ourselves).

Norwegian Folk Museum

Inside, there’s a display of folk-art.  I was blown away by one piece in particular from Rindal, Norway, where my Dad’s family emigrated from — a bridal trunk.  Here’s the picture and the translation of the description:

Oslo Norway Folk Museum

Trunk FROM RINDAL, More Og Romsdal DATED 1834 Trunks were used for storage, and existed in all households – high and low. Thus, it became among the most common objects in which popular decorative art could unfold. Finest was the bride’s trunk as the girls gathered equipment, such as this one.

Next up, we visited the Holocaust museum.  I’m guessing this particular site isn’t frequented by non-locals as much as some of the other museums in this area, because we were the ONLY people there, and the unlike everywhere else we visited today, everything was in Norwegian.  Luckily, the woman at the counter gave us each a tablet which helped with some translations.  And, we walked away with quite a bit of new knowledge about the German occupation of Norway during WWII.   They also had a small exhibit near the end dedicated to genocide in Iraq, which left us walking away feeling heavy and discussing other relevant current events. 

Next, we visited the Viking Ship museum — a seemingly lighter-toned museum, although the Vikings were apparently pretty scary characters.   The word Skol!,  which is shouted during Vikings football games, is referring to the Vikings who drank beer out of their enemies skulls, apparently…  Their ships are really big and very cool.  I wonder what it felt like to be at the oars, rowing.  It looks logistically impossible, but it worked, I guess?

Viking Ship Museum

Our second, ship-themed museum was the Kon-Tiki.  I knew nothing at all about this until I visited, but a guy named Thor decided to provide proof of concept for his theory that South Americans could have settled Polynesia.  He did so by building a raft out of reeds (like they also could have), and sailing it 101 days across the ocean.  I get the impression Norway really really admires this Thor guy, as does the world.  He flew the United Nations flag on a follow up voyage from Morocco to Barbados, with a crew comprised of men from many different countries, plus a monkey and a duck(?)  Thor sounds sort of crazy, but smart and fun too.

Kon-tiki

Lastly, we visited the Fram museum, which is dedicated to Norwegian explorers.  We walked through a couple ships, and went through the (unrealistic, tacky) Arctic simulation.  Either northern MN is much colder than the Arctic, or their simulation is simply inaccurate (and also bizarre with the addition of a haunted house ploys).

Fram

We rode the ferry back to City Center, and got grilled cheese and aioli fries from the Good Mood food truck.  If you’ve ever spent close to $45 on grilled cheese and french fries, perhaps you’ve been to Oslo.

I’m in bed now, and it’s 11:38 pm, but it’s still kind of light outside.  I’m not sure if the midnight sun is giving me energy, or if I’m still jet-lagged.   Hard to tell!

11 books that actually changed my life

books I'm reading books that changed my life reading

Hello. It’s a blizzard-y afternoon! The University closed early today and Hattie went straight down for a nap. I got to work out in the afternoon (amazing!) and now here I am updating the blog. The following is a list of books that actually changed my life. None of them are super recent reads, but all of them had a real and sustaining impact on who I am. It’s amazing how the things we read become a part of us as well as how we understand and interpret the world.

Plato’s Republic

When I was a junior in college, I took a Philosophy class called ‘Thinking about Values.’ We read many different books for this class, but this one sticks out in my mind. The best part is the the allegory of the cave, which symbolizes the impact of education on human nature. Reading this book helped me to realize I wanted career in higher ed instead of religion. I have this book to thank for the life I live today.

Mindful Leadership

I read this book as part as part of a leadership development program when I first started supervising full-time master’s level professionals. Mindful Leadership emphasizes the Buddhist method of mindfulness. It helped me to be more cognizant of the time spent replaying things that are done and over or imagining how things might happen in the future. It also helped me to find peace in allowing things to simply be as they are.

Lake Wobegon Days

Garrison Keillor and I are Facebook friends and we have a peculiar number of life parallels. I like to think he started writing this book the day I was born, which his quite possible given that I came in 1983 and it was published in ’85. Reading it made me feel as if he was a fly on the wall in the house I grew up in. In college, I lived 50 feet away from he Prairie Home Cemetery, the namesake of his world renowned radio show. And we both started our careers on the CSB/SJU campus, not far from the real Lake Wobegon Trail. While my hatred for talk radio runs deep, this book speaks to my heart in a ways no other ever has.

Privilege, Power, and Difference

Privilege, Power, and Difference

I read this book for my Doctoral program. For the first time in my life, I became aware of pervasive systemic oppression in our society. I used to think of discrimination as an individual, one-offed type of problem. This book helped me to see how it’s woven into societal systems in a way that’s cumulative. It also maintains hope, and I appreciate the optimism maintained by the author for a better world over time.

the happiness project

The Happiness Project

Subtitle: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

I read this one on maternity leave. This author researched happiness and spent a year trying out evidence based strategies for a more joyful existence. No book has ever helped me more. Reading it assisted me in letting go of some perfectionist tendencies that I mistakenly thought would lead to feeling happy ‘someday,’ when in fact they made me stressed and upset in the ‘now.’

The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover

I read this book during my first year of working full-time. I honestly don’t remember much about it other than the fact it helped me become debt-free within a few years of cracking the cover. Well — here’s one thing I can remember — buying a new car is like opening your driver’s side window and throwing hundred dollar bills out of it once a week for a year. Effective imagery.

Why Zebras don't get Ulcers

Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers

This was the sole textbook for my senior seminar class in Psychology. It opened my eyes the bizarre power of human stress. The human body is largely wired like an animal’s but today’s society doesn’t really fit our natural responses. Further, the stress of circumstances such as poverty, impact creates chronic stress that compounds already difficult circumstances.

Policy Paradox

Policy Paradox

My understanding for the political arena increased exponentially with this book. I was raised by democrats who reside in a pretty red area of Minnesota and I spent spent year in Missouri where I was often assumed to be a Republican, because, isn’t everyone??? No. This book helped me to get a grip on a wide variety of political perspectives, reasoning, and decision-making.

Reframing organizations

Reframing Organizations

The subtext for this book is ‘why smart people so often do stupid things.’ The good news is, it’s not because we’re dumb. It’s actually because human organizations are so peculiar — they are surprising, deceptive, and unpredictable. If you’re a part of any human organizations — be it a local club, company, church or school, you will learn a thing or two from this book, which will prevent you for looking and acting dense.

Blink Malcolm Gladwell

Blink

While I love everything Malcolm Gladwell has ever written, this book is my favorite. In my early 20’s, I often ignored my gut instincts, which was a shame, because gut instincts are good. This book instilled in me the value and reliability of intuition. You can and should still think things through, but your gut will likely point you in a reasonable direction.

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods

My mother read this book out loud to me and my sister when I was probably 4 years old. She actually read the whole series that year, with the exclusion of Farmer Boy, which she worried might turn us off for some reason. To this day, I still haven’t read that one, but a ridiculous amount of reading became the norm for me that year, and every year ever since. Thanks Mom.

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Top (Secret!) Hiking Trails in Duluth, MN – Congdon Park Trail at Tischer Creek

Duluth’s BEST HIKING TRAIL— hiding in plain sight

Hello all! I’m coming at you today with a hiking guide for Congdon Park Trail, located along Tischer Creek in Duluth, MN.  Nearly seven million people visit Duluth every year, and yet, this trail only has 15 TripAdvisor reviews.  It’s a very well-kept secret!  As a local,  I’m often asked for hiking recommendations.  There are so many trails in this city, essentially hiding in plain sight.  This one is tucked into a residential neighborhood.  Websites like alltrails.com don’t even mention some of our best trails, including this one.  So, I’m sharing an inside look at one of my favorite hidden gems!

Moss tischer creek

Locating the trailhead

When we moved to Duluth in 2016 – our real estate listing noted that we were just a block from this trailhead.  After some quick unpacking, we ventured out to explore what quickly became a daily walking path for us that year.  There isn’t a parking lot dedicated to this trail. I recommend parking at the Mount Royal Fine Foods grocery store and then locating the trailhead at the intersection of St. Marie Street and Vermilion Road.  The parking lot is circled in green and the trailhead is marked with a yellow ‘X’ in the photo below. 

Congdon Park Trailhead Duluth MN

You could start at the other end too, located at Superior Street and 32nd Avenue East.  I prefer starting at Mount Royal, however, because the trail is a lot more impressive on the Superior Street end.  I prefer to hike in a direction that gets better as you go.  

What you’ll see

This trail has a lot to offer!  There is a creek, with tidepools and waterfalls, that follows the full length of the trail.  As you move along, you’ll notice a distinct ‘canyon feel’ develop.  You’ll also notice several 1930’s bridges amongst the billion-year-old volcanic rock walls.  People swim and fish in the creek.  The path is gorgeous in any season.  On the Superior Street side, you’ll see several bridges, During the winter, I advise wearing Yaktrax for safety on the ice.

Winter Congdon Park Trail

Duluth Mn hiking trails

Options

This trail has 3 options. 1) If you have a stroller or aren’t wanting to concentrate too hard, stay on the blacktop.  2)Scoot down closer to Tischer Creek — there is a gravel path that runs parallel to the blacktop which puts you closer to the water.  3) Walk right next to the creek, which provides the best view, but calls for paying closer attention to your footing, and definitely holding hands with any small children

Volcanic rock creek canyon

Trail Difficulty

It’s a pretty easy trail!  I’ve hiked it while carrying a baby, with my 5-year-old nephew, and with my Mom while she had a chemo port in her stomach.  I will note that the trail has a decent incline.  For this reason,  I have never ever seen anyone biking up the trail, despite it being paved.  I saw a cross country team training on it on time, going uphill, and they did not appear to enjoy their workout that day!  Going down is nice and easy, and going back up is slightly more work.   If you get tired, there are plenty of benches where you can stop and rest along the way.

Hiking with kids in Duluth

Fun facts

Chester Congdon who resided with his family at Glensheen Mansion developed this trail.  There are similar bridges on the Glensheen estate, and restoration efforts are underway to reconnect the estate trails with this one.  

Tischer Creek, Duluth, MN

Also note, while this trail is in town, there are bears and deer in these woods.  Deer in Duluth act like dogs — they aren’t too scared of people.  For this reason, you might have to walk around them — they will not skitter away like most deer in the world.  While I have not personally seen a bear on this trail, the year my yard butted up against it, we saw a bear in the yard three times.  

Duluth, Minnesota's best kept secret

The Great Revival of Jackson Faction

Why I quit blogging

Hi all,

It’s been almost 4 years since I updated this blog. You will also note that Hattie is almost 4 years old, too. The researcher in me suspects there could be some sort of correlation between these not-so-disparate events. My last post went up when I was still on maternity leave. If you know me, you’ll recall Hattie birth was followed by a full year of work travel, my Mom’s cancer diagnosis, getting a new job, selling a house, moving back to my home state, and buying a new house. Those events, taken together, have changed my life and heart in many ways. I realized when I went to update my ‘about me’ section of the blog that nothing in the description was even accurate ‘about me’ anymore.

However, looking back over my posts, some other things have stayed the same.  We never stopped traveling, which, for the most part, is what I chose to write about. We actually traveled quite a bit as a family of three — Hattie has been on a least a dozen airplane rides.  Yet, the details of the places we took her early in her life, are fuzzy at best. We also hiked a lot. I’ve tracked our hikes a little bit on social media and I’ve purchased several hiking guides since we moved to Duluth.  Last summer, I contemplated writing a memoir.  I even outlined all my chapters and read a few books about ‘how to write a memoir.’  But, I realized it’s just not the right time for a project like this.  I still have a lot of life to live and with a somewhat vague idea of what it takes to write a book,  I also realized it’s not something I should be doing with a small kid at home who likes to spend her weekends outside.

That is what brings me back here to The Jackson Faction.  Blogging has changed somewhat in the time I’ve been gone. Blogger tools have improved and the landscape is quite different.  These days, most blog traffic is driven through Pinterest, instead of search engines and blogger connections. As far as I can tell, blog meet-ups are a thing of the past, although I never really participated in them. Many personal blogs have been abandoned, and those that survived, are more focused on problem-solving and ‘evergreen content,’ which is content that remains useful, even after weeks and years have passed.  Instead of recapping a trip for family and friends, people share ‘travel guides.’ As a frequent traveler and hiker, I love looking for peoples’ actual lived experiences whenever I prepare for upcoming events.  For this reason, my approach will be a little different in this revival.  Thanks for reading.  Looking forward to having you here.

3 Day Weekend in Memphis with a Newborn Baby 

Memphis weekend with a newborn family travel guide 3 day itinerary

Hello all!  To cap off my final week of maternity leave, we took a weekend trip to Memphis.  This is Hattie’s first official vacation!  Joe and I are committed to helping Hattie develop an appreciation for exploring, right from the start.  Of course traveling with a newborn is a little different than a couple’s getaway, but we’re welcoming this new stage of life and are excited to show Hattie all that this world has to offer.

Where we stayed

We really enjoyed the historic Peabody Hotel, which is famous for its Duck March!  The ducks march out every day at 11 am, with great pomp and circumstance.  They enjoy their day in a fountain located in the hotel’s lobby.  At 5 pm, they march off to bed.  It’s quite silly and fun, and a perfect event for folks of any age to enjoy!

Our room at the Peabody historic hotel

The National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is was perhaps the most fascinating museum I’ve ever visited.  Hattie enjoyed riding with Dad in the Baby Bjorn throughout our entire visit.  The museum chronicles the American Civil rights movement, beginning with resistance to slavery, to the Civil war, to the sit-ins and marches of the 1960s.  The museum is attached to the hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King was shot.  It has been preserved to maintain the look of the period, from the cars parked outside, down to the very small details — there was food and ashtrays in the room, exactly how they found it the day he died. This was really powerful and made me feel like I had traveled back in time to that very tragic day.    

Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel – where MLK was shot


Civil Rights Museum

Where we ate

Hattie enjoyed her first meal at the Hard Rock Cafe.  I was tempted to get her a t-shirt, but ultimately decided she has time for one of those in the future.  It’s always fun to see the memorabilia in these restaurants!

Hard Rock Cafe


The Peabody Ducks


Ducks with Dad

Graceland

If you’re traveling with an infant, you definitely don’t want to miss Graceland!  Seeing Elvis’s home was fascinating.  You have the opportunity to tour the first floor.  There’s also museum-type exhibits outside the home.  Seeing Elvis’s grave was also oddly emotional — people were pretty serious  in this area of the property.  And finally, at the end of the tour, there’s a short concert with a light show that Hattie adored. Her face lit up and I think she would have stood up and danced if she could have!  

Baby loved Elvis!

Pool time

The pool at the Peabody isn’t super large, but we were the only ones there.  This 0-3 month swimsuit is too cute for words! 

First hotel swim!

All in all, this trip was an absolute success for us and for Hattie.  If you’re looking for a quick getaway with kids, Memphis has more than enough options to keep everyone entertained.

Hattie’s Birth Story

My office hosted a baby shower for me when I was 38 weeks + 1 day pregnant.  It was a Wednesday and when I arrived that morning, everyone was already busy setting up the tables and decorations.  A few minutes into my morning routine of responding to e-mails, I realized I wasn’t feeling well.  I wondered to myself if  I had food poisoning, or if perhaps I was going into labor.  Regardless, I decided to suck it up and power through the day.  Going home did not feel like a legitimate option, given all the time and effort that was going into the prep for my party throughout the day.  Half an hour before the celebration was scheduled to start, I felt queasy and began feeling intense back pain.  I called Joe and asked him to come by my office (something I have never done, despite the fact we’ve worked for the same university for more than 5 years).  Joe found me bent over my desk in pain when he arrived.  He gave me a pep talk, rubbed my back, and sent me out to enjoy the festivities.   The shower was perfect — the ladies in my office mimicked the antique lace theme I had selected for our nursery and around 40 colleagues came to celebrate. The party lasted until the end of the day and Joe made it back over at the tail end to help me load up all of the gifts. 

As soon as we got home, I got into bed and where I proceeded to vomit and writhe in pain for several hours.  Around 8 pm, I told Joe that I didn’t think I was in labor, but that I needed to go to the ER.  We headed to the hospital, which is only about 5 minutes from our house.  As we pulled up to the ER, I said to Joe, “This might sound ridiculous, but I want you to take me back home”.  The heated seat in our SUV had taken away most of my pain.  We headed back to our house where called my Mom and sister from the bathtub.  Both of them reassured me I was most likely in the early stages of labor.  I e-mailed my boss and let her know I wasn’t going to make it in the next day.  I crawled into bed and slept incredibly hard all night without any pain. 

The next day, I felt tired, but all the pain and nausea was gone.  I felt disappointed that things weren’t progressing.  My cleaning lady came and told me that she had felt sick the day before as well.  With that, I convinced myself that I had just experienced a 24-hour flu bug.  That night, I e-mailed my boss again and said that I was feeling better and planned to return to work the next day.  I went to bed around 8 pm.  After sleeping for about an hour, I woke up in pain that seemed to localize in my upper right chest cavity.  After consulting Dr. Google, I wondered if I might have gall stones.  After a few hours of sitting on all fours in bed, which for whatever reason, felt somewhat comfortable, I told Joe that I needed to go to the ER. 

We checked in at midnight and the doctor agreed that it sounded like I might be having gall bladder issues.  After running a battery of tests, they confirmed that my liver enzymes were off, my kidneys were engorged, and they had ordered an ultrasound to further examine my gall bladder.  All the while, I was hooked up to monitors that were tracking fetal heart rate and contractions.  I was having contractions about every 5 minutes, but I couldn’t even feel them.  I was only dilated to half a centimeter, so no one seemed to feel that I was in active labor.  Hours crawled by as we waited for the ultrasound tech. Right around 4 am, Joe climbed up on the ER cot with me and we started to discuss his plans to go to work in the morning.    Nurses peeked into our room to comment “how cute” we looked cuddled up in the ER.  At 5am, I felt a pop.  I stood up and felt a huge gush — my water broke!  Joe woke up and went out into the hall to tell the nurses.  I would guess waters don’t break in the ER very often because suddenly, there were a lot of excited people rushing into the room. 

My ER nurse wheeled me onto the elevator and checked in on the OB floor right away.  Joe went home to get our suitcases.  I was in so much pain when we left our house, I refused to wait while Joe loaded them.  Oddly enough, my first OB nurse was a student that I knew from my days working in student conduct at the university — I always encounter these folks at the most unexpected times!  We weren’t together very long since the shift changed at 7 am.  I had hoped for a natural delivery, but without having any sort of birth plan ready, my wishes weren’t really made known. I sensed that natural childbirth wasn’t really preferable to the hospital staff.  I was offered the epidural several times before Joe had even made it back with our stuff.  I was also confined to the bed in a certain position that allowed the fetal heart monitor to function correctly.  I asked to switch to a different monitor so that I could walk the halls.  But for whatever reason, that monitor never came.  They installed an internal monitor since I was having so much trouble keeping still during the contractions.  After being up all night, and facing 4 hours of severe pain, I decided to go ahead with the much-encouraged epidural around 9 am.  While it was administered, I was allowed to sit up, which actually felt a lot better.  While not what I had planned or expected, the epidural was very helpful and I would do it again.  My pain was gone, and I was still able to move my legs and toes.  By 10 am, I had dilated to 9 cm.  I was elated by how quickly things were progressing.  The next few hours were a blissful blur.  I texted friends and chatted with Joe.  I even took a short nap.  Noon rolled around, and we deduced that the hospital staff might have had headed out to lunch.  Neither of us were really bothered by this — we were both exhausted and not exactly feeling any need to hurry towards delivery.  My nurse checked me again around 2 pm and said that I could get ready to push. A half hour later, we were greeted by a child who was purple and screaming the joyous sound of a healthy and beautiful baby girl.

Birth story epidural Missouri childbirth delivery Birth story baby epidural Missouri childbirth delivery

Expecting Harriet

Overall, my pregnancy was a good one. I loved experiencing all the changes, the baby’s movements, the maternity fashion, and a new topic of conversation I had to share with so many people. But as with most things in life, I experienced a few hiccups along the way.  

 

Ice Ice Baby!

 

Throughout the first trimester, my energy was really high, and I actually enjoyed the best sleep of my life. Morning sickness wasn’t much of a problem for me — I sometimes felt ill when I took a shower, but I quickly realized that I could avoid any nausea by keeping the water at a cooler temperature. Near the end of my first trimester, I had two very scary days which just so happened to lead up to my dissertation defense where I experienced some bleeding. While it was technically too late to have been implantation bleeding, nothing ever came of it, and so that’s the best explanation the doctor could offer.   

  
During the 20 week ultrasound I was thrilled to learn we were having a girl. Joe says I willed it to happen that way, but I say biology guarantees it was all his doing! Right after our appointment, we hit up the grocery store for pink cupcakes to bring back to our offices. At the end of the day we had a chance to process more of the information we’d received during the appointment. We needed to return for a second utrasound in two weeks. There was a particular brain structure that the ultrasounds techs were not able to locate. The doctor assured us that this didn’t mean that it wasn’t there, but just that they weren’t able to see it on that particular occasion. Regardless, two weeks of waiting and wondering was difficult for both of us. Brains are pretty important. Thankfully, the second ultrasound revealed that the baby’s brain was fine. Certainly this experience helped us both to recognize how lucky we were to have a healthy child on the way.

  
   
     The final trimester rang in with celebration. We had three baby showers — one with my family, one with my office, and one with Joe’s office. People’s thoughtfulness and generosity was truly overwhelming. Unfortunately, the physical impacts of pregnancy hit me hard at the end. I experienced severe edema. It started in April, mostly only showing up after long days at work. But as time when on, it got worse and worse. Near the end, I had a hard time bending my knees and ankles due to all the excess water. In fact, when I look back at my google search history from that time period, all I see is a dozen reductions of “pregnant can’t bend my legs.” With all the water came excessive weight gain. Right before delivery, I was up 45 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight. I wasn’t able to find any shoes that fit my ginormous feet (in my closet or in a store, so I took to wearing house slippers everywhere, including work, for the last 3 weeks. Not willing to let go of exercise entirely, I found the only way I could comfortably move was in pool, so I walked laps at our local gym (along with many senior citizens). The other not so pleasant symptom I dealt with near the end was that the left side of my jaw popped out of place making it painful and, at times, impossible to close my mouth all the way. Apparently, the prolactin hormone that allows for your hips to widen for delivery can affect other unsuspecting joints as well. Two doctors and two dentists weren’t able to help with the issue. But, luckily, my chiropractor solved the problem with one single adjustment, two weeks after the initial dislodgment.  

   

  

  

   

 Overall, pregnancy was a joy. I spent much of my free time preparing for the arrival of our new little one. On weekends, I could be found at the sewing machine, stitching tiny clothes while listening to the baby lullaby station on pandora. I read parenting books, birth stories, and baby blogs for hours on end. And I scoured baby sales and thrift shops for great baby deals. Joe purchased a sonogram machine to keep at home so we were able to listen to the baby’s heartbeat as much as we wanted. It was a time of great anticipation and happiness.  

A Baby at Last

We didn’t rush into parenthood. We’ve been together for nearly a decade. After six years of marriage, developing our careers, traveling the world, focusing on friendships, and making regular visits home to see our families, we finally came to a point where we felt ready for a new lifelong priority.  

We weren’t sure what to expect with regard to timing. I let my birth control prescription run out in August and we wondered if conception might take a while. September came and passed. Despite high hopes and 3 pregnancy tests, we didn’t experience instant success and I felt somewhat discouraged. October was a busy month for me with Homecoming activities going on at work while I put the fininshing touches on my dissertation. As the month wound down, Joe and I were sitting in the living room one Saturday morning, as I enjoyed breakfast and coffee and Joe played with the cats on the floor. As we chatted about the week that had just passed, the topic of pregnancy came up. I distractedly commented that there was no way I had gotten pregnant that month. As the sentence came out, I suddenly realized that perhaps I was late. Joe disagreed and suddenly a seed of curiousity was planted in my mind. I got up and changed into my workout clothes, with plans of heading to the gym. Before I left, I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, but decided to go ahead and try another preganancy test. Right before I finished brushing, I glanced over at the test to see the result and to my utter shock I read the word “pregnant” on the digital screen. 

  
My heart soared at the surprise. I felt the urge to create a special moment for Joe when he learned the news as well. Not having any great ideas of how to do so right away, I decided to follow through with my workout plans and headed off to the gym without another word. As I rounded the track, an idea came to me. I used my cell phone to calculate my due date and then realized it was silly to have rushed out of the house without my wallet and I decided I would have to sneak back in and get it. Looking back, Joe never noticed, as far as I know. I went to the store and purchased a “Nature’s Majesty” calendar and marked the date of our special arrival like this:

  
Returning home, I brought the calendar inside and told Joe that someone had left it for us on the front porch (if this seems unbelievable to you, you probably don’t live in Rolla, Missouri). I told Joe I liked it and encouraged him to look through all the pictures. Right before he flipped to July, he sensed something was up, and he said, “you’re pregnant.” I whipped the pregnancy test out from behind my back and handed it to him. He smiled and laughed and pulled me down into his lap. In some ways, it was a moment we had waited for for a very long time, but in other ways, it came sooner than we thought possible.  While everyone starts out as a pregnancy, it really is a miracle to experience it for yourself.

  

  

Our Babymoon!

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Happy New Year! We spent the first 4 days of 2015 on our babymoon in San Francisco. We set out at around 2:30 am on December 31st — blarg. We made it to California around 2 PM and checked into our hotel — the Radisson at Fisherman’s Wharf around 4 PM. We made a quick stop for a late lunch at IHOP (of all places — it was right next door to our hotel and we both love it!). Next, we wandered around the wharf taking in the street performers and bayside views. Sea lion’s congregate year-round right off of Pier 39, so we spent some time watching them bark and topple over one another in a large heap. We made our way into an arcade that hosts antique machines from the 1800’s up through the 1980’s. Many of the machines had a sign that said– be careful — this machine is older than you’ll ever be! But all of them worked and we played nearly all of them. A lot of the games were fun, some were odd, and others were just a little creepy! Overall, it was interesting to see how arcades evolved over time. We made our way back to the hotel to clean up and get ready for dinner. We met up with our friends Marty and Candice and their little daughter Natalie for supper at Boudin — a restaurant famous for their sourdough bread. The food was delicious and the company was even better. There is nothing better than catching up with old friends while ringing in a new year!

Antique arcade

Antique arcade

Fortune typing machine

Fortune typing machine

Sea lions at Pier 39

Sea lions at Pier 39

Ready for dinner!

Ready for dinner!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

The next morning we slept in a little and set out for some city sightseeing on a San Francisco double-decker bus tour. We looped around the downtown area, taking in the architecture and history of buildings including the Cannery, city hall, Coit Tower, the ferry building and many others. We stopped for lunch at King’s House of Thai Noodles — wonder of all wonders! Joe is not really known for agreeing to each in such establishments. Back on the bus, we headed into union square — a large shopping district. I found some great deals on maternity dresses — less than $5 each! Next, we wandered through China town, an area that I have always been curious about. There was less food in the area than I expected, but a lot of interesting stores. We made a stop at In n Out Burger for supper — a California fast-food chain that was founded in 1949 but never really franchised much outside of the state. It was good — and a good way to replenish after the 7.51 miles we walked that day. Fitbit stat #1!

The Cannery

The Cannery

China town

China town

The second day we took a tour shuttle across the Golden Gate Bridge into Muir Woods — home of San Francisco’s redwood forest. The park was chilly and foggy, which gave it a mystical feel. The suns rays were visible between the trees which made for a heavenly aura. We hiked around for 1.5 hours before we had to return to the shuttle. I think we could have stayed a good deal longer if we had the choice. These trails were a small step above the ones we trek in Missouri! The shuttle dropped us off in Sausalito — a small bayside town known for its mansions and it’s bike trails. We had lunch at a cafe and wondered along the bayside taking in views of the San Francisco skyline. After a few hours, we took a ferry back across the bay and made the challenging trek up to Lombard street. San Francisco is filled with hills. Many of their sidewalks would make more sense as stairways. The walk up to Lombard street was one that required us (okay, me, the pregnant one!) to take a couple of breaks. But we made it — and the view was a good one. It’s a funny site — the most crooked street in the US — constantly filled with traffic that is there for no other reason but to drive down the goofy street. Next, we made our way down to Aquatic Cove beach where we saw some crazy person swimming in a Speedo. The weather in California was cold — high 40’s, low 50’s. You might think — that doesn’t sound cold, but add in some humidity, and yes, it really is. Having lived in Southern Mississippi where January = wet cold and Northern Minnesota where January = dry crazy cold, I consider myself an authority on “feels like” winter weather conditions. Both are bad, and neither is meant for swimming! We had supper at a beachfront restaurant (more sourdough!), before heading to bed. Fitbit stat #2: 8.49 miles walked!

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

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Lombard Street

Lombard Street

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Our last full day in the city, we took a bay cruise to Alcatraz island. I wasn’t entirely sure that I would enjoy Alcatraz. High-security prisons don’t really equate with “happy place” or “vacation destination” in my mind. But, on the other hand, I felt like it was one of those things you should do if you have the chance. I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I wasn’t aware that the Alcatraz history stretched back to the Civil War, where it served as a military fort for the Union. Later, it served as a high-security prison that closed in 1964 due to high operating costs and new trends in corrections leaning away from punishment and towards correction and rehabilitation. Finally, in the later 60’s the island was inhabited by Native Americans, protesting their mistreatment by American settlers. The island views were gorgeous from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate, with the San Francisco Skyline in between. We did an audio tour of the cell house, where we learned about prison life as well as the prisoner’s failed escape plans. We also learned about the many guards’ families who inhabited the island. I thought it was interesting that many admitted to never locked their doors. After taking in most of the exhibits on the island, we returned to the boat and ate lunch as we traveled back across the bay. Next, keeping with the “locked up” theme of the day, we went to the International Spy Store for a lock picking lesson. This was a Groupon purchase inspired by something Joe said on our way home from a trip to Mexico a few years ago. We’d locked our keys in the trunk of the Mustang and had to hire a locksmith. Since convertibles don’t have a trunk release, the locksmith had a really hard time getting into the trunk itself. Joe said watching someone attempt to break into his car was kind of an entertaining vacation excursion in itself. Ergo — when I saw the Groupon — I just had to get it as part of Joe’s Christmas present! The spy store itself looks cool on the outside, but it could have been set up better on the inside, in my opinion. We learned how to pick handcuffs, padlocks, and door locks. From what I can tell — it takes practice, but it’s not impossible for anyone who has some time. Of course — we will use our powers for good — if you get locked out of your house — give us a call! Next, we took a ride on a cable car! I can’t believe these things still exist — it seems like a major liability for a city to allow random citizens to hang off the side of public transportation running right alongside normal city traffic. But, they are certainly fun — as Joe says — they’re kind of like a wooden roller coaster. After doing a little more shopping (more maternity clothes!) we returned on the cable car, had supper (at IHOP, again — yes!) and went to bed. Our alarm went off at 2 am and we spent the day making our way back to Rolla. I have one funny travel story — but I refuse to publish it on the internet! If you see me — Katie — be sure to ask!

Arriving at Alcatraz Island

Arriving at Alcatraz Island

On the island

On the island

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Cable car

Cable car

Babymoon is kind of funny word, and from what I can tell, a new concept that probably leaves some people rolling their eyes. Traveling with Joe for the last 9 years has definitely been one of the best parts of my life. Throughout this trip, we had babies on the brain and we kept our eyes peeled for baby travelers. They are out there and soon enough we’ll have one of our very own! We can’t wait!

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