Displaying the Nativity Set

Ask me about the Christmases of my childhood and I will most surely mention this little nativity set. When I was a little girl, I used to delight in setting up the nativity set when we decorated for Christmas.

My Sister and I regularly knelt before it and played with the pieces, or we simply crouched in front of it, gazing at Mary and Joseph and the three wise men and baby Jesus and the animals and the angel looking down over all of them.

Years ago, I laid down the law and said that once My Parents no longer wanted or had a place for it, the nativity set was coming with me. My Sister never protested—whether out of kindness or because she knew it was a battle she'd lose, I don't know.

When My Parents retired and moved to Georgia this year, the nativity set was delivered to our house (along with an abundance of random childhood and high school memorabilia).

So now it is on display in our little house in L-Town, and hopefully for many Christmases to come our little guy will gaze at it and play with the animals and enjoy it as much as I have.


Decorating for Christmas

I wish I could take credit for the lovely Christmas tree in our living room.

And for the stockings hanging in the dining room (because, sadly, we do not have a mantel upon which to place them).

Normally I do all the decorating myself, as Conservative Hubby doesn't really get into that sort of thing. Only this year, the decorations appeared as if by magic while I took a much-needed nap about a week after the little guy was born.

Some very helpful elves (aka My Mom and My Sister) did all the decorating work.

I have had many hours at home in the last couple of weeks to enjoy their festive touches, and for this I am grateful.


Giving Birth

My parents arrived in L-Town on November 18 just in time to meet Conservative Hubby, his parents, and I at one of the Mexican restaurants in town for dinner. It was, I guess you could say, our last dinner out before we became parents.

I had a few fairly strong contractions during dinner—strong enough to give me pause in the middle of eating my steak burrito—but didn't think much of it because I'd been having contractions off and on for more than a week. They had gotten stronger in the last couple of days but still weren't anything to write home (or, perhaps more accurately, rush to the hospital) about, as they weren't at all consistent in their frequency or length.

After an enjoyable meal, we headed home to get My Parents set up with their makeshift basement bedroom where they'd be spending a couple of weeks. Shortly thereafter, Conservative Hubby and I headed to bed, as we had to be at the hospital in Springfield by 6 a.m. to start the process of trying to flip our little breech baby and, hopefully, getting labor started.

At 1 a.m., I went from fast asleep to bolting out of bed with a start. Even in my not-yet-awake state, I knew instantly that my water broke. I'd read that despite what you see in the movies, in many cases labor does not start with a dramatic gush. It may be a trickle or your water may not even break until you're at the hospital and in the throes of serious contractions. But for me, the dramatic gush was real.

In the same moment I jumped out of bed, I was already telling Conservative Hubby to get up, we needed to go, my water broke.

We were both pretty darn calm about the whole thing. Conservative Hubby didn't say much except, "Let me take a shower and then we'll go." And for some reason it seemed totally sane that he would want to bathe before we drove 35 minutes to the hospital, so I set about getting dressed and trying to clean up a bit. I called the hospital to let them know my water broke and to confirm that we should come in right away since the baby was breech (they said yes). Then I headed downstairs to wake up my parents and let them know we were headed to the hospital earlier than planned and that I'd keep them updated.

And then we were off.

At the hospital, things proceeded much as you would expect. We arrived at the emergency room since it was after hours, I was wheeled up to the maternity suites, they got us set up in our room, and then a steady parade of nurses began coming in, hooking me up to monitors and preparing me for surgery.

Conservative Parents arrived in time to stop in and say hello before we were wheeled down to the operating room. Conservative Hubby was particularly excited to don scrubs for the big event—although less so when he discovered they were paper scrubs and not "real" ones.

Only about 10 minutes into the surgery, we heard the cries of our little guy. He was born at 4:15 a.m. One of the nurses brought him around the curtain that was hung over my abdomen to show him to us as soon as they cut the cord, then they whisked him to the corner to clean him up. Conservative Hubby went to watch them work on the baby and then, while the doctor worked to finish the surgery and close me up, Conservative Hubby held the little guy next to me so I could look at them both. It was a surreal moment, to say the least.

And as soon as we made it back to our maternity suite, I got a chance to hold the little fellow. It was an exciting moment, but also very strange to look at the little creature that I'd carried around for the last nine months and to be holding him in my arms and not in my belly anymore.

(For both Conservative Hubby and I, it was also a little bit overwhelming, knowing that we were wholly responsible for the little bundle in our arms. That's a feeling that still hasn't gone away and perhaps never will.)


Delivery Options

From early on in my pregnancy, I knew I wanted to deliver our little one into this world as naturally as possible. I had no intention of being militant about a natural childbirth—I was not going to adamantly refuse any and all drugs at all costs. But I have a pretty high pain tolerance and, barring any complications or unforeseen issues and armed with deep breathing and relaxation techniques honed from years of yoga practice, I had every intention of undergoing a drug-free delivery.

Conservative Hubby, of course, thought I was nuts—particularly once we attended a day-long Lamaze class and learned in more detail what happens during childbirth and what the drugs can do for you. He questioned why, when given the opportunity to deliver relatively pain-free, I'd ever choose the pain and agony of natural childbirth.

It's a reasonable question. I don't want to go into a drawn-out debate about the topic. I don't think there is anything wrong with a woman having a child with the assistance of the many drugs and medical interventions hospitals regularly use during labor and delivery. It's simply that after careful contemplation and research on the options, I decided without a doubt that I wanted to be fully aware, fully present, and fully feeling every moment of my son's birth—and to avoid the potential complications that not delivering naturally can sometimes lead to. Women have delivered naturally since the beginning of time, so it's really not that strange!

But it's a good thing that I wasn't, as I said before, militant about delivering naturally, because we discovered a few months before my due date that our little guy was breech. At that point, he still had plenty of time to flip around to the correct position—and many babies do, up until right before they're born. But as October gave way to November and the final countdown began, it became pretty evident that despite all the wiggling he was doing in my stomach, the little guy had no intention of budging from his breech position. His head was resting comfortably (well, for him anyway) above my belly button and his legs were curled up under his bottom way down near my pelvis. (Consequently, that is still one of his favorite positions to snooze.)

(On a side note, this position gave Conservative Hubby cause for alarm, because after our initial "its a boy!" sonogram, the bambino's position made it impossible for the "visual confirmation" Conservative Hubby needed that we were, in fact, having a boy. He grew increasingly concerned that we were going to bring home a little girl from the hospital and that she would spend the first year of her life wearing all of the boy's clothes we had been given as gifts.)

That concern never crossed my mind. I was more worried about the possibility of a c-section, which I absolutely, positively had no interest in having. Major surgery? No thanks. I knew enough about the potential complications and the long recovery time to know I'd take a vaginal delivery (with or without drugs) any day over surgery. Conservative Hubby thought I should just go with it. Spending less than an hour in the operating room rather than an unforeseen number of hours or days in labor sounded pretty good to him. To me, not so much.

After I learned the baby was breech I, of course, set about researching what I could do to turn him around on my own. Inversions? Yep, tried them. Elevating my pelvis on a big stack of pillows? Did that too. Putting a cold bag of peas on the top of my stomach so he'd want to flip and get his head where it was warmer? I tried that once and decided it was ridiculous and perhaps a little mean to give my baby a brain freeze before he's even born. Positive thinking and coaxing with phrases like, "Come on, flip buddy"? Did that every day.

Still, nothing worked, so in early November we set a date to try the last best hope for getting the baby to flip: Going to the hospital and having the doctor attempt to turn the baby. It's called a "version." I'd be all hooked up to an IV and given a drug (see! already had to change plans) to help relax my uterus, then the doctor would actually work on turning the baby by placing her hands on my stomach and pushing him around until he moved into the correct position. It wasn't a sure-fire solution, but it had a pretty high success rate. I was willing to try it if it meant I could still deliver naturally.

So we set the date: November 19. We were scheduled to go in very early in the morning for the version. If it worked, the doctor would induce labor right away with the hopes I'd have the baby before he decided to flip back around (which sometimes happens). If the version didn't work, while I was all hooked up and ready they'd whisk me in for a c-section and deliver the baby that way.

As disappointing as it was that I wasn't going to get to leave the birthing process up to nature, it was kind of nice to have a date in mind for when our little guy was arriving. And it was particularly nice that it happened to be the day after my parents were able to arrive in L-Town, a Saturday morning, and long enough before Thanksgiving that I could (hopefully) celebrate the holiday.

I held out hope that the version would work and I'd still be able to deliver, if not completely naturally, as close to it as possible. But I also went back and began reading about c-sections (I'd ignored the part of articles and books that dealt with them because I had no intention of having one), so I knew what to expect during the surgery and recovery.

You know me, gotta be prepared. And it's a good thing I was.


2 Weeks

It's hard to believe this little guy has been with us for two full weeks now.

It has been exciting and exhausting and definitely an adjustment.

I never knew it was possible to sit and stare at someone for hours but trust me ... it is.

And the adventure is only just beginning!


Introducing Collin

Meet William Collin. He joined our family at 4:15 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2011. Weight: 7 pounds, 8 ounces. Length: 20.5 inches.

He's healthy and happy and doing well (though still not interested in sleeping much at night). Conservative Hubby and I are doing well too, though I'm moving a bit slowly because the little guy arrived via C-section.

I'll share more details (and photos, of course) soon!



You may have noticed a theme with many of the pieces of art I showed you in my last post.

(In case I need to be Captain Obvious, that theme was animals.)

But the animal fun doesn't end with the walls. In fact, it's kind of scary how many animals already populate the nursery. If this is any indication, our house is going to be overrrun by little furry creatures, like all these little critters with their big googly eyes.

I won't bore you photographing all of the terrific animals hanging out in the baby's room, but I do have to share a few of my faves. There's this colorful pillow pet.

This friendly little fellow.

A handsome gorilla, who also has a couple of friends in the form of a hippo and a lion.

These animals are particularly cool because they are part of a Jane Goodall collection and are made from organic cotton and plant and mineral dyes.

Part of the proceeds from the purchase of each one go toward the Jane Goodall Institute. Pretty cool, eh? (Plus have I mentioned how adorable they are?)

Then there are the two little buddies hanging out on the rocking chair. The giraffe plays a variety of soothing sounds and the monkey is just known for giving really terrific hugs.

Every nursery needs a monkey known for giving really terrific hugs.


Handmade Artwork

The artwork in the nursery is particularly exciting because it's all in some way or another handmade.

There's the very friendly caterpillar on the bookshelf.

A little cheerful saying above the bookshelf.

And the row of animals above the rocking chair.

All of this artwork I ordered from Etsy. In case you're not familiar with Etsy, it's a website where you can find anything and everything handmade and vintage you could possibly want. It's pretty much my most favorite site for gift-giving or, in this case, decorating.

Then there are the colorful characters above the changing table (a gift from a friend, who found them on Etsy, too.)

Plus a cute little calendar that goes along with the animals.

And then there's this masterpiece, which was a shower gift from a good friend of Conservative Family's.

We had one spot on the wall that My Mom and I could not figure out what to do with, and then magically this gift appeared and went perfectly in that one spot. The coolest part is that under all the fun papers and embellishments, it's magnetic, so we can add to or change out things whenever the mood strikes.


Butternut Squash Soup with Ravioli

I'd like to interrupt the never-ending stream of baby room posts to bring you a photo of a recent cooking adventure.

Nothing says fall like a bowl of butternut squash soup.

It happens to have a texture slightly reminiscent of baby food, however, so I apologize that perhaps I'm not straying from the dominant topic of the moment as far as I should.

But despite the fact I just told you it has a texture like baby food, it's actually pretty darn good. Really. Even Conservative Hubby ate it.

And it was easy to make, too. The recipe, from Better Homes & Gardens, is available if you click here.


Something Old

Among the new items in the nursery, like the crib and the bedding and way too many clothes for a fellow who isn't even born yet, I scattered a few old touches.

Of course there's Teddy and Red Bear. And a piggy bank and a pair of cowboy boots from when I was bambino. Some of my favorite childhood books that My Mom saved all these years. And a lovely little sweater and hat knitted for Conservative Hubby when he was a baby by some very special family friends.

Then there are a few vintage touches that came from other sources.

Like these blocks, an Etsy find.

And this abacus, which I also found on Etsy, along with a set of The Wonderful Worlds of Walt Disney books, which was a shower gift from a friend.

And this old octopus, which My Sister found in California and sent to us recently.

Kind of fun, yes?


The Growth Chart

At last Thursday's appointment with the doctor, we learned that although I haven't gained a ton of weight during the pregnancy, the little bambino is actually a little ahead of the game in that department.

He was already weighing in at about 6 pounds and 5 ounces at that point, which means if he decides to keep us all waiting until the actual due date he may tip the scales at a solid 8 pounds.

(Any guesses who's voting the loudest that he makes a safe, healthy, slightly early appearance? And any guesses who's hoping this is an indication that he'll be a professional football or basketball player?)

The little guy may weigh in over 6 pounds at this point, but I'm doubting he's going to exceed the height of this growth chart in the nursery anytime soon. In fact, I'm doubting he'll get even close to the height of the giraffe's nose while we still live in this house.

Still, it's a pretty darn cute addition to the nursery, don't you think?


Making the Mobile

This is the mobile My Mom and I hung in the baby's room this weekend.

Early on, when we were still brainstorming colors and themes and things of that nature for the nursery, I spent plenty of time looking at the many mobiles you could buy online. But none of them really appealed to me.

And then I found a nursery that I loved on ohdeedoh, and in that nursery there was a handmade mobile that I thought would be perfect with the few things we'd already found for our little one's room.

So I set about cutting out cardstock circles to make the mobile. Then I let the cardstock circles sit for a couple of months gathering dust, until this weekend when My Mom and I finally put the mobile together and got it hung.

It turned out as well as I had hoped. Hopefully the little guy likes it, too!


Turning 29

A week ago Friday, I celebrated a birthday. My 29th birthday, to be exact. The last birthday of my twenties.

It wasn't all that long ago when 30 seemed so old. But now it seems young. Really young.

Maybe I'll be singing a different tune a year from now when I'm actually turning 30, but I'm not at all concerned about leaving the twenties behind. Sure, it's a bit sad, because being a 20-something is pretty awesome. It's college and your first job and so much freedom to travel and do fun things but still be a "grown up" (without having to be too grown up all the time).

But it's not like I'm expecting to wake up in a year and feel drastically different than I do right now (although I'm guessing I'll be considerably more sleep-deprived, and hopefully I'll weigh considerably less—neither of which have to do with my age so much as the little fellow that's going to join our family soon).

Now if I were turning 35, that would be a different story. That's old. Really really old. (Just kidding, certain brothers-in-law that may or may not be around that age. That's really young, too! Conservative Hubby is wearing off on me. I apologize.)


This year's birthday really snuck up on me. Normally October is all about birthdays (a few of my best friends also have theirs this month, plus My Mom's is the day after mine and My Dad's happens to be TODAY).

But this year October has been all about work, work, work and, more importantly, preparing for another birth day that could be coming up anytime in the next month or so. So it didn't even really hit me that it was my birthday until October 14 rolled around.

I've never been one for big birthday bashes to celebrate, anyway. To me a great birthday involves a good meal and (except for this year) maybe a few cocktails with friends or family. Of course, I've had my share of exciting birthdays. Like the year Conservative Hubby and my friends threw me a surprise party in Des Moines. (It was a big surprise!) Or the year I flew to Boston on my birthday to meet up with my family and surprise My Mom on her birthday. Oh yeah, and then there was that year that Conservative Hubby popped the question. (That was an even bigger surprise!)

But most of them have been pretty low-key, and that's OK with me.

This birthday was no different. In fact, it was even lower-key than usual. Conservative Hubby took me out to dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants, the Harvest Cafe, which is located in a little town outside of L-Town. It was delicious, although there's so little room in my stomach for extraneous items at the moment we didn't even get a birthday dessert. Then we came home, put on sweats, and watched television. I proceeded to fall asleep on the couch before 10 p.m.

Don't tell me I'm lame. That's an awesome birthday for this tired pregnant lady.


Homemade Minestrone

There's nothing quite like a big pot of homemade minestrone—loaded with fresh vegetables from our weekly CSA delivery—to make for a cozy October evening.

In case you're interested in trying it out yourself, I'll be serving leftovers all week.


Red Bear

Remember Teddy, my first bear from childhood?

Recently, he was joined in the nursery by another friendly little bear.

Meet Red Bear, Conservative Hubby's oldest and most loved stuffed animal.

Both of us had really original names for our little stuffed friends.

As you can see, Red Bear is not in quite as good of shape as Teddy. Apparently Conservative Hubby was very devoted to Red Bear as a child.

When I told C.B. I was going to post about his childhood friend, I asked if he wanted to tell all of you anything about his pal.

"Red Bear is awesome," was his response.

So there you have it.



It was almost a month ago now when the annual art and balloon festival took over L-Town. Should you ever need an excuse to come visit us in the summer, this weekend just may be it.

Besides the fact that you can watch the balloons take off, fly across fields, land, and glow in the dark once night rolls around, there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy too.

Like wandering the farmer's market, art festival, and flea market at the two parks downtown. And tasting some of the amazing barbecue at the Kansas City BBQ competition, which was held for the first time downtown on the square. (Conservative Dad was even one of the official judges--lucky guy!) Or, if it's more your style, you can taste a great selection of Illinois wines at the Art of Wine tent (also on the square).

At night, there are bands playing out at the airport where the balloons go off. You can get your fill of fried food and less-than-safe-looking carnival rides, too.

Really, what more could you ask for in small-town Illinois on a summer weekend?


Letting Butter Talk

Hi guys.

Just wanted to let you know I'm still around and happy as can be.

My family has been pretty darn busy lately, but I know even when I'm stuck at home or in the pet motel that they still love me.

All in all, life is good. ... Even though I still can't figure out what the heck is going on in the place formerly known as the office. ...

But I sure do like to sniff all those treasures that keep appearing in there. I'm sure they're all for me, even though I don't know why the heck I'd need so much stuff when all I really want in life is a belly rub, a walk, and a treat.


Electric Lemonade

This weekend, while Conservative Hubby and his best friend Twigs worked on mastering the fine art of making ribs (they did a fantastic job), I whipped up a little cocktail for Mrs. Twigs and I. It's an electric lemonade recipe from the June issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and it was the perfect concoction for a summer Saturday night.

The key ingredients: fresh-squeezed lemon juice, sugar, sparkling mineral water, a dash of ginger ale, fresh-picked mint, and ice. Once everything was blended, I poured the lemonade into two frosted glasses--one with vodka for Mrs. Twigs and one with more sparkling mineral water for me.

The verdict? Yummy.


An Ice Cream Treat

Happy Labor Day! In case you're looking for something rather delicious to labor over on your day off, I wanted to share a pic of the easy mocha chip ice cream cake I made while we were in North Carolina.

I was inspired by all of Kid Sister's Southern Living magazines I read while lounging by the pool (it was a very difficult vacation for me, people), so on our last night there decided I had to make the ice cream cake.

And boy am I ever glad I did, even though Conservative Hubby complained that dessert cost a million dollars by the time we bought all the ingredients. (It didn't.)

I highly recommend that you try it yourself. Just be sure to make it well in advance of when you want to eat it, since it needs some freezer time.

And you can go ahead and lick your plate when you're finished, like Kid Sister told me she did after we headed home and she was stuck with the incredibly difficult job of eating the leftovers. It's totally acceptable.


A Tennis Tournament

While in North Carolina visiting Kid Sister, T-Bear, and Frog Dog, Conservative Hubby and I took in some professional tennis action. It was the Winston-Salem Open, a U.S. Open qualifying tournament, held at Wake Forest University.

Kid Sister was busy working at the tournament, so Conservative Hubby and I stopped by to say hello and watch a bit of the action.

It was a Monday afternoon so it was pretty quiet. I asked Conservative Hubby about a million questions, because up until that sunny Monday I knew very little about how tennis scoring worked. He filled me in on the important stuff, and I found myself enjoying the action.

(And then we got scolded over the loud speaker and glared at by one of the tennis players because we got up to walk out right when one of the players was about to serve. Yes, we were those people. Oops. But seriously, are two people walking clear up in the stands really going to distract you that much? I don't think so.)

It actually made me want to play tennis (watching the tournament, not the scolding), but I suppose that will have to wait. I'm guessing your seventh month of pregnancy is not a good time to take up a new sport that involves swinging a racket and running all over a court.


A Nautical-Theme Baby Shower

A couple of weekends ago, Conservative Mom, Kid Sister, and I teamed up to throw a baby shower for lovely Miss Alicia (that's Q and M.B.'s daughter-in-law).

Miss Alicia was expecting her first son around September 1, so we thought a shower the first weekend in August was perfect timing.

Because little Jack's nursery is decorated in a nautical theme, we decided it was only appropriate to go with a similar theme for the shower, hence the shells and light houses.

And the nautical-theme napkins.

We started with mimosas for the ladies who could indulge in such beverages and a tasty blue punch for those of us who couldn't. (It really was nonalcoholic, despite the fact that all the ducks floating in the punch looked drunk.)

After the ladies played a couple of silly games, like guessing how many candies were in the baby bottle ...

and sniffing baby food jars to figure out their flavor ...

we sat down to a meal featuring Not-So-Conservative Grandmom's famous chicken tetrazinni, which was a huge hit.

Then, before we moved on to showering the mamma-to-be with gifts, we stopped for a very important part of the party.

The cupcakes.

These weren't just any cupcakes, mind you. They were gourmet cupcakes, with flavors like snickerdoodle and red velvet and chocolate-peanut butter, and raspberry. It was difficult not to try one of all of them, but at the same time they were so darn cute it almost seemed a shame to eat them! (Almost ...)

We had a fabulous time throwing the shower for Miss Alicia. And it turns out it's a good thing we scheduled it when we did, for she started having contractions the day before the shower. And just less than a week later, handsome little Jack was born.

Mom and Baby Jack are healthy and happy and doing well. Congrats to the whole family!