Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eden update

We had a visit with our midwife yesterday. She said she's been pouring over the graphs and stats and all and consulting with doctors and others and no one feels overly concerned about Eden having intrauterine growth restriction. Her abdomen was a little more proportional this last ultrasound, falling JUST inside the "normal" range. She gave us the option of coming in for non-stress tests twice a week, just to be sure, and in case it would help alleviate stress about it. Perhaps it's ridiculous reasoning, but I would be much more stressed about finding child care for Israel twice a week during office hours than I think it would be worth, so we'll avoid the stress of the non-stress tests. Mabrey (the midwife) said that the worst case scenario, plan-wise, with intrauterine growth restriction is close monitoring and potentially having to get the baby out if it seems better for her to be out than in, but then added again that she is not really concerned, so we'll proceed as though everything is normal. She added (very kindly) that it just seems genetic to her, since Israel has no fat on him and...I "don't have an ounce of fat" on me, either. (This, though I've gained a significant amount of weight not accounted for by just baby-growing stuffs. She's way too kind.)

My "belly" measured exactly on-target for the first time this pregnancy yesterday, and I have gained three pounds since my last visit two weeks ago. (Yikes!) We have one more two-week visit and then it'll be a visit to the midwife every week until Eden is born! And things just keep getting more fun....

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Little Eden

We just returned from our latest ultrasound. I feel more and more relieved with each one and the tech talks more and more about the measurements each time. I read the screen as she took measurements this time and Eden is still measuring 2-3 weeks small around her abdomen, but her head size is right on track and her femur still measures long. We saw the same things as usual: the heart beating, the organs in their places, and the blurry, alien-looking eyes seeming to look back at us. I don't get tired of seeing these things. We also saw hair -- plenty of it -- and tried for a good picture of her, with little success. She is snuggling up in there and buried her face in the placenta when we were looking to take pictures. (Sorry if that was too much information. We just thought it was funny that she snuggled up with the closest thing to a pillow available to her.) Here is the picture of our bashful little girl. This is (kind of) her profile. She's looking down and to the left.

The tech said she is head down in there, which is the same as last time. Usually this means they have found their way and will stay that way, she said. (Sweet!) Eden does a WHOLE lot of shifting around in there, though. The tech confirmed that her feet are exactly where I thought they were all night last night: under the left edge of my ribcage, where she scoots them back and forth for hours while I lie awake. (Blast your foot-flipping ways, you McCrorys! She shares this trait with her dad, her aunt, and her grandpa, at least....) And the thump, THUMP! that moves my whole stomach first right and then immediately left is most likely an elbows-then-feet jerk. While often uncomfortable, it's pretty cool to be able to know what body part I'm feeling from in there. We'll probably have another ultrasound before she is born, the tech said, so we'll try for a better picture then. It's so cool to be able to peek in on her from time to time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

a call to affirmative action

Today was an historic occasion. I sat in a friend's living room with Israel on my lap as we watched Barack Obama take his place as our President. I could not have been more pleased with his speech and was proud to be an American for the first time in quite awhile. We will see what he does once he is in office, but the ideals to which he aspires in his words are nothing but encouraging to hear.

Of course, much of the news has been about him being our first African-American President. (I still think this is strange; he is really our first bi-racial President, but whatever, I guess.) And seeing him take the stand has done a lot of good for a lot of people. It has brought lots of grand ideas about how far we have come in our racial relations as a country. And we have come far. I remember readings and videos from my civil rights history class in college and am astounded that people in my parents' generation could recollect some of those events. It is a long way for us to come from segregation to today. That pushes us toward a feeling, especially today, that anyone can do anything in our country.

However, this evening, still riding on my euphoria from the day's events, I was presented with a sobering reminder that the lives of my neighbors are not suddenly better for all of today's achievement. I am exceedingly happy for the new face of success and all it can inspire people of all races to achieve. But I see that the youth in my town still face the same difficulties in their families and in society today that they did yesterday. I see in some of them the potential for truly great things. But I also see many obstacles in their way and a lack of various sorts of resources that a "black" president cannot fill.

It is especially sobering when we recall how many people gave their lives, either by their living or their dying, to make today possible. (And it is truly a great day, regardless of your political leanings.) It took all those lives for one man to rise up as president. It makes me wonder whose lives it will require for the kids here to rise up. What will my role have been?

I am afraid that electing a "black" president will enable us to mentally put a check in the "promoted equality" box of our lives. But that is merely the beginning of our work. I am not talking about affirmative action here in the political sense. I do think, however, that we ought to be about affirmative action in the sense of affirming the worth of all of us and working to ensure that all of us have what is needed to be our best selves. These are lofty words, to be sure, so let's start small by finding one way to give a resource (emotional, spiritual, educational, financial, or otherwise) we have to someone who has not been provided with that resource. Where can I start? Where can you start? I hope we have not, as a county, come this far merely for the sake of one man. I hope we have come this far and will go further for the sake of us all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

these are a few of our favorite things

It's been a little while since I posted some pictures on here. It may be a while longer, since Israel is hard to catch in anything but a blur these days. (He is very fast!) These are a few of our favorite things he does these days.

Israel officially has a favorite towel: the lion towel. You can see why. He looks forward to seeing his little naked self with a lion on his head when he gets out of the bath now and it's great that getting out of the bath is something to look forward to in his book! He LOVES making animal noises...from cows to cats to frogs and elephants.

This is his Granna and Papaw's favorite thing Israel does: he has picked up on calling his dad "Pat." But it's not just that he calls him Pat, it's the WAY he calls him that everyone likes. I guess he knows what I say to get Pat's attention, but I don't think I'm quite as demanding as he makes it sound. Time to REALLY watch what is said around Israel! He picks up everything and adds his own twist to it! (For those of you unfamiliar with the ritual in this video, Israel talks to his Granna and Papaw by webcam most Sunday evenings and this is one of those sessions.)

This is my favorite thing Israel has picked up: He says, "Mmmm!" about a food he likes. We didn't really spend time teaching him the appropriate response, but he certainly knows when it's the right one! You'll catch him saying it about food I put in the grocery cart at the store, food on the stove, and food in his mouth. He adds this opinion all on his own...usually I'll ask him to repeat the name of the food and if he's feeling fond of it right then, he adds the commentary all on his own.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm starting with the [wo]man in the mirror.

This past weekend, we took a last-minute trip to Cincinnati for a conference. It was a mini conference of the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association). For those of you unfamiliar with this organization, you should check out their website here. (Of course, I've provided a link to the philosophy section of their website, but you can get to the home page from there...the philosophy page will let you know what we're all about.) Our church is a member of this organization and our way of life is greatly informed by the wisdom of John Perkins, the founder. In short, this is why we do not just do a ministry or two for the poor, but we have moved to their neighborhood so that eventually we can minister with the poor. If relocating to an area of need is not an idea that is familiar to you, I would encourage you spend a bit of time reading through the website so you can get an understanding of where we're coming from.

So Pat and I relocated to this neighborhood over two years ago. We (especially me) brought with us our middle-class mindset about...well...everything. Part of this mindset, I realized this weekend, was the idea that I came here because I had something to offer. Part of moving here, as the CCDA would put it, is to ensure a more even distribution of resources. As I thought of it on my terms, I was doing this by paying taxes that support the schools the children in this neighborhood attend. And I brought all my money with me, which I could pool with the church to do ministry or use on my own to directly benefit those around me. Or something like that.

What has happened, though, is that I spend a good deal of time feeling poor, much like the people I came to work with. If class in our society was determined solely by income, there is no way we would be middle-class. It makes me feel as though I have no resources to offer. I can't throw big parties for my neighbors or be the person who gets them a nice gift on their birthday. I find myself learning parts of the government system from the inside...just like my neighbors. I don't have anything up on them that I can offer to help them better their standing in life. What a bummer. Why did I move here, again? What good is it to move to help the plight of the poor if I just become poor, too? I haven't been feeling as sorry for myself as I've felt at other times, but these questions have been lingering in the back of my mind for awhile and surface just enough to make me feel pretty powerless.

This weekend, we attended one of the break-out sessions on empowering people in our neighborhoods. (Catch the irony?) It was led by a very spunky old woman, who has made working with the poor her life's work for over 40 years. Sitting under the sound of her voice, I had one of those moments when you feel you mentally "snap out of it." She spoke about beginning with people where they are -- with their assets. She says everyone has something to contribute and our job is to help people know what it is they can contribute to their neighborhood. It does not matter what other problems or issues a person has to work through. We are to help them see their assets, which means we are to see their assets, too, and be open to receiving from them what they have to offer us.

First of all, moving into a poor neighborhood in order to receive anything from the people there goes against the prevailing thought on the matter. We give to the poor; that is the best we can do. Or is it? The speaker had us quote to her the verse that says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Well, yes. That's why we give to the poor, right? We do not want to be merely people who receive blessings but also people who give them, because that is better and we want to do what is better, right? But then she called us all "gift-snatchers." Come again? If it is more blessed to give than receive, she said, it is stealing someone else's blessing when we always put them in a position of receiving. Hmm. Mindset change #1. I should be looking for what my neighbors have to offer me. This recognizes the dignity God has given them and affirms to them that they have good things to offer other people. So, sitting in that session, I began racking my brain to think of what my neighbors may have to offer me. What could I ask of them? I already ask to borrow an egg from time to time, but that's pretty trivial. What do they really have to offer?

Then she said you can't be fake about asking things of them. You have to actually need the thing they have to offer. Crap. Stop trying to come up with things they can do for me so they can have done something for me. Now what?

I don't know that it sunk in during the session, but certainly over the course of our time there, I had an epiphany of sorts. (And, dang it, it's after I already sent out our epiphany letter!) I have moved into this neighborhood and found myself in a place of need repeatedly. Now, I'm not ready to go asking to borrow a buck from my neighbors (the need isn't that severe, and I don't think that's the sort of thing that would be beneficial to our relationships). However, finding myself in a position of financial need many times since moving here has led me to feel pretty worthless from time to time...which very well may be a feeling I share with my neighbors. We find ourselves in the same boat in this way. The playing field is leveled and I don't have anything to offer them that they might not have to offer me: expertise in a different subject or time (which I may be more short of than them these days) or creative thinking or friendship or who knows what else. And this not having much in the way of financial resources should force me to figure out what other resources I have to offer. Money is not THE resource the way I had been thinking. According to that way of thinking, neither me nor my neighbors have anything to offer anyone. So, when this is all said and done, I will know how to treat people like they have things to offer, even if they are poor, because I will have to take myself through that process first. And that is grace beyond grace, because I will not have to make it up and I will not be fake about it because I will not be treating others any different than I am learning to treat myself. (Not that I'm done...I just now know my assignment.)

I by no means hope to live as paycheck-to-paycheck as we do currently for the rest of our lives, but I recognize that it is a blessing that is preparing us for the work we are to do here. And it is good for this time in our lives. (Remind me of this if you hear me starting to grump about it again. I might not like you for a few minutes, but remind me anyway.) God is faithful to help me see people as He sees them -- beginning with me. This is good.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

sizing up the McCrorys

This post promises nothing in the way of creativity or photography, but if you just want a status update on the kids, read on.

As I write, our daughter is moving around in ways that can make my stomach look strange from across the room. She is definitely more active than Israel was in utero and surprises even our midwife with the kicks and flips she pulls off during our visits there. We had a visit with our midwife, Mabrey, last Tuesday. (We go every other week now.) While I have already gained enough weight to be full-term, I still measure small and we had an ultrasound on Saturday just to make sure everything's going okay in there. I measured small with Israel, too, so I tried not to become concerned about it. The outcome was that all the measurements that indicate how long she is -- leg and arm, etc. -- measured at 31 weeks gestation, but her abdominal circumfrence measured around 27-28 weeks. Worst case scenario: Intrauterine Growth Restriction. But nothing else indicates that would be an issue. More likely situation: I grow long, skinny babies. That sounds like good news to me as I look at giving birth in around 10 weeks. (That's right. 10 weeks.) I am having a little harder time not worrying about this pregnancy, though. With Israel I just assumed everything was fine, but I have since seen my young, healthy friends give birth to very sick babies and I'd be lying if I said the events of the last year have not affected my anxiety at all. All the same, it seems as though the smallest McCrory is growing pretty well in there and it was reassuring to see her very strong heart and to watch the technician point to all the organs and body parts in their correct places. (She even already has visible hair on her head!)

Israel is, of course, growing very well. He had his 15 month visit today, including a booster shot and a flu vaccine, which he hated. He hated being touched by anyone in the doctor's office. It's pretty obvious he knows what's coming when we go there. I had thought he had just developed a strong aversion to padded tables covered in paper, but he doesn't mind being on it when it's just me and him. (We were practicing....) He threw crying, scared fits when the nurse measured his length or his head. He especially hated it when the doctor had me lay him on the table and asked me to hold his arms still. (I still think we'd have a better shot of keeping him still if we just left him alone and played peek-a-boo instead.) The nice nurse let me hold him for his shots (which makes restraining him a TON easier). Other than the shots, Israel did great at the doctor's office. He finally made it to the 50th percentile for his weight at 24.5 pounds. (I didn't tell the nurse how much of his water he drank while we were in the waiting area.) He is 33 inches tall (93rd percentile).

I think the milestones the doctors ask about are "on the curve." The doctor asks things like, "Can he drink from a sippy cup?" and, "Does he understand the meaning of 'Mama' and 'Dada'?"and, "Can he point and grunt when he wants something?" Now Israel, and all the kids I know his age have been drinking from sippy cups for a long time now. (Who wants to hold a bottle for a kid his size?) He says "mommy" and "daddy." He says, "Daddy?" first thing most mornings and when I ask him where his daddy is, he now says, "wwwwwuuuuh..." (work). Israel is usually not allowed to point and grunt when he wants something, but says please (both with voice and by sign now) and may point or say the name of the thing he wants, usually followed by, "uh, huh!" (He likes to agree with himself.) I kind of thought they had to be joking, asking if he could grunt and understand "mama." Did they not just see him in the waiting area, as he pointed at the birds and flapped his "wings," and pointed to a dog and said, "dah... woof, woof!" Did they miss him holding his hand to his ear (his sign for "listen") and saying, "pho..." every time the phone rang in the doctor's office and "baby?!" every time a baby cried from one of the examination rooms? All this to say, Israel is either crazily gifted with verbal skills or the doctor's office asks questions to help everyone feel that their baby is smart.

Of course, I am growing, and my verbal skills are decreasing. "Milk, please..." and, "Do you need to potty?...potty...? Can you say, 'potty?'" are about the most complex sentences you will hear me use most of the day. I feel my spoken vocabulary consists of a few hundred words that I repeat over and over these days. (As well as some noises, like "Bah...!" and "Moo...!") Pat is not growing, and that is good. I hope to join him in his stagnation after a few months of shrinking.

You should receive a letter from us in the next few days, assuming we have found your address. (I'm still looking for some.) It has a little more in the way of a big-picture update on all of us. Let us know if you do not receive one and we'll get it to you!