Tuesday, August 2, 2016

About Me

Welcome.

If you dig through these archives for any length of time three things will become clear:

I am a writer, a mom, and a YA junkie.

For several years I wrote about my little boys on this blog, until one day I asked myself... what if my blog had millions of readers? And what if my babies grew into teenagers and I never stopped writing about them?

I immediately hung up my mommy blogger hat and wrote a YA book instead. (And it was so much more fun!) It's called NOT HER STORY, and it's about Claire Dixon, teenager and mommy-blog subject.

(Spoiler alert: Claire hates it.)

I can't wait until the day all of you can read it!

When I'm not writing, momming, or reading, I'm mostly trying to convince my husband that we should leave this ridiculous Arizona heat and move somewhere with more rain and less sun. You can also find me eating (too much) ice cream and watching (too much) Netflix.

My favorite (recent-ish) YA reads:

ANNA & THE FRENCH KISS
LOLA & THE BOY NEXT DOOR
ISLA & THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER
(i.e. I'll read and love anything by Stephanie Perkins)

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven

TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han

THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS by E. Lockhart

SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

LOOKING FOR ALAKSA by John Green

DUMPLIN' by Julie Murphy

THE LUNAR CHRONICALS by Marissa Meyer

THE NAME OF THE STAR by Maureen Johnson

EMMY & OLIVER by Robin Benway

MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Forever in my Netflix Queue:

Gilmore Girls
Friday Night Lights
Dawson's Creek
Parks & Rec
Arrested Development
Bob's Burgers
The Office
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A New Look and A New Novel

I did it again.

I disappeared from Blog Land and I wrote (another) novel. While I was gone I also gave this space a makeover. Not A Couple's Blog is officially karajmcdowell.com. Not A Couple's Blog and I had a good run, but now that I am trying to get my novel into the hands of someone who can publish it, I figured I may as well make it as easy as possible for them to find me.

Back when I was blogging every day, you guys were were such supporters of my dream to write a book. Thank you for that. Seriously. It gave me confidence and kept me dreaming and hoping through an English degree, a boring desk job, my freelance writing gig, two pregnancies, two baby boys, and a move. When I have news to share about the book, I promise to post it here. In the meantime, you can keep up with my day-to-day on Instagram.


Please enjoy a nice and moody shot of my manuscript while I try to get some sleep. It's 4 am and all my babies are sleeping. I swear I lose more sleep over this thing than I do with a newborn.

Good Night!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

4 Months // 2 And A Half

4 months old Graham is rolling all over the place. Diaper changes have become a new kind of challenge and I can no longer safely leave him on the couch or the bed while I dash out of the room. He also rolls over almost the second his back touches his crib mattress but he still sleeps better than I have any right to hope for. He usually takes 4 naps a day. (Short ones, but still.) Yesterday I tried cutting it down to 3 naps to see what would happen and he slept from 7 pm until 9 am this morning. He can't be awake for more than 2 hours at a time. He eats like a champ and has the rolls to prove it.

He is constantly sucking and/or chewing on anything he can get into his mouth. My fingers are his favorite, but his fingers are a close second. Despite his affinity for sucking, he won't take a pacifier or a bottle.

Graham smiles and laughs all the time, but most especially when he is looking at Owen.

I get big googly heart eyes when I see the two of them laughing together. It makes me more excited for the future every single day.


 
Two and a half year old Owen is nothing but love and trouble. He tests my patience and blows me away with his sweetness every single day. He is an outpouring of spontaneous "thank yous" and "i love yous" and "i'm sorrys" and "excuse mes." BUT. He is also an outpouring of tantrums and willpower.
 
If there is one thing that can be said about Owen, it's that he comes by his stubbornness honestly. Everyone in Scott's family tells me that Owen is a mini Scott and also living proof of Karma. And all I would like to know is, where's my karma, because I was a dang good kid.
 
But so is Owen. He really is. He's just 2 and a half. And here is a small list of things about 2 and a half year old Owen:
 
- He NEVER stops moving. Literally. Never. It takes him hours to fall asleep at night because he has such trouble calming his body down enough to actually fall asleep, even when he is tired as sin.
- He skips his nap more often than not. This makes me cry more often than I am willing to admit.
- He is such a good brother to Graham. He likes to bring him toys and blankets and entertain him with silly faces. Every day he talks about how he can't wait for Graham to "get big and play with me!"
- He doesn't love anything in life as much as he loves his hot wheels cars.
- He is really into identifying emotions and the reasons behind them. He loves to point out when people are happy or sad or angry or scared. Sometimes when he is crying but trying to act brave he says "I am happy!" through his tears. When he wants me to give him something, he tells me that it makes him happy. ("Watching TV makes me happy, mommy! Pleasssssssse! Please Please Please Mommy!")
- He loves playing with his friends, even if he doesn't remember to play nicely 100% of them time. This morning we had a play date at the park with a friend named Carter and he just woke up from his nap (A NAP!) crying "Where'd Carter go?"
 
 
I'm so proud of them both. They are both good, sweet boys and it is the privilege of my life to spend my days with them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Holiday Hooplah

Life has been busy. Maybe the busiest it's ever been. On the first of December we sold our home and moved a few miles down the road. Our new place has a playroom and a real backyard with grass and a garden and plenty of place for the boys to play. After a solid year of hemming and hawing and thinking and talking and praying and deciding and waffling and deciding again... I was so excited to get into our new place. I didn't feel sad or nostalgic or anything. I was ready to move on.

And then I packed the last of our stuff and my two baby boys into the car and I went back inside for one last look. Scott was writing a note for the new owner and placing the keys and garage door openers on the kitchen counter and before I knew it, I was crying.


This was our first home. The one we painted together, back before we were even engaged. This is where we had our first married fight and where we made bad dinners together for a solid year. This was where I laid in bed for an entire month when I was newly pregnant with Owen this is where I brought both of my boys home from the hospital. I love that house. I always will.

But, we moved. And we love our new house more than we can even explain. It has an enormous play room for my boys and a proper backyard with green grass, a garden, and plenty of space for the boys to play. We couldn't be happier.

Scott's paternity leave extended through the entire month of December so in addition to moving and unpacking and having never-ending discussions about where to hang pictures, the month was jam packed with holiday activities.

We drove to Payson and cut down our own Christmas tree, we visited the Temple lights in Mesa,  went to Bass Pro Shop and met Santa Claus,

we made sugar cookies with my mom,

 and we attended the annual Flaherty live nativity where Owen made the cutest wise man of my entire life. (I wish I had pictures, but it was difficult to get this wise man to stop wandering around the stable long enough for a picture. He was too busy sneaking glances at baby doll Jesus, inspecting the bales of hay, staring into the spotlight that lit the stable, and pulling his hat down over his eyes).

By far the highlight of our Holiday Hooplah was our visit to the Polar Express Train in Williams, Arizona. My mom bought us tickets for my birthday this year and I am so glad she did.






 

 
Owen was the perfect age for the train this year. When Santa boarded the train he got so excited and yelled "Mama! Santa! WOOK MAMA! SANTA!" Then Santa came right up to him and handed him a bell and Owen was over the moon.
 
And then there was Christmas. There was a garbage truck for Owen (which was a HUGE hit) and a few soft and fuzzy things for Graham (which Owen steals 95% of the time). This whole Christmas with kids thing just keeps getting better and better (and also more expensive, because Scott and I have zero self-control).
 
 

And that's a wrap on December, more or less. On the 29th we left both of the boys with my parents and went out for a delicious steak dinner and celebrated our 4th anniversary.

Like I said, busy busy. This blog post was brought to you by 2 babies who miraculously napped at the same time. Maybe if it happens again sometime I can fill you in on January.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Owen // 28 Months & Graham // 2.5 Months

Dear Owen,

Every time you have an idea, you gasp and say "Make A Big IDEEEEAAAAAA!!!!" 99% of the time, your big idea is to race your hot wheels cars. Dad and I think this is the funniest.

Speaking of your hot wheels, when asked what you want for Christmas you always say "A Car!" You love your hot wheels more than almost anything else. You have more than a dozen of them and you want to carry them all with you every where you go. You are constantly stuffing them in my purse and in the stroller and the cup holder of your car seat.

You aggressively love your baby brother. A few days ago I told you that when Graham gets bigger, the two of you will be able to play together. Now, every time you look at Graham, you say "Graham getting big!" You want to play "digging, bat the ball, cars, and counting" with him.

Daddy and I are constantly amazed by your vocabulary. At this point, if there is something you want to say, you find a way to say it. You tell the best stories and you have an amazing memory (especially if treats are involved). One afternoon last week we bought Lucky Charms and promised you could eat some the next day. As I tucked you in that night, the last thing you said to me was "Eat Lucky Charms tomorrow!" The first thing you said in the morning? "Eat Lucky Charms!"

Other things you love: Reading books, the garbage truck, bedtime stories (especially bedtime stories about garbage trucks), hot chocolate, Daddy (always Daddy), digging in the backyard, and helping Mama cook in the kitchen.



Dear Graham,

Here is a little list of things about you at 2.5 months...

-You are a chunky little boy! 12 lbs 15 oz at your 2 month appointment (exactly the same as Owen at that age)!
- You hate tummy time. You hate it so much that you learned how to roll from your tummy to your back before you were 7 weeks old.
- You love to smile at Mommy and Daddy. Almost as much as you love taking loooooong afternoon naps on Mommy's chest.
- The drool is starting! Drool and spit bubbles all the time.
- Occasionally you sleep all night long, but usually you wake up once around 3 or 4 to eat before going back down until 7 or 8.
- We can't get enough of you, baby boy! We can't get enough of your chubby cheeks and your blue eyes and your happy little personality.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Story About A Tree

Early in November Scott's brother sent a text message to the family asking if anyone was interested in cutting down their own Christmas tree this year.

All of my Christmas tree memories from early childhood involve cutting down a tree from a Christmas tree farm. We would bundle in jackets and scarves and hunt down the perfect tree which my Dad would then saw down with his own hands. We would haul the tree back to the barn where hot apple cider was served and someone would saw off the end of the tree trunk. I don't remember why they did this but I do know that we would always take this spare bit of wood home with us because it smelled so dang good.

Last year Scott and I bought our tree at Costco. Man, I loved that tree. It was tall and full and gorgeous and smelled like heaven. But of all the things I miss about living in Ohio, Christmas tree farms are very near the top of the list. More than that, I want those memories for my boys. So when Scott and I heard that we could cut down our own tree for the low low price of $15 we immediately jumped on board.

On Tuesday afternoon the four of us piled into a car and drove into the mountains with Uncle Matthew, Uncle Jim, Aunt Monica, and four of Owen and Graham's cousins.

We arrived at the designated "Christmas Tree" portion of the forest around 3:30 in the afternoon. Initially, we were unimpressed with the offerings. Everything was too tall or too tiny or too sparse or too terrible looking. The kids rode in the back of Uncle Jim's truck and took turns riding on the back of the "Search Quad" while I stayed inside the truck with Graham and Monica. After about 30 minutes of driving and searching and pointing out clumps of trees only to be told that, upon closer inspection, they were "No Good" I joked that we were going to leave empty handed.

I was assured this would NOT happen. 30 more minutes passed. And then 30 more.  At this point, there was much talk of cutting down a 3 foot tree, putting it in the playroom, and stopping by the Home Depot tree lot on the way home. But we kept trying. Unfortunately Monica and I lacked serious perspective and kept pointing out trees that were about 20 feet tall. Or, we would spot one that looked great only to realize that it was two or more trees clumped together.

By 5:30 Graham was cranky, the sun was setting, the temperature was dropping fast, and we still had no tree. The boys all got out of the truck for one last ditch effort and disappeared into the woods. Several minutes later they came sprinting back towards us waving their arms and shouting "Get the saw! Get the saw!"

We had found a cluster of respectable trees. (Not to mention the fact that our expectations were now properly low and we were desperate.)

As the sun dipped behind the horizon Owen started to freeze in his thin, Arizona-kid hoodie. "Too cold! Too cold Mama!" While Jim and Monica sawed down their tree I ran frantically around the forest and tried to find something, anything, that was acceptable. Finally Scott pointed out a tree that looked like it could reasonably pass for a Christmas tree and, with my approval, he started sawing. (We had to use the handsaw because the chain saw would not start because that is the kind of day we were having.)

This is my husband, sawing down a Christmas tree, in the dark, in the 34 degree weather, with a baby strapped to his chest. My Hero!

After the tree was down we didn't even pause to give it a once over before hustling back to the truck. Everyone piled in the bed and we started driving, only to realize that we had taken a wrong turn as a heavy layer of fog descended all around us, which was the perfect ending to a ridiculous day.

 A few hours later we pulled into the driveway of our brand new home and carried our hilariously sad Charlie Brown tree. It's gappy and sparse and one half of it is made up entirely of dead branches. As Scott and Matt screwed it into the tree stand none of us could stop laughing because it looks dang ridiculous.


I promise you this picture doesn't do it justice.  This is the tree's good side ;) It looks SO much sillier in person.

The next morning Owen woke up and came down the stairs. As soon as he saw the top of the tree he gasped in wonder. "Pretty! Pretty tree, Mama!"

Bam.

That's it. That's all I wanted. A fun memory and a tree that makes my kid happy.

I may just learn to love this silly Charlie Brown tree yet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Graham Oliver: A Birth Story (Part 2 of 2)

Highly Motivated

Scott handed me an empty trash bag just in time for me to vomit up the candy corn I had eaten four hours earlier. I sat in bed, clutching that garbage bag, shaking uncontrollably from head to toe, and contemplated my options. I knew they would send me away. Hospitals don't admit you at a 2.5. They just don't.

When they sent me away, I wondered if I should relieve my mom of her baby sitting duties and continue to labor at home. Or I could walk around the hospital parking lot in an attempt to get my body to dilate. At the time, both of those options seemed impossible. I needed to stay at the hospital. It was the only choice.

Less than 30 minutes after the nurse had left us alone, she popped her head back into our room.

"Here's what's going on. I did some begging, and we're going to admit you. You're in a lot of pain and you're overdue and I don't want to send you home. I am working on getting everything ready to admit you right now. But if your body doesn't dilate on it's own we're going to have to give you Pitocin."

I don't remember exactly what I said but I am pretty sure it included a lot of Thank Yous. I was surprised. I was relieved. I was so incredibly grateful.

Before too long I was hobbling towards me hospital room. They offered me a wheelchair but for some reason I didn't want to take it. Maybe I didn't want them to think I was a wimp who lost all ability to reason and function while I was still in the early stages of labor. Maybe I was just stubborn. Either way, I had to stop and grip the wall several times on that short walk from triage.

They set me up in bed and began to hook me up to another dozen machines. Heart monitors for myself and the baby. An oxygen monitor on my finger. An IV in my hand. It didn't bother me as much as it did when I was pregnant with Owen. I was simply happy to be there.

As they did this, only one thing was going through my mind: the epidural. Would they give me an epidural at 2.5 centimeters? I honestly didn't know. Scott suggested we march around the hospital room to try and speed things up.

If looks could kill.

I didn't want to march. I didn't want any more pain. I couldn't think straight. All I could think about was the epidural. Thankfully I had an amazing nurse, Tiffany, who knew needed exactly what I needed. She told me they wanted to get an entire bag of fluid in me before administering the epidural but that she would do it as quickly as possible. I was already in so much body-wracking pain I did not think I could feel any more... but I was wrong. That fluid licked the veins in my hand and up my arm like white hot fire.

By the time the anesthesiologist came into my room it was 4 am. Almost 2 hours exactly after we left for the hospital, just as I predicted. I sat up in bed while he prepared to give me the epidural. Tiffany stood in front of me and held my arms as my body continued to shake.

"Do I need to hold still in order to get the epidural?" I asked.

"Yes. If you don't, it could be very dangerous."

I must have given her a look full of self-doubt because she looked me square in the eye and said "You can do this. You are highly motivated."

I could have laughed. She was right. I was nothing if not highly motivated.

I held still.

A Little... Weird

The thing they don't tell you about epidurals is that sometimes they don't work exactly like they are supposed to.

Actually, they do tell you this and then they make you sign a piece of paper saying you understand. Your friends and your sisters and your mom also tell you this, but you never expect it to happen to you.

My epidural only took on my left side. I waited patiently for the right side to go numb but the minutes kept ticking by with no luck. I mentioned it to Tiffany and she told me it would happen eventually. If not, the anesthesiologist would try again. No big deal.

As it turns out, I only needed half an epidural. My body relaxed. The shaking stopped. I could breathe and think and talk and smile again. I returned to myself as Tiffany began cleaning up and preparing to leave Scott and I alone in our room for the first time.

We began chatting about different things and out of nowhere I asked her a question.

"Will I get to hold my baby immediately after he is born? Assuming everything is fine and he's ok?"

"Definitely. Didn't that happen with your first baby?"

"Yes, it did. I just wanted to make sure." I told her. I still don't know exactly why I asked that. I knew my doctor would hand him to me right away. I guess I just wanted to make sure that everyone in the room knew that I would get him first. It was what I wanted more than anything.

She left us alone around 5 am. We turned off the lights and Scott and I both closed our eyes. He slept. I didn't. The pain in my right side kept me awake for the 30 minutes we were alone. Tiffany returned at 5:30 with some news.

"When you were in triage your baby's heartbeat was looking a little... weird. But he looks great now!"

"What do you mean, weird?" I asked.

"It kept dropping, but it's normal now. It could have just been the way you were sitting or the way the belt was placed on your stomach, but there is nothing to worry about."

As crazy as it sounds, I was only very slightly worried about this news. For one thing, Owen's heart was misbehaving almost the entire time I was in labor and he was nothing but healthy. Plus, I had a sneaking suspicion that the only reason they admitted me at a 2.5 was because of that "weird" heartbeat. And finally, I knew that the heartbeat monitor was slipping and sliding all over my stomach as I twisted and turned in the triage bed. I had faith that my boy was healthy.

Tiffany checked me and I prepared for her to tell me that nothing was happening and it was time to start the Pitocin.

"You're a 7!" She announce happily.

"A 7?!" One again, I was stunned. I had not expected to progress so quickly. I had only been admitted a couple of hours earlier.

I was also not expecting what happened next.

Not Ready

Seconds after Tiffany checked me, my water broke. It was filled with meconium.

And that's when our quiet, peaceful hotel room erupted. Tiffany called for back up. Our room suddenly filled with helping hands that turned my half-numb body from side to side and cleaned me up. On the positive side of things, this back and forth movement was enough to finally numb my right side.

Sometime during this flurry of activity Scott woke up and came to my side.

"There will a few other people in the room when your baby is born." Tiffany explained. "A nurse will need to take him first and make sure he didn't inhale any of the meconium. I feel so bad that I told you that you could hold him immediately."

I understand, I told her. And I did. I wanted to hold him but I needed him to be healthy. I wasn't worried about his heart but I was worried now. Scott grabbed my hand and said a prayer while Tiffany typed away at the monitor next to my bed. I wondered if it was weird for her to hear our private prayer of health of our little boy. And then I remembered that she is a labor and delivery nurse and has probably been privy to the prayers of many anxious parents.

At one point I heard Tiffany tell someone to call the doctor and I remember thinking it was too early. This all was happening way, way too fast.

By 6 am my doctor was in the room and I was a 10.

"Your baby probably just pooped because he's ready to be born." Tiffany explained soothingly.

But I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready as my sleepy doctor put on his gown and they wheeled a tray of instruments in front of me. I wasn't ready when they showed Scott how to hold my leg. I wasn't ready when told me to push.

By the time I started pushing with Owen, my epidural was out of medicine. I could feel the contractions again and I knew when to push. This time, the medicine had just barely kicked in. I had no idea what was happening.

Tiffany would tell me when a contraction was coming and then count for me while she pushed. In between each contraction I would look at Scott with wide eyes and shake my head in disbelief. I was a little bit in shock and didn't know what to say so I let those head shakes say it all for me.

Too fast.

Not ready.

How is this happening?

Too fast.

After a few minutes of pushing I began to feel the pressure of a building contraction and I would tell Tiffany when they were coming. I began to take control. I could do this.

Less than 15 minutes after we started, at 6:28 am, my baby boy was born.

Scott cut the cord and Graham was immediately placed in the hands of a nurse. She took him and placed him under the warmer while she got to work.

He peed on her.

Everyone laughed.

Scott ran over to her side.

He counted fingers and toes.

Graham was measured and weighed.

The nurse began sucking meconium out of his stomach.

My doctor stitched me up.

Through it all, I did not take my eyes off that tiny little body. I craned my neck to see him better. I was desperate to hold him. My arms itched in anticipation. Everything else faded away.

I was ready.

I was nothing but ready.

He was healthy and I needed to hold him.

Now.

After what felt like 20 minutes but was probably less than 5, Graham was wrapped in a blanket and placed in my arms.

Finally.

He was everything.

Epilogue 

Every day for 26 months I felt so incredibly lucky to have been given Owen. I could not believe that I was blessed to raise such an amazing little boy. I did not quite have the faith that it would happen again. I knew I would love this new baby every bit as much as I loved Owen because I loved him from the moment Scott and I decided we were ready for another. But part of me kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. No one gets so lucky, twice, right?

From start to finish my labor was 8 and 1/2 hours, give or take. It all happened so much faster than I had expected but it still felt like I had waited an entire lifetime to get him here. And now that he's here, I know that Scott and I didn't just get lucky twice. We have been blessed beyond measure.




I am so happy he is here and I am so happy he is mine. Forever.