Till the Wheels Come Off

Ravenna West, Part Three
September 6, 2012, 12:39 am
Filed under: 2309, Family, Love, Photo

End of the line, folks. Tom’s last little bit is below. Thanks again for reading about my darling little girl’s arrival and for all of the encouragement.


So, dear friends and hippies of all decades, I have become that guy: the one who talks about his homebirth experience. How it was a spiritually-enlightening, eye-opening, No way! kind of experience. After re-reading this, I realize that I expend a lot of effort at not being certain things, rather than unabashedly letting my flag fly for the outlandish and marvelous things I do believe in and love. I imagine this outlandish and marvelous little girl will help me do just that.

Aside from my little girl’s birth, I should mention something else significant that happened a few weeks ago. I became Dad. Not a Dad, just “Dad.”

I always thought “Daddy” was far too precious and even tried to get Rocco to just stick with those first three letters when he first started muttering, “Da!”, but I eventually—and happily—learned to accept my full term of endearment.

Although this dad finally got what he wanted, he’s secretly looking forward to once again hearing “Daddy?!” from the lips of someone on tiptoes reaching for a countertop prize or, more likely, hoping to receive a sentencing pardon from their bunk.

As I write this, I’m sitting on the back porch of a friend’s beach house—close enough that I could easily (and happily) toss this computer into the lazy tide of the Puget Sound—while my best shot at Daddy v.2 practices her abilities to summon a Big Person with yells, screams and squalls from inside.

I’m going to go inside now and teach her that calling my name, in any form, will work every time. And despite being far-less equipped than Mom (anatomically or emotionally) to satisfy her needs, I’m going to remind her that, unlike Mom, I lead the best adventures, cook a tastier breakfast and make the finest pillow forts in all the land.


Ravenna West, Part Two
September 4, 2012, 11:46 pm
Filed under: 2309, Family, Love

Thanks for reading yesterday, everyone. As promised, Part Two:


Once we officially became clients of Carmon, within the next few days we borrowed and set up an inflatable birthing pool in our bedroom (which Rocco thought was the finest idea anyone had dreamed up since the rocket launch at his third birthday party), we began stockpiling Carmon’s list of homebirth supplies (on that very, very small chance that both car and uterus would stay parked at home) and proceeded to feel an unmerited calm between the two of us given our change of plan that felt as orchestrated as it was unprecedented.

And so, a few days later on a late Monday night, I called Carmon (who had already spent almost two days at another home birth) after Kate’s contractions had kicked into high-gear. Not wanting to be the hair-trigger parents—“Now? Now! I think it’s now. Wait, no… now!”—I told her that I’d keep her posted with Kate’s progress, but that she probably didn’t need to come yet. At this point, it was just Kate and I in our bedroom with candlelight, a good playlist and a not-empty-for-long bassinet by our bedside. Kate would enjoy 3-4 minutes of nonchalant conversation and trivial requests (“I wonder what Roc’s doing right now. Did you put the towels in the dryer?”) after which she’d hold my hands and breathe through contractions that tested her pain tolerance and developed within her an Einsteinian sense of the immense space contained within a single minute.

Fairly soon, her mom arrived to compensate for my utter lack of massage technique. Next, I was calling Carmon around 11:45p to artfully say, “The water! It broke!”, and Carmon was immediately en route, undoubtedly wondering why I was anything but urgent with my initial phone call.

When our hero midwife arrived shortly thereafter, she was hefting a sherpa’s load of gear into the house in a single trip. After checking on Kate and listening to the baby’s heartbeat, she began quietly but deftly arranging supplies and equipment in case things progressed faster than expected; which seemed to be a safe bet given the day’s events.

For the next hour or so, in between the heavy breathing of contractions Kate made jokes about my fear of seeming too demanding or urgent which could have very easily resulted in a doctorless delivery. Once supplies were arranged and the contractions began increasing in intensity, Carmon checked to see how things were progressing in order to know if it was time to head to the hospital. (If you’ve made a tiny human yourself, you’re likely quietly muttering, “Of course it was! Are you guys nuts?!” And you would be so very spot on. On both counts.) Carmon’s relieving—but quite unexpected—verdict to Kate was, “Your work is done, my dear. I’m sorry, but we’re not going to make it to the hospital. This baby is coming right here, right now.”

As Kate lowered herself into the water of the pool, Carmon suggested that I get into position to “catch” my daughter. And at 1:23a, that’s exactly what I did. Almost instantly, I laid Ravenna on Kate’s chest and watched in awe (and only a little bit of terror) as the little cord that had fed and nourished my daughter since conception (or thereabouts, my biology’s a bit hazy) pulsed its last, went still and was then clipped and presented to me to sever.

Recalling the evening, Kate and I both realized that, unlike Rocco’s delivery, neither of us shed a tear when Ravenna first opened her eyes or her mouth. There was only irrepressible joy when we saw her (and I believe I saw more than a little of Rosie’s “Yes we can!” fist-pump when I looked at Kate’s face).

We had been told for months and months about Kate’s slim chances of even delivering this baby naturally. Especially since Ravenna’s growth-rate appeared to be in a high percentile. Besides, homebirths were risky and issue-prone, right? Nursing would also likely be difficult. And yet, there I stood, watching my exhausted but healthy wife hold our very healthy daughter (ten pounds!) to her chest to nurse by candlelight in our own bedroom. At that moment, I was more than proud of my girls’ accomplishments. I experienced a kind of awe at what God, our Creator, allows and empowers us to accomplish. More than mere spectators at the miracles of creation, we are invited to participate in the labor as well as all of the pride and hopeful expectation that accompany creating some new thing, some new child. Someone in our image. Someone who will become like us. Like her brother. Someone who we will have the chance to fashion and teach and shape and love and love and love and finally share with the world, saying, “Here she is, Ravenna West. The very best we could do.”



Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up the trilogy. See you then!

Ravenna West, Part One
September 4, 2012, 2:19 am
Filed under: Family, Love, Photo

I asked my husband to write today’s post. So without further ado, here’s my better half:


I’m a recovering homebirth skeptic. There, I said it. Until Monday evening, August 7th, 2012, if you told me about your homebirth experience, I probably listened politely and said something about your bravery and sense of adventure. Afterwards, in conversation with my wife, I likely exchanged “bravery” for “crazy” and “sense of adventure” for “scents of hippie.”

But don’t get too offended yet, Courageous Granolas. My Enlightenment was imminent.

As sure as I was that Rocco was going to be a boy, I was equally, albeit indefensibly, positive that the second would not. Although we had the name Ravenna chosen well before either of their arrivals, it wasn’t until I had a growing belly to direct my thoughts toward that I began to imagine her personality, temperament and favorites: everything from records and seasons to cereal.

As the months progressed, Rocco began to identify with his semi-existent little sister. He’d pause at dinner with his fork mid-transit and ask us if we heard her talking to him; if we heard her ask to come out and play with him. Now, this boy can easily recite our planet’s oceans, continents and monuments, along with several facts about the make-up of our universe, but he also has some invisible friends, Bob and Mary, who are raising their very tiny family in the living room carpet about three feet from the fireplace. So it’s safe to say that the kid has one foot in this world and the other… well, the other is elsewhere.

Still, as freshly-minted parents, we read every possible interpretation of the tea leaves in our dialogue with the Little Man and treasured them all. And we couldn’t wait to eavesdrop on Our Kids’ conversations once there actually was a conversation on which to eavesdrop.

When Ravenna did arrive, she made her entrance in as different a manner from her brother’s as possible, as is expected of siblings. But, as all siblings know, the harder we try to distinguish ourselves from our irritating genetic sidekicks, the deeper our roots seem to extend. We can choose to head in opposite directions of the compass in search of some exotic destination, but half a globe later, we’ll inevitably find ourselves in some far-off place, face to face with one of our kin who’d been hoping for the same escape, and yet, unexpectedly, happy at the arrival of some good company in such a weird town. Thus, Ravenna did her best to distinguish her birth from Roc’s (likely so that she’d have a better story to tell—isn’t that why any of us do anything?), but they both still managed to have Hallstrom written all over them.

Rocco’s arrival was determined at the beginning by the fretful, tut-tuting of a decidedly American doctor armed with a schedule and an idea much better than our own, and then, at the end, by an awe-inspiring, elbows-deep Cesarean sectioning of my wife’s body. In went the blue-clad forearms and out of a potential tragedy came a tiny little breathing life. Heart-stealing, breath-stopping, squalling, vernex-covered life. I remember becoming instantly and hyper-aware of my own frailty; of my own responsibility to serve as but one of myriad pairs of dads and sons; and, especially, of his unexpected—and uncanny—resemblance to me. Not to Baby Tom but Now Tom. He had my mouth, my eyes. He was part of me. Part of us, as time would assuredly reveal, but on that day when he came from her, he looked like me.

Ravenna, on the other hand, wouldn’t have her arrival dictated by a doctor’s vacation schedule or preference. That’s simply not her style. She likes to arrive unexpectedly, with a banging door and a Kramer slide. “Hey, guys! Did you miss me?”

Although Kate really wanted to attempt a normal delivery, a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is considered “high-risk” and, thus, not most hospitals’ preference. So, once again, for 39 weeks we trudged up the familiar path to the top of Mt. Evergreen.

Evergreen is as convenient as it is sensible. Not only is it the closest hospital to our home, but it has nice, sizable rooms. And it’s quite convenient for visitors. Admittedly, it’s a great hospital. They’ve repaired a number of my own—and my siblings’—body parts. And quite well, I might add. So, despite being a frustratingly familiar (and potentially identical) experience, we figured that this hospital was our best bet for a safe and reliable delivery.

Knowing what was likely in store for us, I began praying on a daily basis for the pregnancy and the delivery. I didn’t pray specifically for a successful VBAC, I simply asked that we would have wisdom to know when to head to the hospital and, whether Kate ended up in surgery or not, that she would know she’d given her best shot at a natural delivery. I racked up quite a few miles around my office building during lunch hours thanking God for our daughter and asking for her safe arrival.

At the beginning of the fortieth week of Ravenna’s pregnancy, we were referred by a friend to a midwife who specialized in VBACs, multiples and breach deliveries. When Kate told me about this “Carmon” woman’s specialty, I imagined a smiling, scrubs-clad Rosie the Riveter with a stethoscope around her neck and a “Yes we can!” fist-pump.

But we had one week to go, folks. One. Week. Many babies have already been staking a claim on their preferred sleeping quarters by this time. But we picked up the phone anyway, because we have a healthy streak of “Ready! Fire! Aim!” in our blood.

When we opened our front door later that night to an undeniably lovely, very non-granola 30-something who stepped into our house, held both of Kate’s hands in her own and greeted her with a smile and a kiss, we knew we were either smitten or in trouble.

After a few hours of conversation, we learned that she had delivered over 400 babies here in the States (and even more in Haiti and the Philippines, thereby causing the two of us to seriously reassess our own meager personal accomplishments). She said that she had no reservations about Kate’s ability to have the kind of birth she was hoping for and that she thought the late-term of Kate’s pregnancy was of little concern to God’s sovereignty as He wasn’t likely too concerned about the timing of our introduction to each other. She also said that during early labor, she could help us identify the best time to go to the hospital, although a home delivery wasn’t entirely out of the question and should be prepared for as these situations tend to unfold on their own timetable.

When Carmon left that night, Kate and I both had that feeling you get when you leave a dinner party at some new neighbor’s or friends’ house and you get in the car, look at each other and say, “I dig those people.”

In praying for wisdom, we had expected knowledge rather than a person. But having learned long since not to be picky in how our prayers are answered, we both agreed that whatever went down in the coming weeks, we wanted Carmon on our team.


Part 2 coming tomorrow…

No big deal birthday.
April 19, 2012, 8:26 am
Filed under: Family, Friends, Love, Photo

Let’s be honest. I have never had a no big deal birthday. Every single year of my life, the people who love me have made my birthdays so much fun and so worth looking forward to. This year it fell on Easter, and since Rocco was all about that very important day, I wanted to keep it special and celebrate my birthday before or after. Well, it worked out just fine! Friday, Saturday AND Monday were so fun! On Friday, we hung out as a family until 3:00 when we took Roc to my parents’ so that my mom could send us on a birthday date. When we left the house, we stopped at the mailbox… a package from KAYLEE! Yippee! I was so excited to see what she had sent, and let me tell you, she took care of me! An outfit for our baby girl, spring nail polish, gold Saltwater sandals, two Moleskine notepads, new pictures of the girls, Oreos (duh) and Easter treats for Rocco!

Thank you, Kaylee girl, you know me well.

Ok, back to my mom’s date. She had it all worked out: she handed me a gift bag, I opened it to find all kinds of old school candy, even Juicy Fruit gum! It also had a gift certificate for dinner, a CD of songs titled ‘A walk down memory lane,’ two tickets to see Titanic and 3D glasses! I couldn’t wait to pop that CD in and see what she came up with. You really have to know your kid to be able to recall the songs she loved 15 years ago, don’t you think? She hit the nail on the head too, the CD was filled with R.E.M., Sarah McLachlan, Shania Twain, and Celine’s ‘My Heart Will go on’  made it on there of course. We just laughed and remembered making out to these terrible songs; he must have really liked making out with me to listen to Celine Dion. This date was really perfect because back in 1997 when Titanic came out, I was all kinds of ‘in love’ with the man I am now married to. When I watched it three times in the theater and Leonardo DiCaprio was on the screen, I swore that he looked exactly like Tommy; my dream was to look like Kate Winslet AND we shared the same name, I mean, you can see the similarity here, right?! When you are 17 and foolishly smitten, it’s very easy to make these connections. We took our 3D glasses, and candy (a few Oreos too, thanks Kay!) into the theater and were transported back from the first moment the movie started. My perspective was a bit different now. When Leonardo appeared, all I could think of was, “Conner looks JUST like him!” Definitely not the same when all you can see is your husband’s little brother. Let me show you what I mean.

Anyways, after the movie was over, we hit up McCormick & Schmick’s for their late night happy hour…something we used to do all the time before Roc came along. It was a perfect evening, we drove home listening to our mix CD, grateful that we, and all of the people in our life (especially our parents!) can laugh now at how incredibly immature and selfish we were as teens. We knew from a young age that we were meant for each other, but to say we could have done things differently is the understatement of the year. I’m so thrilled that Tommy was and is the one for me and that we have such a long history. We pulled into our driveway, and just had to make out, you know… for old times’ sake.

The next morning I woke up fully rested to sunshine, flowers, coffee, breakfast in bed and a love note. That is the perfect way to wake up, let me tell you!

I stayed in bed till about 10 when I knew it was time to do something: donuts, coffee and breakfast all before your feet hit the ground is just not good for a person. We went straight to the gym and ran (ok, fine… I walked) on the treadmills, did a few other exercises and left there a little after 11. It was so beautiful that we decided to go for a bike ride when we got home. We’re just a couple of regular athletes! (I wish.)

We took the afternoon easy and then met up with just a few friends for dinner. Drinks and appetizers at Earl’s and then dinner at Din Tai Fung!

Erin, we’re cute matching friends. Thank you for sharing your birthday with me. I love love love you.

The next day was Easter, and since I already posted about that here, I won’t make this post longer by repeating it. You’re welcome.

As if those fun times weren’t enough, my mother-in-law came over at noon on Monday so that the party could continue. I am so grateful, I really am. I got a massage, a manicure & pedicure with my mom and a friend, visited Kortney at the hospital, then met up with some of my favorite people at Black Bottle for a spontaneous ladies night out.

Turning 32 (yikes!) was fantastic. Party on, people. Party on.

Happy birthday, Poppy!
April 13, 2012, 12:00 am
Filed under: Family, Love, Photo

We love you!

Sweet 16
April 3, 2012, 12:02 am
Filed under: Family, Love, Photo

I can’t wrap my mind around this. Once upon a time, I spent my days with this girl.

Savannah, Jake & my little brother August.

She was 5 when we met, today she turns 16. Cue hyperventilation now. We’ve lived in a few states together: Florida, Arizona & Washington. We’ve been through lost teeth, broken bones, bobbles (my signature hairdo) & many, MANY bedtime prayers.


The perfect flower girls – it’s BOTH of their birthdays today! Happy birthday, Kol!

Savannah, Jake, Judah & Isaiah were a big part of my life for 5 years – I learned so much in that time. Nannying was and is the perfect job for me – I think mostly because I don’t see it as a job. I genuinely love and care the kids that I get to play a part in raising…it is a real privilege.

Back to the birthday girl…she isn’t a little girl anymore. Some days I wish she was. I enjoyed getting her ready for school, making her Eggo waffles over and OVER, and of course, can’t forget the bobbles! She swears I pulled her hair to be mean…not true sister! I just had to used those half up bobbles to get her head to turn away from Fairly Odd Parents so they weren’t crooked, sometimes beauty is pain!

Six years ago Savannah moved to California with her family. We toyed with the idea of moving with them, me as the nanny and Tom as the “pool boy,” but knew in reality that Seattle was where we were supposed to stay. I watched as the giant van pulled away from their house headed for the airport with several one way tickets and I cried my eyes out. It was the weirdest feeling, I had no clue what to do with myself! I finished up a few things around the house, locked up, then my puffy eyes and I pulled away for one last time. Surreal. In the weeks following the move I thought about my girl and her brothers as they experienced so many “firsts” in their new city. First day of school. First Halloween. First Thanksgiving….you get it. Now those firsts have added up to six years, and can’t seem to get the fact that these kids grow up! What the heck?! I mean, I’m not getting older at all over here…riiiggghhhhttt.

There are times when I wish that our lives were still closely entwined, but then I realize it’s probably for the best, a 16 year old can’t rock the bobbles quite like a 5 year old.

Savannah, you are growing up to be absolutely lovely. Inside and out.

Ad, Roc & Sis last summer.

Happy, happy, happy sweet 16.

I love you so!

It’s big news around here!
March 22, 2012, 1:08 am
Filed under: Family, Love, Photo

March 22nd. Husband’s birthday. I love him and love to celebrate him.

As of today, this guy is 31.

Just look at that boy. De-lish.

Way back when. Still de-lish. I swear that harsh makeup was all the rage.

So glad we did that.

And that.

You have always been and will continue to be my one and only.

Until we’re old and gray.

Happy birthday, my love!