Welcome, Lena Bambina

May 15, 2012

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Everything moved so fast, spun us, and now it’s all out of order in my head, like these changing, de-changing, and re-changing seasons we’ve been watching out the window these past three months. We had a breech baby girl, a fitting start to a beautifully bass-ackwards kind of 2012.

We found out she was head-up at 38 weeks. After trying to turn her myself for a few days (headstands on the couch, giant headphones strapped to my belly), I let the pros have a go at it. But they couldn’t un-breech her either–and for a very good reason, as it turned out. The the cord was wrapped around her neck.

The c-section wasn’t what I’d wanted, but… who cares. Our Lena made it here safely. She was born February 23rd at 7 pounds, 6 ounces, 20 and 1/4 inches. A full head of red hair topped her perfect, pudgy, pink face. The picture of health.


When the pediatrician first examined her in the hospital, he found that sometimes, her hip “knocked,” partially dislocating. So at his recommendation we took her to see an orthopedist, wishfully thinking it was just to rule out trouble. But Doc’s hunch was right: Lena’s socket had not formed correctly around the head of her femur. She had hip dysplasia.

As skeletal abnormalities go, it’s the best possible kind. When you catch it early, you can take advantage of the brief window in which the bones are still forming. Two days after we brought Lena home from the hospital, she was fitted with something called a Pavlik harness. The specialist bound her in thick strips of Velcro and told us never to take it off, not even for bathing. She wore it for six. Long. Weeks.

Lena adjusted quickly. We eventually caught up. Nursing, bathing, changing, everything was so difficult, especially the first few days. We yearned to cuddle her and feel her skin. To not have access to your newborn’s itty bitty toes is a special kind of torture.

But, again, who cares. The treatment worked. It saved her from walking with a limp and developing painful arthritis in her thirties. It cured her–completely painlessly. We’ll always be grateful for that.

Even now, more than a month after she was unharnessed, I am trying to make up for lost time, snuggling her as I type with one hand. I am so sad to be going back to work this week, but the good news is she’s not going straight into daycare. Dylan will be full-time daddying all summer while he’s on break from teaching–he cannot wait. Lena is healed, and I am healed, and now, all we have to do is raise her in this beautiful home where we’ve been been building a nest for her for years.

Since I got pregnant, Mr. DIY Mess has been unstoppable. While I was busy gestating, he was nestating. In the past year, he’s turned this…

… into this:

And this…

… into this:

And this (second floor kitchen, from our home’s former life as an apartment building)…

… into this (walk-in closet with laundry!!!):

And this… (Dylan’s studio–creative mind at work, here!)

… into this!

(Don’t worry; he’s set up shop in the spare bedroom for now, and eventually, he’ll have the whole third floor.)

My man is superhuman, it’s true. What a lucky girl Lena is to have a dad like him.

I’ll probably be even worse about updating my blog now that we are embarking on the mother of all DIY projects. Lena is ours again, itty bitty toes and all, and right now that’s more than enough for us. We are head over heels and bass-ackwards, loopy in love with this girl.


Baby kaboom

September 24, 2011

We have this joke that Dylan and his dad are electromagnetic. Streetlights have a habit of burning out when either of them passes by, and it’s even worse when you get the two of them together. Blown transformers. Block-wide blackouts.

I’m hypercharged too, or at least I used to be. I was born with an electrical disturbance in my heart–an extra circuit that kicked in at odd times and made my pulse gallop at 200+. When I was 18 I had a minimally invasive procedure that cured it. They threaded a catheter though my vein and essentially melted my mutant wiring away. Supposedly, it’s not genetic, but a few years ago we learned my mom needed the same procedure for the same reason.

I’ve heard the baby’s heartbeat several times now at the doctor’s office, and so far, everything’s fine. “Beautiful,” the doctor said.


Since I’ve been gestating, three transformers have blown on my street, one of them while I was standing less than 100 feet away. Last month, my car battery died–the thing was less than two years old. A few days ago, I discovered that my external hard drive at home had gone kaput. And yesterday, my work computer took a dirt nap, too.

Clearly, there’s only one reasonable explanation: I am carrying a 1.21 gigawatt baby.

My very first inkling that I was pregnant happened while I was sitting at my desk at work. For no reason in particular–not coffee, not sugar, not stress–my heart fell into a crazy rhythm: Every third beat, it threw in an extra one, extra hard: ka-BOOOM! This odd syncopation came and went, came and went, over and over all day. It wasn’t racing; it was just… improvising.

In all my arrhythmia spells as a kid, I’d never encountered anything like this. I’m a worrier by nature, and this kind of episode had all the makings of a full-on Elaine freakout. But I wasn’t scared.

From my work as a science writer, I’ve learned that estrogen has a powerful effect on our circuitry; it’s thought to be the reason women are more prone to arrhythmia than men. So my immediate thought was not that I was relapsing, not that I was having a heart attack. I was calm–pleased, even–and certain that this was a sudden shock of estrogen. A lightning bolt of blastocyst. My little baby kaboom.


Leap year baby!

September 1, 2011
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Without further ado, meet the DIY Mess’ new resident, slated for move-in at the end of February 2012! This, of course, is why all the radio silence. For the longest time, I was detoxing from DIY fumes and dust, which ruled out pretty much every project on the agenda, and Dylan was too busy with […]

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Q&A with Karl Champley, Judge of “Grant’s Real Stories” DIY Contest

March 31, 2011
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Recently I was invited to help promote Grant’s Real Stories, a contest that’s right up my alley. Scotland-based whisky distillery William Grant & Sons is looking for DIYers of all stripes to share stories and photographs of projects that could stand the test of time. The prize is a $10,000 a home entertaining makeover (!). They […]

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1920s Time Capsule: Part I

February 9, 2011
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Back when Dylan gutted the dining room in May 2008, he found a set of old pocket doors that have cleaned up beautifully–and they came with a little time capsule, to boot. Seems that ages ago, a crumpled wad of paper got caught on one of the doors and shoved back against the wall. As […]

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It’s 2011 already?!

January 2, 2011
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Próspero año y felicidad, y’all! A very quick update: We are not dead. We’ve just been busy. And broke. Since we had to replace our heater last winter, we’ve been racing to pay if off before the interest kicked in. So. Apologies for the five months of radio silence. We just couldn’t afford to do a dang thing to […]

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The grand entrance of our grand entrance

June 27, 2010

You may recall our fugly foyer, the unimpressive space that first welcomed us home in Spring 2008… … and the stairwell, all caked in layers of dull, cracking paint… … and how I heat-gunned and chemical’ed it until it was all a dried-up-boogery mess… … and how I scraped and sanded it all down until […]

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The ten-feet high club

May 11, 2010
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At the altitude of ten feet, holding a giant metal ceiling tile overhead while balancing on a ladder with hubby, things can get pretty hot and heavy. And not in a good way. “Okay,” he says. “A little bit toward me. STOP! A little bit toward you. WAIT! Right there. Don’t move, okay? DON’T MOVE!” […]

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