Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Arrival of Tobias Prescott Lehmann

So here's the story, for those of you who want to know. Better late than never, eh?

I'd been up for a normal day on Tuesday, and was contemplating going to bed around midnight, when I started having symptoms that labor might not be too far away. Thinking, "oh shoot, I haven't even slept yet", I put a towel down and climbed into bed. Well that was a big waste of time, as shortly after, contractions started, and I got to spend all night in early labor.

We stayed in bed until things hotted up around 4 a.m., when Chad got up to hook me up to the TENS machine and then toddle down to the living room to start a fire (the primary heat source in our house, how very Little House on the Prarie, no?). By 6 a.m. I was shouting the whole house down while Chad sat at the computer timing my contractions using a handy little online device for just such a purpose. I considerately waited to call my midwife until 8 a.m., and felt a little desperate when she said I should try to wait at home for another couple of hours based on how my contractions were going - the coming 45 minute drive over very windy roads while in active labor looming large in my mind. An hour later I met the required requirements and was told we could head in.

We rolled in to the birth center and I gratefully settled in to my labor room at a respectable 4 cm. Everything was going quite well after a healthy and uneventful pregnancy, but a couple of hours later I got the news that my waters were going a bit green and we'd have to go to the hospital to keep a closer eye on the baby. Saddened to lose my birth center birth, I nonetheless stoically boarded the gurney for my first-ever ambulance ride (standard procedure) while Chad followed in our car.

They got me into the delivery suite and strapped both fetal and contraction monitors to my belly - the latter seemed a little superfluous to me at the time, as I could sure tell you all about when and how the contractions were coming on. Then the fetal monitor started losing the heartbeat during contractions when it was most needed, so we had to "graduate" to a scalp clip to keep a better eye on things. I could have kicked the staff midwife, as it took three tries to get it in, and I was not loving the idea of my baby being jabbed in the head even once! All the vitals were stable however, and I settled into more hard work and waiting - the true stuff of childbirth.

When it was time for the next exam, they found that I was only at around 6 cm, and was starting to swell along one side. This was especially bad news as it had been five hours since I was at 4 cm, and my body thought it was time to transition to pushing contractions. I was using some nitrous oxide/oxygen mix to help with the increasing pain, and fighting hard not to push, but after watching me for awhile, they began recommending an epidural in hopes that my muscles could relax enough to stop trying to squish the baby out a too-small opening and dilate fully. At that point I actually welcomed the idea, as they told me the baby's head was also becoming swollen from the effort.

The only problem with having joyfully accepted the offer of nuclear pain relief, was that it was a very exciting day in the labor ward and took another 40 minutes for an anesthesist to be free to see me - ugh! But in time, they got me all set up and resting comfortably and I must say, a bit more alert to the world around me.

My mental relief was short-lived, as I saw my midwife Julie take the heartbeat readout and take off to get a doctor's opinion on what she saw developing. When she came back with the doc, the first words out of my mouth were, "Am I headed for surgery?", as that was my most dreaded outcome other than Baby's safety being at risk. The team then spelled out exactly what was going on, and why they were concerned, but ultimately left it up to me to choose - for which I was hugely grateful. Bubs was stable, but not in the best shape from the vitals, and it became apparent after some testing, and wait-and-see, that I wasn't going to be able to deliver on my own soon enough to keep him safe, and maybe not at all. With another sigh of resignation, I said let's go for it, and waited to feel crushed and defeated about the whole thing.

What followed instead was an amazingly peaceful and even fun birth, courtesy of God and my amazing surgical team. On a random side note, Chad looks quite foxy in scrubs - maybe he should've pursued a medical career! We all chatted and joked the whole time, and before long one of the docs casually said "Oh boy", to which I immediately said "It's a boy?!?!" She replied, "Oh, well we haven't actually looked yet," but in another minute (6:53p.m. to be precise), Baby was out and seen to be safe, healthy, and most definitely male. Chad went over to see his fine new boy and watch the pediatrician check him out, while I hung out on the table as they put all my internal bits back together. They brought Baby back all wiped off, and with a wool hat to cover his impressive conehead, to let him meet his mum for the very first time (on the outside, of course).

After seeing him carted off to the scales all purply and pooky-headed, I'd remarked how he may not be pretty, but I sure loved him anyway - much to the doctors' amusement. By the time he got back, I decided that actually, he was rather cute, and settled into cuddling someone entirely new. The three of us spent a quiet hour in recovery, where we got to know one another a little bit and have some dinner, and soak up the surreal fact that we were now PARENTS!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Boys and their toys...

(Chad here) I generally consider myself a "manly man" inclined to work on the car, split firewood by hand, carry a multitool on my belt (...everywhere...), etc, so needless to say I can appreciate the finer points of "manly" activities. I recently had the opportunity to take part in two stereotypical male-dominated events that I hadn't been a part of before....

First on the scene, the Hamilton 400 V8 Supercar street circuit in Hamilton. Basically they took about 4 square city blocks in the middle of town and put up concrete barriers and chain-link fences and let professional drivers rip around on the pavement that I would otherwise be driving on whilst running errands or heading to work.
During the 4-day event they have all different classes of cars run the track from mini-F1 style Toyota's to stock Porsche's to the centerpiece
which are the Australian V8 Supercars. They race in Aussie and NZ and would most likely compare
to NASCAR except that it's a bit more of a street race than a giant oval. All the cars are massively turbo-charged and LOUD.... good times... =) I didn't get tickets to the event, but our company was responsible for some of the track lighting, so a few of the guys got All-Access Contractor passes so they could getin and maintain the lights if required.
Well, since they didn't ALWAYS need to be on the track "maintaining" said lights, my work-mate and I were able to borrow a couple passes and head
down to the track for a few hours one day. We wandered the whole track unhindered - just flash the "All-Access" we were away! Any grandstand, down in the pits, take your pick! We didn't stay for long, but certainly long enough to get a bit of hearing damage and few shots of the cars racing past. All I needed was an RV and a confederate flag!!!


Then, a few weeks ago a mate from church had his bachelor party - which is known here as a "stag do", the contrast to which would be a "hen's night" for the girls. Anyway, he's a farmer and a fellow manly man, as are his brothers-in-law who set up an afternoon of clay pigeon target practice out on the farm. Yeeeee-HAW! Let's go SHOOT sumthin! There were about 15 guys and four 12-gauge shotguns with target rounds. Two of the guns were 5 shot pump-action, 1 was semi-automatic, and 1 was a double barrell, old-school gun with two
triggers! We all chipped in for ammo and clays and over the course of about 3 hours of shooting we managed to go through roughly 500 rounds ...and sadly not nearly so many pigeons met their fate. Though, for never having done this in my life, I think I shot about 70% - which drew all kinds of fun jokes from the peanut gallery about being a gunslinging Texan who was born with a gun in my hands! (my mom could witness to the contrary =) The groom-to-be wasn't much of a shot in the end, but he had a good time, and the best shot of everyone, far and away, was one of the church elders in his 70's who pretty much didn't miss a single one! (veteran
duck hunter, of course) We were all in awe. Most of the day we had two guns running at a time since the launcher could shoot two pigeons at once, but towards the end with people getting hungry for the BBQ feed and ammo to burn I'm pretty sure they unleashed all four guns at once on two unsuspecting clay pigeons. Poor guys.

Hopefully I'll have more grunty events to share in the future (...WRC RallyNZ in August!), but hopefully this will infuse a bit of testosterone to everyone's reading for today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Carneys, circus folk...nomads, you know...

...or, why my brain has been too fried to write on the blog in over a month. Brace yourselves, it's a novel.

A number of years ago, I watched one evening as some friends got adjusted to life as new parents in their 2 bedroom apartment. At the time I thought to myself, "Wow, I'm so going to wait until I have my own house to have kids." I can just imagine God watching from his eternal perspective and laaaaaaaaughing when he heard that. Why? Because here I am, 6 1/2 months pregnant, and living in a dorm room at a Bible camp on the other side of the world. Life's funny that way.

Another good friend of mine reckons that her life was quite on track until she became a Christian - then all her carefully crafted plans flew right out the window, and she's gone in a direction she could never have imagined before. Such is the wonder and the terror of surrendering control over your life to a perfect sovereign God, who sees the end beyond the sometimes confusing and dispiriting means.

Sometimes people doubt that God is big or strong enough to carry them through the challenges and closed doors in our lives. This is not my problem. No, I absolutely believe in heart and mind that God has the ability to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. My problem is getting frustrated knowing that he often asks me to go through a process of learning and growth (L&G, I call it), instead of just giving me what I ask for right away.

Such has been the case in the unexpected and unprecedented realm of housing this time around. In the first 5 years of our marriage, we rented a grand total of three different places. Though having come to New Zealand only 2 1/2 years ago, we will be soon be onto our sixth place of residence - that's twice the houses in half the time! As we ran off to the Eastern Hemisphere partly to escape the domestication of all our friends by mortgages & children, this nomadic lifestyle was only amusing and slightly annoying for the most part.

But then, somewhere along the path to our 30th birthdays, we got old! We went from footloose and fancy-free to yearning for the house and babies we'd avoided for so long. While those things are all very well and good, what do you do with those longings when you're still in the middle of the itinerant existence? Get pregnant anyway, apparently, then search for a more settled place to live. The second part of that equation has never been a problem before - in fact, we once found a house in 13 days on an emergency basis that turned out to be one of the best and most lengthy tenancies we've had!

Naturally, we didn't anticipate any major roadblocks, since it's not like God didn't know we are extra in need of a house on account of the forthcoming extra dependent. But alas, I guess my hormonally-enhanced self was in need of a good L&G experience right now.

We'd been responsibly working on finding the next house since January (a lease takeover from friends), in order to be sorted when we had to leave our old place in early April. All was cruising along until we got back from our South Island trip in March and found out that one of these friends was unwilling to let us into the new house until a month after we lose the old place. A weeks-long, frantic scramble for temporary lodging ensues. Once that was finally sorted, the bottom really fell out when the owners of the new house, who had previously told us they were fine with us taking over the lease (even the week before), decide that actually, too bad for us, they're going to give it to someone else. Cue big, fat, blue funk on both our parts.

Now I know that God is good, but I was definitely a little cheesed at him in this situation. After all, I had been depending on him, and it seemed the situation was divinely appointed: original timing was good, beautiful spacious house, available long term, helping out our friends, etc. And now looking down the barrel of homelessness, I was fully of the attitude that "I don't want to grow my faith, I'll just take the security and blessing now, please!"

*sigh* All right, all right, I'll commence with the growth already.

While we have definitely had to choose to consider it all joy encountering this kind of trial, we've been gifted in other ways to help it not be too burdensome.
1) The great house that we lost is rather out in the sticks, which could have proved difficult at times approaching my due date and as a new mum.
2) The more we heard about the situation, the owners of that house have seemed increasingly high maintenance and demanding - not ideal, even if you're good tenants.
3) Last but not least, I'm not one who would say that I really "hear from God", other than praying and trying to follow his lead. That said, twice now I've had inspiration for people to contact for help when virtually no one else would that I cannot claim credit for on my own; they really just occurred to me out of the blue.
3a)The first was to ask my old boss about the room here at the camp, which has been soooo helpful.
3b)The second was to ask some old landlords from 2 winters ago if their house would be available again this year. Low and behold, it was! After a delightful lunch meeting with them, we finally have somewhere to go and get set up before you-know-who makes an appearance. It's much more accessible, the owners are obviously wonderful, and it's furnished so we can easily sort through and offload some of our things, which we've been wanting to do anyway (amazing how much stuff you can amass, even when playing at "world traveler").

All I can say is, "Fine, Lord, once again you knew what you were doing all along and I was silly to give into fear and doubt." Oh, that and, "HALLELUJAH!"

Thank you to all of you who prayed for us on this, it was a big encouragement - and to Mom P. & Bethany for the steady stream of reminders of their thoughts and support, even when I know they'd much rather have us home :)

P.S. I'd have added some pics for interest, but thought the types of images around which this post revolves (i.e. shots of random houses we've lived in, and us looking shell-shocked), would not really be an enhancement.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tapas: Spanish for "world's smallest portions"

For those of you who have never heard of them, tapas refers to any small, savory, usually Spanish dish served as a snack or as several varieties together to form a light meal. As I am usually oblivious to all things trendy, I barely registered when this manner of noshing became fashionable a little while ago. Yet last Tuesday when Chad & I were exploring the lovely Southern city of Dunedin, we decided to try some as a classy alternative to our road trip standard of PB&J. As the tapas were fairly cost effective, we ordered three types, intending to put together the aforementioned light meal. What we received was this:

For reference, note that the little serving bowls were 4 in. across at their widest point.

While clearly beautifully presented and crafted from top ingredients, THREE orders of the stuff failed to provide even the caloric intake of ONE regular appetizer. Now, I'm not stuck on loading down my stomach in the middle of the day, but the whole caboodle cost twice as much as most appetizers, and we would have had to roll ourselves to the car on an equivalent value of food from any other restaurant we would normally frequent.

*sigh* I must just be one of the masses when it comes to high fashion and fine dining. Guess I'll have to stick to more lowbrow options like Subway where I belong.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Autumn starts...wait for it...right NOW!

Queenstown, Late February 2009

While watching the weather forecast on March the 1st, the meteorologist remarked,

"You may be worried that the start of Autumn means the golden days are behind us, but we're expecting conditions to stay warm and mild through the end of April."

This statement may not seem odd to you, unless you realize that there is no corresponding astronomical event on March 1st to mark a change of season. That's right, here in New Zealand, the seasons change when we say they do, with no pesky scientific interference from solstices or equinoxes.

Kiwi Summer officially runs from December 1st to February 28th (or 29th in a leap year, of course), simply because those are the months that encompass Christmas and the school holidays. Funnily enough, the weather through to the end of March when the equinox occurs is usually more warm and pleasant than it is in December - but March 21st is so much less tidy and easy to remember, am I right?

It probably came about in much the same way as the recent daylight savings time change. Before 2008, Daylight savings time in NZ ran fairly close to that of other places, including the States (with the springing forward & falling back swapped, since our seasons are opposite) because it was handy enough to do so.
But one day, a few bright sparks said, "Hey! Nobody likes it when daylight savings time ends, so why don't we extend it for three weeks and get some more sun-filled days?"
The government replied, "Oh sure, why not? But just get together a petition and have enough people sign it so we know the idea is as popular as you say it is."
"No worries, mate." they said.
And within a few short weeks they had gathered the signatures and *poof* three more government-certified weeks of daylight savings.

Perhaps it's not the best example, what with daylight savings pretty much being an obsolete figment of the imagination, but it all just goes to show that the power of a government's "Because I said so" can be put to less sinister use - like fiddling with time.

P.S. Dear Jill H., I apologize for not researching the proper grammatical use of quotation marks and dialogue before writing this entry, but frankly, I was feeling lazy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Status Report: We have reached 50% gestation

Scans are the best! If it weren't for the fact that the medical community isn't exactly sure how much ultrasound exposure is good for the little sprog, I'd have one every week! I mean, think about it: you're looking at someone entirely new, who you can bond with and adore without braving the challenges of actual baby care (like crying for hours on end and spitting up all over your freshly cleaned dress shirt). It's also a time when you can breathe a sigh of relief because you know that right then, in that moment, everything is healthy and well. And even if they have zero personality, the ultrasound tech showers you with glorious words like "normal" and "average" - which, while you may go on to become one of those hypercompetitive parents later on, is the best news ever.

Here's the latest pics of Bubzilla:

Head & torso in profile

Left leg & foot

Bubs at boxing practice, praying, or showing off some biceps & delts action.

And according to the scan, we're having a..................BABY!! Hee hee, it's still a surprise. Sorry :)

And finally, a few things I have learned since getting pregnant:
  • You can feel sick and want to eat at the same time.
  • You are quite impressed with yourself for growing a real live baby, while also sometimes feeling pudgy and frumpy.
  • You're every desire can be played off as "what the baby wants/needs" - but only the first time around. Husbands get wise to this quickly.
  • We first-time moms get showered with lots of lovely attention, while second(etc.)-time moms get far too little. Oh sure, try doing it all again with a demanding toddler, and a baby who acts nothing like your first one!
  • You feel pleased and yet very weirded out when something starts moving inside you. Sci-fi movies come to mind.
  • For those months modesty becomes a thing of the past - at least where medical professionals are concerned. "Take off what so you can examine what? Oh sure, why not."
It's all glamour, I tells ya ;)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Footbaaaaaaaall?!

Chad & I have been in the midst of a loooong football famine - it's literally been years since we've been able to sit down, crack open a cold one (coke, of course) and watch some good ol' NFL Monday Night Football. So we were a bit giddy when we found out that one of the cable sports networks was rebroadcasting this year's Super Bowl a few hours after it ended. Not having time to rustle up even some hot wings, we scurried over to our kiwi parents' house to sponge off their cable TV. They were actually quite interested in what was going on, and finally understood how I feel watching rugby, where it looks interesting, and you get the general aim, but the details escape you. Chad was able to field most of their questions effectively, with yours truly even coming up with useful info on the whys and wherefores of gridiron.

The balmy weather and lack of snacks and team sweatshirts were a little disconcerting, but the UPside was that the rebroadcast was commercial-free, and they even cut out the segments of the game where nothing significant happened. Even so, just the highlights ran 2 1/2 hours, so we were happy little hamsters. While some of you might bemoan missing out on the extravagantly expensive creative marketing offerings by various beer & car companies, my main concern was: when the heck are you supposed to go to the bathroom?! This problem was largely avoided in the end, as both of us had caught up on the way the game went in advance, so we pseudo-psychically knew when there was a minute or two of leeway.

Our analysis: We wanted the Cardinals to have won since we tend to pull for the underdog, but they brought much misery on themselves through silly penalties, and frankly, Pittsburgh just outplayed them. And also, Kurt Warner never smiles. I was glad to see him in another Super Bowl (and that his wife grew out that hideous butch haircut of hers) but the man has lost his ability to make facial expressions since leaving the Rams.

Kurt Warner having just thrown an interception that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown:


Kurt Warner having just thrown a touchdown pass to give his team the lead in the Super Bowl.

I guess it doesn't matter much since they probably don't offer Saturday Night Live hosting gigs to the losing quarterback.

And now, I wish you all the best and truly sympathize as you enter the difficult stretch that is life beyond football season (no, the pro bowl does not count).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Here Comes the Bride (so why isn't my flash going off?!?!)

Ah, the wonderful world of wedding photography...

Last weekend, Chad and I had the privilege of photographing the wedding of some friends of ours. While the day dawned bright and beautiful, the not so beautiful side effect was the fact that the temperature soared into the nineties in a country where air conditioning is NOT a given. As camera-stalking melting people who had to get dressed up despite the heat and humidity makes this job a labor of love, it's a good thing Chad loves doing it as much as he does.

And now, a commentary on wedding photography in general, from someone who has spent a little time in the trenches:

If you peruse most photographers' wedding website galleries, what you'll find highly under-represented are the obligatory formal portraits that are feared and loathed by both the photographer and photographees.

On the one hand you have the wedding party and families, who honestly don't want to stand for hours with frozen smiles while you take essentially the same picture endless times, yet can't pass up the opportunity to get a family photo with everyone gathered and (mostly) nicely dressed for the first time in 10 years. Then you have the poor photographer who really can't do much with the bulk of them creatively to make them more than just a record of who was there on the day - all while trying to achieve the impossible job of making everyone look good at once.

The reason this is such a herculean task is that the average person has no idea how to be photographed well. Really, it's quite shocking. You'd be amazed at the little things that they do: standing practically hunched over, refusing to adopt even a remotely pleasant expression, forgetting to put down random objects they're holding, and even chronically NOT LOOKING AT THE CAMERA (?!?!). My primary job as photographer's assistant is to try to counteract this phenomenon as much as possible, but even then, to harp on it until everyone in the shot is presentable means it would take three times as long, and they might possibly assassinate me out of hunger and boredom.

The wedding this weekend was not even full of especially difficult characters, and went off quite well - it's just the nature of the wedding beast.

That said, we had a wonderful time capturing the highlights of two people celebrating their love and commitment to each other, and can't wait to do it all again in late May! Unfortunately in that instance, I'll have to scale back my responsibilities - being on your feet for 9 hours when you're 8 months pregnant is for masochists only. Should also be good times trying to find a flattering dress for the event when you're as big as a house!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Silly Season

...the Kiwi term for the holidays.

Well the end of the year was a gas, and about 100 miles an hour at times. Starting in late November, I was tasked with developing and writing the Christmas program for church, all to be completed amidst our frantic preparations for overseas guests. I was a little terrified at first, as dialogue is not something I've ever remotely attempted. The bulk of it was done with Chad and I playing news anchors for Surfside World Report, calling ourselves Charity Churchmouse and Evan Baxter (of Bruce Almighty & Evan Almighty movie fame). We reported on the various signs of the impending birth of Jesus in modern-day format, incorporating an astronomer, three foreign dignitaries (magi/wise men), and some (modern Kiwi) shepherds. It ended up being a lot of fun, as well as well received, so that was gratifying.

A few weeks later some of Chad's family (Dad, Mum, Jill, & Megan) popped by for a couple of weeks just before Christmas (thanks again to Jeff & Teri who held down the Sachse fort all by themselves so they could come!). Last year, after an unexpected and very soggy midwinter move, we happened into the big ol' house we're currently renting, so we were all pretty spaciously accommodated, despite all using the same shower - a big hot water heater helped.

We dragged them around to meet all of our NZ friends and family, who were delighted to meet them, and got to show off a little why were STILL here over a year longer than originally planned. The local beach was a great favorite, where continual surfing lessons by the Chad yielded some impressive newly acquired wave-riding skills by Jill & Megan.

Then it was off to the Coromandel Peninsula, an area of peaceful beach communities and rough roads (most of which have only been paved within the last decade). While dragging six of us and a 15-foot camper over a small mountain range, Pedro, our (mostly) trusty 18 year-old SUV blew a radiator hose, and we ended up eating lunch in the camper on the side of the road while Chad called in reinforcements to rescue us. A couple of his professional connections cheerfully came and picked us up, depositing us on the beach in scenic Pauanui to play the afternoon away while Chad snagged the necessary part and put Pedro together again. Which, by the way, is SOOOO attractive in a man ;)

One day was spent on a hike that took us through 500 yards or so of an abandoned mine shaft, that's now maintained by the Department of Conservation. We were all a little claustrophobic at the thought, but it turned out to be quite manageable and fun, as the conditions were perfect for glowworms, who sat glowing merrily just over our heads the whole way.

We also spent a day in the Cathedral Cove area, made recently famous by standing in as the gateway to Narnia in the Prince Caspian movie. We did a bit of snorkeling before lunch in Gemstone Bay, then filled our tummies and continued on to the featured attraction. The Cove is definitely more beautiful in person, if only because you know you have the thrill of actually being there. The afternoon was very fine, so the vivid golds, blues, and greens all around us did nothing to spoil the atmosphere.

We all had a great time and were sad to see them go. Pictures of the bulk of our adventures can be seen at: http://picasaweb.google.com/chad.lehmann

In order to keep us from being sad & lonely without our family on Christmas, we were invited to a round of Christmas Adam (called so because it comes before Christmas Eve- duh!), Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day celebrations. We were grateful to feel so loved and included, but dashing hither and yon for 48 hours after just getting back from the airport, we were knackered by 3 pm on Christmas Day! Christmas night was spent snarfing leftovers and watching Home Alone 2 on T.V. - very Norman Rockwell :)