On Becoming a Hillbilly

“Neil!” I woke myself up yelling. Just a second before, still half asleep, I heard what sounded like something was in trouble.

“Shhh, Kalie.” Neil shot back immediately. Apparently I had been talking in my sleep.

As soon as his words fell we fully awoke and recognized the noise.

“The chickens!”

Neil darted out of bed and ran out the sliding door that leads to the deck, hitting the outdoor light and grabbing a grill basket before descending the stairs. From the deck I saw the infiltrator: a raccoon. I watched from the deck as Neil, wearing only his boxers, smacked the top of the chickens’ box with the grill basket to scare the raccoon. As he yelled at it and pulled off the top of the box I wondered how he was going to fight a raccoon while barefoot and practically naked. My fear subsided quickly as the raccoon jumped out the top and scurried away.

“Are they okay?” I asked.

“One of them is bleeding.”

“Awww.” The irony of our concern for the chickens and outrage at the raccoon was lost on me at 3:30 in the morning, but I feel justified because raccoons are nasty scavengers who ate my carrots out of the cooler when I was camping. They also kill just to kill. Supposedly Neil slit their throats the “humane” way, and while it didn’t bother him, he said he got a bad taste in his mouth each time he killed one.

Neil tried to get a better look at the wounded chicken. A thin trail of blood ran next to its wing and it squawked and squirmed when Neil tried to pick it up to examine it. He let it go.

“Doesn’t look too bad. He can still walk.”

As Neil secured the box with large rocks that bordered the nearby flower bed, we conjectured about how the raccoon got in. The top of the box was a wooden frame covered with two overlapping pieces of chicken wire. It usually rested unsecured on top of the box and was still sitting squarely in place when Neil rushed out to save the chickens. Seemingly the raccoon broke in via the overlap in the chicken wire. Neil wove sticks through the wire to keep the pieces together until he could secure the box more permanently the next day.

Back in bed, we couldn’t sleep after such an adrenalin rush. The humor of the situation dawned on us once we stopped worrying so much about the chickens. I imagined telling someone the story in my best hillbilly accent. Better yet, I imagined the neighbors watched Neil run around in his underwear, batting a raccoon away from his chicken coup with a grill accessory while his knocked up wife watched the action. The breaking and entering occurred right next to the fence separating our yards, after all.

A couple weeks earlier when the chickens first graduated from the garage to the yard, Neil wanted to give the neighbors fair warning. So when he saw them outside he invited them to come see the chickens.

“I’m not going to lie, that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” said the twenty-something wife.

The next day, there was a for sale sign in their yard.

I spent the rest of the week trying to convince Neil that it wasn’t the chickens.

“We’re weird,” he concluded. “We’re officially weird.”

“Yeah, but you don’t just decide to put your house on the market in one day because we’re weird.”

Maybe he was right.

Maybe they were right.

Neil said country is different from hillbilly. Probably true, but I did spend the week right before the eventful night on the beach, seven months pregnant in a two-piece bathing suit. Not a maternity bathing suit, but my normal, not-pregnant bathing suit. If I learned anything from lifeguarding at a hillbilly campground, it’s that hillbillies of any size or shape will wear a bikini. No matter if you’re 100 pounds or 500, a bikini is appropriate beach attire if you’re missing a few teeth and your hair faintly resembles a mullet no matter how you cut it.

Later that week, I purchased an oversized fanny pack. I’m not sure what this means, but I’m afraid to find out.

Our friends came over to try the first chicken this week. Upon arrival their two-year-old daughter, who apparently had been praying for the “baby chicks” since first seeing them, asked, “Did the baby chicks go to their new home?”

I glanced at the golden-skinned bird and got out an unconvincing, “Yes.”

The “Oh S***” Phase

I can’t believe I’ve reached my third trimester. I still can’t get my mind around the idea of having a baby in three months! I’m finally getting close enough to my due date that I’m no longer feeling so impatient, but getting to that “oh shit” phase, wondering how I’ll ever accomplish everything on my to-do list and prepare for parenthood (??!!) before then. Don’t let the title fool you; I’m increasingly excited as well. But there’s the standard tasks like painting the baby room and choosing a name (a seemingly impossible job). And I’d like to read more about baby care, breastfeeding, and parenting in general.

Seemingly less urgent but equally (or more) important are matters like having my character refined, strengthening my relationships, and contemplating parenting on a broad scale. In the character department, I would like to become less negative and more grateful and encouraging. Post-partum depression looms around the corner: will it strike? My melancholic nature lends itself well to depression, opening the door wide in invitation, although my mental orifices have been closed to infiltration for the past few years. But PPD is no doubt an equal opportunity invader, so I feel the need to be well-grounded in thankfulness and the realistic expectations that come with it. But how can be I realistic when I’m not sure what to expect, despite the famous book series’ best efforts? I expect it to be hard, but, much like the pain of childbirth, expecting something and dealing with it for the first time can be vastly different exercises. I hope to be so overjoyed with my little one that the pain, fatigue, and massive life change will feel worth it, though not easy. But if I’m not grateful now, I have little hope of joy buoying through such a stormy time.

Regarding my relationships, I feel a need, even a pressure, to make the most of my time with people now. Of course I want to have a strong marriage and friendships going into a major life change. Not that I won’t see people or continue to invest in them, but things are so much easier now. A spontaneous meeting, an uninterrupted conversation, long hours of talk and Bible study—all are possible for a limited time only. With a few friends, my goal is to have some good, thought-provoking spiritual conversations. Also, I want to provide the high school girls I’m working with some tools for being useful and substantial. I would love to see them make some progress before then, which means I need to make some progress in loving and equipping them. I’m praying that I can love them really deeply and fervently, from the heart. Sometimes being nine years older makes it tempting to view them more as projects than people, but I know the moment I fall into this, my chances of helping them evaporate. God will not let me into their hearts in order to motivate them if I’m working out of self-serving, superior, or functional attitudes. My greatest desire is for them to love others with zeal. Certainly I can’t expect or even hope for this if can’t model and provide at least a glimpse of such love for them.

That brings me to the big picture of parenting, the question of “What do I want my kids to become? Who do I want them to be in twenty years?” The answer is too big for me to fully comprehend, but I know I want them to love and serve the Lord first of all. And that means loving and serving other people: “And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Matthew 22:37-39). Manners, “good behavior,” grades and other accomplishments must be secondary, or not even make the list. But I have no doubt I’ll mix up parenting priorities often. Then there’s the question of how to get there, and that’s really a stumper.

On a lighter note, I totally understand why parents always think their kids are cute, no matter what. I can’t even see my kid yet, but sometimes when I feel him moving around I immediately think, “He’s so cute!” I can’t see him, he’s kicking me in the bladder, and I think he’s cute! Completely irrational, but so is having kids, and so is love.

It’s a Boy!

I can’t believe it’s been 14 weeks since I last posted! Here is a blog I wrote two months ago and kept forgetting to post:

It’s a boy! I can’t believe we’ve come this far. After the ultrasound Neil kept asking what I thought and
how I felt about it being a boy. Maybe he was worried that I wasn’t as excited as he was. But I was just so relieved, I couldn’t get over the fact that our baby was alive and healthy!

I did some brief but thorough worrying the night before. For the most part I “procrastinated worrying” until then, trying to be excited and not anxious in the weeks before the big day. Procrastinated worrying is my best approximation at “be anxious for nothing” so far. But the night before, I made a mental list of the problems the ultrasound might reveal. Incompetent cervix, placenta previa, Down’s syndrome, spina bifida, or trisomy 18 all made the list. People talk about checking for ten fingers and toes (even in the ultrasound), but appendages are the least of my worries. I’m much more concerned that all the major organs are present.

That’s the blessing after two miscarriages: it puts problems in perspective, and it helps me to appreciate when things go right. Murphy’s Law ignores all the things that go right, and so do I. If everything had gone perfectly with my first pregnancy, I would already have a baby and I’m sure I’d be in love with him or her. But I probably would have taken for granted a healthy pregnancy and baby more than I will ever be able to now. The losses have made me realize just how miraculous the whole process is, and have increased my capacity for appreciating and enjoying every stepping stone I cross.

I reached a milestone, and my favorite part of being pregnant thus far, around 17 or 18 weeks when I first felt the baby move. By the time I was sure that’s what those light, muscle-spasm-like sensations were, I was ecstatic. Every time I feel the baby move it’s like he’s saying, “Don’t worry, mom, I’m alive.” Sometimes it makes me want to cry. Starting with those first felt movements, I feel so much more connected to the baby and to the reality of pregnancy. It’s less abstract, and almost feels okay to hope I’ll really meet this baby sometime toward the end of summer. Neil feeling the baby move was another exciting milestone. Knowing the gender and starting to show a bit also makes it more real and I think it’s helped Neil as well as me bond more with the baby.

The night before the ultrasound Neil and I both dreamed the baby turned out to be a fish! But in my dream I didn’t even care. I thought, “I guess it would be nice if our baby was a human, but I love our little fish baby.” (It didn’t actually look like a fish in the dream, I just knew it was a fish. I’m not sure what it looked like. It was a boy fish, though.) Also at another point in the dream, they somehow took the baby out to look at it during the ultrasound. I was wondering, “How are they going to get it back in?” But then the baby was there with just Neil and me, and it was really skinny and pathetic-looking since it was only 20 weeks old, but again I didn’t care. I just started kissing it and I was so happy and loved it so much. And then I stopped worrying about why it was with us already and just enjoyed being with it. For the next couple days I just thought about this vision of holding and kissing our baby and I could hardly wait. I went from being so tentative and trying to be so patient for a date that felt like it would never come (I had been pregnant a total of 34 weeks by then, only counting the 2 free weeks once) to feeling like I would die waiting another 4.5 months.

So it’s not a fish, but it is a boy, with all organs and limbs accounted for. I’m happy to be having a boy for the following reasons, among others:
1. So many of my friends had boys recently, including my bff who lives just down the street, so they can grow up together.
2. I’m not good when it comes to “girly” things like hair, make-up, nail polish, etc. I was never a tomboy but I wasn’t a girly girl, either. For example, the other day my sister asked, “When did this happen?” while gesturing to my person, but she wasn’t looking for a number of months or a refresher on the birds and the bees. She was referring to me looking slightly fashionable because I had basically been dressed by Fashion Sister.
3. Raising a son seems like a special privilege in a culture that’s forgetting what it means to be a man (although the same is true of girls/women, too). I hope we can raise him to be a spiritual leader, although I’m not really sure how to do that.
4. I grew up with mostly girls (three sisters and then finally one brother), so I don’t know exactly what to do with boys. But I’m the active type so hopefully I can hang for at least a while, which brings me to the next point:
5. My son will never be a teenage girl! Yay!!! Actually I would like to have a girl one day, too, but I hear “Dad” takes over in a large way with boys as they grow older. Of course I still want to have a close relationship with him but I don’t have to tell him about the aforementioned birds and bees, or model how to be a man, or any number of other things only a dad can do.
6. Neil also pointed out that we don’t have to give him away in marriage or pay for his wedding (according to tradition). Cheapskate—j/k, he’s already talking college fund, although one mom friend recommends a counseling fund instead.
7. Neil is also very excited about an excuse to get a basketball hoop, although he really just wants one and could have justified it with a girl, too. UPDATE: he got one off a friend’s neighbor’s tree lawn, saving hundreds of dollars. I love my cheapskate husband.

The only real drawback is that we have to think of a boy name (we already had a girl name). We haven’t devoted much effort to this cause yet but hopefully we can have some fun with it.