Journals from a Pandemic no. 10: Exclusive

She just fell asleep in the middle of drinking a bottle.

She’s had a lifetime of practice on the bottle because she’s never been interested in the factory direct product.

This bottle was half from me, and half from the formula I bought today. Today, she had her first taste of formula since that first week of trying to figure out how to get food in her system at all.

We figured it out, thanks to Svea’s doctor and Nate’s sister and so many mom friends: if I wanted Svea to get milk from me, it would have to be through pumping.

That figuring has meant that I’ve been exclusively pumping for almost eleven months. “Exclusive pumping” is a phrase that I find amusing, because it sounds so upmarket when what it meant to me, for the first little while, was failure. But exclusive we were, and have remained, until now.

I started out pumping 8x/day, once every three hours. That schedule broke me down. I remember sobbing to Nathan that I couldn’t think more than twenty minutes ahead because my future was an interminable stretch of three hour blocks and I couldn’t stand it. It worked, however, and I dropped a pump and found seven times a day to be incrementally more liveable. Then down to six, and so on, so that I’ve been pumping just 4x/day for a few months now. Those early months brought far more milk than she could drink, so storage became my insurance against the day when I could stop pumping.

Pumping less frequently has reduced supply, and my stash of frozen milk is nearly spent.  One freezer bag full of stored breast milk bags remains. Starting today, we’ll be supplementing with formula as I phase out pumping leading up to her birthday.

My goal was to make it to six months.

Sometimes my goal was to make it to morning. Or through just the next twenty minutes. I wanted to quit frequently, but my cheapskate side won out and I just couldn’t get around the appeal of free food.

Exclusive pumping was a choice of necessity. In it I have grieved the loss of my plan to breastfeed. I’ve worried about future kids and what feeding them might look like. I’ve cried and complained and resented it. I’ve been uncomfortable and in pain.

I’ve also praised God when, at 2 am, my husband groggily makes her a bottle as I go back to sleep. Or when Svea cut two top and bottom teeth at the same time and found a new hobby (biting things). I’ve appreciated the enforced rhythm in my day to stop working or have a half hour to myself. Most of all, I’ve been so thankful for the technology and the ability to still contribute to feeding my baby in this way.

I will not miss pumping, except for the sense of purpose it gave me. When I was confident I was doing a terrible job as a mother and a wife, I could look to the milk in the fridge as tangible evidence of good that I had done. That was often a sort of anchor in a stormy sea of unregulated hormonal emotions.

Pumping gave me hours of time by myself, late at night, reading the Word. Pumping broke me down emotionally and forced me to rely on the Lord. Pumping inconvenienced me and dictated a rigid schedule. Pumping challenged me and pumping fed my baby.

I will rejoice with my whole heart when I pack up the pump for good. But I rejoice now to see God’s goodness to us in the exclusive privilege of pumping.

Journals from a Pandemic no.9

I miss a lot of things about teaching at school, but a weird byproduct of the reorganization to online instruction was the loss of compartmental existence, the division between teacher Colleen and home Colleen. Now, I’ve had student calls where I’m bouncing my baby or answering a question about the dishwasher. It’s a strange world-collision that likely nearly everyone is living through some version of.

I miss the 7- minute commute that was enough to get me in and out of “school mode.” I miss the buffer zone. I miss the distinct territory that was here vs. there.

While all of the residents here on Knute Lane get along really well, the unorthodoxy of life in the time of COVID-19 is such that each of us find ourselves needing an outlet away from the others. I find this tricky for several reasons, not least among them being that I’m an extrovert. It’s hard for me to recognize that I need alone time until that need becomes urgent. And loud. And pretty rude.

So I’m practicing self-awareness and seeking to be honest with the Lord, and myself, and Nate. I know for a fact that time alone on my phone is NOT helpful, and that’s usually my go-to. This week, I will try to do better. Maybe I’ll keep track and write about it here… although it is distinctly possible that by writing that I have guaranteed this to be my last post of 2020.

Anyway, here’s Svea, who is pretty good at not feeling the lack of alone time and actually gets pretty mad if you try to give her some.

She doesn’t even want her feet to have alone time

Journals from a Pandemic no. 8

It’s gotten to where I have to check what number I’m on before I write the title. I’ve decided this entry will be a list-y one.

So far in quarantine I have cooked/baked:

  • Brötchen
  • Sheet pan nachos (chicken, beef, kimchi chicken)
  • Clementine cakes (3)
  • Jjimdak
  • Homemade Oreos
  • Chocolate chip cookies (2 batches)
  • Roasted sweet potatoes (for grownups) & sweet potato puree (for baby) (she has thus far rejected it)
  • Scrap soup (inspired by Nadiya from GBBO)
  • Deviled eggs (for socially-distanced Easter lunch with Nate’s parents)
  • Curried sweet potato shepherd’s pie for Easter dinner at Cody’s request
  • Innumerable egg sandwiches on toast and cheese quesadillas and cabbage salads

Next up: Korean fried chicken. Eep.

Suddenly the weather has warmed and cleared and we receive the annual reminder, post-winter gloom, of why anyone would live here, because it’s So Beautiful, honestly. Flowers are out and the birds are back and (downside) so are the ants.

I’ve mentioned our walks down Chico and these are some of the things I love that I have learned about because of those walks.

  • The two young, vocal, extremely fluffy good dogs who defend their gated driveway from us each time we walk by
  • The holly orchard
  • The little broken path that goes down to the water from the road (but we don’t take it bc the stroller won’t do)
  • The big grassy patch that overlooks the water and, when it’s clear, the mountain (Mt. Rainier for you non-Washington dwellers)
  • The dome house that is also a piano studio
  • The lady with a dachshund who is so, so desperate to be friends (the dog, that is), and every time we see them the lady says the same thing: “He doesn’t understand social distancing!” And laughs every time she says it. Sometimes we see her on our way out and on out way back and she still says the same thing. I think she just likes to say it.
  • The house with a garden right up on the roadside that is full of plants I can’t name

For a final list because I must do things in sets of at least three, here are the things that have made me anxious so far:

  • Svea’s little temp a few weeks ago
  • The time we tried to watch Contagion and I became convinced I’d swallowed a nail (long story) (we did not finish the movie) (it manages to be both stressful and boring, a feat)
  • Nate saying he felt short of breath (he’s fine)
  • Housemate Cody feeling sick
  • Housemates losing work
  • Teaching online and adjusting to new systems
  • Future plans for our family
  • The Economy, which I do not understand and yet am fearful regarding
  • The Ant Invasion
  • Everyone and everything in the whole world

Good news: none of the anxiousness has come true. Instead, we are all hanging together and Svea is thriving and God is in control and I. know. that. my. Redeemer. liveth. And He is greater than all my imaginings and hypotheticals and prognostications and worst-case scenarios.

However, we will no longer let Mark use small nails in place of toothpicks when he barbeques.

Nate called this outfit her “minty fresh” outfit

Journals from a Pandemic no. 7

Did you know: if you try to make a cake that requires you boil something for two hours, you should still check on that thing even if it hasn’t been 2 hours?

Did you further know: clementines boiled initially with water and then with no more water will smell vaguely like hot dogs?

Today, a milestone: Svea put herself down for a nap. She is an excellent sleeper at night but not much of a day napper. She has of late been eager to hold her bottle on her own and just now…she drank herself to a nap.


Seriously my house smells like hot dogs. A firm black crust masks the bottom of the pot I boiled the clementines in. I added water, mashed up the clementines, glugged in some white vinegar, and put it back on the heat to hopefully un-crust the pot. Then maybe I’ll start over and keep a closer eye on the proceedings. I’m TRYING to make a cake. Time will tell.

More school this week and I’m starting to rack up assignments to grade and exercises to create while also trying to account for all the hard stuff these kids are going through and to accordingly cut then an appropriate amount of slack. So far, so good, but again… Time will tell.

The governor of Washington state officially closed schools for the rest of the school year. So this new normal of online instruction will continue until it’s just the regular normal. What a weird, surreal time we are all living in.

I’m reading the Word and reading Dorothy Sayers novels and trying not to be too much connected to the internet. Because although as an extrovert I need people and connection, a lot of how I spend my time online isn’t that at all. So I’m praying for consciousness of what I do and how I do it.

I don’t attempt to understand why this is happening but I can tell you this: whatever else this time I’ve been given was meant for, it was meant for repentance and it was meant for renewal. God is faithful and he is peeling back the layers and the hope is, like Eustace Clarence Scrubb, the dragon skin will slip off. What a time for it. I am trying to hold still and let Jesus do his job.

I’m going to go check on my hot dog clementine vinegar pot. Wish me happy scrubbing, all ye people.

She woke up like 3 minutes after I took this

Journals from a Pandemic no. 6

Hooray! I’m working again.

School started back up this morning (online classes; I’m working from home) and I got to see my students. I’ve had some little anxiety about how that might go and with the first day done, I’m so proud of them. They showed up, contributed, and had plenty of grace and patience as we navigated a totally novel situation. The most exciting part of the day came from my most challenging group of students. Today, they were quick to share their prayer needs with the class. So many of them have parents in the medical field or parents who have lost work. They are in 9th grade. When I was in 9th grade, 9/11 happened. So much of their future will be influenced by what’s happening and they know it, and for today that resulted in a cooperative attitude and a productive class.

Who knows how long the novelty will last. Knowing human nature I’m certain there’s a hefty dose of advantage-taking that might go along with this new format. But learning continues and for today, we have done well. I’m proud of my colleagues. I’m proud of the kids for being game and doing something new. I’m thankful that my job continues and I can earn money for my family. I’m thankful that I got to work barefoot in pj pants and that I have a reason to wear a lil mascara again. I’m thankful that I can reach the snacks from where I teach. I’m thankful that my baby is in sight while I’m working so I can make sure she is still cute, and ditto for my husband.

And most of all, I’m so thankful that God knows me better than I do. Because I always was so certain that I didn’t want to be a teacher, and I was so, so wrong. I love it a lot. Thanks, God.

To quote Abbey, it’s going to get better I think.

Here’s Svea being thankful