Posts for the ‘Leah’ Category

One Week Old

We’ve achieved a handful of small accomplishments this week, but mostly we’ve just loved on little Maisie.

(Isn’t this mermaid tail, made by my dear friend Jordan, the sweetest?! She has been gifted additional tails to grow into as well – perfect for our monthly photos!)

HIGHLIGHTS / EVENTFUL THINGS OF THE WEEK:

  • We had our first family outings: pediatrician appointment, Saturday farmers market, church and a Target run today, and a family walk with the dogs (although I think I overexerted myself and am now couch-bound for the immediate future).
  • We have been showered with gifts, meals, cards and messages from colleagues, family members, neighbors, church families and countless friends. We feel the love, folks! Thank you.

MAISIE’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS WEEK:

  • Won the hearts of her family members.
  • Slept – she sleeps SO MUCH with the exception between 9 p.m-1 a.m. when she’s alert and wants to cluster feed.
  • Met her quota of feedings and diaper changes according to hospital recommendations.

Jake has to be close at all times.

WESLEY’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS WEEK:

  • Received an A+ rating from Steven on his eager and helpful performance as a big brother.
  • Jumped into and swam in the deep end of the pool.
  • Made several notable wise decisions and is adjusting to a baby sibling better than expected.

STEVEN’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS WEEK:

  • Waited on me 24/7, but didn’t make me feel like an invalid.
  • Surprised me with our wedding cake for our 11th anniversary.
  • Successfully made Maisie sleep or poop while holding her, every time.

LEAH’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS WEEK:

  • Dropped 15 of the 30 lbs gained!
  • Identified two of Maisie’s cries based on the Dunstan Baby Language (“neh” = hunger; “eh” = gassy).
  • Survived the beginning pains of breastfeeding – though she and I still have a lot to accomplish before it’s second nature and doesn’t hurt like whoa.

The morning after the first night at home: still alive!

Wesley is still on Cloud 9 about his new sister. He has enjoyed having visitors come to see Maisie because he gets to show her off and then play with friends. The last couple days have been more difficult for him as he realizes that we can’t give him all of our attention anymore. He’s not jealous, but he’s having trouble being independent and finding his own fun without getting himself into trouble.

However, he loves to snuggle in close when I’m nursing, and he talks about his future with Maisie. He is incredibly tender toward her, and he is empathetic about my body’s healing – offering to reach something and asking how I’m feeling.

Wes: Maisie! Maisie! Oh, look, I made her smile!
Me: She is looking for you; she knows your voice.
Wes: Do you think she likes me more than you?
Me: I think she likes us both.
Wes: Yeah, you’re the one feeding her. I just can’t believe she’s actually here!
Me: Me neither, Buddy. She’s pretty great, isn’t she?
Wes: I just love her so much that I could cry!
Me: Oh, me, too, Bud.
Wes: Look, we’re both crying now!

We are so thankful for this little surprise person. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

Posted: August 19th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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Getting to Know You

She’s been a surprise all along, and she continues to astonish us. Maisie Gale was born four days early on August 12, 2018. She weighs 8 lbs, 1.3 oz and is 21″ long. She just barely beat her brother’s stats – by an ounce and an inch.

I woke from a dream at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, feeling a trickle fall down my legs. I knew it wasn’t an accident, but I went to the bathroom anyway, and lost more fluid on the bathroom floor. Honestly I was slightly annoyed because I had planned to work in the office most of this week, but I was equally amused that it actually happened like all the text books say. (My water didn’t break with the first pregnancy.) I woke Steven up and told him I would finish packing and call the hospital.

As I went downstairs to call my parents, I noticed that our dog Jake had an accident in the family room. I grabbed some tissue to clean it up, squatted to do so, and the flood gates opened. I nearly clogged the half bath after flushing down so much toilet paper from both accidents. And then I went back upstairs to change clothes for the third time.

Mom and Dad hurried over to house/Wes-sit for the early morning hours while we went to the hospital, registered and checked into triage. Within an hour, we were in our room, where we waited for my contractions to gain in intensity. I was about 4cm dilated when we arrived, and hardly felt the every-2-minute contractions. No one tells you that the amniotic fluid keeps escaping after your water breaks. It was quite annoying and uncomfortable to sit in a constant puddle, but there you have it.

Because of the fast progression of Wesley’s birth, the nurses encouraged me to go ahead and get an epidural after we had waited a few hours. I wasn’t in much pain to begin with, and the anesthesiologist complimented me after receiving it: “In 20 years of doing this, I’ve never had a patient ask me questions while getting their epidural. You just made my morning!” When I’m nervous or anxious, I tend to be chatty, so it was the only thing I could do to take my mind away from the stick and pressure of the needle. Steven beamed with pride (and then teased me later).

We got a little rest before my parents and Wes came over to hang out. Wesley’s expression when he entered our hospital room was priceless. He ran up to the side of my bed and put both of his hands over his wide smile: “Mama, I’m SO EXCITED!” The room was perfect and spacious for them to join us. About every 2 hours I had gained another centimeter, so we played the waiting game. It was nice to have company to distract me from the obvious.

To pass the time, Steven made updates to the white board in the room, which has also entertained the nurses on rotation. The board originally said “Have a baby!” under Today’s Plan, and it has periodically changed to “Had a baby!” and “Keep a baby!” Today it said, “Take a baby!” in anticipation of our discharge for home. He later added under Questions for Care Team: “Why is baby?” / “What is baby?” which prompted nervous giggles from staffers.

Around 11:15 I had called the nurse about increased pressure and fluid. She at first didn’t believe me – “maybe in about 50 minutes we’ll be ready to have this baby!” – but after a quick check she changed her mind. She alerted the OB on call (we heard her run down the hallway), Mom and Wes were whisked out the room (Dad went to church earlier that morning while they stayed with us), and all the troops and supplies were wheeled in. By the time they had everything ready, Dad had returned, so he and Mom traded places watching Wes. Mom came in the room just in time to witness the birth.

There’s debate about how many pushes (10?) over how much time in total (20 minutes?), but I was told by a nurse that it was a “perfect birth.” Maisie Gale was born at 11:52 a.m. on a beautiful, sunny day. Steven and I spent the next hour alone with Maisie – our daughter who cried minimally and was extremely alert during those precious first moments.

The extended Shattucks and my sister came that afternoon, and a couple close friends visited yesterday. Everyone agrees: she’s fantastic. We have spent the last couple days getting introduced to each other. A song from the musical King and I has been floating around in my head:

Getting to know you
Getting to know all about you
Getting to like you 
Getting to hope you like me

And she certainly is well-liked! Wesley, who she resembles (it’s unreal by how much!), is becoming a pro at holding her, “teaches” others how to keep her warm and safe, and has told everyone who will listen about his new baby sister.

It’s sweet to see Steven with his little girl. He snuggles her close and teases her in his endearing way. Our quiet evenings are my favorite time to watch them.

We’re smitten. It’s so nice to finally meet you, Ms. Maisie. Welcome to the family.

Haven’t you noticed
Suddenly we’re bright and breezy? 
Because of all the beautiful and new 
Things we’re learning about you 
Day by day

More photos of Maisie’s first days!

Posted: August 14th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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The Final Countdown

Summer may be over according to the school district, but we’ve squeezed in a few additional things before life gets up-ended with a newborn.

On Thursday, Wesley started first grade. I didn’t get shopping for clothes or shoes done until the SECOND day of school, but close enough. (I think the best thing about this photo is my bathrobe-clad photobomb.)

He claimed to be nervous, but Wes couldn’t stop talking about his day while at the dinner table that night. He’s in a class with a bunch of buddies, and he’s already served as Class Helper a handful of times.

Friends of ours invited us to dinner on Saturday night, and even though I forgot to bring my swimsuit, another pregnant friend (who’s just a week or so behind us) kindly let me borrow the one she was wearing so I could get a few minutes in the cool water. Yes, it seems strange, but you may not understand how good water feels when you’re this far along! It was also a rather funny experience, confusing the kids in the pool – as we look similarly pregnant.

We had planned to attend family day at GenCon over the weekend. After we were dressed (Mario, Mega Man and pregnant Fiona), Steven discovered the horrible news that tickets were sold out. Wes was super bummed to miss it, but he bounced back with, “it’s okay. Maybe we can go swimming instead.” So we did. Again. This time at Mom’s condo pool.

And afterwards, my parents – who now own a truck and truck camper and I have no idea who they are – came over to test a cast iron dutch oven recipe on us before their approaching camping trip. I also helped Dad figure out how to set up a tent canopy. The pretend camping experience was almost as fun as REAL CAMPING!

Mom and Dad were convinced that I would go into labor the day they left, but here I am. Yesterday’s 38w6d OB appointment was good and uneventful:

  • Heartbeat, Measurements, Blood Pressure: 37 cm, 114/72
  • Weight Gain: No change from last week. Still! By this point I had gained nearly 40-45 lbs with Wesley. This pregnancy is so much different.
  • Movement: Though she didn’t move much during the non stress test (per usual), she has been active ever since. Practice/Braxton Hicks contractions have been constant for the last few days (lots of peaks on the NST!), and I hardly notice them except for slight discomfort. Last night they bothered Maisie so much that she moved all night long.
  • Dilation: 3 cm. I have to credit the practice contractions for the slow and steady progression.
  • Cravings: I got an Egg McMuffin earlier this week, and you know what? It wasn’t nearly as good as I was expecting! I’m hungry for salads and deli meat this week.
  • Moods: Mostly calm, but starting to get antsy. Intermittent sleep is affecting my ability to stay focused.
  • Biggest Gripe: It’s not really a “gripe” but I find it amusing that my coworkers are determined to see my water break in the office and have no doubt that I’ll be in active labor, like, in 10 minutes. Every morning there’s a comment or two: “I can’t believe she’s back today!”
    The thing that has bothered me most this week are loose ligaments in my hips and pelvis. It feels like my leg is popping out of socket. And occasionally I’ll shift positions and a bolt of nerve tingling hits for a moment; super uncomfortable. I decided it’s probably okay to take a break from the gym for several weeks. Saturday is my last planned class, and I’m half expecting to modify the heck out of the workout and then endure an afternoon of contractions.
  • Biggest Like: Checking things off the list! We met with our financial advisor tonight to make adjustments in anticipation of our family of four. Wes is helping pack his own bag for staying with my parents when we’re in the hospital. The newest addition to the bag is a gift from my aunt and cousin – a big brother button!
    Wes asked what Steven and I will be doing for our wedding anniversary next week, and I told him we may be spending it in the hospital. “Oh! Could we order pizza and watch a movie?!” Sure, why not make it a family date if it comes to that?

If Maisie doesn’t arrive on her own next week, we have a scheduled induction for August 22 at 7 a.m. A few more appointments to check on her progress are scheduled between now and then – Oohhhh, it’s the final countdown!

Posted: August 9th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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(Always) Something to Celebrate

Steven pokes fun of my excuses to do something fun – mainly get an ice cream cone somewhere. I grew up accustomed to celebrating small victories (the end of a recital or play, last/first days of ___, Dad on a business trip(!), etc.) and what Steven calls “made-up holidays,” and I guess it stuck with me.

At dinner tonight, I suggested that we celebrate the last day of summer by, you guessed it, getting ice cream! (Tomorrow is Wesley’s first day of first grade – yes, already!) Steven then, for the next hour or so, and during our evening walk with the dogs, came up with the following situations to celebrate:

Hey, let’s celebrate that colonoscopy you just got!
Your third cousin’s nephew graduated from high school!
It’s the 60th anniversary of that couple that you met in Kroger once!
Great job getting a new pair of shorts for school!

I told him that you have to keep life fun and interesting, and why NOT celebrate the last day of summer?! We ended up going to Chick-fil-a because Wes found an unopened kids’ meal toy (which you can turn in for free ice cream), I was hungry for a milkshake, and Steven decided to get fries. “So we ALL get a treat!” said Wes. Yes, see? He gets it.

We celebrated(!) Wesley’s birthday with the Shattucks over the weekend, and as usual, it was an adventure. Every single one of my in-laws is an amazing bowler – including my nieces! On a good game, I can bowl maaaaaybe 140. That’s like chump change for them. They have their own balls (some smell like fruit, no joke!) and shoes and either play on leagues, coach teams or have done so at some point in their lives. We thought it would be fun to bring them to Fountain Square to try their hand at duckpin bowling – and guess what?! I WAS THE HIGHEST SCORE.

Steven, Wes and I stopped at Heidelberg Haus for a cake on the way to the alley, thinking we could share it there. But the building has a strict NO OUTSIDE FOOD policy that we now know about, so everyone took their turn holding the cake box and walking around Fountain Square. When we returned to our house for cake and presents, the combination of the day’s heat and shuffling between people made the cake layers slide all over the place. Debra is still convinced it’s Bill’s fault. Seriously the best moment of the day!

A few other things to celebrate: BABY STATS WEEK 37

  • Heartbeat, Measurements, Blood Pressure: 130 bpm, 114/60
  • Weight Gain: No change from last week.
  • Movement: Today’s non-stress test (NST) was long for a couple reasons: my OB was on vacation, so the doc I visited with wanted to get ample data. The last couple NSTs have been 10-15 minutes, and this one was likely the standard 30 minutes, but it felt ages longer. Also, Maisie had to be zapped again because she just gets too comfortable and doesn’t move as much as they’d like to see on a graph. (Maybe they should schedule these tests for 10 p.m.) At any rate, she passed the test and everything looks great.
  • Dilation: 2.5 cm. I didn’t have too many Braxton-Hicks contractions this week that I know of, but apparently they’re happening because they showed up on the NST graphs.
  • Cravings: Orange juice, salt, ice cream. I still haven’t gotten that Egg McMuffin.
  • Moods: It’s been a good mental week. I’m beginning to see real progress and closure on my projects at work, and it makes me feel less and less stressed that I’ll leave without a big, gaping hole for coworkers to fill.
  • Biggest Gripe(s): Finally had to throw in the towel and start sleeping in the guest room with a plethora of pillows. I don’t like not being with Steven, but he hates my excessive snoring and frequent bathroom breaks and constant tossing and turning.
  • Biggest Like: It sounds mushy, but I’m so blessed by Steven and Wesley. They go out of their way to make me laugh, feel special and beautiful. Both of them complimented me on separate occasions this morning. Wes begged me to take video of Maisie’s heartbeat so he could hear it. Here you go, Buddy.

August has a lot of firsts (and therefore ice cream celebrations!) ahead. Here we go into Week 38!

Posted: August 1st, 2018
Categories: Leah
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8 Months Down

July has been a bustle of activity. After vacation, we went right back into day camps and other summer activities. Regarding the last post, my tests results came back negative for cholestatis, so life has continued as busy-normal. Wesley’s 7th birthday marathon (which still hasn’t ended – duckpin bowling with the Shattucks this weekend!) has been fun and memorable. He spent the week with my parents at “Grandma Camp,” swimming, playing with cousins, visiting museums and even going to Dave and Buster’s.

CAN YOU BELIEVE MY PARENTS PLAYED ARCADE GAMES? I cannot.

 

We invited neighborhood friends and a handful of other close family friends to his Pokemon-themed birthday party.

   

July is usually hot, and because we still have an empty family room and less indoor seating than normal, I thought having his party at a park with a splash pad would work well. (Plus I wouldn’t have to do as much house cleaning!) And it did – despite the rain showers. But since the kids were already wet, it was really only us parents who had to cope with the weather.

 

A few of the dads hid “Pokeballs” (DIY Easter eggs half sprayed painted red and filled with minifigures of Pokemon) throughout the park, and I think the kids enjoyed that activity just as much as getting wet.

 

We had a quiet birthday celebration at home, and because I spent all my available energy on the massive 4-layer cake (it was a brilliant spontaneous decision) for his birthday party, we were happy to grab a few Flying Cupcakes and toss a candle in one for this birthday evening.

He had asked for “a bird, hamster or bunny” for his birthday. Uh, no. Over the last few weeks, martial arts has come into conversation, so Steven and I surprised him with a uniform and two weeks of Tae Kwon Do lessons to see if he’d like it enough to continue. (The building is a former Dairy Queen, and the running joke is that we’re going to Dairy Qwon Do!) And just a week in, he’s already earned his white belt and three stripes!

 

On the baby front…

I had my 36w6d OB appointment a few days ago, and now I’m at 37 weeks and considered full-term. “I’m going to pick on you a little today,” said my OB. Because of my slightly-too-old-to-be-pregnant status (though she said I’m “barely old” haha), I’m now having weekly non-stress tests up until delivery. I also had another lab to test my blood platelet count, which has been on the lower side, and I had a call today that they’re still lower than normal. I’m to continue having lab work throughout the duration of pregnancy to keep an eye on my levels. If they dip too low, I may not be able to have an epidural, and an early induction may be necessary. (I’ll only start worrying about this if my doctor becomes concerned!)

To further add fuel to the fire, I also tested positive for Group B Strep, which, sparing the gross details, is a gut bacteria that comes and goes in healthy women. It’s not really a big deal, but I’ll need to be given penicillin during labor and delivery to prevent any infection to the baby. Being “advanced maternal age” or AMA definitely makes for a more interesting chart and case!

When I was at this stage in pregnancy with Wesley, I tracked our weekly stats. It’s been fascinating to refer back to over the years, and I thought I’d continue in carrying Maisie.

  • Heartbeat, Measurements, Blood Pressure: 140 bpm, 36 cm, 102/40
  • Weight Gain: Total weight gain thus far is 30 lbs. I’m a little surprised it’s this much, but equally interested that I haven’t gained anything MORE than this. I gained 45 total lbs with Wesley, so it’s less than the last pregnancy, but I still feel like it’s a lot.
  • Movement: She was a little stubborn during my non-stress test, and moved very little. The tech had to use a special vibration zapping device to startle her enough to move around so they could get more readings on the monitor. She’s typically pretty silent during the day, increasing in movement as the evening progresses. She loves the hours between 9-11 p.m. and a certain spot under my right ribs.
  • Dilation: 2 cm, which, as I told Wes, is about the size of a penny. I was exactly the same dilation with Wesley at this time, and I feel like I stayed there for a few weeks. I didn’t get any stats on effacement. Being pregnant around a school-aged kid can get interesting. Wes is observant, and he is following this pregnancy and my body changes closely. Trying to explain dilation to a 7-year-old without getting too graphic has its challenges, but he seems satisfied with my answers! (Which then prompts new questions.) “Mama, how did Mary and Joseph have baby Jesus without any doctors?!”
  • Cravings: Egg McMuffins, but I haven’t yet given in. Ice cream and really cold water always sound refreshing, too. And watermelon.
  • Moods: I’m usually pretty steady and upbeat, but I do get frequently frustrated at myself. It’s like my brain forgets that this body is busy with another job.
  • Biggest Gripe(s): I’ve had Braxton-Hicks (false contractions) all week, and though they’re not painful, the tightening of my stomach causes Maisie to move around, which feels awful against a tight uterus. I know I had these in the last pregnancy, but I don’t remember them being this uncomfortable. Unfortunately my feet and ankles are starting to swell, and it’s super annoying. I think the other biggest gripe is the sight of my “popped turkey” belly button. It looks lovely poking out of all my clothes.
  • Biggest Like: Perhaps the reason for all the contractions is because I’m still attending CrossFit classes. Monday’s workout was tough, but I managed to complete 60 weighted lunges with a 35 lb sandbag, row 2,000 meters, and throw 65 9-foot tosses with a 10 lb wall/medicine ball. It was the first time I’d worked out in a week, and my legs were feeling the activity the next couple days, but I am pleased and proud of my progress. I do have to modify ab work and anything on the rig, and I sweat like crazy. It’s likely not a pretty sight – still aiming to go as long as I can! I joke with my gym friends that I should just think of the actual birth as a WOD (workout of the day).

While at my parents’ condo last week, I saw a photo of myself 7 years ago at the same week of pregnancy and in the same dress I was currently wearing. I thought it would be fun to recreate the photo, and had Dad snap a picture of me.

So I’ve aged a bit, but I like what I see. I’m not self-conscious about my looks or wrinkles or vein-y hands. I’m much stronger in body, mind and spirit than in 2011. Isn’t it fascinating to see side-by-side? Or maybe I’m just in awe of the whole situation – how I’m actually pregnant again!

Ironically the photo on the left (photo credit to Angie Cinnamon Photography) was taken at an open house for Joy’s House, my former employer, and I went to the same event yesterday evening. I was 36 weeks pregnant there, and it was one of the first years we had decided to have an summer ice cream social and open house for the public. I remember planning the prepping for the event, thinking it was one of the last events I’d assemble before maternity leave. It was fun to see people I loved that evening, doting on my baby belly.

Last night was a similar experience. I went by myself because the guys went to Tae Kwon Do, but that meant I could catch up with my Joy’s House family. People who carried me through Wesley’s pregnancy doted on the Maisie bump, and it was sorta like an anointing or dedication experience. I love the people of Joy’s House and the special relationships I maintain with the families, employees and volunteers involved.

You guys, for all the crazy (and sometimes challenging) stuff, life really is fun, isn’t it? My prayer for this pregnancy has been for health and peace, and I feel blessed with support networks and wonderful people in our lives.

 

Want to see the rest of Wesley’s birthday photos? There are some good ones here.

Posted: July 27th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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What to Expect When You’re Not Sleeping

“It’s like, when, you’re talking about lice and your head starts itching.” I described to my parents. Though I’ve had restless and itchy legs and feet for a few weeks, it seems worse than ever now that I’ve been tested for a liver condition, cholestatis of pregnancy. Likely because I’m more aware of it?

What I thought was a normal pregnancy symptom could possibly be something bigger and more serious, though it’s highly likely I don’t have it. I causally mentioned my restless legs at the 34/35 week appointment a few days ago, and after a series of follow-up questions, my OB ordered a couple tests to rule the condition out as a precaution.

Cholestatis can cause problems for a baby born at full term. If tests come back with positive results, I could be induced as early as next week. Next week!

On Wednesday I completed a non-stress test to make sure baby Maisie was fairing well, and she did great. Doc isn’t concerned about her. Whew. (Remember when I had multiple NST conducted while admitted for a complicated migraine during my last pregnancy? It brought back a flood of memories.)

  

I’m willing myself to take things in stride and trust that God has a handle on this situation. It’s probably nothing, and I’m doing a fair job of keeping myself preoccupied (except my coworkers have heard me moan about it!) until we know more; however, these feet seem to be even more tingly than before, and it’s keeping me up at night.

My typical regimen when flair ups happen (usually 2-3 times a week), is to eat a banana, drink coconut water and pop a couple Restful Legs homeopathic pills. The combination is typically enough to help me fall asleep, but I often wake and move to another room to prevent Steven from not sleeping, too.

PREGNANCY INSOMNIA. I woke at 3:30 this morning and eventually threw in the towel, giving up at the possibility of any rest. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what you can expect:

  • Eating Cheerios at the crack of dawn is best when watching Anne of Green Gables. (I think I cried through the whole thing – likely because of stress and because it’s that good.)
  • People-watching is a fun activity even in the beginning hours of the morning. (I now know there are a handful of dedicated early walkers in our neighborhood.)
  • You can get a lot of household chores done when no one else is awake.

So, we are in limbo. We’ll have an idea of what to expect when results are available after the weekend, and I anticipate it to be a very long few days indeed. I keep checking my email and phone for any updates from the lab, and yet I know it won’t be there.

I’m not worried about my health or her health, really, but this earlier delivery possibility wasn’t one I was anticipating at all. Wrapping up work within an extreme time constraint makes my head spin, but heck, it will be ok. I guess I better start packing a hospital bag and secure a car seat – just in case!

Meanwhile, Wesley had a busy camp week – both Springhill day camp and VBS. I attended the closing ceremonies of both, and he was given a Leadership Award for his bossy guiding personality. He’s going to be a fantastic, protective big brother. I’m proud of this guy who turns 7 next week.

“Mama, remember at Christmastime when you told me about the baby? She was smaller than an ant! I can’t believe how big she is. Oh! I felt her move again. Whatcha doing in there, Maisie? Gymnastics?!”

Dear Maisie, your brother is SO READY to meet you (and so are your parents!). Perhaps he won’t have to grumble about the lengthy waiting period much longer. And I’m grateful that our doctor is keeping close tabs on both of us.

Posted: July 13th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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Tiny House Living

I’m all about a bargain, and when you’re in late pregnancy, convenience + bargain is basically a gold mine. I’m usually the one who does the vacation planning, but the guys usually enjoy what I scramble together.

The bullet list for 2018:

  • within a 4-hour driveable distance (I can’t sit comfortably in a car right now)
  • access to water (Wes is a fish and it’s cheap entertainment)
  • less than a week booking policy (the guys don’t like to be away from home longer than 4-5 days)
  • around $150/night (to save money for baby preparations)
  • available the week of July 4 (less PTO consumed and away from loud neighborhood firecrackers)

In January I found a quaint house within our parameters RIGHT ON THE BEACH in South Haven, Michigan. We have vacationed along Lake Michigan (Holland in 2014 and South Haven in 2013) and enjoyed our stays, so it seemed perfect. And it was! Just, tiny.

It’s called the Little House, but it’s smaller than “little.” Wes is convinced it is actually the former garage of the house next door, and he’s probably right. Except the Little House was finished in HALF of the “garage.” Equipped with a full bed in a separate bedroom, bathroom with a shower (“I can’t believe there is a shower smaller than ours [our master shower is a mere 2.5 sq feet] that actually exists.”), kitchen and living room with futon, it has all the essentials in miniature form. When you look out the sliding glass doors, you not only SEE the LAKE, you see how it will take you less than 5 minutes to dip your feet into water.

We got a glimpse of trendy living in a tiny house, and appropriately we renamed the Little House as “Tiny House” for our stay. I learned how to move things around every time I wanted to sit or stand somewhere. In one of these moves – in fact, the very first one when we arrived – my phone dropped into the toilet and went instantly dead. On Day 1. I told myself not to work up about it and enjoyed being wireless for several days.

The kitchen was not quite fully stocked with pots, pans and utensils needed for cooking, but I learned to get creative and strategic, and Steven mocked me saying this multiple times. But we made most of our meals in the Little House, next to (or on!) the beach itself. “What a woman,” says Steven.

Being 34 weeks pregnant on vacation isn’t really ideal in any location, but the proximity to the sand was very welcome. I packed my folding zero gravity chair and looked quite a site with feet propped up, sun hat, Kindle, water and bulging belly.

“Look at you, multitasking mama!”
“Your baby belly is adorable!”

^Those beach comments were always better/more positive than while walking around in town, of which we did quite a lot.

“Whoa, your belly button has popped!”
“It must be tough in this heat!”
“How much longer now?!”

And then Steven’s favorite, “Do you know what you’re having?” It doesn’t bother me, really; people are curious. But his argument is it’s not phrased correctly. “Why do people ask if we KNOW what we’re having? Why don’t they just ask if it’s a boy or girl? And why do they care anyway?”

I gotta say, though, I feel really good even at this stage. Walking miles on the beach and around town didn’t phase me, I didn’t ever feel self-conscious in my swimsuit, and I generally vacationed near as similarly as I would have, NOT pregnant. The only differences were frequent bathroom breaks and multiple wakings during the night.

So, what did we do on vacation?

THE BEACH – We were right on North Beach Park in South Haven, so naturally we spent the majority of our time there. Wes and I slept poorly one night, so we got up and spent the early hours of the morning in the sand, watching tractors plow over footprints from the day before. Wes “made friends with the waves” by “playing with them” – for hours upon end. He crashed hard after 6 hours of constant playing one day.

He also made friends with the many teenagers and young adults who spent their July fourth holiday at the beach. I’m so glad I’m not in that awkward stage of life anymore. Watching unsure-of-themselves girls with their proving-themselves boys was entertaining, and Wes saw past it. He swam right up to them and joined their games. He only occasionally lingered over ill-fitting swimsuits, but he didn’t ask me questions afterwards. (Steven still asked/reminded him to play with kids his own age!)

We played many rounds of water frisbee and kite flying. We assured him any freshwater sharks would be far from the beach, and he is basically now a beach pro.

 

We also met a cat on a leash and discovered she’s a motorcross celebrity. Check out Mya the #Motokitty.

IN TOWN – We hardly drove anywhere. South Haven is extremely walkable, though Wes might tell you otherwise. We visited all the staples – Bunde’s, Captain Lou’s, Clementine’s, Sherman’s Dairy Bar – but we also enjoyed a river cruise where Wes was so chatty that he became a part of the small boat crew. We seemed to need to walk across the drawbridge every half hour when tall boats could pass through.

FOURTH FESTIVITIES – The tradition in South Haven is to watch the large fireworks show off the south pier on the night of the 3rd. These were amazing to see over water.

And the following day, we caught the annual Fourth of July parade and stuffed our pockets with candy. Multiple popscicles were handed out, too! Our favorite was lighting sparklers on the beach at dusk.

 

“[The four sparklers are] like it’s me, you, Daddy and Maisie!”

U-PICK BLUEBERRIES – Besides swimming, Wesley’s favorite activity of the week was picking our own blueberries at DeGrandChamp Farms. None of us had ever done anything like this before, and we all were pleasantly surprised at how much fun we had. While hunting for the biggest, juicest berries, we talked about the similarities to Blueberries for Sal kaplink, kaplank, kaplunk! – and how we would eat them – out of the pail? in pancakes? in pie?

We picnicked near the blueberry shrubs, then purchased our own 2-year-old Legacy plant to take home with us.

By our last day, we had grown weary of our confined space and spent a very windy afternoon on the beach. The water was choppy, the air was slightly cold, and it was too windy for frisbee. But it sure made for a fun, wet experience on the pier!

We came home last night and slept in our own beds. Though not a direct quote, Steven’s comment was something like, “It’s a strange sensation to be in a house with so much space.”

I guess we’ll never downsize into a tiny shed on wheels, but we did have an enjoyable week. Wes helped me plant the blueberry bush today, and I spent the better part of the afternoon reconnecting my old iPhone 4s from four years ago to my phone number in order to rejoin civilization.

Next planning adventure? Maternity leave.

Posted: July 7th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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Second-hand baby

You guys, it’s happening. With only 10 weeks left to go, reality is starting to set in a little more each day. I’m beginning to get annoying on social media with all the baby-related posts. But seriously, it’s my life right now and nearly every other thought.

People ask me/us if “we’re ready,” and I usually state that yes, we’re ready for Maisie in that most house-and-care things in our control are in order, but that I’m grateful for (up to) 2.5 months to finish up everything at work before maternity leave. Golly, that could be a post in itself – and knowing me, probably will be.

Am I mentally ready for the family change? Most days, yes. I’m not nearly as panicky as I was when pregnant with Wesley. A friend at the gym said I appear very “grounded,” which was probably one of the most surprising compliments I’ve received. I feel good and as normal as can be, too. Other compliments have been along the lines of “you’re so small!” “you’re glowing!” (Today, however, I feel extremely pregnant and uncomfortable and not so small or glowing.)

  
Paul D’Andrea took a few funny maternity photos while helping me update our staff headshots. I love the one of me and my coworker, Jenni, with the goofy heart-on-belly look! (We think it looks like I have 4 alien arms.)

Then there are times when I wake at 4:30 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep because I get anxious about raising another child – What if she is a difficult, colicky baby? Will she be stubborn and dramatic?? How are we going to pay for a wedding??? – or because of a serious charlie horse or restless, jumpy legs and feet (bananas help, fyi).

I don’t, however, worry about the baby stuff we’re accumulating. Nearly all of our friends have complete families and are ready to give things away. We have inherited a nursery full of gently used or unused items, and anything else has been purchased at consignment stores or garage sales.

She truly is a second child for all the second-hand items we’re using.

THINGS BORROWED/GIVEN:
Car seat (don’t worry, I know for a fact that it’s not expired OR been in an accident)
Bouncy seat
Bumbo
Rock n Play (I never had one with Wesley; I hear they’re miracle-workers for naps!)
Clothes (SO MANY CLOTHES)
Bassinet
Cloth diapers
Swing
Swaddles and sleep sacks

THINGS PURCHASED FOR DIRT CHEAP:
Crib – $30 (nearly new Craigslist find!)
Stroller – $5
Bathtub – $3
Playmat – $8
Side-by-side sleeper – $12
Levana video monitor – $50
Medela Breast Pump x 2 – $25 (plus I got a third from insurance, haha)
Snoogle support pillow – $15
Cloth diapers – $5-6 (some brand new at this price!)
Skip Hop diaper bag – $10

SPLURGES:
Maxi Cosi umbrella stroller – $125 (I got a killer deal on this “loaded” compact stroller when Babies R Us went out of business)
Ergobaby Omni 360 – $115 (I didn’t have a good carrier with Wes, so I didn’t wear him much. I’m excited about this “sworn-by moms” splurge, also new but discounted price!)
IKEA highchair – $23 (Steven & Wes picked this out while on a trip to our city’s new IKEA store)
Milliard crib mattress – $45 (Steven’s Amazon find)

See? I can’t believe how gear-ready we are at this point. We have had wall decor hung and furniture from around the house reassigned to the nursery and in place for months. I’d like to get a few house projects done before she arrives, and ideally we’d trade in one of our cars for a slightly bigger one, but these aren’t necessary for her arrival.

For all the lack of spending on this child, she really has had a lot of hands-on attention. I found out that AMA stands for advanced maternal age, so there’s that. Thankfully the tests and scans have all been positive, and she and I both seem to be in good health. There are dog ears in our charts about a possible hole between her heart ventricles (cardiologist isn’t concerned) and my platelet count (OB isn’t concerned), but she’s of average size and weight and growing well.

Last week’s 30-week ultrasound was entertainingly uneventful. After taking measurements, our ultrasound tech tried for several minutes to get a good 3D view of her face. We must have woken her up because she did not want to be messed with, and it was impossible to snap a pic without her hands in her face. Regardless, we got to see her protest in response – punching her fists, opening her eyes, and even drinking amniotic fluid. Amazing.

The ultrasound tech looked closely at Steven’s face, then mine, and back and forth with Maisie’s obstructed view. “Yeah, she definitely looks like her father.” I sure hope she’s right!

Posted: June 11th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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Meatballs, Lies and Forgiveness

I’m 95% certain my six-year-old lied to me this evening. Honestly, it hurts. Forgiving has come difficult, even though it was a really small and perhaps insignificant lie.

It feels like our relationship developed a little crack, and this saddens me because it reminds me that he’s human, too. We’re all imperfect, I know, but this is a new experience. He’s one of those kids who gets in trouble at school for fidgeting or giggling too much with his friends. When disciplined at school, he offers to tell us – even when it’s hard for him – because he knows we care and won’t further punish him for something he’s already atoned for. It’s usually emotional for him, and it eats him up inside.

“Go away! I don’t deserve nice things!”
“What do you mean?”
“This happened at school, too! I just don’t like myself. I don’t like that Satan is winning. My life is not right. I wish I had a new life. I’m not crying because of video games; it’s because I just want to be good.”

(After this particular situation, we had a long conversation about why God sent Jesus to help us and how we are forgiven for making bad decisions. Big and deep thoughts are more common these days.)

But this, tonight, was different.

I made spaghetti with homemade meatballs for dinner. He likes meatloaf, but for some reason, meatballs aren’t his thing. We still make him eat a little of everything to keep him introduced to more foods than just his standard favorites. Like any 6-year-old, dinner can be tough. Lots of whining and refusal to eat; lots of choking down cold food.

He wanted dessert, but he could only have it if he ate a meatball. You know the drill. I left him to it, and got to working on other things around the house. Taking his time, he nibbled at it until I announced it was nearly bedtime and would have to hurry up if he wanted to eat dessert at all.

Just 10 seconds later, he happily showed me his clean fork, so I pulled out a popsicle from the freezer. And then I saw it – I opened the trash can lid to throw away a wrapper, and a half-eaten meatball was sitting there, mocking me.

“Wesley, do you see that?”
“Yeah, but it’s not mine.”
“Are you sure? I don’t think it’s kind or fair to lie.”
“I’m not lying. It’s not mine.”

Biting your tongue and trying to give your child the benefit of the doubt is hard work. I didn’t do so well; I drilled him a little more and tried to believe it. I thought I could break him to spill the beans, but it didn’t happen, and I guess that’s what makes it all the worse.

“Mama, why do you look so mad?”
“I’m having a hard time believing you. I’m more upset that you might be lying to me than I am about the meatball. We don’t lie to each other in this family.”

He gave me eye contact (while eating his popsicle), but he didn’t get emotional. When we’ve doubted him before, he has become so upset that it was impossible to stay on the fence. Steven and I have tried harder to use his word as truth, and it has given Wesley confidence in more recent situations. I had hoped that the guilt factor might come into play here, but it didn’t this time.

Our bedtime routine was strained on my account; I read books aloud through gritted teeth and didn’t offer a goodnight hug. I realize my behavior could make that small crack larger, so I’m working toward forgiveness. After all, isn’t that what makes relationships stronger? We appreciate those who love us despite our mistakes and failures.

Yes, it’s only a meatball, and I know there will be bigger fish to fry in the future. If I only had an ounce of the grace given to me through Jesus… I pray that we may be merciful parents to these children (who begin to think of us as a safe haven and refuge!).

It still amazes me how much I learn about faith through everyday parenting decisions. And forgiveness is hard.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

Posted: May 14th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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On Loneliness and FOMO

How is it that you can feel so alone when surrounded by people who dearly love you? I don’t know this feeling well, because even when I DO feel disconnected from community, I can still enjoy time alone. I am content enough to entertain myself. Steven loves quiet time, and he socializes best with a small group of people.

 
(Recent photos for good measure. Indiana Pacers did well this season!)

Before Wesley was born, we would happily spend our evenings doing two different things in proximity to each other, hardly saying a word, and it was lovely. It works for us. But this child of ours, he’s right smack in the middle of our personalities.

As I write this, the lyrics to One is the Loneliest Number are popping into my head.

I took a brief online personality test for Wesley, and it claims that he’s an extroverted intuitive perceiver. Steven is skeptical about all the Myers-Briggs stuff, but I eat it up. This makes sense because I love to know about people and hone in on their skills (ENFJ, a “Giver”), and Steven believes it’s all bologna (INTP, a “Thinker”). What can I say? We are truly the ying to each others’ yang!

The test claims he’s too young to have a fully developed personality, so he could be more of a feeler (ENFP, an “Inspirer”), like me, or thinker (ENTP, a “Visionary”), like Steven. It’s so weird because he truly is a blend of the two of us. At any rate, I have to believe it’s a combination of these traits that causes him to bend over in near pain at the thought of being separated by people. This child has a serious case of fear-of-missing-out, or FOMO.

ENFPs and ENTPs are ruled by dominant extroverted intuition – a function that picks up on a seemingly endless slew of possibilities in the user’s external environment. While this is a wonderful skill at the best of times, it’s a stunting one at worst. ENFPs and ENTPs can easily become quickly paralyzed by their own rampant perceptions – wanting to experience everything and consequently following through on nothing.

These types needs to let go of their fear that there is constantly a better idea, situation, opportunity, person or chance out there for them to pursue. When they learn to focus in on what they’ve chosen, ENFPs and ENTPs are capable of incredible feats. But first they have to learn to say goodbye to FOMO.

-Heidi Priebe

I mentioned quiet times spent in the same room. We still do this most evenings, and Wes is so used to it, that he enjoys drawing or playing quietly when we’re both within his eyesight. Pulling him away is near impossible. Forget playing outside by himself (although he will if I’m also outside, a few feet away). Heaven forbid he get a cup of water without one of us assisting him.

Bedtime is the worst time of day for our 6-year-old son. Getting him upstairs is a battle of argument and manipulation, but I realize most kids are in this boat. Once upstairs and resigned, he stops fighting back and (usually) happily gets ready for bed and thoroughly enjoys our nighttime reading tradition. But once we reach the last page, he starts to protest, whine/beg and sometimes cry for me to stay with him until he falls asleep.

“It’s not fair that you and Daddy get to be together all the time.”
“I just want someone to be with me.”
“Why CAN’T you sleep with me?!”
“I hate nighttime. It’s not fair that I have to go to bed now.”
“What are you going to do while I sleep?”

He calls it “loneliness” or “being afraid of the dark.” I don’t discredit those possibilities, but he didn’t start complaining about bedtime or dark until a year or so ago. It’s gotten progressively worse, and based on his complaints, I think instead he’s irritated at being apart from (what he assumes is) the “action.”

It used to frustrate me to no end because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I refused to give in and appease him, but I felt terrible that he felt so scared. Eventually I started to ask him about his fears so we could talk through them, and it helped him relax. I stayed until he was almost asleep. It’s been routine ever since.

Yes, he’s only six, but I do worry about how to help him cope as he enters adolescence, especially with an increasingly online and social existence. We purposely don’t have tablets in our house, and while we do play a lot of video games as a family activity, we limit other screen time as much as possible. However, I don’t think I can blame social media alone for the world’s FOMO problem. Instead, I think it’s up to us to teach and instill gratitude.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:12-13

There’s actually a lot of science about happiness, and much of it stems on gratefulness. Wes appreciates problem-solving and tackling an issue. He doesn’t always have confidence in the process, but if you can show him or demonstrate evidence, he is less defensive. I like this article about how to become happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label negative emotions and feelings. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Make decisions. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Give hugs and personal contact.

It seems a daunting task to teach gratitude. Wesley already has a soft spot for loving others, so I think, with time and practice, some of these tips and guidelines (some of which we already incorporate) and these Biblical reminders can assist in adopting gratitude and happiness to combat loneliness and fear.

Wes is probably the happiest sibling-to-be on the face of the planet. Gone are the crying fits, convinced that his lack of sibling must be a punishment from God for his actions. (Sometimes I think it’s these tears that defied our contraception methods!) He carcasses and whispers “I love you, Maisie,” to my growing belly, and he believes/hopes she will be the savior to overcome his loneliness.

Disappointment is inevitable, we all know, but he doesn’t – yet. I pray we can help him learn skills to address deep fears and teach him how to be grateful in all circumstances. We’ve got our work cut out for us!

Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. Proverbs 15:30

Posted: April 15th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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