December 16, 2014

Hattie's birth story . . . part 2

OK, so here's the 2nd part of Hattie's birth story.  You can read part 1 here.   I realize that I sound overdramatic and whiny in all of this.  Overall, I had a very healthy delivery experience and Hattie was healthy when she was born. I realize that this isn't the worst case scenario. The whole thing was just much different than what I had planned and wanted.

So where were we? Right. The midwife decided to admit me because of my low levels of amniotic fluid, and she thought that maybe my water HAD broken. But the contractions I'd been having all morning and afternoon had come to a halt.

It was storming outside, and warnings were coming over the intercom system. I wasn't even paying attention to them because I was so upset that I was being admitted and labor seemed to have come to a halt. It was maybe 3:00 or 3:30. I just kept thinking about everything I could be getting done at home . . . unpacking, cooking, putting the kids to bed, etc. We left triage and went to a labor and delivery room.

Once we got there, we decided to roam the halls. As we walked, I'd have to stop and breathe through a contraction every few minutes. When I'd stop walking, the contractions would stop. As we walked, we reminisced about walking the halls before Claire was born. The new hospital had only been open 2 or 3 weeks at that point.  The walls were bare, and it was Christmas day, so everything was empty.

Things were pretty busy that day, though.

We went back to our room and ordered dinner. We, of course, ordered the chocolate cake that I fell in love with way back after Jack was born. The chocolate cake from U of M's room service the best chocolate cake I've ever had . . . and now that I've had it prior to giving birth I can confirm that it's not just the post-labor hunger talking.

After we ate, I dozed in bed a little.  I hadn't been sleeping well for the few weeks before, so I figured if I was going to be stuck in the hospital, I should probably just try and rest.  At some point between 7 and 7:30, I shot up in bed with an intense contraction (I know the time because I remember Wheel of Fortune was on). From that point on, contractions started fast and furious.  I remember asking Kyle if they were 5 minutes apart yet and he said, "Uh, they're about 2 minutes apart."

A little bit later, the nurse came in and asked if I would like my epidural and I said I didn't think I'd be far enough along because I wasn't even at 1 cm when I came in.  She laughed and said, "We can give you an epidural any time you want!"  Well, I wish someone had mentioned THAT before.

The anesthesia team took about 20 minutes to get there, but it felt like 2 hours.  Contractions had escalated to the point where I couldn't even sit comfortably between them. I was writhing and I was, well . . . loud. Side note: When I hear about the birth stories of others, I become convinced that I do not handle pain well. I'm loud and not calm at all. I'm begging for relief and crying for someone to just help.

SO I'm hunched over the side of the bed with my legs braced on Kyle knees while they insert the epidural, having to stop every minute or so for a contraction. I'd never thrown up during labor before . . . something I can no longer say. I'm thankful for the nurse who was quick on her feet for that one.  Given that I was hunched over Kyle, I think he's probably even more thankful than I was. The chocolate cake is not as good coming up.  Just FYI.

In the middle of getting the epidural, an attending doctor came in. This is where everything started to go south. She was barking orders at the resident (who was doing just fine up until she came in) and asking me questions (um, why are you asking me things that are in my chart when I'm so obviously not in the frame of mind to be answering). To make a much longer story a little bit shorter, I ended up with a dural puncture during my epidural. This is a risk of an epidural, but I never thought it would happen.  It was the first time the resident had ever had that happen. (He later came back and apologized several times. I wanted to tell him that I blamed only the attending anesthesiologist, but I resisted.)

I didn't know what was going on, but I started to hear whispering and I kept asking what was going on. In the middle of that chaos, I started feeling very strongly like I needed to push. Please note that I've never been to this phase of labor before without an epidural.  I was freaking. out. I felt like I was coming off the bed because baby was trying to just push herself out of there. The nurse called the midwife (Anne) and got me set up to push, but I said I couldn't without the epidural. She told me it was my decision and we could wait until the epidural to take effect before I pushed, and I could see the attending kind of shake her head.

I was already confused, because I'd had 3 epidurals in the past and had almost immediate relief with each of them. Each of those times, my contractions had lessened in intensity by the time I was back laying down.

So after the attending kind of shook her head, the midwife said, "You know what? I think you should just go ahead and start pushing.  By the time that epidural works, you could have already delivered!"  I started shouting things about knowing how epidurals work and knowing that I should have relief by now (Kyle said he had to stifle laughs because of how out of character everything I was saying was) . . . and they broke the news to me that something went wrong with it. Anne took my hand and looked at me and said, "There are a lot of things that don't go the way you expect when you're a parent, right? This is just one more of those things."

And that was the moment that I realized I would be giving birth, without any pain relief.

So I started pushing and a few agonizing pushes later, at 10:00 PM, Hattie Lynne was born! They put her in my arms and I felt like I was holding Claire again because they looked so much alike. I just stared at her and she cried a little and looked at me a little. We love her so much and just couldn't stop looking at her. Was she worth it? Absolutely. 100% yes. Would I change everything about the experience if I could? Also, yes.

During recovery, everyone kept saying things like, "When your epidural wears off . . . " or "You shouldn't feel this because of the epidural . . . " and I kept having to remind them that I did and could still feel EVERYTHING.  Stitches included.

But I'm not to the worst part yet.

Apparently a very recent study shows that when you have a dural puncture, you can avoid a post dural puncture headache by leaving the catheter in your spine for 24 hours. Which meant that I pretty much couldn't move from my bed for 24 hours.  No bathroom, no shower, no walking. Just sitting in bed, or laying on my back. In retrospect it doesn't sound that bad, but all I wanted was to shower and to not use a bedpan. I spent a lot of time crying over the fear of the post dural puncture headache and the possibility of needing a blood patch.

Fortunately, I didn't get the headache (I had a pretty bad one a few days later, but I'll never know for sure if that's what it was).  No blood patches were required to fix it. Everything healed up well.

Hattie was born on Tuesday, August 26 (Kyle's 35th birthday) at 10 PM and we brought her home that Thursday morning.  We jumped right back into things . . . Jack's 2nd grade class open house was that night and Kyle took him to that. We still had boxes and boxes to unpack (still do, for that matter) and a new house to get used to.  Our lives are just now starting to find a "normal" again.

Hattie is the sweetest, most laid back baby ever. I've done this before, so I know that it might not last forever, but we are so enjoying her happy disposition for now!

December 10, 2014

Hattie at 3 months old

At 3 months old, Hattie . . .

. . . has a few nick names.  Claire calls her "Hatta Batta" and we've all started calling her that.  It's obnoxious, I know.  I call her Hattie Cat, too.  And then a friend sent us a book called "Hurray for Hattie Rabbit" so that's caught on a little.

. . . is so laid back.  I hesitate typing that because it'll all be over once it's out there for the Internet to see.  That's just how things work.

. . . has rolled over 3 times, but I've only seen it happen once.  The first two times I just found her laying on her back, even though I'd left her on her tummy.  My other kids all rolled from back to front first, so I was surprised.  She hasn't done it since, so I don't think it counts.

. . . had her first road trip to Chicago.  She was AWESOME.  She slept in the moby everywhere we went and slept 12 hours straight each night.  I was a little worried because, in general, she doesn't like to leave home.

. . . is super smiley.  All I have to do is look at her and her face lights up.

. . . loves her brothers and sister. I think she could just sit and watch them all day.

 . . . plays so well on her playmat and in her exersaucer that sometimes I forget where I left her.  Don't tell on me.

. . . is CHATTY.  She squeals and chats like crazy and will talk back when we talk to her.

. . . was a great sleeper until she got sick last week.  She's slowly returning to her good sleeping habits, though.  She naps in her crib but still sleeps in our room most nights.

. . . is WAY better in the car seat than she used to be.  She doesn't cry nearly as much.

. . . sits in a little high chair with us at dinner and just takes it all in.  She'll sometimes grab a toy and try to get it to her mouth, but she mostly just watches.

. . . is super drooly. I keep wondering if she'll get a tooth here soon.

October 9, 2014

Hattie at 6 weeks old . . .

. . . weighs 10 lbs, 7 oz and measures 22 1/4 inches.

. . . is finnicky about sleep.  But we're not great about a consistent schedule so that's probably our fault as much as hers.  We're still grasping for routine here.

. . . has not slept a single night away from us.  Her brothers and sister slept in their own rooms from the start, but their rooms were just down the hall from us.  Our bedrooms are a lot more spread out in this house so she sleeps right next to me.  I'm wondering if that's going to come back to bite us.

. . . sleeps well at night (relatively speaking) but has trouble getting back to sleep after she eats.

. . . spends way more time crying for her Mama than her siblings did.  Claire is, well, challenging these days and I often have to put Hattie down to attend to her or her brothers.  It breaks my heart, and usually only lasts for a minute or two, but she'll get so worked up that it sometimes feels like an hour.

. . . has the sweetest smiles.  They just melt my heart.  Sometimes she smiles at me and I wonder if I'll ever be able to put her in a time out.  It just seems impossible.

. . . has her big sister wrapped around her little finger.  Her brothers, too, for that matter.  Every so often, they'll get frustrated when she cries in the car, but for the most part, they're very loving and attentive.  Claire gets the most one on one time with her.  I spend a lot of time protecting her from Claire's love.

. . . seems to poop way more than her siblings.  Maybe it just seems that way, but holy cow.  I feel like I'm constantly changing her diaper.

. . . is always in pajamas.  It's just easier that way now that the weather is cool.  I have some really cute warm weather clothes that she'll never get a chance to wear, and that's a bummer.  I feel bad for not putting her in cute clothes, but that's a lot of work.

. . . had a harder time holding her head up from the beginning.  It's getting better now, but Kyle and I were both a little worried at first because she was a lot "floppier" than the other three.  At her check-up, we found out that her head is the same size as her siblings was, but her height and weight are much smaller.  The doctor said it's probably because her head was so much bigger proportionally, but that she seemed to be developing fine.

. . . does not like tummy time.  Who does, really?

. . . leaves the house every day to go to pick up or drop off siblings, her brothers' games, to the store with mom . . . she's on the go.  She rarely leaves my arms or her car seat though.  It is flu season, after all.

. . . is starting to raise her hands to try and bat at toys dangling above her.  She mostly just lays there and stares at them intensely, though.

September 30, 2014

Chicken bits in my hair

It's no secret that I love to watch TV.

Wait, no.  I take that back . . . it comes as a surprise to people who don't know me all that well, because it's a bit of a guilty pleasure that I don't advertise that much.  But if you really start to engage me in conversation, it's bound to come up and my secret is out.  Whether it be something I saw on the news or a quote from HIMYM, the truth always comes out.  Please don't judge.  Are you judging me?  If so, just keep reading, because this post has very little to do with television. 

I have a trusty DVR to keep me entertained as I work, cook . . . or breastfeed.  One of my favorite things about the first few months of my baby's life is the excuse to lock myself in a room with just her and watch whatever I'd like.  Because of my love/hate relationship with breastfeeding, this is sometimes my motivation to keep it up.  It's well documented that I think the best time of year to have a baby is right before network sweeps.

Obviously, with each subsequent child that gets more difficult.  Right now, I'm often nursing while quizzing Jack on spelling words, pondering Ben's "what if" scenarios and/or reading "Are You My Mother" to Claire for the 55,000th time.  But during those late night nursing sessions, or when Kyle's home and I get that chance to sneak away and watch something, I savor every moment.

One show I added to the lineup this time around is the Pioneer Woman's cooking show on Food Network.  I love her blog, so I was sure I'd love her show.  I can bake pretty well, but I'm not much of a chef.  Watching her in the kitchen, though, makes me think that I can do it, too.  You just throw a little of this and a little of that into the pot, give it a stir, and viola!  A culinary masterpiece!  It's truly mesmerizing. 

On last week's show, she made chicken and noodles.  As I watched her cook and create, I was inspired.  It seemed so simple. In a moment of pure stupidity, I added it to my menu as tonight's dinner.  Why would anyone with a newborn add to her menu a meal that requires more than heating and serving?  I really don't remember how it happened.  I'll just blame Hattie.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken already cut up. They didn't have that at our local grocery stores.  I probably could have looked harder and found one, but when your baby is on a feeding schedule, and your grocery shopping trips have a very specific time limit, you take what you can get.

I asked the guy at the store if it was pretty easy to cut them up.  He looked me up and down and replied, "For me?  Yeah." 

Um, excuse me?  Challenge accepted, buddy.

I asked google for information on "how to cut up a whole chicken" and found this tutorial from the New York Times Food section that made it look so simple. Just cut here, and pop there . . . it just kind of came apart for the lady in the video.  Oddly enough, it didn't do that for me.  The fat lines are not, in fact, a "grid for where to cut", and the joints do not just "appear" when I pop bones certain directions.  That tutorial is full of lies and I'm vowing here and now to never subscribe to the NY Times. 

It was a disaster.  At one point, I considered chucking the whole thing and making something else, but this chicken gave its life for our sustenance and it would be totally ungrateful to just waste it (see that right there . . . that's from watching too much Naked and Afraid).  I got the legs off (kind of) and then just decided to throw the whole thing in the pot, NOT cut up, to see what happened.

I let the whole thing boil, and it seemed to be working out okay.  When it came time to take it out of the pot and shred the meat, I grabbed a slotted spoon that I THOUGHT would be strong enough to support the chicken, but as I was lifting it out of the pot . . . SPLASH.  That sucker fell right back into the broth, leaving my whole kitchen, and me, covered in little bits of chicken.  And chicken fat  Oh, and not to mention . . . boiling hot water.  You don't realize how greasy chicken is until you're having to wipe it off of your floor, cupboard doors and counter tops. And let's not forget that moms of littles don't get to take showers whenever they feel like it.  In fact, this post was inspired a few minutes ago when I pulled a tiny bit of chicken out of my hair. 

The meal was tasty and Jack even asked to take the leftovers in his lunch. So all's well that ends well, am I right? 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take the first of the 1,000 showers that it will take to get the chicken smell off of me.

September 28, 2014

Hattie's birth story . . . part 1

I should be sleeping right now.  Right?  I have four kids, a job, a business to run and I moved into a new house last month.  Oh, and a newborn.  So sleep is what I should be doing.  I'm well aware.

But it's been more than a month since Hattie's arrival and I've written nothing about it.  Or about her.  This leaves me feeling a little bit guilty, but mostly sad.  These days have been no less meaningful than the days after her brothers and sister were born.  I'm as in love with her as I was her siblings.  Isn't that amazing?  That having more children divides my time by 4, but multiplies my love by 4,000?  She is so precious.  That said, my blogging time is still much less available.

If nothing else, I do need to tell about her birth day.  The details are already starting to get foggy - something I didn't think would be possible.  But I won't get ahead of myself . . .

This is going to be detailed, because it's for me more than anyone else.  I want to remember.  Her story isn't all that dramatic or unusual, but it's significant to me.  Delivering her into this world was just as life changing and important as it was the first three times I did it.

So here we go . . . on Monday, the 25th, I did something to my back that made it really, really hard to stand up straight.  It felt like I'd pinched a nerve in my back and I was kind of hunched as I walked for the first 10 - 15 steps after I stood up.  In retrospect, I think the baby had just dropped.  Even so, Kyle and I decided that we needed to go furniture shopping.  Our old furniture in our new house just wasn't working, and we'd had it for 10 years.  It was time.  We'd tried to go once before with the kids along, but I just couldn't focus.  Imagine that.  So this time it was just the two of us.

The salesman made me want to walk out the door from the moment I walked in.  He glanced at my swollen belly and said, "WHOA!  Shouldn't you be home?  Wow!  I can't believe it!"  Literally those words, with a level of shock in his voice that was . . . well, it was weird.  Apparently he'd never seen a pregnant woman before.

I share that story, because it kind of sums up the last 4 months of my pregnancy.  Starting in June, people said things about my appearance that were so rude and offensive.  I get it . . . I don't carry babies gracefully.  I get huge and swollen.  But it's not like I'm a tiny person to begin with.  I just don't understand why people feel that it's not offensive to make comments like that to pregnant women.  Ok, I'm done with that.

We didn't find furniture and I wasn't really in a decision-making mood because of the back pain.  I went to bed that night with what felt like a pinched nerve in my back, and no decisions on furniture.

I'd only been sleeping 2- 3 hours each night because of the pain from carpal tunnel (something I'm still dealing with pretty severely), so it wasn't a surprise when I woke up around 3. I went to the bathroom and noticed that my pants were damp.  I wondered for a moment if my water had broken.  I wasn't having any gushing and the bed wasn't soaked.  My pants were just damp.  I wondered if I was just thinning out . . . if you've had babies, you know how that goes. 

I went to the living room and sat down and thought about how if she came that day, she'd arrive on her actual due date AND share a birthday with her dad.  HER DAD!  It was Kyle's birthday.  I had no big breakfast planned and no gift.  As I was trying to think through what I should do for him, I realized that I had leaked through again.   So, I went to the bedroom and said, "Happy birthday, Kyle.  I'm calling triage."  Because really?  Who can top the gift of your wife pushing out a baby on your birthday?  No one . . . that's who.

I spent that morning cutting vinyl letters for over the girls' beds.

So I called triage and the midwife on call wanted me to come in, but I told her I'd wait it out.  The one thing I did NOT want was to sit at the hospital waiting for labor to begin.  That happened with Jack and Claire and it was not fun.  Bennett's labor and delivery was my favorite and I really, really wanted it to go like that.  I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible and then head to the hospital.  And I wasn't even 100% sure if my water had broken.  After all, maybe I'd just wet my pants. She reluctantly agreed as long as I was still feeling good movement from the baby.  About an hour later, I had my first contraction. 

The (very early) morning of the 26th
Contractions were weird and very sporadic.  Nothing really time-able.  Nonetheless, we decided to head to the hospital just to be checked, but not before another walk through at the furniture store.  We took the kids to camp to hang out with Kendra for the morning and arranged for Kyle's mom to pick them up at lunch.  Then we came home and did things like, you know, pack our bags, take the car seat out of the box,etc.  All of the things that one should do long before her due date.  But let me remind you. . . we'd moved into our house (from a trailer) two weeks earlier and were literally living out of boxes.

We packed up and headed out.  We hit the furniture store, Target and then sat down to eat a birthday lunch at Outback.  I was having contractions every 15 - 20 minutes at that point, but when we started eating, they were coming every 5 - 6 minutes.  I made a comment that I wasn't sure that we'd make it through lunch.  As soon as the words left my mouth, the contractions stopped.

When we got to the hospital, the contractions were back to being sporadic, I was just barely dilated, and the test to find out whether my water was broken was inconclusive.  I was pretty sure she'd send me home.  However, my midwife did an ultrasound and found that my fluid was low, so either my water had broken, or my placenta wasn't doing it's job.  It was around 4:00 PM that they decided to keep me.

I started balling.  I was being admitted and labor wasn't really progressing.  This was the opposite of what I wanted to happen.  I just wanted to go home and wait.  I wanted to put my kids to bed, and keep unpacking boxes until the baby was ready to come.  Around that time there was a huge storm rolling through and there were announcements that we were under some sort of warning.  I barely remember it because I was so enthralled in my little pity party.

To be continued . . .

August 26, 2014

On pregnancy #4

I'm sitting here, feeling contractions and knowing that this baby girl will likely come today or tomorrow and feeling panicked because I haven't recorded much about this pregnancy.  I suppose it's to be expected by baby #4 . . . there's no time to sit down and write.

I've had as much, if not more, swelling with this pregnancy than I did with Jack's.  I didn't have much swelling or carpal tunnel issues with Ben or Claire.  But this time around it's awful.  I think it was exacerbated by all of the painting . . . I'm not sure it would be this bad otherwise.

I'm so excited to meet Hattie and to not be pregnant, but I'm really, really sad for this pregnancy to be over.  It's my last, and I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend.  Part of me is elated that I'll NEVER HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN!  Another part of me is so sad that I'll never GET to do this again.

I've been much more relaxed with this pregnancy, likely because I've been so consumed with busyness and moving that I haven't had much time to think about anything else.  I feel like Hattie moves less than the others did at this stage, but it might just be that I sit still less than I did at this stage with the others.

Watching Jack, Ben and Claire prepare for a new sister has been fun.  Claire calls all of her dolls "Hattie" and "baby sister."  She bathes them, changes their diaper and is overall pretty gentle and loving.  I hope it stays that way!

Jack has become pretty helpful, and won't let me carry anything.  Even pizza boxes.  I think he's seen Kyle take care of me in that way and feels like he should, too.

Every time I ask or tell Bennett to do something, he says, "Because you're pregnant?"  It's funny.

All three of them hug and kiss my belly.  They talk to Hattie and laugh when she moves.  When Claire asks Hattie questions like, "Do you love your big sister?" I'll gasp and say, "She just shook her tushie!" and Claire cracks up like it's the funniest thing she's ever heard.

I've had a LOT of trouble sleeping over the last 2 weeks, mainly because my hands hurt so bad from the carpal tunnel.  On the bright side I've had lots of extra time to paint, unpack, etc.

I'm so excited to meet this little girl, and while being pregnant isn't my favorite, I feel so, so fortunate to have the privilege of carrying her.

August 25, 2014

Backing up

We're in our new house!

But let's back up a little.  We were out of our old house on the 26th.  That last night was an emotional one.  I watched Claire fall to sleep in her crib for the last time and then tucked the boys into their bunk beds.  Jack was openly emotional, but Ben was just struggling to keep it together.  Kyle and I were both overwhelmed with nostalgia and spent time talking about our years at 11534 Hillary Drive.

We are SO fortunate to have as many friends and family as we do who were able to help us move.  Our small group came on Friday to help us pack up our uhaul and take it to storage.  On Saturday, quite a few of our summer staff came to help us pack up the last of our belongings.

We took the kids to my parents that night, and Kyle and I got the trailer ready to live in.  We're so grateful that Kyle's parents let us use their trailer, so that we didn't have to rent anything.

That first morning, we woke up, and I just sat on the edge of the bed and cried.  Like, ugly cried.  I was just so sad to leave our home, and so uncertain about when we'd move into our new house.  At some point during that next week, our closing was moved to "on or before August 21."

We cleaned out the house over the next few days, and both Kyle and I were emotional about leaving.  We came into that house as a couple and left as a family of 5 1/2.  We have so many memories there, but now most of our kids' memories will be in a new place.

We were in the trailer for a little more than 2 weeks.  There were good times and bad times, for sure.  Bedtime was rough because they all just wanted to play.  Claire didn't sleep well, and when she woke up, EVERYONE was awake.  On the second night, she woke up around 4, so she and I went for a drive.  We went to Walmart and were the first in line when Starbucks opened that morning.

I didn't sleep well.  A little because we were in a trailer, but mostly because I'm pregnant.  At home, I'd watch tv or do laundry, but in the trailer I couldn't move without waking someone up.

We did have good times.  It was nice to be together as a family and enjoy living at camp.  It was almost like a little "reset."  We weren't packing.  We weren't unpacking.  It was just some in between time.

We closed on our house on August 4, and the previous owners were out on August 9 . . . my 36th birthday.  We spent my birthday sitting around waiting for the call that they'd moved out.  As soon as Kyle got that text, we loaded up and headed to the house.  The kids hadn't seen it before and it was so fun to watch them run around and explore.

It's been a little more than 2 weeks, and we're feeling semi-settled.  Most of our belongings are in boxes, but the bedrooms are unpacked and livable, which was what I'd hoped to accomplish pre-baby.

July 29, 2014


Our original closing date on our new house was July 25.  Last Friday.  Alas, we have not closed on our new house.

It was pushed to August 1.  One week isn't a big deal . . . unless you're 36 weeks pregnant.  I feel like I'm a ticking time bomb.

And then over the weekend, we found that it might be pushed even farther.  There are a few annoying factors that go into the delays, none of which are in our control.  Let's just say that I wish that each person responsible for the closing of this deal were required to sleep with Claire in this trailer every night.  That would get things moving.

I don't know how many times I've offered the "please help things go smoothly" prayer over the last month.  Probably hundreds.

On Friday night, shortly after learning about the most recent delay, we were driving to return our uhaul as I began to cry and ask God to just push this thing through.  That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks:  I'm not sure God's as worried about the progress of our mortgage as much as He's concerned with the state of my heart.  Maybe none of this is about getting our family into a house before baby #4 comes.  Maybe it's all about learning to trust Him, and know that He's ultimately in control.  Maybe this is about surrender.

Kyle and I stayed in the trailer for the first time Saturday night.  The kids were at my parents.  I woke up around 5:30 and was doing my best to not completely lose it.  By 6:00, I'd decided that I'd better just let it all out while the kids aren't here, and cried for about an hour.  My sobs eventually woke Kyle up and we decided to go for breakfast.  The whole day ended up being kind of a disaster, and the emotion of being at the house for the last time added to it.

I'm trying to hard to just trust God, but when I'm driving around with my 2-year-old AT 4  in the morning so that she won't wake her brothers up in the trailer we're all sharing, all I can do is cry.  But my prayers have changed.  When I worry, I pray that he'll use this to increase my dependance on Him.  When I stress out, I pray for peace.  When I hear about more delays, I pray for patience with our current living situation.  The house will close when the house closes, no matter how much I stress out or worry about it.

July 27, 2014

The nursery

I sat in Claire's room and watched her fall asleep in her crib for the last time on Friday afternoon.  As I did, I cried thinking about the number of times I've watched my kids fall asleep there.  The number of times I've rocked my babies to sleep in there.  The number of hymns I've sung, the number of diapers I've changed, the number of outfits I've changed.

That room was green, with an airplane theme when Jack came home from the hospital.  I so badly wanted the room to be perfect.  I had everything ready.

The planes were still up when Bennett came home, but by the time he was 6ish months old, it was painted light blue and had a rocket/space theme.  I started designing artwork for the walls, but Claire came along before I ever finished it.

For Claire, we painted it gray.  Twice.  The first gray looked too purple.  We used pink and gray as the colors, and again, I have half finished artwork that I would have hung in there.

I remember before Jack was born, sitting in there and wondering what it would be like to rock a baby to sleep.  I've spent hundreds of hours in that room praying for them and dreaming about who they'll be come someday.  It's always been a place for cuddling and caring for whoever happened to be living in that room at the time.

July 24, 2014

The bowling alley

One of the things I don't want to forget about this house is the bowling alley.

This photo is taken from the doorway of our bedroom.  Claire's room is at the very end of the hall and the boys' room is the second door on the right. 

We nicknamed it "the bowling alley" because of the sounds we'd hear out there every morning, especially in the winter when the whole house was still dark.  One or two of them would get out of bed and sprint down the hall to our room. The sound that they would make when they got out of bed reminded us of being at a bowling alley.  They'd get a running start from their doorway and then would crash into our bedroom door to open it . . . rarely turning the knob.  We'd hear a door creak and then, "BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM CRASH!"

The sound wasn't always welcome.  Often we'd groan when we heard the creaking door and the foot steps winding up for the crash, but it's one of those things we've become so familiar with and one of those things I don't want to forget.

July 23, 2014

Shopping with Mama

Claire and I had to run errands in town yesterday, and we honestly had a lot of fun.  It's hard to believe that a couple of months ago, I dreaded going anywhere with her in the car because she would scream the entire time.

Our first stop was at Sam's Club and I got her a soft pretzel for a snack, which was a big deal because her brothers weren't there so she didn't have to share.  Of course, she only ate about 3 bites, but still . . . there was no sharing involved so she was happy.

From there, we went to Walmart.  In general, I avoid Walmart, but it's the easiest place to make purchases at for camp.  I'd been warned by some shoppers at Sam's Club that the air conditioning was out, and it was, but the temperatures weren't as bad as I'd anticipated.

We had a rather long list and Claire was relatively patient while we searched for everything.  She was doing a lot of yelling, so we talked quite a bit about indoor and outdoor voices, but she was pretty set on using her outside voice for everything.

We filled our cart and got in line at check out.  As we waited, I noticed her staring at the back of woman ahead of us.  I looked up at the woman and then looked back at Claire and could just see the wheels turning.  Everything at that point seemed to be moving in slow motion.  Before I could distract her, she laughed and said (in an outside voice, of course), "HA! HA!  I SEE YOUR UNDIES!"  It was in the exact same tone and with the same level of joy in which she hears her brothers tease each other.  Perfect.

Fortunately, the women in front of us had a good sense of humor.  She pulled down her shirt a little in the back and we all laughed . . . my face a little more red than the others.

We had two separate orders on the belt.  I paid for them both, loaded them into the cart and we started toward the exit.  Claire noticed that the large bags of bird seed and the gallon of milk weren't in shopping bags and said (again, in an outside voice), "WE DIDN'T PAY FOR THIS STUFF!"

I assured her that we did and pointed to the receipts that I had let her hold . . . but she's 2 1/2, so if it's not in a bag, it's not paid for.  She continued to yell, "WE DIDN'T PAY FOR THIS STUFF!  WE DIDN'T PAY FOR THIS STUFF!" while I waved the receipts and laughed nervously as bypassers stared, wondering who was telling the truth.  We approached the exit and Claire got very serious and wide-eyed and looked at the greeter and whispered, "WE DIDN'T PAY FOR THIS STUFF!"  He just laughed as I nervously waved my receipts, assuring him that we'd paid for everything in my cart.

I can laugh about it now.  Actually, I was laughing all the way out to the car.  It was mildly embarrassing, and very amusing.  I'll take this kind of thing over screaming and fits any day!

July 20, 2014

Where we're at right now . . .

June/July 2014 has been the most stressful time in my life thus far.  I realize that this makes me pretty fortunate . . . if this is as stressful as it gets, I'll consider myself lucky.  Nonetheless, it's been a lot to handle.  The sentimentality over moving our family out of our home, the pressure of trying to get packed up, the busyness at work, the anxiety about living in a trailer for a few weeks, the uncertainty of when we'll close on our new house, the apprehension about baby #4 . . . it's all catching up with me this morning.  Here's what's going on with us right now:

Musical Houses.  We currently don't own a home, and that's just weird.  We closed on the sale of our house on June 30 and we have to be out by July 30.  We're in contract on a new house in Spring Arbor, and aren't sure of a closing date.  As you can imagine, this is stressful.  I think I'll be able to calm down a little when we have that settled.  We have a trailer set up at camp and are moving over the course of the next two Saturdays.  Once we close, the owners will have 7 days to be out. We'll stay in the trailer until we close on and gain occupancy to our new house.  I've been so nervous about things with the new house falling through.  I really have no reason to think that, but my mind always goes to the worst case scenario.  It's just a gift I have.

The state of our house is like nothing I've ever lived in before.  Boxes everywhere, laundry piled in corners, the kitchen is empty, but we have paper plates, dishes and snacks out on the counter . . . it's a mess. Living in a state of chaos has always stressed me out, but the fact that I can't just go clean up is maddening.  I'm on a no-lift restriction which is a little unrealistic, given that I have a 2 1/2 year old that often ONLY wants Mom.

Getting ready to leave our house has been so emotionally taxing.  We're the only family to ever have lived here and it's all our kids have ever known.  It breaks my heart to think that Claire will have no recollection of this home and Ben's memory will be spotty.  Jack will remember the most, but those memories will start to fade.  This home has been such an important part of our life, and leaving is tearing me apart.

Packing up.  We have a lot of stuff.  I don't know how that happened, but I've decided that from here on out, we'll pretend to get ready to move once every 3 years to help with clutter control.  The craziest thing is the furniture that we managed to get INTO the basement, that we're having trouble getting out now.  We're having to move all of our belongings into 3 storage units until we have occupancy of our house.  So we get to move twice.  Lucky us.

I so badly wish we could afford to higher packers and movers.  That would be lovely.

The Summer.  We are currently in the middle of our busiest time of the entire year.  Right now.  In the middle of a very stressful move.  It's fun how that came together like that, right?  Our patience is so thin and our nerves are fried.  I'm finding myself responding to people, my children included, in ways that I'm not proud of.  Doing our jobs well during a normal summer is a lot of work, but this summer it's even more so.  On top of normal summer stuff, I'm trying to prepare for maternity leave this fall and get all of my late August/September projects done now.

We're also having to think through how things will work at camp with us living about 20 minutes away, instead of 5 minutes away.  I don't think it will affect our actual work day all that much, but it might affect how often we eat meals at camp, or just go there to let the kids run around.  It's just going to be a change in how we operate as a family, and that's hard for me to wrap my head around.

The Baby.  I woke up a couple of mornings ago and said, "I feel WAY more pregnant than I did when I went to sleep last night."  I have 5 1/2 weeks left until my due date, and even though I feel huge, I so badly want to be settled into a home before this little girl arrives; but, all of the golf carts at camp are out of order, so I've been doing a lot of walking and I can just feel her starting to drop.  Never have I wanted a baby to come after her due date like I have with this one.  I haven't been sleeping more than 3 - 4 hours a night, which adds to my lack of patience and energy.  She moved SO much . . . more than the other three . . . but she's slowed down in the last few days.

I had an appointment on Thursday and found out that she's flipped and is no longer head down.  As you can imagine, this has stressed me out.  I'm praying that she gets her little behind back where it belongs before labor starts.

My vision has been getting really blurry and I'm becoming nearsighted.  I know this is a common side effect of pregnancy, but I've never experienced it before.  Just one more thing.

The Kids.  This week I'm realizing how much all of the impending change and uncertainty is affecting them.  They know that their lives are about to change quite a bit . . . not just moving houses, but moving farther away from camp.  I don't think I've thought enough about how they're affected by this.  Plus, they've been getting to bed 2 - 3 hours past bedtime every night.  Lack of sleep is really affecting our entire family right now!

I've not been the model of excellent parenting, and they've been yelled at for little things way more than they should have been.  Last night, in the middle of me giving them instructions for bedtime, Jack asked for a glass of water and I said, "CAN YOU PLEASE THINK OF SOMEONE ELSE FOR JUST ONE MINUTE!"  Let me say this again:  He asked me for a glass of water.  He was just thirsty.  And he's 7-years-old.  

I find myself praying daily that they'll not remember this time all that clearly and that no permanent damage will be done to my relationship with them.  I've done A LOT of apologizing and even more crying in front of them.

After I put the kids to bed, Jack came into our room crying and told me he didn't really want to move.  He feels the same way about change that I do . . . sad.  It's hard, too, because I don't want to get them all pumped up about our new house until we have a closing date. We talked about how the only thing that makes our house special is that we all live here, and that once we're not here, it won't really be all that special anymore.  I only half believed myself.

Praying.  I've been praying so much.  Praying that we close soon and smoothly on our new home.  Praying that my kids won't be damaged by this move.  Praying that I'll be able to sleep in a camper.  Praying that Claire won't flip out when we have to shower in the Field House every day for a few weeks.  Praying that this baby stays put for a little while longer.

Most of all, I'm praying that this will be a good change for our family . . . something that will bring us closer and that God will use for His good and will draw us closer to Him through it.

June 28, 2014

Grandpa Luke

I'm so proud to have called Bill Luke "grandpa" for 11 1/2 years. He loved his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren so well. Words can't express how thankful I am for the legacy he left and the forever-impact that it's had on our family. We're thankful that he's healed, whole and with Jesus, but we miss him tremendously.

He passed away on Father's Day.  He had the ultimate Father's Day with his heavenly Father, I suppose.  It's still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that he's gone.  His trailer still sits on his campsite at camp, and I catch myself glancing over to see if he's sitting out in his lounge chair.

I think his passing will really sink in for me during Family Camp when he's not hauling coffee to the tents and I don't have him down the hall from my office counting offering or calling me with service attendance numbers.

Long before Kyle and I were married, engaged or even dating, I referred to his grandpa as "Gramps."  Everyone who worked at camp did.  Back then, he and grandma took care of all of the gardening and flowers, but I think their primary role was getting to know the staff and making us all feel loved.

My grandpas and one of my grandmas passed away before Kyle and I were married.  My Grandpa Haskin died when I was 4, my grandma Haskin died when I was 11, and my Grandpa Wietholter died a few months before Kyle and I were engaged.  So when I joined Kyle's family, I was more than thankful for another set of grandparents.  And from day one, I felt like I was one of their own.

One of my favorite memories about Grandpa Luke might be the night Kyle and I got engaged. He was so excited for us . . . but he kept telling everyone, "I'm going to be a great grandpa!" We had to keep reminding him that sharing the news that way was going to give people the wrong idea, but it didn't stop him. He was just so proud he was of his grandchildren and was just as proud (5 years later) of his great grandchildren.

We remembered Grandpa Luke at a memorial service yesterday and it was beautiful.  It was packed out with people who had been influenced by Kyle's grandparents in some way.  I was so overwhelmed with the fact that there was no mistake as to what Grandpa Luke's life was all about.

Kyle and I talked on the way home about his grandpa's legacy and how we can be intentional about passing that on to our children.  How can we live in a way that leaves them with no questions about what our lives are about?  We're grateful for Grandpa's life, and for how much he loved Jesus.  We're thankful for the example he and Grandma set in their 60 years of marriage and his faithfulness to her, even as her memory has faded over the last few years and she was moved to a nursing home.

We gave the option of whether or not to come into the service with us and he chose to.  It was very emotional for him, but I'm glad that he did.  I'm thankful that he got to hear about his great grandpa and the things that were important to him.  I ended up having to get up and sit in the back with Claire because she wasn't all that excited about staying in the nursery, so I'm glad that Kyle had Jack there with him. 

When we sang "How Great Thou Art" Claire's eyes lit up and she said, "I LOVE THIS SONG!"  And then we we closed with the doxology, she belted it out just like she does at bedtime. Claire will have no memory of Grandpa Luke, and Ben's memories will be sparse, but the legacy he left for them will be something that we never let them forget.

June 9, 2014


This living room is where Ben and Claire both took their first steps.  Ben started from the wall under the pictures and toddled across to the wall with the sliding door.  With Claire, the Christmas tree was up in the corner, and we were giving her ornaments to carry for the few steps that it took her to get there.

This living room is where I have my most vivid memory of bringing Jack home . . . Kyle holding him while Murphy (our dog) jumped up trying to get a peek at her new little friend.

My kids played here while I made dinner.  I dug toys out from under the chairs and loveseat almost every night.  Kyle and I sat in this room after the kids were in bed on so many evenings . . . sometimes laughing and sometimes crying. 

I remember laying on the floor next to the fireplace when I was pregnant with Jack and finding out the hard way how hot the glass is . . . which led us to purchase that screen the very next day.

I remember sitting in the arm chairs and nursing each of my babies late at night.  I remember watching movies with my mom there when she stayed with me after Jack was born.

Looking at this room, I see kids hunched over those bins in the corner, digging through the toys to find the one they want, while the toys they toss aside make music or siren noises.

I see each of my kids as babies, laying on a blanket in the middle of the floor, or under a baby gym.

I see our small group meeting while our kids play in the basement, and I can almost smell the coffee brewing.

In about a month, this living room will be a memory. Last week, only 10 days after listing our house, we signed a purchase agreement.  Done. Sold.  In a week or so, we'll close and then we have to be out in 30 days.  We've lived here for 9.5 years and I really did think that we'd be here forever.  I love this house.  It's crowded, but still . . . I love it.  I'm so sad to leave.

But I know that it's what we need to do.  I'm praying that something opens up soon, because the pickings are slim right now.  We've seen a few that we like, but nothing we've loved.  I've looked at every listing in Jackson County and refresh my app at least once an hour.  I'm doing my best not to panic.

Meanwhile, you can expect more of these sentimental posts about this house and how much I'll miss it.

May 14, 2014

Things are looking up . . .

The first three days of this week have contained more good than the previous two weeks combined.  I'm so thankful, because at the end of last week, I was nearing the end of my rope.  Here are a few highlights:
  • The brighter mornings mean that I've woken on my own more easily.  Sure, I'm still only getting 4 - 5 hours of sleep because I'm crazy busy, but being up before the kids makes a huge difference in how my day goes.
  • Mother's Day was so much better than I had expected.  We had a great brunch with Kyle's family, and the restaurant was VERY kid friendly.  I don't know if I was exceptionally hungry or if the food was exceptionally good, but either way, I really enjoyed it.  It was close to 80 on Sunday and I loved every second of it.  I still had to do grocery shopping and meal planning for the week, but making my list out on the deck seemed less like work. 
  • Monday and Tuesday were very warm, too.  The kind of warm that leaves you sticky and hot all day.  You will NEVER hear me complain about that.
  • We had a great conversation with a new realtor today that was encouraging and so, so educational.  I think we'll still go ahead with listing our house.  So much has to go right and happen in the right timing, but I'm less worried.  Fingers crossed.
  • I've been able to check some things off of my to do list.  There were a few things that I forgot to put on my list, so I put them on and then checked them off right away.  If they don't show up in the "completed" list, they don't count.  I had to do it, right?
  •  Baby #4 is crazy active.  She moves so much and I love just sitting and feeling and watching her movements.  All three kids have felt her move now.  When I was pregnant with Claire, I was constantly sad about her being my last and everything being my "last" experience.  It's not like that this time.  I'm very comfortable with this baby being my last baby, and I'm really enjoying feeling her move and grow.
  • However, I'm not enjoying everything about this pregnancy.  I don't like being pregnant, in general.  I just feel achy and bloated.  Nothing fits well, and I can't ever really get comfortable.  It's worth every minute, though.
  • I had some errands to run after picking Jack up from school yesterday, so I took all three kids out for ice cream after.  It was fun just hanging out with the three of them.  I can't believe they're all mine.
  • We made barbecue chicken pizza on the grill last night.  What's not to love about that?

May 12, 2014

Dear Claire, Month 34-35

Dear Claire,

When people describe you, the word "expressive" is used most often.  You are THE most expressive little girl I've ever met.  When you're excited, it shows all over your face.  When you're upset, everyone knows.  As much as I hate to perpetuate the "girls are more dramatic" stereotype, there's no denying it with you.

One of my favorite things to do with you is sing.  We sing hymns together every night.  Your brothers would always sing along, but you SING LOUD!  You won't sing in front of other people, but when it's just the two of us, you don't hold back.

You're talking now.  Like, for real talking.  Not just words or phrases.  Full sentences and paragraphs.  It happened at some point this winter, and seemingly overnight.  This has increased your ability to have fun with your brothers.  Sometimes in the car, you'll just look at Ben, laugh and say, "Be funny, Ben!"  You love all of the faces and noises that he makes just to make you laugh.

When I ask you your name, you usually respond, "Sara Luke" or "Kyle Luke."  And then you laugh your head off like you've just made the most hilarious joke ever.  I'll give you a look and you'll say, "I called me Sara!" or "Your name is not Mama!  It's Claire Bear!"  You sure have perfected the art of 2-year0-old silliness.

You have developed a HUGE fear of bugs.  Something happened last weekend that set you off, and now I have trouble getting you out the door.  We searched your body for a sting, but didn't see anything. I don't know if a bug landed on you or if you just saw something that concerned you, but now, if you see so much as a gnat from 10 feet away, you're climbing up my body like a monkey up a tree and crying like you've been attacked by something much larger than you.  In the bath last night, you started screaming and I panicked for a second.  I looked over and you were huddled in a corner of the tub pointing and a piece of fuzz floating in the water that you thought was a bug.  This fear could make for a VERY long summer.

To be honest, it reminds me of how you are around dogs.  If you so much as see one (even on a leash) from a distance, you FREAK OUT.  I hate to admit that this probably all comes directly from my gene pool, because I was the same way.

When you're freaking out about bugs and dogs, it's sometimes hard for me to be patient.  I want to just say, "Stop it!  You're fine!"   But the truth is that you're not fine.  You're scared.  It's ok to be scared.  While I can't rid your life of dogs and bugs forever, I can promise that I'll hold you when you're scared and help you to overcome your fears.  I will take your fears seriously, no matter how trivial or irrational they may seem to outsiders. 

You are both a joy and a challenge, Claire Bear.  You still love cuddling with me and reading with me.  Sometimes I just sit and watch you play or pretend, in awe of the fact that you are MY daughter.  MINE.  Words can't even describe how amazing I think you are, and how much I love you.  Being your mom is a privilege and a blessing.


May 10, 2014

The worst weeks

The last two weeks have been my worst weeks.  I've been trying to think objectively about whether they've been mostly the result of circumstances, pregnancy hormones, the crazy time of year or fatigue.  I'm sure it's the combination of all four.  In any case, they've been really bad.

We started getting our house ready to sell (which is all-consuming), only to find out that the amount of money we'd have to PAY to SELL our house is a lot more than we had anticipated.  So, by the time we pay to get out of our house, there won't be much left to put toward our new house.  And a new house?  We've found one that we really like, and we've heard there's lots of interest from other buyers.  It's not on the market yet, but when it is, I doubt we'll get it.

I feel so defeated.  I wish I could go back to 2005 Kyle and Sara and say, "They're lying to you.  Real estate IS NOT a good investment right now.  Just wait a few years."  And then yesterday afternoon, our neighbors began constructing a HUGE kennel in their back yard, right outside of our dining room windows.  To say that it sent me into a panic would be an understatement.  Maybe prospective buyers will really like dog-watching?  Last night, Kyle got up to get some water and when he tried to swivel the faucet on the kitchen sink, it just broke right off.  Right off in his hand.  So he spent the day replacing that.  If we DO sell our house, the new owners will have a nice, new faucet on the kitchen sink, so that's nice for them.

I have been at my parenting worst this week.  This is NOT an exaggeration.  I've yelled at my kids and made so many threats that I knew I wouldn't follow through on.  Did I mention that I've yelled a lot?  Screamed, really?  I can't take full credit for this, because they've been awful, but I'm not sure which came first . . . my issues or theirs.  I feel horrible.  I feel like when they think back to their childhood, the last two weeks are all they will remember.

May is always the most stressful month.  Once camps begin, the momentum just kind of carries us.  But getting ready for the summer is really hard.

On top of everything, when we signed Ben and Jack up for soccer in the fall, we didn't consider how their spring practices and games would affect baseball.  Fortunately (unfortunately?) they don't conflict.  But that means we have Soccer on Mondays and Saturdays and baseball on Wednesdays and Fridays. 

Have I mentioned that Brian and Debbie moved away at the end of April?  While I'm genuinely excited for them, it did kind of feel like I lost my only friend.

I have NOT been eating well and I'm positive that's contributed to my gloominess.  I've consumed too much junk, because it's what's easy during this time of year.  I need to do better about meal planning, but we do have a lot of meals at camp, so when I think about grocery shopping for just one or two dinners, I figure it's easier to eat out.  I need to stop that.  And I really should always carry healthy snacks so that I have no excuse for fast food.

Starbucks got my drink wrong 3 times this week.  They've never once messed up my drink, but THREE TIMES IN ONE WEEK.  I know, I know . . . first world problems.  But when you're paying first world prices for coffee?  You expect better.

The cashier at Meijer pointed at my belly and asked if this was my third child (Jack wasn't with us) and I said, "No, this is my fourth.  My oldest is at school."  She replied, "Yeah, I thought it looked like you probably had more."  Uh, thanks?  Ouch?  I don't even know how to respond to that.

I don't even want to get into how many people tell me that I look big for being due in August.  Yes, I was a little fat before I was pregnant.  Please let's talk about that more.

Because Kyle helps to coach Jack's team, it's just me, Ben and Claire sitting on the sidelines.  They're a handful.  Especially after 7:00, which is normally their bedtime.  After one game, another mom whispered (not quietly enough), "It looks like she has enough kids already."  And something about more than I can handle.  I didn't even bother to shoot a dirty look to let her know that I heard, because I probably would have cried.

One of the hymns Claire and I have been singing is, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."  The last part of the first verse says:

"Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!"

I've tried to keep that in mind . . . that I don't have to carry all of this and that I need to be praying about everything.  But honestly?  On most days, I just can't get there.  Praying about things leads to ugly crying, and I don't usually have time to recover from that without before I have to be somewhere.

Tomorrow starts a new week.  But tomorrow is Mother's Day and I've had a long standing "dislike" for the "holiday" in general.  Getting my kids ready for church and out the door for the late service (rather than the early service) because we're meeting for lunch after it?  And then eating with all three of them in a restaurant during nap time?  Happy Mother's Day?  I don't get it.

Monday, though.  Monday is when it's all going to turn around.  It has to, right?

April 12, 2014

This is what little sisters are for.

As overheard in the car this week . . .

Claire: Ben? Ben? Ben?

Ben: What?

Claire: You cwanky, Ben?

Ben: No.

Claire: Ben? Ben? Ben?

Ben: What, Claire?

Claire: You cwanky?

Ben: I already said I'm not.

Claire: Ben? Ben? Ben?

Ben: I don't want to talk right now.

Claire: You cwanky right now?

April 11, 2014

Parental humiliation

On Wednesday, Bennett had a meltdown.  Shortly after that, I had a breakdown.

It was fun.

On the way to school, Ben asked if we could stop at McDonalds since the cinnamon roll I gave him wasn't exactly a healthy breakfast.  I wasn't sure whether or not I should be more ashamed of the fact that he was aware that his mother had not given him a healthy breakfast or the fact that he saw McDonalds as a healthy alternative.

While at school, the aide in his classroom came out to tell me he had a stomach ache because "his mom gave him a cinnamon roll for breakfast and it made him not feel well."  For the record, he had fruit and milk, too.  But whatever.

A few minutes later, the aide brought him out to me and said he still wasn't feeling well.  It was only 30 minutes before class was over, so I just decided to pack up and take him home.  He had been up with nightmares the night before, so my guess was just that he was tired.

This is where it all blew up in my face.

"I DON'T WANT TO GO HOME!"  He kicked and screamed.  He tried to run away.  Several times, I sat him on the couch to tried and reason with him (because, of course, 4-year-olds are very rational, especially when they're running on little sleep).  Ultimately, I had to gather all of my belongings and carry my flailing child out of the building.

I'm not even sure how to appropriately describe the level of noise coming out of my blessed child's mouth.  I'm fairly certain the teachers were ready to go into lockdown mode, because surely there was a student being attacked in the hall. 

As I'm carrying him out of the church, he starts yelling, "YOU'RE HURTING ME ON PURPOSE!  YOU'RE HURTING ME ON PURPOSE!"   Um, what?!  I cannot explain to you how happy I was that I was in a safe place with people who know that I do not purposely hurt my children and not, say, the Target parking lot.

I'm so proud to say that throughout this whole thing, I totally kept my cool, was emotionally stable and handled everything with grace.


I did keep my cool, but I was fighting back tears the entire time.  As soon as he started yelling, "You're hurting me on purpose!" I was weeping.  Like, ugly sobbing right there in the parking lot.  I was humiliated, frustrated and unsure of how to handle the situation.  I was grateful that the preschool director and classroom aide were carrying my stuff for me so I didn't have to go back in.

Why do I tell this fairly typical story about fatigued preschooler behavior?  I'm getting to it . . .

The next day, I dropped Jack at school, and took Ben and Claire with me on a full day of errands.  We went to Ann Arbor and stopped at Trader Joe's, the mall, The Treehouse, McDonalds (for a healthy lunch, of course), and then a stop to browse at The Toy House while we waited until Jack was done at school.  It was a FULL day.

It was also a GREAT day.  They were both so well behaved, Claire napped in the car on our way home from Ann Arbor, and we all had fun.  Every time I asked them to do something, they responded with "OK, Mama" and every time they were frustrated, they used their words and we worked it out.  If you were to have followed me all day, you'd think I had perfect kids, and that I was up for the award of Perfect Parent.

On two occasions during our outing there were older couples who stopped and commented on how well behaved my children were and how nice it was to see how they used their manners.  I couldn't help but laugh, because you know if these same people had witnessed the episode the previous day, they'd be muttering under their breath about the lousy mother who needs to get her child under control.

So this is where I get to the point:  Judging a parent based on the little slice of life that I happen to see that day is just not fair.  I can't know if the mom I'm envying, who seems like she might have memorized the script from a love and logic instructional video, was crying in a parking lot yesterday because her son was throwing the mother of all tantrums.  And the kid I see throwing a royal fit for his parents, who seem like they don't have a clue?  It might be because they're all exhausted from nightmares that woke them up the whole night before (combined with the fact that his well-meaning mom wanted to give her kids a special treat for breakfast).

You just never know.

The fact is that I'm a good mom.  And so are the other moms I encounter.  To the best of  my knowledge, I've never met a mom who refuses to feed her kids or who locks her kids in a closet while she goes to buy drugs, or who abuses her kids.  The moms I know aren't perfect, but they're really good at what they do. We're all doing better than we think we are at this whole parenting gig.

April 10, 2014

20ish weeks

I feel like I have so much catching up to do.  I haven't really written anything about this pregnancy.  It had a rocky start, so I think everything feels a little different because of that.  I think maybe the fact that I'm older (I LOVE it with the midwife refers to the "maternal age" as a thing . . . I'm 35, not 50) and that I'm chasing three kids around contributes to most of the differences.

I mainly just have a lot more pain this time . . . tendon and joint pain all around my belly.  I had very little nausea with the first three pregnancies, but was nauseated constantly for the first 10 weeks of this one.  Of course, I googled the heck out of what that could mean.  As it turns out, it simply means that I'm pregnant.  There were a few days I couldn't even get out of bed because I felt so sick.  Apple slices were the only thing I could eat without feeling sick.

My belly is growing faster than the first three, which is to be expected.  I also started out looking a little pregnant already, so that contributed, I'm sure.  I've developed an aversion to bacon, just like I did with Ben.  Even the smell makes me gag.  I haven't gained as much weight as I had with the other three by this point, but that's bound to change here eventually.

We had our 20 week ultrasound before we left on vacation last week and it was wonderful!  It doesn't matter that it was the fourth time doing this . . . it was still amazing to see the little person growing inside of me.  She looked healthy and perfect.

We brought home cupcakes with PINK frosting to share the news with the kids.  Jack and Ben really wanted a boy, so we weren't sure how they would react to another sister.  Jack said, "We'll probably still love her anyway."  Ben pouted.  They both recovered from their disappointment quickly and are now excited.  Ben even said it would be "nice for Claire to have a little friend."  They started making a list of potential names, the first of which was "Claire, Jr."

Here's a rough photo of my baby bump at 20 weeks.  Pardon the beach hair and blurriness.


And proof that I can still see my toes.  This is the only photographic evidence that I was on vacation with my family last week.

A few shots of her beautiful profile.

The tech said she was laying weird and had her feet tucked back into the sac (or something like that).  At first, we were afraid we might not be able to find out her gender, but she finally gave it up.  Here are the best shots she could get of her feet and a few fingers.

We love her so much already!

April 9, 2014

How I found out I was pregnant with baby #4. Three times.

This is a long post, but it's the true story of baby #4.

About a year ago in March, I found out that I was pregnant with baby #4.

A week later, I learned that it was a false alarm.  I won't go into details, because they are humiliating.  But I was not, in fact, pregnant.

That week that I thought that I was pregnant, however, was an emotional roller coaster.  I cried for the first two days.  Kyle and I couldn't talk about it without me crying.  I was panicked about where we'd put the baby, and how we'd afford a baby and what on earth we were going to do with four children.

But as the week went on, we started to figure things out.  People have had a lot more children in houses a lot smaller than ours.  And finances?  They always seem to work out.  Maybe only one of our children will be able to go to college.  The others can learn a trade, am I right?  We were figuring it out.  By the end of the week, my fear had turned to excitement.

Then, on that Friday, I discovered it was a false alarm I was devastated.  I didn't have a miscarriage.  I didn't lose a real baby.  But I did lose something.  Everyone who's ever been pregnant knows that this minute you find out you're pregnant . . . even just a few weeks . . .  you start to make plans.  You start to figure things out.  In your mind?  That baby is as good as born.  I lost the idea of a baby.  Does that make me sound crazy?  Perhaps.  Still . . . it was rough.
I had only told a couple of close friends, and most of them laughed when I told them I wasn't pregnant.  I thought that maybe I'd laugh at myself over it someday (I still can't), but all I could do for about 2 weeks was cry.  March was a bad month.  I was finally getting over the pneumonia, and this happened.  April and May were kind of rough, too.  I cried a lot and didn't want to be around people much.  The whole thing really shook me and left me asking . . . should we have a fourth?

We weren't able to answer that question right away, and I knew it was unwise to jump into a decision like that right away because we were still emotional.  So we decided to wait and see how we felt in the fall.

Fast forward to the fall, and we decided that we were going to see what happened.  If you've followed this blog from the beginning, you might remember that I ovulate 2 - 3 times a year, so it's not like we can really "try."  We just decided to stop taking measures to prevent pregnancy and see where we landed.  In my mind, I had decided that if I wasn't pregnant by Christmas, we'd call it good and our family complete.

I don't think I'd normally share this story, but it's such an important part of getting to where we are now.  If we hadn't had this false alarm, I'm not sure we'd have started thinking about having a fourth baby.  During those months after the false alarm, and maybe even as a result of that week, our desire for another child grew.

In December, Kyle was talking to a friend who works for child protective services.  He was telling Kyle about how the foster homes in Jackson County are full and they were using part of the detention center in Pontiac as a foster care facility.  Kyle came home and told me this, and we wondered out loud if maybe that was the route we should be taking.  The very next day I took a pregnancy test (I hadn't had a period since August, so I took tests monthly just to make sure).  Lo and behold, I had a positive pregnancy test.

We decided to tell the kids Christmas day, even though our first appointment wasn't until the day after Christmas.  Kyle and I were both hesitant about this because we've always waited until we've heard the heartbeat to tell people . . . but Christmas seemed like the perfect time, and I've had 3 healthy pregnancies.  What were the chances something would go wrong with this one?  We put an extra stocking on the mantle for Christmas morning and when we pointed it out, Jack said, "Uh, is that for baby Jesus?"  Once they figured it out, they were excited.  We let them tell our families at family gatherings that day, too.  Jack and Ben were really excited to share the news.

The next day, we went for our first appointment.  The midwife did an ultrasound and saw nothing.  She thought maybe she saw a shadow in one spot, but couldn't be sure.  She sent us to the hospital to have another ultrasound done, and the ultrasound tech confirmed that the gestational sac measured 8 weeks, but there was no baby.  They diagnosed imminent miscarriage.  My bloodwork showed that my hcg levels were still going up, but that's not uncommon early in miscarriage.

During that appointment, I started bleeding, so they sent me home to let nature take its course.  As is protocol, they scheduled an ultrasound for 10 days later to confirm miscarriage before taking any action to end the pregnancy, though the midwife thought it wouldn't be necessary since bleeding had already started.

We had to go home and tell the kids that the baby wasn't growing any more.  I beat myself up on the entire drive home from the hospital for telling them so soon.  Jack cried with me and Ben just sat quietly.  Claire had no idea what was going on . . . it was actually her 2nd birthday.  We ate cupcakes and did our best to celebrate, but it just felt like there was a dark cloud over us.

I'd like to say that I was stoic and handled this all with grace and a grateful heart, but that would be a lie.  I was a wreck. I stayed in bed for most the next week, and missed every Christmas gathering we had scheduled.  I spent a lot of time praying and realizing how grateful I am to have three healthy kids.  And how lucky my kids are to have parents as awesome as we are.

Kyle took care of the kids that week and attended all of the Christmas festivities with them, but he was hurting, too. My parents ended up taking the kids for us for a few days, which was probably the most helpful thing anyone could have done.  It gave us a chance to spend time grieving and accepting everything, without having to put on a happy face for the kids. 

During the time that the kids were away, my friend Jeanette sent us flowers with a heartfelt note.  It was so nice of her, but the flowers had been sitting in subzero temperatures all day when I took them out of the box, so they looked like this:

When we saw them, Kyle and I started laughing hysterically.  I don't know why it struck us as funny . . . maybe the juxtaposition of the dead flowers and the beautiful note . . . but we laughed SO. HARD.  That laugh was exactly what we needed . . . even more than the flowers.  It was perfect.

We went back for what was supposed to be a follow-up appointment a week later.  I was still bleeding, But it was light enough that I didn't think I had yet miscarried.  The midwife said that once they confirmed the miscarriage at my next ultrasound, they could schedule a procedure to end the pregnancy right away.  I wanted them to do the ultrasound that day, but they wouldn't have been able to schedule any procedures until it had been at least 10 days from the first ultrasound.  I just wanted it all to be done.  I was constantly nauseated . . . more than I was with any pregnancy before that.  I was hormonal and bloated.  I had honestly accepted the miscarriage.  I had dealt with the loss.  I just wanted it to be over.

The ultrasound was scheduled for January 6.  The night before the ultrasound, we had about 18 inches of snow dumped on us.  We were snowed in.  I begged Kyle to please try to get us to U of M anyway, but we ended up stuck in the road in front of our driveway for a good 20 minutes.  I had to cancel, and they couldn't get me another appointment for 10 days!  I was so upset.  I knew there was no baby and I just wanted to stop feeling pregnant. The nausea and fatigue were overwhelming. Fortunately, the midwife got me in for Friday, so that I didn't have to wait over another weekend.  

So we went in Friday.  Jeanette offered to watch Ben and Claire so we didn't have to drag them along, which was amazing.  I was sad, but anxious to get there and get everything scheduled.

Before we left that morning, I was listening to the Rend Collective version of "10,000 Reasons" and this stuck out to me:

"For all Your goodness I will keep on singing;
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find"

That verse played over and over in my head throughout the whole day.

On our way to the hospital, Kyle's Aunt Karen sent me this message:

"In the middle of running around and playing with Uncle Jeff at our party, Ben came up to U. Jeff and asked if he could tell him a secret. He then told him, "our baby isn't growing like he should." Uncle Jeff told him that he would pray that everything would be okay. Then they went back to playing. We wanted to respect your privacy, but even more, we wish to know if we could pray more specifically for you."

It was perfect timing.  I needed to have more people praying for us.  It was interesting, too, because Ben had very little to say about everything to us.  It was good to catch a glimpse of his heart and his concern.  At one point during the week before, he told me, "Mom, did you know that I pray for you in my head, like, all the time?"

When we got to the hospital, we parked in the lot that we've parked at for every OB appointment, and for the birth of all three kids.  We passed all of the hospital landmarks that have become so familiar over the last 7 years.  I was so sad that I would now have this memory tied to those things, too. 

A cheerful ultrasound tech came into the waiting room and said my name, and I followed her into the room.  With a big smile she said, "Do you want to know if you're having a boy or a girl, or are we keeping that a surprise?"  Through tears I said, "We're here to confirm a miscarriage and schedule an MVA."  She was so apologetic and realized she had the wrong Sara.  She promptly returned me to the waiting room where my name was called again, by a rather somber Fetal Medicine Specialist.  He had a packet of information on MVAs and D & Cs that he set down next to the computer.  He told us that after the ultrasound, he'd go over our options and we could schedule something as soon as possible.

I closed my eyes as he began the ultrasound and within seconds said, "Well, I'd like to introduce you to your baby.  And here is it's heartbeat."  I sat straight up and said, "WHAT?!"  And there she was.  A sweet little baby, about 8 weeks along.  I was stunned.  Kyle was stunned.  Quite frankly, the doctor was a little surprised, too.  He said it's rare that he gets to give good news in this situation.  I told him he was one of my top 5 favorite people.

We were given a due date of August 26, which is Kyle's birthday (the due date as also been reported as August 20 and August 13 . . . we're not really sure when this baby is due exactly).  Kyle and I left the Fetal Diagnostic Center agreeing that it was one of the best days ever.

I've had a few friends and family members question whether the ultrasound was just too early, or if they were wrong to presume miscarriage.  Just for reference, though . . . miscarriage is presumed when the gestational sac measures larger than 2 cm, with no embryo.  Mine was 2.3 cm.  By the time a woman's hcg level is 1000, they normally expect to see an embryo.  If it's over 5000, with no embryo, they presume miscarriage.  Mine was 67,000.  On top of that, I was having bleeding . . . not just spotting.  In retrospect, I think it was from the vaginal ultrasounds (even though I've been told they wouldn't cause as much bleeding as I had).  There's still no other explanation for the bleeding.

Midwife and doctor agreed that this little girl might have been up against the side of the sac or in a shadow.  She was definitely big enough to have shown up at that first ultrasound.  This little girl is already giving her brothers and sister a run for their money at hide and seek.

I feel so incredibly lucky (and to be honest, a little guilty) to have my story turn out this way, because I know that for many people it doesn't.  Why me and not them?  When I think about those two weeks that we thought our baby was gone, my heart still aches.  I know that there are people for whom that ache isn't a just a memory. 

Our 20 week ultrasound showed a healthy little girl, developing just as she should be.  I'm so grateful.