Monday, August 28, 2017

First Day of School!

Lizzy Jo went to her first day of preschool today!  I can't believe this adorable baby

has already turned into this adorable girl.

Here are a few pictures of dropping her off:


She went right in and got started on a project without looking back

...but then she remembered that she loves me and came back for a hug and kiss!

And here she is at the end of the day.
Charly couldn't resist getting in on the action and getting a sticker.

She was pretty happy when I picked her up, but she said that she was sad and nervous during class (Actually at first she said she felt guilty!  It's hard to identify those negative emotions sometimes.).  I asked her if she cried when I dropped her off and she said, "Well, I had some water fill up my eyes, and I made some squeaky noises by my cubby by the door.  Then I stopped making squeaky noises, but there was still water on my cheek right here [pointing]. But then it was okay."  The rest of today was a bit emotional and I can tell it's going to take some time to adjust.

A quick update about her in general.  She is a creative girl.  She loves to color, draw, sing, dance, craft (cut, tape, glue, create!), write stories (with lots of help, but she frequently writes down several words by herself), and play imaginatively.  Here is a video of her singing and spelling, singing about our family.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Joey's Baby Blessing

This cute boy was blessed in church today.

It was a beautiful occasion for us as a family to reflect on the wonderful little soul that has come to our home.  Ever since he was born, Joey has instantly been loved by his sisters.  And they feel his love for them too.  Lizzy started saying almost immediately after he was born, "He loves me!"  Actually, she usually says "He loves me the best!"

Charly frequently asks to hold Joey.  She also loves getting right in his face (as you can see) and talking to him.  She thinks that he should answer back sometimes!  When Joey started smiling a couple of weeks ago, whenever he saw Charly he would break out in a huge grin!

These girls have all kinds of nicknames for this cute boy.  Jo-Bums, Jo-Jo, Jo-Bupst, Dean-Deans, and Jo-Pete.

He loves it when people talk to him.  He will calm down and smile when someone talks or coos to him.  And he answers back (Follow the link to see a video of him when he was two months old)!  I think he's more of a talker than my girls were at this age (admittedly, it is hard to remember how much they cooed at this age).  And here are some pictures from when he turned two months old.  Here's our cutie!

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Birth Story of Joey AKA Roo AKA Buster AKA Baby Joey

This is the story of the intense 2.5-hour labor of our third child and first boy, Joey!

[***This post may very well contain TMI! But birth is a messy experience and I wanted to be real about it.  Read at your own risk!]

Last Friday was a day for crossing things off of my "Get Ready for Joey" to do list.  First I went for a walk with the girls in the stroller.  I hadn't been very active at the end of my pregnancy because I was too lazy to get up early to exercise myself and it was usually too hot to do a lot of walking later in the day with the girls.  But I hurried them out the door early and we walked to the nearby golf course and saw some geese at the water hazard.

Then I cleaned my room, organized all of the baby gear in Joey's room, and moved our recliner in there.  I also did laundry, gave Lizzy Jo a make over (hair, nails, make up!), and read a bunch of books to the girls (This summer Lizzy is way into our summer reading program).  I just felt like I wanted to give them as much of myself as possible during our last days as a family of four.  To end the day, I downloaded my contraction timer app!

I thought that last preparation was perfectly timed (hehe) because I woke up to contractions early Saturday morning, around 3 a.m.  At first I tried to sleep through them, thinking that they would eventually go away.  I had told my mom that I'd know the day of delivery was approaching when I had my usual few days of early morning contractions (I had several days of this with Charly before the real deal).  So I wanted my contractions to earn my attention!  After 1.5 hours of contractions, I started timing them on the app.  They were really irregular in length and frequency, and intense enough to keep me mostly awake but not really painful.  After 1.5 hours of timing them, I put my phone away and just slept through them.  Each contraction would still wake me up, but then I'd go right back to sleep.  Finally, around 7 a.m. I got up and let Dave know that I thought I was really in labor, as they hadn't gone away in 4 hours.  I repacked the hospital bag, putting in my usual toothbrush and contact case and taking out the spare ones that had already been packed. But moving around while repacking was all it took to make what were really Braxton Hicks contractions just melt away.  And repacking was a big mistake because when I got these items out of my bag to get ready for bed Saturday night, I didn't replace the spare ones.  This is only important because I would never have the time to swap these items again.

So Saturday was another "Get Ready for Joey" day.  I looked over my birth plan, bought some supplies I would need postpartum, worked on finalizing my labor music playlists, and just enjoyed my girls.  That evening I went to a church meeting that talked a lot about family and how to teach your children about Christ.  I felt inspired by it, and determined that I would create some new traditions for our family to help me teach my children, including our soon-to-be third child.  I include this as part of the story because although I haven't taken the time to follow through on this inspiration because of the event of the following day, I want to remember it as part of my preparation for our son.  I read my scriptures that night before going to bed early.  I slept so well!

Sunday morning, I woke up around 6:30 a.m.  I was a little disappointed that I hadn't had a repeat of my usual early morning contractions.  Dave and I snoozed in bed, with no hint from my body as to what was just about to happen.  Dave had an early church meeting starting at 7 a.m., so about 6:45 he started getting ready and I got up to go in the girls' room since I heard Charly talking in there.  I asked her if she wanted me to snuggle with her in her bed for a few minutes and she said yes.  We snuggled and then decided to head to the kitchen for breakfast.  Lizzy was awake but not ready to get out of bed.  I had an odd contraction here and there through all this, but they weren't really much to notice and I don't think I even mentioned them to Dave.  He left the house a little after 7.

Meanwhile I had started making myself some grits, and I was trying to convince Charly to have some too.  She refused to choose anything to eat (she's not much of a breakfast eater, although she loves grits).  I decided to just make some grits for me.  Lizzy Jo came out and asked for cereal.  I got some for her.  My contractions started coming on stronger and more frequently.  Around 7:20 a.m. I decided to start timing my contractions.  They were 40-80 seconds long and were coming pretty much exactly every two minutes.  After 5 contractions like this, I texted Dave at the meeting to let him know that I might need him to come home early.  Charly had finally claimed my grits for herself and I had lost my appetite so I never ate breakfast.

Less than 10 minutes after texting Dave that he might need to come home early, my contractions were demanding all of my attention to deal with them.  I'd lean on the counter in the kitchen and breathe, unable to respond to the girls in any meaningful way.  And I wasn't able to do much for them between contractions because of the frequency.  I called Dave and told him to come home.  After that, I turned on a TV show for the girls and headed to my bedroom.  I wanted counter pressure on my knees, so I headed to our bed to kneel on it during contractions.  After each contraction I tried to get things together for the hospital and get myself dressed.  But, again, I wouldn't make much progress before another one hit.

Dave arrived home at 8 a.m. and I got in the shower to labor in the water for a while.  At this point we had to address part of our preparations that had gone awry.  Dave's parents live in Mesquite and we had planned on them watching our girls when it came time to go to the hospital.  However, their family was visited with the flu this weekend!  We had been hoping that the bug would pass before I went into labor, but since that wasn't the case, we had to decide if we were going to ask them to watch the girls still or if we should call someone else.  We decided that it was better to safeguard against those yucky germs and find someone else.  However, it was the weekend right after school got out and we knew that a lot of our friends were out of town.  Also, some of our best friends had family in town because their kids were speaking in church.  So Dave called a bunch more people to see if they could watch the girls on such short notice.  Between calls he was getting stuff into the car.  After a few calls he found someone who said we could bring them by on our way to the hospital.  This seemed doable when he arranged it at 8:23, 20 minutes after getting into the shower.  While laboring in the shower, I knelt on a shower chair for counter pressure on my knees.  During the peak of the contraction I would ease up off of my knees and hold myself up with just my arms so that I could totally relax my belly and pelvis.  But I hated doing it!  I just wanted that pressure on my knees.  Counter pressure on my knees how I have handled labor with all of my babies.  In the shower, with each contraction I would breathe slowly in and then say "Ooooooooopeeeeeeeeen" in a low tone as I was breathing out.  I also used the mantra, "My baby and I are working together."  Sometimes I said it to Joey: "You are working and I'm working."

I had asked Dave to turn up the temperature on the water heater so that I could shower as long as I needed.  Laboring in water had really helped me during my labors with Lizzy and Charly.  I had labored in water for 1.5 hours with Charly and several hours with Lizzy.  But only 10 minutes after arranging for the babysitter, I was daunted by the thought of eventually getting out, getting dressed, and driving to the hospital, let alone getting the girls ready.  My contractions were just so intense.  We only live 5 minutes from the hospital, so I realized that if THAT was feeling daunting, things must be farther along than I thought.  When I recognized this feeling, I told Dave I didn't think we'd have time to get the girls ready so that we could drop them off.  We needed to go!  That brought on another 10 minutes of trying to find a babysitter who could come to us!  As soon as Dave found someone who could (at 8:33 a.m.), I got out and Dave helped me dress.  Then we headed out to the garage, although I didn't want to sit down in the car until right before the babysitter arrived.  Dave went inside to tell the girls that a babysitter was coming over and I knelt on the garage floor during contractions!

When he came back I told him, "WE NEED TO GO NOW!"  We got in the car and waited on the street until the babysitter drove up.  We didn't even stay to talk to her as she got out of her car.  It was 8:50. We called the labor and delivery unit on our way to the hospital to let them know we were coming and to call my doctor.  But they didn't answer.  I didn't worry, though.  5 minutes later we parked in front of the emergency entrance (because it was the weekend) and Dave brought me a wheelchair.  I answered a few questions to check in, then a nurse came and wheeled me upstairs while Dave finished the rest of the intake questions and parked the car.  At 9:00 I was in my labor and delivery room and moved onto the bed.  The nurse got a monitoring strip around me and got the Hep-lock in.  Then she checked me and I was already dilated to 7 cm!  Before this point, I had been verbally very confident that we needed to go to the hospital, but there had been a teeny, tiny doubt in my mind that I was really progressing this fast.  I was worried that I had just not been handling the labor as well as I had with my earlier pregnancies.  Basically, I was afraid of being told that I was a big baby!  So I was glad that I was making progress.

The nurse mentioned that she hadn't been able to get a hold of my doctor, and this was a worry to me.  I really didn't think that I was going as fast as I really was, but I also wanted to see the reassuring face of my doctor and feel like "the plan" was being followed.  Dave arrived up to the room by 9:10.  He saw that I was sitting up at the head of the bed.  The back of the bed was raised pretty high, so I was sitting, but with my legs straight out in front of my with no way to get counter pressure.  I was also in so much pain that I couldn't move myself.  So he immediately offered to help me move to the foot of the bed where I could sit with my legs down and have him push on my knees.  He also reminded me to relax my face, hands, and legs.  "They're not doing anything today, they can relax."  He is such a good coach!  During the contractions in the car and in the hospital, I had started feeling major pressure and my moans were starting to get the "pushy" sound to them, like my body was pushing on its own.  More than once, after a contraction, I asked Dave and the nurse, "Why is this happening so fast?"  The nurse said, "Because your baby wants to be born!"  After Dave arrived, I had 4-5 contractions.  Then the next contraction was a really strong contraction, and my water broke and squirted all over Dave!  It relieved the pressure that I had been feeling and Dave, the nurse, and I laughed for a second over the shock of it.  But then I thought, "Oh crap, here we go!"  Charly had been born within 15-20 minutes after my doctor broke my water with her.

At this point I asked to get up and use the bathroom after the next contraction.  I was afraid that my bladder would be full and act as a cushion to the baby, as it had done with my labor with Charly.  I wanted to get what I thought was an inevitable awful bathroom break out of the way so that my baby could continue to move down.  However, the nurse wisely said that it was just the baby pressing on my bladder that I could feel.  She didn't want me to have the baby in the bathroom!  And looking back, she was totally right.  I hadn't had a single thing to drink that morning, and I'd visited the bathroom SEVERAL times during my early labor as my body was trying to get rid of everything!  During this time I expressed my fear that Dr. Ofori wouldn't make it to the birth.  But the nurse (who really was great) said not to worry about it, she had delivered plenty of babies and knew what to do.  [I yelled at her at some point during the labor.  She was having a hard time getting any kind of reading on the fetal monitor because Joey was so low and she was adjusting it during a contraction.  I screamed at her to stop!  But she was totally cool with it and took the monitor off soon after that.  She really was a great nurse.]

Soon after this, Dr. Ofori arrived!  They had been able to contact him, and fortunately anywhere in Mesquite is about 10 minutes away from just about anywhere else.  He started prepping for the delivery, then said he wanted to check me after the next contraction.  I HATE lying down during labor!  But I lay down, and he announced that I was complete!  I had gone from 7 cm to 10 cm in 25 minutes.  And it was time to push!  I had been moaning through contractions for quite a while.  I tried to keep my tones low so that I could stay in control, but it was so hard!  Each time I realized that I was getting higher and wailing, I would immediately say "Loooooow" in a low tone.  But as I was almost ready to push and then when I started pushing, I really can only describe my voice as screaming.  I felt totally out of control.  I screamed through a contraction and really only pushed a little bit because I wasn't able to focus.  Dr. Ofori said that I needed to harness that energy instead of releasing it as sound.  They never told me to hold my breath or counted for me.  But during the next contraction I held my breath for about half of it, pushing as hard as I could.  I felt the ring of fire, but instead of a ring of fire it felt like a line of fire extending from my butt to my urethra!  I started to scream part way through that contraction.  Then the doctor and the nurse said that I had to move back down to the end of the bed.  I had been crawling backwards on the bed without realizing it!  This behavior really doesn't reflect well on me as someone who had practiced natural birthing techniques and had delivered Charly in a much calmer manner.

I moved back down the bed and pushed through a third contraction.  This contraction went on and on and on.  I pushed and pushed, with everyone telling me that his head was almost out, almost there, almost there, then it was out!  One more push during this same long contraction, and he was here!  Joey was born at 9:34 a.m.  His umbilical cord was wrapped around his wrist like a bracelet, which really impressed my doctor!  He mentioned it a couple of times.  After they took it off his wrist, they handed him to me for skin-to-skin, where he stayed for more than an hour.  He was pretty quiet, not crying but making little grunt noises.  After a few minutes of snuggling, I breastfed him and he latched like a champ!  He's been a great nurser and sleeper so far (He's got all the difficult stuff down pat!), and we love him with all our hearts!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thoughts on Time

**Note**I began this post last November, and I’m completing it now.  And, it's kind of boring, with a lot of talking about ME, so feel free to skip it.

For about the last year, I've been feeling like I need some way to express my individual identity.  It is so easy to constantly label myself and my actions in the context of my relationships with others, since all day long I am taking care of my girls, cleaning up after them, and teaching them all the things they need to know.  And that is NOT a bad thing!  Today (Nov. 3, 2015) I found a lot of satisfaction when Charly grabbed her applesauce spoon out of my hand (not that unusual) and then actually used it to eat all of what was left in the bowl (This is a first!  Normally she sticks her fingers in instead of the spoon.).  And I loved it when Lizzy Jo asked if we could have a dance party, turned on the demo music on our keyboard (with a little help from me), and then involved all of us in the dancing.

However, I know that the times I struggle most with my parenting role are the times when I am wishing for more time for myself and I feel like I can't get it.  I've been slowly making changes to address this problem, and I've had a few thoughts about it.  I read a book earlier this year, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.  The author, Laura Vanderkam, made me think a lot about how I choose to spend my time.  It is an amazing book, with lots of examples of how people prioritize what is really important to them.  I think one of the most important messages of the book is that we all have the same amount of time, and if you choose to spend your time on what's important to you (not what you think everyone else thinks is important), you'll find a lot more satisfaction in what you're doing.

So, applying that idea to my situation, I first had to honestly acknowledge that my choices about how I spend my time are my choices.  Sometimes I feel trapped by being a mother. Ouch! Does that square with my happy feelings about my children that I already wrote about?  Yes, it does.  I'm mostly happy as a stay-at-home mom, but there are always going to be frustrations and things that I can't control.  These have lead me to feel trapped, and they will until I acknowledge that I chose to have these beautiful children, I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, and I continue to choose it each day that I am a stay-at-home mom.  I could get a full-time job and put my kids in daycare.  I'd still have to deal with the many frustrating aspects of parenthood. That is not what I have chosen to do, so it's important that I focus on the positive parts of what I have chosen, or decide to change if my priorities change.

Second, I had to appreciate the time I have each week.  I have a lot, whether I choose to spend it on myself, my children, my husband, my church attendance and service, my work, or wasting time on Facebook and TV.  I don't need more time.  What I do need to do is decide what is most important (and why, so that later I remember why I prioritized it) and then minimize, ignore, or pawn off to another person everything else.

Part of implementing this idea is deciding on the time of day that I do things, so I can fit in the things that are most important.  Starting in April 2015, I had been getting up and running with a friend at 5:30am several mornings a week.  Running is important to me.  It’s satisfying, it’s challenging, and it gives me some much needed exercise.  But later in the year an opportunity came up to tutor two Russian children online, from 5-7am.  I decided to change my focus at that time of the day, since that was the only time that I could tutor these kids, I wanted to get some different work experience, and the weather was cooler (this was in October 2015) so I could run during the day with the girls.

And when our tutoring sessions ended a few months later, I realized that I liked working earlier in the day.  I could get a lot of work done before the girls woke up so they weren’t bored while I was working, I began the day productively so I felt accomplished and like I had purpose, and I could still get my running in.  I have been working very part-time scoring the TOEIC English test online since before Lizzy Jo was born, but always during the day.  So from January to April of this year, I decided that I would score the TOEIC from 5:30-9:30am as many days as they would schedule me.  It was a great arrangement, allowing me to work about half the shift while the girls were still asleep.  The girls were happier because I wasn’t working a whole shift while trying to keep them entertained.  And I was happier that I was earning more regular money, since ETS seemed to schedule me more frequently for that shift than for later shifts.  This one change in my thinking about what was important and when to get it done made a huge difference in my life.

Now, as I'm finishing up this post months later, I realize that I haven't been applying these thoughts to my current situation.  More details to come in a later post, but I have a new job coming up in the fall, I'm not scoring at ETS anymore, and I've felt a little directionless and dissatisfied this summer.  So finishing this post has prompted me to think again about what things are important to me right now and what specific time can/should I devote to accomplishing them.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Open This Little Book = Library Gold!

When we go to the library, we play with games and legos.  We go to story time.  We pick up books, movies, or CDs we've reserved.  But honestly, I'm a bit lazy about requesting books for the girls.  So we usually spend a good portion of the time letting the girls choose books too.

Charly just grabs a bunch off the shelves and shoves them at me.  I really think she puts no thought into what she chooses, which is probably to be expected from a 1.5-year-old.  And to the casual observer it might appear that Lizzy Jo employs the same method.  But her choices usually include a healthy stack of Christmas books (yes, even yesterday, at the beginning of July), and she went through a similar phase with truck books.  And since her only criteria for choosing a book is the topic, we've gone home with some real doozies.  Little Blue Truck, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, Red Truck...I'm just waiting for her to find Little Blue Truck's Christmas.  Yuck!

But we recently struck library gold.  Dave and I try to get a few quality books to check out at the same time so that we don't go crazy reading all of the books Lizzy Jo has chosen.  Here's the gem that I found this week:

This is such a cute little book!  It's like a literary nesting doll.  Lizzy Jo has asked me to read this book five times since we checked it out yesterday.  And I've asked her to read it to me too!  Every time we read through it she exclaims, "The pages are getting smaller!!!"

It does get a little confusing, reading a book about animals that read books about animals reading get the picture.  But it's just so fun and the illustrations are really endearing.  Every time we read it, I just want to start it again.  If your library has it, you should check it out!