34w

Monday, August 31, 2015

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L-35 days!  In 5 weeks, I'll have this sweet little boy in my arms!

We've definitely dropped a bit!

I'm doing okay.  I'm tired and I can definitely feel more stretching/pulling/contracting these days than previously.  Whether it is because Lucas is on the bigger side or because my uterus just isn't giving as much, I don't know, but it's there!  It makes sleeping much more difficult and I haven't had a solid night's sleep in months.  I haven't had more than an hour or two stretch in weeks.  That's tough, especially with trying to homeschool and raise other kiddos at home when I'm just so tired.

I have been hit the dreaded pregnancy "c": constipation.  I actually bought some Colace yesterday because I just couldn't deal anymore.

I see Dr. B. in two weeks for my 36w appointment, then I have only my 38w appointment left.  That seems nuts.  2 more appointments over 4 weeks and then, we are done.  It's go time.  Wow.

Thankfully, my overactive mind has settled and I've not had nightmares for a while.  Which is nice.  They were getting really worrisome.

September is just about here!  The last month "pre" Lucas!  Our calendar is done and, just because of the amount of weeks on it, it finishes on Saturday, October 3rd with my ladies luncheon.  That is just insane to me.  How are we to the last calendar already?

Baby stuff is done.  Hospital bag is packed.  Diaper bag is packed.  There is really nothing left to do except put up the cosleeper (which is here and ready, just not up), and Peter normally does that the day we come home from hospital.  So... There really is nothing left.  And that seems... weird.   Could we really be, dare I say it, ready?  Like, all the way?

Overall, things are still good.  If one more stranger rubs my stomach or another person tells me that I look like I'm "having this baby next week", I might scream.  It's hard, too, because well meaning people are like "well, you could have him and he'd be fine".... I know that.  I know he would be fine.  But a NICU parent doesn't want to repeat that experience, regardless of how "fine" the baby would be.  It's hard when I keep hearing how I "wont make it to October" when that is where my mind is so focused.  October 5th is the day.  I'd be happy with October 1st, but I just have to cross that threshold.  At Oct 1, I'd be 38 1/2 weeks.  I really want 39w.  It's best for Lucas, since 40w+ is outside of the equation.  I just really am praying and hoping we see that big "39" on the calendar. :)

What changes!!

Awake

Friday, August 28, 2015

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I've been up for the last 2 hours and I really wish I were still in bed.  This getting up every hour to use the bathroom, then being unable to settle back into a good sleep pattern is starting to weigh on me.  I'm so tired.

At least I seem to have moved beyond the nightmares and heavy dreaming.  (Although I suppose you really need to sleep in order to dream.)  I've spent the last few nights in bed without having to go to the couch to get comfortable, so that's nice.  But my sciatica is getting worse and sometimes just  standing up and walking seem to be the hardest thing ever.  Since we've got 37 more days to go (eek!), that part is really not cool!

Lucas dropped a bit last night.  My uterus is still high but there has definitely been a shift lower in the slope of my belly.  I can't say I'm too surprised; I actually had an interesting two hours of Braxton Hicks contractions mixed with real contractions yesterday afternoon. 

With a little more than five weeks to go, I'm finding that I just feel tired and sore.  The fact that I cant run or do yoga any longer is probably a fair part to blame.  I also feel like a lot of my poor eating habits have returned.  This morning, at 5am, I had two bowls of cereal.  I was hungry (or felt that I was) but now I just feel guilty for eating two bowls.  I know that I need to reign that crazy end or I'll just be back where I was after the twins were born.  There is definitely a physical component (I was really hungry) but there is also an emotional component and, as we get closer to delivery, I'm concerned that I might end up feeding the emotional beast more than the physical need.

Well, the kids are getting up and I have to prepare for a funeral this morning, so I suppose I should get back computer back to the desk before the peanuts attack!

N.F.Loud

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

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I rarely get to talk to adults about current events, so I figured I'd write a few "adult" posts when I actually had some time.  Why not!  Also, I realize that, to each their own, a post that deals with animal cruelty and factory farming is going to piss people off.  This is my opinion.  You are also entitled to yours.

So, in case you don't watch American football or don't even know what the NFL is, apparently over the last 2 days, Quarterback Michael Vick (formerly a Philadelphia Eagle) has been signed to a one year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  This, if my Facebook feed is any indication, has ignited a firestorm of controversy.  (Funny enough, it seems more of my girlfriends are football fans... either than, or my guy friends just don't care to post about this!)

When Vick came to Philadelphia, there was also controversy.   From his Wikipedia bio: "In April 2007, Vick was implicated in an illegal interstate dog fighting ring that had operated for five years. A federal judge noted that he had promoted, funded, and facilitated a dog fighting ring on his property, and had engaged in hanging and drowning dogs who did not perform well. He also had failed to cooperate fully with police. In August 2007, Vick pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 21 months in prison, followed by two months in home confinement."  We're Giants fans in this house, so whether or not Philly had a criminal on their team (and let's be honest.... I'm betting all teams have some pretty nasty skeletons in their closets, the NYGs too) meant little to me.  We weren't rooting for them in general.  That being said, I didn't have any love for the guy.  As a former veg and animal rights activist for seven years (many of our prekid days), I thought he was a dirtbag and was "sorry" because he got caught.  But, truth be told, is that really my business?  He plead guilty; he served the time he was issued; he lost his finances and filed bankruptcy.  He lost public opinion and he's vilified wherever he goes. 

What he did was awful.  It was terrible.  But it is also a symptom of something else.  When asked about why he would engage is something so horrific, he talked about growing up and seeing similar.  While yes, as an adult, he knew it wasn't right, it was also a part of who he was.  We know the issues of children of abusers; they have a high rate of becoming abusers themselves.  Children who are molested... tend to become molesters.  It doesn't clear them of wrong doing and it certainly isn't an excuse; but it does tell us a lot about the human mind.  Even knowing that what he was doing was both wrong and illegal, Michael Vick continued to participate in an event that he had seen and had been raised around his entire life.  He is to blame for his adult decisions; but who is responsible for molding the mind of a small child to make them think that, on some level, that type of behavior is still somehow acceptable?  (On that note, Vick lobbied for H.R. 2492, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which would establish federal misdemeanor penalties for spectators of illegal animal fighting and make it a felony for adults to bring children to fights.)

As my Facebook feed filled up with "I'm no longer supporting the Steelers" and "this is terrible" and a feed of other things, I mentioned to Peter how interesting it was that, of all that's going on in the world, this is what people are really pissed about.  He raised an idea that, honestly, really resonates with me.

Excluding the legality of animal fights, what is the real difference between something like what Michael Vick did and factory farming?  (I'm choosing to link to a Wikipedia article verses the more pro-animal articles, but after the things I've watched and read, I do think that the Wiki article is far more lightweight than some of the data available- but that is my opinion.) 

As a society, we have chosen to value cheap meat.  For example: I can go to the grocery store and get a large, roasting chicken that has been raised in deplorable conditions, fed hormones, mistreated, scalded alive, and a battery of other details, for about $5; I can go to Whole Foods and buy one that is still farmed in not-awesome conditions but maybe not "abused" for about $10;  also, at WF, I can buy a free range, non hormone, better raised chicken for about $15; or, I can buy it from my local farmer, who lets his chicken run wild, slaughters only what he sells, and does so as humanely as possible, for about $22.  (I had to actually check the label to get an adequate cost; our farmer charges $5 a pound.)  Notwithstanding that the taste of all these things are different (and they really are), but we're talking about a $17 difference; the farmer clearly will sell less and the factory farm will sell more.  They sell so much more, in fact, that factory farming is a booming business.   Think it's just about meat?  Think about eggs.  I can pay $1.20 for a dozen of bleached white shelled eggs with yolks that look like a light yellow; or, I can pay $5 for dozen of multicolored, freshly picked eggs with yolks that are nearly as orange as a mandarin.  (In fairness, we get our eggs either from a farm where we do pay or, when we are lucky, from a friend who has an overage and shares the wealth with our family for no charge, and this latter helps our food budget since eggs play a large role.)

 In my area of PA, I can get drive by about a half dozen sites within 20 minutes; we see the big "meat" trucks on the road.  We've had to explain to our children what those "farms" are, when they are so used to the model of farms that we do purchase produce and meat from.  We can hear the animals screaming and crying; we can smell the animal on top of animal defecation.  All farms smell; that's the nature of the beast.  But it is a different smell.  An awful one.  One that makes you roll up the windows a mile in advance and put the air on recirculate until you get a mile beyond. 

What is it about dog fighting that really pisses us off?  Is it that we are a society that loves our puppies like our babies?  That we snuggle up to them and look into their eyes and see something close to human staring back?  I'm a 'dog person'; I still mourn my pup who died shortly into Peter and I's marriage. I long to be able to adopt a rescue and we've discussed bringing a service animal into our home for Bobby, but I cant add the additional responsibility of care right now.  I used to ride horses and I felt similar; I'd look into their face and see this empathy and understanding.  Eating a horse?  A dog?  Even a cat?  (I'm not a cat person... no offense to those who are but they are just not my bag of chips!).  Eek!  No!  In fact, no deer (Bambi!) or bunnies (Thumper!) either- they are just.too.cute.  Why would we eat them?  Yuck.  After all, we have chicken and turkey and fish- I mean, those things are kind of homely looking.  I'll eat them instead.

Well, we don't have to eat pet animals.  You're right- but who is to say who is a pet?  My mom had a pet rooster as a kid. ( And, eventually, he got eaten.  Broke her heart, but she still eats chicken.)  I fell in love with a cow at the Farm Sanctuary; she was beautiful and kind and let me just hug and snuggle her.  The baby pigs?  They were adorable too; a sow had just delivered and we were able to sit among her and her new babes and they were so tiny and pink!  Even the chicken and turkeys, running around and singing, their chicks playing together, had this happiness to them.  I didn't want to eat them; I mean, they were so... cute.

I've been on the 'don't eat meat' side; I came very close to taking a job with PETA in Virginia.  We had the bumper stickers and the t-shirts.  I've seen the videos and nearly puked from the atrocity that I've witnessed animals put through for the sake of cheap meat. 

And now, I do  eat meat.  We work hard to teach our kids where all our food comes from, how hard of work it is, and how we have a limited budget to make sure that our family eats well.  Since we choose to spend it on roasting chickens that cost $22 (for about 2 meals when I factor in leftovers for just our family) instead of 4 chickens that would make at least 2 meals and maybe 3 because they are bigger, it makes things take a hit.  It's impossible to feed a large family for free; when you are buying local and fresh, and you have to prep things because it's not as easy as processed, it takes your time and your money and it's hard.  We, as a society, force people to make a living from killing- and not just killing, but doing it in a terrible way.  We want to eat; we want to feed our children; we like our bacon and eggs and steaks and, when we have a budget- be it $100 or $300- we fit those wants and needs into that and, for many, that means cheaper, processed foods and factory farmed meat.  I grew up that way (well, a combo... my mom grew a garden, we shopped at the farmer's market, my grandparents grew and canned, and we bought meat by the animal when we could, but she also scoured supermarket specials to make sure that there was dinner on the table.) 

But, as we grow up, we decide where these things rank in our priorities.  Can we eat whatever we want, with whatever consequence- be it animal welfare or the environment or farmers making livable wage- and be okay with it?  Many people can.  For many, it is a have or have not situation.  For us, it is the same, but we choose the not.  Peter grew up with meat at every meal; it's not that way anymore.  We spend a fair amount of our budget on food and that means meat at about 3-4 dinners a week; he has leftovers for lunch and the kids and I are usually meat free for lunch.  Breakfast is typically meat free, with bacon when we have it, because it's a huge hit here.  We still have our not-so-awesome choices  (Bobby loves hotdogs) but we try to do our best to put our ethics where we purchase.  When we run out of fruit or veggies or milk or eggs, the kids don't expect that I'll go to the store and pick up more; they know we wait for the farm day.  We are nowhere near where I'd love to be, but such is life.

(And, on another note, it ticks me off that people who are struggling and desperate to eat well are near forced to eat overly processed food because you can buy a cart of processed stuff for $50 and barely a bag of whole foods for that same amount.  That's another post I need time for...)

But how does this compare to animal fighting?  Eating meat and killing animals for sport are two different things. 

They are.  But both come from a common place: placing your want or desire over the well being of something else.  Yes, you could take that argument all the way to the "don't eat meat at all" side.  I think we all figure out where we land.  For some people, eating meat is just that: eating.  They don't really put much more into that.  But trying for a moment to look at both animal fighting (and it's more than dogs, and it is far more reaching when you add in things like cock fighting, bull fights, sport hunting, etc) and animal eating in that same vein.  It's not altogether comfortable.

Are you okay with an animal being electrocuted or drowned to death?
Are you okay with an animal being beaten and punched?
Are you okay with people yelling at and cheering around animals being executed?

These things happen in both animal fights and factory farming.  (You can easily find pictures and videos for both... I'll spare you the images on here.)

Before we throw rocks at Michael Vick (who did serve his time and pay his fines), it seems we should think about the glass houses we live in.  I know I have plenty of my own problems that are signs of the excesses of my culture and my desires.  While I can continue to not root for certain teams or put my money elsewhere when it comes to players I don't care for, it seems completely unfair to throw Vick under the bus for this issue while we continue to let countless other players get away with murder (sometimes literally).

It's Potty Time!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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This morning, while we snuggled on the couch, Michael told me that he wants to wear underwear and use the potty.  I'm not sure if this is his way of telling me he is physically ready to try or if it is because the poor child is desperate to be like his big brother and sister.  I thought we'd work on it after vacation, as he approached his third birthday- NOT when he was shy of 26 months old!  Maya only took days to train (both day and night).  Bobby took years to mostly day train (we still have issues) and we haven't tackled night time, although we are definitely getting close to it, as he wakes up to go to the bathroom now at night.  Our pediatrician's recommendation is work on it until boys are around 8 years (day) to 10 years (night) before becoming concerned about an issue and, with Bobby's neurological issues, we are actually ahead of many families I know, so I'm not worried.  But having a 2 year old boy ready?  That terrifies me!

He's sat down twice; once he peed in the toilet and once he had just lightly wet his pants (maybe dripped?)  But it's not even 9am.  It's a long day for day 1!  I figure we'll go with three accidents, then a diaper and start again tomorrow.  I'm not really big on the whole potty training thing, so I don't know.  Physiologically, I have a hard time believing a 2 year old is ready (although I know plenty of trained 2 year olds!) so it's hard for me to feel like I'm fully committing.  But if he wants to try, then try we will!  Nothing says 8+months pregnant like running around after a kid trying to use the toilet! :)  On a good note, if he manages to train in the next month, I only will have Lucas in diapers!  Wow!

But, for now, I'm kind of mourning my baby who became who toddler who now wants desperately to be a little kid.  Where's my bambino!!

33 weeks

Monday, August 24, 2015

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41 days, people! 
Only one week left of August and then we are really in the last of the haul.  As with running, I tend to drop long things into short "goals".  For me, I've been focusing on birthstones in my mother's ring.  I know that sounds a bit crazy, but it helps me work through the months.  Right now, we are at peridot, which is Peter's birthstone (our stones start my ring); I already have one of those!  And I have 2 sapphires (one each for Bobby and Maya), so I definitely don't need one of those!  So, little Lucas, you, you have to give us at least 36 days, LOL.  And, since I'm super busy with a Girl Scout meeting on the 1st, my last girls hurrah luncheon on the 3rd, an a GS Daisy meeting on the 4th, I'm thinking the 5th would still be the best bet.  :)  (If only babies listened to reason, right!)

Things are okay.  The rash is clearing up.  I'm tired and, especially with the humidity and heat we've been having, I've been contracting more (mostly BH but some real ones, too).  Again with the humidity, my feet will start to swell by the end of the day, which sucks.  Bending down is no longer convenient and getting comfortable... well, there's a pipe dream!  Lucas is still awfully high, which makes eating a bit of a challenge because both sitting down and actually eating are just not compatible some moments.  But, he's a mover and a shaker, and all in all, while I'm slowing down and just really exhausted all the time, it's still a good pregnancy.

I've been having some pretty crazy dreams.  With the other kiddos, I had fairly "dirty" dreams; for the last two weeks, I've had the same delivery dream.  Last night, I had a full blow, God-awful nightmare that had me sobbing and in a panic attack when I woke up.  I'll probably blog it at some point, but I cant do it now.  Just trying to explain it to Peter had me crying again and I couldn't get through it.  It was horrific and took me a while upon waking to realize that it wasn't real.  Needless to say, sleeping is getting more and more difficult.

I feel pretty darn lucky to have a husband with a job that is flexible enough that when I get blasted with little sleep and a migraine (like this morning), he can stay home to get the kids fed and dressed and then, doubly blessed, that my in-laws are five minutes away and that my MIL will come and be the doting grandma to kids who adore her for the morning so that I can just sleep said migraine off for a few hours.  I give a lot of props to single parents and folks who live far from family and friends; mornings like these, I'm eternally grateful for these blessings in our lives.

But, all in all, it's still good.  I still cant believe I only carried Michael for around 4 more weeks and then he was here, but I'm looking for my 2 extras!  (Especially with Papa Francis here during that time!) 

6 more weeks to go... We've totally got this! :)

Ending the Week (homeschooling stuff)

Friday, August 21, 2015

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It's been one of those weeks as I've dealt with this pregnancy rash and just wanting to sleep all the time!  My patience has been at an all time low as well, since the steroids I'm on until Monday are making me C-R-A-Z-Y.  I'll be honest.... Weeks like this one make me really jealous of my friends who are counting down the days to their kids going back to traditional schooling.  I just want some quiet!  But, that being said, each day has its moments.  Like, when I was really having a rough morning and Bobby sat down at the living room table and drew me a picture, then brought it to me in bed and gave it to me with a kiss.  Or this morning, when he sat himself on the pass through (a no no!) and when I walked by, grabbed me into an embrace that he wasn't ending with the words "I love you, Mommy" and just burying himself against me.  Or, with Maya, who laid in bed with me in the dark the other night, praying the Litany of the Saints and the nightly Rosary for the intentions of women in a homeschool group I'm part of, telling me at the end of it that it was her favorite part of the day.  (Mine, too, sweetheart).  Or Michael, with his wide smile and infectious laugh, jumping into my lap and kissing Lucas in my belly, then grabbing my face and planting wet kiss after wet kiss on me.  You can't buy those moments and, no matter how crappy other moments of the day are (did I mention I have ZERO patience????), those moments make it a bit better.

Today, we kept it lowkey, with our more "formal" religious work in an actual workbook.  We do this one-on-one because it is easier to discuss the concepts with them and talk about it at the level each of the kids is on, verses some sort of group lesson.  Today, we discussed God the Father, why when we use ASL, there is a difference between signing "father" and "Father" (as in God the Father), and about the difference between St. Joseph being Jesus's father in his life and God being Jesus's Father.  Then, the kids answered some questions and drew (or, in Bobby's case, wrote) some pictures.  Michael also gets in on the action with his religion coloring book, including a short video clip where he is reciting the letters.  I didn't get it on camera, but he said "praise" the first time.  You can hear Maya ask him to say "praise" in the clip I got, but he is already starting to sound out words.  It's amazing!





There's never a dull moment, though.  We saw my MIL for lunch and playtime, then after I put Michael to nap, the twins "tried" but opted not to.  Until, of course, this happened.


Poor kid was so tired, he couldn't even get the lollipop stick out of his mouth.  I guess that "hard" religion lesson was just too much!  (That, and his 5:45am wake up!)

Platelets Are Good!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

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Dr. B. just called me to check in on the rash and to give me the news that my platelets are stable!  They went from 122K to 123K.  Not great in the "they should be above 150K to be normal" world, but awesome in mine!  We had discussed that, since my last blood draw was a month before, it was possible we would be in the teens if the supplementation with papaya leaf was working (and, if it wasn't, then we would see the teens and know that, most likely, I'd need a pharmaceutical option or the IVIG infusion later on).  So this is great news!  Not only "stable" but an extra thousand!  I might not hit 150K, but if I stay around this level, then there's no worry for the spinal/epidural and delivery.  Woo Hoo!!

Dreamares

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For the last two weeks, I've been having this recurring dream that ends as a nightmare.  While I believe dreams can be a gateway into future events, I also believe that they can simply be a mishmash of what is going on in our lives or a creation of our thoughts and fears.  I'm not sure what the deal is, honestly...  I tend to think it is a fear of mine coming to life in my mind, but I have no clue.

As a childbirth educator and doula, I'm aware of what can happen with repeat cesareans.  I'm on my fourth surgery: Bobby and Maya were a (thankfully, well done) emergency c/s; then I had my TAC (which is completed like a c/s with Dr. H and counts towards my "total"); then Michael, and now, of course, we are prepping for our next surgery for Lucas's delivery.  I trust Dr. B.  We've discussed his methods for a surgical delivery at length; I was comfortable enough with it with Michael and I still have no doubts.  But more cesareans mean a higher chance that something might go wrong.  There is, of course, a higher risk of maternal death (it is surgery, of course, so that's no big shock).  Charts like this one make me question whether shooting for 39 weeks is within a safe window, or if we should petition the hospital for a 38 week exception.  (This article gives a well rounded, I think view, of choosing early delivery and makes me still comfortable with our 10/5 goal.)   Michael came around 37 weeks; babies come when they come.  While my hope is that October 5th 39 week mark, I'm not holding my breath and I'm just living life and making plans.  But, I get that there are statistics and they aren't always on my side.  (Let's be honest... you can find stats for anything....  Searching positive things for repeat c/s brings up link after link, too.)

But anyway.... My Dreamares....  The dream starts the same.  I see myself getting into the car to go to the hospital.  We drop the kids off at my in-laws with an overnight bag just in case.  Peter has reorganized their guest room to make it a kid room (this hasn't happened in real life although it is a discussion).  The kids are excited.  We tell them they can come to the hospital later to meet their new baby brother on the outside. There are hugs and kisses.  Peter and I drive to the hospital.  There's no traffic and we are happily talking about adding a new baby to the house.  The car seat sits waiting in the back seat next to the hospital bag.  All is well.

We get to the hospital and check in.  I change clothes, contractions and heart tones are seen with the TOCO, and I'm prepped for anesthesia once I'm in the surgical room.  Peter comes in.  Dr. B. comes in.  The surgery starts and everything goes according to plan.  Lucas is born, he cries, he's healthy.  We're all relieved.  Peter leaves with Lucas to go to the nursery for the assessment.  I'm alone but it's okay.  We've done this song and dance before. 

But then we haven't.  I feel more than cold and tired.  The warm blanket isn't working.  The machines that were easy beeps before start to chime.  There's a forced calm and an undertone of panic in the now flurry of voices of medical people.  There's bleeding.  A call for more blood.  An order of general anesthesia.  The world goes black but I don't know because I'm already cold and oh so tired.

But then, my eyes open.  And we're okay.  I've given them a scare, they say.  There was a lot of excess bleeding but it's alright.  They think they've stopped the hemorrhaging.  There will be no more children- they are sorry, but that couldn't be helped.  Dr. B. will be in to talk to me soon.  Would I like to see my son?  Peter comes in with a wrapped up package of beautiful.  He looks worse for wear, like he's been through hell.  We touch heads and just hold our newest miracle, smelling in his newness and perfectness. 

This is where the dreamare changes.  Sometimes, Peter is still there.  Sometimes he goes to get something to eat and it's someone else: Sarah, godparents, friends.  Someone else comes and is holding Lucas.  I feel the cold come back and start to slip back against the pillow.  The Nurse Call is rang.  There is blood.  How does one person have so much blood?  More sounds.  It's so loud but it sounds so far away.  Like there is a deep echo in my head. 

I wake up.  There's no conclusion to the dream, just that deeply rooted fear that this time, something might not go according to plan.

I've worked through the fears of loss with moms who are pregnant post infertility and loss, and I know that the fear of the possibility can be debilitating at times.  These moms constantly worry about the day when their babies die.  Talking through it can help but in most cases, they have to acknowledge the possibility that yes, their baby might die, and then move on from the thought, visualizing the better and best case pregnancy and delivery scenarios.  I feel lucky in that I've come to a place of peace about my children in utero.  I do my best; their lives have their own journey ahead of them.  I can only play my role, for however long that lasts.  I do feel much more comfortable with my own pregnancies and the possibility of loss because of that feeling and belief.

With Michael, I didn't really feel concerned about the delivery and complications; there were no dreams.  We chatted about the possibilities, but overall, we felt positive in the outcome.  After all, it wasn't as though a VBAC were even possible.  With this pregnancy, while we haven't really discussed it much, it feels like we're old hats at this c/s delivery thing.

Until the last two weeks when these images have plagued me more nights than not.  Maybe it's the steroids or the antihistamines.  Maybe it is the stress of another homeschool year.  Maybe it is nothing. 

I know it is a fear I need to work through and release.  But with what time?  We have 45 days to go time.  Can I find enough "spare" time to actually process this?

Cooking with Bobby

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

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While Michael and Maya took an afternoon nap, Bobby and I created muffins as part of our homeschooling!  We looked at the different things we have in the kitchen and we pulled together things to create a peanut butter cantaloupe muffin.  Are they good?  Who knows!  They are still in the oven.  :)  But here is what we came up with.  (I'll update once I have the finished product.)

Want to try them out for yourself? 
First, we made a cantaloupe puree by filling the blender about 2/3 way full with cantaloupe pieces.  We added a dash of water and then hit puree until it was liquid.  It made 2 cup of cantaloupe puree.

Then, we mixed the following together:
3 eggs
2/3 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup coconut oil (at room temp/solid)
1 tbsp. vanilla

When that was blended well, we added:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar

When that was well mixed, we added:
2/3 cup freshly made (not by us but from our Farmer's Market vendor) crunchy peanut butter.

In a different bowl, we mixed together:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon

We alternated adding the flour with the cantaloupe to the sugar mixture, starting and ending with flour.  Then, it was setting up our muffin tins with liners and popping those bad boys in the oven!

Bobby getting the muffin tins ready

This recipe made 36 muffins.  We topped half of them with a cinnamon sugar mixture and half with a pinch of Michele's Pumpkin Spice Granola for a taste of early fall! 

The muffins baked in a 325 degree oven for 25 minutes.  (At least, that is my estimate.  I will check them in another 5 minutes and possibly add more time if needed.... I'll update that info, too.  But hey... a girl's got to update her blog when a free second presents itself!)

UPDATE:  So the 325 degree oven for 25 minutes did work.  I'm happy to report they are moist and delicious!  A hint of peanut butter and that crisp sweetness of cantaloupe.  A definite success!!  I've already added these to my recipe blog and our homeschooling blog!

32 weeks

Monday, August 17, 2015

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We are 32 weeks today!  48 days to go!  7 more weeks!

Maya went with me to my OB appointment today and she was so excited to see her littlest brother on the ultrasound machine.  He was practicing breathing and opening/closing his mouth, which led Dr. B. to tell her, when Maya asked "What is he saying?", that he was clearly saying "Hi Maya!"  The smile on her face was huge.  :)  The ultrasound machine decided to freeze, so we opted to not worry about waiting for it to reboot and do measurements.  In what he saw, Dr. B. said Lucas looks great and I'm honestly not worried. He is breech and we were able to see his eyes opening and closing.  I have two more prenatal appointments (at 36w and 38w), then we are done! 

Eyes open and mouth moving at 32 weeks!

The good news is that I can stop the steroid ointment for my back.  He said that it looks good; there is still a footprint of the rash, but it looks like I have an intense suntan/mild sunburn and Dr. B. said the ointment has done what it can do to treat it.  However, I now have a PUPPP rash everywhere.  Oh my goodness... The itch!  The uncomfortability!  He prescribed a low dose of Prednisone and a low dose of Atarax, both oral, to hopefully knock out the rash and hives.  Unfortunately, the Atarax makes you tired.  I was okay for about 2 hours, but then I literally passed out on the couch in the five minutes that my MIL said she was on her way to when she got here.  Then I slept for 2 hours.  The remaining three hours, I've been groggy to start and now feel okay, just tired.  Thankfully, these are only for a week and, God willing, I'll be a much happier person by 33 weeks!

I went through maternity clothes from my pregnancy with Michael, to find out what I could use for this pregnancy as summer begins (hopefully) to wane into fall.  Funny enough (or not so much) the stuff I wore when I was fairly early pregnant with Michael doesn't really fit as I'm moving closer to term with Michael.  A fair amount of it was donated to another mom who was in need of some maternity clothes.  I was, however, able to keep some of my favorite pieces, so that's nice.  I'm looking forward to losing the baby weight from Lucas and Michael both, and getting back into my comfortable, "pre-baby" wear.  With Peter having a good amount of time he'll be off at the end of 2015, I'm hoping I can establish a good routine once I'm home from the hospital.

As anyone who isn't under a rock (ahem... me???) knows, the Pope will be visiting Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.  My hospital is across the street from the Seminary and, while we wont be impacted with the Philly closings, there was a concern about roads being shut down because of the proximity to the hospital.  I'll be 37 weeks during the Pope's visit... Prime time for delivery (although I'm really holding out for October!!!!)  It was strange to be discussing what happens if I go into labor.  I still have another appointment (the week before Papa Francis visits) but it was surreal to have that chat with Dr. B.  Thankfully, the way we go to the hospital will be open; traffic might be bad, so Dr. B. asked that if I start to suspect labor, to just leave for the hospital and ring him on the way; he'd rather send me home than have me need to call an ambulance on the Blue Route while we are stuck in traffic.  Thank God, my hospital is on the outskirts of the City; I can't even imagine what the poor moms, due in September/early October, are going through if they are in the lock down area.

So, while this week is still a rough one as it relates to rashes and being uncomfortable, it was a good OB visit and that's really what I hope for each month.

32 week belly

Itchy!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

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When it rains, it pours!  Oh my goodness, I am soooooo itchy.

The rash from a week ago is, thankfully, getting better.  The steroid ointment has really helped the rash to go from being really awful to now being a reddish-brown discoloration that is getting lighter each day.  I was prescribed Clobetasol, first as an ointment (which only lasted 2 days for 50 grams.... not good) and then the ointment (I'm mostly through the 50 gram tube, and we are on day 7 of treatment).  Reading the insert, which says that pregnant women shouldn't use it, doesn't give an expectant mother warm fuzzies.  It is a Class C drug which shows birth defects in animal tests.

Thankfully, there is recent research that lends to the belief that corticosteroids (even potent ones like this one) are not as dangerous as previously suspected, which used in smaller amounts.

But I'm still itching!  The cream is helping with the big issue, but now I'm itching all over!  Peter's thought is that it might be my body addressing the weaning down of the drug, since I'm now doing it once a day.  I hope it is that and not something worse, like a liver issue indicative of Cholestasis.  I see Dr. B. tomorrow, but I am itchy all over, with red bumps and welts everywhere (even places where there was no inkling of a rash before.)  I'm using OTC oatmeal lotions that are suggested for excema and they seem to be helping, as is alternating with Sarna lotion (again, though, with 1% of a class C in it).  But I don't want to scratch and make it worse :(.

Hopefully, this will fade soon!!

Time

Thursday, August 13, 2015

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I feel as though time is somehow walking all over me.  I look at the clock and it's moving far too fast than I think should be possible.  I look at pictures and think that we still look like that, only to see Peter or the kids or myself in the mirror and realize we've changed.  As I'm currently getting my fall schedule worked out, with scouting stuff and baby stuff and homeschooling and the unending list of things that have to happen between now and the end of the year, I can't believe that things are X weeks away.  Weren't we just ringing in 2016 a few days ago?

I washed and hung up Lucas's Halloween costume (a little pumpkin sleeper).  He has a Halloween costume... in the closet.  His clothes are washed and in the drawers.  We've squared away baby items.  He'll be here in less than 8 weeks.  That seems like such a short time.  52 days.  That makes it sound even shorter.

Michael is such a kid and not a baby.  He still lets me play a few innings of his life, like nap time and his wake up snuggles.  He wants a hug when he's hurt and he runs to Mama with open arms. But he tags along with the big kids now.  He waddles behind them and talks in sentences. He says "Thank You" when something is given to him.  He has started trying to dress himself and get his shoes on; he still needs help, but it's just a matter of time.

Bobby and Maya turn six four weeks from today.  Six years old seems like so young and so old, all at the same time.  They act too old for the babies that they are in my mind.  A third of their childhood is done; it doesn't feel like we are 1/3 of the way to 18.  How did that happen?  How did it sneak up on me?

Well, the kids have finished their art project.  I guess it's time for me to get back to real life!

Happy Birthday, Peter!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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One of my favorite pictures of Peter was taken on his birthday when we were pregnant (and in the hospital) with Bobby and Maya.  We had only 3 days until viability.  His parents brought food and a cake, and we celebrated in the hospital.  Of course, I cant find that picture now, in spite of looking through my computer and FB.  Oh well!  I can see it in my head! :) 

Today, we celebrate this awesome guy.  This man who takes the most pride in being a great husband and father.  A man who works tirelessly to provide for us financially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.  A man who judges his success not by how hard he works at the office or his job title or even all the positive differences he makes in his field, but by how his family is- inside and out.  We are so blessed by him and, although I don't tell him enough (and definitely nag him more than I should), he is the rock of our home.  He is the hero of our children and the love of my life.




Happy birthday, Peter!  The world is a better place and has been for a bit shy of four decades because you are in it!  I love you!  We love you!

The Glimpse

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

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Last week, Maya's BFF spent two days with us.  The girls are only a month apart in age, and they spent the week together at Girl Scout Camp while Peter was away in California.  While they had seen each other beforehand, that was their first intensive time together.  We've had a few times together since, and it's cute to watch Maya with a close friend.  The snuggle together on a chair to share a tablet and work through an app.  They play board games on the floor.  They sit in the stairwell leading to the play/homeschool room and giggle, talking about the things that little friends talk about.  They swing next to each other slowly, just sharing the space and their day.  It's different than the high impact, sister-and-friend-to-boys life that Maya normally has.  She's rough and tumble, screaming right along with them, pushing and jumping and rough housing.  All good things, but different, too.

As I watch her interact with the daughters of our friends, I often find myself wondering what life would have been like for her with a living sister.  Seeing her last week, with all those stolen moments and shared jokes, it made me both happy that she had found a friend and sad that the friend isn't her older sister. 

I see it in glimpses often, but I found myself tearing up about it a few times last week.  I'm to the point where I try not to ask "what might have been" because we are lucky and grateful for what "is".  It still hits from time to time, though- often when I least expect it.

31 weeks

Monday, August 10, 2015

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L-8 weeks to go!



I've had some off and on itching since my belly started expanding, but it has all been limited to my belly, around the stretch marks.  Last week, the itching started getting worse: back, hips, legs, arms.  I've been scratching like I'm trying to get my skin off! 
My guess is that it is PUPPP; that being said, I see Dr. B. in a week for my 32 week appointment and, since I plan to ask him to draw an LFT and SBAT to rule out Gestational Cholestasis.  Peter's mom brought me a cooling, anti itch gel that works for a few hours, but camphor (the active ingredient) is contraindicated in pregnancy.  Recommendations for helping the itch were Sarna lotion and Redmond Clay.  The Sarna has ingredients that are contraindicated in pregnancy and I have yet to find the clay.  I did find a Gold Bond oatmeal lotion that I'm alternating with the CVS brand eczema cream.   Peter's lathered this on multiple times a day over the weekend and, although it still hurts, it is getting better.  I had to skip church on Sunday just because I was so uncomfortable.  :(  Honestly, at this point, I think I'd run around naked around the block if it meant getting the itching and irritation to go away!

UPDATE (4pm): So, I spoke with Dr B, who called in a favor to a Dermatologist friend and that doc got me in for an appointment this afternoon.  You know it isn't good when the doctor looks at your back and says "O my God!  That is.... wow."  She said it was quite impressive (not what you want to hear!) and that she was amazed I'd lasted all weekend.  (Me too, sister.)  She said it looks like a reaction to something; her guess, based on when it started, is that it happened at the spa I visited last week for a prenatal massage.  It wasn't my normal spa (I had a gift there), which I've gone to for years without issue.  She said it could have been as simple as the oil the used or (YUCK) something that was on the therapist's hand.  (I sure hope not).  The massage was only back and glutes (through a sheet) so it makes sense that the area impacted by the rash was my back and not anything else, except in isolated spots that she said didn't look like the same thing and are probably pregnancy (or mosquito!) related.  She prescribed a pricey but safe for pregnancy, class 1 topical steroid and said that, by Friday, I should start to see improvement with it clearing completely in 2 weeks or so.  If it isn't better by Friday, then we will have to pull out some not-so-pregnancy friendly oral steroids, which I really, really want to avoid. 

I want to cry, honestly.  If I estimate the cost of the doctor's visit, plus the cost of the prescription and the lotions I bought over the weekend to try and mitigate the pain, my guess is $250 or more.  Not to mention, Peter took the time off to drive me to the doctor (near my OB, so 45 minutes away) because I cant drive (I can twist or turn because of the pain and tenderness.)  I did send the spa an email, explaining the situation (but not blaming them) and asking for the type of oil, etc, that was used so that, in the event this doesn't clear up, I can at least tell the doctor what was put on my skin.  And, for the future, I'll be sticking with the spa that I know, no matter what.

My only issue thus far in pregnancy (other than tiredness) has been Gestational Thrombocytopenia.  When I was initially pregnant with Nicholas and Sophia, my platelets were measured around 11 weeks and came in at 150,000/μL, which is the lowest of normal.  Each pregnancy has dropped my counts, coming in around 110,000/μL with Michael.  For this baby, the highest has been 112,000/μL but because Dr. B. anticipates them dropping more, we have discussed different options.  Right now, I'm taking papaya extract and papaya leaf tincture, in addition to papaya leaf tea, in an effort to boost my platelets naturally.  (One word: NASTY.  I don't like papaya anyway but this stuff is gross.)  While ingesting these isn't my favorite part of the day, it's better than the alternative.  The plan is have my blood checked at 32w then again at 36w.  If my platelets are still above 105,000μL, then we'll check again at 38w and prior to delivery; if all is well, then no worries.  If they are below, that, then I'll have a dose of corticosteroids and a retest at 37w with another dose and retest at 38w.  If that doesn't raise or stabilize, then we'll move on to an IVIg infusion at 38w,and then prior to delivery.  So, fingers crossed, the papaya is going to do its job!  While research is still being done, it looks like the possibilities of platelet increase are very positive, so I'm saying a few extra prayers and downing the nasty!  Nettles and alfalfa are other natural treatments for low platelets, so I may add a cup or two of a mixture of those herbs to my tea drinking.  We'll see.  I'm planning on calling Dr. B. today to see if he will call in lab work for the SBAT, LFT, and Platelets so that by the time I see him, those results are in.  That way we an rule out the Cholestasis in favor of PUPPP and get an update on the platelets in one swoop!

Otherwise, things are good.   (Which sounds funny to say when I've spent the last few days in agony over this rash and inflammation, LOL).  Lucas is moving and happy to give me a little nudge (or two) when I'm finally asleep. :)  We are pretty much baby ready, which seems nuts.  And only 55 days to go!  Woo Hoo!  He's going to be here before we know it!

31 weeks... Only 8 weeks to go!

Starting Something New

Sunday, August 9, 2015

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I was talking to Peter over the last few weeks about how I felt that homeschooling had made me feel more lonely.  I think motherhood probably started that journey, which is typical.  While we make new "mom" friends, when you are in the throws of raising little people and either keeping a household running or working outside of the home, it limits the amount of time that you get for "you".  As those children get older, things sometimes gets easier as they go to school, but when you homeschool, you stay in that place and, if anything, your time gets pulled into even more directions.  As you devote your "working" hours to continuing to care for little people and your home, you also now have to figure in schooling.  Even with unschooling and child-led learning, you are pulling together resources, organizing field trips, teaching skills that they are learning, facilitating learning, etc.  When I actually kept detailed lesson plans, it was like trying to pull out a few hours each week where there weren't any.  I'm forcing myself now to get back into blogging, both for personal and homechooling purposes, because it was always an outlet and it is one that has fallen by the wayside over the last few years.  I've joined several local homeschool groups on Facebook to try and connect with moms and kids.  While they are nice, our homeschool journeys (especially with ages of kids) are vastly different and the field trips really aren't suitable for my crew.  Most of the women are either secular or Protestant homeschoolers, and while that isn't a bad thing, it means that much of our curriculum is different and there are some ways that we just don't connect.  So, I joined a relaxed, Catholic homeschooling group on FB.  Lovely ladies.... but far away. 

So, I decided to start a group for local, Catholic homeschoolers.  It's small on FB at this point, just a dozen folks, but we are all in the Eastern PA area, homeschooling a variety of ages and needs, and we share a common background of faith.  I'm hoping that we'll be able to meet up at field trips and "teacher" outings, to make this journey a bit less lonely.  I'd like to post something weekly that relates to homeschooling and the Church in general (my plan is on Wednesdays mornings to do this) and then, on Fridays, to post a reflection on the coming Sunday's Liturgy of the Word.  Here's the one for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  I feel like I need to focus on my own spiritual growth as well as that of the kids; I feel like being able to really think about the readings beforehand will help me with that, as will planning things like a monthly rosary, etc. for the FB group.  We shall see.

I'm very lucky that I still have really close friends; but for the most part, I feel very tied to the house and spend very few hours talking or socializing with other adults, outside of texting or emailing.  Since I've stopped teaching for the remainder of this pregnancy and wont be coaching since Mr. Lucas doesn't enjoy running, I've really limited my real life interaction further.  While this might remain nothing but an online group for support and understanding, if it does turn into something more, I know I'll be grateful to feel like I'm able to share this interesting homeschooling path with more than just the two moms that I've become close to in real life, who have kids similar in age to mine.

Liquid Gold

Saturday, August 8, 2015

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Breastfeeding week is coming to a close.

As a mother who has given children both milk and formula, I am often reminded that a fed, healthy baby is best. I couldn't nurse the twins due to their prematurity; I pumped until Mother Nature decided, at a mere 3 months, that I was done. The guilt was tremendous; I cannot put info words how broken I felt. First, my body failed the twins by delivering them in the second trimester. Then, it failed them by being unable to nourish them. ...I was grateful for the formula that did what I couldn't and, over time, I let go of the guilt and was grateful we could meet their needs another way.




They were fed.
They were healthy.
They were alive.
They were loved.

When Michael was born, barely term but safely here, and he latched right away, it was a dream come true. I had milk! He was nursing! We nursed for over 21 months, stopping only because it was too painful in this pregnancy and because he felt he could. He still nuzzles my chest from time to time, and I remember fondly those months together.



He was fed.
He was healthy.
He was alive.
He was loved.

Michael healed a lot of the hidden hurt that lingered because of breastfeeding.  He took away so much of the guilt I had for delivering babies early.  With Nicholas and Sophia, I desperately wanted to believe that it was a fluke.  That, because things had been good up until my labor, it was just one of those things people reassured me happened and that, the next time, we'd be fine.  With Alexander and the extra monitoring, I thought we'd be okay and then... it happened again and finally I had the diagnosis of cervical incompetence.  We were told how the next time would really be different... How a TVC and lots of bedrest would be the answer.  And, in a way it was; Bobby and Maya, while early, were born late enough that the NICU could help them.  It was sixteen weeks of pregnancy hell and nine weeks of NICU hell, but hey!  They made it!  They were the success story!  But I still felt the guilt; it was MY body that failed them, both in pregnancy and in the time after. 

Getting the TAC was one of those things that we did as a preventative measure, not because we expected a Michael or Lucas in our future.  But that made such a difference and suddenly, things really were different.  Suddenly, I did have the opportunity to carry a baby to term.  My body did work.  It wasn't defective.  There had been a problem that was corrected and things were going to be alright.  It brought another guilt though... Those awful "what if" questions.  What if I'd investigated the issues that were common to "DES daughters" and learned that I had a very high risk of IC- could I have gotten a TAC before Nicholas and Sophia?  What if... What if I'd gotten a TAC after them, without knowing for sure that it was IC.  Would Alexander have been born term?  What if... What if I'd skipped the TVC altogether and gotten a TAC?  Would Bobby and Maya have been term (or at least close-to-term) twins who were able to skip (or have a much shorter) NICU stay and have been able to nurse? 

So many questions.  No real answers.  And then I see an article like this one.

I strongly believe mother's should give milk whenever possible. We know that breast milk is a healthier food for babies.  Sometimes, however, that isn't possible, no matter how hard you try.  Stories like this one make me extremely thankful that we had the availability and means to feed when nature had other plans.  I won't question that again.

58

Friday, August 7, 2015

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L-58 days....  Why does that seem like a short period of time?  It's less than 2 calendar months and it just seems crazy that we are talking about Lucas's birth.  I look at my calendar and I'm amazed that I only have 2 prenatals (32w and 36w) scheduled; assuming I go weekly and do a 37w and 38w, then that is 4 prenatal appointments left.  There is the option, if my platelets are high, to just do a 38w, which means only 3 left.  It has me shaking my head!  I just cant believe we are that short a time away.

I still have stuff to do but, other than the infant car seat, things are pretty much done.  We haven't decided yet on the car seat.  Michael used one of the ones I had from the twins, which were Graco.  At the time, we had researched them for the twins and they won for both safety and price.  Unexpired, we decided to use the one we had left (the other we had given away) and it worked for the few months Michael was in it.  But that one was given away and has since been tossed since it expired.  The Chicco KeyFit 30 has great reviews, but that bad boy is $200!  If Lucas is like his brothers, he will be in a transportable infant seat only for six months or so, then we'll buy the expensive-but-safe-and-wonderful Diono Radian.  That's what Michael is in, and I wish we'd gotten those for the twins.  Amazing car seat.  Really love it.  But it's another pricey one, at $300.  The only good thing is that those suckers last.  I'd like to have our decision made by 36 weeks, just in case Lucas decides to be born during the Pope's visit to the area.  The last thing I want to worry about is going into labor at 37 weeks, fighting traffic into the Philadelphia area (my hospital is literally across the street from the seminary), and then having to worry that we don't have a car seat.  So, that gives us 5 weeks to make a decision and square that crazy away.

I'm in the process of scheduling maternity/newborn family photos with the same photographer who did Michael.  She's wonderful!  So, that will be an upcoming thing.  Hard to believe that's going to happen so soon; it feels like yesterday that I was telling her I was pregnant!  She took care of all of Michael's pictures, as well as doing our family photos last year.  She is amazing and the kids love her, so it makes for an easy time.  She's really awesome and, if you are local, I highly recommend you check out her webpage or visit her on FB.

Maya thinks I should pack my hospital bag.  She likes looking at the pregnancy app on my phone and one of the features is a list for your bag.  She doesn't seem to understand that if I pack my favorite pants, I wont be able to still wear them for the next 8+ weeks!  I figure I'll let her help me pack at 36 weeks so that she knows it is done.  This kid is definitely my kid at times!

The last girls afternoon out before baby is scheduled at our local brewpub!  They gave us a sweet deal on an open bar (I'll only have one, OB-approved pint of stout!), appetizers, and sandwiches. 

A friend of mine is an awesome baker and she's my top choice for making a cake.  (I made the one for Michael's GAOb4B but, I just cant do it this time... Too tired.  Plus, it's so close to Halloween!  I think something neat would be fun!  Maya has picked out a variety of options... I'm going to go broke trying to accommodate her, LOL!  She liked a few sheet cakes and then a few really hardcore "the baker must make this" cakes.  Here are two of Miss M's suggestions:
We shall see!

But seriously... 58 days.  We are so close to me walking into a 39 week delivery!  Seven and a half years ago, I only hoped for this day.  Seven years ago (on 8/10) I became pregnant with Alexander and begged for the opportunity to hit 24 weeks, let alone anything beyond that.  Six years ago, I was praying we would make it a few more days to hit that 24w and just keep going towards anything.  When I was pregnant with Michael, every day was such a miracle and I couldn't imagine that I was actually "still pregnant".  With Lucas, the amazement is still there, every time I catch a glimpse of my growing belly or feel (or see) Lucas move.  But it feels like it's not so much a dream... That we will get to the full term mark and be okay.  It might be a 37 week full term, similar to Michael... It might be that 39w planned c/s.  But I really think- no, I believe- we're going to make it. 

Thank you, Dr. Haney.  Thanks for being right about the TAC.  Thanks for that hope, even though I never thought I'd ever have another baby.  Thanks for the chance and the possibility and the reality.

Growing Up

Thursday, August 6, 2015

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I mentioned to my BFF Sarah the other night that watching the twins grow up is really hitting me in the gut.  She responded that, six years ago, we just hoped to be able to do this one day; she's so right.  Laying in the hospital, 6 years ago, I was on my 15th day of hospital bedrest and 9 days from viability.  I read through that post and it made me choke up.  There was so much hope and so much fear.  I haven't really read through those back posts, not in a long time anyway.  It's hard to remember that time; in some ways, it feels like another me... a lifetime ago.

And now, as the twins tell me they want to be astronauts and how their sixth birthday party has to have a Wild Kratts theme because they are soooo cooooool, I'm smacked in the face with their growing.  Cracking out the second grade curriculum when my kids aren't even six years old was tough, but nothing has thus far compared to talking with them about making the Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Eucharist in early 2016. 

Two days ago, Maya wanted to look at gowns while telling me all about Jesus becoming the Host and how we are lucky because we get to "take Jesus" whenever we go to Church.  Initially, we'd hoped that Peter's mom (who made my wedding dress and the Christening gown for our kids) would be able to transform my wedding dress into a Communion gown for Maya, but with increase arthritis and just time issues, she didn't feel that was realistic.  So, we had talked about buying a dress and having her embroider something special on it, like a Brigid's cross or a special phrase.  Well, Maya found a dress that she immediately fell in love with.... And it was on sale... And Daddy approved (even though it doesn't have sleeves)...  And... so I ordered it.
Maya's First Communion Gown

At the same time, she asked what Bobby would wear.  I explained that boys wear suits and she asked if she could look at suits.  (Bobby likes to dress up for church and has a few suits, but I figured why not!  He doesn't have a white suit, which is what Peter and I had talked about for him.)  Well, Maya found one.... And Daddy liked it... (see where this is going?)  And.... I bought it.
Bobby's First Communion Suit

I had emailed our parish's DRE about registering the kids and yesterday, we touched base on the phone.  She seemed very nice and was pro-homeschooling, which was really nice.  As we chatted, she gave me the dates for the spring... February for First Penance and Reconciliation.... March for the Sacramental Retreat.... April for First Communion. 

My heart is in my throat.  It's only August, but the months move fast with little people everywhere!  We have Peter's birthday this month, then the twins next month, then Lucas born in October and his baptism in November (along with Alexander's birthday).   December is Christmas and then the year is over!  With Nicholas's birthday on Feb 1st and Sophia's on the 16th, we are then right upon First Penance at the end of the month!  The retreat is actually on Peter's mom's birthday in the beginning of March and then boom!  First Communion!

We are actually due to have our annual vacation on the date of First Communion, so we may end up doing a private one.  Part of me is sad about that, but part of me wonders if it will be easier, since it would be in a typical Mass that Bobby is used to and wouldn't be a long line of children.  We aren't sure yet how we are going to handle it. 

What is for sure is that time is moving... Fast.... And while I knew this day- and hoped this day- would come, I'm still not ready for it.

Saying Goodbye

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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In September 2012, Bobby and Maya began PreK3 at our local Catholic school.  By October, Bobby was being evaluated by the school district for speech and OT services to help him adapt and, finally, in late November we were assigned a therapist.  Elizabeth joined Bobby in December and has been with us ever since... until today.  Today was the day Bobby was officially "discharged" from speech due to his age.  If we could keep her forever, we would!  He loves her and she has been amazing with him.

It wasn't always that way, though.  In the beginning, Peter and I weren't convinced that they were a good match.  Elizabeth is an Irish-native and, with her soft brogue, she seemed a bit too light to have much of an impact on him.  He fought back against her methods and seemed, honestly, unhappy with her!  But rather than give up, she changed.  She learned some ASL so that she could nudge her foot into the door he was closing.  She met him where she was and, in a matter of weeks, our little guy was starting to talk.  He was starting to answer yes and no questions.  He was communicating verbally as well as via sign.

In theory, Bobby would have "aged out" last summer; had he gone to public school, he would have lost his IU service and would have picked up speech as part of his school day.  While we were unimpressed with the school district as a whole, as it relates to our family, one of our discussion points as we made the choice to really delve into homeschooling full force revolved around speech.  If we opted to keep him out of PS, then he would, due to his late birthday, qualify for another year of speech with Elizabeth.  It wasn't the defining factor, but it made it easier.  Even that being said, we knew this day would come.

In August, we gave Elizabeth her parting gift (because Bobby couldn't wait any longer, LOL!)  Peter's mom made a beautiful reading throw out of three, gorgeous shades of green.  On the back, Bobby selected a square and she embroidered "Love, Bobby" on it. He was so excited to give E her present, and she loved it.  She told us later that it was a favorite amongst her children, who fight over who get to snuggle under it.  (We have a claddagh afgan that Ps mom made us, and I have to agree.... her blankets are AWESOME.)

Well, today, Elizabeth gave Bobby a special gift as she prepared to leave.  She made him a little flip book to remember her by.  I can't even look at it without wanting to cry.




It's the end of this part of the journey.  Hugging her goodbye, I had to hold back tears.  I remember where Bobby was when Elizabeth started with him and now, as he makes some conversation with us or he comes up to me and asks me a perfectly worded question, I am reminded of how hard she has worked with him these 30 months.  While our time with the IU has been more of a headache than anything else, our time with Elizabeth has been time very well spent.

Hopefully, one day, we will meet again.  But until then, I hope that the road rises to meet her.

Tesla Tuesday: The Sun (part 1) (homeschooling)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

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Originally posted here

In trying to figure out how to keep things "child led" and open ended but still make sure we are pulling in as much learning as is appropriate, I opted to buy (probably too many) books on space.  All of the children love astronomy and the study of space (the twins both want to be astronauts and Bobby tells me he's going to Mars one day).  As I was trying to figure out how to really make "Tesla Tuesdays" work for us, as it relates to incorporating science and experimentation into our week, I thought that I'd pull in specific things for each month.  Up in August?  The Sun.  We'll spend each TT in August with info on the sun.  I plan to try and incorporate their daily subjects, like handwriting and reading, with the topic, along with an art project and, of course, their science experiment (if possible), since experimentation is a big part of the whole TT experiment!

So, the Sun... We did these one-on-one. 

Bobby opted to write down facts based on what we read, worked on his art (to create "sun bursts"), and to color an image of the sun with a Bible verse.


Maya opted to do a manuscript page that listed a verse from the Bible, worked on the "sun burst" art, and colored the Bible verse sun picture.  (I love how you can see my pregnant belly, looking like Jupiter, at the bottom of the picture.)


Michael, never one to be out of the action, colored part of a page with me while also using crayons and a pencil to freehand his own picture of the sun.  He was very proud of himself!

Going Old School (homeschooling)

Monday, August 3, 2015

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Originally posted here

While plenty of areas in up to 45 states are doing away with teaching script, my kids are stuck with that as part of their instruction.  I'm pro-cursive for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I want my children to be able to read old documents, like the Declaration of Independence, without having to rely on someone else's translation of it.  Yes, I realize that, with technology what it is, there is a fair chance that my children will need cursive about as much as I need that Trig and Calculus course I had to take in high school, but you know what?  Sometimes I need to pull on that info for random things; it's not often, but it happens.  Just like I'm appalled by some of the spelling (and I'm a crappy speller!) and grammar often used by kids and teens in their formal papers, and reading job cover letters has made me shake my head at times, I think that unschooling doesn't mean uneducating.  My kids love to write and cursive is one of the ways that, in penmanship, you can express yourself.  When I look back at journals and writings, I can tell what I was feeling not just by the words, but by how I wrote them.  Careful manuscript?  It was a lazy day where I could take the time to form letters.  Easy script?  I was full of emotion but able to think about what I was writing.  Barely legible?  The cursive came out in the fits of anger or sadness, much like the words rolling out of my head.  At handwriting's core is self expression; it's one of the reasons I think we've tried (unsuccessfully) to standardize it and make children write a certain way.  Just as we want them to behave a certain way in schools, we also want to make sure they write a certain way.  I'm not saying this is awful, but it is another way to limit expression.

When I was in school, we learned cursive in 3rd grade; we had to write a specific way until 5th grade, when we were allowed to be more creative with our script.  By the time I hit middle school, in 7th grade, as long as it was legible, no one cared.  High school brought with it a similar approach, but in 9th grade and above, we had to pull out the trusty typewriter for actual essays and papers.  There were 2 computers in the school library you could type on if you didn't have a typewriter, and I remember having a living room of friends typing out papers on our home computer (my parents had upgraded their work computer and we got the old IBM compatible one for home use).  These days, Peter and I both have laptops, we have a desktop that he has to set up for the kids so that they will give me back my laptop!, and each child (Michael included) has a tablet for educational software.  They do get fun time, where they can watch YouTube kids, PBS shows, or some of our sign language videos on their tablet, but we've been fortunate enough that Peter sorts through and loads on games for math, science, handwriting, music, and a bevy of other things, and all the kids make good use of his hard work.  It's not the way I would learn, but as I hear Maya banging out a melody on a "piano" or watch Bobby write words that are far beyond what a five year old is spelling or even watch Michael learning how to write manuscript, I'm amazed at how much technology has made a positive impact.  (Not to mention, Maya loves to keep up with meteorology and Bobby is fascinated with his online planetarium.)

But, back to cursive.  Bobby has always favored handwriting more than Maya, and he loves to practice.  I found these great, 8"x11" laminated per letter sheets that he uses a dry eraser on to practice. 


When he was finished with all 26, he went to our kitchen whiteboard and wrote the alphabet in manuscript before asking me to write cursive with him.  I would write a letter up top, then he would mimic me below.  It was so neat to see how engaged he was with this!


Michael worked a bit on math; we use Schiller Montesorri Math, and he's working on the geometry at the beginning, which is association of shapes with movement.  He also has to assign the correct color.  His coloring is cute.  He is also learning the ASL to one of the songs we do in our Music and Religion work.  The twins had learned this last year, although they enjoy it still.  Watching him learn and sing... Adorable.



Maya's BFF is visiting today and during their outside play, they were scientists who found a bird feather.  We had the fun of looking at the different birds common around here and figuring out that the blue, white, and gray feather is most likely a blue jay's.  We also talked about why feathers come out, etc, and of course, good hygiene after touching bird feathers!


It's so neat to watch how they learn and what inspires them.  I hope that, as they get older, they'll continue to teach me, too.  It's quite the education thus far!

Lucas - 30 weeks

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Well, the big 3-0 has arrived!  30 weeks!  It feels insane to think that, back in January, this little munchkin came to life and that now, as we celebrate the last full month of summer, we are this far along in the journey together.  He's a soccer player in utero, so I can't wait to see what he's like on the outside.  He feels tall!  I can feel his head on one side and his feet on the other...  At my 32 week appointment, Dr. B. plans to do his guestimate on measurement.  Since all my kiddos have measured larger than gestational age, I'm assuming Lucas is no different- especially with how big he feels!

30 weeks!


A lot of cool stuff has been going on this last week.  My mom is visiting in late November-early December!  She's planning her trip to coincide with Lucas's Christening, which is now confirmed for St. Andrew's Day on November 30th!  We are super excited about that.  Now, I just have to figure out where to have breakfast after.  Normally, we cater a lunch at home after late morning Christenings, but since this one will be around 9am, we thought it would be easier to do a local restaurant.  And, both godparents are set!  Lucas's godmother was one that came to us immediately and she was confirmed back in April.  His godfather was more of a challenge and one name kept coming to mind for both of us.  We asked him a week ago and he wanted to pray on it; today, he said yes!  We are so overjoyed to have two wonderful people standing up for Lucas in such a special way.

Nesting is in full effect.  I cleaned up Peter's office today.  He still has to organize it but boxes are stacked and you can actually see the floor!  That room was a disaster area!  The playroom/homeschool room is still a work in progress, but I'm getting there!

All in all, I feel good. A lot of leg cramps at night... I had to stop teaching my cardio yoga class (I'm just too tired), so last week was my last class.  My running has suffered, since Lucas has decided he doesn't like the bouncing!  It feels great after about a mile, but when I get home, I pay for it! :(  So, that sucks.  I'm hoping I'll still bounce back after the surgery, especially if I keep up with some walking each week and hatha yoga.  We shall see.

But here we are!  9 weeks to go!  We are in single digit weeks now- Only 63 days!!!!