One Year Ago

I wish I had written this sooner...  My mind is hazy on so many of the details.  Oh, the curse of time!  This is the story of our little girl's arrival.  Although I won't get graphic, this might be T.M.I. for those who don't really care to know birth details.  You've been warned. 

On Thursday, December 23rd, I had a typical prenatal check-up.  Our baby girl's due date was Christmas Day (Saturday) and every day that week, I thought "this could be the day!"  With her brother born six days before his due date, I was actually expecting (hoping!) to go early with her, too.  I had been VERY uncomfortable all week.  It was a much more uncomfortable pregnancy than my first had  been.  I was Ready.  The check-up went well.  Baby was well into position (didn't I know it...  ) and I was dilated to one or two, I forget.  With Christmas day just two days away, my midwife and I discussed the possibility of delivering on the holiday, which to them was no big deal, business as usual.  However, she asked if I wanted a bit of natural encouragement and when I thought of our excited little three year old at home and I how I really didn't want to go into labor on Christmas morning, I thought a gentle membrane stripping would be a good idea.  Mind you, "gentle" is NOT how I would describe the process At All.  It hurt like hell and the midwife stopped when I started wincing and couldn't breathe.  Typically, they would have been more aggressive, but there was no medical rush for this baby to come, so we took it "easy."  With a hug goodbye from my one my favorite midwives, I was sent on my merry way. 

I drove home, wrapped Christmas gifts, cleaned the house, and hung out with the guys - my husband, our boy, and my brother, who was just back from serving a year in South Korea in the Air Force and was on a month-long "sister tour" to visit three of his five sisters who live outside of our home state of Michigan.  I started feeling crampy from the moment I left the birth center and the cramps came and went over the next few hours.  Our friends, K and J, were on stand-by to take Bug for the night and when I left the birth center, I'd called to give them a head's up, just in case the stripping did trigger something to happen.  I really didn't think they needed to come, but K insisted, saying better safe than to have to pick him up in a rush at 3a.m.  I'm so glad I caved and let him go with them that night because the cramps actually became contractions not long after.

Whereas I seem to remember every minute of my home labor with Bug, I have lost track of the hours I labored with Button... I really can't recall much of what I did at home other than lay over the birth ball and take a shower.  My surges (I don't think I could really call them contractions) were erratic and variable in intensity.  I wasn't sure how to take that since my labor with Bug flowed like clockwork and followed a very "normal" progression.  I knew, of course, that things would be different the second time around, but it was confusing for me to know whether I was in labor or if my cramping was just an after-effect of the membrane stripping, which I understood could happen.  Also, the contractions would come hot and heavy for a time and then back off.  At one point, there was an hour between them.  I wasn't totally sure whether I was truly in labor or not for much of the evening. 

I think it was around midnight or 1:00 am when then intensity of the contractions ramped up and we called the birth center.  The midwife on call was the very familiar and reassuring, Ms. D., the same wonderful woman who helped deliver our firstborn.  When we arrived at the center, we settled into our familiar Yellow Room and I went through several contractions under Mrs. D's watch and soothing guidance.  They varied from 3-4 minutes apart to as long as 9 minutes apart.

After some time, I didn't seem to be progressing much and there was a lot of pressure on my back, indicating that the baby's position may not have been just right in alignment, so Ms. D. suggested I do some stair climbing to help gently guide her into a better position.  I think I did about 6 or 7 trips up and down the stairs, having several contractions with increasing intensity and frequency before I was so exhausted, I had to get back to the bed.  I remember the walk from the stairwell back to the Yellow Room feeling like an eternity.  Once I laid down, I almost immediately fell asleep and as I rested, the contractions slowed down quite a bit - again to about 9 minutes apart.  I was so grateful for the rest.  My husband was by my side while Ms. D. was in the downstairs office talking to the nurse on call.  Little did we know, she was actually preparing to send us home to continue laboring until things progressed further.  Being an outpatient facility, I was only able to be at the center for under 24 hours, so it's best to do the majority of laboring at home.  Then, very unexpectedly, my water broke!

From the time of my water breaking at 5:35am to the arrival of our girl, it was just over an hour.  My contractions went from 9 minutes apart to full speed ahead - fast and furious!  Oh my, where they intense.  Out of my mind intense.  Other-worldly intense.  Screaming at my husband "NEVER AGAIN" intense.  He did his best to comfort me, feeling helpless as he watched me struggle through each contraction, but he did a wonderful job holding my hand and coaching me through it all.  In the meantime, the nurse had been called, but things were happening so fast, we were worried she wasn't going to make it in time.  Ms. D quickly schooled my husband on how to assist her with the delivery and after-care of the baby, if necessary.  Thankfully, just as the baby was crowning, the nurse arrived.  (Cue Hallelujah chorus from my deer-in-the-headlights husband, bless his heart.)

At 6:44 am on December 24th, our daughter was born in the same peaceful room as her brother.  The same midwife was at my side.  The same rush of emotion filled my heart.  She was placed on my chest and I cried.

She nursed like a champ.  Perfect latch from the get-go, which was a relief.  I had trouble for the first few weeks with her brother and I dreaded another rough start to nursing.  She's always been a very efficient nurser, too.  Quick.  I can appreciate that with a little boy who also needs my attention.  At a year old now, I wonder how long our nursing relationship will last and I already get sad about losing that bond, knowing she will be my last.

At around 10:30, K and J brought Bug to meet his sister.  He crawled up on the bed with me and held her hand.  He told her he loved her.  We celebrated with "Big Brother Cupcakes."  

I rested while K and J, Bug and his daddy, and my brother relaxed in the living room of the birth center.  We'd considered a water birth, but the birth tub with in the Blue Room on the first floor of the center, whereas the Yellow Room, being upstairs, had the kitchen and living room nearby.  After Bug's birth, my husband said one of his most cherished moments was holding his son while I rested.  When he told me that, there was no question that we would birth our second in the same room, so he could enjoy those precious bonding moments with her, but also be near me as I recovered.

We were home that same afternoon.  My brother left directly from the center to visit another sister in another state.  He was so excited to meet #10 (his tenth niece/nephew) on the day of her arrival.  K and J helped get us settled in at home and also with putting presents under the tree once Bug was in bed that night.

It was so awesome to all be home together on Christmas morning.

 Today is her first birthday.  
Happy birthday, Button!  
We love you to the moon and back.


Momma's Lil Architect

Bug's preschool had a gingerbread house building party last week (via graham crackers.)  I was so proud of his vision (he knew exactly what he wanted to do), his creativity, and for allowing me to help when he needed help.  He is so proud of his creation! 

And I was darn proud of my wishing well.


A Standing Lunch Date

Every Tuesday and Thursday (our "long" days at work), I have lunch with my girl.
 It's the highlight of my day.


Button ~ 11 Months Old

I'm getting this up over 3 weeks late.  No excuses.  Just late.

She is 11 months old.  She walks!  She's so fast on her feet now that she's been at it for nearly 4 weeks.  She started walking just a few days shy of turning 11 months.  She's pretty sure on her feet now and has an adorable "big ape stance" - butt out, belly out, arms wagging behind her.  It's so awesome!

Without further ado, here she is in all her almost-one-year-old glory.   And yes, there were tears this time.



She and Him

Then and now. 
So cool.
 Watching the train set at Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI with grandpa.
Again at Meijer Gardens.  Bug started walking the day after this photo was taken at 13 months old.  Button was not yet a week into walking here at 11 months old.



It's her new word.  One of two she says.  The other is "uh-oh!"  We're slowly decorating this year, starting with some berry branches on the table and mantel one day, then the tree, then the lights.  We'll hopefully pull the boxes up from the basement this weekend.  I'm okay with the "slow decorate" process.

When the lights went up, she started with the "wows."  They went on for about 15 minutes.  It's so cute the way she says it, with her lips kind of turned to the right, but her mouth opening more fully than yours or mine would.  Wowww wowwww wowwwww!  I miss it with the video camera every time.

There's nothing like the wide-eyed wonder of a child.  I love feeling it all again through them.

P.S. She's holding a cat toy (a catnip stuffed George Bush voodoo doll to be exact.)  
She LOVES, LOVES, LOVES cat toys.


Gratitude and the Gift of Giving

With Bug’s birthday falling smack-dab on Thanksgiving Day this year, I'm afraid the topic of gratitude, which I don’t take lightly, got no press here.  As November ends and we begin to gear up for December, I want to reflect on gratitude for a bit. 

I keep my Gratitude Journal in my nightstand and enter my daily top five as often as I think of it.  It’s so interesting looking over the entries since I began it in 2007.  What I used to be grateful for then and how that differs from what I’m grateful for now…  If I were to analyze it, my drive to photograph is fueled by capturing all I’m thankful for – the gift of everyday, beautiful moments, big and small. 

Not a day goes by that I don’t say a prayer in my own way for all that I’ve been gifted in this life.  I know full-well that I’m a fortunate soul and I don’t take a moment for granted.  I have a healthy, loving family with a roof over our heads, food on the table, and laughter abounding.  I have few, but real friends.  I have a purpose in raising my family.  I have passion for what interests me.  If you were to ask me what more I want in life, it’s for nothing than the continued health and safety of those I love.

We model the concept of gratitude to the kids through saying “thank you” often, through our nightly ritual of “what was your best part of today,” by teaching to not be wasteful, and through donating to those who have less.  The latter is a tough concept to present to a child of Bug’s age – that there are people who are hungry, who don’t have homes.  How to do it in a gentle way, without scaring him is truly a challenge.  We took our brown paper grocery bag from one Sunday’s newspaper inserts and filled it at Safeway for the Sunday Breakfast Mission and while I thought it was a good idea to do this with the kids, I questioned it after the fact when Bug saw me putting in the baby food jars.  He couldn’t comprehend the thought of babies without food and when I saw the confusion on his face, I wondered if he was too young to be exposed to this, but then again, when is a “good age” to face such things?  I delicately continued our conversation about those who don’t have much and we paid for the bag, dropping it in the collection bin on the way out.  As tough as it is to share these truths with a child, I think it is too valuable a lesson NOT to and I’ll continue to talk with him about giving. 

Our next opportunity to give will be for the SPCA through the collection box at his preschool.  Giving to the SPCA was something his dad and I did often back in Michigan.  We would visit the shelter with our bag of food, towels, and toys, and give a few snuggles to the animals here and there.  We visited our local SPCA a time or two here as well, but sadness overcame me so much so that I couldn’t do it anymore.  That was around the time we became feline foster parents instead.  Nevertheless, going to the shelter probably isn’t the best idea for Bug either, so I’m excited to get involved with giving to the SPCA in this way again.

Anyway, I guess where I’m going with all of this is that for me, the most tangible way of expressing gratitude is through giving.  I want to get the kids involved in giving at a young age and hopefully when they’re older, we can become more active in other ways, too. If I could raise grateful and giving children, that would be the gift of a lifetime!


Our Boy

Serious, daring, serene amongst a whirl of energy. 

He is independent, yet craves our attention.  He needs help sometimes and that frustrates him because he's a perfectionist.  Gee, I wonder what that came from?!  He is loving, yet pushes the envelope with physical play.  Such a rough-houser!  Good thing he has a strong and willing daddy. He is imaginative and creative. He is beautiful and energetic. He is tender and innocent.  He is a little bit in between toddler-ness and boyhood.  He believes in fairies and builds them houses.  When something pleasantly surprises him, he credits the fairies for doing it.  He thinks there are ghosts in the dark and runs from a dimly lit room giggling and shrieking in playfulness.

He just stopped needing his "polka dot blankie" at bedtime within the past week or so, which is something I am having a hard time with, though not to my surprise, given my sentimentality. His blankie is a pink and brown Little Giraffe that was my very first baby gift (from my mom) when we all "just knew" my firstborn would be a girl!  He's held it at night, every night, since he was less than a year old.  There were times when we had to return to his babysitter's or to school to get it if forgotten so he could sleep that night.  This week, he told me we could leave it at school for nap time. He doesn't need it at home...

He is smart.  So smart!  He is observant.  He doesn't miss anything and asks such intelligent questions, so precocious.  I love the conversations we have.  He's articulate and I'm constantly amazed by his memory.  He is curious about learning his letters and sounds and often asks what things say.

He is a loving brother and a good friend.  He knows right from wrong, but sometimes his urges get the better of him. He divides his time now equally between mom and dad, not so much the momma's boy any longer, and I'm glad for that.  His dad needs his boy to need him, too.

He loves to be read to, to be sung to at bedtime, to hear all about when he was a baby.  He loves when I make up stories for him.

He is into matchbox cars, garbage trucks, superheros, dinosaurs, and making crafts.  He is a great daddy to his baby doll.  He loves his stuffed animals and often has two or three with him at bedtime.   He is a bundle of energy, showing us how fast he can run or how high he can jump (usually off of the furniture!)  He loves his kitchen set and to help with any real cooking.  Of course, sweets are a favorite thing to make, but he's an excellent mushroom chopper, too!

We are proud, honored, and grateful to be his parents. He is four years old tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Bug!  
We Love You!


Mind Dump

Laundry, bookkeeping, stuff pinata, buy the stuff to stuff the pinata, wrap gifts, pack...

What a wild couple of weeks it's been!  So much for a slower pace.  That didn't last long.  I've had to work the past two weekends, so with only one day off since the 7th of this month, our home business computer crashing (bookkeeping nightmare!), preparing for very important little man's fourth birthday and getting ready for a trip to Michigan, I'm not sure how I've stayed sane other than the fact that I haven't been to bed before 1:00am in over a week. 

I can't help but think in times like these about the dream of being a stay-at-home mom.  In my mind, I'm a better cook, mother, wife, housekeeper, truck crasher, swing pusher, bike rider, boo boo kisser, and business partner for my husband.  I'd have time for the important things.  I'd feel better about the way I'm able to take care of myself and my family.  Of course, it would come with its own list of challenges, too, as any SAHM can attest to, but the dream lives on.

In the meantime, I keep telling myself to take a deep breath.  I check the items off the never-ending to-do list. I focus on being present when I'm with the kids.  I (try to) let go.  And I remind myself to be grateful for all of the things that keep my mind racing on nights like tonight.  Isn't it truly a gift to have a huge pile of laundry (a family to make the pile!), toys all over the living room floor (kids playing!), a growing business to account for (maybe one day I can be a SAHM!), and the busy-ness of life (work, friends, family)?

I feel better now.  Good night!


A Girl and Her Cat

This is my Button doing what she does almost daily to our 10 year old cat, Pele.  She adores him.  He is a saint.

Once upon a time, we were the "crazy cat people" with five of them in the house.  After a series of unfortunate events, we now only have Pele as the Ruler of the Roost.  Momma Kitty and Nate are our beautiful "garden kitties", living in the backyard (don't worry, they are VERY well cared for.)  We don't know what happened to sweet Katie.  She got out one day and we haven't seen her since.   I miss her so...  And the grand dame of them all, my Biggie, my Salem, lost her health exactly one year ago and was peacefully put down in my arms.

That said, Pele still hasn't quite adjusted to life as a loner, but the kids make sure he doesn't get too bored.  Personally, I think he loves to get pummeled as much as the little delights in pummeling.  Best. Cat. Ever.


The Rhythm of Fall

I have a love-hate relationship with fall.   I hate being cold.  And the reason I unfairly dislike fall so much is that it precedes winter.  Cold, dreary, dark endless winter.

I love the fall colors.  The trees are amazingly beautiful right now.  The one outside my office window at work is particularly gorgeous.  It looks like it's on fire, the way the color starts with yellow and gradually become orange then red at the top.  The tree outside our bedroom is always a favorite, too.  It's almost ethereal to sit in the rocking chair of my room nursing the baby at dusk as the evening light reflects from the leaves and into the room.

I love the food.  I love pumpkin, mushrooms and squash, soups and hearty meals like pot pies and casseroles.  Comfort food... building a winter cushion food.

I still don't look forward to winter, but this year I'm giving fall a break.  I'm embracing it.  I'm glad, relieved even, to fall (no pun intended) into a gentler, more forgiving routine... earlier bedtimes, less hustle and bustle, time to cook, play, and rest.  It feels good to have this season upon us.