Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 2016 In Our Home

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas"

"Peak Season"
    Phew! It's the most.. stressful, busy, exhausting etc. time of year! From the weekend before Thanksgiving up to Christmas Eve, it's "peak season" at David's job. Work days and weeks are longer, and the stress is palpable. There's an unavoidable consumption in doing everything possible to get the job accomplished before the Christmas deadline. It's not my favorite time of year and usually by the second week into the season I'm declaring "bah humbug" and ready to pass over the entire occasion. 

     In years past, we've kept our celebration and activities very, very small to decrease additional overwhelm. We've also taken his one day a week off from work as a full day of rest (we don't even attend church). This year, we plowed through. I also had appointments frequently, which added quite a bit of strain to an already tight schedule. We ended up being busier than ever! We also all came down with a cold/sinus crud for a week (two weeks for me. ugh!). The atmosphere in our home was regrettably more tense than joyful. The children watched more videos than I want to admit. The Sunday before Christmas, we decided a single day of rest was necessary. It was so good to all be home and together for the day! I think we were all needing that moment. Next year, I think we will definitely take more full days on his off day to rest and be together. This Christmas season was... well, we made it. haha.

     In the mess that was this past month, we still tried to fit in a few festive activities.
This year we:
     *baked cookies to send to our extended family with their gifts
     *baked additional cookies and delivered them to our neighbors and mail carrier
     *went caroling with our church
     *attended our church's children's Christmas carol & dinner
     *decorated the tree and put out a few decorations in our living room 
     *colored and painted several Christmas coloring pages 
     *packed hot cocoa and drove around to look at Christmas light
     *(David and I) used Christmas conversation cards during dinners
I also prepped something new for us for next year. I don't know what next year will hold, but I thought it might be helpful to myself to use this time post-Christmas to prep for next Christmas. 
     We spent Christmas Eve getting a few things and the house in order. It wasn't the greatest of days, honestly. It was the first day off we'd had in a month and we were all a bit tired and grumpy. Fortunately, we were in much better spirits for celebrating Christmas Day. David and I woke early to get ourselves ready and bake the homemade cinnamon rolls we prepared the day before. (Tennyson called it "Christmas cake!"). We then woke the children to open their gifts and have a chance to play a bit before we went to church. I think they were equally excited to see the gate around the tree open as they were for the presents underneath it! haha. They enjoyed unwrapping their gifts and seeing "what's in there?" (a phrase frequently asked by Tennyson- the boy with a million questions at all times). I was so pleased to watch their contentment in our "merry little Christmas." (We celebrate in the same ways each year, which you can read more about how we celebrate Christmas in Our Home here). 

    It was such a delight to watch Tennyson, in particular, be of an age to really begin understanding the many little aspects and moments that comprise the Christmas holiday. I may never forget his little voice shouting from the backseat, "I love these Christmas lights!" as we drove through a display. Or, his face beaming with exciting at the mention of making cookies. Or, the wonderment as he and I stood around the Christmas tree talking about the various ornaments. These are the moments that I hope will continue and last in his memory. Next year, I anticipate having two little ones enthralled by the simplicities of the season!
He's as happy as can be simply playing in the dirt!
(35 months old)
     We checked out and read one book about a backhoe from the library and now Tennyson is obsessed with construction vehicles (in addition to rescue vehicles). One. Book. Haha. He received a couple of big metal construction vehicles for Christmas, and his favorite activity is to go outside with them and play in the dirt. (We have an old garden bed in the backyard that we dug up and is now just a fun dirt play area for the children). We also found an episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood that features a backhoe, and he'll watch that short segment over and over. Take a guess what I'll be using as a theme for his upcoming birthday party?

          Somehow in the span of a few weeks Tennyson transformed before our eyes into a three year old. His manner of play showed a leap in development, his emotional state (ie tantrums) matured, his speech and conversational skills grew. He also grew physically, and our "long and lean" little guy became even longer. It's amazing how each year within the little years is such a huge leap. We've come to recognize that he is reaching a new stage and our approach and interaction will need to change a bit. This a good thing though. The little years are delightful, but I so enjoy getting to know each of my children as they grow into themselves more and more.

She really enjoyed wearing out silly holiday hats!
(18 months old)
     Annelise is quite the spirited little one! She absolutely keeps me on my toes both in physically keeping up with her busyness and in parenting strategies. She's certainly not the calm and quiet little one like her brother was! But, that's not a bad thing. She finds such delight in things and really enjoys herself. She has enjoyed participating in our school time songs,and will do all the motions to songs like "Follow My Directions" and "If You're Happy and You Know It" (from our My Father's World curriculum cd). She is so fun to watch!

     Her favorite activity, though, is without a doubt playing chase with big brother. We're fortunate to have the rooms in the main area of our home connected and so the children can run in circles. I love watching them enjoy each other and hear their squeals and giggles! She adores her big brother! (She adores him so much that many mornings she will go wake him up! She is ready to play and he should be too! haha).

    She's also begun to say words! Up until now, what she's lacked in verbal speech she's made up for in signing. (Thank goodness for signing!). I absolutely love hearing her try to say so many words. I have a feeling we're on the brink of a language explosion. So fun!

"Have the right response"
      The children have reached an age in which the behavior of one will upset the other. They each demonstrate their frustration in their own way, and their limited comprehension and emotional-control often results in poor choices. In those moments, I'm needing to repeatedly say to them: "No matter what he/she does, you have the right response" and then guide him/her back through the situation but with the right response. It's a constant and tedious effort. I question some days if I'm getting the message across at all. Nonetheless, I persist because I feel it is my job as their parent to teach them to make wise choices and behave appropriately. Eventually, they'll come to understand much more and will be able to resolve their differences independent of me. But, as for now I feel it imperative to be actively teaching them.

      While I'm teaching them, God is teach me. Honestly, how often do I need to hear the lesson "no matter what he/she/they do, you have the right response" in regard to poor behavior on their part? How often does my voice raise and tone sharpen? How often am I exasperated by the job before me? Far too often I am reactionary to poor behavior and respond with my own poor behavior. God has been showing me the fault of my own character and the need for growth through the same lesson being taught to the children. 

      Each day brings new opportunities for the children and for myself to learn and to practice having the right response regardless of the prompt. 
Afternoon coloring for "school time."
(Notice we have one lefty and one righty!)

"Finally, a break!"
     The Christmas holiday concluded "peak season." We actually had a three day weekend together that weekend! It was wonderful to have David home and he get to do life with us. (I won't deny that I thoroughly enjoyed the extra set of hands and opportunity to relax and get some things done more than normal!). He'll get another three day weekend the following weekend as well. Yippee! I intend on focusing that time on him getting additional rest and opportunity to do the things he's been needing to do but hasn't had time. 

     Afterwards, we'll be back to busyness! There will be many, many preparations needed for birthdays in January (3/4 of us have birthdays in this one month!), as well as for Huxley's arrival in February. Exciting times ahead! :)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Baby 3 Pregnancy Journal: Week 32!

"This baby deep inside of me, ever so small, is a child of God. A child that God gave to me to take care of whether for a day or for years. That care began at conception. Whether he or she lives or dies each day I am with him or her is a gift and has a purpose with eternal consequences. My baby is now a part of my life, my testimony." -Brenda Rodgers, "New Rules for Announcing a Pregnancy"

How far along? 32 weeks!

"In these paste few weeks, it's all about practice, practice, practice as she hones the skills she'll need to thrive outside the womb -- from swallowing and breathing to kicking and sucking. And speaking of sucking, your little one has been able to suck her thumb for a while now. Something else to note: As more and more fat accumulates under your baby's skin, she's becoming less transparent and more opaque." -What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th ed. 

Baby size? "tipping the scales at almost four pounds and topping out at just about 19 inches." -What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th ed. 

According to the ultrasound last week, baby boy is estimated to be 3lbs. 11 oz. No signs of growth restriction whatsoever! To think that this is Tennyson's exact birth weight! Interesting to think of knowing exactly how big he is and what he'd look like right now. (Though, I'd much, much rather that continue to be a vision and not a reality! Stay in, baby! haha)

Gender? It's a BOY! Huxley Nathaniel R., we are so excited to meet you soon!

Weight Gain? (This is for my own record since I started out rather underweight). Up to a total of 24 lbs. gained. 

Belly? Feeling big! Maneuvering is getting to require a little more effort. I'll admit, there are times when I debate bending down to pick something up. haha

Sleep? There's not much sleep happening these days. I easily fall asleep if sitting still long enough. I try to get in a brief nap when possible.

Symptoms? The usual pregnancy symptoms. Fatigue has hit me extra hard lately. However, I've also had a cold/sinus crud for the last two weeks and that has been a large contributor to feeling so worn out. 

Clothing? I'm so glad I did clothing shopping this pregnancy! It's been fun to put together actual outfits each day!

Movement? Waddle. Waddle. Waddle. At least, that's how I feel. haha

Baby Movement? He's still a wiggly little guy! Although, each time David tries to feel those little baby kicks they stop. I think he's given up on catching them at this point! haha. 

Food Adversions? None. I love food.

Food Cravings? Oh, the sweet tooth. (I blame the availability of Christmas cookies!). David says I need to indulge in bacon and meats instead so the baby will have a greater liking for those foods. (The old wives tale has been very true for my pregnancies. I didn't care for sweets but craved meat with Tennyson. He has always shown this same preference. With Annelise, I loved sweets and didn't care for meats. She favors sweet flavors more than others now.)

What I Miss? Energy. I think once I finally kick this cold/sinus crud, though, I'll have a little more enthusiasm in our days. 

What Am I Nervous About?
     Perhaps just keeping up when I have three children three years old and under. Days can be very, very full managing our home and little ones with little to no breaks. Character-building, right? I love getting to do what I do, though. 

    Of course, immediate and appropriate care for my other children during delivery will remain a concern of mine. They're simply not accustomed to any kind of outside care. 

How Am I Preparing for Baby?
     The busyness of the season plus sicknesses has put our freezer meal prep on hold for the last couple of weeks. Hopefully we'll get back on track after things calm down again. 

     I still have needed items sitting in my Amazon cart. I'm prepared to order but thought I'd be nice in not adding non-holiday deliveries to holiday deliveries for the shipping industry. I'll actually place the order in a few days (which will be after the Christmas rush). It will be nice to finally have those items taken care of!

     Our church has also very kindly offered to host a "diapers and wipes" baby shower for us! Considering we'll have three children in diapers initially, we'll be very appreciative of an offering of diapers and/or wipes! Although, really we'd be grateful just for the gathering. Any time people come together to celebrate a new baby (and a subsequent baby!) it's very special. I'm still in complete awe of the people in this church. They have really shown what it means to be the body of Christ. They're presence has made all the difference in us being able to celebrate more and worry less in welcoming this new little one. 

In Other News?
      I'm down to just one last MFM (OB specialist) appointment in January (on my birthday, whoo whoo! haha). According to him, everything has be perfectly normal this entire time and he sees no need to continue monitoring so closely. So, that's good news! (However, I'm a little dismayed at having gone through so much twice based on the assumption that "abnormal" would always be our "normal." Hindsight is 20/20 though, and there really was no way of knowing which case was the norm and which was fluke.)

     I'm also down to just two more injections! (The weekly injections are intended to prevent premature labor.) They're awful though. I'm so very glad to be finishing with them! I told David a nice dessert might be in order to celebrate the last one. haha

8 more weeks until we'll meet little Huxley! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A "Good" Christmas

     We all have personal notions of what constitutes a "good Christmas." On the 26th, greetings will be followed with the inquiry, "Did you have a good Christmas?" Your response will certainly be based on some criteria. What makes a Christmas "good?" Was it the cutting (or unpacking) of a Christmas tree and then adorning the limbs with memorable ornaments?Was it the cookies baked whose aroma delightfully permeates the room? Was it the cards sent and received? Was it the dinner that brought family and friends in unity? Was it the gifts beneath the tree? Was it the warm and welcoming decor? Was it the cheer, joy, goodwill, and generosity of the season? Was it the day or the season?

      What happens when our answer or even an element of our answer is removed? For instance, a "good Christmas" could be defined as time with family. However, circumstances may arise at some point which limits the presence of family member(s) on Christmas Eve/Day. Does Christmas as we have defined it then become "bad?" If our association of Christmas is so tightly wrapped around particular activities or sentiments then we risk arriving at the day and feeling like it was somehow lacking. 

       There are countless sentiments and means of celebration associated with Christmas, many good and honorable notions. What is at the heart of of all of these though? I began to see this year a commonality in that they aren't exclusive to this one time of year. In fact, they are merely a different representation of the same heart. So many of the Christmas activities are ones that are (ought to be) exhibited throughout the year. I'll only take a moment to list a few of my notions of Christmas, but really wish to encourage you to take a moment to sort through your association of Christmas and begin to place them into  the following cluster headings:

Relationship Building
*Cards of greeting, goodwill, encouragement, and perhaps even a letter
*baking/cooking together
*dinner parties with friends
*sipping cocoa during a movie together
*decorating a gingerbread house together
*offering a neighbor, service man/woman, retirement home resident etc a visit and homemade treat
*packing into a vehicle to travel to see homes and gardens' brilliant display of lights
*selecting (unpacking) a Christmas tree and adorning it's limbs with ornaments 
*family gathering/meal on Christmas Eve or Day

*offering a neighbor, service man/woman, retirement home resident etc a visit and homemade treat
*purchasing food for donation at the grocery
*purchasing clothing or toys for children
*donating to a charity/mission/organization
*serving a meal at the local shelter
*giving time to provide company to someone who may be lonely

*greeting and smiling at passersby
*encouraging, cheerful, positive media
*gift giving based on delight of pleasing another

 Warmth and Welcome 
*decorating the home
*hosting or visiting with friends/family

*reading the Bible together
*Advent countdown activities
*church attendance

      Not one of the activities listed above is limited to the holiday season and yet so often is the case. This Christmas I pondered upon the meaning and value of these activities and recognizing that they are good things wondered further why they are so challenging, stressful and exhausting to partake in each Christmas. My inquiry concluded at the discovery of these entities are ones that can (and ought to) be practiced throughout the year and at Christmas time they simply take a different form. Of course I'm overwhelmed with so many additions in the short time of one month when it isn't something I've developed a heart for and practice of during the last eleven months of the year. 

     As I look back upon this year, feeling once again that something was lacking in the celebration of the season, I am encouraged in coming to a greater understanding of the heart of the matter and how that translates into Christmas in our home and family. Perhaps Christmas is never lacking when it involves things we've had all along. Christmas is a special time, but it isn't the only time. 

     And so, as we now approach the coming of the new year I wish to encourage you to also carry some of those admirable and good qualities of Christmas with you. 

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Baby 3 Pregnancy Journal: Week 30!

End of the day photo equals a tired face
with no make-up remaining. haha
"This baby deep inside me, ever so small, is a child of God. A child that God gave me to take care of whether for a day or for years. That care began at conception. Whether he or she lives or dies each day I am with him or her is a gift and has a purpose with eternal consequences. My baby is now a part of my life, my testimony." -Brenda Rodgers, "New Rules for Announcing a Pregnancy"

How Far Along? 30 weeks! Wow, so hard to believe we're already in the 30s!

"growing daily is his brain, which is actually starting to look like the real thing with those characteristic grooves and wrinkles. And now that your little genius can regulate his own body temperature and turn up the heat, he'll start shedding lanugo, the downy body hair that's been keeping him warm up until now." -What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th ed.

Baby Size? "...weighing in at over three pounds now (he'll be packing on the weight at a rate of half a pound per week for the next seven weeks)..."-What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th ed. 

At my last OB appt., it was noted that he is beginning to measure slightly on the smaller end of normal. She suspects he may just be a small baby as all my babies have been small. (My post-term baby was only 6lbs! I would be just fine with delivering another 6lb baby if we have a VBAC! Bigger babies are not for this small frame of mine. hahaha). My MFM (OB specialist) is regularly monitoring growth and watching for a repeat growth restriction situation. So far, that hasn't been the case. (hooray!)

Gender? It's a BOY! Huxley Nathaniel R. 

Weight Gain? (This is for my own record since I started out rather underweight). Still at a total of 19 pounds gained. I'm at the same end number I've reached the previous two pregnancies. At that point, I seem to always hit a plateau which seems to be the case already. 

I spy a Huxley baby!
 My boys (Tennyson- #1 & Huxley #3)
 have carried very similarly, and have
 had a special way of getting into rather awkward positions!
Belly? Feeling big! It's getting more difficult to carry Tennyson and Annelise. Often when we're out all together, David will lift and/or carry Tennyson and I will have Annelise. He also gets the double stroller in and out of the car for me. It's a big help!

Sleep? There's not much sleep happening these days, but I still manage to get through the days. Although, I easily fall asleep at any moment if sitting still long enough!

Symptoms? The usual pregnancy symptoms. However, there isn't one in particular is standing out at this point. Well, perhaps tired but that just to be expected. haha

Clothing? I'm so glad I did clothing shopping this pregnancy. It's been fun to put together actual outfits each day!

Movement? Slowing down a bit. Mostly, I'm just tired after a full day and haven't had the energy to do much additional activity. 

Baby Movement? He's still an active little guy! (Although one weekend he was much more still than normal and caused me to panic a bit. haha). I absolutely love all his movements. I'm really, really going to miss feeling a little one inside. 

Food Adversions? None. I love food!

Food Cravings? The desire for sweets has struck! Yikes!

What I Miss? Coffee. I would love to have one of those fancy holiday coffee drinks! Yum!

What I'm Nervous About? Of course, immediate and appropriate care for my other children during delivery will remain a concern of mine. They're simply not accustomed to any kind of outside care. 

   After delivery, it will be a push for David to assume complete care of our home, three young children and myself (if it's a c-section). However, he's very capable and I know he'll be able to do it well. I still believe he'll be the most appropriate person to help manage things while I'm unable to initially, even though it will be asking a lot of him. (He's a super dad/husband, after all!)

How Am I Preparing for Baby?
     We've started cooking and stocking the freezer! Our plan is to make one dinner and one breakfast meal each week for later use. So far we have:
     - lasagna x2 pans
     - blueberry muffins x12 ct.
     - quinoa, broccoli and cheese casserole x1 pan
     - baked oatmeal x1 pan

    I still have needed items sitting in my Amazon cart. I plan on placing an order in the coming weeks. I at least want items that would be immediately needed if a premature delivery situation were to occur. I don't think that will be the case, but knowing my risks I'd rather be safe than sorry. I can push purchasing other items to January. 

In Other News? 
1)  We had a playdate with some new friends recently. She has a four year old child and 3 month old baby. The oldest boy and Tennyson seem similar in personality, and got along really well. Tennyson was actually quite upset for them to leave! I held the youngest for just a little bit to see how Annelise would react. As suspected, she was very jealous and not pleased in the least. Hopefully, we can get together with them more. It's so warming to my mama heart to see Tennyson play with a friend. It will also do Annelise some good to get used to the idea of a baby being present and receiving Mama's attention. 

2)   Several individuals from the church we have been attending have very generously offered to throw us a baby shower and assist us when the baby comes. I'm so very grateful for their kindness. This does help relieve a bit of my concern and stress. 

3)  On a completely different note (and very personal one at that)- As the end of this pregnancy nears, I'm finding myself teary-eyed of this being the last. I'm grateful for this time and this child, especially since we thought our second child was our last. I realize that we've been very, very fortunate to have made it through so many risks and complications each time. As much as I may wish I had been born without the uterine defect that has place us at such a high risk, it is what it is. I must concede in it being too much risk to continue (it's also too much financial strain for high level of care each time). I have a responsibility to be present and care for our home and family. Perhaps God will grow our family in other ways in the future. And perhaps He won't. Perhaps, instead, He desires for us to remain a family of five and explore other opportunities. I'm prayerful to fully accept and obey His plan for our family. 

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