Sunday, February 7, 2016

The CDC, Women, and the Advice Everyone is Talking About

As I wrote this post I realized that, sadly enough, it should probably begin with a disclaimer.  Part of this recent CDC campaign against women drinking any amount of alcohol, involves suggesting that alcohol is the (or a) cause for hyperactivity in children.  As I'm about to argue against the recent statement, which has been making waves, I should probably begin by saying that I don't drink when I'm pregnant.  Or when I might be pregnant.  And as I'll delve into later in this post, I tend to have a pretty good idea pretty early in the process.  

If you've been around this blog for a while you may know that I tend to fall into the super-careful end of the things-people-do-while-pregnant spectrum.  Unpasteurized cheese, raw seafood and unheated lunch meat aren't on the menu these days.  After I had my miscarriage in the second trimester following food poisoning, I became hyper-vigilant about any and all things that could go wrong.  

I thought I should start with that though, since I do have two kids who are hyperactive, and since that was one of the CDC's angles.  

I'm not writing this because I love my liquor and don't want to put down the wine glass while I'm growing this baby.  I'm not a big drinker.  I probably have around 12 glasses of wine a year when I'm not pregnant, spread out around the calendar.  It's not that big a change to not drink when I'm pregnant.  

Even so though, I was bothered by this weeks CDC headlines.  

A few days ago the internet erupted in a storm of criticism over a statement the CDC made  that women of child bearing age should either be on a form of birth control or avoid alcohol altogether (see the infographic here).

This can hardly be surprising in a culture that often seems to view the female reproductive cycle as a complete mystery.  Myths about the female body and how it works are far more common than knowledge of basic bodily functions, so I guess I can't be shocked that the CDC feels the need to make blanket statements that are more than a little overenthusiastic in their scope.

Over the years I've been met with various levels of shock that I can identify on the calendar when I ovulated and how far along I am in a pregnancy, even though that information has never matched up with where I should be based on my LMP date.

This was never more apparent than it was with this pregnancy (although my OB is great about listening and believing me when I say the dates are different).  I knew that I ovulated on the 52nd day of my last cycle.  That meant that at the first appointment, as I sat in the office, I was 5 weeks pregnant, not, as the chart insisted, 10 1/2 weeks pregnant.

That's quite a difference.  Two ultrasounds, one at five weeks and one a few weeks later, confirmed that my dates were accurate down to the day.

Still at every appointment the LMP date at the top of my chart throws everyone off.

This is where I think a little information could go a long way.  If we could strip away a little bit of the mystery of the female reproductive cycle, so that the vast majority of women understood that they can't get pregnant every. single. day. of the month, we'd be taking a step in the right direction.  Understanding our bodies can help women who might not otherwise have a clue about what's going on, decide that maybe over indulging tonight, isn't the right choice

 In this article the CDC tells us that most women do not realize that they are pregnant until somewhere between four and six weeks into the pregnancy.


Babies usually implant somewhere between days 9-11 (although it can happen as early as 7 days after conception or as late as 12 days).  That would mean that, using gestational age, babies usually implant around the fourth week of pregnancy, around when a woman might realize her period was supposed to start in a 28 day cycle if you were using old rhythm method.

So if you have a drink one day or even one week after conceiving, it's unlikely baby has even implanted and tapped into your nutrients.

And that got me thinking.  With my five previous pregnancies I began to suspect something was up days before implantation was supposed to occur.  Ten days before my period was expected could I really be experiencing the symptoms that I thought I was experiencing?  Why was nursing already excruciating, which is only the case when I'm pregnant?  And the nausea?  How can that happen before implantation?

How could I be fairly sure that I was pregnant, when supposedly from everything I'd been told, it was impossible to tell.  Some people said that it was just progesterone levels rising, as they do at the end of any cycle, but that didn't explain why pregnancy after pregnancy I could tell the difference between a non-pregnant cycle and a pregnant cycle.

A study from the NIH suggests that it is possible.  EPF (early pregnancy factor) is an immunosuppresive substance that the body releases 48 hours after fertilization.  I can't find any studies on the effect of EPF on the body (sadly the main purpose of identifying it at the moment seems to be to see how it could be used to identify pregnancies for early termination...), but it brings up the possibility that when a women thinks she might be having pregnancy symptoms before they should even be possible, she really might be experiencing something beyond PMS.

Which is a round about way of saying that, like our cycles, whether or not we're pregnant isn't always the mystery that it's made out to be.  I've spent too much time talking to women who are very aware of their cycles and the possibility that they could be pregnant, or are not pregnant, to buy into the idea that we can't have an idea of what's going on with our bodies at any given time.

For it to work, we need to pay attention.  Women need basic information about how their bodies function, which is sadly lacking for many.

I think that's what bothers me the most about the CDC announcement.  It underestimates women, and men, on so many levels.

It seems to imagine women across the country, of child bearing age, as binge drinkers, unable to decide for themselves if they might have done something that could result in the birth of a child in the not so far off future.

It also imagines that only women who aren't taking contraceptives can become pregnant, which as most adults know, simply isn't the case.  Contraception fails far more often than most people would like to admit.  But talking about the real world failure rates of contraceptives isn't as popular (even if they are rather dramatic).

I'm not going to delve into the choice of drinking an occasional alcoholic beverage while pregnant.  This article by Forbes has some interesting information against drinking even a drop.  I tend to think that an occasional drink during pregnancy isn't damaging, as it's portrayed in the US healthcare system, since drinking some alcohol during pregnancy was not uncommon during most of human history, and since it is still common in much of the world.

And with virtually no actual data on the effects of a single drink, I'l leave it to other women to decide on the level of risk that they feel exists.

Still, if the CDC is ready to tell women that we need to completely step away from having a single sip of alcohol, even if we aren't pregnant, than I think they might want to take a look at this study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

In this study it was found that a woman's drinking may not be the only thing that affects a pregnancy.  The study showed that men and women who had ten or more drinks a week, while trying to conceive, were between two and five times more likely to have a pregnancy end in miscarriage.  This was the case in the study even when only the men were the ones drinking.

And since it's long seemed as though a single drink and twenty drinks were indistinguishable to many in the hallowed halls that issue decrees on what should and shouldn't be done, then perhaps men of childbearing age should abstain as well?  No?  Too ridiculous?

Or perhaps it shows us how ridiculous this entire thing is?

If the last few weeks of Zika and overbearing CDC statements have taught us anything, it's that women bear the brunt of instruction on what we should and shouldn't be allowed to do with our bodies, generally from groups who crow about bodily autonomy when it comes to matters of life and death.

I have a feeling that this has far more to do with the pushing of contraceptives on those few remaining who don't use them, amping up the pressure to do the "responsible thing" rather than on actual scientific data, which is rather lacking in this area.

On this one I think I'll have to trust individual women's judgement over the CDC's dire warnings.  Most women these days are on a form of birth control.  Most who aren't have an idea of what might happen if they have sex.  And women of all ages generally have an idea of what it means when their period is late if they aren't on some form of contraception.

 In fact, with the numbers of failures and women who don't have regular cycles on birth control, I'd be surprised if the numbers the CDC is throwing around doesn't have something to do with the fact that a woman on the pill (or some other form of birth control) might not realize she's pregnant and might keep drinking for far longer than a woman who isn't contracepting, and who is expecting a period sometime in the near future.  Just a thought.

Advertising the "perk" of not having a period is awfully fashionable these days.  And when contraception fails (as the above study I linked shows is very likely to happen over a ten year period with actual use), not everyone is willing to have an abortion (thank heavens).

With actual use failures being what they are, maybe the CDC's next step should be to look at how many babies whose moms were drinking heavily who thought that they couldn't conceive when they did, because they were taking a pill, or popped in a ring, or had an iud.

That would shine the light in a place they don't want us looking though.  It's easier to blame those who aren't marching in lock step to their tune, of being the problem, than it is to realize that the solutions they're proposing don't make all that much sense.

Throwing pills at people (or better yet!  An IUD that a woman can't discontinue using on her own!) is easier though, than finding actual solutions, whether those solutions include eliminating standing water or taking a closer look at the science behind how much alcohol actually causes disabilities like FAS in children.

Why would we need data though?  Over reaching government scare tactics are easier.  It only takes an afternoon to come up with an infographic.  Answers supported by research are obviously harder to come by.

Besides answers like that, the kind supported by data and statistics, are tricky things.  They might not support what the population control agenda of the moment wants us to hear.  And sometimes the message is more important to the people handing out decrees, than the truth.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Should I Fast While Pregnant or Nursing during Lent?

I first wrote this post in 2011 and while I would change parts of it if I were writing it today (I'm definitely more aware of how difficult it is to give up meat when you have other major dietary restrictions), it's a topic that I still see come up every year around this time and I thought it would be the perfect time to repost it.  And while I don't stress it in this post because I was so focused on nursing when I wrote it, the same definitely also goes for those of us who are pregnant during this Lenten season.  When you're body is nourishing others it's not a great idea to deprive it of nutrients.
      
  Every year I see the question come up on the Catholic forums. Are nursing and/or pregnant mothers excused from the fast? There is always immediately a flurry of responses. For the most part they are filled with common sense. But then the encouragement starts... as in "I'm nursing and I'm fasting and I still have a ton of milk. You should do it too." These answers worry me (more on that below). Anyways here is the formal answer to whether or not we're required to fast, which will be followed by my own experience with the matter:
"Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline."

From EWTN's Fasting and Abstinence
Now many of us can give up meat. I know that, as I design my food schedule on a budget, we have plenty of days that, unintentionally, don't include meat. And since eggs and dairy products are allowed, it's pretty easy to get adequate protein in other ways (we tried Greek Yogurt recently, I believe it was Yoplait, and it had something like 13 g of protein! It's hard to beat that in anything! And for those worried about health it has 0g of fat! And it was tasty!).

Fasting, however, is an entirely different thing. And the mentality that many of us can fall into can be dangerous. We may think "well she's only nursing x number of time a day... How much can one day of fasting in a week (two during this first week) really affect my milk supply." For some, rare women, it may not be much. But for many of us, the result would be dramatic.

When Sadie was almost one I thought I'd be okay "cutting back" on Ash Wednesday. She was eating a lot of baby foods and while she still nursed quite a bit I didn't think that one day would really affect my milk supply all that much. Besides, I told myself, I would still eat two small meals and one big meal. I wouldn't be doing the whole bread and water thing. Really the main difference was that I was cutting out snacks.

I was fine all day and so was my milk supply. Then it was bedtime and I was faced with a very hungry baby. And suddenly it was gone. I had no milk. And I had a baby who lay next to be and sobbed herself to sleep.

It took over a day for my milk supply to return to normal. And in that time I had a miserable, hungry, cranky baby and a dribbling supply of milk that slowly returned as I ate.

You may be able to nurse and fast. But there's a good chance you may not. And why would anyone want to risk finding out? I think we can all agree that the babe in our arms isn't included in the fast.

Sure, some little bit of pride in the back of my head tells me I can fast every single year. After all, I'm only nursing... well let's see... six.... or seven times a day... and Maggie gets a lot of her food from baby food these days... I tell that tiny thought to be quiet. It's not what's best for my baby. And that is the important thing.

There's very likely plenty of time in the future for fasting. For now, if you're a nursing mom, accept your exemption and know that sometimes it's harder not to fast when everyone else is fasting and you'd really like to join them (aren't we an odd bunch! Really, wanting to fast?).

Besides, there are many of substitutes we can make. Give up the internet (okay, I'm not doing this, but I've heard of brave souls who do!). Or your cell phone (that would be easy for me... I'm always forgetting mine. I haven't seen it in two weeks although I suspect it's dead at the bottom of my diaper bag). Or television! There are lots of sacrifices we can make that don't affect the well-being of our children.

Just pick something that has become a distraction in your life and see how the next forty days go without it!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Maggie's Words

Maggie has been going through a phase where she's all about labeling things.  "Giraffe, elephant, panda, lion, monkey" she says, pointing to each animal on a certain pop up toy that she loves.  "Animal boat!" she tells me as she sneaks by me with it and flings it into the bathtub.

"Purple, blue, blue green, green yellow, orange, red, pink!" she sings, pointing to each color on the xylophone and pausing until I repeat each word that she's said back to her.

For a while she was trying to convince me that the letter B was actually a P.

She's known her letters for at least a year now.  Her list of sight words that she can read is impressive.  But I wasn't totally surprised by the insistence.

Now and then she'll insist on something like one letter being a different letter, or on a strawberry being called ice cream, often with a small smile playing at the corner of her lips.

Can I trick mom?  Does she know that this is actually a B?

Yesterday while all the kids were playing in the boys' room, she brought me a small block and pointed to it.

"P for Patch!" She said.

I glanced over, half expecting to see a B.  Instead it was actually the letter P.  Maybe I've finally convinced her that I know my letters.

"P is for Patch," I responded.

"P for Patch.  P for princess. P for pretty.  P for pretty.  P for pretty.  P for pouf.  P for poo.  P for pee." she looked at me slyly and giggled, as if gauging my reaction to the words she'd chosen.  "P for pretty. P for Patch.  P for su-Per." As she said the last word she reached around and picked up Patch's super hero doll, tapping it on the chest.

As I got her bed ready for her to sleep in it last night, carefully hanging a blue sheet from the top bunk so that she can pretend she's under water, she used her words to make one last request.  "Under sea?"  she said as she got ready to get in bed.  "Under sea?'

It was a request for her favorite bedtime song, the only song from the Little Mermaid she ever wants to hear and I obliged with my off key rendition before telling her goodnight.

It was a day of words and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Patch, Our Little Hero

"Mommy?"  Patch's voice was just above a whisper in the darkness of the boys' bedroom tonight.  James was already asleep but Patch, our former champion sleeper, has had a hard time falling asleep alone lately, and so I was sitting with him as he drifted off.  "I miss Jamesy!"

His voice was so tiny and sad that I reassured him that James was asleep in his crib, and that his crib is only two feet away from Patch's toddler bed, and that they'd be awake and playing before he knew it.

Patch and James are inseparable and if James is following Maggie into trouble of some sort (usually of a climbing sort) Patch is nearly always right there to shout "Uh oh!  Mommy!  Baby brother! Uh oh!" until I glance over and rescue James from whatever it is that he's trying to do.

Our house is quite thoroughly baby proofed, but with a big sister like Maggie leading the way, he still finds ways to surprise me by getting into trouble.

It seems that Patch's watchfulness of Maggie, which persists to this day, has carried over into telling me whenever he thinks his little brother needs extra attention too.

-----

Maggie's elopement this summer definitely made an impression on Patch (for those who don't know, he was a little over 2 1/2 at the time).  

If Maggie isn't in the room with us, because she's gone upstairs, or because she's at therapy and he didn't notice when she left, he'll look around and say "Where'd Maggie go?  Where's Maggie?  Maggie upstairs?"  

His concern is especially touching since if there are two kids who are going to be getting into an argument about something it's going to be Maggie and Patch.  They've hit a lot of developmental milestones together and their closeness sometimes expresses itself in arguments.

Even when she isn't with us he's still alert.  Once I assure him of where she is he instantly relaxes, but at least once a day he checks in if he isn't sure where she's gone to.

This week we went to a playgroup/women's group at our parish.  Maggie was at therapy and so I took the other three with me.  

A few times people left and the left the doors to the outer hallway open.  I didn't really notice, because I wasn't watching for open doors the way  I would if Maggie was with us. But Patch was. 

Twice I saw him run across the room towards the doors and I got up to follow him, afraid he was following in his older sister's footsteps of running off at the first opportunity.  Instead it became clear that he wanted to make sure the doors were closed.  The first time a few older kids had walked out and he quickly went to the door and closed it and then looked at me proudly.

The second time though there were people standing outside the door talking and he stood in the doorway and then gave me a worried look as he waited until everyone either came in or left altogether, before carefully closing the door.  

-----

It can be tough being three.

Lately this has manifested in arguments with just about anyone about just about anything.

The little guy has a serious case of the nos and it's often exasperated by having an older sister who's only too willing to argue and say "yes" over and over again to answer each of his "nos."  

So I was surprised tonight when he was laying in bed and he hugged the stuffed animal that I picked up that has a little button that plays the new baby's heartbeat from the last ultrasound.

"Patch, you know the new baby's going to be a girl."  And then I told him what we're going to name her.  And he said "Why?" And I told him because we really like that name.  He was quiet for a moment and I said "What do you think Patch?  Are you going to be a good big brother to a little sister?"  

He was silent for a bit longer.  I half expected a no, since that's his favorite word these days.  Instead in a clear little voice he said "Yes!" and went back to cuddling his favorite stuffed pound puppy as he drifted off to sleep.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tiebreaker: And the baby is a...

I started out wanting to wait out the whole pregnancy this time to find out whether baby was a boy or a girl.

But Paul really, really wanted to know... and so we finally struck up a deal that he would know and I wouldn't.

Which lasted for almost a month, before I realized that I just wouldn't be able to handle him knowing while I didn't know.  

So yesterday, at 17 weeks and two days, I went in for an ultrasound.  

I came home with a bunch of cute photos of the highlights:


And a video:


And I announced the news that Sadie had been waiting to hear.  

I'd had a strong feeling about what we were having, and Paul claimed to be totally certain.  

I'd only had bad morning sickness and three time a week migraines with the girls.  And since morning sickness and migraines have plagued the first trimester, and are now a big part of the second trimester, I was guessing pink (as was Paul).  

Almost immediately when the tech began the ultrasound, the baby was in position and we were able to see that our little tie breaker is in fact going to give me a chance to pull out the boxes of fluffy dresses and the cute pink and purple onsies out of the basement.  


Which works out well since our boys were born in October and November and our girls have birthdays in June and July, meaning that the sizes should be pretty accurate for the seasons again.

Sadie was elated and ran around the house excitedly telling everyone. 

When told Patch said "okay" in a totally disinterested voice.  

And that is our big week for day month!  

I can hardly believe that we're to the point where they can already tell!  Halfway point, here we come!  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

17 Weeks!

Yesterday we hit 17 weeks and so I thought I'd show my first real bump picture from this pregnancy.  
And somehow I managed to not be looking when any of the photos were actually snapped.  So this was as good as it gets:


Tomorrow's my latest check up!

This pregnancy is speeding right along!

Monday, January 25, 2016

On Staircases and Emergency Trips to Pick Up Baby Gates

Yesterday was one of those days.

The kind when you frantically message your husband on Facebook and say something along the lines of "I need you to go to Target and pick up the new baby gate that I just ordered and paid for online and bring it home as soon as you can and assemble it in place of the old gate across the stairs because it's just not working anymore!!!!"

Only in real life the message was split up into a dozen small hastily sent fragments, typed with one hand while making sure the baby didn't attempt to lay siege to the stairs yet again.

I'm pretty sure it was "one of those days" because Saturday was so perfect and everyone had been absolutely and completely on their best behavior at the exact same time all day Saturday.  The scales of the balance needed to swing back a bit in the opposite direction to even things out.

Is it strange that while I was picking out the baby gate on the website while scanning for the words "in stock now" I was estimating how long it would last?

Ah yes, an accordion style wooden gate.  Are those metal connecting pieces?  I think so.  We've had two of those... it might last for... six months before they destroy it.... six months is a good run for a baby gate in this house.  And it drills into the wall.  None of those pressure plates.  Ridiculous.  The kids can take those out in an afternoon.  Let's do it.

Except it arrived with only plastic wall connecting pieces... so maybe it'll only last four months.  Or two.

Maggie and James are as thick as thieves.  He looks up to her and has apparently decided to follow in her footsteps... straight up the walls.

When Maggie was tiny she started climbing things.  Of course, she walked first, taking her first steps at 10 months and walking across the room on her first birthday.

James has decided to skip walking and go straight to climbing.

On Sunday Patch and Maggie spent the day opening the baby gate (which apparently wasn't all the "baby" proof anyways) and encouraging him to sprint climb our stair case before I could get to him.

He's surprisingly good at it.  He's also mastered reckless climbs up onto the dining room chairs and the couch.

Falling does not appear to deter him in the least.

The new gate, at three feet tall, doesn't deter Maggie in the least.  She can easily swing herself over it in a matter of moments.

James and Patch, on the other hand are now stuck downstairs until I lift the handle.

Which reminds me, I still haven't blogged about James' latest doctor's appointment.

At James' last neurology appointment he narrowly avoided being sent for a sedated MRI.

He's a big fan of his left arm and his left leg.  He's not a big fan of using his right arm or his right leg if he can help it.

He drags his right leg a little when he pushes his little walker during PT, and his right ankle tips inward and wobbles wildly from side to side and forward out over his toes.  And while he demonstrated great fine motor skills with his left hand, he carefully avoids using his right.

However at his neuro appointment the neurologist offered him a marble, but only if he took it with his right hand.

Apparently James had never ever seen anything in his life he wanted (to eat) as much as that marble and he was willing to use his right hand to get it if that was the only way it was going to happen.

Then we had to wrestle it away from him as he clung on to it for dear life and attempted to pop it into his mouth.  His grip on his right hand seems just fine when he does use it.

So he bought himself a three month (and hopefully forever) reprieve from going under for a look at the part of his brain that controls gross motor movement.  And I'm supposed to call when he started taking steps on his own, or after his next PT appointment depending on whether his PT wants to wait until he's up and about or get them right away, to get a prescription sent over for orthotics for that wobbly foot.

And as you can probably tell from the start of this post, both his right arm and leg seem perfectly capable of climbing our very steep staircase, so I have a feeling by his next appointment he won't need that MRI at all.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Our Fancy Day

This morning I announced to the kids that we were going to be having a tea party and they immediately started scurrying around the dining room cleaning and getting ready.  Even little James had a tiny baby wipe in his hand and was attempting to wipe down a chair.

I was so impressed that I ventured down to the basement and found the tea set that my grandmother gave me over a decade ago.  It's been carefully wrapped up and hasn't seen the light of day in all those years.  This summer it made the long drive out with us from California to Michigan, but this was the first time I pulled everything out and put it on the tray.


Then we did a little baking.  And decorating.  The kids were getting more and more excited as we went along.


We invited a few dolls downstairs and the party began.

The chocolate cake was wildly popular.


The red frosting went fine with James' red sleeper...


...But it looked slightly more dramatic on the white sweater Patch was wearing.


Here's Maggie convincing James that he needs help with his chocolate cake.  He didn't really mind.  He just wanted to eat all the hearts off the top of the cakes.


After the tea party I hosted, Sadie and Patch continued to play with her little tea set for the entire rest of the afternoon.

Patch was pretty serious about his "tea" (water).


We definitely need to have fancy tea parties more often!

Friday, January 22, 2016

7 Quick Takes Friday: A Prayer Request, A Puppy and One Messy Baby

-1-

I'll start this one off with a prayer request.  Please say a prayer for a priest that was a big part of the beginning of my journey towards becoming Catholic.  He married Paul and I, baptized Sadie, and was my first confessor and he was the priest for my first communion and confirmation.  

He was having surgery yesterday and things did not go well and his family is asking for prayers.

He is such an amazing joy filled priest, so you if you have a moment please lift him up in prayer when you read this!


-2-

James may not be able to walk yet but yesterday I caught him with a chair pushed over to kitchen gate (which is quite tall).  He had somehow managed to climb up onto the chair and was standing on it with a giant grin on his face, looking as though he were about to try go over the top.  

At his last pediatrician's appointment the doctor said he thinks he's braver than he has the coordination to be and I think I agree.

Standing up in his high chair (he can get out of the seat belt) is another big problem lately.
He thinks it's hilarious.

-3-

Since I'm writing quick updates I might as well throw in a pregnancy update!  

I'm 16 1/2 weeks and things are moving right along.  I'm feeling fluttery baby kicks this week.  

The morning sickness isn't quite gone, so I'm still weighing less than I was to start with and I'm waiting for food to sound appetizing again.  At all.  

All in all though, the subchorionic hematoma hasn't done anything lately, so I'm really happy about that!
Goal for the week.  Try to actually get in a photo that isn't a selfie so I have some
documentation of this pregnancy.

-4-

Lily is now four months old and is getting bigger everyday.  

She also finally seems to be past the worst of the nippiness of teething.  

And while she definitely doesn't spend long stretches of time outside while it's been in the negative numbers with windchill, she also definitely prefers the cold and has been getting her fill of short trips out to enjoy the iciness.  

Apparently the cold also doesn't bother my shorts wearing husband.  It did almost hit 20 that day though.  So...



-5-

This post almost didn't get written because all day today I had a migraine.  A horrible, horrible migraine.

Then at bedtime I was tucking Maggie in.  I hung up her mermaid sheet on the top bunk so that she could look at it and dream of mermaids (instead of sleeping under it she likes me to hang it from the bottom of her sister's bed so that she can lay down and make her mermaids "swim" in front of the blue backdrop).  

I sang a little song.  And then I tickled her foot, every so lightly.  

My migraine slowed reflexes hardly saw her little foot shoot out as she giggled hysterically and catch me full force just under the tip of my chin.  It hurt.  A lot.  Like "is my jaw broken" hurt.  

I managed to say goodnight and stumbled out of the room.  

And as the pain of being kicked faded with surprising speed I realized something.  The migraine was totally gone.  I couldn't believe it when I was still completely pain free an hour later.

My migraines almost never go away without going to sleep.

They have said at the osteopathic manipulative medicine appointments I go to for my back that my jaw is super tight... Maybe Maggie has a future as a chiropractor... 


-6-

Lily is smitten with James. 

Her relationship with each of the kids continues to develop. With the girls she alternates between being wild with them and being wary of their loud personalities.

With James she is absolutely gentle.  Yesterday, after the chair incident, I caught him "riding" her like she was a tiny pony (she was laying down) and she was completely happy, since she loves to snuggle up close to him.  

Even 1hen she's taking a break from the kids in her kennel he's right there beside her, keeping her company.

And when Maggie's therapy planner was visiting yesterday and was holding James' hands and helping him practice walking back and forth Lily fretted every time they went close to the door, apparently worried that her baby was about to go outside with a "stranger." 

They are definitely two peas in a pod.


-7-

Does anyone else feel like winter has just finally arrived (okay you probably especially do if you live on the east coast)?

I kind of like the late start we've gotten.

Two years ago when it stayed below freezing from November until.. around April, I felt like winter would never end.  Now after a balmy November and December I feel more ready for these colder temperatures.

Also after a week of -10 windchill today it 27 felt balmy.  

I actually walked outside with the dog, without a coat on to put her in the yard and thought "This is so nice!  It's warm out!" and then rushed it to see that it was 27 with a windchill down to 19.  

It's funny how much warmer that feels after a rather cold week!  


Thursday, January 14, 2016

He Has Been Listening

Patrick is suddenly full of words.

He's a fountain of non-stop commentary on anything that's going on around him and when I have to hush him, because we're at Mass or someplace else where he needs to be quiet, he'll whisper in a small voice "Okay Mommy.  Sorry Mommy." and manage complete silence for somewhere between fifteen and twenty seconds before he's off again, chattering about Mickey Mouse and Baby Brother and whatever it is that he thinks that Maggie shouldn't be doing.

For the last three years I've more or less figured that Patch's religious education was... non existent.  It isn't that I wouldn't try.  It's that he would never hold still.  He couldn't be bothered to look at the story Bible and little children's prayer books that Sadie adored at the same age.

He'll watch DVDs on the DVD player in the car about the lives of the saints (and yell "Again!" when they end) but the second I tried to read to him or even tell him a story or say a prayer he'd be on his way to the next thing, squirming and wiggling to get off my lap, or rapidly turning the pages of the book and running off if I insisted on staying on one page until I'd read the few short sentences that were printed on it.

Lately that's changed though.  When Sadie does her Faith and Life work on my computer he runs over and shoves himself into the seat between us and clasps his hands and says "Pray!  Pray!"  And he proceeds to sit and listen to her entire lesson, clamoring to help when there's a game, and making his awkward sign of the cross whenever a prayer starts.

Maybe he hasn't been missing everything he's heard.

My favorite time with him lately has been bedtime.  We say an Our Father and a Hail Mary and a Glory Be and the Guardian Angel prayer and then he tells God thankful for all the things he's thankful for.  It's fairly predictable and gets increasingly hilarious as he goes on (and try to imagine Patrick as being pronounced "Patch-ick" for the full affect).

"Thank you God for Patrick.  
Thank you God for Sadie Kate.
Thank you God for Maggie.
Thank you God for Jamesy.
Thank you God for Mommy.
Thank you God for Daddy.
Thank you God for Patrick's House.
Thank you God for Car.
Thank you God for Puppy.
Thank you God for TV.
Thank you God for Nose. Patrick's Nose.
Thank you God for Patrick's eyes.
Thank you God for Patrick's ears.
Thank you God for Patrick's mouth.
Thank you God for Patrick's arms.
Thank you God for Patrick's legs.
Thank you God for Patrick's fingers.
Thank you God for Patrick."

If I don't have him make the sign of the cross then he'll start over at the beginning, although sometimes Patrick's nose makes an appearance five or six times in the midst of the other things he's thankful for as it's apparently pretty important to him.


And each day I have more reasons to believe he hasn't been as oblivious to all those Bible stories and prayers as he's seemed.  He's even started insisting on wearing a little cross everywhere and I've caught him swiping chaplets out of my room (always two, one for him and one for James) a half dozen times this week.

It seems he really has been listening while he's been zooming around getting into everything.  Who'd have thought?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Post with A Flood, A Ceiling Collapse, a Trip to the ER, and a Broken Sewing Machine

One random moment where nothing
dramatic was happening.  Thank goodness!
Have you ever had a week where you're almost afraid to ask "What's going to happen next?"

That's how the last week has been.  I know it's not the worst week ever, or even our worst week ever, but it's been a week of mini disasters.

It started on Thursday when the kids were playing in the girls' room.  The girls' room is almost entirely baby/toddler proofed and I was laying down on Maggie's bed while they ran and jumped and played.

Suddenly James was on the bed next to me.  He'd climbed up onto the lower bunk all by himself.  I carefully watched his movements, ready to catch him if he fell, but after about ten minutes I began to relax while staying near him..  There are lots of things he can't do in the large motor skill area, but he's a pretty good climber and he's usually pretty cautious, sliding over to the edge of the trampoline and sliding off backwards.  I should have remembered though my conversation with his doctor where the pediatrician said "he's braver than he has the motor skills to be..."

He moved just beyond my reach when he tried to launch himself at the bunk bed ladder and fell, hitting his head first on the ladder and then on the floor before I could grab him.

He was fine, other than two large bruises on his forehead, but unknowingly the week of mini disasters had begun.

Disaster #2 truly earned the title.  It began when Paul let me sleep in on Saturday morning.  I woke up when my cell phone rang at 6:50 am, ten minutes before I was going to get up, and Paul asked me if  I was taking a shower or bath.  I had a sinking in my stomach as I confirmed that I was in the bedroom and asked him why he was asking.

Apparently water had begun to pour down into the kitchen and he and Sadie were trying to find the source.

I didn't need to look.  I knew where it was coming from.

James and his two giant bruises...
Our upstairs area is open to Maggie now.  She can go upstairs whenever she wants.  We've installed a series of heavy duty locks, at the very top of the doors, on all of the rooms upstairs.  That way, we can lock all the rooms except the kids' rooms and she can go up and down and we don't have to worry about her breaking into the medicine cabinet or flooding the bathroom.  The hallway is empty.  The staircase is empty.  There's nothing she can hurt or be hurt with.  It gives her the freedom to go upstairs and take a break if she's overwhelmed by noises downstairs.

On that morning though, Paul was carrying James and while he thought he'd gotten the lock to click into place on the bathroom door, it hadn't.

Every morning Maggie goes upstairs and checks all the doors that are locked.  And she immediately caught on that the bathroom wasn't.

Paul got the water turned off.  It was all coming from the sink.  She managed to flood the entire bathroom, including filling every drawer and the tupperware under the sink with the hottest possible water.

I ran downstairs to find the ceiling tiles over the stairs to the basement sagging down at least a foot.  A curtain of water danced across the kitchen, spoiling the food at the edge of the cabinet above the fridge and destroying a huge pile of homeschooling books that I keep on a small out of the way counter.  As I put down a towel I breathed a sigh of relief that at least it didn't reach my sewing machine.  Or so I thought.

Moving two boxes half filled with Christmas decorations we were in the process of taking down, I hoped that nothing had been destroyed and I watched the sagging tile and tried to decide what to do next as Paul tried to stop the water on the floor from coming down from the bathroom.

I tried to push the tile up with broom only to have the broom immediately break through.  As I turned to see what other damage was done I heard the giant tile snap in two as the ceiling caved in.

Sighing I darted past the debris and went down to the basement only to find that the water had continued to rush downwards through the ceiling and was streaming down onto the cabinet where I keep Patch and James' clothes and the clean linens. Everything was soaked in water that was now brown from coming down through the ceiling of a nearly 100 year old house.

The cleanup, which still isn't entirely done, dominated most of the weekend, but in the afternoon I took Maggie upstairs to take a bath.  Baths are her absolute favorite time of the day because it's the time when she can really "be a mermaid."

After an hour of playing I got her out, dried her off and she raced ahead of me to run downstairs to get dressed, with a towel wrapped around her shoulders.

These are the steps... she fell
from the first one that isn't turning to
the last one that isn't turning
at the bottom...
What happened next happened in slow motion.  She slipped on the top step on the straight part of our stairs.  I reached out to catch her and missed and she fell ten steps... all the way to the bottom of the hard wood, uncarpeted stairs, hitting every stair on her back on the way down.

I raced after her and as she reached the bottom she whimpered, jumped up and while I tried to check to see if she was injured, started to dance around the room... giggling.

Anyone who knows Maggie knows that she generally doesn't react normally to pain.  She often laughs when she's hurt.  I looked her over and other than some red marks on her back she seemed fine.  Thankfully she hadn't hit her head or neck.

After getting her into her pajamas and watching her dance around the room, and calling my dad who was an EMT for years and giving him the rundown on what had happened, I decided we'd narrowly avoided the ER.

The next event occurred on Sunday morning.  When Paul works nights he usually lets me sleep until seven and then he goes upstairs and goes to sleep.  He came up to wake me up and I started to pull my hair into a bun and throw on a pair of clogs.  Before I made it to the bottom of the stairs I heard Sadie yell that she didn't want to play that game, followed by hysterics.

I raced downstairs and found out that a certain three year old brother had gotten mad and hit her in the eye with the plastic toy syringe from the little toy doctor's kit.

Thankfully eyes heal fast.
Here she is the next day at the
optometrist.
After two and a half hours it wasn't getting better.  Her vision was blurry at first, now she couldn't open it.  And she was still crying.  So I called the pediatrician's office and they sent her straight to the pediatric emergency room in our town, where she was seen immediately and diagnosed with a corneal abrasion.

Which brings me up to last night when I sat down at my sewing machine to sew.  I'd moved it back upstairs and got it all set up and plugged it in.  And it was then that I saw the water stuck inside the screen of my beautiful Brother LB6800.  Apparently the water did reach it.

There may have been tears.

Okay.  There were tears.  That sewing machine is hugely important around here and I'm very skeptical it's going to come back from the computer being filled with water for four days.

So far Wednesday has been tame and I'm hoping things stay that way... unless we wake up tomorrow morning and discover that the winning Power Ball was sold in Michigan.  I'm totally okay with that sort of excitement... but otherwise I'm hoping for an absolutely boring week without any more surprises!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Little Scare at 13 Weeks

Today I had my latest OB appointment.  It's only been three weeks since the last one, since my doctor is watching things a little bit more closely than in the past because of the scares we've had so far.

A little over a week and a half ago I unexpectedly took another short break from blogging when the subchorionic hematoma started doing it's hemorrhaging thing again, for three long days, and the stress of waiting to see if everything would be okay (along with nine days of migraines!) was a little bit too much for an writing inspiration to come through.

This morning, however, things were going well.  I dropped Maggie off at therapy after managing to keep her from diving into not one, but two snowbanks, and as I handed her lunch to her therapist this conversation followed:

Maggie's therapist: "Say bye, bye!"
Maggie:  "Bye, bye!"
Me: "Bye, bye!"
MT: "Say, love you!"
Maggie: "I love..." (turning and coming towards me and almost giving me a kiss and a hug in her hurry to get back and play with her friends) "pizza!!!"

I was still chuckling to myself when I arrived at the hospital.  Maggie's sense of humor has been shining through of late and she can always make me smile when she's in a silly mood.

I waved at the receptionist to check in for my appointment and then settled in for a short wait.  Soon I was asking my doctor questions about Meniere's and pregnancy (because mine is definitely flaring up even though my salt intake has been even lower than it was before the pregnancy) and the migraines and then I lay back and waited for the dopler to find a heartbeat.

A minute passed and then another.  For at least five minutes my doctor patiently searched for a heartbeat (they might have been some of the longest minutes in the history of the world).  Then he stopped searching and announced that we'd be going across the hallway to look for the baby on the ultra sound.

I was very thankful that I didn't have to wait even an hour for an appointment with their ultrasound tech.

The moment that the ultrasound wand touched my stomach the baby appeared on the screen and the doctor could see movement.  Soon even I could see a tiny limb waving back and forth.  Disaster averted.

The doctor did point out that he could still see a 3 cm blood clot and said it was fairly likely that there would be more bleeding in the near future, which is nice to know before hand, to somewhat mitigate the panic that happens whenever bleeding occurs, especially on a large scale, during pregnancy.

So now I'm back to once a month appointments and I'm hoping that this clot goes away without any sort of drama so that things can continue (or should I say begin?) to progress smoothly.

I'm hoping for a boring 27 weeks from here on out!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year's Eve Countdowns on Netflix to Save Bedtime

Sadie's already asked if she's going to be able to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve and

I've already given a vague non-committal answer and resisted pointing out that in the last week she voluntarily went upstairs, brushed and flossed and asked me to tuck her in at 7:30 pm, a full half hour before her bedtime, because she was so sleepy, so I think that the actual chances of anyone in the house making it to midnight stand somewhere between slim and none.

Last year Netflix saved the day by coming out with a kid's countdown that could be played at any time.  This year the selection has expanded and this afternoon the kids and I previewed them and came up with a list of the Top Five Netflix New Year's Even Countdowns for this year.

This is how we'll be doing New Year's several hours before it actually arrives in our time zone.

The Countdowns range from one to three minutes.  And overwhelmingly my kids loved the same one.  Their first choice is:

All Hail King Julien's New Year's Eve Countdown

It's the same little countdown as last year.  They loved the weird little lemurs dancing to club music, surrounded by flashing lights, just as much this year as they did last year.

I possibly should note that when I turned this Countdown on in Paul's presence to write this post, he decided that 9 o'clock was a perfect time to go upstairs and immediately fled the room.

Puffin Rock New Year's Eve Countdown

This is my favorite countdown. I like to think that it's James' favorite too, although the fact that he stopped nursing to watch the lemurs, and totally ignored the cute little Puffin, makes me think otherwise.

It shows an adorable little puffin as he remembers 2015 and prepares to welcome 2016.  It's the least flashy of the options, and maybe if James is the last man standing on New Year's Eve, we'll watch it together before he goes to bed, since he isn't old enough to tell me he wants to watch the lemurs, yet again.  

Care Bears and Cousins New Year's Eve Countdown

The title of this one pretty much sums it up.  The Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins dance and cartwheel their way through a fireworks, confetti and heart filled New Year's Eve countdown.

If I'd had to guess which one my kids would love I would have totally picked this one.

Inspector Gadget New Year's Eve Countdown

This one ranked high on Sadie's list of favorites as she giggled through watching "Go Go Gadget" (as she called him) blunder his way through saving a New Year's Eve party, while Penny and Brain work to save the day.

Mr Peabody and Sherman New Year's Eve Countdown

This was my least favorite of the Countdowns that we watched, but it did get some extra points since it showed Toothless and Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon.  It flashed around so much from one show to another that none of our kids really paid attention to it until the numbers started flashing at the very end.

And those sum up the top five New Year's Countdowns that we discovered on Netflix today!

Last year we had so much fun doing the early Countdown that I'd definitely recommend watching one of them as a quick, sweet New Year's Eve tradition!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Journey into Decluttering

Another reason for my infrequency in blogging these past few months, besides the pregnancy and the book (the second edit of which should be complete tonight!!!), is that I've taken on the task of de-cluttering the house with a passion.

I'd tried the forty bags in forty days challenge, where you fill up and remove forty bags of belongings from your house (often done during Lent) for the last couple of years and I liked the progress that I'd made, but I needed to continue the work after those forty days were done.

This summer I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up while I was in California and came back recharged and ready to continue the progress that I'd made over Lent.

I didn't strictly follow the ideas in the book above, but it did change my perspective as I gazed around the house and decided what to keep and what needed to go.  And I found myself asking my own set of questions that ran along the lines of "Does someone in the house enjoy this?  Do I use it and need it?" And if I still found myself wavering on something that I probably didn't need "Do I really want to pick this up fifty times a day?" or "Would I rather have this or have more space for our family and another baby?"

The last question led to quite a few items going into the donate bin.

A big part of my problem was that buying new things isn't really a big part of our budget and so I had a hard time letting go of things that I "might need someday."

Still it was easy to start in the basement where there were boxes that hadn't been unpacked in the three plus years since we moved to Michigan.

 If I hadn't missed something or needed it in three years, I probably wasn't going to miss it if it was gone.

I began to divide things into three bags.  There was the consignment shop bag, the donation bag and the trash bag.  The bags quickly began to accumulate.

Paul would come downstairs and eye the fifteen enormous trash bags that needed to be hauled to various locations and sigh and then double check to make sure that he was taking them where they needed to go.

The majority of bags went to Saint Vincent de Paul, quite a few from the lower levels of boxes went into the trash, because the great mouse disaster following the ice storm of 2013 had done a lot of damage (which is why we now have a cat and no mouse problem) as had the various bouts of flooding we've experienced.

A smaller number of bags, with clothes and shoes I could never convince Maggie to wear, and toys that no one was interested in playing with, went to a kid's consignment store where the credit is steadily being recycled into the sizes of clothes the kids now wear.

Some larger pieces of furniture went straight onto the sidewalk, where they nearly always disappear before an hour passes.

All in all, if I haven't missed anything, my current count stands at 97 bags (and sometimes other large pieces that were too large for large garbage bags) that have left the house this year.

Cleaning is much easier.  There are two empty closets upstairs, one which belongs to Sadie, where she keeps things the littler kids might break, and one that's totally empty, except for an enormous pile of clean blankets, that Maggie can put her toys in or escape to when she needs to be in a completely dark room.

I'm not totally done.  There's still one closet, in Patch's room, that is halfway done and the master bedroom is not totally decluttered (having Paul work nights means it's difficult for me to find time to get in there when I'm not about to fall asleep).

While the kitchen is mostly done, I've still found that everything that comes into the house accumulates there so it still needs weekly de-cluttering sessions and I still have some ideas for making the space more efficient.

All in all though, cleaning most rooms in the house is now incredibly simple.  It's not unusual that in the time it's taken for me to put the boys to bed, Sadie will have cleaned the entire downstairs herself and will be proudly waiting to show me what she's done.  It only takes five minutes to do the two main rooms if the floors don't need to be swept.

And the kids are thrilled with it because there's so much room to run around.

I'll probably type up another post, with a bunch of pictures, once I'm totally done and once I've finished painting the downstairs, since I'm halfway done with several coats of primer up, but with most of the walls still not showing off the super durable paint that promises to wipe easily clean that I found at Sherwin Williams... that's also another post and I'll let you know how durable their super durable paint really is once the kids have tested it out with their general every day wear and tear.

But for now I'm about 90% of the way done (the basement was definitely the hardest part of the process) and it's definitely made me more cautious about what I bring into the house (I'm looking at you dollar bin at Target).

I'm hoping that the second trimester gives me that energy boost to carry my through the last little bit before the new baby arrives.  Having every room in order would be a huge help in keeping things running around here!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Feasts Days and Advent

This year I had grand Advent intentions, but I also had a creeping feeling that the morning sickness was going to thwart those plans and in a way it have.  Or at least, it's provided an unexpected Advent, which probably is exactly what was needed even if it wasn't on my checklist.  

Still I've tried to step things up for a few of our favorite feast days, and the kids were pretty excited about how they turned out.  

I started with Saint Nicholas' Day on the 6th.  The 6th was the end of that tough weekend when I mostly stayed laying down, and Sadie was a huge help getting everything ready:









On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception I actually felt well enough to go to Mass.

There were a few moments in the parking lot when the morning sickness made a last stand, and I seriously considered getting back in the car and calling it a day, but once we got inside I was actually okay and the kids were actually pretty good.

Before Mass Sadie had asked me to cut her hair and I did.  So after Mass was over she posed for a picture to show off her new hair cut.


And we tried to get a picture with all the kids, but it was really like a series of outtakes where all the kids looked everywhere except at the camera.


 The next day we hurried over to the tree lot and, for the first time since we celebrated Christmas in Florida in 2011, we got ready to set up a big Christmas tree (as opposed to a teeny tiny one on the mantle that Maggie couldn't reach).

I just had a feeling that, if we set it up off the floor, and got a heavy duty stand and huge screws and bolted it to the table it was on, Maggie maybe wouldn't destroy it this year.

We'd done a couple test runs with the trees in the building where she has therapy, and since she hadn't a) removed ornaments or b) tried to climb them I thought we stood a fair chance.

So we let Sadie pick out a tree:


And got ready to haul it home.  James, as usual, was totally unimpressed by everything that was going on around him and wasn't really sure why he'd had to come along at all.


Once the tree was set up the decorating began.  Maggie had a high fever and was home from therapy and watched the decorating, while Patch demanded ornaments and then screamed at the top of his lungs when he couldn't get them to stay on the tree.

He finally settled in handing Sadie the ornaments once I put the hooks on them, with occasional outbursts when she wasn't decorating at the exact rate that he thought was appropriate.


James thought the whole experience was pretty magical.

I was particularly thankful we'd invested in some "shatter proof" bulbs, when they were on clearance after Christmas last year.

Although I can assure you that if you have a dog who can reach those bulbs (in this case on her hind legs while reaching as far as she possibly can with her neck), they are not puppy proof.  Luckily they're just plastic and not sharp when they're shredded by Great Pyrenees teeth.


Patch was convinced that every tree comes with a monkey.  I have no idea where he got this idea but he spent a full two days walking around, peering into the tree, and saying "I don't see it.  I don't see monkey?  Monkey?!?!?  Monkey?!?!?! Where are you!?!?!?!"

He also sometimes stands under the tree and tells everyone not to touch it, which irritates his biggest sister to no end.


So far the tree is still standing and only four ornaments have been demolished.  And Maggie was only responsible for two of them.

Then came Saint Lucy's Day.

For this feast I found a wreath for $7 at Meijer that looked like it was roughly the size of Sadie's head.  I had some small battery operated tea lights that I picked up last year during the week after Christmas when they were discounted and I twisted the wreath around the lights until they stayed in place.

Then I found one of Sadie's favorite white dresses and a red scarf that we had downstairs and voila, we had Saint Lucy.

The night before the feast I took down a package of Aldi gluten free pizza (it's dairy free too) and I dumped in about a cup of sugar and a bunch of cinnamon.  I mixed it all together, greased up a pizza pan, and formed the pizza dough into a wreath and baked it.

The resulting bread was a huge hit.  All four of the kids came back for seconds and thirds and fourths until it was completely gone.  




Later in the day Maggie put on her mermaid costume and I let the kids break out the Kindle Fires that they were given, in the hopes that if Maggie watches Patch play on hers enough, she may actually try to use it.

She isn't a fan of screens at all the vast majority of the time, but this Kindle has an app that works like PECS board (to help her communicate) and I would love it if she would give it a try when she's having a hard time telling me what she needs.  I loved seeing her sneak over and look over Patch's shoulder.

I'm pretty sure that's progress because she's actually voluntarily looking at it instead of coming over and flipping it over so she can't see any part of the screen, at all.


During a run to the store Sadie showed had tall she's grown when she hoped on Sandy.  I completely failed to get a non-blurry picture... but I had to share this one because look how tall she's gotten! When did that happen?!?!


And those are all of my favorite pictures so far from this slow paced Advent!


I hope that you're having a wonderful season leading up to Christmas!  Can you believe there are only nine days left?