Tuesday, December 23, 2014

noe and the eternal

Noe is in the age of questioning. He's always been a deep thinker... and I've wondered when those deep thoughts would turn to the eternal. It really started about a month ago. He mentioned wanting to get baptized because he loves God. I said that was really great, and we left it at that. I don't want to push my kids into beliefs or actions that I don't feel like they really have processed (to the best of their ability).

He then began really asking questions about dying. What happens when you die? How does it feel? Will I be alone? When will I die? How will I die? Will I be scared? I will cry and cry if you and daddy die. How do I get to God? How do I get to heaven? What is heaven like? How do I talk to God? Why can't I see God? What does God look like?

I get choked up just typing these questions! Such big, big thoughts for a little guy. And, of course, answering questions about death with your handsome first-born are enough to give any momma's heart pain. It really makes you think--as you try to put what you believe into terms a child can understand. And, it makes you process what you believe as you put it into words.

I told Rey that I was so glad these questions were overflowing just as we were going into the Christmas season--because: ADVENT! The story of Jesus! I really wanted to find an advent that told the whole gospel story, because I knew that Noe was ready to see the whole picture of God's redemption offered. I was excited to find this resource online--PERFECT for us: simple enough that I in my craziness and shortage of time could do it, yet involved enough that they kids looked forward to it (we only did it 1-3 nights a week... but they got it!). (Also: The link takes you to the website. If you scroll to the bottom, there is a button to download the .pdf version of the guide, which was easier to follow for me)

So, we've been following the story of Jesus... from his foretelling, to his birth, to his redemption provided, to his resurrection and promise to prepare a home for us in heaven. The kids followed along--asking many questions, and being nearly moved to tears as they took in the story of the cross. It was so great to finish the story tonight... Jesus is not dead... and He is preparing a room for us in heaven! This imagery helped Noe get excited about heaven, as he dreamed up how perfectly decorated his new room will be!

We asked if the kids wanted to pray to give their lives to Jesus and be with him forever, and they did. Especially Noe got it... He was very, very nervous as he decided that yes, he wanted to take this step. We joined hands and told God we loved him and knew we couldn't go to heaven on our own. We asked Jesus to wash our hearts clean and told him that we gave him our lives and we wanted to live with him forever. We told him thank you for saving us and making a way for us to get into heaven. And, then we said "amen".

Noe opened his eyes with awe, and obviously emotional. Trying to smile, and not let a tear escape, he said: "Wow! That was it?? We're done?? We can go to heaven now?? Wow!!!" He said he thought it would be a lot harder than that. Isn't that amazing? Kids and adults aren't that different--we all think it will be hard to get into heaven. Which led us to another great chat with our boy. "God makes it easy for us! Do you know why he made you? Because he hoped you would say 'yes' to him! Whenever you say 'yes' to God, you make him so happy! And, it's not hard to talk to God... you can talk to him whenever and wherever you want! Can you believe it?"

That was followed by conversations like, "Do angels sleep? Do they get hungry?" and "When you and daddy go to heaven, can you please take a video on your cell phones and send it to me so I can see what it looks like?" THEN, we pulled out the Bible again and read what the Bible says about heaven. By the time we were done with that ("Gold streets!" "No darkness!" "No sadness or bad things!"), Noe was stoked! He kept saying, "Yay! Yes!" whenever more cool things were added to the heaven list.

My boy is growing up. He is stretching my heart to the bursting with his sweet earnestness. I pray only that his daddy and I can live in a way that mirrors God's heart, and that we are given the words that speak directly to his heart and draw him closer to his maker.

Oh, nothing... just a cheery wave from Joseph...! :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

gabriella elise

On the dawn of my 39th week of pregnancy... I woke up at 4 am and heard a "pop". I had been dreaming about labor and birth all night long, so I really thought I probably imagined the sound. I got up and moved around a little, and felt a few twinges. I decided since I was up, I might as well get a shower. During the shower, I felt two twinges that I felt like qualified as contractions.

I decided to start getting the stuff for the hospital together and by the door... as well as the things for Noe and Aleni. It had been a prayer of mine that baby come during the day, to make it easier for getting Noe and Aleni looked after.

Around 5:30, I woke Rey up. Contractions had continued to come about every 10 minutes, but the doctor had warned me that since it was my third and I was already so dilated, the labor could be fast once it started. I definitely didn't want to wait too long!

We let our friend Julie (who was going to be taking care of the kids) know that it looked like today was the day and woke the kids up. I think we headed to the hospital around 6, and Julie met us there to take the kids to her house for the day.

I walked up to the maternity ward alone while Rey waited to meet Julie in the lobby. I felt like a displaced person, waddling slowly and painfully down the long, empty white halls with my overnight bag in hand. I first had to go into an office and check myself in. It felt weird to be talking insurance cards and ID between contractions. I then was admitted to the main receiving desk. As I was talking to those nurses, Rey buzzed at the door. They asked who he was there to see, and I said, "Oh, he's with me!" There was a bit of confusion as the nurses thought I said, "He's not with me!" I think they thought, "Is he a stalker? Does she have a restraining order on him??" Ha.

We were taken to our room, and I changed into the gown (the glorious, oh-so-flattering gown). Vitals were taken, IV was hooked up, heartbeat monitor strapped on. Then, I was allowed to get down to the business of labor!

I had brought an exercise ball for labor, and ended up using it a lot. I found out that in early labor, I had to keep moving/walking around to keep the contractions coming. So, usually I would walk around or stand and rock back and forth, and then when a contraction hit, I would kneel on a mat and put my forearms on the ball. Or, I would sit on the ball and rock back and forth.

My favorite part about my labor? Having Rey there! I am SO thankful Rey's job arrived just weeks before baby's entrance to the world, because Rey was able to really be "there" and that meant the world to me!

"Don't let anyone fool ya. Labor's not that exciting." ;)

We actually spent the first couple hours just having fun together. The contractions were probably 4-8 minutes apart and weren't too horrible. We kept making jokes between them, and maybe the laughing helped keep things rolling. Rey joked about missing "casual Friday" at work "for this!". :)

I loved the music I had for labor... I already had some songs I liked on my phone, and I downloaded tracks from this album also. (Specifically, tracks 1, 2, 9 & 16) It was only 4 tracks, but they never got old and really helped me to focus and keep calm.

At one point, a love song that Rey sang to me when we were dating came on during a contraction. I was laughing until I was crying as I told him, "I'm sure this" (me on my knees, leaning on an exercise ball, with wires and tubes attached to me, bleary eyes and a gross hospital gown) "Was what you had in mind when you sang that to me eight years ago!! Sooo romantic!" :)

I think I must've been contracting for several weeks, so I'd started ignoring smaller contractions... Because at one point, the nurse came in and asked, "So, how did those last few contractions feel?" I said I hadn't had any for more than 5 minutes, and she said, "No, actually you had several..." and showed me on the charts. Ok, then!

But, labor isn't all fun and games, and it did--of course--heat up! Probably around 10:30, I got a lot less chatty. By 11, I had moved to the bed. The back of the bed was up (like a chair), so to stay more upright (and keep things moving), I knelt, facing the back of the bed--my arms resting on the back of the bed for support. Now, when the nurse would come to check in on me, there was no smiles or small talk. It was all focus and and breathing! I told her I felt like the baby was moving down, and she checked. She said she thought I still had a ways to go.

My doctor had a surgery to do at 12:30, so the nurse said to plan to push around 1 pm. By about 11:45, I had that "oh-no-this-is-it" transition pain happening. My body began shaking all over and the pain was unbearable. It also meant all kind of crazy sounds were coming out of me... so everyone in the area knew I was having a baby! :) The nurse came in, checked, and then called the doctor and told her she needed to come now, before her surgery.

From this point on--until Gabriella was delivered--I never opened my eyes. I had to focus! I also must confess that as the nurse was out arranging things, I did push a few times--the pain couldn't be denied!

I heard the doctor come in, and comment on how she heard me out in the hallway. They helped me turn around on the bed and position for pushing. The doctor checked one more time and said, "Oh, yeah. The head is right there." She then said, "Ok, are you ready? You're going to change gears and start pushing!" I nodded, and they had me push on the next contraction. At this point, the heart-monitor which was belted tightly around my lower belly was driving me crazy. I would pull it up during a contraction, and they would pull it back down.

With my other two, when it was time to push, I had been instructed to push once as hard and long as I could with the contraction, and then rest until the next one. Here, they instructed me to push again and again and again--back-to-back--as long as the contraction lasted. This made me very light-headed and exhausted (of course)... but... it was probably 3 contractions and 7 pushes... and-- at 12:27pm... Gabriella Elise joined us!

It took me a few moments before I could open my eyes and see the bundle of love lying on my chest! She was here!! Ah! There's no feeling like it!


All cleaned up and hanging out with momma before getting taken to the nursery. 
Wow, my hands were so swollen!

The nurses were all very complimentary--"We have a lot of women come in saying they want to go natural...but very few actually do." I was just glad to be done! We even got to order food to the room. I had to order SODA (no more heartburn!!)..! Pasta! So good.

Rey went and brought Noe and Aleni to see their new sister late that afternoon. SO, so fun to let them meet her!

People have asked me how this birth compared to my other two--since the other two were at home. I am so happy with how great the hospital staff was in respecting my wishes to do the birth naturally. They really just left Rey and I alone to labor and would just check in from time to time. They asked once or twice if I was sure about not getting an epidural, but were not at all pushy. 

It, of course, did require a bit more planning--since I needed to pack for myself and the kids, and try to time our departure... but that was no big deal. It was, on the one hand, a bit less comfortable... since I didn't have ready access to my food/clothing/bathroom. On the other hand, it was like a mini vacation: My own room! A TV! Nursery service! It wasn't that fun having the needles poked in me and the monitoring tests done throughout the day and night, but I knew it was "for my good", so--again--no big deal. There was some confusion when it came time for us to go home too, which was annoying... but, we ended the day with a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby... and that's all that matters! :) :)

3rd pregnancy

Since this was more than likely my last pregnancy... I knew I wanted to save notes on the journey. Because, sometimes time makes one forget that the journey--although glorious--did have its aches and pains. That may help... when I'm looking longingly at newborn pictures a couple years from now! ;)


I had been hoping for and dreaming of having a 3rd baby ever since we had Aleni, really. But... on the other hand... we had two amazing, darling kiddos and we were really enjoying life with them!

I first realized I may have been pregnant in January when I had been feeling like I may throw up for a few days in a row. Noe had been really sick with a respiratory/fever issue, and I thought maybe I was getting a virus from him. When I dissolved into tears at the doctor's office (read: hysterical-snot-dripping-down-tears) when it was time to pay the bill..., I realized... "It could be something else!" The first test came back negative, so I waited a few days. And, the second one told the good news! I was beyond excited. It was one of those "This is too good to be true" kind of excitements. Due date: Oct 10, 2014.

Weeks 4-11 were miserable! I felt nauseous 24/7... yet, somehow ravenously hungry at random times. But, since everything looked and smelled revolting, I couldn't figure out what to eat, which would make me even more nauseous. The nauseousness often turned into dizziness, or feeling like I would faint, so I would sit on the ground and breathe through it--willing myself not to vomit. The nausea would pass and leave me drenched in sweat on the floor.

I also developed a rashy, break-out type complexion on my face and chest that stuck around until about week 23. (I think they call that "glowing", yes??) ;)

During week 5, I had some light spotting, which was checked out. Everything looked good, so that was a relief. Around week 11, I had some more light spotting, which also turned out to be nothing. They reported all my vitals as looking good, and I got to hear a great, strong heartbeat. I'd never had this with my other pregnancies, and it was hard to fight the feeling of panic... "I knew it was too good to be true!" Thankful it wasn't!!

We announced the pregnancy when I was only about 8 weeks pregnant, because I was already starting to show and a couple friends had already guessed. Also, we were getting packed up for our move to Texas, so I wanted everyone to know before we left.

(10 weeks)

Thankfully, by the time we were on the road, the nausea had died down, and I was starting to feel more like  a "regular" person. I got really sick for almost a week once we got to San Antonio. Intense fevers that would come and go, waking up gasping for air, loosing my voice, sneezing, coughing without relief... I thought it was a bad head cold. A SA "native" informed me it was oak allergy--and Benadryl came to the rescue. Whew!

(13 weeks)

I enjoyed wonderful weeks between weeks 14-20 where I didn't even "feel" pregnant--except of course when I looked in the mirror! I could go on long walks, short jogs, sleep, eat... everything!

Around week 18, I really started to slow down and "feel" bigger. There were less comfortable positions for sitting, sleeping. Also, nightly "pregnancy congestion" and feeling like I was dying of heat was making sleeping more difficult. For a couple of weeks, the intense itchiness all over my body was particularly aggravating at night, adding the the frustration. Thankfully, the itchiness died down around week 21.

( 20 weeks)

Around week 20, I started experiencing ear congestion... Where my ears would pop shut (like when you are on an airplane)... and stay that way no matter what. It was miserable, because, as I talked, the congestion would continually "pop" , so my voice would go from muted to loud, to muted over and over... making me feel very frustrated when I would be trying to converse with people ("What did you say? Am I shouting? Am I speaking clearly?? Because I can't hear..."). That has continued on... some days being worse than others, and it seems the higher the humidity, the worse it is (and it's never humid in south Texas. Ha, ha.)

Even with the added discomfort of my growing midsection and heavier weight--I still can't get over how fun it is to feel this strong little baby inside of me! To feel the movements grow from slight flutters now and then... to full-on kicks and body-slams as time goes on. SO amazing.

Week 22, I went in to get ultrasound--and find out the gender (beyond excited!!!)... but there was some confusion (they had written down my appointment as being a regular check-up, not prenatal) and the doctor's office said to come back the following week. I hadn't been seen since leaving Illinois, so I was devastated not to get a peek at the little bun in the oven. Yes, I did cry in the parking lot.

Week 24... the pelvic pain is here! Feels like bone-on-bone... lower pelvic pressure, and also intense pressure/pain in the lower back. Makes moving around/standing up/pushing a shopping cart/going up and down stairs... unpleasant!

Week 26--After experiencing what felt like my hip giving out on multiple occasions when doing super athletic things like bending over or putting my pants on, I was able to get a pregnancy belt support... and has helped tremendously.

(27 weeks)

Week 27- We found out that baby is a GIRL! The whole pregnancy, Rey was so sure it was a boy... so it was hard to stop calling her a "he"...but, at the moment the doctor told me, it felt so right. Like it was what I'd been secretly hoping the whole time.  Also--> S.T.A.R.V.I.N.G all the time. Not for snacks. Not for salad. For big, full, meaty meals. Also: "vomit burps" (your welcome). All day long, especially when I bend over. Time for tums! Test said I was low on iron, so had to up the iron supplement.

(30 weeks)

30 weeks... feeling the pain! So much pelvic pressure, it takes my breath away!

31 weeks... Harder time falling asleep, can't breathe when lying down, now "sleep" sitting up. Walking around in an exhausted fog.
(32 weeks)

33 weeks.. I can feel with my hands the whole baby's body as she flips, stretches and turns. Amazing! She is much lower--which results in every.single.time I stand up: I have to waddle quickly to the bathroom.  Definitely waddling now, willing each leg in front of the other... Enough so that I barely can walk by anyone without them offering a kind word of encouragement... or just staring. Her being lower does seem to help lower the heartburn issue. Feeling lazy, with crazy, unpredictable bouts of energy. It's been around 100 degrees for the last month or two... so, any time I go outside, I'm almost immediately completely soaked in sweat, Lovely. DYING to meet our little doll!

(34 weeks)

34 weeks--It's amazing to be able to really feel her little body in there. "Whoa! That was a hand! A foot! Her little bum just completely rotated across my belly!" I'm guessing it's b/c my belly is roomier this time around, but I don't remember being able to so clearly feel the baby's individual body parts as they moved around. It takes my breath away... I sit for hours, with my hand on my belly, just feeling her flip, stretch, hiccup, kick, flicker... It makes me feel like I am already truly holding her tiny self. It's miraculous.
Also: Super swollen feet/ankles. Ouch!

35- No more sleeping! :( She seems to wedge herself under my rib cage, and I wake up in a panic because I can't breathe. Some nights, I just sit completely upright in bed until I fall asleep that way... and then wake up to re-position around midnight or 1 am... often by then she's adjusted herself so that then I can lay on my side and sleep the rest of the night. Lots of pain/pressure on my butt bones, and I'm needing to go to the bathroom every time I stand up--even up to 3 times in 10 minutes! Fun!

(36 weeks)

36 weeks- Doc says i'm 2 cm dilated/60% effaced. She also noticed my swollen ankles/feet and mentioned "You're not measuring big, but it feels like a lot of baby packed in there." Also: confirmation baby is head-down. That afternoon & night, I felt dizzy/nauseous/upset stomach/hot-cold flashes... At night I felt like my belly contains a balloon being blown up more and more and more... until I feel as though I would burst from the pressure. The next morning, I had nausea and an upset stomach, too. Made me wonder if labor was coming.... Nope! :)

(37 weeks)

37 weeks doctor checkup: Between 2 & 3 cm dilated.

(38 weeks)

38 weeks doctor visit says 4 cm dilated! Come on baby! I posted the picture above and said I hoped it would be my last pregnancy profile shot.

And... it was! :) :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

a reminder... to me...

As I struggle to find a new normal in my days (new job + new house + new baby + hubby twice to Mexico in 2 weeks + all 3 kids taking turns getting croup = whaaaa??!)... I find myself falling into bed feeling like a failure most days. Things I'd wanted to accomplish--half-started, or totally forgotten. (Why do we remember everything the moment we lie down?) If I am feeling even a little "together"--all I need to do is walk into a different room, see the disaster, and be reminded of how very little I have together!

This is not a post begging for help or looking for pity--I have a thousand other things I've been dying to write... But, this. This is the post I must write. To myself. A lifeline, when I am flailing to keep my head above water. When I am feeling like nothing is going right.

And, word to the wise--it is not a well put-together post. The rambling and lack of organization is a reflection of my mental state these last weeks.. but I hope you can find the sense of it! ;)

The first several weeks post baby, I felt my attitude slipping. Especially towards everything "not baby". I would snap at my older children--not giving them time or grace to be themselves. Playfulness had flown out the window, and in it's place came a snarky, sleep-deprived woman who demanded silence, immediate obedience and the understanding of an adult.

Thankfully, I felt God's voice halt me in my tracks... and encourage me to stop taking myself and my feelings/emotions so seriously. Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I was cranky. So, what? It would pass. What wouldn't pass were my children's memories of these days. The hurt I was so carelessly inflicting as I cut them off in their excited sharing (not enough time!), as I shut down any inclination towards creative play (messy!), as I told them to laugh quietly (too loud!)... as I myself forgot to smile, and to laugh. I began laughing first at myself. I am a pretty funny thing, actually. And, really... the less sleep I get, the funnier I get. (Bumping into walls, putting socks in refrigerators, completely forgetting appointments THAT ARE WRITTEN ON THE CALENDER). Why not just laugh about it? As opposed to letting it all build and build until I explode all over my loved ones? This perspective helped me to find time for play with the kids... Car rides are now crazy times of silliness and sharing. Love it. It helps me to stop what I'm doing and listen--with corresponding facial expressions..!

So, playfulness and engaging has returned. But, I now struggle with the HOUSEWORK. I don't naturally adore housework. It doesn't really fulfill me. BUT. I do enjoy a clean, organized house. And, I do feel intense pressure to keep it that way. I feel that weight each night as I go to bed, surrounded by piles of clothing and projects that are half-started. I feel embarrassed--imagining someone popping in: "They will think I do nothing all day!"

I also began feeling the crushing pressure yesterday, as the kids and I began decorating the house. I began feeling that our decorating wasn't that great and picking things apart. And, then I stopped.

You know what?? WHO CARES? Who cares if these decorations are the ones we've been recycling the last several years? Who cares if they aren't placed in the most perfect way? I then began to feel the need to rebel against the weight... What if---I didn't spend another cent on decorations? What if I just let it be?

I began thinking about what REALLY matters to me. What I REALLY want my kiddos to learn as they grow.

And, here it is... (incomplete... but here):
--I want them to learn creativity and imaginative play. Which, in my world, means allowing messy. Allowing paper scraps, allowing blanket forts, allowing digging in the dirt.

--I want them to learn helpfulness and how to work. Which, in my world, means allowing them into MY space. Not shutting out offers of helping me cook dinner, fold laundry, sweep the floor, organize a drawer. EVEN WHEN I WANT TO. Even when it takes 10 times longer with them "helping".

--I want them to learn responsibility and family cooperation. Which, I my world, requires leaving certain things undone... so that they will do them. (like: Their bed). It requires me to be more organized and to think about what they are capable of doing... and it requires me to HOLD THEM to it! It requires that I hold myself back from doing things that they can and should be doing (cleaning up after themselves, helping out).

--I want them to feel the home is their home. Which, in my world, means displaying their projects their artwork... and even (gasp) letting them lend a hand in decorating it (and even leaving it the way they did it!). I don't want them to learn, "Hands off, the only one whose creativity counts is momma's." I want them to learn to dream, create--and to do so cooperatively. I want my home to reflect the people who live there--not a snapshot from a magazine.

--I want them to learn respect and kindness. Which requires that I am tuned into how they play, how they interact, and how they respond.

--I want them to learn about God, and His plan for them and how He is a part of everything in our lives. This means I need to both plan ahead for teaching times... and take the time for spontaneous teaching times. I need to utilize different ways of getting the message across--whether through conversation, games, crafts... which all takes time.

What do you think? Do you notice what is glaringly absent from the list? "I want them to learn that the only good home is a clean, model home ". Not even there!

Also, this list was a huge reality check. ALL of them require time, flexibility, time, connection, engagement, time, follow-up and a sort of open-handedness. And, time. Which means... none of these priorities spell "Clean, magazine-worthy house".

All of this is not to say, "Don't stop by my house. Is a toxic landfill." (Hopefully not!) ;) Nope. It's just a reminder to me that if that list above is really a reflection of some of my top priorities for my kids... Then, that's the list I should be running through my mind as I lie in my bed at night. I need to allow myself to feel the joy of the deep conversation about God that my son had with me, or the compassion I saw displayed by my daughter, or the laughter shared by all at dinner. These are my standards. These are what matter to me.

What about you? Are you able to just focus on your family's priorities... and let all the other crazy expectations run out the door and bother someone else? ;)