Sunday, April 13, 2014

Home Tour: The Kitchen

Turns out I never posted these pictures, which I took in--let the Christmas tree be your clue!--December.  Ah, well.  This is our kitchen, a la December.
Also, a la 6 weeks past Halloween.  The top of the refrigerator...where Halloween candy goes to die.

This is our little dining area, which is hardly ever used for dining.  On the rare occasion that the Mister is home for a family meal, he and I will eat at the table, but almost all the action takes place at the breakfast bar.

My children seem to need one thing after another at meal times...a refill of water, more strawberries, some ketchup {to dip the strawberries in--or something equally as gross}, another napkin, a new fork {because everyone knows a fork is only good for a single food item}, the list goes on and on.  I'm sure I'm not at all alone in this phenomenon, and I'm also sure I should figure out some proactive measures for dealing with this little situation, but for now, I do what I can do.  Which is stand on one side of the counter, while they sit on the other, and dish. it. up.  And then--swoop--all the countertop crumbs are wiped oh so beautifully into the sink.

Our art wall is one of my favorite spots in the house.  The display wire is from IKEA, and all preschool projects spend a little time there.  Before a new project goes up, the child has to choose which of his or her projects comes down {and immediately into the trash}.  With three preschool artists in the house, this is a great way to keep a lid on our paper adornments.  And they provide such a fun burst of color and seasonality!

This little stretch of wall is the children's hub.  Backpacks, coats, and a box that holds all their shoes.  This will probably seem like a strange arrangement to my southern friends--I had certainly never seen a collection of shoes by the door until I went to law school--but it's extremely common among people up here, especially those from more northern locations, to remove your shoes upon entering a home.  It blew my mind the first few times I saw the custom observed.  You mean you're going to take your SHOES OFF in someone else's HOUSE???  But I've now been to lots of parties where the foyer is full of the guests' shoes.  You just have to remember to have your toes painted or your cute socks on!  Anyway, the Mister's family follows this custom, and we followed it at so many other people's houses that eventually, my children adopted the practice at home.  So, if a bunch of small shoes are going to be shucked by the door, you best have something to catch them!

To the left of the children's hub is the half-bath.  Extremely useful with small children to have a bath off the kitchen!

And to the right, is the pantry.  This area needs some work.  Anybody got any great pantry organization ideas?  I've never had the abundance of food storage space that we have in here, and I think I get a little carried away with stocking it, to the result of lost and found food.

The back door is just past the pantry, and leads to the garage and driveway.  We're using that area more for recreational than automotive needs, and I can't wait to show it to you, once we get it all spiffed up for summer!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On the Cusp

Yesterday, we celebrated the 35 years that have resulted in our incredibly wonderful Mister.  As my Mama says, "He's just better than the rest of us."  And he is.  He really is.  He works unbelievably long hours at his job and spends every minute he is home seeking ways to serve us.  He does almost all of Buddy Boy's 10 PM and 2 AM blood sugar checks, and it is not at all rare that he will run to the grocery store or fold a few loads of laundry in the middle of the night.  When he painted a chalkboard wall for the children, he was up at 3AM applying another coat.  So, basically, he works all day and all night, and does it completely willingly and cheerfully.  He is awesome, and we are so very thankful for his life!

Speaking of blood sugar checks, Buddy Boy is sporting some new hardware to help us with his diabetic care.  It's called a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and it uses a little wire embedded in his interstitial tissue to send to a handheld device a reading of his blood sugar every five minutes, as well as an indication of whether it's going up or down, and how fast.  It makes me feel like crying to see that CGM stuck in him, but the amount of information it gives us to help him feel better makes it worth it.  Plus, we've been able to go from pricking his finger 10-14 times a day to pricking it about six times a day.  That's a victory in and of itself.  Buddy Boy was SO brave about the first insertion...we watched the instructional DVD and a few youtube videos of children having theirs inserted and then he agreed to lie down and get his.  No fuss, no muss.  Between his struggles with speech apraxia and his daily battle against diabetes, he is constantly inspiring me to be stronger, be braver, be more determined, to keep on keepin' on.

It was doughnut Sunday at church this week.  Last time it was doughnut Sunday, we somehow thought we could slip a doughnut under the radar, to be dealt with by his lunchtime insulin.  Um, negative.  We spent a whole day dealing with the aftermath of skyrocketing blood sugars.  This time, I gave Buddy Boy the choice of a pre-doughnut shot of insulin, or no doughnut.  He chose the shot.  BUT by the time I had given him his shot, the doughnuts were all gone.  Blargh.  I am so not the type to normally soften this kind of blow.  I think they offer some of the most important little lessons my children learn.  But goodness.  The boy just took a shot to have that doughnut!  Plus, we were suddenly in need of about 25 grams of carbohydrate STAT, or Buddy Boy would be sweaty, shaky, and hypoglycemic in no time flat.  Sooooo....Dunkin' Donuts it was!  And he couldn't have been more pleased.

Lately, I've been keenly aware that we are on the cusp of a new stage of life.  We're moving from a season full of babies and schedules that were home-based and all our own, to a season of big kid life.  Little Guy will start full day Catholic school kindergarten in the fall, and Buddy Boy will join him there five mornings a week, because he needs the nursing care that the preschool can offer.  We are so excited about our new school community, but these changes me feel like we have just a few short months to enjoy lazy Friday mornings in pajamas, to go on impromptu adventures to farms and parks, to spend hours reading stacks of books in bed, or to play hooky in favor of a couple weeks with the cousins in Alabama.

With big school comes schedules and attendance reports and book reports and I don't even know what.  So far, it's mostly just been little brood of chicks, doing as we pleased.  We haven't ever even taken a single class or lesson or played on a sports team.  That's all about to change, and I know it will be delightful in its own way, but I want to soak up the last days of this.  Because this has been pretty great (and thoroughly exhausting and completely insanity-inducing at times, but mostly just great).

I mean, Little Guy learned to pump yesterday.  Like, really pump.  That is totally the cusp of something new.

This little miss is just about to turn two.  And she is completely and totally hilarious.  She finally got some hair, as you can tell from her early morning sunshine mohawk, and she most definitely got some personality.  She would like to call all the shots around here, and succeeds in calling a fair number of them, because her brothers are completely devoted and her parents, hopelessly charmed.  

Thankfully, she is a sweet-natured little girl, with a very motherly disposition who mainly just wants to help.  As soon as I start pulling the chairs away from the breakfast bar after a meal, she's beside me with the broom and dust pan.  The moment she hears one of her brothers sneeze, she's running for a tissue.  When it's time for church, we often find all the children's church shoes lined up by the back door, courtesy of Baby Girl.  She tidies and straightens and rearranges, and takes care of us all, to the best of her ability.

Any bonks or tumbles are quickly met with hugs and pats on the back, until she pulls away and checks to make sure her job is done: "'Kay?  Yes?...Yes!  'Kay!" 

Mama stayed with us a whole two weeks while I was on bed rest, taking the children on outings and to preschool, and keeping the household running.  I really don't know what we would have done without her.  And just how many times have I said that in the past few years???  She is always swooping in to save the day!

I had a birthday recently too!  32 candles sure do light up a cake.  :)  This was another midnight labor of love by the Mister, finished off with a frosting by the children in the pre-dawn hours.

After a long and brutal winter, spring has finally sprung here in the DC area.  We are relishing it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Since I Last Wrote...

I haven't been in this space in almost two months.  I've missed it, but there has been so much to say with so little way to say it.

The night after I last posted, I received the worst phone call of my life, my brother calling to tell me that our twenty-three year old cousin was in critical care at the hospital in Birmingham, likely at the end of his days.  The Mister and I prayed more ardently all that night than I have ever prayed before, calling upon God to heal Cousin and to save his life, upon Our Blessed Mother and a host of other Saints to pray for him.  By morning, I had learned that it was not at all likely Cousin would be with us much longer.

I wanted to get to Cousin, and to his father and sister, but I was six weeks pregnant, having signs of a third miscarriage, and had a doctor's appointment scheduled for that day.  I knew I ought to attend that appointment before getting on an airplane, and I hoped that--contrary to the signs--all would be well, and I would be cleared to travel.  An ultrasound revealed what appeared to be an empty gestational sac, meaning that the baby seemed not to be developing.  There were also other indicators from the ultrasound that this was an ill-fated pregnancy.  The doctor told me that I would begin to miscarry in the next couple of days.  She was hesitant for me to fly, but gave me a prescription for medicine to take if I got into an emergency situation on the airplane, and orders for blood work to be done in Birmingham, if I had not miscarried within a couple days.

That night, I was on my way to Birmingham, with a number of sweet friends praying for my safety on the flight, and that the miscarriage would not begin until I reached Birmingham.  It was too late to visit in the ICU by the time I got to Birmingham, but the next morning, I got to be at Cousin's bedside, and in waves throughout the day, pray over him with my mother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

So very many people who loved Cousin were there, filling the waiting room and traveling in a constant stream to and from his bedside.  This was not surprising, as Cousin--like his father--was an easy person to love.  He was selfless and kind, humble and generous.  He was also very warm and funny, the person who might be the first to greet you at a big family gathering and who would have his end of the dinner table laughing until they cried.  My earliest memories of Cousin are of a little boy called Brother, with golden hair and impeccable manners, who bounced along on his tippy toes, looking for the next bit of fun.  My last memory of him is from a couple months ago, when I called Mama one afternoon and she told me Cousin was at her house, moving some furniture around and hanging some pictures.  Cousin had become a regular fixture at Mama's, helping her with all the jobs that my brothers did until they grew up and got busy with their own families and homes.  That day, it was raining and Cousin had spotted an abandoned kitten on the side of the road.  He had the kitten all warm and cozy in a box in Mama's garage and was consulting Google for feeding suggestions.  It's not a particularly remarkable memory, and yet it was so him.

On February 8, 2014, Cousin's heart stopped beating unassisted, and his soul passed into eternal life.

I took this picture of Cousin on Thanksgiving Day 2012, a day that was warm and golden,
where the light was perfect for showing the twinkle of his eyes that we all knew so well.
I'm so thankful to have this tangible memory of him.

Because Cousin was to be an organ donor, we had the rare opportunity of spending most of that day at his bedside, as well, continuing to pray over his body.  I offered many prayers for the eternal rest of his soul and for peace for those closest to him.  Knowing that, in Heaven, Cousin would be able to understand the understandable of this world and had been released from the pain he suffered here, I also dared to ask for his prayers for what I still barely had hope was life inside me.

The days after Cousin's death were a comforting closeness of family, working together to honor him with a funeral and a celebration of his life.  I cherish the time spent with my family members in those days.  Grief should not be borne alone, and it is a privilege to be with those who grieve.

The day after the funeral, I still had not miscarried.  Although the days away from the Mister and the children were getting far too long, no one felt that I should get on another airplane, five days deeper into a miscarriage situation.  Additionally, we were trying to shield the children from another sadness.  There had been far too many difficult things for their tender little hearts to absorb in the last few months, and if we could, we were going to protect them from this one.  I went to my uncle's obstetrical practice to be seen.  The plan was to have a repeat ultrasound for confirmation, and an operation the following day.

I laid back on the ultrasound table, steeling myself for another glimpse of the absence of a baby.  The ultrasound technician brought my womb into view, and it appeared to be just as empty as before.  She clicked around for a few more seconds and then I sat straight up.  WHAT was THAT?  THAT was a BABY, tucked into a corner of the irregularly shaped gestational sac, measuring about a week smaller than it ought to, but with its heart beating strongly.  Relief and thanksgiving, joy and praise washed over me so fully that I was literally warmed from the inside.

My uncle warned me that we were still not out of the woods, but that we could be cautiously optimistic that this pregnancy would end with a live baby.  That hope was so very sweet.

As soon as the DC snowstorms would allow, I got home to the Mister and the children, who had all been lovingly cared for by my dear mother-in-law for the duration of my 9-day absence.  Leaving Birmingham, and especially, leaving my uncle in his grief, was very hard, but I needed to be home.

A few days later, I took all the children with me to an appointment at my OB's office.  During the ultrasound, the children were absorbed in playing with replicas of babies at different gestational ages, but when the technician said, there's the baby, the boys' heads both snapped to attention.  Little Guy had had his suspicions about why we were there, and he exclaimed, "A baby!  There IS a baby in there, Mommy!"  The children and I all got to listen to the baby's heartbeat, which felt like a balm to the wound of our loss of Max, as we shared in the joy of this new life.

We had another big scare this past week, where I thought in the middle of the night that for sure we had now lost the baby.  But, thankfully, when we took a peek, the baby was dancing around the ultraound screen, with a heart beating strongly and measurements perfectly on schedule.  It seems to be a possible case of placenta previa, which we will check on again in a few weeks.  I've been observing a few days of bed rest and will continue to do so until the symptoms abate.

As we fully open our hearts to the hope that our family will welcome new life into its circle this September, we remain particularly mindful that all our children are God's children lovingly entrusted to us for a time unknown, and that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Easy Does It

I mentioned it took the boys two hours before they would sit on their new bikes on Christmas morning.  Once they worked up the nerve to try out the bikes, they were soon pedaling fast and furious laps around the house, but it still took them another two days to venture outside, with a bit of gentle encouragement from Gaga.

There was a time not too long ago when I probably would have forced the issue.  I might have picked them up and plopped them on their bikes or drug the bikes outside a few minutes after they found them under the tree.  Because you just have to take a Christmas morning ride down the street.  It's just how it's done!

There's something to be said for just plunging ahead with things and embracing the moment.

There's plenty more to be said for taking things slowly, assessing a situation, and moving with care.

I'm trying to do a little less forcing of the former, and a little more appreciating of the latter.

My children are not me.  This idea can still be hard to grasp, although it is becoming all the more evident as they grow. So, while I adhere to my mother's philosophy of "more is more" and various other philosophies, like "go big or go home" and "the higher the hair, the closer to Heaven"...

I'm slowly learning to understand the little person that each one of them is.  Not me in a tiny person's body.  Not me as a child.  Them.  Or, more importantly, he, he, and she.

And even more slowly, I'm learning how to be the mother that each one of them needs.  I'm just one mother, but they each need different parts of me in different doses.  Me, the snuggler.  Me, the disciplinarian.  Me, the listening ear.  Me, the encourager, the nurse, the gym coach, the project partner, the nurturer.

All of this unfolds so slowly.  Who they are and what they need.  And, of course, it changes constantly.

I struggle to keep up.

But I am finding that--with a little time and a little space--they are growing stronger, braver, more certain, and more confident.

And one of the great blessings of motherhood is that I am too.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Day in the Life

I'm joining a couple of lovely friends to blog the details of our day.  We all used to live within a couple miles of each other in the city, but in the past half year or so, have spread out to three different states.  I sure miss these girls!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

12:30 AM (I think): Little Guy wanders into our room and hops into bed next to me.  I hold his hand and we fall back asleep.

2 AM: The alarm on my phone goes off.  The Mister rolls out of bed to do Buddy Boy's nightly blood sugar check and a urine test for ketones, because he's had a cold that has had his numbers running extra high.  The blood sugar is 110 {that's good!  the cold has saved us from the usual 2AM low!} and the ketone test is negative {also good!}.  He carries Little Guy back to his bed.

5:30 AM: Buddy Boy comes running into our room, upset.  Little Guy is right behind him.  I hop up to help them in the bathroom and hand out tissues for some drippy noses.  We all pile into our bed, to wait for 6 AM, when they're allowed to officially be up.

5:45 AM: The boys are playing some game where they lift each other's hand with the edge of the sheet.  They find it very amusing.  The Mister and I, less so.

6:05 AM: The Mister {who takes the first shift practically every morning!  he is amazing and so selfless!} goes downstairs with Little Guy.  Buddy Boy stays behind to snuggle with me some more.

6:15 AM: Buddy Boy decides to join the others downstairs.  I plan to get a few more minutes of sleep.

7:11 AM: Oops!  I overslept!  I jump out of bed and into the shower, realizing I won't have time to wash my hair.  It's really, really cold outside, so I dress in layers and fuzzy socks.

7:45: The Mister and I swap places...downstairs, I find Baby Girl and Buddy Boy wanting to finish up their breakfasts and Little Guy watching college basketball.  He's quite the sports fan these days.

Baby Girl blows her nose.

7:49 AM: Get a text message from our ring leader.

8 AM: All three kiddos go to preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I get out the three lunch boxes I packed last night and put them in backpacks by the door.  Little Guy has a tantrum, which includes slinging a doll stroller across the floor, because he doesn't want to take an item for show and tell today.  I sing the merits of class participation.  He further protests.

8:05 AM: The boys have already dressed themselves in the clothes I laid out last night.  I take Baby Girl upstairs to get dressed.  She doesn't like the dress I pick out.  Says the sleeves are "ow."  I inspect them and disagree.  Dress stays on.  We brush teeth x 3.  Comb hair x 3.  Put Aquaphor on chapped little faces x 3.

8:25 AM: We go back downstairs to get shoes on x 3.  Hem and haw over various outerwear options.  Windchill is supposed to be in the negative temps today.

8:31 AM:  We are all in the car and headed to the Metro station to drop the Mister off for his commute into the city and then go on to preschool.  I sing A LOT of songs for Baby Girl.  She has an extensive play list she like to run through during every car ride.

8:52 AM: We pull up to the preschool and I do a blood sugar check for Buddy Boy, just to make sure I am dropping him off in a stable condition.  I am.  We drop his diabetes kit off with the teacher who handles his care while at school.  Realize Little Guy has {intentionally?} forgotten his item for show and tell in the car.  He wins this battle, because ain't no way I'm hauling all these children and their backpacks and lunch boxes and coats back out to the car in this cold.  I express disappointment.  He expresses regret.  We resolve to do better next week.  Drop each of the children at their classrooms.  They were out all last week for snow days, so they're a little weepy this morning, but no big fits, so that's a relief.  Lots of kisses and hugs all around.

9:10 AM: I pull away from the school.  I always feel a little bit of relief at the reality of a few hours on my own, mixed with a little bit of sadness at the prospect of being on my own.  The last glimpse of each of their faces run through my mind.  And then the relief wins out!

9:25 AM: I'm home and make myself a faux latte and a few tea biscuits in an effort to gear up for a couple hours of paper work and calls to doctors' offices and the insurance company.  There's a lot of this kind of thing to do these days.

{skip over the boring at-home stuff to 12:35, when I leave to get the children from school}

12:58: I get to the school.  Get a report at Buddy Boy's class that he was having a hard time adjusting to being back after all the snow days, so his teacher took him down to get a hug from Baby Girl, which fixed him right up.  Get a mid-year evaluation from Baby Girl's teacher that mentions that she "knows how to protect her toys."  Yeah, I've seen some of that before.

1:45: We get home.

We unload backpacks.

I serve the boys a snack and go upstairs to put Baby Girl down for a nap.

2:00 PM: Back downstairs, it seems Little Guy has said "poopy" and is trying to prevent his little brother from telling on him.

2:20 PM: Buddy Boy adds a snow bib to his ensemble and the boys work together on his speech therapy homework.

2:30 PM: They play more basketball.  It's constant, y'all.

2:40: Time for rest.

While they rest, I work on a little laundry.

And edit some pictures of Baby Girl.

And ponder our dinner choices.

I settle on defrosting a meatloaf I made last week and serving it with broccoli and penne.

3:15 PM: I hop on Facebook for a minute and discover that my hometown of Birmingham has been surprised by a winter storm that covered the city in a sheet of ice with a couple inches of snow on top.  People from home are posting about not being able to reach their children at school and daycare, not being able to leave their offices, spinning out across highways, abandoning cars in ditches.  I start checking in with family members and find that several are stranded.  I am most worried about my Mama, who has been trying to get the couple of miles home for about four hours by this point.

4 PM: My camera battery dies, so I turn to my iPhone, which is handy, because I'm already glued to it, texting with family and friends and checking Facebook updates for news from home.  The children work on tracing letters and numbers.

4:45 PM: It's time for our early bird dinner and also for Buddy Boy's next blood sugar check.  The boys have this little scheme worked out that they think I'm too dumb to catch onto...because they know I make Buddy Boy rotate his prick sites to avoid scar tissue, Little Guy volunteers to do eenie-meenie-miney-mo to choose a finger for Buddy Boy.  They've realized that the rhyme ends on the same finger it starts with, so Little Guy whisper-confers with Buddy Boy as to which finger to start on.   And somehow, it always works out to be just the finger Buddy Boy wanted!

Buddy Boy doesn't currently like to push the button for the prick himself {instead he shuts his eyes tight, with his other hand on his cheek, which makes me want to cry}, but he does like to apply the blood drop to the test strip.  So brave!

Way too high.

A little appetizer of insulin.

Followed by a good dinner, which my camera battery has revved back up for.

5:30 PM: Baby Girl, with marker smudges on her face, sugar-free popsicle on her lips, dinner on her dress, and her sash untied, commences a rousing game of house.  She not only likes to play with baby dolls, but also to be the baby doll.  All day long, she asks to be wrapped up in a blanket, fed her baby's bottle, rocked, and put down for naps.

After visiting a friend's house and discovering they had dollies named Jack-Jack and Baby Isis, I decided Baby Girl needed to step it up in the doll-naming department.  With a little help, she chose Mae-Mae, Coco, and Teeny for her favorite three.  This is baby Mae-Mae.  

Little Guy is a careful daddy.  They take the baby to the potty and then put her down for a nap on the lid of the trash can.

6:15 PM: On to the bedtime routine.  No baths tonight.  60 teeth to brush.  Three little bodies to lotion and pajama.

A "party" on Little Guy's bed.  They declare themselves to be having "parties" for all of life's big events: bedtime parties, getting dressed parties, snack parties, poopy-ing parties...

Story time is followed by their nightly ritual...knocking from each side of the wall that divides them, to say good night.

And then, it's prayers and lights out.

I wash my face, change into pajamas, and await the Mister's homecoming.

Check in with the Cagles and the Marpepps for more days in the life!