December 7, 2014

A Week (and a Day)

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, homeschooling, life tagged , , , at 10:37 pm by alison

Our little Atticus is 8 days old today, and what a sweet 8 days they have been!

We spent 2 nights in the hospital after he was born, and by Monday morning we were so ready to come home and continue to snuggle our little guy in the comforts of our own home and be all together as a family.

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We continue to think Atticus is one of the most adorable, precious little babies ever – along with his sisters, of course :)

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We’re getting to know him more and more each day. He has these awesome facial expressions that make us wonder if he is going to grow up into the inquisitive, observant, and thoughtful person that he seems to be.

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We’re learning more about all of his likes and dislikes, as well. Current loves are snuggling, nursing, and watching his sisters :)

He is really a pretty laid back baby, which is fortunate, because he is a third child, and the world cannot revolve around him even if we wanted to make it so! Now that we’re third-time parents, though, I think we’re also more laid back. We’ve been there, done that, and so we don’t get nervous about things like snorty breathing, nursing in public, or his routines being disrupted when we leave the house.

Little Atticus and I have been able to work together to get into a good groove with nursing. We saw his pediatrician on Wednesday, and he had already surpassed his birth weight, so we were thrilled! I’ve started burping him more frequently, which has successfully decreased the frequency of his “spit-upping,” as the girls call it. And I get to enjoy this view multiple times throughout each day :)

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What a little sweetie! And look at those ears! Matt and I think they look like elf ears and very much hope they retain their shape into the future :)

Sleep is also going much, much better than it did for our first few nights, and we are all so relieved. I spent 4 or 5 nights with no more than 4 hours of sleep a night (sometimes considerably less), and Matt wasn’t faring much better. I was starting to feel like a zombie. The last few nights have been so, so, so much better, though, and while we’re still tired, we’re able to function reasonably well and enjoy our days.

We even made it to church this morning, our first outing as a family of five! It was nice to get out of the house and introduce our little guy to some of our church family and worship together and participate in the celebration of Advent.

As well as the past week has gone, this upcoming week might be more of a challenge. Last week we were fortunate that Matt was able to spend more time than usual at home with us, and my mom was also able to be here until Saturday morning.

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This week one of Matt’s sisters will be here for a few days, but the kiddos and I will also have a few days on our own, and, to be honest, I’m a little nervous about it. The girls really do love baby Atticus a lot…

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…but they’re also still very young, and their routines and their lives have just been dramatically altered. They’re more on edge than normal, and I obviously have more going on now that I am also taking care of a baby, and my post-partum hormones have kicked in. That combination could make for some hard days.

Some friends have offered to help out with the girls, but I think it might really be best for them to try to return to as much normalcy as possible. I actually think I may try to do some school with them this week. I’d thought that we would probably take all of December off from school work, but I think the structure and routines of school might be really helpful for them. My primary hope is that I can be patient and kind with them through the days, regardless of how well or how crazily they might behave. I’m sure we’ll survive the week, but I’d like to do better than that and actually parent all 3 of my kiddos well! As I’ve been reminding them all week, they are each so precious to me!

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December 1, 2014

Party of Five!

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, life tagged , , , at 11:07 pm by alison

On Saturday, November 29 at 3:01 a.m. we became a family of five as we welcomed little Atticus Garrett into the world :) He was 8 lbs. 2 oz. and 21 inches long, and both he and I are healthy and doing well!

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As I’ve mentioned, I’d been having intermittent contractions since about 34 weeks, but they’d never had much strength and had never developed into a pattern. I’d been excited to be 1 cm dilated when I saw my doctor just shy of 37 weeks but a little more discouraged as that stayed the same for the following 2 weeks. We just hung in there, though, continued working on our household projects and hanging out as a family, and Atticus and I continued to grow! Here we are on Thursday evening at 39 weeks and 2 days.

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I was really praying that labor would start spontaneously on Friday or Saturday. More important than my growing pregnancy discomfort, the real advantage of going into labor then was that my mom and my brother David were in town celebrating Thanksgiving with us, and it would be so easy for them to stay with and care for the girls. And my mom was hoping to be able to stay with us and help out for a while after Atticus’s birth, but if we hadn’t gone into labor by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense for her to stay and hope he arrived in the next couple days, because he could just as easily wait another 10 days or so.

But sure enough, on Friday morning contractions started to come with a bit more strength and frequency. After a couple hours of that, I was thinking that this might really develop into labor, so we finished packing our bag and had everything ready to go, just in case. Most of Friday was spent waiting to see if labor was really going to take off. My contractions were about 45 seconds long and about 4 minutes apart for most of the day, but they weren’t intense at all, so we opted to stay at home and wait to see what developed.

Matt and I went for a walk around 5:00, and soon after we got home, the intensity of the contractions increased significantly, and they were more like 1 minute long about every 3 minutes, so around 6:30 we decided it was probably time to head to the hospital. I didn’t feel like delivery was imminent, but I had tested positive for group b strep, so I’d need a round (or, ideally, two) of antibiotics, and since we went from recognition of being in active labor to actually giving birth in about 6 hours with Miranda, and subsequent labors are generally shorter than a first labor, it seemed like a good idea to go in.

Once we got to the hospital, though, labor pretty much stalled out. I was still having contractions, but they weren’t anywhere near as strong as they’d been at home, and the nurse said I was still only dilated to 1 cm, maybe 2 cm. I was pretty discouraged and rather frustrated with my body. We stayed in the triage area for a couple hours, and contractions did start to pick up in intensity again, and my cervix dilated to 3 cm, and ultimately the doctor decided to go ahead and admit us. It seemed like if we weren’t yet fully in active labor, we were heading in that direction, and they were a little concerned about Atticus’s heart rate – initially it wasn’t having as many spikes as they would have liked to see.

It didn’t seem like things were progressing super quickly, though. My friend Brooke had come to the hospital with us to be an additional labor support person, but she went home at that point – nothing was super intense, and none of us thought things would take off immediately, so there was no reason for all of us to sit there getting no sleep and just waiting for something to happen! Because of the concerns with Atticus’s heart rate, the doctor really wanted me to stay hooked up to the monitor, so my mobility was pretty limited, so Matt and I just watched a bit of Netflix while we labored through those moderate contractions.

Around 1:30 the doctor came in and said they were more concerned with Atticus’s heart rate. It was dipping after contractions even after I’d changed positions earlier, so she wanted to break my water so that they’d be able to use an internal monitor to track contractions more precisely. I wasn’t super excited at that prospect, but she explained that we really needed to see whether his heart rate changes were reflecting distress, and if so, get him out quickly, so the choice was that we could either do a c-section for an immediate delivery or break my water so we could get more information about what was happening, and she was recommending breaking my water. Faced with those alternatives, we chose to go with her recommendation and have her break my water. Situations like that are why I am grateful for the opportunity to give birth in a hospital. Birth is a natural process that women and babies have been experiencing for hundreds and thousands of years…but sometimes things go wrong, and I’m thankful we were able to get a greater understanding of what was happening and make informed decisions to help both Atticus and me have a healthy birth.

The doctor broke my water around 1:45, and she said my cervix was dilated to 4.5 or 5 cm at that point. My contractions started getting more intense then, but I still thought we’d have a while left to labor.

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As it turned out, though, everything progressed pretty quickly from that point on. My nurse came in around 2:40 and asked if I wanted her to check my cervix, if I thought I was transitioning, and I said no, but just 5 minutes later I thought things were changing, and it would be a good idea. At 2:50 I was dilated to 7 cm, and my nurse, who was wonderful, suggested that I stay in the bed and that the NICU team (who would be at the birth because there had been meconium in my water when it was broken) stay in the room, in case Atticus came really quickly at that point.

And that, in fact, is what happened. I told Matt he should call Brooke and tell her she should come back if she wanted to, but she might miss his birth even if she hurried, so he made a quick call in between the peaks of contractions. The contractions picked up even more, coming right on top of each other, and they felt incredibly powerful, and I could feel Atticus moving lower. Everything sped up dramatically and felt so intense. I was telling everyone that he was coming, and I wasn’t getting a break between contractions, and I thought I might throw up, and doctors and nurses were getting ready for him to be born and saying I was at 8 cm and then at 9 cm, and he kept getting closer and closer, and I was telling them that I wasn’t pushing yet, he was just coming. It was all the emotions of transition combined with the crazy physical intensity of transition and the pushing stage all put together.

The doctor told me I really just needed to take one big breath and hold it and push, and he’d come out. It took me a minute to focus, but once I was able to do it, his head came right out. Then they had me pause while they cleared out his mouth and unwrapped his cord from around his head and hand, and then with the next push he was completely out, and it felt amazing. I was so happy to have our little guy here, and those 11 minutes of going from 7 cm to giving birth had been some of the most intense of my life, and it was such a relief to be through them.

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We’ve been able to spend the last couple days beginning to recover from birth and getting to know our little guy. He is so precious. As I expected based on his patterns of activity while I was pregnant, his most awake, active, and hungry period of the day seems to be between midnight and 5:00 a.m., which is not entirely ideal, but hopefully we can get his schedule adjusted fairly soon! He enjoys running through various facial expressions, staring at bright lights, and most of all, snuggling with us, which we love at least as much as he does :) He and I are figuring out breastfeeding – it has been 4.5 years since I’ve nursed a newborn, and he is less focused and more prone to spitting up than Miranda was – but my milk has come in, and overall, it seems to be going well!

The girls are also loving having him here with us. They talk about how cute and sweet he is, ask to hold him or to sit with me while I hold him, have innumerable questions about him, and enjoy stroking his hair while he nurses. They have been somewhat thrown off by all the changes and the diversion from their normal routines, but they’re hanging in there and handling it all pretty well.

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Matt has been able to spend some good time with Atticus and me and with the girls during the last couple days, and he even got a chance to make a beautiful digital drawing of our little guy. You can read some of his reflections here.

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We’re so thankful that my mom and my brother David were able to be here to help out and that my mom is staying through the week to help us as we transition into life as a family of five.

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Overall, I am sore from birth and completely exhausted, since I haven’t gotten more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep in the last 3 days. But what I feel most is blessed and thankful. This pregnancy and birth have not been easy, but they brought us a beautiful baby boy, who will be a tremendous blessing to our family, I’m sure. These coming weeks of adjustment are going to be a challenge, but they’ll be worth it. I have an amazing husband with whom to partner in this adventure of raising all of these children, and we’re all enjoying the ride!

November 15, 2014

Freezer Meals

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, FAQ, homemaking, life tagged , , at 10:10 pm by alison

I’ve mentioned here and on Facebook that one of my projects to prepare for baby Atticus’s arrival has been to stock my freezer with meals, and I’ve gotten some requests for ideas and recipes for freezer meals, so I’m going to share here what I’ve done thus far :)

I’ve seen a number of websites and blogs talking about preparing a month’s worth of meals in 4 hours or something of that sort, and they just never seem doable to me. Maybe I’m slow working in the kitchen (and, pregnant, I definitely require far more bathroom breaks than the average person takes during that time period!), but I’m certain it would take me far longer than 4 hours to do all of that prep work. What I’ve found easier for my schedule is occasionally to set aside some time solely for preparing meals to freeze but much more often to plan to have a certain meal for dinner and multiply the recipe such that we can eat one as our family’s dinner that evening and freeze the others.

As I’ve worked on preparing these meals, our grocery budget for the past couple months has definitely taken a hit, but we’ll make that up with lower grocery bills (and, even more significant, fewer evenings of ordering take-out!) when we’re actually eating these meals after Atticus is born, so I think overall it will be a net gain. At this point, I have about 30 meals in our freezer, which I think should help out significantly with our adjustment to being a family of 5! I may still try to get a few more done, but I feel pretty good about having this amount prepared.

Here are the meals I’ve frozen thus far, along with links to recipes (except for those from published cookbooks):

Recipes from external websites:

  • Chicken Enchiladas – Note: I used slightly less onion (Matt’s preference) but threw in a red pepper instead. Also, I found that 1 can of enchilada sauce per pan was sufficient for us.
  • Tortellini Soup – Note: I’ve frozen this fully cooked, but then you really need to thaw entirely and be careful not to heat for too long to ensure that your tortellini doesn’t get too mushy. I think it might work better to prepare as directed except for the tortellini and just make that and throw it in when you’re thawing the soup to eat.
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken – Note: We like our sweet and sour chicken with plenty of sauce, so unless you’re using very small chicken breasts, I’d recommend fewer chicken breasts relative to the sauce ingredients in this recipe. I also added some pineapple chunks.
  • Chicken Tacos – Note: Instead of the pico de gallo, we use 1 jar of salsa (24 oz) and 1 can of chopped green chilies (5 oz).

Recipes from friends and family (or created on my own):

Recipes from Fix, Freeze, Feast:

  • Pecan-Crusted Chicken Strips (page 38)
  • Rama Chicken (page 48)
  • Cashew Chicken (page 52)

Recipes from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook:

  • Cranberry Pork Roast (page 134) – Note: I’m not sure whether this would work well as a meal prepared completely in advance. However, it really takes only a few minutes to throw together the sauce that goes into the crock pot with the pork roast, so what I did was buy a large pork roast, trim the fat and cut it into portions of about 2.5 lbs. each, and freeze the pork roast portions separately. Then I’ve set aside in the pantry the ingredients that we don’t necessarily normally have on hand with a note that they are to be used to make this meal.
  • Lemon Garlic Chicken (page 181)

Some of the meals listed above (chicken tacos, for instance) are not frozen as entire meals so require some planning ahead, but it’s still helpful to have the bulk of the work done ahead of time. I’ve actually found that the same holds true for other ingredients. For instance, I have several chicken breasts already cut up into bite-size pieces and frozen individually that way. I’m also going to chop up some pineapples and bell peppers this weekend to freeze. Later on, I can throw all of those ingredients into a stir fry with very little effort.

All in all, I’m hoping this will be a significant time, money, and sanity saver for us after baby Atticus arrives, and I hope it is helpful for some of you readers, as well!

November 4, 2014

Another Baby Update (the last one???)

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace tagged , , , at 8:14 am by alison

Today we hit the 36 week mark in this pregnancy for baby Atticus, so we’re really coming up to the end, and I have to say, I’m very much looking forward to it! Really, Matt and I have been attempting some pretty significant projects over the last couple weeks, including stripping wallpaper and painting our dining room, painting our living room, and stocking up on freezer meals, so I wouldn’t mind another couple weeks to get those finished.

However, this pregnancy has been rather more uncomfortable than my last one. With Miranda, other than a strong desire to meet this child of mine, I was quite content to stay pregnant for as long as she wanted (or at least as long as my doctor would let me!). This time around, I’m not having any complications that are likely to have serious medical implications for Atticus or for me, but I think I’m experiencing just about every complication that causes discomfort – nausea, heartburn, back pain, hip and leg pain, trouble sleeping, etc. I’m ready to be done with all of that! I bought some satin sheets last week to enable me to roll over in bed more easily, and that really has helped, but I’m still looking forward to getting a non-pregnant body back :) And of course I am excited to meet our little guy!

And who knows, it may be soon, or it may still be a while! Here I am at just over 33 weeks.

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Around 34 weeks I started having intermittent contractions, which have gotten slightly stronger and more frequent over the last couple weeks but have never developed into a pattern or anything that necessitated a call to my doctor, but at least they’re a reminder that my body knows that labor needs to happen at some point soon!

And here I am Sunday evening at 35 weeks and 5 days – continuing to get bigger and bigger!

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I’ve been reviewing some of my childbirth materials for a refresher on labor and birth. I would like to have a natural (med-free) delivery if at all possible, but honestly, the most striking thing about all the info I’m reviewing is how incredibly overly dramatic it all is. Of our two girls, I delivered one naturally,  breastfed her within the first hour of her life, and have parented her primarily using attachment-parenting-style techniques from day one; and the other I did not even meet until she was over 2 years old. Guess which one often seems to be more securely attached?

I am quite confident that my bond with Atticus is not going to be irrevocably shattered if something unexpected happens and I have to get an epidural or end up needing an emergency c-section with general anesthesia and don’t actually meet him for an entire 4 hours (gasp!) after he’s born. I believe in taking parenting decisions seriously and making the best choices we can for ourselves and our babies. However, this is one moment out of an entire lifetime of parenting moments, and I’m not willing to make it into more than it is. We’re reviewing our childbirth info, but I’m certainly not going to obsess over any of it.

And in the meantime, amidst projects and childbirth prep, I’m trying to enjoy these last days or weeks that I have as a mom of two :)

October 19, 2014

Homeschooling 2014-2015

Posted in God, life, family, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace, homeschooling tagged , , , , at 10:17 pm by alison

Everyone else got their “back to school!” posts done back in August or September…and I’ve been telling myself that it would be great if I could get ours up before we hit November :) We’ve had a lot going on, but still, I’ve wanted to share about the start of our school year. This year is Miranda’s pre-k year and Madeleine CaiQun’s pre-school year.

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We actually started our school year – in a very laid back fashion – at the beginning of July. We decided to start then for a couple reasons. First, I was starting to feel better as we got well into the second trimester of this pregnancy, and I was ready to do something more structured with the girls. Second, we knew that this winter and spring would be somewhat crazy with Atticus’s arrival and all the unknowns that will come with that, and we figured that if we could get ahead on school stuff before then to allow us more flexibility after he arrived, that would be great. We also like to take random days off during the year. For instance, my dad was just here visiting for a long weekend, and we took that whole time off from doing school and just enjoyed the time to hang out with him. Other days we just have a lot of errands or appointments, but it’s still nice to feel like we have the space not to have to feel pressured to get school material in every single day. And the last reason we started school in the middle of the summer is that the girls really love doing school. They were disappointed on the days this spring that I just didn’t have the energy to do full school days with them, and they were thrilled to get back into it as soon as I was ready. We did take a very relaxed approach to starting school, though. There were a number of days we didn’t do school but instead spent time at the park or at a sprayground or doing some other summer fun activity.

The upshot is that we have been doing school since the beginning of July but are just finishing up week 9 of our curriculum. In terms of curriculum, we’re using Sonlight for the core of our curriculum again this year – specifically, the pre-kindergarten package (with a few modifications). We all love the literature-based focus, and I like that it seems academically rigorous and includes everything we need but can also be customized as desired. Miranda is ready for more than what the workbooks in that package offer, but CaiQun is doing those workbooks, and Miranda is instead using the Language Arts kindergarten package, along with the Handwriting Without Tears kindergarten package, and the Singapore Math kindergarten package. In general, I absolutely agree with Sonlight’s philosophy that it’s not necessary to push kids into reading or math or anything else at super early ages – but Miranda is already reading and doing simple math in her head. One of the things I love about home-schooling is that it’s possible to work with each of my kids where they’re at, so we’re supplementing the pre-k materials with some kindergarten stuff, since that’s what she needs to be learning and growing right now.

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CaiQun is also working through the Sonlight workbooks much faster than their schedule specifies, mostly because she does a bit of Miranda’s language arts curriculum with us but mostly likes to keep working on her workbooks for the whole time that Miranda does the rest of her language arts and math work. Once she completes those workbooks, I’ll have her do the same Rod and Staff workbooks that I used with Miranda last year and perhaps add in the Handwriting Without Tears pre-k materials.

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Overall, we are liking the curriculum and the school time this year. Things seem to be going well with our language arts and handwriting and math studies. Math is by far Miranda’s favorite subject right now, so we save it until after handwriting (not her favorite!) is done.

Honestly, I was surprised that there wasn’t more literature reading expected each day from our Sonlight curriculum. The pre-school package we used last year is much less structured, so we’d just choose the books we wanted to read each day and then spend 30 or sometimes 45 minutes reading. This year, if we stick to the assigned reading for each day, we regularly finish in under 20 minutes, and the girls are usually itching to do more. I’ve dealt with that in part by starting to condense some of the schedule – now every 4 days we usually do 5 days’ worth of assignments. I’ve also tried to, at times, let the girls just choose stories from their school books for us to read, regardless of when they’re technically assigned, and I probably need to do more of that.

We sometimes do the fun activities suggested in our curriculum materials but also sometimes skip them entirely or substitute our own.

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And of course we do a lot of other fun, educational stuff that we don’t technically count as part of our school days. Both girls consider the globe that my brother Danny sent for CaiQun’s birthday one of their favorite toys, and we often end up sitting around it on the living room floor and discussing world geography. Matt and the girls have also found all sorts of educational videos to watch online, often about various animals.

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We’re finding that in addition to academics, school time is a prime opportunity to address character issues. By and large, I think the girls and I all really enjoy our school time and learning together, but we do have difficult days. In those moments I try to remind myself that even though it’s hard, I’m ultimately thankful that I get to be the one who is here with the girls, helping them to learn about what it looks like to behave appropriately and how we all fall short of that, but we can look to Christ in those moments and pray for ourselves and for each other.

Overall, I think we’ve gotten off to a good start for this school year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year holds!

September 27, 2014

a baby update

Posted in Atticus Garrett, family, life, money tagged , at 9:58 pm by alison

It has been a while since I posted my last baby Atticus update, and I thought you all might like to see how he – or at least my belly – is doing :)

Here’s a photo at almost 24 weeks.

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And here’s a more recent one at just over 29 weeks.

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Obviously we’re both getting larger :) All is as it should be!

He’s an active little guy. It’s hard for me to be sure, since it has been so long, but I’m pretty sure he is more active than Miranda was. One of his favorite times to be most active is when I get back into bed after waking in the middle of the night to use the bathroom – not exactly what I would have chosen, but I’ll take what I can get :)

Now that we know he is a little boy, the girls and I have had fun doing just a little bit of shopping for him.

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It’s nice for even third babies to have a few new items that their mommies have picked out for them :) And honestly, I think there’s something about selecting items for your little one and picturing them wearing or using them…at least for me, it helps me begin the attachment process and look forward more specifically to their arrival. We’ve been blessed by several friends offering us hand-me-downs, which we’re more than happy to accept gratefully, and some of our early baby clothes are neutral colored, so I think he’ll be set when he arrives, but it was still fun for the girls and me to choose a few new items ourselves!

We’re starting to plan more specifically for his arrival, too. We got out the baby furniture and have most of it set up in our bedroom, and while I still need to wipe it down, the infant car seat is at least out of the attic now. I attended an infant CPR class to brush up on those procedures a couple weeks ago, and we have childcare lined up for the girls for when we go into labor (so thankful for good friends who are willing to be on call 24/7 for that!). Matt and I need to do a quick review of some of our labor and childbirth books, and I’d love to take a tour of the hospital, since they’ve rearranged some things since we were there last, so I need to get that on the calendar, but I’m not super concerned about it. Mostly there are some additional household projects we’d like to get out of the way before he arrives, and I’d like to have some more money set aside to fund my “maternity leave” from work, but by and large, I think we’re pretty well set up for him and his arrival, whenever that happens to be – but we are hoping for another couple months here before he makes his entrance :)

September 17, 2014

A Day at the Zoo!

Posted in family, life, Madeleine CaiQun, Miranda Grace tagged , , , at 10:34 pm by alison

One of my goals for this summer and fall has been to enjoy this time as a mom-of-two and to give my girls some good, fun experiences. Hopefully Atticus will be a pretty laid back little guy and willing to come along with us on all sorts of adventures, but some things will get harder once he’s here, so we’re trying to make good use of this time before his arrival. We’ve been working on that, which is the biggest reason this blog has been silent for a few weeks! I’ll have some more posts coming up soon to share about some of our adventures, but I thought I’d start with sharing about our day at the zoo yesterday!

We love our college town, but one of its drawbacks is that it doesn’t have all the perks of bigger cities, like museums and zoos. Fortunately we’re able to catch some traveling concerts and performances, and we’re near enough to some bigger cities to take advantage of their cultural institutions. My sweet friend, Liz, and I had been talking for almost a year about how fun it would be to spend a day at the St. Louis Zoo together with our kiddos, and yesterday we were finally able to make it happen :)

The rhinoceros was one of the first animals we saw, and it was actually pretty active!

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The hippos were less active, but we still enjoyed seeing them, too. They remind us of Uncle Danny, since the hippo is his favorite animal :)

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And seeing the elephants is always a big hit with our crew…

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…as is seeing the tigers!

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Our little friend Hayden is an equally impressive tiger :)

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The picture above and the one below are from our train ride around the zoo, the one activity we really splurged on, and it was definitely a good move. We still had some birthday money from my dad for the girls, so I felt okay about spending a bit extra on this trip for them to have some fun experiences. Everyone was getting tired after lunch, and the train ride offered a nice break for all of us.

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Just look at how happy the girls were! Miranda said she was so happy it was like eating chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. When we got home that evening, it was the big thing they wanted to tell Matt all about :)

After our train ride we saw a few more animals, including the zebras…

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…and the camels.

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And then we grabbed another snack – a must for this pregnant lady – and headed home. It’s so nice to be able to talk more with the girls about the different animals now, and they are old enough not to need to be in the stroller for most of the day. It was a lot of fun for all of us to share the experience with our friends, too. All in all it was an exhausting but great day!

August 13, 2014

Happy Birthday, Madeleine CaiQun!

Posted in family, life, Madeleine CaiQun at 11:55 pm by alison

Today we celebrated our little Madeleine CaiQun’s 4th birthday!

The girls and I worked together this morning to bake a cake (pink velvet, per her request).

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We actually turned half of the cake batter into these cake-and-frosting sandwich cookies that were pictured on the box that Miranda thought looked amazing.

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And the other half we turned into this cake.

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What can I say? The girl is into pink right now :)

We did just a little bit of school work, and she opened some gifts, almost all of which brought exclamations of delight!

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The girls and I put together the puzzle that Miranda picked out to give to CaiQun as her gift.

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This is the first time Miranda has been able to keep it a secret what she chose as a gift for her sister, and she was so proud of herself and so happy that CaiQun liked it :)

Last, but certainly not least, we sang to her and enjoyed that pink cake together!

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This girl is such a sweetheart. She frequently takes the initiative to share with her sister and is quick to apologize for wrongdoing and quick to forgive. She goes all out in everything she does – she’ll sit determinedly and work on puzzles or artwork, but when it’s time to move, she takes off at full speed. She’s talkative and friendly, often regaling us and our friends with extensive reports of her latest activities or narratives about her babies and stuffed animals. She brings so much joy to our lives, and it’s such a blessing to get to watch her grow and develop. I’m totally in love with our little Madeleine CaiQun, who, 4 years old or not, is still my baby girl :)

August 11, 2014

mourning

Posted in life tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:57 pm by alison

In a world in which hundreds of Palestinian children are being killed, thousands of Yazidi and Christian people in Iraq are being driven out of their homes and into areas in which survival is nearly impossible, and the death toll from the ebola virus is nearing 1,000 with no signs of imminent containment, perhaps it is trivial to mourn the loss of one man.

And yet I keep coming back to the idea Madeleine L’Engle expresses so beautifully in this passage from A Wrinkle in Time, in which the children are being told that they are fighting against evil itself, against the powers of darkness:

“And we’re not alone, you know, children,” came Mrs Whatsit, the comforter. “All through the universe it’s being fought, all through the cosmos, and my, but it’s a grand and exciting battle. I know it’s hard for you to understand about size, how there’s very little difference in the size of the tiniest microbe and the greatest galaxy. You think about that, and maybe it won’t seem strange to you that some of our very best fighters have come right from your own planet, and it’s a little planet, dears, out on the edge of a little galaxy. You can be proud that it’s done so well.”

“Who have our fighters been?” Calvin asked.

“Oh, you must know them dear,” Mrs Whatsit said.

“Mrs Who’s spectacles shone out at them triumphantly, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

“Jesus!” Charles Wallace said. “Why of course, Jesus!”

“Of course!” Mrs Whatsit said. “Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They’ve been lights for us to see by.”

“Leonardo da Vinci?” Calvin suggested tentatively. “And Michelangelo?”

“And Shakespeare,” Charles Wallace called out, “and Bach! And Pasteur and Madame Curie and Einstein!”

I can’t help but feel that the world has lost a great light today. Robin Williams represented, for us, a doctor who heals with humor, a teacher who inspires his students to seize the daya brilliant therapist, a dad so desperate for time with his kids that he’d pretend to be an old female housekeeper, and so much more. He had an unrivaled ability to bring humor without superficiality, and for those of us in my generation, he has been part of our lives since childhood.

I believe we’ve lost a light, and so I mourn for him and for all the lights in Palestine and Iraq and West Africa, whose lives are being snuffed out before we even have a chance to see them.

And I commit to trying to do what I can to be a light, however small my sphere of influence.

August 7, 2014

Throw-back Thursday: Miranda Grace is 4!

Posted in family, homeschooling, life, Miranda Grace at 11:05 pm by alison

Remember how I had a 2+ month hiatus from writing here earlier this year? It coincided perfectly with the timeframe during which I was experiencing the worst of my first-trimester-of-pregnancy horrible morning sickness symptoms! There are a number of events that actually occurred during that time that I’d love to write about and share with you, but I think the most important is the 4th birthday of our firstborn, little Miranda Grace :)

We try to make birthdays special in our family, but we don’t spend a ton of money, and we don’t go party-crazy. I expect our kids will be more interested in having parties and celebrating with friends as they get older, but for now, they are quite happy to open a few gifts, get to choose a favorite meal to have for dinner, and make cupcakes – and for that, I am extremely grateful, since I could barely muster the energy for even that this year!

My mom was able to visit earlier in the month (and brought some gifts for the girls), and we all appreciated our time with her (and the gifts!). We don’t focus a lot on ownership for a lot of our toys. Special blankets and stuffed animals or sentimental things, yes, but toys like those in the following pictures we view more as communal property. Both girls just see that as normal and don’t object to sharing their toys, even birthday gifts.

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(Note that Miranda is still in her pajamas; we were flexible on the need for getting dressed during my time as an invalid!).

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This set of tape rolls has been one of the best gifts ever. The girls LOVE it.

My dad was able to be in town for Miranda’s actual birthday, which was great. He played with the girls…

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…read to them…

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…introduced them to new games (to those who know my dad, this should come as no surprise!)…

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…and helped us make and enjoy birthday cupcakes :)

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We were also able to spend some time using some of her new gifts – this girl loves her art supplies…and at least that day, apparently, her breakfast :)

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I love that huge smile :) It doesn’t appear incredibly often, but when it does, it is an expression of pure delight :)

Miranda also got a new baby doll, in part so that she and CaiQun would each have a specific baby doll that was their own. This is the first baby doll that she has really named on her own, not based on Matt’s or my suggestions, which I think is notable. Meet Nora :)

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Especially now that the girls have such a great interest in pregnancy and fetal development and in motherhood, it has been good for them to have some sweet baby dolls with which to play.

For her birthday dinner, Miranda chose to eat at House of Chow, always a favorite for everyone :)

My big girl has been 4 for a few months now, and I have to say, it’s a delightful age. We are definitely working on a number of character issues, but we are also having so much fun. Her questions are generally thoughtful, and we’re able to have increasingly intelligent conversations. She and CaiQun often play so beautifully together, and she can be super loving and sweet and sensitive.

At 4, she loves to read. She can read simple words and books on her own and is looking forward to doing more of that as part of our school curriculum this year. Her favorite subject in school right now is probably math – I use it as a reward for getting through hand-writing, which seems to feel more tedious to her – though she also loves our science and social studies materials. She is having a blast at gymnastics and looks forward to it every week. While she enjoys fun, out-of-the-ordinary activities, she also craves the stability of routine and structure. I see her introverted nature manifesting itself pretty clearly – she really does use her afternoon rest times to re-charge, and I often find her curled up on the couch looking at books on her own. Food is one area of life in which she shows very little interest – if it were up to her, she’d probably survive entirely on chocolate milk and yogurt (with occasional crackers thrown in for good measure). But she has so many other passions. She’s creative and frequently makes up story lines for herself and CaiQun as they play together. She can’t wait for Atticus to arrive and is completely in love with our friend, baby Judah. And she loves to talk and learn about pretty much anything :)

I feel blessed to be this little girl’s mommy. These past 4 years have been amazing, and I look forward to what God has in store for all of us in the future :)

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