Friday, January 23, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 1/23/15

Jake (9), Alyssa (6½), Zac (5), Tyler (2½), Nicholas (1 month)

Happy Friday! It's been a pretty busy week at home. I swapped a couple of the boys' clothes to bigger sizes and packed away the smaller ones, cleaned and purged the kitchen cupboards, and completed various small projects. It's been a profitable week. We're planning to paint the pantry tomorrow, so there are boxes of food all around the living room. From boxes of clothes to boxes of food, the living room has been overtaken. I'll be happy when it's all done! I also was able to get Nicholas' birth story written, so if you missed the post, now would be a good time to read it. After we Smile, of course!

1. Alyssa, giving Nicholas a kiss: "I want to do the smoochy-smoochy with you."

2. Jake: "Guess what Nicholas is."
My Mom: "What?"
Jake: "A big chunk of cute!"

3. Alyssa: "This is the first coffee cake that I've tasted and the best."

4. Jake; "Knock, knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Jake: "Scooby."
Me: "Scooby who?"
Jake: "Not Scooby who, Scooby Doo!"


6. Me, looking at Tyler's Duplo patterns: "Wow, you did so good!"
Tyler: "Yeah, I know."

7. Jake, playing the Wii: "This is baffling . . whatever that means."

8. Tyler: "Missed me, missed me, haha!'
Alyssa: "No, it's missed me, missed now. Now ya gotta kiss me."
Tyler: "Oh. Missed me, missed me, haha!" 

9. Zac, about Nicholas: "How come he's getting bigger?"

10. Me: "I have so much work I need to do."
Tyler, sympathetically, "Yeah, me too. Me too, Mom."
Me: "Oh, really? And what do you need to do?"
Tyler: {sigh} Like color this page."


12. Zac, about Nicholas: "He just punched me in the nose. Very carefully."
Alyssa, disappointed: "How come he never does anything mean to me?"

13. Jake, seeing Alyssa in a fancy dress. "Whoa."
Alyssa: "What?"
Jake: :Attractive!"
Zac: "Yeah, attractive, like a rusty tractor!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nicholas' Birth Story: Part 2

This is part 2 of Nicholas' birth story. You can find part 1 here.

Saturday morning, I got up with the kids and let Leighton sleep in a little. He had been so busy the past few weeks between working 50+ hours at his job and then caring for everything at home because of my bed rest. I spent just a few minutes in the kitchen cleaning up, we ate breakfast, and then I spent the remainder of the day in bed. Leighton had to be at the church that afternoon to practice for the Christmas cantata at church the next day. Since he is the choir director, it was imperative that he be there. I assured him that I'd be fine on my own. The kids sat in bed with me reading books and then eventually watching a movie as I napped.

Around 5:00 p.m., a contraction woke me up. I was surprised by the intensity of it. I tried to fall back asleep, futilely thinking that maybe I could prevent another from happening. 

But another happened. They weren't incredibly strong, but strong enough that they were slightly uncomfortable. 

Leighton got home then, thankfully. I did not dare stand up, but lay there drinking water, willing my body to cooperate. I sent my mom a text, letting her know the situation. Because I am prone to labor quickly, the little time we have is precious. I wasn't convinced it was for sure labor, but I wanted her to be aware.

I continued to contract sporadically. 7 minutes. 4 minutes. 10 minutes. 6 minutes.

Leighton called my parents and asked them to run to the store to purchase an inflatable pool, just in case, since my birthing pool had not arrived yet. I did not want to birth in the bathtub for the third time (bathtub birth 1 and bathtub birth 2). It's uncomfortable, restricting, and too shallow to experience the soothing benefits of the warm water. I longed for another "perfect" birth

It wasn't long after that that we started to accept that labor was not stopping and baby was indeed coming. Since Eileen, my midwife, was out of town, Leighton called Heather, the nurse midwife who had assisted with some of my prenatal appointments. 

No answer.

He called again. Still no answer.

Now what? I had teased him throughout the pregnancy that no one was going to make it to the birth and he'd have to deliver the baby by himself. My joke wasn't as funny in reality. 

Leighton called Eileen to ask her opinion of what to do.

No answer. 

Now things were getting interesting. He called Heather again. And again, there was no answer. 

My parents showed up at our house--pool-less, because stores don't carry summer swimming pools in the middle of December, go figure--and we discussed our options. We decided to head to their house and use their jacuzzi tub for the birth since it is much deeper than our tub at home. I started listing off items--birthing kit, pajamas, diapers, clothes for baby, lavender oil--while Leighton started filling the bag. The plan was to head over by ourselves while my mom and dad packed clothes for the kids, got them ready, and met us at their house.

Somewhere during Leighton's rush to leave, I decided to stay. My contractions were getting more intense. Because of my prior fast labors (including my 45 minute birth, from first contraction to baby's first breath), I didn't want to birth the baby on my mom's kitchen floor, or worse yet, our van. No, we were staying home. I asked Leighton to fill the bathtub, because even though it's not ideal, it was a better option than birthing on an unprepared bed. Cleanup in a bathtub is almost as simple as pulling a drain, more or less.

And then? Eileen called back. And while Leighton was talking to her, Heather called on the other phone. We went from having no midwives to having 2 on the phone at once. 

I continued to labor, my dad watched the kids, my mom went back and forth between them and me, and Leighton tried to decipher his conversation with Heather because of bad reception. Eventually, through the broken call, it was determined that another midwife was going to come. Heather was an hour and a half away.

So here we were 4 weeks before my due date, with no birthing pool, and my midwife on the other side of the country, with our backup midwife too far away, and a midwife that we've never met coming to help.

We like to keep things interesting.

The next little while was filled with typical labor activities: getting in the bathtub, getting out of the bathtub because I felt like labor was stalling, walking around my room, putting books away on the shelf, walking some more, trying to find a comfortable position, eating half a clementine before my taste buds betrayed me, walking, walking, walking. I eventually climbed into bed to relax through the contractions.

At that point, the backup midwife's backup showed up. She checked my vitals, listened to the fetal heart tones, and filled out paperwork. Then she quietly sat to the side and let us do our thing. Me lying in bed, Leighton at my side encouraging me, and my mom close by reassuring me as well.  I fell into such a relaxed state that I had a couple times where it felt as though I had dozed off between contractions with the sensation of the next tightening waking me up again. It was a strange experience.

It wasn't long before I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. As I walked from the bed, a contraction came so strongly that my legs refused to hold me. Leighton supported the weight of my shaking body as I tried to focus on my breathing. The contraction passed and we made our way to the other room.

I emptied my bladder and then climbed back into the warm water in the tub. Instantly, my stomach contracted, this time breaking my water in the process. Two pushes later, and Leighton delivered our baby, by himself, just like I had joked. Between this being our fifth birth and having a midwife there in the room, he had all the confidence he needed to calmly and skillfully help bring our child into this world. It was a precious moment for us both.

first chiropractic adjustment
As we pulled the baby to my chest, my mom announced, "It's another boy!" And I laughed, just like I said I would if we added a fourth boy to the family. Throughout the pregnancy, I was absolutely convinced he was a girl. Wow, was I wrong, haha! This baby has been full of surprises from his conception to the way I felt during the pregnancy to his early birth to his gender. I wonder what other surprises this little one has in store for us.

I was still sitting in the bathtub, cuddling my newest blessing, when Heather arrived.She had missed the birth, but was there in time to preform the after-birth duties: weighing, measuring, checking, examining.

Nicholas Samuel Leaf
5 lbs. 18" born at 8:19 p.m. on 12/13/14

Though he was born many weeks before we expected, he has done so very well and has not shown many signs of being a preemie. Today, over a month later, he is thriving and has added lots of squishy baby fat. The other kids completely adore him--constantly hugging, kissing, holding, and loving on him. They enjoy helping me with him and are very concerned when he's unhappy. Every time he cries, Tyler assumes it's because he wants a kiss. He rushes over and plants a kiss anywhere on little Nicholas--head, hands, feet, belly. If he continues to cry, Tyler tells me, "Mommy, kiss him!" From the very first moment, this baby was very, very loved.

There is no denying that this little one was planned by God, perfectly for us. He is the best surprise we never knew we needed.

Nicholas, I feel so honored to be chosen to be your mommy. May God give me the strength to raise you to serve Him and to be the mother you need me to be. I love you, little one.      

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nicholas' Birth Story: Part 1

I'm experiencing a bit of déjà vu today. I can start this post the same way I started another nearly 3 years ago:

I expected to be welcoming a new life into the world this week. Instead, we're celebrating with our one month old baby boy.

While the timing is the same, the stories are very different.

After being surprised by our last baby's early appearance, I was very proactive in trying to keep this baby in until close to my due date. Eileen, my midwife, teased, "You're going to make it to at least 39 weeks, right?" I had every intention of doing so. Throughout the pregnancy, I took a 25 billion probiotic supplement to fight any possible infections, made my own mama's herbal tea to strengthen my uterus, and supplemented with various vitamins and minerals in addition to my prenatal vitamins to overcome any potential problems and ensure that I was overall healthy. I determined to do whatever it took to birth a healthy, full-term baby.

Even though this was my most difficult pregnancy as far as nausea and exhaustion, everything else seemed to be going well. Each prenatal appointment showed the same positive results: vitals were good, urinalysis was good, weight gain was good, baby's growth was good. Everything was good.

Until week 33.

Leighton had gotten free tickets to the U of M football game. We dropped the kids off with my parents and headed to The Big House. Row 23 right at the 50 yard line. But even better than the seats was the company. Just the two of us, for hours. We talked and laughed, cuddled under a blanket in the rain, watched the game, and just enjoyed being together. We left with a few minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, partly because we wanted to miss the rush of people and partly because I was physically spent. Sitting on bleachers for 3 hours was more than enough for my pregnant self.

We speed walked the mile or so from our seats to the van. Between my achy back and round ligament pains, I was uncomfortable. Leighton suggested multiple times that we slow down, but I figured the faster we got back, the sooner we were out of the cold and the sooner I could relax.   

We stopped for some coffee to warm us up on the way home, I put a disposable heating pad on my back, and I reclined my seat. Already I was feeling better. Everything was good. 

And then, as we pulled off the expressway, I felt a contraction. Eh, no big deal. I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks (first pregnancy to have them) for weeks.

Then I felt another not long after. Ok, that was a little odd. I looked at the time, just in case.

And then, another. Four minutes. I casually mentioned to Leighton that I was having contractions. The look on my face betrayed me, and he became concerned. We tried not to worry as we continued to drive.

Four minutes. Again.

The fifth contraction came as we pulled into my parents' driveway.
I lay down and started drinking glass after glass of water. After a couple hours, the contractions slowed. We left the kids there for the night, not knowing if a hospital trip was in our very near future. We headed home and went to bed. It was there that I spend the rest of the weekend.

Though the contractions weren't coming as quickly, they were, indeed, still coming, both randomly and every time I stood. Throughout the course of the next week or so, I spoke with Eileen many times. We discussed every possible scenario and what actions needed to be taken to keep the baby safe. Over time, it became apparent that complete bed rest was best.

Bed rest. Ugh. I had been on bed rest with Jake also. Three weeks of sitting around doing nothing. But that wasn't really that big of a deal. We were living with my parents at the time, so they took care of everything at home, and the school got a substitute to teach my classes. But this time? This was different. I had my own house and 4 young children to care for. The first week especially was difficult for me. Sure, my mom was coming over every week day to help and Leighton was managing everything in the evenings and weekends, but emotionally, I was having a difficult time. I was the one who was supposed to be cleaning. I was the one who should have been cooking. I was the one who needed to help my kids.

But I couldn't.

I couldn't, and that hurt. After Tyler's early birth, I so wanted this birth to go perfectly. Now, I wasn't even sure I'd have a home birth at all. Of course I wanted another home birth and to actually birth in the birthing pool (instead of the bathtub, again), but more than just for the experience of it, I wanted it to happen because that meant the baby was far enough along to safely be born. I did everything I could to ensure it went as planned, but it wasn't enough. I knew that bed rest was the absolute best option for all of us--especially baby--but it was not easy.

Sometime during the second week, I changed my poor-me attitude. If I was truly going to do what was best for baby and still hope for the birth I planned, then I needed to fully accept that bed rest was the only way.  I enjoyed being with my mom every day, appreciated meals sent from our church, did my Christmas shopping online, worked on some projects for the kids, and continued with our schooling--all while sitting on the couch. I set aside my pride and stopped thinking but I want to do it all! and instead focused on I will do what's best.  

Things went on like that for 3 weeks. There were constant questions: how long will baby stay in? will we make it until at least 36 weeks? how much can I get done for Christmas after coming off bed rest before the work sends me into labor? How and What if became regulars in my thinking. I couldn't change any of it, but I am always analyzing things and like to be prepared. I joked that everything was just going to stop and baby was going to be 2 weeks late.

I had put off purchasing and gathering my supplies because we weren't sure if there was going to be a home birth. As my uterus stopped contracting from the lack of activity and we got closer to the full-term mark, I ordered my birthing kit and pool. The kit arrived a few days later, the pool did not.

As long as I refrained from much exertion, the contraction were practically nonexistent. I started to believe that we just might have a January birth after all. Eileen went out of town for a few days, leaving the number of a nurse midwife (who had accompanied her during both Tyler's and Nicholas' prenatal appointments), just in case something were to happen. I was not the least bit nervous with her leaving. I was going to stay on bed rest until she returned the following Tuesday. At that point, I would be 36 weeks and my kit and pool would be here. If I went into labor, we were ready.

Except we never made it to Tuesday.

To be continued . . .Part 2 of Nicholas' birth story.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 1/16/15

Jake (9), Alyssa (6½), Zac (5), Tyler (2½), Nicholas (newborn)

Happy Friday! I'm feeding the baby as I type this one-handed, so  I'll keep it short. This week, Jake read the third book of this series to his siblings, I spent a lot of time creating in the kitchen, and the kids kissed Nicholas 17,427 times, give or take. I hope your week was just as great!

1. Jake, holding a spy gadget to Nicholas' head: "I'm trying to listen to his thoughts."

2. Zac: "I wanted a girl baby, but we got a boy baby."
Me: "But we love our boy baby, don't we."
Zac: "Yeah, he's so cute! Boy babies are cuter than girl babies."

3. The kids and I were folding laundry. After each article of clothing they folded, they would give Nicholas a kiss.

4. Nicholas turned 1 month old! (I'm not sure if that's a smile or a frown because it happened so fast! At least the picture makes me Smile, ha.)


6. Alyssa: "I love having a baby brother."

7. Tyler: "Mommy, you get me candy?"
Me: "No, you can't have candy. It's almost bedtime. You can have a snack though."
Tyler: "Oh, I have candy?"
Me: "No, no candy."
Tyler: "Oh, M&Ms?"

8. Zac, eating a banana: "I'm a monkey, right?"
Me: "Yep. You've always loved bananas."
Zac: "Yeah. Jake's not a monkey though."
Me: "He used to like bananas. I don't know what happened."
Zac: "Maybe a one-eyed ultralink got in him."

9. Tyler: "Can you get the Trios, please? . . . Can you get the Trios?"
My Mom, holding Nicholas: "How man hands do I have?"
Tyler: "Two."
My Mom: "How many things do you think I can do at once?"
Tyler: "Three!"

10. I was canning triple berry jam and fogged the windows with all the steam. The kids enjoyed drawing on the blank canvas.

11. Tyler and I were sitting at the table eating breakfast when he very sweetly said, "You are just so pretty, Mommy."

12. Zac, hours before he was leaving to spend the night at my parents' by himself: "Alyssa, I miss you already." 

13. Jake: "When Nicholas gets old enough, I'm going to teach him all he needs to know about Legos. That way, he can be a Lego pro by 9, like me."

What made you Smile this week?

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Choose To Be Happy

The kids were in the living room watching a learning video.

Me? I was sitting in the darkness of my room, cuddling a tiny boy. Enjoying his warmth. Listening to his breathing. Feeling his love.

The truth is that he had fallen asleep after eating and I couldn't bear to put him to bed and head back out to the rest of the family.

It had been a rough afternoon.

Fighting. Whining. Messes. Stress. I could feel my irritation rising as my patience grew thin. I was on the verge of losing my temper.

I needed a mommy timeout.

It was there in the stillness of that room that perspective was restored. I needed to calm down. The kids feed off my negative energy. If I was crabby, chances are they were going to be crabby too. If I was short-fused, they were going to be irritable as well. It did not excuse their wrongdoings, but it helped me choose to have a good attitude. I needed to stop focusing on the hardships of the day, and instead, choose to be happy.

Yes, it's a choice.

You cannot control your circumstances, but you can control your response to them.

I needed to choose to respond with patience and grace. Crabbiness multiplies, but so does happiness. It's my responsibility to keep the happiness level high in our household. Even when there's fighting and whining and mommy gets stressed, I realize this is just a season, a fleeting moment of time. These 5 little blessings of mine will be grown in just a few short years. There will come a day when they will no longer need me to make them a pb&j sandwich or allow me to wash the stickiness off their face. They will stop asking to sit on my lap or listen to me read a story. As time goes on, their independence will grow and their reliance on me will be nearly nonexistent. I want to savor these moments now, even on the craziest of days. The Lord has blessed us greatly. Instead of dwelling on the stressful moments, I choose to praise the Lord for all that He's done.

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. ~ Psalm 150

I laid my tiniest blessing in bed and walked back in the living room, this time with a renewed spirit. Yes, I was still exhausted while the children had copious amounts of energy. Yes, I was still reminding them to be nice to each other. Yes, I was still reprimanding their wrong actions. But it didn't take long for my happiness to overflow to them. Within time, they too changed their attitudes. And once we all chose to be happy, the whole day was changed for the better.

There are always going to be hours or even days that are stressful, but we must focus on the blessings of God and His grace to help us through. And we must choose to be happy.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 1/9/15

Jake (9), Alyssa (6½), Zac (5), Tyler (2½), Nicholas (newborn)

Happy Friday! It's been a pretty typical week at our house: School, chores, fun, focusing on my word of the year, and lots of Smiling. If you missed it earlier, part 12 of Kids Say the Funniest Things has been posted. Lots of Smiling on that one! I hope you've have a good week, too.

1. Zac, about Nicholas: "He's cuter than a cucumber! And he's cuter than a frog."

2. Tyler, while talking about favorite Christmas presents: "I have 5!"
Me: "You have 5? What are they?"
Tyler: "Red and blue and green and large."
Jake: "That's only 4. What's the 5th?"
Tyler: "Black."

3. Alyssa: "Thank you for being a wonderful mommy."

4. Jake: "I wish Nancy Drew were real and I got to help her."


6. Alyssa, while coloring: "Whoever scribbles the best wins!"

7. Zac, about peanut butter: "Which one do you think I'm getting?"
Me: "Crunchy."
Zac: "Yeah! It's my fravoritest one."

8. Sitting on the couch, nursing Nicholas, with Alyssa reading a book and cuddling on one side, Zac reading a book and cuddling on my other side, and Tyler sitting on my lap.

9. Tyler, sad: "I want Daddy."
Me: "Aww, you do? Do you miss him?"
Tyler: "Uh huh."

10. Zac, about Nicholas: "So he was born on his birthday?"

11. Zac begging to wash dishes with me.

12. Jake: "No one can really go to the center of the earth."
Zac: "We can; we have a basement."

13. These pictures.

14. Tyler: "My water's so drinky."

15. Tyler, first thing in the morning: "You take this lid off?"
Me: "You're not having cookies."
Tyler: "No, just one cookie."

What made you Smile this week?

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