Sunday, July 5, 2015

Car Seat Needs a Passenger

Today Chris set up the new baby's infant seat, our having recently scoured through our collection of car seats and thrown away those expired (6+ years old). 

One o'clock in the afternoon: Joseph wearing pajamas,
with dirty shirt from the day before--his having slept in it--
and his face covered in dried Fudgesicle, which is what he ate for lunch.
Yeah, Mama's on bed rest alright!

I felt this time around that I might actually have use for transporting the baby in his/her bucket seat at times rather than waking up the baby while transferring to my sling, so we purchased a double stroller that pairs with the car seat. Joseph is very excited and feels like a king, declaring that "the 'born baby will sit behind me!" (He calls the baby a "'born baby" instead of "newborn.")

Blurry, but you get the point.

After Chris and I have chatted over the months about the best new seating arrangement, we are trying this one based on who can do his own buckles, who still throws tantrums, and which pairs of kids are fighting the most at this time.
Dolly Sally testing out the new car seat

Independence Day 2015

The wee hours of Independence Day made me feel nearly certain that this would be "independence day" for wee Baby Lauer . . . but, no, it was not to be. Everything fizzled out, as is classic for mothers who have had four, five, or more babies. Prodromal labor is extremely frustrating, can go on for a week or two (or three!). (This is a great explanation of prodromal labor--which is not Braxton-Hicks, not "false," it just doesn't produce a baby at this time. It is going through "real labor" for short spurts over and over again for weeks!)

After my getting only two hours of sleep the prior night, Chris gave me peace and quiet and gave the kids a fantastically fun day by taking the children to the Fourth of July celebration at Birkdale Village (a fancy-dancy outdoor mall meant to look like Main Street).

I actually managed to cook dinner that night--a rare feat in the last weeks--giving me a short change of pace from lying in bed trying by sheer power of will to reduce my blood pressure. I served hot dogs, chicken nuggets, homemade mac and cheese, and watermelon. For dessert, I had purchased a pound cake which I planned to top with Cool Whip, strawberries, and blueberries. But Chris purchased more enticing red, white, and blue cupcakes, so I let the kids eat those while I ate my dessert after they left for the night. Yum!

After dinner, the children set off "grocery store fireworks" in the back yard.

Then Chris loaded them up for taking the children to their first municipal fireworks. The plan was for Chris to keep the four kids in the car for a "car party," rather than try to maneuver them on foot by himself through big crowds at night. Also, that would allow him a nearly instant departure if I called him from home in real labor (which, I have realized, is probably .never going to be happen).

Somehow we thought fireworks would start around 9:00, maybe end by 9:30, kids home by 10:00. I'm not much for letting them stay out late (for a reason to be explained below), but I was willing to stretch that far for once. Instead, the fireworks ended at 10;45 and it took forty-five minutes for Chris' car to make it from the roof of the parking garage which had been their good vantage point out of the garage itself, and then they faced the drive home. The tots were not in bed until nearly midnight . . . and because three-quarters of them have my constitution instead of my husband's family's constitution, they were all awake at six o'clock anyway. (Today they are going to be wretched beasties.)

Chris came away from the experience with a list of "Lessons Learned" to make next year a better experience (one of those being to leave any kids under six at home with Mama).

Mary (6) drew me a picture of the fireworks since I couldn't be there.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Movie Recommendations Requested

From the bedroom that is serving as my nest during my modified bed rest, I am here to request movie or television series recommendations.

I am going just a wee bit nutso due to a common malady called The End Weeks of Pregnancy. My brain is absolute mush, so I'm finding myself unable to read much, although the dozen books stacked haphazardly by the bedside show my effort.

Today Chris took the children to a wonderful park in Gastonia which offers a splash pad, pool, playground and train. The kids got to play in all the areas, plus ate ice cream cones. Three cheers for Daddy!

I stayed home and took 30 minutes to waddle a half mile around our neighborhood. The baby was not served his or her eviction notice, as hoped. Back to lying in bed.

Returning to the subject of movies . . . "Katherine movies" are generally dark, intellectual, British, or often quirky. And I love documentaries.

One morning over breakfast, I remarked to Chris, "I watched the most interesting documentary last night . . . " to which he replied something like, "If only I had a dollar for every time you say that."

In the last week, a few of the movies I've enjoyed most on the screen are:

In past pregnancies, I have very much enjoyed crime series, such as:

Hit me with your recommendations, please! Even if it doesn't seem like a "Katherine movie," share it if you've really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Journal that Brought Them Together

It is challenging being three and now four years old. One is most definitely not a baby (the highest of insults), but one is outright rejected by The Big Kids. This sad in-between state can result in a lot of lashing out.

Within the last couple of months, Miss Margaret wrote in her 6-year-old sister's journal, not to be malicious but desperately to be included in a big kid activity. We promised tearful Margaret we would buy her her own journal next time we were at a store that sold them, but you can see how rarely we go browsing at brick-and-mortar stores that it took us this long to fulfill our promise.

Tuesday was finally the day Margaret was given a little blank journal with roses and butterflies decorating the cover, held together with a pink elastic band.

An absolutely delightful side effect of this new purchase is that the two sisters bonded over writing a story. Margaret is bursting with a story to tell but needs all spelling dictated to her, so she chose to dictate to her big sister, who eagerly served as her scribe.

The girls worked at their story at several points during the afternoon. When we tucked in Margaret to bed and turned out her lights, walking away, apparently Miss Night Owl Mary went back in there to work on the story further with Margaret. Then Wednesday morning before seven o'clock, Margaret announced to me that she was going to wake up Mary so they could get a bright-and-early start working more on the story. I stopped her with a forewarning that Mary is not anywhere as cheerful first thing in the morning as late at night! Steer clear!

This is Margaret's first story, so far, unfinished (and with my adding in proper spelling and punctuation for readability):

Blinky Shoes
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Margaret and she bought some pink Hello Kitty blinking shoes. And when she got home she showed her mother. And her mother said, "Nice shoes, dear."
"Thank you, Mother." 
"Can you get me some shoes, Margaret?"
So she went to the lady's row and bought her mama some blinky shoes. And she went home and gave them to her mother and her mother said, "Thank you, darling. Let's go to the beach."
"Yes, Mama."
And after they were done, they got ice cream at McDonald's. Then they went home and they said "hi" to Daddy. Then Daddy asked for a shake, so they went back to McDonald's and bought a shake for Daddy.
And when they are home, Margaret picked a flower for her mother. Then she went home and gave it to her mama, then . . . 

Monday, June 29, 2015

One Big Debacle

This is the tale of how three teeny little stitches became One Big Debacle.

Location #1: Urgent Care #1

Today was time to get Joseph's sutures removed, so Chris took him this morning back to the original pediatric Urgent Care, where we had received excellent service and the suture removal would be free. The original doctor was not working today, so a different doctor tried to remove the sutures and, by all reports, this did not go well. The doctor got one stitch removed before calling off the procedure, saying that the event was becoming too traumatizing for Joseph and that he needed to go somewhere for sedation. She recommended our going to a hospital Emergency Room.

Mary painted a picture of Daddy and John accompanying Joseph,
who is wrapped like a burrito on the examination table while the doctor works on the sutures.

Location #2: Hospital Emergency Room

Chris next took Joseph to the nearby Emergency Room, although we were loathe to face paying many hundreds of dollars just to walk in the door. Chris spoke to numerous officials at the hospital and all said that (1) we'd have to pay the full ER fee (even though the Urgent Care centers are an extension of the same system as the hospital) and (2) that they would not sedate Joseph for removing two stitches.

Chris came home after hours and we let Joseph take a nap. Meanwhile, he placed so many phone calls seeking help: a hospital advice line, plastic surgeons, a pediatric general surgeon, and so forth. All said that they would not sedate Joseph and one finally explained (more eloquently than this) that pediatric staff really should know how to restrain a two-year-old for a rapid removal of sutures.

I've been placed on modified bed rest for high blood pressure, which means lying in bed and in peace as many hours per day as I can with Chris or babysitters watching our children. But I came up with the idea that I should go with Joseph back to the original Urgent Care; whether it was pride at my importance or an accurate assessment of Mama's comforting presence, I thought I should try going with him for a better result.

Location #3: Back to the original pediatric Urgent Care

I drove Joseph there at four o'clock, thinking naively that we might even be home for dinner with the family. There was nobody in the waiting room, so this was going to be a breeze! However, the doctor spoke to me and would not even try with Joseph. Honestly, I did not like the attitude I perceived. She seemed to put the blame on Joseph for 'throwing a tantrum': what else is a two-year-old going to do when he is wrapped as a burrito and having sutures ripped out of his face? She emphasized that Joseph would need sedation and had no explanation when I told her how many medical staffers had told us today that they would not sedate him.

Location #4: A second pediatric Urgent Care

The doctor sent me to another pediatric Urgent Care center across town where they were expecting me. God's graces were shining on us in that, again, there was no waiting time. The Physician's Assistant took one look at the sutures and went to get the doctor for consultation. Here I felt clarity for the first time all day: The doctor showed me that Joseph's stitches had become embedded in the flesh. The doctor approached me as a mother herself. She said we had brought Joseph back within the number of days assigned, that the laceration was deep enough that we could not have brought him back any sooner for suture removal, and that this was not our fault. She said that the sutures becoming embedded is a known complication that she estimates happens in about one of fifty cases: Joseph's face simply healed really well and fast!

Additionally, she explained that Joseph might well not need to be sedated, but that he needed an adequate number of pediatrics staff. At her pediatric Urgent Care, many of the staffers were absent that day and the substitutes were trained to work with adults. She had done suturing on a two-year-old earlier in the day using the adult medical staff and "it did not go well." She said this removal would be technically more difficult because they might need to do a "secondary laceration" (cut it open again!) and she did not want her non-peds staff working on him. I so greatly valued her honesty.

Dinner date


Clearly we weren't going to make it home for dinner with the family, so we refreshed ourselves with dinner at Panera Bread Company. Joseph at two-and-a-half is in a that chatty stage in which the child vocalizes everything passing through his mind, including describing his own actions. It's so important developmentally and very cute. With no siblings for competition, he and I chatted nonstop all through dinner: I loved it.

Location #5: the Pediatric Emergency Room

Lastly, I took Joseph to the Emergency Room at the local pediatric hospital. The staff was very helpful as this lumbering Mama and her sweet boy moved room to room, hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait.

Numbing gel takes 20 minutes to take effect

A wonderful Child Life Specialist came in and made friends with Joseph. The doctor told me that she really did not want to sedate Joseph because this would be a ten-second procedure, so she didn't want to give him sedation that would require an hour to wear off. I thought saying it would be a "ten-second procedure" was an exponential exaggeration, but that it might go quickly, as in taking several minutes.

Well, it really was about ten seconds! The room filled with pediatric staff, the Child Life Specialist helped Joseph be distracted, and the doctor's hands worked lightening fast. Joseph screamed his head off, to be sure, but it was for all of those few seconds. As soon as the staff took him out of the burrito sheet, he exclaimed, "I want my fire truck!," referring to a fire truck toy brought in by the Child Life Specialist.

Happily playing with the fire truck toy,
after his trauma and before being given a Popsicle

All in all, I was out with him for five hours--a big difference after lying in bed for days--and was oh-so grateful to get back home to resting and being off my feet. Kudos to amazingly well-trained pediatrics medical staff!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Family Stitches Twice in Two Weeks!

Monday didn't go as planned . . . according to my plans anyway. The morning went exactly according to God's plans, according to what He permitted in His providence.

I was intending to go to the chiropractor (for the fourth time) in hopes of getting this baby out of the transverse position he or she seems to like so much. Instead, God allowed me not to have time for that outing because sweet Joseph (2-1/2) tripped ascending our wooden stairs and split open his chin.

I was overwhelmed by all I have to do this week about my wee, sideways baby in the womb when this happened--until a friend reminded me via texting that God knew that this would happen this morning.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11.

Joseph was a bit anxious . . .

. . . but not too scared! On the drive and while waiting, he kept informing me confidently, "They won't take me. They won't hold me. They are not going to give me a shot. It is not going to hurt."

The doctor couldn't glue the gash because it was too wide open, so she began with a topical numbing cream. She said we could then give a Lidocaine shot (those really burn) if he still felt pain, but that it would be difficult to discern that because "we're going to wrap him up in a sheet like a burrito and pin him down, and all two-year-olds scream bloody murder the whole time."

I was praying to God, asking how my hormonal self this late in pregnancy was going to handle this and provide calm comfort to Joseph instead of bursting into tears myself.

Well, color both the doctor and I surprised because Joseph didn't cry except for two silent tears down his cheek! Joseph was clearly nervous and tense while ensconced in his burrito, but answered the doctor's distracting chatty questions. ("What do monkeys eat? "Bananas.") After each stitch, Joseph said firmly, "That is enough!" But he didn't cry or wail!

I was grateful for his sake and mine.

Joseph was tuckered out by the whole ordeal, so came home, with his new green tractor in hand (toy from the doctor), and fell fast asleep.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dads and Grads: Father's Day 2015

On Saturday, I think Chris was aiming for some kind of Father- or Husband-of-the-Year award, for which he would have been a strong contender! The day began with my going to a prenatal massage appointment which Chris had encouraged me to book, for no other reason than to give me an hour's respite from my bodily misery. I left the two younger children with a sitter while he took the two older to John's soccer class. 

Then we arrived home simultaneously and Chris suggested we keep the babysitter longer so he could take me out to lunch (final pre-baby date--checked off the list!). While there, he suggested we visit the Macy's "door buster sale" in the bedding department in order to replace many of the getting-ragged sheets we bought when we married ten years ago (pregnancy nesting wish granted--checked off the list!). 

By the time we arrived home, I felt a wreck from being on my feet so long. I collapsed on the couch and, to my amazement, Chris offered to take the four kids out to a splash pad, leaving me home alone in peace. I asked, "Aren't you utterly exhausted?" To which he replied, "No! I don't have a baby inside of me!"

When he got home, my brain was so foggy, I couldn't even figure out what to make for dinner, so he cooked dinner for us.

My Father's Day for him couldn't (and didn't) even come close to repaying for such a thoughtful Saturday from him, but I did try.

Chris normally cooks our special Sunday morning breakfast, but this week we did it . . . by "we," I mostly mean the children while I stood in the midst of it all supervising. Margaret (4) cut the strawberries.

Joseph (2) ate the bowl of strawberries down to nothingness twice before I sufficiently shooed him away. John (8) was in charge of French toast.

Lacking a chef's hat, John cooked with an old UPS box on his head.

Mary (6) was in charge of beautification: setting the table with grandma's cut glass dishes and pretty cloth napkins, plus displaying the many cards and pictures for Daddy to see upon his coming downstairs.

Honestly, I hadn't engaged the two-year-old to "draw" a card because I thought he was too young to care. But when he saw his big sister give Daddy a heart-shaped card, Joseph stole it and tried to give it himself. When the card was retrieved from his fist, he threw a huge tantrum until his other big sister cut him out his own heart card and set him about "writing" on it. Joseph calmed down immediately when he was allowed to make a card for his Daddy too.

Breakfast was served! (I admit, I asked Chris to cook our bacon so it would be edible, unlike the bacon I attempt to cook.)

After Mass, Margaret threw a tantrum because I wouldn't let her push the stroller through the parking lot, so the above is the best family photo we got. "If I can't push the stroller, I won't be in your picture!"

Meanwhile, for the last two weeks, the kids have apparently thought that each day without school was a random exception. They hadn't realized that Mama has waved the white flag, and is too exhausted to teach until after the baby is born. So, a few days ago, I replied to a question by casually explaining, "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that you graduated Kindergarten and Second Grade. We're on break now."


It was such a deflating announcement, so I did my best this week to replicate the little graduation ceremony we've done at the end of each school year. I created lists of all the academic achievements for the two older children, as well as printing out their Lists of Books Read (which I'd been maintaining all year.) Chris created beautiful certificates showing that they had completed their grades.

After Mass, we went to eat at a restaurant, my admitting that there was no way I could cook something nice right now. I had even made up a list of achievements for Margaret and Chris gave her a certificate saying she'd passed preschool for four-year-olds. She was thrilled! (She'll be in homeschool Pre-K next year, ages four through five.)

Daddy as Principal of our school described the achievements to each child and expressed his pride in their diligence.

Mary loved this and insisted on reading the entirety of her lists.

John was phlegmatic about it and said I could keep his lists because, you know, he knows what he's done.

He's a clown at heart!

Making these lists and doing this ceremony is as much, if not more, for me as the teacher than for the children. It helps me feel that I truly have accomplished something with this job-at-home.

Now, on to other, more pressing matters before the next school year begins!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Losing My Iron Grip but Gaining Patience

Chris had already taken the below humorous photograph of dental chaos in the children's bathroom when John approached us minutes later, asking, "Where is my toothpaste? I can't find it." Chris and I burst out laughing.

Dental chaos
This is what happens when I lose my iron-grip on the minutiae of the household's functioning: children do things like get out every free sample of toothpaste from dental visits as well as back-up fresh toothpaste I've bought from the store in order to use all the tubes at once. And then John can't find the specific free sample of toothpaste he desires and the other ten tubes won't suffice. Meanwhile, I don't have the working hands to pack up all the toothpaste and hide it away.

I've lost my iron grip on the home's happenings both figuratively and literally. The pregnancy-induced carpel tunnel syndrome I've experienced during all my pregnancies is its most acute during this one. The pain like my arms are on fire while someone is stabbing my hands with knives is why I am getting almost no sleep. The weakness in my hands is why anything I do with my hands--which is what? almost everything?--hurts and for much of the days, as of this week, I simply can't do any of it. I can't write with a pen, I can barely drive, I can do just a bit of housework before I'm overwhelmed. And I mostly can't manage to keep a smile on my face while experiencing this chronic pain that can't be treated--about which I feel most sad for my family.

God can humble us any way he wants for our salvation. I am humbled every time I walk past the dental chaos in the bathroom or the disaster that is the play room. I am humbled to have to ask my husband to make our dinner, serve it, and clean it up. I am humbled to see the kitchen floor covered in food refuse because I can't sweep it. (Yes, the children are helping, but they are helping tremendously with chores these weeks and sometimes I just have to let things go in order to allow them play time. And my husband is working full-time, taking time off work to take the kids to all their events, and doing much of my domestic work for me--there are limits.)

I can do a little bit of work, but if there are one hundred things that need to be done at home today, I might have to pick ten of them I can do, then lie down the rest of the time. I can type this blog post, but I will pay for it in the currency of pain.

We all have weaknesses preventing our sanctification: one of mine--and I'm far from the only one--is to rely heavily on my own competence and not on God's graces. I can do it! Whatever it is, with enough hard work and determination, I can do it. Watch me shine!

Well, you know what? There's not much left one can do when one doesn't have working hands. One is left to lie there, relying on others, and, through them, relying on God. I am left to reflect on the magnitude of my prideful self-reliance through this difficulty in comparison to those who have permanent disability or paralysis.

"Lord, more pain if Thou pleasest. And more patience."
--Blessed Eustace White (d. 1591)

Patience (noun): the bearing of provocation, annoyance,misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

Lord, I need some more patience--lots more patience--in these final weeks!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Legos or Mama: A Close Call

A third-trimester "breakfast of champions": pretzels and peanut butter on paper plates. The kids were happy as clams.

Does it look like he is missing out?

And, in a bittersweet milestone: After staying in his big boy bed all night (which Joseph achieved just a few weeks ago), our two-and-a-half-year-old woke up and didn't come looking for Mama immediately. In fact, Mama woke up and, passing by the boys' room on her way down to coffee, noticed that Joseph was missing. He was happily and silently playing with Legos in his room.

This was the first time that Legos has taken priority over Morning Snuggles with Mama!

A bittersweet milestone to be sure.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Signs that Mama Is Nearing the End

The end of her rope? The end of her sanity? No, the end of her pregnancy! (And maybe the first two things also . . .)

I don't know the details of how other women know they're nearing the ends of their pregnancies, but I'm five-for-five showing a pretty strong pattern. And I bet I'm not the only one!

Signs that Mama Is Nearing the End of her Pregnancy
The flutter of organization ends abruptly, being replaced by general malaise and lumpishness. Now I lazily think that nobody ever died from clutter on the floors, whereas my normal self believes quite strongly that we will all die if there are dirty clothes left on the floor.

I notice that, despite all my best efforts, the toddler in his pajamas at one o'clock in the afternoon. I decide to keep him in PJs for nap time. When he wakes, I don't see any point in changing the situation now, so let him wear them all day, including playing outdoors.

By only noon, my husband looks at me and realizes Mama won't be able to cook dinner and offers to do so for me.

My husband saw the state of the house (and my distress over it--as he doesn't mind), so he budgeted for housekeeping services for a few months. Even then, the night before they came, he steam-moped our disgusting kitchen floor, not because he much cared about the awful mess, but to save his wife her dignity as a homemaker!

Delivery pizza is planned for twice in this week's meal plan.

Even the two-year-old knows to remark that, once Mama slowly reaches the top of the stairs and sits down gasping, "Don't worry. Mama is just catching her breath."

Only one pair of my shoes still fit . . . and frankly they don't fit by the end of the day due to swelling.

My daughter asks me to count to 30 during her violin practice and I fall fast asleep instead.

It has been a couple of weeks since I've had enough energy to do my beloved bedtime reading to the children.

Soaking in an Epsom salt bath nightly to bring down swelling of the feet has lost its cachet and has become yet one more duty to check off the list.

I yearn for having a newborn who wakes me every hour or two because my sleep will be fabulously improved compared to how little I am getting now.

I'm completing the reading of a book every couple of days, and at least a movie daily, due to the aforementioned inability to sleep.

I wave the white flag, confessing that we really have stopped doing school as of this week and won't resume until the newborn is in my arms instead of in my belly.

I realize that, despite my best efforts, we have slouched into Survival Mode, which I had forgotten begins before a new baby arrives, not at his or her birth. All my energy must go into getting some food on the table (don't call it cooking), doing the laundry, and making sure the children survive the days. The hours in between all those activities are filled slowly but surely with the children
  • watching too much TV while Mama lies there, 
  • playing in the back yard while Mama lies there, and 
  • making messes (and not cleaning them up) while Mama lies there. 

Please enjoy reading and laughing about "10 Things I Had Mercifully Forgotten about the Third Trimester of Pregnancy" from a better writer than am I: Simcha Fisher. Because if we can't laugh, we will cry. Boy-oh-boy, can I relate right now.