Saturday, September 26, 2015

In Due Time...

I'm just two weeks away from my due date, Oct. 11, and hoping Baby Boy doesn't try to break the mold and come early. Too much work to do!

The girls were five and two days late, though I'd been determined they were going to come early (Kate just because and Claire because she was SO LOW for so long) but if there's a running theme with this pregnancy, it might be that my plans and expectations mean nothing!

Beyond that "planning" issue, this pregnancy has been pretty similar to the others. I've been sick throughout (decreasing to just once a week or so in the latter half) but loving it nonetheless! I'm one of those annoying people who just ADORES being pregnant. I feel more confident about my body, and beyond nausea and heartburn, don't really experience any other bad symptoms (swelling or migraines or whatnot). Though I'm excited for Baby's arrival, I'm also really sad that pregnancy is coming to an end (especially if he's our last).

Eating has been a little different this time, in that I had that massive food aversion for several months in the spring. Everything sounded gross, and the thought of making dinner for my family was just repulsive. This especially was a downer during Matt and my trip to NYC in April. If you're going to be spending $20+ an entrĂ©e, it better be enjoyable, but I just felt bleh about it all. My $8 noodles from Wok to Walk were probably least disappointing. After my appetite was restored this summer, I've had a thing for Pad Thai, egg rolls, quesadillas, nachos . . . basically Asian and Mexican, mostly vegetarian.

Though I'm still nervous about this whole boy stereotype that they are so active, so wild, never sit down, etc., I am kind of amused (if a little scared) that his in utero movements seem to echo this stereotype. Whereas Kate was a stretcher, pushing out both sides of my belly (and indeed has excellent gross motor skills, balance, etc.) and Claire was a skitterer, playing piano across the front of my belly (and now shows better fine motor skills than gross), this baby is an all over mover and shaker. He kicks and squirms and dances all over the place.

I'm planning (ha! hope this plan doesn't fall apart) for a different sort of delivery this time. I wanted and enjoyed epidurals with both girls, and was so numb with Kate that I slept through most of labor and even fell back asleep between pushes (I think it was too strong, in retrospect), but I'm hoping to "go natural" this time. It's hard to explain my desire to make this change, since I didn't have bad experiences birthing either of my girls. (Actually, I mainly credit my college/blog friend EMU, and her passion for natural birth, for putting the idea in my head!) In retrospect, I do have some bad feelings about Kate's delivery, knowing now that the vacuum, forceps, 3rd degree episiotomy, and all might not have been really necessary, and mostly the fact that they took her away from me for 45-60 minutes to check her lungs after the meconium staining, which I now see as a likely cause for her nursing trouble and the reason I became an exclusive pumper for her. Claire also had meconium staining, but they did checks right there in the room and handed her back to me quickly.

Matt thinks I'm a little crazy, abandoning my "No pain, no pain" motto from previous deliveries. He reminds me how painful my contractions were during the hours between arriving at the hospital and getting my epidurals before, but I really associate that with being in a reclining position. I feel like if I can be upright and moving around, I can handle the pain. We'll see!! I'm looking forward to following my instincts and being more of an active participant in birthing this baby. Chances are, it will be a fast delivery—Kate's being just 14 hours, with 40 minutes of pushing, and Claire's only 5 hours, with 9 minutes of pushing, and the reputation of third babies coming really quickly—I'm just hoping I don't end up delivering in the car or in the bathroom at home!

I hope to blog a little more before he gets here (a post about his name, for one!) but if not, wish me luck and pray for a healthy new addition to our family!

(silly girls not so much cooperating during our recent photo session!)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Foster Parenting Reflections

My most recent post for Vanderbilt Children's Hospital's Wishing Well blog is up today: Foster Parenting: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.

I was nervous to be the "voice of foster parenting" for the blog, having been at it less than three years (and with only three official placements, thanks to BGC's extended stay!) but I tried to make clear that I'm only speaking from our experiences, with the gaps filled in somewhat from stories I've read on other foster moms' blogs.

I used the above pic of Claire and a little girl we did respite for. (It was BGC's first weekend with us and we'd already agreed to do respite, so we had FOUR little girls for four days. It was awesome.) It's hard to find good pictures of foster kids that I can share publicly, since their faces can't be visible. But Claire looked kind of forlorn in this pic, so it seemed to suit the topic!

To update on BGC, she did finally move to be with her pre-adoptive family!!! We are so excited for them. We'd hoped we'd see her walk unassisted before leaving our home, but she was really close—walking with just a hand to hold—and just a few weeks later, started to walk on her own. We saw a video of her getting up from a sit and taking four or five steps—so exciting! I can't wait to see it in person at a shower for BGC and her new mommy next week.

I mention in my Wishing Well post our frustration with how slowly things move in foster care. I can't count the number of times I said about BGC, "I'm sure by [X month] she'll have moved," and then many more months passed by! When she finally did move, it was so anticlimactic (preceded by a week or two of "maybe tomorrow" or "maybe Monday") that I forgot to tell our parents when she'd actually moved! It was kind of funny how both sets asked me, maybe three days or a week after, "So how's BGC?" or "Did BGC end up moving?" and I had to be like "oh yeah, last Wednesday!"

She will still be "in the system" for a while, since kids have to be with the family that plans to adopt them for at least six months before the adoption can take place. That would be early December, so maybe before Christmas, she'll have permanency! Another "maybe". . . shouldn't get our hopes up too much. There is also the complication of termination of parental rights. BGC's dad is contesting the motion, so there is a trial for that coming up as well. I feel for him, understanding the emotional resistance to just giving her up voluntarily, but there is just no way he could give her the care and stability she needs.

DCS gives/encourages families to take a break after a long placement, so we are officially "on hold" right now. Given that we'll go on hold again when Baby 3 is imminent, there isn't much time to offer care, but we do hope to provide a short-term home for a child in need before taking another break while Baby 3 is small.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Road to Baby 3

A year ago this week, I found out I was pregnant. Since I'm still three months away from Baby 3's due date, and fetal humans do not gestate for fifteen months, clearly that pregnancy did not last.

I didn't share this news widely at the time, mainly because I have no right to complain that the road to conceiving Baby 3 was a little longer and rougher than for my first two. It wasn't long or rough at all compared to so many people, so in sharing the story now, I want to make clear I know how lucky I've been. Nonetheless, it's my story and Baby's story, and I want to share it now.

I've been so fortunate in conception (conceiving Kate without trying and Claire on only the second month of trying) that I presumptuously started "planning" for Baby 3 several years ago. Given that both my children, my spouse, both my parents, and Jesus all have their birthdays between November 1 and January 28, it's a pretty busy three months for our family. So, to spread out the celebrating and subsequent spending, I planned long ago that Baby 3 should be born in spring or summer. Preferably sometime April through July. Of 2015. This meant starting to "try" in June 2014. A lucky first-try baby would have been born in early March.

When I got a faint positive PT in the second month of trying, and the line stayed faint for nearly a week, I was cautious and didn't get my hopes up. A digital test saying "Pregnant" finally convinced me, but I still felt tentative about the whole thing. I'd say now it was maternal instinct, knowing something wasn't right. I started bleeding a week later, and blood tests showed a unviably low amount of HCG (104, when it should have been in the thousands by that point). A nurse told me "this isn't going to be a healthy pregnancy," but I didn't really know if that meant I'd already miscarried or was about to, or what.

Follow-up blood tests showed the numbers still unviably low, but increasing, which meant something was growing in there. I had an ultrasound to check for an ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg implanted somewhere other than in one's uterus) but there was nothing in there, not even an empty sac. Nonetheless, with HCG levels still rising, there was apparently something growing somewhere that would not be healthy to have around. We've kept referring to it as an ectopic, though with nothing visible, it might be better just labeled a "blighted ovum," a fertilized egg that for whatever reason didn't grow. Either way, I had to get a shot of methotrexate . I didn't feel upset about this whole thing until reading the "side effects" form about the methotrexate: "Use birth control for at least three months."

That's where I got really bummed out, seeing my "plan" derailed. It was early August by then, and waiting until November to try again would put Baby's birth in August of 2015, after the cutoff to overlap with Claire in high school, etc. Sometimes, being a planner just doesn't pay. I am well aware of when I'm being ridiculous, but felt disappointed nonetheless.

That minor setback is nothing compared to what so many women go through on the road to childbearing, and my heart goes out to those who have experienced not just months but years of negative pregnancy tests, miscarriages, and more. I have to laugh at my arrogance, thinking I could perfectly plan my child's due date. (My mom did, having me almost exactly as far from Christmas as you can get, but she's practically perfect in every way. The rest of us can't be so precise.)

Come November, I was really hopeful, but was disappointed by negative PTs on Thanksgiving and then again on New Years. I had gained some more perspective on the situation by that time, though, which naturally I articulated by expanding on a Friends quote: "I don't care if it's a fall baby. I don't care if it's born on Christmas Day. . . I don't care if it's twins. I don't care if it's triplets. I don't care if the entire cast of 'Eight Is Enough' comes out of there!" 

It was on Kate's birthday, January 28, that I saw a faint positive line. I was cautious again, but still hopeful, and of course that one has been a healthy pregnancy. Baby Boy Kelley (still no name decided on!) is now 27.5 weeks along and weighs close to two pounds. We'll meet him in October (unless he's a few weeks early--I won't be presumptuous about that!) and will enjoy the expansion of our three-month birthday extravaganza into a four-month one.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Big "Reveal"

Last Wednesday, after Kate got out of her last (half) day of kindergarten, we all went to the ultrasound office to see our baby on screen! Most importantly, Baby is developing right on track, with no defects or anomalies found. Our quad screen also came back clear a few weeks before, so that's good too.

Love the cool spine picture. Teeny baby curled in a ball (well, a "fetal position" by definition!) I'll spare you the creepy "Skeletor" face pictures!

We also found out Baby's sex (since I'm such a planner, I just have to know!) and planned for a little party with the grandparents that evening. The whole concept of a "gender reveal party" (or even a "gender reveal" as a thing beyond a phone call or text sharing the news!) wasn't even around when Claire was in utero four years ago! (As a colleague quipped, "A gender reveal party? In my day, that was called a strip club!") So, while it feels a little silly to make such a huge deal out of finding out a baby's gender (or more accurately, a baby's sex, since sex is what's in your pants and gender is what's in your brain), I do like the idea of doing something for this baby that is so indicative of the time—like a time capsule of "here's what was trendy when you were born!"

So while I went to the midwife after the ultrasound, Matt and the girls went to a party store to buy silly string in the stereotypical color. I'd made pink and blue cupcakes and logged our "guesses" on a chalkboard before the ultrasound, and the grandparents enjoyed the fun moment, followed by a nice dinner at our house.

We'd all guessed "boy," and dressed in blue that morning accordingly. Other family members and Facebook friends weighed in as well. Matt has been hoping for a boy for a long time (to spare him the time commenting on this post, let me say on his behalf that he loves his girls like crazy and really just hopes for a healthy baby), and the girls went back and forth practically every day with their guess. My philosophy was "just assume it's a boy, and then you're either proven right or pleasantly surprised."

In the big moment, we girls sprayed BLUE silly string on everybody! It's a BOY!

I confess, even with my mental preparation, I was kind of in shock for a while after finding out it's a boy. I just love having girls, and having THREE would have been awesome. My midwife said, "I just had a woman in here who has three boys and just found out she's having a girl—and her face looked just like yours!" So I guess the shock is normal. And most of my withdrawal is superficial: dresses, bows, baby headbands . . . but I also just kind of resent the (millenia-long) cultural assumption that boys are better, that you need a boy to "carry on the family name," or that there was shame for women (and men) if they didn't produce a son, or any other such nonsense.

Not buying into any of that, I'll love my boy for who he is, and he'll be an awesome little person! It's still crazy to think about us having a little boy in the house. Even our cat is a girl, and poor Matt's held the sole Y-chromosome in the house. Even among the guest kids we've had in the house, only one has been a boy, and that was just for one week's respite care (he never, ever sat down, but I'm trying not to assume that is true of every boy!)

We haven't settled on a name yet, but my itch to plan is getting a little scratching through clothes-buying, sketching the small changes I'll be making to update the nursery, and pinning baby stuff on Pinterest. (Here's my "It's a Boy" board, if you're interested :) It's always interesting to see what new baby gear gets invented even since one's previous child was born. An infinity scarf that unfolds to a nursing cover? A special sling for the grocery cart? A training urinal that hangs on the side of the toilet? Pretty cool.

Most of all, I'm just looking forward to cuddling a teeny new baby this fall!

Friday, May 22, 2015


I've been thinking a lot lately about why I blog. Or rather, why I feel like I should blog, since I don't very often! I'm long past the notion of trying to build readership and earn money off of affiliate links or anything. When I have something a little deeper I want to share about parenting philosophies or foster care, it's nice to have this space in which to write it.

But mainly, I just like to share parties I throw and crafts I make and cute things my kids are doing. (Someone hold me accountable for sharing Kate's My Little Pony birthday party and the girls' shared sister room, please!) Some people like to pin those ideas, and that always feels good, but what's the point, really?

Then I think about the blogs I still enjoy reading. I read some of the big thinkers and writers in contemporary Christianity, people whose work is relevant to my work, but to be honest, I don't do that for fun. And I've grown quite tired of the lifestyle bloggers who share so many money-making sponsored posts. The blogs I enjoy most, the ones I hope to see when I pull up Feedly, are the moms and foster moms just sharing their lives. Whether I know them in real life or just feel like I do, I like seeing what they and their kids are up to, what their homes look like, how they spend their time. "Human interest" in its purest form.

And I suspect that's why anyone reads this blog. So in that spirit, here are some updates on each member of Team Kelley.

His big news of late is a new "appointment." That's what, in the United Methodist Church, they call a new pastoral assignment. (In the UMC, bishops assign pastors to churches within a certain geographic area; churches do not do their own search or calling of pastors.) So, in June, we'll be leaving Arlington UMC, where Matt was baptized 34 years ago and where we have served for the last four years, and heading to the Associate Pastor position Christ UMC of Franklin, where Matt was confirmed about 22 years ago! Having these prior personal connections to churches is not really something the bishop is concerned with, but they are nice coincidences that we enjoy. Since Matt grew up at Christ UMC and has so many family friends there, visiting there (as I have occasionally over the past ten years) has often felt like visiting my home church in Louisville—a church home away from home, if you will. Matt also just finished the first year of his Doctor of Ministry program!!

Kindergarten is almost over, and it has been a great year. She enjoys school, and loves the independence of riding the school bus and getting up to her own alarm clock (sometimes). She's learned a lot and almost always loves doing her homework. They get the whole week's packet of "home fun" on Monday, with small assignments for each night, and she usually does the whole thing within twenty minutes of getting home on Monday. I wrote a year or more ago about Kate's perfectionism, and how she is sometimes reluctant to try things she may not do perfectly right away. This has been the case with reading out loud. She reads well, but obviously doesn't know every word in most books, so we have to beg and plead and bribe to get her to try. She doesn't have such anxiety when it comes to math, and eagerly asks us to quiz her on addition, subtraction, and lately even multiplication! (They aren't covering that in school yet, but somehow she got the idea in her head, and she gets the concept well enough to calculate products up to 25 or so!)

Kate is doing soccer this spring at the YMCA, and as much as my competitive girl likes scoring goals in practice, she is clearly a natural-born defender. Like most soccer teams this age, the kids tend to run around in a pack, kicking the ball in any old direction, but if the other team gets too close to her goal (i.e. on her half of the field), Kate will break away from the pack to run back and protect her goal. I was a back in field hockey, so it's cool to see Kate enjoying defense too. I made sure to praise her a lot when a goal scored by her teammate would not have happened without her kick further back on the field. She's still doing gymnastics as well, loves to roller skate, and is excited for a variety of camps we have her signed up for this summer: gymnastics, drama, and "invention" camp.

Claire is still Mommy's little barnacle, so attached to me that she won't even let Matt pour her a cup of milk if I am in the vicinity. Still a combo of sweet, snuggly, serious, and silly, she can also throw fits with the best of them. The "terrible twos" are supposedly really the worst between 2.5 and 3.5, and Claire turned 3.5 a couple weeks ago. So those irrational fits over the type of cup I gave her or the order in which her shoes were put on will magically come to an end, right? Right.
She likes to color and play dress up, dollhouse, and pretend. She can write her name (preferring to spell it CLARIE, though). She even wrote it upside down once, such that it was readable from where I was standing, which I thought was pretty impressive. She's doing gymnastics now too, and has the cutest dance moves. She sings a lot too, whether it's a song from Frozen acted out with the girls' Anna and Elsa dolls, or just her running soundtrack of humming and nonsense lyrics while she's doing other stuff. (I'm so excited for the children's choirs at our new church!)
Selfie with Mommy at gymnastics
Both girls like to watch videos on Netflix a lot more than I would like, but it's fun to see all these '80s characters revived: My Little Pony, Care Bears, and Strawberry Shortcake. They were in a Magic School Bus phase too for a while (not a revival/recreation, but the actual old episodes, which explains why Kate vehemently insists Pluto—or Bluto, as she says it—is indeed a planet). They also just discovered "Okay Google" on our phones, and like to verbally search for things. It always thinks Claire says "Okay Doodle," though, and Kate doesn't quite get why searching for "family photos" doesn't just bring up pics of our own family. Searching for "Shake It Off" is most successful, and they love to watch that Taylor Swift video.

Yes, she's still with us. As my college psych professor used to say, "Things always take longer than they do." Her future adoptive parents (who, if you see me on Facebook, tag us in their posts about "CLS"—Certain Little Someone—that's BGC) have been taking their classes and doing their home study and all that, so their approval as pre-adoptive foster parents will come through soon. (By next week, in fact--I've been sitting on this half-written post for quite a while.) They've been keeping her on the weekends and when we go out of town, so the official transition should be very easy. She's over 2 1/2 now, having been with us 21 out of her 31 months of life. Permanency won't happen for her before her third birthday (since she needs to be with her pre-adoptive parents six months before adoption can take place) but hopefully not too long after that. Would this calendar year be wishful thinking? You never can tell, the way the state moves. After about four months MIA, we finally got some news/had contact with her parents. These absences are close to the official definition of legal abandonment, but not quite, but termination of parental rights is pretty much a foregone conclusion. While sad, this will make her adoption a smoother process.

As usual, we are astounded by her development. She got her cochlear implants a month or two ago, and seems to enjoy hearing what's going on around her! She's learning more sounds now, and getting serious about speech therapy. And, after months (and months--even before the spica cast) of being able to stand but hating it, she's pulling up to a stand all by herself and even cruising around the coffee table! She'll walk while pushing our ottoman (more stability and resistance than a walker toy) or while holding someone's hands. She just might take her first independent steps before leaving us—I wouldn't be surprised!

Me and Baby 3:
We go together, you know, for another 20 weeks! (Halfway point is today!) Per usual with my pregnancies, I am still frequently sick, especially when in motion. So, working from home is a good thing, but travel and even the short drive up to Kate's school are precarious. When traveling to Chicago and NYC in the last couple months, I've gotten sick on planes, trains (well, the subway platform), busses, and automobiles. Something different about this pregnancy, which has made us think it could be a boy, is a total food aversion that I'm just now coming out of. Previously, I'd maybe feel averse to a very specific thing, for a period of time, but never so completely as in this pregnancy. For 2-3 months, I was avoiding coffee and most meat, but it went so far beyond specific foods to a total apathy and anxiety about food. Nothing sounded good, and then I'd feel so anxious leading up to meal times that I'd throw up, just because meals don't sound good or I don't know how I'll feel about the particular meal. As with my other pregnancies, fruit is most universally appealing and craveable. Nachos/burrito bowls (vegetarian) have kind of been a thing this time around. I had one awesome grocery trip at about 8 weeks, when my philosophy was "anything that looks appealing to Jessica goes in the cart." At that point, it was crab cakes and egg rolls and corn dogs and other random things. Now, the grocery list is "just the facts, ma'am, and don't even look at the meat section, or pretty much any food not pre-approved."
16 weeks or so? We need to do another one!
Nonetheless, I still always love being pregnant, mainly because it makes me feel so good about my body! Our "big" ultrasound is next Wednesday, and since Kate will be out of school by then, we're taking the girls to see Baby on the screen! Pretty much everybody (except me and Granna) is rooting for a boy, and I'm more or less cool either way. We aren't dead set on any names yet, but we'll figure it out soon, once we know Baby's sex.

And since I've been so bad about posting lately, here are a few more photos of what we've been up to:

Family fun at a carnival--both girls seen bouncing behind us

Matt and I went to NYC for respective work stuff.
We worked in some fun, like a stop at the "Big Gay Ice Cream" shop in Greenwich Village.

Before my author meetings one morning, I worked at the coffee shop across from Studio1A,
so I could see the Today Show filming!

The girlies on Easter

Family pic on Easter

Lots of play tea parties with their "sweet treats"
Backyard water play now that it's warm
(and now that the neighborhood pool opened, it's cool again!)

So that's what we've been up to. Next week will be a big one, with a meeting scheduled for BGC's official transition, and then our ultrasound the next day, which happens to be Kate's last (half) day of kindergarten, so let the summer begin!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"I gave you each other!"

This is what I say to my girls when the cries of "I'm bored!" or "I don't know what to play with!" get too annoying. "You have a sister to play with! I gave you each other!"

And actually, they're really good at playing with each other. I love hearing them have pretend tea parties and birthday parties, and run their little mom-and-pop general store outside, peddling in sticks and stones and dandelions. But sometimes it takes me refusing to pull out a board game or coloring book (or turn on a screen--grumble) to make them play by themselves. I think kids (mine especially, but I'm sure I'm not alone!) are getting too accustomed to having their days orchestrated by Mom and Dad, with activities and play dates, and the wide open spaces of children's play are getting limited.

I wrote about that for Vanderbilt's Wishing Well blog this month, starting with a typical scene in the Kelley house:

I was putting away the groceries one evening, overhearing the shrieks of my 3- and 6-year-old kids through the screen door as they played in the backyard. The baby was pulling snacks out of the bags on the floor, while I hurried to get frozen foods into the freezer after a way-too-slow, traffic-clogged drive home. My husband was, surprisingly, still not home, and despite all the food I’d just bought, I wasn’t quite sure what I would fix for dinner.

That’s when I heard the cries of my younger daughter from outside, rejecting her big sister’s efforts to push her on the swing, demanding that Mommy come push instead.

This is the sort of scenario when I, like most busy parents, usually feel a pang of guilt. Dinner can wait, right? A good mom would eagerly rush to her child’s side and push that swing, right? I should have been out there anyway, to make sure no one gets hurt or kidnapped, right?

I’m learning, however, to quiet that voice and remind myself that it’s okay for my kids to play by themselves sometimes. More than okay, actually. Essential.

Read the rest on Wishing Well...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A St. Patty's Day Announcement...

I haven't felt like blogging much lately, but had to make this little announcement :0)

Happy St. Pat's! You may recall it's a favorite holiday here in The Parsonage Family, but I've been too sick and tired to prepare much fun for the family today. Store-bought green and white cupcakes. That's it.

Food in general and especially cooking disgust me right now, so there will be no shepherd's pie or corned beef and cabbage, and I think the girls will be grateful for that. As grateful as they should be to their little sibling for Mommy's impulse-based cravings (before the overall food-aversion kicked in):
"Mommy, can we stop for ice cream?"
"Ice cream? Sure! Sounds good!"
"Mommy, can we buy some candy in the checkout lane?"
"Sure! How about Twizzlers?"

The girls are really excited, and we are looking forward to our fifth "forever family" member, arriving mid-October.
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