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.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

BGC Updates

So, yesterday, I spent nine hours at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. Fortunately, I was still able to get six hours of work done. But between the time of waiting and working, I was accompanying BGC as she had her cochlear implant surgery.

We're old pros on the surgery floor now (there's more protocol than you think--this time I actually obeyed the rules and didn't take a to-go cup of coffee into the waiting room, where food and drink are not allowed, out of respect for all the kids awaiting surgery, who haven't been allowed to eat or drink in many hours!)

Our last two visits were for her hip surgery. She was in that spica cast from August 11 to November 4. That's a long time. I posted my tips for caring for a baby in a spica cast on Vanderbilt's Wishing Well blog, if you want to learn more about it!

You may be surprised she's still with us. It's been almost 18 months. I can't remember the last update I gave, but she's had two different families presented as potential pre-adoptive families, and both have backed out. She even had a couple overnight visits with the second one, who we thought was perfect but ended up having some sudden personal issues to deal with.

There's a third I've talked to, but in an unexpected twist, BGC's day care teacher and her husband actually have felt called to adopt her! They're not foster parents or in any adoptive agency process, but because of the established relationship, DCS plans to expedite their approval so BGC can go live with them!! They'll have to take all the foster care training classes and wait six months and endure the Termination of Parental Rights proceedings for BGC's birth parents, but they can start making a forever family together, and that is really exciting. She's 28 months old already, so it would be nice to have some permanency for her by her third birthday!

Developmentally, BGC is getting close to standing up and then cruising. After getting the spica off, she bounced right back to crawling very quickly. Her fine motor and communication skills had improved so much in the time we were unable to work on gross motor skills. Her communication is limited to less than ten signs, but her overall interpersonal skills have grown. Now with the cochlear implant on her weaker side, and keeping the hearing aid on her somewhat stronger side, she should grow by leaps and bounds in the coming months. But that will be for her new family to enjoy :0)

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Saving Photo Christmas Cards

I love the photo Christmas (and New Year) cards so many people send out this time of year. And while I have no trouble tossing the generic winter- or manger-scene cards in the recycling bin at the end of the season, I like to save the photo cards that so encapsulate the year and changing lives of friends and family. For the past seven years, I've saved those cards as part of my Christmas scrapbooking, showcasing them alongside our own family Christmas card for the year.

I've done it in several ways, so allow me to share a few possibilities!

The first couple times, I simply made a collage-type scrapbook page using the photos from some of the photo cards we received—not all, I don't think, though it's probably most of them, since photo cards weren't quite as common in the mid-oughts as they are now :0)

Another approach is to build a pocket into the scrapbook page. Our card and a headline are front and center, but a pasted-in pocket (an actual envelope, in one case) holds all the other photo cards, accessible through the top of the page protector.

A new approach was in order once we started doing two-sided cards on nice cardstock. For the past few years then, I've done a separate page protector (cut down to size and sealed) for our family's card, so that front and back can be viewed easily.  The other cards are in a page protector of their own with tie closure embellishment (string between two brads) to keep it closed.

Last year, I made the pockets for all and for ours out of the same page protector, running it through the sewing machine to seal off our card at the bottom and doing the tie-closure again at the top. The downside of that design is that only one friend/family card is very visible on the front and one on the back, because the pocket is so small. Typically, I like to flare the cards out some, with favorites near the top so I can see several even without opening the pocket.

This year, I was less crafty about it and just purchased a pack of Project Life envelope pages. I added a little embellishment at the top, but otherwise let the nice plastic envelope do its job. It has a nice 4x6 pocket on the front for a journaling card to explain the envelope's contents, but I left it empty to let the cards inside speak for themselves. (And I look forward to using the other two envelopes in the pack for Kate's schoolwork and other big items to save!)

I made a simple cut-down page protector for our own card.

I love looking back at our own family's cards through the years, and last year I crafted a decoration to let me and any guests to our home see the progression of our family through those cards, from our marriage to pregnancy, one child to two, and so on. Burlap, a wide sparkly ribbon, and a bunch of paper clips with scraps of ribbon on each one were all it took.

I hope these ideas prompt you to get creative in saving those photo cards from family and friends, and in the words of our card this year, we are WISHING YOU PEACE, LOVE, AND JOY this season and always.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Traditions and Expectations

The girls and I took our fourth annual "jammie Christmas light drive," where we don our Christmas jammies and drive around to look at lights.

This was a tradition born of high expectations. Three years ago, when Claire was about six weeks old, I was home with both girls one evening while Matt was at the weekly pastoral care class he was taking. Bedtime was hard in those days, as Kate wouldn't leave Claire and I alone to nurse, wouldn't stay in her room, etc. I was tired, and knew that both girls tended to fall asleep easily in the car, so I brilliantly suggested we put on our jammies and take a drive. "Wouldn't that be CRAZY?" I told little almost-three year old Kate, trying to get her excited.

So I put the girls in their coordinating Christmas jammies, got them strapped into car seats, put the Christmas music on and drove. And drove. And drove and drove and drove. More than an hour, I weaved through neighborhood after neighborhood. And those girls never fell asleep! I finally returned home having to do the bedtime struggle I'd been trying to avoid.

The tradition was born, however, and in subsequent years lost the utilitarian expectations and was elevated to "special holiday family tradition." Those are the best, and also the worst. Fun things that don't cost anything are what make the cultural Christmas season so special, but they also—in the vein of one of our other yearly traditions, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"—tend to elevate stress by setting up unrealistic expectations.

The second year, when Claire was barely one and Kate almost four, I threatened not to go on the drive the particular night we had planned, because Kate was being uncooperative. I was still learning one of the cardinal rules of parenting—don't make threats you don't want to make good on, threats that hurt you worse that it hurts them. She continued to disobey, so we said there would be no drive. Then I was so bummed out, I took it back and we went anyway, though angst was high and it was far from a relaxed and joyful ride.

The third year, last year, I only remember that I was much more into it than anyone else in the car. "Why doesn't anyone else care about this super-special family holiday tradition?!?!"

This year, tonight, when the kids were picking at their dinner, I made no idle threats about not going if they didn't clean their plates. Afterwards, we took baths and put on jammies (non-matching ones!!), and while Matt stayed home to tweak the sermon and put BGC to bed, the big girls and I excitedly loaded up the rental sleigh (car's in the shop) and set out with high hopes.

We were still in our neighborhood when I made the mistake of commenting on the stars in the sky, dim compared to the lights on the houses, but still visible and beautiful.
"I can't see the stars!"
"Why isn't the Christmas star out?"
"Open my window so I can see the stars!"

We weren't too much further away when Kate started loudly singing "Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay..." over top of "What Child is This?" on the radio. To her credit, she knew the whole song and how the game is played. I continued to sing with the radio, but didn't shush her. She later concluded that every house without Christmas lights belonged to a family that celebrates Hanukkah.

As we approached the first of the more ostentatious displays, where people were pulling over to get out and look, I put the child lock on the windows, because Claire's lowering of the window made the air and music do that annoying whoopita-whoopita thing. Claire began to throw a fit about wanting her window down, and was approaching full-blown tantrum status as Kate and I got out to look closer and take a picture.

All was calm by the time we got to the second super-ostentatious house, owned by some super holiday-loving people, and we all got out of the car to see Santa (the homeowner) in the driveway and get candy canes from his wife. The house next door has a lighted sign reading "DITTO" and a limo and two party busses drove by. We went to another house where a sign said "tune to 96.9 FM," so we did and found that the blinking lights were synchronized to the music. Amazing!

Then Claire fell asleep. And Kate and I drove through another neighborhood, talking about our favorite displays and what we should try on our house next year. (My vote: lighted greenery bunting across the front porch and more white lights on the bushes. Kate's: blinking colored lights all over her climbing tree that fills our front yard.) We returned home happy and content, declaring that hour-long, twenty-mile journey the best jammie Christmas light drive ever.

I keep saying, if the holidays are stressing you out, you're doing it wrong. Lowering expectations and letting the craziness become part of the tradition lets us enjoy the holidays for what they are.

On a related note, I enjoyed an unexpected special time with Kate yesterday that brought full circle a day of screwed up expectations from years before. Kate got sick on the bus yesterday morning, so I picked her up from school and she had to miss her class party on the half-day before Christmas break began. I had noticed that a cute movie Kate would like was available through Amazon Prime, so we cuddled up on the couch to watch "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl." We've read most of the American Girl books together, so Kate was familiar with the character. I love American Girl, had two of them growing up, and Kate is looking forward to getting her own someday.

The Kit movie is actually quite significant to me because six and a half years ago, I'd planned to go see it with my mom on my birthday. This was the year I was pregnant with Kate, and decided to take the Intelligender test (an at home, pee-based gender predictor claiming 90% accuracy—checking their site now, they have a lot more disclaimers!) on my birthday, just past the ten-week mark. I'd hoped and expected to be having a girl. The test told me I was having a boy, and I was so bummed about this, I didn't want to go see the American Girl movie that would just make me sadder about not having a little girl to share things like that with. I totally ruined my own birthday and gave Matt much fodder for mocking me for years to come.

I'll chalk my melodramatic reaction of July 2008 up to pregnancy hormones, but nonetheless, it was so special for me to cuddle up yesterday with my firstborn girl and watch that fun movie. She liked it too, and of course was shocked to hear how some test long ago said she would be a BOY!

Getting set on one's expectations is a fast route to disappointment, but enjoying life's twists and turns gives laughs, memories, and more special moments, twenty miles or six years down the road.

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