Monday, December 14, 2015

18 Laps of Thankful

I started working out again last week. Who knows how long this will last, as I'm pretty bad about sticking to things like this, but I'm doing what I can. I determined that I prefer walking (even occasionally running--gasp!) on the indoor track, rather than being stationary on an elliptical machine or bike.

The indoor track at my preferred Y location is 18 laps to a mile. As I started my walk today, I tried to think of a way to both focus my thoughts as I walked and keep track of what lap I'm on. What came to mind was a wonderful exercise in reflection and gratitude. I let the number of the lap be a prompt for things in my life to be thankful or prayerful for as I walked.

ONE holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the world.

TWO darling daughters, and all the Mommy-Daughter fun we have. I wanted girls so badly, and though I now have a beautiful son to love as well, I marvel at the two awesome girls I get to mother.

THREE precious children: fireball Kate, cheerful Claire, and sweet baby Jonah. I love them so!

FOUR years in Brentwood, living in our lovely home, close to things we enjoy, and just three miles from Matt's parents.

FIVE members of our family. What fun we have and how I love our little family!

SIX seats at the table. Both our kitchen table and dining room table each have six chairs around them. With four of us currently using chairs, and Jonah who will eventually sit in one, that means we always have room for at least one more: a guest, a foster child, another child, etc.

SEVEN days in a week, time to be productive and time to rest. (Just picturing a page in my planner makes me smile!)

EIGHT weeks of Jonah! The joyful rest of my days getting to know my sweet boy, and thankfulness for his health and mine, especially in light of so many I know who've had traumatic births and postpartum experiences.

NINE years of marriage. Matt is such a loving husband and great father. It's not always easy, but as Andrew Peterson says, "that's what the promise is for."

TEN years in publishing. I love my work and have a great career going!

ELEVEN . . . praying for some eleven year old out there going through a tough time. I couldn't think of anything personal for this number, but middle school is rough . . .

TWELVE years in Nashville (well, the Nashville area). I came for Vanderbilt Divinity School and stayed because of Matt. Four years in Midtown, four in Clarksville, and now four in Brentwood. I love my hometown of Louisville, but being a Tennessean isn't so bad either!

THIRTEEN years old when I switched to private school. Seventh grade was wretched for me, and for eighth through twelfth grade, I thrived in a much smaller educational environment where I could participate in a lot of activities and hold several leadership roles.

FOURTEEN years of studying religion. Choosing the religion major at Furman University enhanced my faith and changed my thinking, my politics, my personal and professional life, and maybe in some small way, the world, as it's given me a more global and missional perspective.

FIFTEEN minutes of walking (by the second mile, that is, as I counted back down from 18. I couldn't think of anything for fifteen the first time!) Thankful for my body, my health, the ability to walk, and a nice facility with childcare in which to work out!

SIXTEEN years since high school. Adulthood has been pretty good so far.

SEVENTEEN days left in the year. Seventeen days to relax, spend time with family, and celebrate the birth of Christ. And 21 days left in my maternity leave--eek!

EIGHTEEN years at home. Thankful for my happy childhood and wonderful parents. Day trips and vacations, history lessons, traditions, and family dinners.

18 laps--well, 36, actually. Two miles thinking on such things made me feel grateful, proud, and happy with my life. Sure beats a half hour pondering my jiggly thighs or envying the fit aerobics instructor leading a class in the gym below. And it made my cardio time fly by! I moved on to the weight room with a peace I carried on to pick up my sleeping son from the nursery and out into the surprising warmth of a December day.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Frozen Halloween

Like thousands of other little girls (though not so many as last year, I imagine!) our kids wanted to dress as their favorite Scandinavian sisters for Halloween: Anna and Elsa, naturally.

Kate and Claire both got Elsa dress-up dresses and shoes for Christmas last year, so for a while, both were planning to be Elsa for Halloween, which I was planning to roll with, but I'm glad Claire decided she wanted to be Anna instead. So, with Mommy, Daddy, and a new sibling arriving mere weeks before Halloween, we planned our Frozen family ensemble.

 
Daddy was Kristoff, Mommy was Sven, and Jonah was Olaf. Our costumes were pretty simple: Matt with black pants, shirt, toboggan, and fleece vest from his own closet, plus a scarf from mine around his waist. I just wore brown and added $5 reindeer antlers I bought on Amazon. For Jonah, I bought a secondhand white fleece sleeper on ebay and sewed black felt on for buttons, and bought the crocheted Olaf hat on Etsy. Jonah actually won first prize in the costume contest at our neighborhood Halloween party. (It's hard to compete with an 8-day-old newborn, though!)

 
My personal favorite was Claire's costume, though. I made her cape and cap out of fuchsia fleece and it just made the ensemble. I couldn't get enough of her little braids sticking out from under her bonnet!


Halloween night itself was rainy and a bit chilly after dark, but between the neighborhood party, church trunk-or-treat, and braving the rain for at least a few streets on the 31st, our candy bowl is full and our Frozen fever sated for the time being!




Friday, October 23, 2015

Jonah's Birth Story

Jonah Matthew Kelley was born a week ago, Friday October 16.



His birth story picks up right where I left off in my update from last week. (Notice: this being a story of childbirth, there are some details toward the end that aren't for the squeamish.) Five days overdue, we went to the midwife for our 41-week appointment, bags in tow just in case. I knew they would strip my membranes if I wanted, to help urge things along, and Peg had told me they might want me to stay close in that case, since it could happen quickly. My labor with Claire started about seven hours after getting my membranes stripped, but third babies can come especially quickly.

So, she checked me—80% effaced and 3.5 cm dilated—and did the stripping. We had some trouble when she put the heart and contraction monitors on, though. Jonah had been very active that morning, even before I was out of bed, and in the midwife's office, he was going nuts! My placenta being in front and a super-wiggly baby made it hard to get a steady read on his heart rate. So, we stayed a while to get a good trace on his heart, and at one point it went up to 170-173 bpm, a bit over the desirable range. Peg decided to send us on to the hospital for further monitoring and possible induction. (We used the Vanderbilt Nurse Midwives practice, and while they did open a birthing center a couple months ago, we'd still planned to deliver in the hospital.)

She didn't make a big deal of it, just wanted to be on the safe side. My main midwife was the one on call, so Peg called Margaret and told her we were coming. As we quickly drove through Wendy's and updated the grandparents, I told Matt not to use "the I-word." Induction. I hate the idea of having a crazy-specific "birth plan," (shocking for a planner like me, but I also hate the idea of being high-maintenance) but since I did want to go natural, drug-free this time, getting Pitocin would derail my hopes right from the start. Surely they wouldn't have to induce.

It was strange going up to Labor & Delivery not already in labor, pulling my own suitcase and waiting (semi-)patiently in the waiting area. The check-in person told us no need for triage, we were being admitted already. When the nurse, Ann, showed us to our room, I commented there was no laboring tub, and she said we couldn't use one "because you're an induction." I started to debate her, so she went to get Margaret the midwife. As we waited, my face crumpled to an angry cry. I did learn that the tub didn't get extremely hot, though, so I didn't really care about that anymore, since I like to practically boil myself in the bath or shower! The bottom line for me was that I wanted to be up and about during labor, not confined to the bed. They assured me this would still be possible.

We started monitoring and Jonah's heart rate was totally normal, but Margaret thought we should go ahead and try to start labor if we could, since I was already near 41 weeks and his heart rate had gotten so high earlier. She explained the options: 1) have her break my water and see if that got contractions going, or 2) start a Pitocin IV. I didn't want to have an IV in and be tethered to a pole, even if I could walk around with it, plus I worried that Pitocin would make contractions so strong I'd end up wanting an epidural. I felt disappointed and confused and had another face-crumpled angry cry before deciding to have her break my water. At least then there would be a chance of not needing Pitocin, if contractions got started without it. My membranes (bag of waters) had been artificially ruptured with the girls, so I was hoping to let that happen naturally too, but it wasn't too big a concession. She did that around 2:30 in the afternoon (no meconium this time—go Jonah!) and Matt and I settled in, had a visit from a friend, watched a little TV, and took a walk around the halls.

I was planning to use Vanderbilt's volunteer doula program, and though none of the volunteers had signed up for that on-call slot, we were going to call the main number and see if someone could be found. Instead, Ali, the student midwife I'd seen that morning and the week before with Peg, volunteered to doula for me. As it turned out, she was also a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School (where Matt and I met) and we knew a lot of the same people. She'd been at div school after our time, planning to go into ministry, and done a chaplaincy internship alongside a traditional midwife in Mexico. There, she discovered a passion for midwifery, and after graduating the divinity school, enrolled in the nursing school!

We chatted and got to know Ali and my contractions began around 3:30--hooray! The water-breaking worked! Contractions were about 4-7 minutes apart and only mildly uncomfortable. I paced around our room in circles, watching my guilty-pleasure show, "Say Yes to the Dress," and then having Matt hook up his iPod speakers and turn on the soundtrack to "Rent." Strangely, this was something I'd thought about way back when birthing Kate, feeling like singing along to some really driving songs would help me in labor. But I don't really feel like I "labored" then, I just endured contractions lying down until I could get my epidural. Instincts were pretty much forgotten.

At 4:45, I had my first contraction that was remotely painful. So I kept pacing around in circles like a lion and Matt and I sang along to Jonathan Larson's brilliant music. (The nurse told me she's seen lots of things, but never a couple singing show tunes in labor!) As contractions got more painful, I put the birthing ball up on the bed, kneeled behind it, and rocked forward and back. It felt so good to be moving around at this point. At one point, I sat back in the bed to test my theory of whether contractions really hurt more when reclining (my rationale for this "I think I can do it without drugs if I'm able to move around). It didn't really hurt more, but made me feel helpless against the pain because there was nothing I could really do about it.

Sometime around 6:00, contractions got MUCH more painful, and only 2-3 minutes apart. I had Matt turn off the music and I got in the shower for a bit. The water wasn't near hot enough for me and brought little relief. The pain was getting really bad. I sat on the toilet and threw up. Ali checked me, and I was 90% effaced, 7 cm dilated, and baby's head was at zero station (i.e. right at the cervix). She coached Matt on supporting me through the contractions (the dancing pose really didn't work for me, though), and she and Matt switched off pressing firmly on my hips while I stood at the end of the bed with my torso laying across it.

Around 7:00, Margaret's shift was over, so she introduced me to Tania, a midwife I'd never met. Given that Ali and I had a good thing going, Tania pretty much stayed in a background or advisory role. Margaret might have stayed if they'd known how soon it would all be over, but who knew? I was seriously laboring, practically in tears, leaning onto the bed with one contraction coming right on top of the next with no break. This was the one point where I asked "Why did I think this was a good idea?" and wondered how long I could take pain at that level before wanting an epidural. Whatever that point might have ended up being, it was thankfully a moot point, because at 7:15 or so, I said hesitantly, "I think I need to push out a BM . . . and maybe a baby?"

Ali checked me again. Couldn't have been more than an hour since checking me before, but there I was, 100% effaced, 10 cm dilated, head at +1. It was go time!

Perched awkwardly on the end of the bed, we prepared for me to push. I'd envisioned myself squatting to push, but someone said gravity might help a little too much and he'd come shooting out too quickly. Plus, it hurt so bad to change positions in this state, I just wanted to push him out ASAP. I did have a BM, and then got a little reprieve as contractions eased up. I'd read about that in one of the birth books—what an amazing gift our bodies give us, a rest right before the big job of pushing out Baby!

I had Matt take a picture of the clock, as we had at the girls' births. 7:23 when we started pushing. I asked for the mirror to be brought over so I could watch. As contractions began again, I screamed from my gut as I pushed Jonah out. A bunch of dark hair became visible and then retreated until the next push. When I reached down to feel it, I thought it was the cord because it was just a puffy, soft line of flesh, but it was the skin of his head squeezing through the opening. Pushing hurt so bad, I thought again at this point, "Why did I want to do this?" He crowned with the next contraction, but retreated again and I pushed ever harder to get him out with the next one. His head popping out brought a burst of excitement, followed a split second later by the realization that his shoulders weren't going to just slide out—I'd have to push them too. Ow. But one more contraction and push and it was done. There was Jonah!

He was born at 7:45, just over five hours from getting my water broken and only three hours from the first twinge of pain! They laid him on my chest as they helped the placenta out and stitched up a first degree tear. Once that was done and I could get into a better position, we nursed. It was nearly an hour before they took him from my chest to weigh him and do other checks. He weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces, 21.25 inches long. More than a pound heavier than my girls, but he still seems tiny to me. Precious babe. He didn't leave my presence until a short bit Sunday morning before we went home.

I don't know if I could have done it with a longer labor, but I'm glad I had the experience of laboring and birthing my sweet third child naturally. My parents were there even before he left my chest, and Matt's parents brought the girls the next morning. They were so excited to meet him and just adore him. We've had a good week getting to know each other. He's such a sweet baby!

 
 



 


Friday, October 16, 2015

Still Waiting...

I'm basically a week overdue now.

My by-the-book due date was Oct. 9, but when one factored in the luteal phase, it was Oct. 11. Ultrasound measurements also said Oct. 11, so we went with that. Either way, we are about to go to my 41-week midwife appointment, which I'd truly assumed and hoped I wouldn't need when they scheduled it a week ago.

That was my last day of work for the calendar year, as I'd worked like crazy to get everything done before Baby arrived. And since I'd worried he'd come early, I was especially hustling in the days leading up to Oct. 1, when I had a bunch of big deadlines. It was actually the evening of Sept. 30, when I skipped church choir in order to work into the evening, that my Braxton Hicks picked up, becoming regular at 20 minutes apart and somewhat more intense than they had been in the random times I'd had them prior to that. So, I especially started to panic then, but when Oct. 1 and 2 came with no greater signals of labor and I met my big deadlines (yes, some one day late), I relaxed a bit.

Last week, Oct. 5-9, I finished up the other things on my big "TO DO BEFORE MATERNITY LEAVE" list and gleefully set my "out of office" message before heading to my 40-week midwife appointment. I'd been having some discomfort in my hips and butt, and the irregular, painless contractions had moved to the bottom of my uterus, so I'd hoped maybe things were moving along. Peg, the tell-it-like-it-is New Englander midwife, told me Baby had definitely dropped a good bit lower than the week before, but didn't even worry with checking my dilation and whatnot because "you're not really doing anything." Boo. (And I didn't push the issue because I know it doesn't really give much of an indicator of when Baby will come--one could stay at 4 cm for a week or go from 1 cm to 8 in a day!) She did think I'd go into labor this week, though, such that today's 41-week appointment wouldn't be needed!

Alas. Last Saturday, I'd really hoped to go into labor because 10/10 would make such a nice birthday. Instead, I spent the day recording a CD with our church choir, at a historic studio on Music Row (quintessential Nashville experience--so cool!) I took walks on breaks and hoped something would happen, but it didn't. Sunday, my due date, we went to BGC's third birthday party, something I'd hoped to attend but assumed we would miss! So that was fun. (She's doing amazing! Walking and running, saying a few words . . . she threw her arms up gleefully whenever she saw us around the party room.) Monday morning was BGC's dad's Termination of Parental Rights hearing. We were prepared to testify if needed (basically saying he clearly loves her so much but her needs are just too much for him to handle as a single dad who still isn't totally clean) but after being at her party the day before, and seeing all the love her new family is surrounding her with, he made the very difficult decision to surrender his rights voluntarily. He gave a tearful speech in court and we all affirmed him for his self-sacrificial decision. So, BGC is free for adoption, and once she has been with her new parents for six months (early December) she can be officially adopted. Yay!!

I was glad to have been able to be there, but then the week became a waiting game. I started to get frustrated. I did some cleaning and organizing, not out of nesting instinct as much as "well, I really have no excuse now!" since I was on maternity leave already and the kids were at school. My mom came Tuesday evening and helped me with various things around the house. Wednesday was Matt's and my 9th anniversary. We'd planned to be in the hospital or settling in at home with Baby, so we hadn't planned anything special, but we went out to lunch. Other than some sciatic pains, no more signs of labor.

As yesterday, 10/15 (another nice-sounding birthdate, 10/15/15) came and went, I got even more frustrated. Matt and I took a three-mile hike hoping to jumpstart things, and the discomfort increased some, along with some mildly uncomfortable contractions 10 minutes or so apart in the evening, but they went away. Every night this week, I've gone to bed hoping to be awakened by something resembling pain or gushing waters, and every time I woke to pee or get up in the morning, it felt like waking on Christmas morning to find that Santa hadn't come.

So here we are. I'm still comfortable (with the exception of my inner thighs), and enjoying my pregnant body--I'm just impatient! At the midwife, we'll do a 20-minute monitoring (stress test) to see how Baby's doing, and probably strip my membranes to help things along. I had that with Claire and labor started about 7 hours later (2 days late). So we'll see. Maybe today will be the day!

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

Updates

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.


Matt:
Superdad!!
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!!


Kate:
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:
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.


BGC:
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.

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