29 April 2013

Adventures in the City

These last few days or so have been days of exciting adventures. On Thursday, Matt and I celebrated our 5th anniversary and our terrible, horrible neighbors were finally evicted. Speaking of the neighbors, on Saturday, five undercover cops in three unmarked squad cars showed up at our building looking for the idiots. I was quite annoyed that after all the complaints I've had, all the times I've called the cops on them, someone finally shows up two days too late. But I answered their questions politely, called the maintenance man for them, and they finally left.

Back to the anniversary.

On Thursday, Abigail and I took the train downtown where we met with Matt and went to the Institue of Art, which has free resident days on Thursday evenings. They had pieces from a lot of famous artists, including Picasso, Rembrandt (that's his first name, by the way), Van Gogh, El Greco, Renoir, Seurat (including Sunday Afternoon), and Monet, who I've quickly come to realize I like quite a bit. On Saturday, Matt and I found a babysitter in a couple from law school also living in Chicago and we enjoyed a day downtown by ourselves. The photojournal of our anniversary celebration went something like this:

Playing dress up (the nails and the hairstyle didn't work out, but the dress and shoes worked out wonderfully).

A mint chocolate cupcake reminiscent of our mint chocolate wedding cake.

Which we ate by the river where mega construction was going on. We'd never seen the bridges up before.

A trip to Merchandise Mart which is a giant home improvement showroom (well, four floors anyway). The showrooms were closed, but we could still peak in windows and dream about redecorating the house we don't yet own.

Then a quick jaunt to River North to follow up on the recommendation of a Belgian Chocolatier.

Five years ago to the day, Matt and I were wandering around Chicago at night on our honeymoon and we stumbled into Fado's Irish pub for drinks and dessert, so we returned again for a few pre-dinner drinks. We planned to end the evening with dinner at a pub near the train station that Matt had heard good things about and the ambiance looked like a place you go when you're kid-free. We arrived only to discover that they weren't open on Saturdays (what kind of pub isn't open on weekends?!) So we scurried frantically around the city, trying to find something open (we learned that the financial district, where the train station is, is pretty dead on the weekends), passing by closed restaurant after closed restaurant. We didn't have enough time to get dinner outside of the financial district and return before the train left, so it came down to Cosi (a primarily lunch restaurant that was open late) and McDonalds. We settled on Cosi.

Eating dinner out, alone, without trying to entertain a bored toddler who doesn't eat anything a restaurant might serve was my goal, so I didn't mind. Plus the restaurant was almost empty and I enjoyed the quiet time with just my husband.

It was the first time Matt and I have been downtown alone together and it was nice to explore. The 5th anniversary gift is wood and we plan to buy a headboard for our bed once we get settled in Michigan. 


Now time for a completely new topic for which I'll just lamely put up a boarder. All three of us are sick, so we are just playing it safe at home today. Abigail has not yet taken anymore steps since Tuesday, sad to say, but we're still hoping for something more consistent before she turns two (in about three weeks). In the meantime, I refold the laundry about six times a day:

I successfully managed to get bows in her piggy tails:

I bought spool of $1 clearance ribbon to use as a belt for Abigail (in order to get pants long enough, the waist is too big), and had enough left over for hair ribbons for her and a headband for me.

A little yarn lover in the making.

And I dared to open a window. Our lease stipulates (I kid you not), that we don't open our windows until May 31st, but I sneaked one open a bit early since the weather is so nice. Most of our neighbors had theirs open too, so if they want to write me up, they'll have to write up most of the building. If you're wondering why Emma's face is yellow, she stuck it in a pollinating lily. It used to look a lot worse, but she's been slowly bathing it off.

Abigail couldn't believe her luck when she corned two kitties.

Have a good week, everyone, and don't let the Mondays get you down.

24 April 2013

An unedited spewing of randomness

Abigail loves music.* She loves music so much so that if she's just had a snack, I turn on her "Chica Dance Party" playlist and hand her some touch n' feel flashcards, I can get a solid 20-30 minutes of alone time. It's the most effective non-human "babysitter" I've ever had and there is NO risk of brain damage (tv), poor physical development (walkers/bouncers), or guilty feelings (I'm a bad parent for using "babysitter" to get alone time stuff done! - I mean, seriously, I have one kid, I should be able to handle it).

First the serious-er stuff, then we'll end with the light and fluffy. So, today during Developmental Therapy, I had a parenting crisis moment. Our previous DT is on maternity leave and our new DT was pushing Abigail to figure out a complicated puzzle for herself, despite Abigail's frustration and protestations. She explained to me afterward that she has a background in social-emotional development and helping kids learn to control their bodies and their impulses and lengthening attention spans. She seems very competent and I trust her, but the entire time, my mom-senses were going off. My baby needs help! I know that like tons of mothers out there, I tend to be the protective "do it for them" type, so I do try very hard to support Abigail instead of taking over the reins. Abigail like her mother has a two-second patience level. "If I can't get it right on the first try, I'm not interested." When she's on the brink of chucking the puzzle piece across the room, I jump in and offer hand-over-hand or try to have her imitate. A lot of times, she's frustrated because she doesn't get how something works. If you just show her once, she's golden.

Well, I found out today that when she figures out how something works for herself, that's called "problem solving." After this major "no shit, Sherlock" moment, I had my parenting crisis moment. I baby Abigail a lot without even realizing. I had a sit-down with her FL PT (Florida physical therapist) and said flat out, "When you catch me doing something she can do herself, call me out on it!" She did, and Abigail grew. Apparently I still need work. So now I'm kind of in "Oh no! She's never going to reach her full potential!" mode.

The early years are critical and I want to be sure that I'm "never doing for a child what a child can do for herself" in order to develop ability and confidence. But when Abigail fails at a new task, she gets really frustrated and abandons the toy, which is not a good coping skill. Apparently there's this fine line in between the two where the melody of doing for oneself and the harmony of helping come together in one great chorus of perfectly successful parenting. The tricky thing is that it's a moving target: the line is in a different place every hour, depending on Abigail's mood, hunger level, sleepy level, distraction level, you name it.

I don't have an answer for this dilemma. Other than I try again every day (albiet with different levels of enthusiasm). And at the end of the day, a person's value is not locked into their percentage level of potential reached. Abigail, and I, are worthy even if neither of us ever learns to master our temper.


I'm still working through the physical, emotional, and intellectual fallout from the miscarriage. The happy moments are longer and the sad moments are less sad. I'm permitting myself to feel my emotions, understanding that no matter how I feel, it's normal, remembering to focus on the positive, counting my blessings, trying to eat right, and channeling my energy into pre-packing (ie, going through the filing cabinet box and tossing extraneous papers). I'm dying to start running again or take up boxing or something to get out some of this pent-up aggression (If exercise was all it took, I'd definitely be skinny. It's the dieting part that trips me up), but I want to wait until my body is back to normal first.

Light and fluffy? Light and fluffy.

Abigail took her first steps yesterday!!!! At 23 months old, she toddled a good 3-4 steps during physical therapy, headed to an animal cracker just outside her grasp. I don't think she knows what she did, but she clapped along with us anyway. Unfortunately I have to disclaim her success by stating that she hasn't repeated her performance and it will likely be another month before I can say that she walks. It'll take her a little bit, but yesterday still went in the baby book.

Between our 5th anniversary and Abigail's 2nd birthday, I have lots of reasons to spend Abigail's nap time on Pinterest. I've decided on what they call a "waterfall braid" for my hairstyle on our anniversary. Today I plan to go through my closet, simultaneously picking out an outfit and getting rid of winter clothes I never wore (we stored our winter clothes at my parents house while we were in Florida, so this is the first time in several years I'd seen how large my sweatshirt collection actually is).

On Monday, I undertook the arduous task of going through all our financial documents and sorting through what is important. I used this link here and found that my husband's obsessive need to keep all our receipts for the last 7 years is unnecessary. Most of the ink was so worn away that I couldn't read them anyway, but I did discover a Taco Bell receipt from our honeymoon and all Matt's paycheck stubs and bank statements since 2006. In his defense, he's actually incredibly organized when it comes to storing his paper data, so it was easy to know what to chuck. Between the financials, filling cabinet, and old school notes (yes, he still had notebooks from his undergrad years), we managed to toss/shred about 3 garbage bags worth of stuff. No matter how much we clear out when we move, we always find more the next time.

Now time for light & fluffy pictures. I have a super cute one of Abigail on my phone, but my computer refuses to recognize my SD card, so you'll have to wait for that one. In the meantime, here's some cat photos. Belle is a pretty small cat. At 12, she's fully grown, she's just really little. And I know what you're thinking: that is one sexy couch. Man, I wish I had a slouchy greenish-brown couch. Sorry, I'm pretty sure it's the last one left of its type.

But no matter how hard Belle tries to be cute, she's just not very photogenic. The lamest out-take from the fluffy white kitty, albiet deaf and epileptic, outdoes her every time.

Poor things, I love them anyway.

*Tons of kids love music, so if one person dares to tell me it's a Ds thing, Mama Bear will come roaring out, the comment will be deleted, and if I know you personally, I will unleash a just-had-a-miscarriage-still-emotional-hormonal induced can of whoopass.

21 April 2013

The Recovery

Thank you.

I have got a-maz-ing friends. The sense of community and love I got when we told everyone was enormous. Lots of simple "I'm sorrys" and "we'll pray for yous." It was also helpful to hear what other people have done with regard to the body and a burial, as I was completely lost.

Unfortunately, we were unable to recover the body from the hospital. (They swear what I swear was the baby was just a blood clot. But I don't think they checked very thoroughly after the ultrasound). While at first I was okay without the body, lately the lack of tangible evidence that my baby ever existed has been getting to me. The only proof I have are cramps, lots of blood, and two hospital bracelets. I haven't yet worked up the courage to cut off the bracelets because once the cramps and the blood is gone, I'll only have them. I ordered a "remembrance" necklace off Etsy (I'll share the link once I've confirmed it's a quality piece). I hope having something I can look at and hold will help ease that grief.

We did talk about naming the baby, but trying names on felt very awkward. Neither of us feel like we need a name to bring closure. I'm not sure what we'll call this baby, or if we'll change our minds and give it a name later. But that's where we stand right now.

Despite some random bursts of tears, the truth is that we're pretty okay. Matt and I mostly go through the day feeling pretty normal with bouts of sadness. But really, I'm pretty okay. I'm not mad at God. I'm not angry at all. I know very damn well that "it" can happen to me, whatever tragedy "it" holds. It's not fair, of course, but I'm not bitter about it. I made Matt stay home with Abigail while I went to the hospital (the ER in the middle of the night is not a good place for a 2-year-old), but I never once felt alone. I remember feeling very enveloped in God's love on two very distinct moments as I laid in my own pooling blood on the hospital bed. Last night I honestly thanked God for the two very brief months that I got to be pregnant with that precious, little soul. The baby is not here, but it's still mine.

So many thoughts pin-balling around. A friend mentioned that she realized after her miscarriage that this process is incredibly confusing, and which each passing day, I find myself more and more confused as well. Physically my body is acting like it just gave birth, which is only confusing because my mind sometimes forgets that it's not pregnant anymore. Emotionally I don't know how to process the loss of a child I never got to know.

But intellectually is really daunting for me right now.

We have lots of unanswerable questions and have been scouring the Catechism looking for answers. The question of "do Catholics believe unbaptized babies go to Heaven?" is one with a long history of debate, but I was particularly struck by paragraph 1257, the end of which states that "God has bound salvation to the sacrement of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments." So we are praying a novena to the Lady of Sorrows for our baby's soul. Mary is a really good person to talk to when it comes to dealing with child-related grief.

I also wonder when babies get their own guardian angels and if, while in utero, babies share their mother's guardian angel (then getting their own after birth). If we do, I find that incredibly soothing. One more being who can share the memory of my unborn baby.

Ugh, so many tangents I could take, so many more paragraphs I could take up to try to explain sort out how I feel.

Until I can resume exercise and burn all my energy pounding on the sidewalks of Chicago, I'm throwing myself into preparing for my 5th anniversary, which we're celebrating this upcoming weekend. We had some super amazing plans (kayaking through downtown Chicago), but we cut them back when we realized that we'd need about a $200 budget for all our adventures. We now plan to just have dinner and drinks and wander around downtown. We found a babysitter for Abigail, and the alone time will be much needed (about 4 months since our last date night). So I'm putting my energy in to creating the perfect outfit, hairstyle, shoes - I even shelled out $8 for manicure supplies to give myself super-fancy nails. I'm really glad for the distraction from all the confusing details of this recent turn of events.

But I want to come back to the thank you part. Thank you for your thoughts, words, prayers, texts, emails, flowers, and promises to be there if I should need to call in the middle of the night. The sense of community, the knowledge of the net of support behind me, promising to do whatever to support me - it keeps me going. It makes me stop and count my blessings.

Thank you.

19 April 2013

The End.

I had a miscarriage. There is no more baby.

I was nine (almost ten) weeks along. Yesterday I started noticing some light spotting and it grew heavier and brighter in color until this evening when it was joined by cramping. The cramps grew worse and worse until about 9:30pm when I decided to go to the hospital. By the time I reached the hospital, the cramps were contractions. I passed everything at the hospital. An ultrasound at 11:10pm revealed an empty uterus.

I feel sad - I really wanted this that baby. It would have been very, very loved. But for some reason, my body decided it wasn't an option and spontaneously miscarried. I didn't bring the baby/fetus home. I'm not sure if I was supposed to. The doctor is pretty sure that they didn't have it to give to me. Was I suppose to bury it? In a coffin? I don't know. I need to talk to a priest. I miss the baby, yet at the same time, I wasn't pregnant long enough to do anything more than dream, so I don't have the pain associated with packing away little baby clothes. I was "this close" to ordering the baby book, but I hadn't yet pulled the trigger.

It's 2:15am right now. I'm home. In a dark dining room lit by the bright white light of my computer scree. I'm still having contractions. They're light enough to discharge me from the ER, but strong enough to make sleeping difficult. Hence the blogging.

We don't have health insurance, and I'm really worried about the bill. Just this afternoon I got rejected from the insurer of last resort. Not really sure where to go from here. Matt and I haven't talked about it yet, but I think we're going to try to avoid getting pregnant again until insurance at his new job kicks in. Not that we were trying to get pregnant this time. It was unexpected, but very, very wanted.

Want to know what else happened today/yesterday? Our car got side-swiped. Long time readers can attest to how much I love my car. My Contour, the car I owned before our current Focus, was the car I had since I was 16 years and 4 months old. I had it longer than I have ever lived at one address in my entire life. I was really attached to it. When it finally gave up on life, I had a difficult transition moving to the Focus. But soon after we got it, we entered Baby Heart Saga and it really carried me though. I had a lot of good cries on that steering wheel. It really bonded us. Now some asshole hit it and the side is dented and scratched. I'm allowed to swear, I just had a miscarriage 4 hours ago. The damage is all superficial and rumor is that since it was a hit and run on a parked car, our deductible should be waved. I'll call to confirm on Monday. Nothing will get done tomorrow. Except me bleeding. Damn there is a lot of blood involved in a miscarriage.

Well, that is that. Maybe we should have waited until 12 weeks to tell everyone. Now I have to email everyone. But telling everyone means I got a lot of in-the-meantime prayers. And I need some prayers right now.

My baby is gone. I hurt.

17 April 2013

7 Quick Takes Whatever-Day-I-Feel-Like-It

1. I've been epically exhausted lately, overcome with intense fatigue. I've been sleeping during Abigail's nap time and frantically trying to make up work for my Etsy shoppe in the evenings. Not much else is getting done. Thankfully Matt is super understand and Abigail is old enough that she isn't putting the growing collection of dust bunnies in her mouth.

2. This pregnancy has way fewer symptoms than my first, but I'm still really gosh-darn exhausted a lot. I had a two week break when I thought we were done with fatigue, but then it came roaring back. Yesterday we had a respite from the non-stop rain and Matt texted me on his way to the train about how wonderful the weather was. One brief morning of blue skies in the middle of a week living up to its promise to reenact the Great Flood. I wasn't sure we'd make it, but enough guilty glances out the window and I finally worked up the determination to lug a toddler and a stroller down a flight of stairs (my first floor apartment is up a flight of stairs. Go figure) and make it 3 blocks. We then stopped to play at a park and trudge 2 blocks back home. When we got back 45 minutes after we left, I was ready for a nap. But it really was a gorgeous day and totally worth it.

3. I don't know how people do this when they have more than one kid. Maybe their kids are able to walk and feed themselves, though.

4. On Sunday, Matt took Abigail to the back of the church to find some water. As he stood in the narthex (the narthex to a church is as the foyer to a house) waiting for a good time to re-enter Mass, he overheard a couple of moms talking. They each had a child in the 22-25 month age range running around the narthex in true toddler fashion. Abigail will be 23 months tomorrow. And she doesn't run. She doesn't walk. She can barely even stand without holding on to something for more than 5-8 seconds.

Step 1: Let yourself feel the pain. Understand that it will never, ever, ever, ever go away. Maybe even curse at the moms in your head for their pathetic complaints at having energetic children. I wish Abigail climbing on furniture and turning the nursery into a "big girl room" were the bulk of my worries instead of leukemia

Step 2: Take a deep breath. Recognize that she is alive and that she will one day walk. I heard too many  stories about parents who wish they could say that.

Step 3. Be thankful.

5. Someone busted up the washing machine in the community laundry room a little bit ago and robbed it of all its quarters. The washing mechanisms still work but the coin-taking mechanism doesn't, so we're all short a washer now.  Over a month ago, the knob on one of the dryers broke off, but it was okay, because it was stuck in the "normal dry" position. Well, some brilliant person turned it to the "delicate" cycle and for the life of me, I can't get the little stub to turn back to "normal." So we're down a dryer too. One washer, one dryer for about 24 apartment, about half of which are 2 bedroom units. It looks like I'm going to have to succumb to the laundry mat on weeks when I wash the sheets and towels. Matt and I talked about it and I think I'd rather sacrifice my Saturday morning to sitting in the laundry mat than dragging a toddler during the week. I'm not happy about it, though.

6. Sauteed peppers, onions, and spinach on my nachos is how I get away with calling them healthy. That and being pregnant is how I justify nachos for dinner.

7. Abigail is really dang cute. Matt and I have started questioning her about taking cute pills because there is no way she can get that much cuter every single day without some type of outside substance. I love, love, love her eyes. Do you see those white specs in her iris? They're called Brushfield spots. They are incredibly rare in typically developing individuals, but very common in those with Down syndrome.

So freakin' pretty.

Alright, my friends, Abigail is napping and I need to get a few more things done before she wakes up. Crossing my fingers that I'll be able to squeeze in a power nap before she wakes up.

12 April 2013

Half-full Fridays

I know I'm supposed to let "big time" posts sit a few extra days to garner more attention, but I'm going to keep updating "as regularly scheduled" because I feel like it. Maybe that's lame, but I'm not trying to be big and famous over here, so I'm good with it.

Sometime in the last two weeks, my daughter has turned into a terrible terrorizer. She is incredibly whiny, throws temper-tantrums when she doesn't get her way, bangs her head against the ground again, and hits me when she's mad. And she does this All. Day. Long. She's already commenced and it's only 8:30am. I consulted with the therapists and there are two running theories: 1. She's tired and we need to adjust her nap schedule and 2. She's frustrated that she doesn't have enough words/signs to express herself.

I've been working on the nap schedule thing, but it seems to help one day only to end up at square one the second day. With regard to the signs, I have no idea what to do. A lot of times, she doesn't use the signs she knows when she's mad. She'll get so angry when she's hungry, crying and hitting instead of just signing "eat." I feel like we're functioning independently. No matter what I do, it doesn't impact what she's doing. I might as well just be banging my own head against the wall.

Most of this bad behavior started up a few months ago, but I would just ignore her as long as it resulted from her not getting her way. I was amazed at how quickly the behavior stopped, I thought we were done with it! But now it's back and worse than ever and if I ignore it, she'll make a beeline for somewhere she's not supposed to be and commence ripping things apart. Ugh. I swear, if we could get outside more often and just let loose, these issues would clear up. But we're on day 5 of "cold and rainy" and the ground is pure mud. It's times like this when I really miss Florida. Even when it was hot, you could always go outside in the early morning before things got too bad or to the beach to cool off. I would have thought I was the last person on earth who would ever be converted to a Florida girl.

I just wrote a few more paragraphs where I proceed to whine about how terrible everything is going, but I kind of disgusted myself. I've been whiny for the last several days straight and today is Friday, and Fridays are too longed-for to be wasted with whining. So I deleted them. Here's me trying to be happy on a Friday instead, with 3 positive things.

1. Real Food = Good Cooking
After a brief love affair with the Kitchen Counter Cooking School (highly recommend-I read the 2010 edition, but cited the 2012 edition), my cooking improved so much that Matt swears he is going to write a review on Amazon talking about how amazing of a book it is. Even though he didn't read it. Because that's how much better my already-wasn't-too-bad cooking got. Part of the reason is that it taught me a variety of new/old cooking techniques (I recently made veggies that were so amazing the showed-up the main course. And they only took 12 minutes, including prep). The other part of the reason is that I've started using kick-ass ingredients.

Yesterday I made an Italian dish with homemade tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, onion and garlic sauteed in real olive oil, and ground beef from a grass fed cow. It took all of 40 minutes, including prep.

It was SO flavorful. I only used 1/2 lb of the above 1 lb package for the dish, which I normally do, but the beef was so...beefy...that you couldn't tell I'd halved the quantity. It took me reading the entire Cooking School book in order to convince myself to give real ingredients a shot. So far real olive oil rocks veggies and real beef rocks...everything beef goes in.

I think the only way this works long-term in a budget is if 1. you don't eat a lot of meat, and 2. you eat standard portions of food for dinner.

Being in law school taught us how to make meat stretch so that a majority of meals contain some meat, but we supplement with a lot of veggies or rice (I don't like pasta very much, but you could also sub in pasta, which goes on wicked nice sales an awful lot). I bought a whole small chicken (Just a regular commercial chicken, my grocer didn't have anything cage free. Should last 3-two serving dishes + 2 soups), a package of wild caught white fish (1.5-two serving dishes), 1 lb of grass fed ground beef (2-two serving dishes), and a regular bone-in chuck steak (1-four serving dish). Four packages of meat plus some leftover ham we froze in January and have been slowly eating will easily last us the entire month. I have 8 vegetarian meals planned this month, 2 leftover nights per week to supplement.

2. Fine Motor Skills
Matt and I walked into the living room the other day to discover this:

Abigail had nested her own nesting blocks. This is a big deal because it shows that she used her fine motor skills, and also that she has progressed to the point that she builds constructively instead of only destructively (cognitive development indicator).

You don't realize how much every step a kid takes is a miracle until you are given a child who can't take those steps on her own. I still have a very hard time believing that most kids just get up one day and walk all by themselves. Not walking one day, walking the next. To me that sounds as absurd as if I told you that one day I had a bunch of engine parts laying around my garage and the next morning I just magically had a working engine.

If baby #2 is typically developing, I'll get to experience such miracles first-hand. In the meantime, I'm going to do a victory dance over nested nesting blocks. It took us a few months to get here.

3. Warm Receptions
The news that we're expecting was fully well-received. I'm excited for a Take 2. You see, with Abigail, my pregnancy was so stressful and my newborn memories are wrought with pain and depression. As I write our story and re-live being pregnant, I am slowly weeding out the bad memories, pruning away the pain and focusing on the memory of her tiny, snuggly body, her newborn smell, the teeny-tiny pink onesies. I can't wait to re-live that. The attention a big belly garners, the feel of the kicking, the "oh my gosh I have to go to the bathroom again" jokes, even the birth experience. I want it again. I want to pack a hospital bag and get excited when my water breaks and make the "it's almost time phone calls." And, dammit, I will hold this baby when it's born. F- any nurse or doctor who tries to take this child from my womb and send it off in another direction. I will hold this baby and nurse it. F- the vitamin K shot and the Apgar test and the first bath. I'm older and wiser this time. Even if something does go wrong during birth or even if this child is special needs, it will have a warm reception. And I will have a positive pregnancy.

Guns a-blazin', my friends.

Thank you for the warm reception of our news - my heart was overflowing - and that's a healing experience.

10 April 2013

Big News

There is something that I have been wanting to tell you guys for a long time, now.

We're pregnant! 8 weeks and a few days (it's harder to keep track the second time around). I've been wanting to mention it in blog posts - like how nice it was to have a meal plan because I've been so tired and not having to think about dinner has been wonderful! I've had so many thoughts bouncing around in my head lately that I will just blurt them out list-style for you here.

1. With Abigail, I was as sick as a dog and the only thing that would keep the nausea at bay was eating high carb and protein things. This time around, I have very little nausea, tons of fatigue, and food aversions to everything that isn't beef or sugar (with Abigail, I detested sugary things).

2. I started the pregnancy with extreme, severe fatigue. I finally remembered about 3 weeks ago that I'm anemic and I haven't been taking any iron supplements. Within a few days of a daily iron pill, I was feeling significantly better. I'm also noticeably more irrational and weepy (I was neither with Abigail). But, other than that, sometimes I don't even feel pregnant! (That never happened with Abigail).

3. This pregnancy wasn't planned, and I'm really excited about that fact. Since we're practicing Catholics, we don't use artificial birth control, just natural family planning. Well, we were so gosh-darn good at it (almost 5 years of marriage and no unplanned pregnancies) that I was starting to worry. Coupled with the fact that our only child (planned) has a genetic abnormality and, well, I was wondering if this was going to just be a thing for Matt and me. So yes, I'm super stoked to have a user error because it is one small sign that means we can have more kids.

4. I'd be lying if I wasn't really worried about this baby's health. After experiencing Abigail's heart defect, I realize that there are 100,000,000 places for something to go wrong and endanger the life of a newborn. The fact that any child at all is born perfectly healthy is a huge miracle. So yeah, I'm worried. And the worry doesn't even end at birth. The child could develop Autism or cancer or have some sort of gender identity crisis when s/he's 18. Every day that this child is alive (even in utero) is a super huge miracle that I'm trying not to take for granted.

5. I hate my doctor in IL. Lots of reasons, but mostly because she treats me like a pregnant 16-year-old, talking to me as if I were an imbecile, and she's really, really pushing me to get genetic testing. As if I were going to abort baby #2 after having baby #1 with Ds. I think she's the imbecile. I'm going to search for a new doctor, but thankfully, we'll be back in Michigan before I have the baby.

6. Some people have said to me upon finding out, "Wow. Moving and pregnant in the same summer. That's rough." But what they don't realize is that this summer will be the easiest move of my adult life. First of all, we can make the drive in one day (no hotels!), I'll hopefully be moving to a house we'll own (no more moving after 12 monts), and I'll only be in my second trimester (I was 8.5 months when we came to Michigan). So yeah, I think this is pretty decent timing.

7. One thing I'm actually really concerned about as well is what strangers will say. You see, I look pretty young. I'm actually 26, but most people put me between 18-21. I've even gotten 16 more times than a few. Here's two recent photos of me:

Because I look like a teenage mother, I get a lot of people who feel inclined to say something. When I told a co-worker I was pregnant with Abigail, the first thing she said was, "Are you even legal?" I've had a complete stranger come up to me off the street and tell me I was too young to have a kid. I've had a doctor ask me if, "the baby daddy is in town" with me. When I was out with my mom once, a woman walked up to us and started giving my mom advice on raising your kid when she's having a kid herself. I've never corrected anyone because I firmly believe that my age, marital status, and college education level are not their business. I walk away and try to take it as flattery (hey, if I can still shave up to 10 years off when I'm 40, I'm not complaining). But, I know many friends who get the "you have a lot of kids" comments with only 3 children. I'm nervous as to what they'll say to a teen mom with two kids, one with special needs. And she's the size of a 12-month-old and developmentally delayed, so they're probably going to look very close in age. Man, and I think cashiers are rude now...

8. We're super excited about this pregnancy. I don't know if we'll find out the gender or not. We already have names picked out (not putting them in stone, though). My official due date is Nov 16.


08 April 2013

The History of It

This weekend, we took a three-day family vacation down to the historic St. Louis to visit our first-ever friends from law school.

It was late summer in 2009 and law school had been in session for less than a month. We all stood around awkwardly in the stifling heat at the picnic designed for students and their families. Most of the other couples had kids or seemed to already know each other. Matt and I stood around, my social husband trying to guide us to a few people to introduce ourselves when I spotted them a few picnic tables away. They stood together looking just as awkward and uncomfortable as us. I hinted to my husband that we should head in their direction when they caught my glance. The four of us smiled tight, uncomfortable smiles as we made our way, dripping sweat, across the pavilion. By the end of the afternoon, we had long forgotten how comfortable, hot, and alone we were. It all started with an afternoon swapping "how he proposed" and "how the hell we moved across the country" stories, and it still hasn't ended. We have a history, these St. Louisians and us. One we grew when we made a smooth 5 hour drive on a weekend promising beautiful weather to explore the city named for a king.

Our Host was born and raised in St. Louis, so he was very familiar with everything - juicy mob stories, record-holding parks, St. Louis-founded restaurants. He knew the back roads and gave us a spectacular tour of the true St. Louis-style neighborhood. We ate at all the off-the-beaten-path restaurants that only the locals know that make you give thanks to the Lord for your tastebuds.

And, we learned, no trip to St. Louis is complete without a tour of the beloved Budweiser factory.

(Abigail let Matt carry her for a whopping 45 minutes before breaking down in tears and insisting that I carry her for our entire 3-day trip).

Rife with history, the Anheuser-Busch company is a huge supporter of the local community, and as a result, the community loves them back.

Although I guess when the mascot of your company is a gorgeous 2-ton horse dressed up in his Sunday best, how could anyone not like you?

When we weren't sampling free beers and admiring 6-foot tall horses (6 ft to the shoulder) we were visiting the 100% free St. Louis zoo (2nd in the nation, dontcha know) and its 100% free art museum).

Our Hostess was an art history major who graciously showed us the museum's highlights in the 30 minutes we had before they closed. I only recently developed an appreciation for art and it was the first time I'd ever been in an art museum. As I walked around the huge, open rooms and stared at the neatly arranged paintings on the wall, my heart was still. As I stood in front of the giant waterlillies mural by Monet, my soul was stirred. My body could feel the greatness of the painting and the painter in a way that my words couldn't express. I felt as if I was standing in front of something very sacred. I fell in love with the work of a painter by the name of Paul Cornoyer (Plaza after the rain). I can't wait to visit Chicago's Art Museum now.

Real life Sunday in the park, anyone? We attended Mass at the most beautiful Cathedral Basilica I've ever seen in my life while Abigail and our Host's 8-month-old took turns yelling in the middle of Mass only to hear their own voices echo.

But, of course, we couldn't leave St. Louis without a pitstop at the famed arch, which, tradition holds, you must touch.

And the Mississippi River. Abigail has been in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mississippi River before her second birthday.

This was the first time Matt and I have ever been to the Mississippi and also the first time we've ever been out to the southern Illinois/St. Louis area. St. Louis is far more mid-western than Michigan. It feels like an insult to IL/MO to even call Michigan a farming or mid-western state.

As we stood in awe of the Great River, I began to gather a deeper understanding of how vital this body of water was to all those cities lined up at its banks, all those piers and warehouses that clutter up the view, all those families so very long ago.

And while we stood on the banks of the Mississippi, I saw the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life.

A man living in a canoe. A dead ringer for Johnny Depp's character in Pirates of the Caribbean, this man was the real-deal. His stack of bags, the blue milk crate, the rope that probably holds up his tent in the rain, the skulls decorating the back of his boat. It's the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life. I desperately wanted to know his story, hear his history, find out what he wanted out of life. But it seemed very inappropriate to run up to him in my tourist gear with a camera in one hand and a baby in the other and interrupt this journey man. So I just let my soul be touched by the mysterious being that is the man in the canoe who was docked at the Arch.

03 April 2013

Rule of Life, in detail

Recently I have been doing a lot of referencing of my Rule of Life, but I realized that I never really explained what it was, and I also never went into specifics after I finished the book.

Very briefly, a Rule of Life is a master schedule used in convents and monasteries that everyone follows. "It deals with the essential responsibilities of your state of life, organized to ensure their fulfillment" (pg 14 in my Sophia Press copy). A friend recommended to me a book called A Mother's Rule of Life, which adapts the Rule of Life to fit the life of a mother. The book is good, but I personally think the first half is all that is essential and doesn't really need to be referenced, so it is easily something you could check out from a library or borrow from a friend.

Lots of arguments could be made: "I'm not really a schedule person," or "I like to live spontaneously." Lots of responses could be made (A Mother's Rule of Life does just that), but my point is to talk about how it has changed my life, not to convince you to change yours.

Rule of Lifes can be as vague or as specific as you want. Also, the schedule was made for you, not you for the schedule, so it is perfectly normal that you wouldn't follow your Rule of Life exactly every day. More on that later. Right now, here's my Rule of Life, as it hangs on the wall by my workspace:

In case you have trouble reading it, here is the transcribed version:

6:30 - 9am - exercise, make Matt's lunch, feed Abigail's breakfast, get her ready, morning prayers, shower, get self ready
9am  - 11:30am - run errands, therapy if appt, living space chores, one-one-one play
11:30 - 12pm - lunch, straighten kitchen
12 - 2pm - Abigail naps, read the Bible, personal time
2 - 4pm - prayers, therapy (if no appt), snack, walk (if possible), straighten bedrooms, (also, one-on-one play time during this time)
4 - 5pm - kitchen time, make dinner, baking
5 - 7pm - dinner, clean kitchen (wash dishes), family time (walk, if possible)
7 - 7:30pm - pick up toys, Abigail's bath, family prayers
7:30 - 9:15pm - personal time
9:15 - 10:15pm - read and get ready for bed

-On Wednesdays, I do laundry, on Fridays, I mop (Swiffer wetjet).
-95% of the time, "personal time" slots are spent working on my Etsy shoppe.
-We only use the Rule on weekdays. Weekends are much less structured, which I thought we would like, but both Matt and I have been craving a bit more weekend consistency and routine.

Before I had an official Rule of Life, I already did pretty much what you see on the list from when we'd wake up in the morning until Abigail woke up from her nap. I have the most energy and drive during the morning and Abigail is usually in a good mood, so that's when I'd get the most things done. But sometimes I'd be so obsessed with being productive in the morning that I wouldn't stop to pay attention to Abigail. If she got fussy, I'd drop her off in her crib so I could, "just get one more thing" done. I also couldn't workout if she was running around the apartment, but our being up woke her up.

After her nap, we kind of wandered around listlessly. If we couldn't go outside for a walk, time just dragged on. Most of the time, Abigail wouldn't want me to leave to make dinner, so I'd end up having to wear her. Usually after dinner, Matt would take Abigail so I could wash dishes, do any baking, and finish any chores I hadn't gotten done during the day. Then we'd fight over who had to put her to bed and collapse on the couch for personal time. I'd be so hyped up from the day that I had a hard time falling asleep at night and the smallest thing would give me insomnia.

If one thing threw the morning off, my whole day was shot. If I was up all night with Abigail or someone was sick, nothing would get done. Anything "major," like cleaning the bathroom would be relegated to the weekends when Matt could watch Abigail. It was pretty draining and I spent most of my days feeling like a poor excuse for a stay-at-home mom. Unless my mood was just right, I lived for nap and bedtime and questioned my decision to be at home quite often.

I finally started reading a few "personal development" books, especially spiritual ones about motherhood. These helped me to realize that 1. motherhood is my vocation (a word with which my not-religious/vaguely-protestant-background self wasn't familiar), and and 2. my vocation isn't necessarily supposed to be easy. Now I'm on a mission to conquer and destroy my weaknesses, hence all my book recommendations as of late. Anyway, a few chapters into A Mother's Rule of Life, I jotted one down and started living it. As I said earlier, the morning was easy. The afternoon took some more thought and planning and some afternoons I do have to force myself to stick with it instead of sliding down the lazy, listless slope to Blues Clues.

Top five favorite things about the schedule (in no particular order):
1. I know I have scheduled time for things to get done, so if Abigail is really fussy, I don't feel anxious when I stop my productive streak to put together a puzzle (Abigail's up to 8-piecers) or build a block tower.

2. If I do get thrown off during the day (last-minute appointment, Abigail or I get sick, I have to run to the store during non-errand time), it's easy to get back on track. I just glance at the schedule and keep going. No more ruined days.

3. No more relegating small projects to the weekends (switching out spring clothes - during "straighten bedrooms," cleaning the bathroom - during "living space chores"). Because I have allotted 1 hour of kitchen time every day, on the days when dinner is a 20-minute-throw-it-in-the-oven type deal, I can spend the extra 40 minutes cleaning the microwave or going through the fridge or cupboards. Plus, it turns out that Abigail really likes "helping" mommy dust and throw clothes in a box.

Bonus #3: I'm teaching Abigail to keep house.

4. Since I do the same thing every day, Abigail knows what to expect. She doesn't mind it when I disappear into the kitchen. After all, we just spent two hours together and we're going to spend another two together once I get back out. I can workout when she's awake now, and she leaves me alone or watches me and laughs as I attempt kickboxing or yoga. She doesn't mind getting trapped in her room while I take a shower. It happens at the same time pretty much every day.

5. When the whole day does get thrown off (we go to the aquarium, we go to Michigan for the weekend, someone comes out to visit us), I know that my house is clean enough to handle taking the day off, and Abigail's home life is stable enough that she doesn't mind the detour (although I can only get about 2 days out of her before she starts to act up and demand consistency). 

Top five awesome results from following the schedule (in no particular order):
1. It's easy. I designed the schedule to fit the ebb and flow of our daily attitudes and energy levels, so it doesn't take a lot of discipline to stick with it. That isn't to say there are never days I just don't feel like cooking dinner, but it's a hell of a lot easier than sticking with a diet or an exercise routine.

2. I'm less stressed and anxious. I'm kind-of OCD and my symptoms are much more manageable when I'm not so crazy. Plus, who doesn't want a more peaceful existence?

3. I pray more. Way more. I'm not yet consistent about post-nap prayers, but we've gotten pre-bedtime prayers so engrained in our schedule that putting Abigail down without at least a guardian angel prayer feels like a sin.

4. We enjoy family time. Don't get me wrong, I still have days where I count down the hours till bedtime, but it isn't as often as it was before. But since we have scheduled in "family time" and I was rather disappointed in how little we enjoyed all three being together, I really stive to find things we can do. I recently realized that we can do lots of things with Abigail now that we wanted to do when she's older, we just have to help her. We can still play a board game or toss a ball or play dress up. We just modify things so an almost-two-year-old can handle it and we trim things to fit her micro attention span.

5. It's easy to routine-ize new habits. I wanted to join the "unplug all electronics 1 hours before bedtime" wagon, so I put in on the Rule. I wanted to pray more as a family, so I put in on the Rule.

In sum, the Rule of Life is way awesome for me. Combining it with meal planning makes me feel like a kick-ass 1950s housewife, which is the lifestyle for which I'm going. I love the way that on a majority of days, everything gets done and we all have time for each other. I hardly ever get depressed about my choice to be at home anymore. Weakness = straightened. Cue victory dance.

01 April 2013

Tridium Weekend to its Fullest

This is one of the criteria I use to determine if a day was lived to its fullest: when the sky grows dark and your at that half-evening, almost-night point, does the morning feel like it happened a long time ago?

To me, that proves that I have crammed a lot of adventure into the day. So much adventure that it feels like more than 24 hours has gone by.

That's what every day of my 4-day weekend has felt like.

One lazy family morning - one morning I squeezed in a run and came home to have Matt ushering me out the door, insisting I spend get more me-time with a book in a coffeeshop. Of course on Sunday, we dressed Abigail up in a pink frilly dress and went to Mass - super cute.

One cozy afternoon family nap on the couch during Abigail's nap time.

One afternoon of getting outside in the nice weather - sometimes just a walk around the neighborhood, sometimes an afternoon drive through a historic town past some gorgeous, historic mansions and ending at a 60 acre park with the tot playground of Abigail's dreams.

One evening of Easter candy and couch time while Abigail plays with her Easter presents: bubbles, pudding cups, and a play tunnel.

One date-night of board games or a movie.

Layer all ingredients and repeat four times.

We also have in the fact that LENT IS OVER and HE IS RISEN! and we watched Mel Gibson's The Passion - that movie is so incredibly graphic, but every time I want to shy away, I just remind myself, this is a true story. Watch it. And be thankful. It's a powerful movie and brings me back to the true meaning of Easter.

Anyway, I don't have pictures because I forgot to take my camera with me on our adventures and the poor thing goes through batteries about every two days as of late. To compensate, I'll keep this post short.

Happy Easter, my friends!