29 April 2014

The Nursery

I sincerely hope I am not annoying anyone with talk of baby preparations and being pregnant. I try to throw in non-baby-focused posts once a week so that I don't get too draining. If I still am, however, I apologize and encourage you to skip this post.

I'm officially full term now and while the doctor predicted the 39th week, I'm placing my bets on something closer to the last few days of week 37/first few days of 38. My body is acting very much like it did before Abigail was born. They're all symptoms that, when looked up in the books, don't necessarily indicate labor is going to start soon. And I know that just because it's similar to what happened before doesn't mean anything. So all my evidence is justifiably refutable, but I'm still convinced I'll be sending around "in labor" notices in the beginning of May rather than mid-May. I consider this all good though. If I go into labor naturally after I'm technically full term, clearly the baby was ready to leave early, and I wouldn't mind carrying this baby in my arms instead of my womb.

In mega-contrast to how unprepared I was for Abigail's early arrival, I am ready for this baby to arrive! Everything is washed, the clothes are in the dresser, the receiving blankets (ie, spit up rags) are nicely folded, the coming home outfit is packed, the Official Blanket has been made (I'll debut it wrapped around the baby). I absolutely love walking into the bedroom and seeing the Pack n' Play all set up with the newborn bed on one side and a stack of tiny baby clothes folded beneath. Not moving 1.5 weeks before a baby is born is definitely the way to go.

The remainder of my purchases arrived today, as did the crib, and I finished getting the girls' room all ready. I helped Matt rearranged the furniture in the second bedroom last night to make space for the crib and I spent today tying on the bumpers and redecorating.



Would you like to know how much I spent?
$52 for a crib mattress
$7 in screws and dowels for the crib
$9 tote for outgrown clothes
$5 large laundry basket on clearance
$73 total

I got the crib for free from the friend of a friend, but it was missing some hardware. It did come with a mattress, but I'm pretty picky about used mattresses, so I sprang for a new one. The changing table was free and almost everything else was handed down from Abigail. I love walking into the girls' room. Even though my big reveal doesn't have a Pottery Barn feel, everything in the room is really meaningful to me. The star garland I made in Florida, the blue lamp Matt's aunt made us as a wedding present, the pink paper stars leftover from Abigail's second birthday, the animal wall stickers we've had since Abigail was born. (They're re-stickable, and since we keep living in apartments we can't paint, they make the room feel more fun and playful. Plus they are something consistent in each of Abigail's rooms since we move a lot).

The changing table is ready and stacked with two sizes of diapers. I made a mobile to hang above it with scraps I had lying around.

And the closet...oh, the closet was redone about three times trying to find the best possible arrangement for so much stuff. I really, really don't want to buy a closet organization system because we probably won't be here for very long.



The totes are neatly sorted according to clothing size and the old diaper boxes are labeled with accessories (hats, shoes, tights, etc). The bagged items below the yellow sweatshirt are sterilized bottles and bottle accessories. They'll get dealt with after I find out if I can breastfeed. Afterward: more space! Plus there is the whole top of the mini-dresser on which to shove things.

I do feel compelled to include one quick tangent before I wrap up this post with two more exciting things. I wanted to talk about sleeping arrangements. I am very much for mamas sleeping with or without their babies, whatever works best for their family. I know it's super controversial in today's society and I want to let everyone around me know, if you co-sleep, I am super supportive of you. If your baby is in her own room on her first night home from the hospital, I am super supportive of you too. I planned to sleep with Abigail in a basket in our bed, but long story short, she wasn't a fan. We tried lots of things and found that her in her own room made everyone the happiest. It taught me a lot about judging other people and how much "what's best for baby" can change based on circumstance.

So I wanted to have a crib ready to go before the baby was born just in case - I don't want anyone to think I'm condemning any particular lifestyle (society does that enough anyway). If nothing else, Abigail can't reach inside the crib, so I'll have a safe place to stash the new one if I need to, I don't know, use the bathroom or something crazy.

Okay. The baptismal gown! It has been done for about a month now, including slip and bonnet. I do still need to add the ribbon (which has been purchased), but I want to prevent the ends from fraying by dipping them in wax. And I want to dip them in the scented wax I'm taking to the hospital to use in a warmer when I give birth. So I haven't added the ribbon yet, so it's not ready to be photographed.

Secondly: my dream diaper bag! It arrived today. I wasn't going to get it for another week or so, but when I hoped online last week to drool over it some more, it was out of stock! Because the company recently discontinued another very similar bag, I was worried it was gone for good. When it reappeared the next day, I ordered it. It's everything I wanted in a diaper bag and I'm totally in love with it! Crossbody carry option, outside pockets for keys and phone, side sleeves for water bottles, lots of inside pockets, sporty yet sophisticated look, doesn't look like a diaper bag, high quality. Check x 7.

I'm a bit embarrassed to say how much it cost for fear of being judged because it's not a bargain item, although I did spend several months fruitlessly searching for a sale. Suffice to say, in bag world, it is a very averagely priced item, but for me, it was a very expensive purchase. My husband was actually a proponent of me getting the bag. It was his support that pushed me off the fence! I'm nervous to carry it around and get it dirty, but oh my goodness, I can't wait to take it out on it's first stroll about town!

I am surrounded by so much tiny pink clothing, a cutesy crib, a freshly laundered blankets, a newborn snuggler in the pack n' play - all ready, all anticipating the arrival of one so very loved.

28 April 2014

The 6th Year Road Trip

It was amazing. I am so, so, so glad we didn't just do dinner and a movie. We had an awesome time celebrating our six years of marriage, and as we drove home, we realized that the whole day was greater than the sum of its parts. There isn't one activity that particularly stands out as having "made the day," it was all the things we saw, the stops we made, getting to hog each other's attention.

The plan was to drive from our place near Lansing to Holland, Michigan, which is on the coast of Lake Michigan. It's about a 1.5 hour trip without stops, but we spent Friday night mapping a route that avoided freeways, followed rivers, and meandered through small towns. We needed enough of a plan so that we didn't waste time getting lost and backtracking, but something loose enough to accommodate impromptu stops at whatever looked interesting. We then meandered through Holland with the same "stop when desired" mentality, and when the clock ran out, we took the freeway home.

We let the Abigail alarm wake us up and spent the morning rather leisurely. A mom friend from church, actually, my first ever friend in this new town, agreed to envelop Abigail into her family for the day (10 hours total). It wasn't the longest I'd ever been away from Abigail and certainly wasn't the longest Matt had ever been away, but it was the longest Abigail has ever been away from both of us at the same time. I was very worried about how difficult it would be for me to leave her behind, but the truth is, I wasn't worried when the day arrived. I trust the family she was staying with and I was ready for a break. A vacation that doubled as my last real adult-only time before the baby comes. But from what I hear, Abigail never cried and scored some cake for dinner, so I'm pretty sure she enjoyed herself too.

Anyway, the drop off went off without a hitch and we were back in the car and cruising down a backroad reminiscing about "what we were doing 6 years ago today right now!" We realized that this year is the first year in which all the days of the week match up with the year we got married. So we were married on Friday, April 25, 2008, and this year, April 25 happened to be on a Friday as well. We shared our memories of falling asleep and waking up together for the first time. The first time we drove away from the town where our parents live without having to drop anyone off. We made a long playlist of roadtrip-able music, but never once turned on the iPod as we were so busy talking uninterrupted!

We stopped off at places that looked like they might have potential, like a candy store that reminded us of a place we went on our honeymoon.

We also found a really cool board game and puzzle store. It's one of those places you are almost glad is so far from home because otherwise you'd always be broke.

After a lengthy browse and several discussions with the incredibly knowledgable store owner, we settled on a cooperative board game that had amazing reviews. Matt and I have slowly been growing together as "board game people" and just recently learned of a genre of board games called cooperative games. The point is that everyone plays and wins or looses together. It is so much fun to play with my incredibly competitive and strategic husband rather than against him.

For those of you who weren't sure, Holland, Michigan, is a town settled by the Dutch. They are famous for holding an annual Tulip festival in the spring, for which we thankfully arrived one week too early (crowded festivals are not very conducive to day trips for very pregnant women). Anyway, we saw a lot of stereotypically Dutch things.

We choose Holland based on it's location (close enough to make a day trip, far enough away that we've never been. Okay, I went once as a toddler, but I have no memory of it), and it's reputation as a cute city.

As we trekked through the town, we kept up our mostly driving/stopping at interested places pattern, which was wonderful for me. Whenever I'd start to tire out, we'd take that as our cue to hop back in the car. 

We also tried to take lots of pictures instead of buying souvenirs. I wasn't really sure how it'd work out, as I do love to buy things, but I found myself surprisingly satisfied by the click of the shutter. Plus I never suffered from buyers remorse. Although I actually am a bit Dutch, I don't really know anything more about Dutch customs than the average American. While I'm in the store in the heat of the moment, I'm in love with a pair of tiny wooden shoes. The sales girls dressed up like Dutch milkmaids, tourists trying on different sizes, I'm all "Oh, I want these!" But then I get home, and the glamour of the windmills fades away and I'm left with this $14 charm that clutters up space on the shelf. But photos? Now I get the shoes, but the only space they take up is a few MBs on my harddrive and I never need to dust them. We never did find anything made of iron to hang from the rearview mirror though. I guess the Dutch aren't known for their iron works.

We did opt to buy a magnet, though, because we have a collection of magnets from places we've been. Here is our new magnet next to two of our three honeymoon magnets.

We cruised strips, we visited parks, we stopped at tulip beds that totally didn't look like they'd be ready for their big reveal next week.

One of those little parts of the trip that contributed to the sum was getting to focus solely on each other. There was no divided attention between what Matt was saying and what Abigail was about to get into. There was ample hand-holding. There was lots of meandering into stores and having lengthy discussions about whatever the heck we wanted because we were the only ones who could get irritable about taking too long.

As much as no one aspect "made" the trip, I think one of the most enjoyable parts of the day for me was dinner. We went to a restaurant based on a recommendation from a visitor's guide that turned out to be a way great call: an awesome atmosphere and great food.

I loved the freedom of placing my drink and silverware wherever I wanted. I loved the pleasure of eating my food while it was hot. I very much enjoyed being able to follow the conversation between Matt and I because there were no distractions. I loved not having to pick up thrown things on the floor. I loved browsing the crowded gift section and watching Matt try on hats without stopping to pick up sweatshirts and stuffed animals that tiny hands were re-arranging. I loved not sitting down to dinner with sore feet from standing to cook and having to wash dishes and wipe the table afterward. Ah, the bliss of dinner out as a couple.

One of the great joys of exploring a new city when you are nine months pregnant is that every store has public restrooms available. No clerk tells you to mosey on over to the city restrooms at 5th and Maple when you waddle up to the counter with a giant belly.

And because we did so awesome at staying in budget, we were able to end the day with a splurge at Kilwins. Word to the wise: a mocha at a store that specializes in chocolate is always a good call.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder," definitely held true for us when we returned to pick up Abigail. We were so excited to see each other. She randomly hugged us all day Sunday and I found myself abounding in patience. It was a good little break for everyone, I think, and an amazing marriage boost for Matt and I as we prepare to re-enter into the mega stress that is newborn baby.

This anniversary road trip will definitely hold it's own against all of our other exciting adventures. One that we will look back on each April and say, "Remember that one year?!"

25 April 2014

The Doctor's Prediction

I had a doctor's appointment this morning (everything looked good) with my favorite OB/GYN of the ten doctors in the office. I'm currently 36 weeks, 30% effaced, and 1 cm dilated. His predictions as a man who has delivered 5,000-6,000 babies:
-She'll be around 7-7.5 pounds
-I'll go into labor naturally
-I'll go into labor around the 39th week (that puts us at about Mother's Day)
-I'll progress quickly
-My chances of a successful VBAC are incredibly high

I hope he's right on all counts, but I wouldn't mind being closer to 38 weeks along.

Not that it means anything, but I had Abigail at 37 weeks 6 days and she was 6lbs 5oz (babies with Ds are, on average, slightly lighter than typically developing kids. Her heart issues did not affect her birth weight).

Here is my 9-month shot (taken earlier this week):

And as an added bonus, today is my 6th wedding anniversary : )

24 April 2014

A Special Needs Mama's Emotional Difficulties

When Abigail was around a year old, we went to visit a developmental/behavioral psychologist for an evaluation (it was free as part of a study we participated in). After she evaluated Abigail, she drew out a little chart. She drew a Y-axis running down the page on the left hand-side. Then she drew a series of lines running from left to right across page and told me they were IQ lines. She labeled each line. The "genius" line, the "average" line, the "delayed" line. Then she drew the "retarded" line. Below that line, she drew another line. She shaded in the space between the "retarded" line and the line below it. "This is where people with Down syndrome typically range." She told me. Then she drew a squiggly line that stayed mostly in the shaded area of the graph, but peaked up to break the "retarded" ceiling. "This is where Abigail is," she told me.

I hear a lot that Abigail is a rock star. From two psychologists, almost every therapist we've ever seen. I hear over and over again from people that Abigail is one of the highest functioning children with Down syndrome they've ever seen.

But statements like that are really confusing for me. Because when I go to a playdate and plop Abigail down in a room full of kids, she doesn't act like the other kids. Even if her disability wasn't obvious by looking at her almond-shaped eyes, you'd still be able to tell she was "different." It took me a long time to realize that "incredibly high functioning" for someone with Down syndrome is still "low functioning" compared to the national average.

It was difficult for me to hear and process my daughter's squiggly IQ line intertwined with that stupid "retarded" line, but eventually it made life easier. So many people were telling me how amazing Abigail was doing that I expected her to act just like every other kid her age, but she wasn't. It's like when all your family and friends tell you that you are an amazing singer, but then you stand up on the stage in front of strangers and belt out a tune and everyone boos. Knowing the statistical facts helped me to put some context around the rock star statements. Abigail is really high functioning in our little world, just like you could be the best singer in your family, but still not be very good on the world's stage.

I say often but explain seldom, how difficult it is for me to navigate this world of "developmental progress." I can't separate the changes in my life of having a kid from having a kid with special needs. It's like most kids are automatic cars and mine is a manual. You probably just turned around one day to discover you child sitting up or pulling up to a stand or toddling across the living room. My child only did those things after months and months and months of work. The first time she did all three of those things it was during therapy (either with the therapist or with me). I'd be lying if I said part of me wasn't excited about having another kid just because I want to see what an automatic drives like.

Sometimes we do things way behind the curve because I had no idea we were suppose to be progressing. When Abigail's physical therapist found out I was still holding her bottle for her at 10 months old, she was shocked. But it wasn't Abigail's fault - within an hour, she had Abigail holding her own bottle. I had no idea "holding her own bottle" was a goal we needed to pursue. But other times, I am pushing her way fast. Abigail actually started looking at words in books from left to right and top to bottom way ahead of the average kid because I stressed books more than the average kid's parents.

I get comfortable with the way things are going inside these four walls - Abigail's skills become my normal - and when we first started venturing outside to engage other young children, I was devastated by the differences I saw.

It took me a long time to heal from the devastation. It's something I've outlined extensively on this blog and also something I talk about in my manuscript (update on that coming next week).

The older Abigail gets, the more dramatic the differences become, but at the same time, the more she is becoming a rock star. For example, if you count her signs, Abigail's speech is not delayed. She has as many words/signs as the average kid does words and she is combining words/signs into sentences at the same rate as the average kid. When I observe other two-year-olds, they do the same things with words that Abigail does with signs. No delays. In other areas, Abigail is in a "typical delay pattern," which means that she is slightly delayed, but only as much as you'd expect the average kid might who is a bit late. Like in the self-help category (the extent to which she can dress herself and help with her own hygiene). Of course there are still places she's delayed - like how she holds a pencil - and places she's really delayed - like how she doesn't use tools in play or how she still can't do stairs. While the pain of watching my child fail next to someone younger than her will never stop hurting, the older she gets, the easier it becomes for me to deal with the pain without getting depressed.

A lot of these thoughts are bubbling up because we've got a big meeting coming up soon when we'll sit down with all Abigail's therapists, the school psychologist, the special education director, and the special education teacher Abigail will have next year. Part of the meeting will include the therapists all going around in a circle and telling me at what age Abigail is functioning in each testable category. They say things like, "Oh, in her physical development, Abigail is functioning at a age of an X-month-old." Pardon my French here, but these meetings fucking suck. I fucking hate them. I don't see how knowing my three-year-old acts more like a two-year-old (or where ever she'll fall) can help me parent her any better.


So I'll structure the day with lots of healing activities. First I'll vent to Matt. Then I'll take Abigail out for ice cream. Then we'll go home and I'll spend lots of quality time with Abigail to reinforce with my actions my beliefs that she as a person is far more than what she scores on a test. Then, after she goes to bed, I'll write. And cry. And feel my feelings. And when I close the computer, I'll let the feelings go. I'll say some prayers and go to sleep.

The worst part about Down syndrome is that it puts Abigail's health in jeopardy. The second worst part about Down syndrome is the way the world reacts to it.

22 April 2014

How Did I Get Here? Diaper Bag Edition

I remember a girls' night many years ago, either shortly before or after I had Abigail. I am a bit younger than most of my friends, so for the longest time, I would spend a good chunk of ladies' nights trying not to yawn while the discussion ranged from breastfeeding to cloth vs disposable diapers. But after I became pregnant, these discussions suddenly became exciting. I looked forward to them. So there I was, one particular girls' night, sitting amongst my friends talking about diaper bags.

One woman posed the question: who had washable diaper bags and who had diaper bags that could just be wiped off with a cloth? It launched this huge discussion of diaper bags, what everyone liked and didn't like, what features were essential. My ears perked up - I was totally at a diaper bag crossroads myself! I paid attention to everyone's opinion, trying to glean wisdom from this circle of diaper bag veterans.

That evening I ran home to Matt and told him about the insanely minute question: wipeable or washable diaper bag? I recounted to him in shock about how much I really wanted to know what people thought. And I asked in disbelief over my interest: "How did I get here?!"

How did I get to the point where how one clean's her diaper bag becomes a topic I care about participating in?

Three years later, I still don't exactly know how I went from yawning and vowing never to become one of those women to having discussions with new mom friends about how we work holidays with both sides of the family.

Even though I don't know how I got here, I do like here. I'm really satisfied with the balance I'm striking in my life. I'm largely Mom right now, being pregnant, blowing a little nose, and telling Matt how many times Abigail pooped when he gets home from work. But I also nurture Wife with date nights and late night discussions about whether driving a Mustang when you're 60 is cool or lame. I give myself time to grow as Professional with my manuscript and my Etsy shop. I make sure Jacqueline doesn't get neglected when I take a few minutes to do my nails or schedule a hair cut. I try to balance discussions about sleep schedules with what's going on in Ukraine, the gun control debate, the season finale of The Walking Dead. I screw a lot of things up, but somehow, I feel like I got this one right, this balancing of the different selves.

For the record, I never did get a "real" diaper bag. I couldn't find anything I really liked in the stores and the insane price tags of proper diaper bags made me leery of trying one out. I ended up resurrecting an old Hollister tote bag I'd bought on a whim years ago, back when I was just College Kid. It was washable.

The diaper bag in its prime in Feb 2012.

I decided I would make it work until I figured out exactly what I wanted out of a diaper bag. But the Hollister tote worked just fine, actually. I got two diaper clutches from an Etsy shop, one for diapers and one for other random things to help keep the bag organized.

As modeled with an eight-month-old Abigail.

It worked pretty well for our purposes at the time, but won't once I have two little girls. Matt and I squirreled away a little money from our tax return now that I know what I want out of a bag. I'll finally pull the trigger on my dream diaper bag in early May. Maybe I'll do a Diaper Bag Edition, Part II : )

21 April 2014

Answer Me This

I'm "participating" in a link up today, mostly because we're all sick and I don't feel like generating my own original content. But I hate actually linking up, so click on the button below to see other people's blogs, but mine won't be listed. Either way, I love answering questionnaires, so I'll enjoy writing today even if it isn't all my own original content.

1. What did you and your family wear to Mass on Easter Sunday?
Matt wore a dark charcoal suit with white shirt and pastel yellow tie. He looked great. I'd planned to wear a purple maternity dress with gray sweater and hadn't decided what Abigail was going to wear when we decided she was too sick to go to Mass. She and I stayed home and Matt went alone. Little did we know that he was nursing a cold as well. So a sick one went to Mass on one of the most popular days of the year anyway.

2. Easter Bunny: thumbs up or thumbs down?
Thumbs down. A giant bipedal rabbit that breaks in to houses and leaves eggs (even though he's a mammal) lying around? Freaky. And it in no ways ties into any iota of religious meaning. So no. I hear a lot about how I'm ruining childhood for my children, so I've kind of gotten a thick skin and don't really care if I run into disagreers. I'm certainly not going to perpetuate fairytale creatures rampaging my holidays because someone else thinks I should.

3. Do you prefer to celebrate holidays at your own house or at someone else's house?
I'd love to mix it up and sometimes host and sometimes visit, but with our little apartment, we can't host very many people at one time, so we usually go to someone else's house. I like hosting because I enjoy cooking, pleasing people I love with a delicious spread, and I enjoy planning parties. But I also love going to other people's houses because I don't have to do any cleaning! My least favorite arrangement is when someone else is hosting, but I still have to bring 4-6 dishes/items for a contribution dish. It is a really big pain in the @$$.

4. What is your favorite kind of candy?
Junior Mints. Always. You can get the theater sized box from Target for only $1, which is a total steal over the regular-sized boxes in the check-out lane for $.79. But I settle for York Patties when I'm trying to lose weight because a check-out lane York Patty only has 140 cals and Abigail inevitably eats half. It's hard to stop after a reasonable portion from a king-sized box.

Overall, Matt and I are both huge junk food junkies and I am not a candy snob. The other candies on my short-list include plain M&Ms, Milky Ways, orange slices, and Twix.

5. Do you like video games?
If by "video games," you mean something you play on a system that hooks up to a TV, then the answer is "no." Both Matt and I grew up in non-video-game supportive households, so we have no experience and no overwhelming desire to by them as adults. I'd love to have a Wii someday, but we have nothing right now. However, Matt is a huge computer gamer, so if those count as video games, then yes, I do like them. Matt got me into a few economy-based sim games - the kind where you build up a town and run the economy to support it. Not much fighting. But I do really like crocheting while watching Matt play computer games (first-person shooters are more interesting to watch than economy sims). My least favorite to watch is Star Craft and my favorite is Half Life.

6. Do you speak another language?
Not enough to count. Back in college, I took enough Spanish that I was pretty fluent at one point. Being fluent in Spanish gave me the ability to understand spoken Italian, which was a pretty fun party trick. But it's been a good seven years since I graduated and I've very seldom used it since, so I can't honestly say I speak Spanish any longer. I think I know sign language, but the truth is that I only know about 100 kid-friendly vocab words.

18 April 2014

Thankful, as we humbly quake in our boots

Today is Good Friday and my Facebook and the blogs I read are already alight with wonderfully insightful posts, beautifully reflective thoughts, and pause-inducing artwork. I am remiss to say that Lent has not rendered me anything particularly brilliant to say today.

But because I think "Well, I can't come up with anything, so that's that" is a total cop-out, I will post one religious reflection I have, even though it isn't particularly lenten in nature. Then I'll talk briefly about what other Big Important Event occurs today.

So I've mentioned before that I'm participating in a Bible study for the book of James, and this past Tuesday we had another discussion that really struck me. Whenever I make a point to read about a Saint or read an encyclical, I'm always shocked at the luke-warmness of my faith. I'm really good at coming up with excuses (I have a small child, this week is really busy, I don't feel well today, it's past her bedtime) to push off our family Rosary, speed through a prayer, wait another week for confession, never make daily Mass (I live within walking distance of the church). When I really think about it, my logic boils down to I believe in God and don't do really bad things, so that's good enough for right now.

But once we know better, we ought to do better, right? So we're reading James 4:9, which says in sum: Weep and let your joy be turned into mourning. James appears to contradict himself, because in verse 2, he's all: Consider your trails joy! Well, we know the Bible doesn't contradict itself, so there must be a time when it's appropriate to turn our joy into gloom and we just need to figure out when that is. The Bible study author (we watch weekly videos and have a participant guide book that we do homework from) led us on a discussion that took us through a few different points, but I want to focus on the second one she made:

It is appropriate to turn our joy into gloom when we don't take God seriously.

Now it's easy to brush over that with a quick, "Pshaww, of course I take God seriously!" I know I did. I was all: I go to Sunday Mass, I don't use artificial contraception, Matt and I have discussions about raising children who will remain faithful to the church. But as she went into detail, the point starting hit home. I jotted down notes as she spoke, and I apologize that I only got the citation for one point.

"Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, 'The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy?'" (James 4:5)

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "run from immorality?"

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "repent from your pride?"

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "stop the secret sin before it becomes public?"

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "watch your mouth or you will devour one another?"

If these points are easy for you to gloss over, read them aloud and put extra emphasis on the word "nothing" and the first word inside the quotation marks.

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "repent from your pride?"

Shit. I'm over here all with my nose in the air, "Well I volunteered my time and talents at church last month and I go to Bible study, of course I take God seriously." To quote the instructor again: "We ought to quake in our boots over our fallings short."

Of course there comes a time when small children and being sick is going to trump the Saint of the Day readings, but I can promise you this: I'm yielding that right of way significantly more often than I should. I picture myself standing before God at the entrance to Heaven and He's like, "So...did you know you only said a Rosary on 15% of all the days of your life?" Can I honestly say that 85% of my life was too busy for the Creator who made me? I'm picturing him replaying the last year of my life and pausing every time I put "check Facebook," "make a snarky comment to Matt about the person a few pews ahead of us in Mass," and "watch TV" over saying a prayer, listening to the Priest, or reading an encyclical. What will I say to Him? What can anyone say about that? There is nothing! There is nothing you can say to God when He asks you, "Why did you spend the evening complaining about the lawn care guys working during naptime instead of spending 3 minutes saying a decade of the Rosary with your family?" And there is definitely nothing you can say to God when He asks, "How can you blog about not taking your faith seriously and then turn around and fail to take your faith seriously?"

Dose of humility = received. Commence turning joy into anguish, commence repenting. This girl is quaking in her boots.

* * * * *

Now begins the impossible task of following that up. So forget transitions. Good Friday is all about facing hard realities anyway, so perhaps there is symbolism behind my lack of transition.

Today is the very first anniversary of my miscarriage. It was one year ago tonight that this happened. I remember that day - hunched over with a contraction in the lobby of the apartment building, waiting for the yellow taxi to arrive. I remember loosing the baby while giving a urine sample and sobbing hysterically on my way through the ER back to my bed, attendants coming out from behind desks, concerned. I remember the shocked look on the face of the ultrasound tech when I got up from the bed at all the blood everywhere. On the sheets, on the hospital gown, on the inadequate pad they give you to soak up blood. I remember other things about that day and I still have the hospital bracelet I wore one year ago. The only physical evidence I have that our second child existed. We were unable to recover a body.

We did, at some point, give the baby a name - I think a few weeks after the miscarriage. We've never told anyone the name because I don't want to have to explain our unusual choice to everyone. Matt and I don't even reference the baby by name to one other...it's too weird. We just say, "the baby we lost." The only time I refer to the baby by name is when I pray. I don't think about the baby every day anymore. Sometimes every few days, sometimes every few weeks. I don't tell people that this is my third pregnancy unless the situation is conducive to personal revelations. I haven't cried about it in a long time, I think since my old due date passed in November.

We lost the baby 5 days before Abigail took her first steps, 7 days before our 5th anniversary, and exactly one month before Abigail's 2nd birthday. It felt so weird to have this dark cloud in my heart during all these happy celebrations. And this year, I remember the baby I lost as I'm just about due to give birth again. It's a weird experience. I think I'll do some private journaling about it today. I wouldn't say I'm still torn up about it, but I don't think I'll ever just "be over" knowing a little soul I carried in my body is in Heaven now. I want to plumb through my emotions, to remember, to heal, to make room for grace.

* * * * *

Well, I'm not really sure how to end this. Sunday is my ninth anniversary of becoming Catholic, but I still have no idea how to greet people on Good Friday. Have a solemn Good Friday? Reverent Good Friday to you? I don't know. Today is all about being solemn, repentant, and thankful. We should be shocked like that ultrasound tech at the amount of blood Christ shed today, and so very thankful to God for it being a part of His plan. Thankful, as we humbly quake in our boots.

15 April 2014

I humble accept this award...Liebster Awards

I got tagged in a thingy! I love getting tagged in thingies! I'd like to thank Amelia from One Catholic Mama for tagging me in the Liebster Awards *sniff sniff* Amelia, I love your blog and read it all the time. And I try to "like" it on Facebook when I see your links because I like reading your opinions.

So basically, the Liebster Awards is a blogging game where you answer a bunch of questions. I love answering questions like these. You know those things that used to go around email-style before Facebook and Myspace and asked, "Do you like Pepsi or Coke?" I love answering those, so I'm super stoked. Plus I'm pretty sure that only about 5 people read my blog since all I do is complain about being pregnant and I'm super flattered that I was thought of as a person to tag.

1. Describe your perfect day.
I'm going to describe my perfect day right now, as a person who just hit the 35th week of pregnancy. My perfect day would start with Matt getting up with Abigail while I slept in until I felt like getting out of bed. I would walk out of the bedroom to find the house clean and some delicious breakfast already made (maybe some baked oatmeal?). I would take a leisurely shower while Matt got Abigail ready and then we'd all head out to Michigan State University's campus to let Abigail run around on the gorgeously sunny day with temperatures in the 60s. Matt and I would have some sort of amazing discussion like we did before we had kids that has nothing to do with anything stressful. We'd have lunch at Moe's where I'd get nachos and we'd all get ice cream at the MSU dairy store. We'd then come home and all take afternoon naps (I love family naps). After we wake up, we'd all enjoy post-nap snugglies on the couch (my favorite time of the day with Abigail is when she first wakes up from her nap). Since this is my perfect day, my back would not be sore, I would not be nauseous, and the nap would have refreshed my energy level. We would take a walk around the apartment complex, Matt and I holding hands while Abigail obeyed our verbal commands to stay on the sidewalk. We would get pizza and eat at home while playing a board game. If we're keeping this realistic, there would be some lounging on the couch until Abigail's bedtime, at which point Matt and I would either watch a new Matt Damon or Leonardo Dicaprio movie that just came out on DVD or I'd watch him play Half-Life, either way, I'd crochet while we did it. If I can take a bit of a turn for the wild, we'd find out we won the lottery and spend the evening looking at houses online.

2. What type of house do you live in (ie. ranch-style, two story, newer, older, condo, apartment, country city, townhouse, etc).
We live on the first floor in a two-bedroom apartment that I think is about 17 years old. It is on the edge of a large rural town. I do not like it here and wish I lived in an old ranch style house in a mega city.

3. Do you know your neighbors and are you friends with them?
I know my neighbors to the extent that I know their names. I am not friends with them, but we are friendly enough that I would feel comfortable asking to borrow a cup of sugar.

4. Did you go to college? What for?
Yes, I went to Michigan State University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English. I choose MSU because at the time, I wanted to be a teacher and MSU is arguably the best teaching school in the state. While I was in college, I realized that there is an insane amount of red tape in becoming a teacher and I wasn't interested in jumping through those hoops. I majored in English because I love to read - I never had a thought as to what I wanted to do when I graduated and no one ever asked me.

5. Name one weird thing about your house?
The stove is on the end, right in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. It is really easy for Abigail to reach the stovetop from two directions and it makes the rest of the apartment really warm really fast.

6. Have you ever had a serious illness or disease?
Nothing serious. I have a bunch of little things, like hypoglycemia, anemia, and ulcerative colitis, but I can treat all those through diet (and an iron supplement) without any regular medication. I do have a gigantic kidney stone trapped in my left kidney, but it's not life-threatening and completely treatable after I have the baby.

7. Ever almost died?
No, but I did get hit by a car while on my bike once. The lady who hit me didn't even get out of her car, she just rolled the window down and said, "Oh my God!" over and over again while I crawled out from under her car (luckily her tires avoided me) and dragged my beat-up bike home. But honestly, that's as exciting as the story gets. I didn't have any injuries outside of a few bruises.

8. On a lighter note, do you prefer silence or the noise of something (TV, radio, music)?
SILENCE! I hate having the tv or radio on as background noise - I find it incredibly difficult to concentrate. The only time I listen to the radio is when I'm in the car, or, very, very rarely, when I'm cleaning.

9. What color are your walls?
White because we live in an apartment and aren't allowed to paint them.

10. Do you like where you live?
Nope. The only thing I like about this place is that we have a master suite (ie, a bathroom and walk-in closet attached to our bedroom), and a carport is included in our rent.

11. What type of clothing do you typically wear? Bonus points if you include a picture!
I'm really boring when it comes to clothes. I typically wear darker wash blue jeans and tank tops underneath t-shirts, long-sleeved t-shirts, or button-up plaid flannel shirts. I like hoods and I like longer shirts. I don't usually wear patterns and stick with blacks, greys, blues, and greens for the shirts and sometimes pinks for the tank tops. I like sportier styles. I DO NOT like dressing up, but I do enjoy wearing jewelry and makeup on a daily basis.

I get a lot more daring with colors and prints when I'm pregnant, mostly because it's hard to look fat when you have a baby bump, so I figure I can get away with stripes and patterns that normally make me self conscious.

Here is a fairly typical me before we were pregnant (actually, we were a few days pregnant and just didn't know it yet!)

And here is a fairly typical me while pregnant:

I don't have may people to tag because almost all the other blogs I read have been tagged and I don't have many blogger friends.

Mrs. Sparrow, I nominate you to answer the same questions I did, if you're interested. If not, not offense.

But wait - is it really over? Are you sure there aren't any more questions? I prefer Coke! And I like chocolate! And I'd rather be cold than hot! And, and, and...

14 April 2014

A Mama's Prediction

Abigail has no clue that we're having a baby. No matter how many times we discuss it, she is positive that my giant belly has nothing to do with babies. She is so certain that she won't even sign "baby" upon hearing me say the word in relation to my belly. She won't get it until we walk through the front door with a baby in the car seat.

But I'm not the least bit worried. I predict the transition from "only child" to "big sister" will be a flawless one for Abigail.

When we're at church and a baby cries, Abigail holds out her arms in the direction of the tears. When we're out and she hears a baby, she signs/says "baby" and points to where she heard the noise. When we go to playdates and a baby is present, she won't leave it's side. She will not stop hugging her baby cousin when we see him. We bring home the free baby magazines they give away at the doctor's office and she looks at them several times a day until the bindings fall apart. Her baby dolls are some of her favorite toys. And she loves the kitties so much that when we round the corner to our apartment complex entrance, she starts saying "Puff Puff"and pointing.

I predict a baby will be the greatest gift we could possibly give Abigail. A friend of mine put it perfectly: She's going to be a little mother hen. I predict she will be extraordinarily attentive to this baby's every cry, whimper, squeak - annoyingly attentive, in fact. I think she'll say, "Mumma, baby!" over and over again until I stop what I'm doing and pacify her little sister.

I foresee Abigail being extremely possessive over her sister and whatever "tasks" we assign her. I suspect that if I ask her to hand me a diaper, for example, she'll get mad if I ever reach for a diaper by myself again. I think she will constantly want to hug, kiss, and hold this baby. I think she'll be very attentive if someone else holds her, and I think she'll get upset when I take the baby out for a trip without Abigail, when Matt takes Abigail out to run an errand, or if I take Abigail out without the baby.

I think Abigail's imaginative play with her dolls is going to explode once she sees me with the baby. Right now, playing with the babies involves giving them hugs and kisses, putting them to sleep, feeding them, and brushing their hair. That's it. I think by this summer, she'll be changing pretend diapers, burping, playing with them with toys, dressing them, and pushing them around in her toy stroller. I predict we'll buy her a doll carrier by or for Christmas.

I do not think jealousy will be a problem. Not because Abigail has some sort of magic Down Syndrome Super Love, but because she doesn't really get the concept of jealousy and justice/retaliation yet. So I don't think she will feel a loss of attention from me and act up. I do think she'll have a hard time sharing me physically, but not in a jealous "you should be holding me" kind of way, but more of a "Mommy is holding everyone, this sounds like fun" kind of way. I don't think she'll understand why everyone can't sit on my lap at the same time.

The one problem I do predict we'll have will be one of "too much love." I think Abigail will not understand that she can't give a dive-tackle, full-body hug, or that the baby can't have a pudding cup, or that she's too young for toys with small pieces. I think there is no chance I'll be able to leave Abigail and the baby unattended for even a minute for fear of her trying to hold, help or play with our new addition. She does understand the command, "Be gentle," but she thinks of it more as an "only necessary when Mommy tells me" kind of command.

I am still mulling over how we'll teach Abigail to refer to the baby. The name we selected is too difficult for her to pronounce and signing names is too complicated for her right now. I could teach her the word and sign for "sister," but I don't know if it will stick since Matt and I won't refer to the baby as Sister. Plus I think it will confuse Abigail that the term "sister" applies to both girls. Maybe she'll surprise me and be able to pronounce some sort of something that sounds similar to her name.

Either way, it's enjoyable to spend time thinking about a problem we aren't going to have to face.

11 April 2014

It Returns

I was given a few day reprieve from my pregnancy nausea last weekend and early this week, during which I ran around frantically doing many loads of laundry, making trips to the grocery store, getting more things ready for the baby, and scrubbing the walls in the kitchen (nesting instinct, maybe?) before the suffering returned. Which it did in force Wednesday evening. I do not know how people do this with larger families or larger homes. It literally takes me 12 seconds to walk from one extreme of my apartment to the other (I honestly just timed it) and we don't have any stairs. It is easy and fast to clean and my one child naps for at about 1.5 hours per day. Yet some days I wonder how I'm going to make it through the next hour. I would be incredibly interested to see a study of family size vs severity of pregnancy nausea.

This pregnancy is far more brutal than Abigail's in terms of physical symptoms, and I thought it was bad the first time around! And along with my difficult pregnancies, I also get nasty postpartum depression. I even had PPD after my miscarriage and I was only 10 weeks along!

If you went to college, do you remember back to the days when you had a class that you hated or was located far away or was at an inconvenient time and how badly you wanted to skip it one random Tuesday when life was rough? But you knew that if you skipped the class once, you'd have a really hard time forcing yourself to go back? So you try really hard never to miss a class so you don't snowball into only showing up for tests? That's how I feel about asking Matt to stay home from work. If I ask him once, it'll only make it more difficult to suffer through the next difficult day. I don't want to drain all the vacation days we've been saving up for a paternity leave, so I try really hard not to ask him to stay/come home. Even that one morning when I had pregnancy nausea/vomiting and a random kidney stone. (Okay so that last sentence was me bragging a bit - I'm kind of proud of myself for making it through that morning).

I know I do a lot of complaining about being pregnant on my blog, so you'll probably be shocked to know that I rarely complain around people in person (obviously not counting Matt). Why? Because no one has ever posted a mean comment to me here and if they did, I could simply delete it : )

I find it very unhelpful when people in person tell me that the only thing that matters is that the baby is okay and I'm being selfish by being so concerned with my own discomfort and when it's implied that how I feel should not impact our family size. Like I'm some sort of baby-making machine. Like somehow how the mother feels doesn't impact the entire family. And yes, while the baby's life is the most important factor, it is not the only factor. And considering I have given birth to my own dead child, I'm not speaking out of you-know-where; I do have one life experience point.

Matt and I do have serious discussions about family size and spacing, both when I wish I didn't have a digestive system and when we're not pregnant, and of course what we want hasn't always been what we've gotten, but it's really not the business of these commenters, no matter how loving they are, so I usually just respond with "how's the pregnancy?" with a grimace and a shrug. I've been burned no less than a few times after trusting people whom I would have thought would be more compassionate.

So yes, my complaint ratio is higher on my blog than in person. But to make sure I'm not misunderstood, I want to re-state that I love all three of the children I've carried/I'm carrying in my womb, that no matter how much I hate pregnancy/birth/postpartum recovery, it does not impact my love for them, and lastly, I do sincerely hope this is not the last baby we'll be blessed with.

With that being said, I have 39 days to go until my due date!

09 April 2014

Summer Resolve: The Summer of Memories

We're probably not going to buy a house this year. We're probably going to be stuck in this stupid apartment. We're probably not going to buy a second car. We're probably not going to win the lottery (it would probably improve our chances if we bought a ticket, though). So what's a girl to do when she's got to keep her head down and just keep putting one foot in front of the other?

Stop obsessing about the five year plan and start living life right now! A person can make some good memories and a couple of kids can have some good childhoods even if it's in a two-bedroom apartment and with one (very small) Ford Focus (without power windows or cruise control). Since we [will soon] have two young children, our adventurous outdoor plans won't be very extravagant, and since "blow lots of money!" hasn't been on our agenda since our honeymoon (we over-budgeted, spent without a care, and still came home with a good chunk of change leftover), we'll have to keep them inexpensive.

A mommy/blogger role model of mine, Kelle Hampton, recently wrote this article about family adventures without traveling far. I totally saved it. "Our Day Trip mission is simple: be together, explore where we live and uncover hidden gems–family-owned ice cream shops, parks that go under the radar, beaches with the best shells and corners of our state." I absolutely love the idea and the tips it gives, like picnics at local airports to watch the planes coming and going. I'm definitely thinking we can expand on the adventure part while saving money by packing picnic lunches and eating on grassy knolls. Then springing a few dollars for ice cream or an iced mocha in a venture to find the best place around wouldn't be a big deal.

This is definitely something we did in Chicago, some of our fondest memories coming from those family day trips.

After an incredibly long winter, I'm just about dying to get out and do some hiking. And it's been a long time since we've done any since the trails in Illinois were 2-3 hours away from our apartment. I know it's going to be a few more years before we do any "real" hiking since we've got young kids, but I still want to find a state park, put on my hiking boots, and get out into the woods! Unless we spring for a second Ergo and one of us straps a kid to the front and a backpack to the back, we're going to have to find trails that are wide enough for our rugged stroller. But that's okay! Better than nothing! And I'm going to have to find out what to look for with regard to ticks because rumor has it, they've gotten pretty bad up here since we last lived in the mid-west. But anyway. We used to do this all. the. time when we first got married and when we moved to Florida. We even managed to get a hike or two in during the summer we spent in Michigan while Matt was studying for the bar exam.

Fun day, terrible carrier. It was after this that I officially dumped the Moby and got a sling.

My summer goal: make this a summer of awesome memories. Be prepared for tons of pictures.

Heartburn Relief?

I had a doctor's appointment this morning (heartbeat was strong; baby is head down!) and I asked about the heartburn. I take about 8-10 Tums per day most days (I take 2 at a time most of the time), and more like 14-16 on days when I have a particularly bad food like bananas or iced tea. Even chocolate milk gives me heartburn and milk is supposed to be a natural remedy for heartburn! There is no rhyme or reason to the types of foods I eat, the time of day I eat, the activity I do after I eat and whether I'll get heartburn. I just always get it. So anyway, the doctor was all, "oh yeah, no problem, here's a prescription for Zantac."

I took one dose at 3 hours ago and have eaten lunch and a snack and have had no heartburn yet! I know it's a bit early to start singing from the mountain tops, but I usually have problems every single time I eat, so I'm pretty happy to have at least one afternoon of peace. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

07 April 2014

When Buying Toddlers Presents

Buying gifts for Abigail is not an easy task. You'd think shopping for a two-year-old girl would be the easiest thing in the world, but I have a nuanced position on toys, and it makes the process more time consuming. I've been thinking about all this as Abigail's third birthday is coming up and I need ample time to prepare.

Factor #1: Educational
I have a minor in psychology and I always found brain development to be incredibly interesting - interesting enough that I enjoy watching documentaries and reading new non-fiction on the subject for fun. Once I had a child with cognitive delays, my interest in the human brain went more from hobby to something closer to "key tenet of family life." So combining my knowledge of the importance of dendritic spine growth with the significance of therapy through play, I try to keep a good percentage of Abigail's toys "educational" ones. This isn't to say she never gets toys for pure entertainment (for Valentine's Day she got a spiky ball that lights up when it bounces. It was from the dollar party favor section of our local superstore and surely does nothing for brain development), but it is to say that I don't want her to have a play laptop. I'd rather her have a bead maze, a magna doodle, or mini beach ball. These kinds of decisions happen better at home with the Internet for research or a therapist for questioning, rather than waiting till I get to the overwhelming toy section of Target.

Factor #2: Imaginative
We're also big fans of imaginative play toys around here. Imaginative play is hugely, hugely important in early childhood development. Since these toys tend to be the ones that last the longest time-wise (think play kitchens and doll houses), this is where I prefer to get Abigail something higher quality. Wood toys are better than plastic as they last longer and are better for children with sensory issues, but since they're also pricier, I need to spend some time checking out different stores and waiting for favorites to go on sale.

Factor #3: Moral
Some toys do not fit in with our personal beliefs. At age two, this means that Barbies, for example, are banned around here, and I keep toys that feature licensed cartoons to a minimum.

Factor #4: Quantity
The last aspect of my toy-decision-making-process that results from my own principles is that I think it's bad for kids to have too many toys. The definition of a "good limit" and whether we make it a soft or hard one is something that changes based on age and season. I used to hold this opinion as a theoretical one, believing that children with too many toys are learning to be materialistic and will always demand that someone entertain them, among other things. But once I had Abigail, I realized that when she has too many toys around her, she gets over-stimulated: she'll lose her temper faster, she's more aggressive, she throws things, she'll bang her head or hands against furniture. Sometimes when she's in a bad mood, all we have to do is clean up her toys and she's instantly calmer and happier. To this extent, I make sure she doesn't have too many toys with lots of components and try to find a balance between toy gifts and utilitarian gifts (ie, clothes).

Factor #5: Mommy's Sanity
Then I have all my own neurotic preferences about what toys I want to spend my day around:
-If it plays music, it can't be high-pitched and annoying (the B. Woofer Guitar has really high quality, non-annoying music. Fisher Price's retro record player? So irritating that I boxed it back up after one song and returned it the next day).
-Freaky-looking dolls and dolls that make noise get returned/donated. Even if it came from beloved Great Aunt So-and-So.
-Toys that use lots of batteries or go through batteries quickly get donated unless they are fun even without noise. Batteries are expensive and bad for the environment (ain't nobody around here got time for rechargeables), plus I'm sure there's an argument to be made that sound-free toys are better for imaginative play.

And those are just my considerations that I take into account. There's also Abigail's preferences.

Factor #6: Age-appropriateness
Her mind and her body are at different places developmentally. This is true to some extent for all toddlers (imagine how irritated you'd be if everyone around you could spear their own french toast and successfully eat it, but you couldn't get your own fork to pick up a damn piece?), but it's more dramatic for Abigail. I don't even know exactly how, the only reason I even know it to be true is because she really struggles with certain smash-hit kid toys. Like Duplo Legos (in fact, all building toys) and Fisher Price's Little People play sets. Every other toddler house we visit is chalked full, but Abigail really struggles with them - so much so that she quickly looses interest. Sometimes I can't predict which toys will be duds, and othertimes, a toy she struggles with will be a favorite (like her Thomas the Train play set).

Factor #7: Interest
Abigail doesn't really like My Little Ponies. I have no idea why and I desperately want to buy her a basketful of pink, purple, and yellow sparkly ponies, but she really doesn't play with them. How am I suppose to re-live my childhood through Abigail if she won't cooperate?

A surprisingly large number of times, it isn't the item that Abigail wants, it's the fact that it's mine. Take purses, for example. I though Abigail loved purses because she was always trying to score mine, so one year for her birthday, I got a toddler version with a sequin butterfly on it. But it turned out she just wanted my purse. Now her purse sits in the bottom of a basket in her room. This "I want it because it's Mommy's" has ruled out a number of potential toys, like play makeup sets and her own keys.

Factor #8: Quantity, Take 2
Sometimes a toy is a wild success, but she doesn't need any more. Like dress-up jewelry and dolls. Abigail loves her dress-up jewelry. She's already got a toddler-sized shoe box full of pastel necklaces, bracelets, rings, and two pairs of plastic sunglasses. But as much as she loves to play dress-up, yet another jewelry set would just be excessive. The same holds true for her Thomas the Train set, which is expandable. But she's quite happy with it right now and I suspect the add-ons would just collect dust.

Okay, so once Abigail's and my preferences are taken into account, then I have to factor in the practical aspects.

Factor #9: Space
We live in a two-bedroom apartment and are very nearly about to be four people. Space is at a premium. So as much as I would love to buy Abigail a play kitchen or teepee/tent for her birthday this year, there is simply not space.

We live in an apartment with very little storage space. So while outdoor items like a ride-on toy or a blow-up pool or a cozy coupe would be wonderful, it's just not going to happen.

Factor #10: Money
We only have so much money. I would absolutely love to get Abigail an American Girl doll. High quality, encourages imaginative play, encourages reading, something she'd love. But the girls start at $110. That's more than our entire birthday present budget right now.

Those are all the considerations I go over before making a toy purchase, my friends. Like I said, it's time consuming. We limit the number of presents we get her at a time (materialism + overstimulation + limited resources) and try to make some of them utilitarian and food (she loves getting pudding cups for holidays) or experiential (like a swim class or a zoo pass).

But obviously, toys are important to childhood. Plus I really enjoy watching her enjoy an item I put so much thought and effort into selecting.

Last year for her birthday, we gave her these toys:

The puppy guitar is the one referenced earlier and was a huge smash hit. Even one year later, it is still one of Abigail's top favorite toys. (And I don't think I've had to change the batteries on it yet). The jewelry set is the first one she ever got - a bit of a risky move at the time, but one that was successful.

She was too young for the bouncy ball and really had no interest (good thing it only cost $.50 at Old Navy ; ), and we ended up donating it with some other stuff when we moved. The magnet puzzle violated Factor #6. Even a year later, she still really struggles with tool-based play and she gets frustrated with it very quickly. It's a Melissa and Doug brand (a high-quality brand for those outside the toy-know) at a used kid store, so I tucked it away for either when she gets older or when we have another kid.

Then we also took her to the Aquarium and did buy her a penguin stuffed animal.

Matt and I have already spent much time planning out her Easter basket presents for this year. We've decided on bubbles (at $1, they fit Factor #10, plus we use them in therapy to encourage her to do difficult tasks and reward her), a feeding set for her dolls (this after many months spent testing and teaching the concept with her own bowl and spoon), and a religious board book (books are a perfect present. They're never overstimulating, they always fit in the budget, they are wonderful for development, and she always loves them). I feel confident that all of our choices will be much enjoyed.

As for her third birthday next month? We're still working on that. So far we've got bubble blower on the "yes" list. It's small enough to store inside our apartment, encourages outdoor play, and if we use it on the grass, it'll double as a physical therapy tool (standing on the uneven ground uses more core muscles than standing on the stable concrete). Plus they're only about $10-$15 full price.

So, yeah, even though I've been thinking about this for a bit, I've still got practically nothing. She has enough baby dolls and baby doll care stuff (I suspect this category will get blown wide open after we have a baby and she sees all the different aspects of caring for a baby in action), she's outgrown puzzles, she has a bunch of balls, she's too young for a doll house, we're bursting at the seams with flash cards, and I get more out of Baby Signing Time DVDs than she does.

Things I'm mulling over in my head include "big girl" Dr. Seuss books (is she ready for paper books?), an animal play set (will it be overstimulating? will it be fun enough to overcome the fine motor skill difficulties?), a zoo membership (will we go enough with a new baby while sharing one car to make it worth the price?), I'm still trying to make a teepee happen (dang Factor #9), and I'm hunting for a good price on B.'s Symphony toy (I've tested it in the store and it has non-annoying music, B. toys are good quality, and it would encourage fine motor skills).

It may seem like I'm making things way more complicated than they need to be (I wouldn't be me if I didn't!), but I do think it's really important to put time and consideration into the influences that surround our children. The toys that fill her room are what she's going to have memories of when she's older. I want to do my good to plant potential for healthy, happy memories.

03 April 2014

Today We Are Shameless

I hate this "all-day sickness in the third trimester" stuff. Nausea, vomiting, fatigue. Combined with a huge belly and extreme heartburn. I'm not joking when I say extreme. I woke up in the middle of the night either 4 or 5 times last night to take 2 Tums each time. And the vomiting? Let's just say it has been violent enough to burst some blood vessels under my eye. My super-busy schedule and desire to finish about ten more projects before the baby comes has me on the verge of a mental breakdown. Yesterday my symptoms got so unbearable that I canceled all our plans except for in-home therapy until the weekend and suspended all expectations of a clean house and cooked dinner. I'm counting one load of washed, dried, and folded laundry a victory. I'm not feeling guilty over watching two episodes of Blues Clues with Abigail, even if it happens every day this week. No expectations. My husband walked through the door yesterday and asked, "So what are your dinner plans?" in this no-judgement tone of voice that really meant, "I can be home with nachos in about 15 minutes." (Nachos are my current craving).

That makes all of this sound really easy, like I just woke up and guilt-free brushed off all my responsibilities. Well it wasn't that easy. It involved tears just as my husband's carpool pulled up in front of our building, among feelings of failure and some bashing by people who have stories that start out with "When I was that pregnant, I could still..."

I just kept my head down, plowed through the feelings, did a Google search on "overcoming feelings of guilt," and spent some time in prayer. Okay, so maybe I rank in the top most pathetic pregnant people list. Maybe I'm the only person this side of the Mississippi who can't handle life when eight months pregnant. That's not something I'm proud of; certainly not something I want to run around proclaiming, but it's also not something that I am motivated to change as I'm leaning over the toilet puking up breakfast.

So yesterday, today, and tomorrow are lazy days for us. When we woke up to grey skies and freezing drizzle this morning, Abigail and I decided that it would also be pajama day. So she's rocking some pink-striped sheep and I've got on yoga pants. We're sucking up whatever natural light we can find by keeping the curtains open, the lights off, and candles lit. We had popsicles for breakfast. We've got soothing music playing in the background. "Pretend picnic in the living room" and "drawing fishy pictures" count as productive. And we'll probably watch Blues Clues a few times. And we just may make peanut butter oatmeal cookies and eat them for lunch. No shame.

33 weeks.