Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy 7th birthday, Isabella!!!

Bella is 7!  When I look at her sometimes it amazes me that she is the same person as that tiny baby who entered our lives seven years ago.

Let's take a look back. . . 







We are so thankful to God for blessing us with her and are happy to celebrate her life today!

I glanced back at her birthday post from last year.  Many things are still the same.  She still loves to write and color in her many journals.  She still enjoys arts and crafts in all forms.  She still loves all things girly like Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and My Little Ponies.  But she's also discovered some new interests.  T-ball was a lot of fun for her this past spring and she's really excited to do it again this year.  And when summer arrives, she'll want to be in the pool as much as possible now that she can swim!

We're pleased with the fact that she looks forward to going to church on Sunday.  And when she's able, it's a treat for her to go to Daddy's office to work or attend special church services with him.  My special time with Bella comes during our girls' nights.  They usually involve a little treat and some shopping.  Both of us appreciate our girl time - especially because we are outnumbered by the boys in this house!   

Bella is doing great in school.  She's catching on to things really well and is making a lot of friends.  Of course, her favorite part of the school day is recess.  From what I hear, she spends a lot of time on the monkey bars.  Her hands sometimes have the blisters to prove it!     

Bella lost four teeth this past year - changing her appearance quite a bit.  She sure is growing up! And it's been our joy to watch.  :)

Happy birthday Isabella Marie!!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Holidays are Here

Some friends joined us for our Thanksgiving feast.  They were preparing a lot of the food, so I figured that I'd try to at least make the table look nice and festive.  Bella and I made the napkin holders together out of some fabric, string, and buttons I had in my craft stash.

After our friends arrived and our bellies were full, we sat at the table and enjoyed some nice conversation.  Then out of the corner of my eye, I looked through the dining room into the other end of the living room and this sight caught my attention. . .

What a mess!

Thanks to Google, some ice, a cotton cloth, and a hot iron, we got this all cleaned up.

And that's all the photos I took from our Thanksgiving day.

Friday arrived and we had some hunting in store - Christmas tree hunting!  This was our first time ever getting a real tree. 

We found our very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Here's one that caught our eye. 

This is it!!!  We found our tree!!!

The boys were pretty interested in the farmer cutting down the trees.

When we finished picking out our tree, the kids took advantage of the farm's play equipment.

All loaded up and ready to go!  Such a fun day.  :)

And here's our tree in the living room.  It looks so much bigger in here than it did at the farm!

Bella was so excited to decorate the tree.  She even put the ribbon bow in her hair so that she'd look like a present.

Christmas music played in the background.  The kids each put up their own ornaments.  Decorating the Christmas tree is always such a special family time.  And this year - we got to do it twice.  Just after getting into bed on Saturday evening, we heard a CRASH!  Andy went downstairs and, sure enough, our beautifully decorated tree fell over!  We secured it for the night and then Andy fixed it the next day.  But all that meant that at least half of the ornaments needed to be rehung!  So I put the Christmas music on again and went to it.  Now I am happy to say that our tree is up, decorated, and secure!

Between the melted candle and the down Christmas tree, we've had enough holiday bloopers for the week! 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My month-long roller coaster ride. . .

It was bedtime.  I was laying in Bella's bed waiting for her to finish brushing her teeth so we could read a story.  Dates began swirling around in my head.  I began some mental math and soon realized that a certain monthly visitor who is usually pretty punctual had not yet arrived.  Anxiety set in.  Then I remembered that I had a leftover pregnancy test in the downstairs bathroom.  I finished up bedtime with Bella and made a beeline for the bathroom.

I was literally trembling as I took the test - partly from being cold and mostly from being nervous.  I didn't even wait the two minutes, just watched the test.  I figured that it would be negative and then I could resume my original plan for the evening: relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine.  Only that's not how it went.  I stared at that test and immediately saw a faint second line appear, which only grew darker as the minutes wore on.

Shocked.  That's the only word I can find to describe my reaction.  We weren't trying. . . actually we were doing the best we could to prevent.  Some days, our life feels crazy enough with the three kids we do have, how could we handle another?  I started pacing back and forth across the kitchen in disbelief.  That is how Andy found me.  He had no idea about any pregnancy suspicion on my part, let alone the fact that one had just been confirmed.  When he saw me, he thought that I was having a panic attack.  I told him that I wasn't. . . but that I might!

Andy's reaction to the pregnancy was much more faith-filled than mine.  During the moments when I was taking this test, Andy was upstairs praying with the boys before bedtime.  In his prayer, he asked God to bless our family with more kids as He sees fit (or something like that - I'm going off of memory here).  Andy had spent that day at a pastor's conference in Pennsylvania.  The topic of the conference was on counseling - nothing to do with family size - but Andy was challenged by something that a speaker said - enough that he felt led to pray with the boys that evening.

I didn't sleep well that night.  As soon as I'd begin to relax, new implications of this pregnancy kept jolting me awake.  More sleepless nights, more diapers, more chaos. . . I spent the next day in disbelief and concern.  But by the end of that day, I felt a deep conviction. . . "this is not a tragedy, this is a blessing."  I became comforted by Isaiah 41:13, which became the verse that I knew I'd cling to. . . "For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'"

I started to envision our family portrait with six people in it.  I started to think that this baby might be the little sister that Bella has been praying for.  I started to get excited about Curtis being a big brother.  I knew that with God's help, we could do this.  

My first doctor appointment was October 24th which was 6 weeks, 2 days into the pregnancy.  My doctor's office likes to have an early visit just to be sure that baby is growing in the right place.  During the ultrasound, the doctor asked if I tend to be regular.  "Generally, I said."  They didn't find all that they were looking for - fetal pole, yolk sac, and possible heartbeat.  I was told, "Go home and grow."  I might not be as far along as I think.  It was still early, no big deal that we weren't seeing all of these things yet.  We rescheduled for six days later, October 30th.  I left feeling a bit concerned, but overall trusting that God was in control of all of this.  The next day, the all-day nausea set it.  I took that as a good sign and did my best to keep the worry down for the next several days of waiting.

Tuesday arrived.  Appointment canceled due Hurricane Sandy.  Appointment rescheduled for the following Monday.  More waiting.  After another six days of feeling sick and tired, we were back at the doctor's office, ready to see what is going on in there.  It was Monday, November 5th and I was 8 weeks into the pregnancy (at least by my dates).  The doctor saw growth from the last time and located the yolk sac, but didn't see a heartbeat yet.  Again, I may not be as far along as I thought, so this could be normal.  "Go home and grow," they said again.

I didn't take this advice as well this time.  Surely by now they should have seen what they were looking for.  Unless, like they said, I was really off on my dates.  But I did the math.  I couldn't be as off as they were thinking.  Of course, ultrasound can be off by five days (plus or minus).  That could account for some of this too.  I couldn't spend too much time dwelling on all of this.  It was trick-or-treat night (postponed due to the hurricane).  We had kids to get dressed up and a Halloween party to go to.

The next day, however, I had to face the real possibility that this pregnancy wasn't going well.  I did a lot of crying and praying.  I didn't know how to even think about this pregnancy anymore.  I couldn't let myself get excited about it, because it may all end soon.  But I didn't want to doom this pregnancy, because everything might turn out OK.  My mind started racing and going in circles.  I had to stop.  "It's all in God's hands."  Whenever I'd find myself playing out any kind of scenario, I had to go back to that truth. . . "It's all in God's hands."  By the end of the day, I had peace.  There is absolutely nothing that I can do to make this baby grow.  It's all in God's hands.  However this all turns out, He is with me and I will be OK.

This truth kept me sane during that next week of waiting.  But by Monday morning November 12, I was a bundle of nerves again.  This was it.  Time to face reality - whatever that may be.  I searched the nurse practitioner's face during the ultrasound - looking for any indication of what she was seeing since I couldn't see the screen myself.  As the seconds turned into minutes, I started to get an idea of how this was going to turn out.  She said that she was having a hard time seeing things due to the angle and needed to bring the doctor in for some help.  When she left, Andy told me his thoughts.  He could see the screen.  He's seen the early ultrasounds from our other three kids.  He didn't see anything that looked familiar on that screen.  I heard what he was saying, but I wasn't ready to accept anything until I heard it from the doctor.

The doctor came in, looked at the screen and then looked at the picture from my last ultrasound.  After about a minute or two her eyes left the screen and found mine.  "I think this is a miscarriage," she said.  I prepared myself for that message as much as I could, but I couldn't help the tears that started to fall.  She then turned the screen so that I could see.  The gestational sac was growing right on track, but everything inside was not.  There still was no fetal pole (the crown-rump measurement that dates the pregnancy).  And obviously no heartbeat.  When I looked at the screen, I saw nothing that looked like the little beans I remember seeing from my other three kids' ultrasounds.  It just looked like a few little blobs - just a bunch of tissue growing in there.

"We need to schedule you for a D&C."  Going into this appointment, I knew that was something that I did not want to do.  If I was going to miscarry, I wanted my body to do it on its own.  My doctor said that it didn't look like my body was going to do it.  My sac was growing as if this was a healthy pregnancy.  And I was experiencing all of the early pregnancy symptoms.  If I did try to wait this out, I could end up in an emergency situation where I lose a lot of blood or get a dangerous infection.  Andy and I both realized the wisdom in her words, so we opted to schedule the D&C for the next day.

I pretty much cried on and off for the rest of the day.  Every time I thought about the upcoming procedure, I would cry.  My only hospital/operating room experiences have been giving birth to my three kids.  Very happy times - and such a contrast to what I was now experiencing.  I cried the whole way to the surgical center the next day.  I cried when they called me back to get in my gown.  I cried while the nurse walked me to the OR.  I cried when I walked into the room and saw that table.  I probably would have cried through the whole procedure, but thankfully they put me out for it.  The last thing I remember before waiting up in recovery was laying on the table and feeling a stinging sensation where the IV was going into my wrist.  That was the sedative.

After about a half hour in recovery, I was discharged.  We came home to some homemade chicken noodle soup made by my friend Jen, who also helped with the kids that day (along with another friend from church).  I was ordered to be a "lady of leisure" for the next 24 hours - the one bright spot out of this whole day.  Andy took great care of me and I spent the rest of the evening on the couch.

It's been four days now.  Each day gets better.  In the final week of this pregnancy, I remember thinking to myself: this is it.  This is my last pregnancy.  No matter how this turns out, I am not going through this again.  As time separates me a little more from this, my heart is softening.  The truth is, I really warmed up to the idea of having four kids, and now. . . it just feels like someone is missing.  I don't know what's going to happen.  I don't even know if it's wise to try to get pregnant again (I've had 3 c-sections).  But I guess I'm more open now.  And I suppose, that's probably right where God wants me to be.

For now, I'm trying to focus on all of the blessings that I do have.

Here are three of them. :)

Friday, November 09, 2012

Papa and Gaga come to town!

A consecration service, hurricane, Halloween festivities, two day trips, and lots of relaxing. I'd say that pretty much sums up the past two weeks in our house.

Andy's parents came to town for Andy's consecration service.  Just a little bit of background. . . when Andy was ordained as a pastor, he was ordained as a deacon.  A deacon is the first order of ministry of Word and Sacrament with the privilege of officiating at all rites and sacraments except the ordination of deacons and the consecration of presbyters or bishops.  (I got the definition from a Moravian website).  About a week ago, he took the next step in ministry and became a presbyter.  A presbyter is the second order of ministry of Word and Sacrament. Consecration as a Presbyter is an act of spiritual encouragement and affirmation by the Church commissioned by the PEC, normally after 3-5 years of service as a Deacon. Only Presbyters are candidates for election as Bishop.   Andy's service was on October 28th and here is a photo of all of us just after the service.  A delicious dinner followed in the fellowship hall.  

When the service was done, our attention quickly turned to hurricane preparations.  News reports warned us of Hurricane Sandy and we had about a day to get our house ready.  Andy got all of the furniture and fall decorations off of our front porch and we bought lots of water, food, and batteries.  On Monday evening, we slept in the downstairs hallway as there is a large tree in our side yard that we wanted to avoid and the hallway was the best place to do it.  Fortunately, we made it through the storm without evening losing power.  There was lots of rain and strong winds, but our only damage was some shingles getting blown off the garage.

The storm did bring with it some really cold temperatures.  This was one of my favorite ways of warming up.

Bella was out of school for three days because of the hurricane.  Halloween parades, class parties, and trick-or-treating were all postponed.  Later in the week, we did get to attend the town's evening parade which was followed up by a little Halloween party at a friend's house. 

Though the weather was chilly, we made a day trip to Peddler's Village and enjoyed some fun shopping.  This area is very quaint and cute.  I bought some homemade soap!

On November 5th, Bella's school was finally able to celebrate Halloween.  We came in the afternoon for the parade.  Another chilly day.

I accidentally forgot to pack her black undershirt for the costume.  Thankfully the shirt she wore to school that day kind of coordinated.

And that evening our kiddos finally got to trick-or-treat!   Just five days late.  Unfortunately, since trick-or-treating got postponed until after Halloween and after Daylight Savings ended, it was already dark before we even left the house!  That's a bummer for a mama who isn't a fan of using a camera flash.  But oh well. . . here are my dressed up kids:  Blue, Friendly Witch, and Superman! 

Didn't get the greatest pic of all three of them - but you just can't be too picky sometimes. 

We headed to another friend's house for some dinner and then we were off!

Good times!

The next day, Andy, his parents, and Bella headed out to Lancaster, PA for another day trip.  I stayed at home with the boys (sometimes that's just easier).  On the way back home, Bella yelled out 'I lost my tooth!'  She surprised me with her toothless grin when she came home.  Such a cute stage!