One of those {good} days

Today started out terribly–I woke up feeling like I was 8 months pregnant again: agonizing round-ligament/hip pain, lower back pain, a migraine brewing, exhausted. And then I realized that it was just “that time of the month.” I dosed up on Naproxen and curled up on the couch until it took effect. Thankfully, the hubs kept the girls entertained for a while.

I felt well enough to make a yummy breakfast of Almond-Chai-Quinoa Hot Cereal–it IS the first day of the YumUniverse Plant Powerful 30 Day Challenge, after all! Then, we got T’s passport application submitted at the post office–YAY! That was one of those sticky tasks that’s been hanging over my head for a month now, so it feels wonderful to have it done. I made a yummy lunch for the family, an act of service that I’ve realized is something of a love-language for me. I get such a happy, warm, satisfied feeling when I’ve provided us with an enjoyable, nutritious meal.

Then, the hubs headed off to work (with a yummy PBJ made with homemade PB) and the girls and I proceeded to have an AWESOME afternoon together. We transitioned seamlessly from free-play on their parts to reading books, to playing outside, to resting, to waterplay in the kitchen sink, to a sensory basket experiment with Trinity that River helped me with, to snack time, then more playtime outside, stickers, mapping out our airplane route for our upcoming trip to Manila via Seoul, more books and snacks, and finally dinner and a short video time, per River’s request.

Even though T. is teething brutally, she’s surprisingly easy going and will play on her own for up to 15 minutes before she needs to be moved or needs a change of pace. River is also doing more and more activities on her own and just coming to ask for help when she needs it. I find that having a day like this when I can check email, read a few blogs, post pictures, & cook healthy meals while the girls play, in addition to getting some awesome one-on-one time with each girl leaves me feeling refreshed rather than drained.

Many days, I feel like fully meeting the needs of my two little ones is tough, especially when they both seem to urgently need me at the EXACT SAME TIME, multiple times a day. Today was one of those days that just went well, and I want to document it here as a reminder that it’s possible, even if it won’t happen all the time.


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2013, Quick Update


We’ve definitely had several transitions in the past few months–most notably, our Trinity-girl is now 5 months old(!!). She is utterly adorable–I’m continually shocked at what an easy baby she is. She’s almost always in a good mood (even when teething), eats like a champ, burps herself, rolls over onto her tummy, laughs at anything River does, and has just started “singing,” i.e., vocalizing like a baby dinosaur with high squeals and shrieks. She’s so overwhelmingly cute and cuddly that it’s almost unbearable. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to parent a full-term baby after first experiencing a preemie. It makes me delight in the effortless-feeling, developmental-milestone-smashing course that Trinity is on, rather than taking it for granted.

At first, having 2 children was a bit daunting–the first 6 weeks felt very overwhelming. However, thanks to Trinity’s great personality, River’s surprisingly open acceptance of her sister, and the help of friends, family and babysitter, I feel like we’ve found our equilibrium (well, as much equilibrium as one can muster with children in the mix).


I’m still avoiding gluten as a holistic means of combating my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, although I’ve relaxed a little bit when visiting family. It’s so hard to find gluten free food at parties and gatherings that I tend to chalk up those days as ones that will result in my being very bloated for the following 72 hours. I find that I still have a rather addictive response to the combination of refined flour and sugar, and I’ve had some increased refined-sugar cravings after relaxing my gluten free regimen. Definitely NOT a coincidence, I think. I have settled into a good routine at home and have found that creating a 5 week plan of naturally gluten free breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and dinners (complete with page #s for recipes, etc) makes it a lot easier for me to serve things that all of us enjoy. When I say “naturally gluten free,” I’m referring to meals in which the original recipes don’t call for gluten-containing ingredients. Example: a breakfast might be scrambled eggs with cheese and cottage potatoes instead of eggs with gluten free toast. I’m trying to eat “whole foods,” rather than using gluten free substitutes b/c most store-bought gf substitutes have a terribly high glycemic index and fairly low nutritional value.

I’ve also found an edible, tasty snack/sandwich bread from Elana Amsterdam’s  The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. I LOVE the high protein content and the dense, moist texture of her quick-bread recipes. Here’s a similar recipe from her website for her “Bread 2.0.” The bread is easy to make and actually tastes great without incorporating loads of sugar or rice-flour. I have to say that it’s definitely my best experience with savory, gluten free bread thus far.

On a less holistic note, I’ve also started taking Levothroid. I’m in awe at how fantastic I feel after just a week. My TSH was only at 3.1, but since that’s on the high end of normal and at a level that can have negative hormonal effects, my primary care PA suggested that I try a tiny dose (25 micrograms) to see if it made a positive difference.  My energy levels are higher than they’ve been in over 4 years, I’m sleeping well, and I don’t crash after just a few hours of activity. It’s beyond awesome to feel “normal” again.

I don’t love the idea of being on a medication for the rest of my life, but at this point, having low energy is just not an option, and I haven’t been able to find empirical studies showing that going gluten-free *actually* helps keep Hashimoto’s in check. The suggestion makes intuitive sense to me as a lay person, but I’m willing to concede that it may be misguided. Still, I feel better eating gluten-free, and since I have multiple generations of diabetes in my family history, eating in a way that minimizes my consumption of grains and maximizes my consumption of protein, whole fruits and veggies will still have massive health benefits. I’m not prepared to go Paleo, but I am convinced that eating as if I’m trying to manage diabetes (high protein, carbs from non-starchy veggies, etc), even though I don’t have diabetes, is probably the best thing for my body.


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On the crafting docket for Feb 2013…

There are so many inspiring resources available that I find myself mentally planning and Pinterest-pinning activities and stopping there. So, I’ve compiled a short, doable (rather than wishful) list of Valentine’s Day related activities that I’m going to do in the next 4 weeks. I think of it as my antidote to Pinterest-paralysis. :)

  • Salt Dough Ornaments in various, embellished heart shapes. I’m going to string these onto garlands–one for us and a few others for friends and family. My plan is to do most of the work on my own, and then have River paint the shapes with glitter paint and glitter glue, since that’s one of her favorite things to do. I made the dough tonight, and it’s in the fridge to use tomorrow. I already have a few ideas for variations brewing–mixing glitter into the dough so that it doesn’t flake off, and possibly coloring the dough pink.Image (Photo credit and idea credit go to the brilliant and inspiring Jean, at The Artful Parent)
  • Soap Petals–I just adore these and have always wanted to make my own for some weird reason. February is a good month to do something like this with the container of pink, silk rose petals in my craft cabinet. My mom has already put in her order for some, and I think River will get a kick out of using them. Image Photo credit goes to Donna DeRosa of the lovely Etsy Shop, Blushing Rose
  • Find and read a story about St. Valentine that’s appropriate for a 3 year old and talk about the origins of the holiday.
  • Memorize a short love poem with River.

I’m thinking that “Love Came” by Rumi might be a truly fun one to memorize with her if I incorporate lots of interpretive gestures. Sure, it might come across as ridiculing a gorgeous, profound poem, but if silly gestures get that gorgeous, profound poem into her head, I’m OK with the indignity of it). I plan to read the poem aloud with her (with gestures), then record it on her digital recorder for her to listen to, then practice it with her a few times a week. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Memorize John 3:16 with River. (Well, I already have it memorized, so it’s more like helping her learn it). I plan to use the same techniques for this verse as for the Rumi poem.
  • Let River go crazy with a pack of 200 heart-shaped stickers to create 6 Valentine’s Day cards that we will address and send to select friends and family. Yes, I’m deliberately doing only 6 cards. If I get very ambitious, we’ll address these cards with photo address labels similar to the ones Meg of Sew Liberated uses in her little guy’s letter-writing activity. My idea for the cards is to have her put stickers on waxed paper, iron another sheet of waxed paper on top of the stickered one, and cut out hearts that she can then glue onto cards. (It’s an easier variation of Martha Stewart’s “Heart Covered Waxed Paper“).
  • Bake a heart shaped cake topped with strawberries and whipped cream. I will probably do a gluten free one so that I can enjoy it. If I’m ambitious enough, I’m going to attempt a GF version of the child-friendly, French yogurt cake that Pam Druckerman raves about in Bringing Up Bebe. If I’m too tired to have my 3 year old “help,” I will do it by myself while she is occupied with playdough. :-P

So, there you have it: garland, soap, stickers, cards, a poem, a verse, and cake. I figure that mixing in “love” themed activities gives me the entire month of February to do some of these. :)

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Pregnancy Update, Week 27

Wow! This pregnancy feels like it has flown by: definitely not what I expected, but I’m not complaining.

Current Stats:

  • 27 weeks (at 28 weeks, a baby has a good chance of not needing a ventilator if she makes an early exit, so this milestone is an exciting one)
  • Baby is a GIRL according to the 18 week ultrasound. It was very difficult to get any good pictures of her, though, as she used her hands to cover anything we tried to look at–face, skull, heart, gender-determining parts, etc. I’m hoping to get another ultrasound at an upcoming visit to confirm the gender.
  • I’m THRILLED at the thought of having another girl–I’m just a little shocked that my instincts could be so wrong. Though, now that I’ve been saying that, several moms have related their own “I was TOTALLY wrong about the gender” stories, so it’s not unheard of.
  • This baby is astoundingly active compared to how River was in utero. I’m actually experiencing that lovely “squirming alien about to burst from my tummy” phenomenon. She also likes to play games and will kick at various spots that I push on. River moved, but her movements were much less emphatic. This baby also HATES anything (even my arm!) being on my tummy and will kick and kick until I remove the offending object or limb.
  • River is extremely excited about the baby coming–she curled up in front of my tummy and said, “I’m laying next to the baby!” and she talks about helping feed the baby when she arrives.
  • Weight Gain: I think I’ve gained a total of 12 lbs, and I feel great. I’ll be getting all the usual tests for gestational diabetes, etc., as well as some tests to ascertain thyroid function and levels this week. Hopefully everything comes back normal
  • Back Pain: Not so great. I generally can’t walk or stand for more than 10 minutes at a time without feeling like my pelvis is going horribly out of alignment and causing my back to ache and twinge. I’m seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist on a not-regular-enough basis, and they do help a bit, but not as much as they helped with the last pregnancy. I think a huge factor is that I haven’t been exercising at all during this pregnancy, so I’m really feeling the effects of weaker muscles now that I’m getting bigger.
  • Silhouette: Another nice difference with this pregnancy has been my silhouette–this pregnancy has a much more belly-centric emphasis on the weight gain (I think b/c the weight gain has been slower), so I look a little more pregnant than with my last baby. Even though I don’t have the classic, “all-belly” look, it’s nice to at least look pregnant rather than just bloated or fat! :-P
  • Energy: Depends on the day. Some days I feel reasonably energetic and others I feel devastatingly tired. I’m been getting better at pacing myself and avoiding driving whenever possible. For some reason, driving even short distances tires me out like nothing else. The nice thing is that unlike the first trimester, when I go to bed earlier or take naps, I’m actually refreshed when I wake up. It’s nice that sleep actually helps now instead of having no effect!
  • Assistance: The wonderful husband suggested hiring a babysitter. We found a great one, and having her help out for 10-12 hrs a week has made a huge difference in what I’m able to get done and how well I’m feeling.

Overall, I’m excited to welcome this little one–I know that amount of work and sleep deprivation that’s coming up in the next year, and I’m ready for it and not afraid to ask for help when it’s needed! :)


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Pregnancy #3–Week 13

(Clarification: We have one little girl with us and another little person who we never got to meet in this life due to a miscarriage. This is our third pregnancy).

When I found out I was pregnant this time, my reaction was completely different from when I found out I was carrying River. I was thrilled instead of petrified, and not at all surprised rather than flabbergasted. Also, since I went crazy researching EVERYTHING about pregnancy last time, I feel a lot more relaxed about this one.

Still, this pregnancy is shockingly different from the last one. Here are some comparisons:


  • awful morning sickness but decent, steady energy levels throughout
  • huge appetite
  • terrifyingly effortless weight gain (20 lbs)
  • worked full time outside the home
  • no libido whatsoever
  • craved sweets like nobody’s business AND had a chocolate aversion for several months (I’m normally a chocoholic)
  • knew I was carrying a girl, but was afraid to believe it because I wanted a daughter so badly
  • frequent headaches and back pain

Pregnancy #3

  • Virtually no nausea, and when it DOES appear, it’s more like a vague, background feeling. Shockingly low energy levels most of the time, combined with occasional, 1 day spurts of crazy energy and productivity.
  • Very low appetite.
  • No weight gain (yet!!), but my tummy keeps getting bigger!
  • full time Mom–SOOOO much harder than working my paid full time job. :)
  • Remember what I said about opposites? ;-)
  • Virtually no sugar cravings (weird, as I’ve battled these my entire adult life). No chocolate aversion.
  • Am convinced that I’m carrying a boy, and since I’ll be equally happy to have a boy or a girl, I have no qualms about trusting my instincts this time around.
  • And, unfortunately, the last factor remains the same: still battling almost daily headaches and back pain. Massage and chiropractor visits help a bit, as does the Fioricet prescribed by my OB.

Overall feelings:

I have a lot of optimism about this pregnancy and hope that it will go well with no pre-eclampsia this time. (I have a 10% chance of getting it again, which means there’s a 90% chance that I WON’T). :) I’m much less stressed with this pregnancy even though I’m working much harder as a pregnant, full-time mom.

The novelty of eating when I’m hungry without guilt no longer exists, as I’ve been eating that way since River was born. I think this is helping me keep my weight at a healthier level early on.

Now that I have an extraordinary little one running around, I’m grieving more for the first pregnancy that we lost and I’m also much more emotionally invested in this pregnancy. While I’m able to intellectually say, “What will be will be,” my heart screams, “I want this baby to be born healthy and whole and I want to get to know him in this life!”

I’ve also been looking back at the NICU experience and thinking about the consequences that another such experience would have for River. I know that we’ll pull through anything that comes our way–we have a great hospital, fabulous support network, and lots of orneriness. :) Still, as a toddler, River is still extremely attached to us (me, in particular), and having to divide our time between her and a NICU baby would be a heart-wrenching, energy-sucking challenge that I’d prefer not to have to endure.

On a completely shallow note, I’m REALLY enjoying my pregnancy induced cleavage–SO MUCH FUN, given that I normally have none! :)

What does River think?

River doesn’t have much concept of time yet, so when I tell her there’s a baby in my tummy, she gets very excited and asks to see it. She then gets confused when she can’t see it through my skin and promptly loses interest and forgets all about it. I think  that once the baby is a lot bigger and moves enough so that River can feel him through my skin, the concept of a baby joining our family will be much more real. We’re not talking about it with her specifically at this point (other than the occasional, “There’s a baby in Mom’s tummy!”) because we don’t want her to be sick of the concept by the time the baby arrives–we want it to be a fun, exciting surprise that she can look forward to. So, we’ll probably talk about it more in the last few weeks before the baby arrives.

To our little one:

I’ve felt a deep, emotional connection to you since before I got an official, “positive” pregnancy test. We’re so excited that you’re joining our family. Stay put and grow, OK, little one?


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One of the best things about our year in CT was the glorious natural beauty of the East Coast. We were in an suburban setting, but our city was still filled-to-bursting with trees, vines, flowers, rivers, streams, cardinals, bluebirds, robins, badgers, woodchucks, squirrels, swans, ducks and geese. And we were 3 miles from a tiny, beautiful beach, also filled with trees!

Even a simple drive to the grocery store was filled with jaw-dropping beauty that changed with the seasons–stunningly gold and red leaves in the fall, snow piled in unimaginable shapes on top of branches in the winter, fluttering swirls of pink flower petals in the spring, and shades of green so bright that they almost hurt my eyes in the summer.

Returning to our extremely suburban, smog-filled CA neighborhood was painful at first. River used to call out “GREEEEEN TREEES!!” whenever we drove in CT. In CA, she seamlessly switched to “BRRROOOOWNNN TREEES” with the same amount of enthusiasm.

Driving around without her, I felt my spirit sink at the site of rampant graffiti, trash-filled train yards, brown-brush-covered hills, endless freeways with comparatively no plant life growing alongside them, ugly, utilitarian buildings and houses, and the overly industrialized feel that our area has.

But driving around *with* my toddler-bug completely changed how I saw the same things. Instead of wincing at how close the garish RV dealership is to our home, I saw the pretty, fluttering, colorful flags that she squealed in delight over. The train yard was simply the COOLEST THING EVER in her eyes–because there were TRAINS that went “CHOO CHOO!!!!” The graffiti was something that added colors to our drive, and the brown, sad (in my eyes) trees were still trees that swayed in the wind, which meant they were just as exciting as the gorgeous, green, masses of trees that I was mourning.

Now that we’ve been back for several months, I’m able to admire more things–the beautiful views of the mountains when the air is clean, the jaw-droppingly colorful sunsets that we get because our air is so dirty, our long, long, sun-filled days, Grocery stores that have an abundance of parking. The glorious amount of ethnic and specialty cuisine and food items that are readily available.

And while I still miss our little beach and being 1/4 mile from both a Children’s Museum and a park, I’m delighted to be closer to the people we love and to be back in our own home. It’s nice to live in a place we own (rather than rent) and be able to customize it to what we need. I’m grateful for Riverbug’s joyful perspective to help me see the beauty around me, even in unexpected places. 

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This time 2 years ago:

I was painfully driving myself to the hospital to spend hours snuggling with my baby girl in the NICU.

I’d take forever to climb into the car and position a pillow between my c-sectioned tummy and the seatbelt. I always tried not to think too much about what would happen to my insides if I was in a car accident.

I remember that deep, unsettling ache at my incision site and how much it hurt as I took tiny, snail-paced steps through the parking lot.I didn’t really care that I had to walk at a snail’s pace–it was such a relief to not need a wheelchair!

I remember how loved it made me feel when my mom bought me some cable-knit, sweater-y leggings and a beautiful, pink and lavender sweatshirt to wear on my nightly treks to the hospital. Every time I wore them, I felt like I was getting a hug from her.

Walking through the automatic doors in  the hospital lobby (with a sigh of relief at not having to open a heavy door by hand) always made me smile, no matter how tired I felt. The lobby was brimming with a sparkling, Santa’s village, potted pointsettias, and a giant display of gingerbread houses made by local children.

Sloooowly making my way to the elevator, I admired the waxed, tile floors, kept in pristine condition by the janitorial staff.

Since the hospital was for children, I frequently saw very ill children and their parents in the elevator. It put my experience into perspective. I was just waiting for my baby girl to grow and learn to drink milk on her own.

The whole experience was such a study in contrasts–yes, my baby girl was in the NICU and not home with me. But I got to snuggle her in a reclining chair and stare out the NICU window at the pretty Christmas lights that decorated the balcony below us. Even this year, driving past the hospital and seeing those same Christmas lights brings tears to my eyes.

Yes, I had to pump milk in a hospital with nurses going in and out (or else trek to a pumping room down the hall)….but I had access to a pump and I was able to make the best possible food for my tiny girl.

As the month wore on, it got harder and harder to leave the NICU. I put on a cheerful smile, only left when River was sleeping (it was impossible to leave during those few waking hours), and then cried to my mom on the phone when I was out where the nurses couldn’t see me. I worried that if they saw me cry, they’d think I was weak and unable to care for her and that this might factor into when she’d be able to come home. In retrospect, this was a bit silly.

Yet, on a daily basis, I heard nurses murmuring about a baby who hadn’t made it, or a baby who was still in the NICU, 6 months after being born…or a baby with severe complications of prematurity. Hearing this always reminded me of how great my situation really was, and of how many things I could be deeply grateful for.

I remember carrying River’s empty car seat into the elevator, taking it to the NICU so that they could see if she could maintain her breathing and oxygen saturation levels while in the seat. I was thrilled, as this indicated that River would be strong enough to come home soon. A brand new father joined me in the elevator with his tired but beaming wife. They had been in the hospital for 2 days and were taking their healthy, full-term baby home. Blinded by his own joy, the father boisterously joked, “Hey! Where’s the baby?” indicating River’s empty seat. I was surprised at how much his question hurt. I wasn’t upset that his baby was going home and mine wasn’t. It just hurt to have to face how much I wanted her to come home and that she couldn’t.

I remember our amazingly supportive friends and family–bringing food, praying, rejoicing at our updates and pictures, posting encouraging Facebook messages, sending flowers….I remember feeling surrounded and held by that love.

I remember the NICU nurses–sweet, informative, bustling, efficient, gossipy, funny, and invaluable in making me feel empowered and knowledgeable enough to care for such a tiny, fragile person. I loved that River’s high-pitched, preemie cries were “loud” to them, and that they marveled at her expressiveness and strength despite her size. I loved that they rejoiced at her progress and were as excited as we were when she moved to a crib from an isolette.

I will never forget the day they told us that in 24 hours, we’d be taking her home. I bustled around the house making sure it was perfect. I took our car and her carseat to a CHP office to have an officer install it so that it would be as safe as possible. I skipped my NICU visit that day so that everything could be perfect and ready for River’s return. The next morning, as we got ready to leave, making sure our camera and her “going home” outfit were packed in the car, my cell phone rang. “I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “River hasn’t gained any weight for the last 2 days, so we’re not going to be able to release her today.”

Keeping my voice bright, I replied, “Oh, OK. Well, we’ll just come over and spend some time with her then.”

Hanging up the phone, I dissolved into tears, crumpling onto the couch as I tried to relay the information to the husband. “Maybe she didn’t gain any weight because I skipped yesterday’s visit,”I irrationally worried. “Maybe she felt abandoned and was overly stressed….”

I was so sad and out of it that I left my cell phone in the car. By the time I realized it was there (the following morning), the NICU had called my parents trying to reach us, and they called the husband’s phone. We called the NICU and they said that River COULD come home…but that the doctor who could release her had already gone home for the day, since we’d taken so long to return their call.

The nurses called his cell phone and the doctor TURNED HIS CAR AROUND, drove back to the hospital, and did all the paperwork with us so that we wouldn’t have to wait another day to bring our little girl home. What a compassionate man.

And we had our little girl home for Christmas.

And 2 years later, her delight in the Christmas season is more heart warming and hilarious than I ever could have imagined: “Sparkly TREES!”

Thank you, God, for Christmas, for family, and for letting us bring our little girl home.


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