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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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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:

River:

  • 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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re-learning

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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Remembering

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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Life with a 2 year old Riverbug

Well, my Riverbug turned 2 years old this month. I have to say that 2 year old River is even more fun than 1 year old River.

Language:

Some of her recent “isms”:

“Sunshine! It smells GOOD!”

“I sleep [in] a toddler bed!”

“I get you another one” (talking to her “Miss Spider” stuffed toy as she tucked the critter into bed and got her a second blanket).

“I remember your dogs” (to our friend who has 3 adorable, tiny dogs that River fell in love with).

“I DON’T like it!” (this is said more often than I’d like, but she says it SO clearly that it’s still hilarious).

“In a Grandma-house!” (whenever we visit my mom).

“Hands are grubby! I need to wash them!”

And I love, love, LOVE how she’s starting to quote her favorite lines from Dr. Seuss and other books. And yes, we still read loads of books on a daily basis.

Physical:

We have liftoff! Yes, indeed we have TWO-FOOTED, unassisted jumping! She regularly jumps up and down, multiple times in a row, and has jumped off of a slightly elevated surface twice. The funny thing is that her very first jump (at 23 months) was the result of being mad at me for not picking her up. She had asked to be picked up while I was doing something in the kitchen, so I said “Not right now.” She got annoyed at being turned down and loudly said, “Up UP with MAMA!!!”, swung her arms up above her head and completed her first successful, both-feet-off the ground jump. We were so excited that we started clapping, and she forgot to be mad and started practicing her jumps. :)

She’s also getting much taller and actually wears size 2Tclothes! And they don’t fall off! I’m not sure how heavy she is, but we have found 4 children her age that are either her size or smaller, so she’s definitely catching up to her peers in weight and height.

We’re hoping to start swim and dance lessons this month.

Art:

She enjoys coloring and drawing circles, lines, and “dots”. We made some lovely Christmas presents for the relatives this year using her art (tutorial to come after the holidays, as we don’t want to spoil the surprise!!). My goal is to do more playdough and gluing projects with her in the near future.

Food:

She’s finally starting to eat more like an 18-20 month old. Although she’s still behind her full-term peers, she now eats more solid food than pureed food, and she’s finally able to chew and swallow animal protein like chicken and turkey. She still takes a bottle 2-4 times a day, but we’ve transitioned to a mixture of formula, coconut oil,  and milk and are moving toward eliminating the formula. I found some organic, lactose free milk (FINALLY!) at the supermarket of all places, and she seems to enjoy the taste of it and hasn’t had a negative reaction to it just yet. I’m being very, very careful to introduce it slowly, as the last few times I’ve tried to give her milk, her tummy did not appreciate it.

She also loves whole-milk yogurt and organic cheese, edamame, broccoli, pasta, corn, pickles, crackers, rice, eggs (only from Dad’s plate), deli turkey (depending on the day), ice cream, peanut butter (but only from a spoon), and my pureed carrot soup. She’s also still an adventurous “taster” and will try anything off of our plates. I’m taking the “big picture” approach to her diet, making sure that I look at what she eats on a weekly basis rather than freaking out if when she eats almost nothing or a barely varied diet on a particular day.

Social:

She’s definitely more accustomed to adults than to kids her age. She’s slowly getting better at being friendly with other toddlers and babies and is FINALLY interested in playing with them. I find that “neutral territory” (e.g., a location that is NOT one of the toddler’s homes) is much better for conflict-free play dates. She really enjoys playing with other children when they’re not playing with her toys (and this holds true in reverse for the other toddlers we’ve visited). Obviously, she needs to work on sharing, but it’s nice to know that she can be friendly and sweet to other kids.

She’s going through a LOVELY independent phase and is letting lots of other people hold her, hug her, play with, and read to her. This is SO nice when we visit friends since it means that I don’t have her begging me to hold her the entire time.

Skills:

We’re working on potty training. I haven’t really done a full-court press on this, but I need to. Ugh. I’m just not looking forward to the messes I’ll be cleaning up. She uses the potty several times a day, sometimes before she’s gone in her diaper and other times right after. So, her awareness is definitely there.

She can feed herself using a spoon, fork, or her hands and she can also drink from a small cup, all with reasonable accuracy. SWEET! She can also sort-of blow out birthday-cake candles and LOVES to assist any birthday girl/boy with their candles too. I have the sweetest picture of her “helping Dada” blow out the candles on his cake.

She’s getting better at washing her hands and just this week started to turn the kitchen sink faucet on and off by herself (THANK GOODNESS–I was getting tired of the back and forth). She loves to brush her teeth and wash her hair and body in the shower (not bath–shower). She also dusts the floor with a dustmop and can mist plants with a small spray bottle, and water plants with a small watering can.

Mushy Stuff:

Her smile is absolutely electric–I can actually feel mischief and energy radiating from those sparkling eyes. And I love that she’ll occasionally grab my face and kiss my cheek or hug me in a giant outburst of affection, as if she just can’t contain her feelings anymore. And while I look forward to the whiny phase ending, I love the outpouring of verbal expression that comes with this developmental phase. YAY for the terrific twos! :)

 

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Workout #2

Did a repeat of the 20/20 Workout from Blogilates. Subbed squats for Burpees and only did 5 Elbow Pushups (arms were super weak from the tricep dips).

Time: 24 minutes

Overall feeling–my core feels a bit more stable and my back is less sore while exercising. Feeling more in tune with my body–e.g., when I was doing crunches, I focused on not straining my neck by noting how much of my upper back was coming off of the floor with each crunch and trying to get a little more of it off the floor with the next crunch.

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