Thursday, January 10, 2019

Homeschooling Update

After a very long break from homeschooling, we are back at it! I have to confess that this is our first full week of "school" since Esme was born! We did do a little here and there over the holidays, but we were not very disciplined. Now that Esme is two months old and a little more predictable (not that babies are ever really predictable), it’s time to dive back in. We have all really missed the routine that "school" provides. (Especially me)

Lucy has been making great progress with her reading lately. I don’t expect her to be a great reader, or even to learn how to read at all, at age 5. It is far more important to us that she develops a lifelong passion for reading. Earlier this year, Lucy asked me if I would teach her to read, and so I have been - little by little. We started out with Mother Goose rhymes, and now she has moved on to books. Not “the cat sat on the mat”-type beginner readers, which children find so dull and repetitive and insulting to their intellect, but beautiful literature. Children, even those who are just starting out, are perfectly capable of learning to read books of good literary value! (Stepping off my soapbox now...)

Reading lesson in progress...

I would be lying if I said that Lucy enjoys her reading lessons 100% of the time. Learning how to read is strenuous work for the child. That's why we keep our lessons short (only 10 minutes a day), and if she gets frustrated, we move on to something else. Better to shut the book mid-lesson and preserve her love of books than to have her burn out at age 5. 

But, for the most part, Lucy ends her 10 minutes feeling confidant and proud of her own hard work. As she should! Morgan and I realized the other day that we can no longer spell words to keep secrets from our children ("Do we have any i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m?") - that phase of parenting is gone forever because we have a reader now! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Two Months Old

Our sweet Esme Rose is two months old, and she is all smiles these days...

Please ignore my weird voice... I am constantly making a fool of myself to get her to smile. Worth it.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Christmas 2018

This year, we had a busy but wonderfully cozy Christmas!

Lucy and Alice were in a Christmas Eve concert at a local church. Lucy was in the Nativity play this year as a shepherd, and Alice was in the toddler choir. 

Alice's performance

Lucy's performance... you can hear Esme in the background starting to get fussy.

After the Christmas Eve service, we had a little family gathering at our house. It is our tradition every year to have cheese and charcuterie on Christmas Eve. This year, my parents were in town, and my brother and sister-in-law also came over with our nieces. Our house was loud and lively, and the excitement of all those little girls was so contagious! 

After everyone left, Lucy and Alice hung up their stockings for Santa. We cuddled up on the couch and read The Polar Express and "The Night Before Christmas". Then we put two tired but very excited little girls to bed... 

Hanging their stockings...

On Christmas morning, the girls did not wake up at dawn. In fact, the grownups had time to get a little coffee before we heard the pitter-patter of little feet on the stairs. Lucy and Alice came out and opened their stockings. Santa was very good to them this year! 

After stockings, we sat down to our breakfast of warm cinnamon rolls and lit the Christ candle in our Advent wreath. When we had finished breakfast, the girls were ready to open their presents...

On Christmas Eve, Morgan surprised us all (including me) with matching PJ's. There was a pair for the whole family, including Baby Esme, so of course we had to document this: 

I just realized Esme was missing one of her socks... poor third child!

After all the presents had been opened (and the wrapping paper cleaned up), it was time to start on Christmas dinner. While the older girls played with their new toys, the grown-ups were cooking and baking.

Except for my dad and Esme, who were napping. :)

Every year, it is our tradition to make a Buche de Noel, which is a French roll cake made to look like a Yule log. The recipe has been passed down in my family from generation to generation. 

This year's Buche de Noel... and we are still enjoying the leftovers!

That afternoon, we went over to my brother's house for Christmas dinner. There was beef tenderloin and roast chicken and asparagus and mashed potatoes and hot, buttered rolls. And, of course, the buche for dessert. 

Afterwards, we got the girls into their coats and said "goodnight". It was such a merry Christmas that Lucy and Alice (and the grownups) could barely keep their eyes open.

"Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for you?"
 –Madeleine L’Engle

Monday, December 17, 2018

Alice's Winter Recital

A couple of weeks ago, Alice had her winter dance recital. It was just too precious for words, so here is a video. You're welcome! ;)

St. Lucy's Day

Obviously, we've been a little busy around here lately! Between caring for a newborn, recovering from mastitis / infections, and the craziness that is this time of year, I have had to take a little break from homeschooling. Fortunately, I had some planned vacation time already built in to the schedule for the holidays, so we haven't lost too much time.

Speaking of holidays, we have been reading about holiday traditions around the world. Last week, we celebrated St. Lucia's, or St. Lucy's, Day, which is on December 13th. As you can imagine, Lucy was especially excited about this holiday. She even dressed up in the traditional costume (minus the crown of candles... fire hazard...). I think she made an adorable St. Lucy!

There are so many incredible books about Christmas traditions around the world. We have been reading this one and love it so much. 

Happy Advent Season!

One Month

Our sweet Esme Rose is one month old! How is this even possible?!

At one month, Esme has become so bright-eyed and alert. She is also STRONG. When she is laying on her tummy, she can pick up her head and look all around. She also has a powerful kick (which I knew from her time in the womb). She follows voices, especially her big sisters', and she turns her head like she's looking for them.

It's difficult to tell what Esme's little personality is going to be like, but she seems very calm and sweet. She loves to be snuggled and sung to. She also loves the play mat and the swing. We are so excited to watch her grow!

The past month has been filled with so many challenges - just not the sort of challenges we expected! I have been extremely sick with mastitis and clogged milk ducts (yep - just as much fun as it sounds!). As I mentioned in my previous post, Esme was having trouble eating and gaining weight at first. She was actually losing weight, which was scary and made us feel helpless and anxious. I was pumping around to clock to get enough milk for her, which was exhausting and emotional to say the least. Thankfully, Esme seems to have turned a corner! She is nursing again and growing well. At her one-month doctor visit, we learned that she is in the 4th percentile for weight. It may not be much, but we are incredibly relieved and thankful. 

Through it all, Esme has just been the absolute sweetest dream-baby. We are all head-over-heels in love with our sweet Esme Rose!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Esme Rose

Sweet Esme Rose joined our family on Sunday, November 4 at 1:25 a.m. - 6 lbs. 8 oz. 19 in. She has a head of dark hair, rosebud lips, and the sweetest dimple in one cheek. We are all madly in love. This is the story of how she was born.

Friday, November 2 was my 31st birthday. Morgan had gotten a babysitter for Lucy and Alice, so the two of us could go out for a fancy birthday dinner. We went to Donna Chang’s, one of our favorite local spots, and ordered crab Rangoon, pork wantons, and shrimp fried rice. Afterwards, we walked next door to Condor Chocolates for dessert. It was the yummiest meal and the most relaxing evening!

We went to bed full and happy. I was just over 38 weeks into my pregnancy, so I wasn't expecting Baby to arrive for at least another week or two. Which is why, when I woke up at 5:30 the following morning (Saturday) with a strange wet feeling, I was extremely confused. For one thing, my water has never broken on its own. And for another thing, it was not the big, dramatic gush like you see in the movies, but more like a gradual trickle.

Half-awake, I called for Morgan. “I think my water broke,” I said.

He came in the bathroom, still half-asleep but trying to register this information. “Are you sure?”

I nodded. “Pretty sure.”

Morgan started to look more awake. “What should we do?” he asked.

“Can you call the midwife? I’ll start getting my things packed.”

Thankfully, we had already packed our hospital bags; we just had to grab our toiletries and call someone to come stay with the girls. Since it was so early in the morning, we had to call several people before one of them called us back. When I realized my water had broken, I assumed that contractions would start right away, and considering how fast my other two labors had been, I was anxious to get to the hospital.

Our friend Ruth showed up to stay with the girls. Before leaving for the hospital, I went down and kissed them goodbye. Lucy immediately shot up, wide awake.

“It’s time for me to have the baby,” I said. “Your dad and I are going to go to the hospital, and soon your baby brother or sister will be born.”

Lucy was so excited. “Oh, congratulations!” she said.

Alice sat up, rubbing her eyes.

“Alice, Mommy is going to have her baby!” Lucy said. Alice looked so sleepy and confused, but Lucy’s excitement was contagious. “Who is going to stay with us?” Lucy asked, ever my responsible first-born.

I told them they would have a babysitter, and that their grandparents would arrive soon. This made them very happy. I gave each of them a big hug and kiss and told them I loved them. Lucy seemed very excited but also a little anxious, so I did my best to reassure her. Alice just rolled over and went back to sleep, clearly not phased.

Ruth arrived soon after, and we got into Morgan’s Jeep (with me sitting on a trash bag) to head for the hospital. When we got there, we had to be admitted through the ER because it was still technically after-hours. The ER waiting room was completely deserted, so we were able to get checked in
pretty quickly. They took us up to Labor and Delivery, and I changed into a hospital gown. A nurse checked the fluid leaking out of me to verify that it was indeed amniotic fluid (as if there were any question). It was, so the midwife was called in, and we talked about my options. She explained that she could check to see how much I was dilated and effaced, but if she did that, because of the risk of infection, it would start the timer for 24 hours to delivery, which increased my chances of being induced. I decided to wait and see if my body would go into labor on its own.

After I had my vitals checked, I started walking. I wasn't allowed to leave Labor and Delivery, so I just walked back and forth, up and down the halls. At this point, I started to experience some contractions every ten minutes or so. They were not painful, and they did not grow closer together, so I began to wrap my head around a potentially very long labor.

Minutes felt like hours. The midterm elections were gearing up, so I watched the news while I paced back and forth in my hospital room, still leaking amniotic fluid (which, by the way, is the strangest feeling). I wasn't allowed to eat solid food (my last meal was The Amazing Birthday Dinner the night before), and I was starving. Morgan brought me Popsicles and Jello from the snack room, but all I wanted was a cheeseburger and fries. As time passed, my contractions petered out and eventually stalled. I was discouraged, frustrated, hungry, and tired. I was anxious to meet our new little one, and I missed Lucy and Alice. After talking with Morgan, I decided to go ahead with induction.

My midwife was assisting with another birth, so we had to wait for her to finish up. It was around 7 p.m. by the time she finally came in to check me. I had dilated to 3 cm and was 80% effaced. When she had checked me at my 36 week check-up, I was 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced, so I had not progressed very much at all. "I don't think it will take much pitocin to get your labor started," my midwife told me. We decided to start with the lowest possible dosage and see what would happen.

Sure enough, in under an hour after starting pitocin, I was in labor. I sat on the birthing ball, breathing through my contractions, until they became close together and extremely painful. I have always heard that contractions are far more painful if your water has broken. Since my water didn't break until late in the game with Lucy and Alice, I never knew how painful contractions could really be. All I have to say is - OW. After several strong contractions, I asked my midwife to check me again to see if I was anywhere close to transition (the most painful part of labor). I moved back into the bed, and she checked me. I was dilated 5 cm, only half-way there. This was not what I wanted to hear! I was already so exhausted, and there seemed to be no end in sight.

My good friend Mallory was one of the sweet nurses who was taking care of me. I knew she had gotten an epidural when she gave birth to her boys, so I asked her about it. Since I am terrified of needles (and my other labors were so fast), I had never even considered getting an epidural before. But this time, I was desperate.

"If you're going to get an epidural," my midwife told me, "now is the time."

After another excruciatingly painful contraction, I decided I wanted an epidural. The contractions I had while waiting for the anesthesiologist to arrive were horrible. I began to worry that he would not make it in time. Fortunately, he appeared and got right down to business. I was in so much pain by this time that I did not think twice about the needle. (Morgan told me afterwards that it was terrifying-looking.) I had a strong contraction while the doctor was administering my epidural and suddenly felt the urge to push. I became terrified that I would have to push a baby out with a giant needle sticking in my back. Before I could worry too much, the epidural was over and done.

At first, my contractions were still painful. Then, my legs started tingling, like they had fallen asleep. My contractions became less and less painful, but I could still feel a sort of pressure, like I had to push. My midwife checked me again, and sure enough, it was time to push. Suddenly, the room became hectic, and the mood was serious. Pushing with an epidural is so different! I couldn't feel any pain, so I had to rely on my midwife to tell me when to push.

"So what do we think, girl or boy?" my midwife asked.

I suddenly remembered that we still didn't know who this little person was going to be, and I became desperate to meet the baby who had been growing inside me all this time.

"Look at that dark hair!" my midwife said, and I became more desperate still. With the next contraction, I pushed with all my might. I felt Esme moving down, and she was crying even as she came out.

"It's a girl!" I heard someone say, and they placed Esme on my chest. I held her, and she stopped crying, as if she already knew me and felt right at home in my arms. Morgan cut the umbilical cord, and the nurses toweled her off, while I let Esme nurse.

Since I had an epidural, I did not feel a bit of the afterbirth pain. Also - cue choir of angels singing - no tearing! This recovery was, by far, my easiest yet. I'm not sure if I have the epidural to thank for this, or if it's just because it was my third time around. Either way, I felt pretty great afterwards, considering what a {comparatively} rough labor it was. My friend Mallory went out to get me my cheeseburger and fries, and it was the most delicious cheeseburger I've ever had.

We couldn't stop staring at Esme. She was so beautiful, so calm and sweet. Even her little cry was like a soft, little whimper, like the bleating of a tiny lamb. I immediately forgot how tired I was. I forgot about the pain of labor. I was only aware of Esme's tiny fingers and beautiful dark hair and perfect lips and dark eyelashes and hairy shoulders. She was so perfect, even more than I had ever imagined.

Meeting for the first time...

Daddy snuggles...

Can't stop looking at her!

Sweetest sisters...

They are so in love!

Beautiful Esme

After two weeks with Esme, we are more in love than ever. After we got home from the hospital, I developed mastitis, and Esme had trouble gaining weight. I had to pump ever two hours, so that we could feed her from a bottle. Because of all of this, my recovery has not been quite as easy as I thought it would be, but it is worth it to see Esme healthy and growing. Even with her feeding struggles, she is the calmest, sweetest newborn I have ever met. 

Welcome to the world, sweet Esme! We love you more than you could ever imagine!