Sunday, January 31, 2016

Baby Shower

A couple of weeks ago now, my dear friend Jess through me & our baby a shower. It was such a wonderful afternoon of good food, sharing, friendship, laughter & tears. At one point, all of the women went around the circle to share their wisdom and stories of becoming a mother to two children. The love emanating from all of these ladies was palpable, as one friend put it, and I was deeply moved and touched.

Our village has grown so much since I became a mother. 
I feel so fortunate to call these women my friends & mentors.

Thank you for loving us so well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Exciting Times!

As of Sunday, we crossed into 37 weeks of pregnancy!!

Jim and I are so excited about welcoming our second baby into our lives very soon. In three weeks, plus or minus two weeks, we will have a newborn in our arms again. We have so many questions... will it be a boy or a girl? Will it have red hair? Will he/she be as big as Ian was (8 lbs 14 oz) or bigger? Please say it won't be so! How will Ian respond? Which of the names we have picked out will we actually choose? Will he/she be a good sleeper or nurser? So many unknowns when you have a baby.

Of course, the only thing we really pray for is a healthy baby. I can do without sleep. I can handle a large baby (I hope!). I just hope and pray for a healthy and smooth delivery.

When we went on our baby moon a few of my fears about labor were brought to light. It was so nice to get the tears and burden I didn't even know I was carrying off of my chest. Ian's labor was long and hard and this baby's might be, too. You just never know! Verbalizing them, seeing the understanding in Jim's eyes and hearing his reassuring voice speak through each concern really helped me to move past the fear mode and more toward the "can-do" and "we're in this together" mode.

We also decided fully that we'd like our friend, Joi, to be our doula for the entire labor. Given Jim's limited time off, I had asked her to be there for my laboring at home, since Jim might not be there the entire time. After our weekend away we agreed that her presence would be comforting, supportive, and encouraging. It eased my mind just to think about having her there.

So much of having a baby is mental. Any ease and comfort that can be organized ahead of time is HUGE.

Today I had my 37 week appointment and Ian went with me. The nurse went to weigh me on the manual scale and asked, "Have you hit 150 yet?" HA!!! Yep, about thirty pounds ago! This pregnancy I have gained about 45 lbs., so far. And I still have a few weeks to go.

We listened to the baby's heartbeat for the longest time so far and it was all over the place! The doctor said that for high-risk pregnancies they do non-stress tests and that our baby was showing us that he/she was absolutely not stressed. His/her heartbeat was moving up and down as he/she was moving and stretching a whole lot. Ian listened to the heartbeat, too.

It's so fun to bring him along to the appointments. He sits in a chair in the corner and eats his snack and drinks water, listening to our conversations. He never gets up or complains. The nurses and the doctors always try to chat him up, but he normally stays pretty quiet. Today he talked to Dr. Hudgins about the snow days and how he threw snow at Mama & Papa.

I asked her if I would have felt the baby switch positions and she checked to see where he/she was. She was confident that his/her head is still down and said that the head is very well engaged. Woo!

After our appointment, Ian and I went for a tour of the birthing center. This is a whole new practice and a whole new hospital for me and so I wanted to be able to picture where I'd be. I also read an article about the importance of showing the older sibling(s) where Mama & Papa will be, so that when they hear that we are in the hospital, they can visualize it as a place they know and have seen before. Ian and I have been doing a lot of talking about what will happen in the coming weeks, and it was really neat to have him there with me today.

We talked about how I would likely be lying in the bed with our baby, Papa would be there, and Äma would bring you to visit me in the bed. And today I even told him that our baby would be bringing him a gift, which he then repeated to me again when we were at home. He seems to really be understanding and processing it. Yesterday on the playground, he was about to go up the steps and turned to me and said, "Äma comes and Mama and Papa come back." Yes, Äma will come and stay with you while Mama & Papa are in the hospital, you'll get to visit us, and then we'll come back.

The facility seems really nice and similar to the one I'd stayed in before.

A letter to "Baby B":

Dear Baby,

You are so very loved. As I write this, you have some unbelievably strong hiccups and you are bouncing my whole belly. This happens often during the night, as well! I was pretty confident that you were head down because your little hands keep nudging me in the pelvic bone and in my lower uterus. You have one foot that you really like to stick straight out to my right side. Sometimes it seems like I should be able to see the whole imprint of a foot in my side! How incredible it is to feel you moving within me.

Sweet babe, you have been working your way into our hearts steadily throughout this entire pregnancy. You've been carving out space for yourself in our family as you grow bigger and take up more room in my lap, where Ian normally sits, and in front of me, how I normally embrace your papa. I love how our bodies are designed and that the significance of your presence is obvious long before you even enter the world.

It has been so very hard for us to wait to learn your gender this time! Only time will tell...

Although we are terribly excited to meet you, I truly want you to come in your own time and at your own pace. We have decades to look forward to with you outside of my womb. Know that we will await your arrival patiently and peacefully until you are ready.

I hope and pray that when you do arrive, you feel the warmth and love that we have for you, making you feel secure and safe in this busy world outside. February is a cold time to begin life, but we promise to cuddle and snuggle you through each day. By the time warmer weather hits, you'll be itching to roll, sit, and crawl... that's so crazy to imagine right now. But, if we learned one thing from raising Ian so far, it's that time waits and slows for no one. We know how precious it is to enjoy every nap on our chests and every coo. We'll savor it all.

And, oh sweet darling, we are so excited for you to meet your brother. He is a joy and loves you so much already. We hope and pray that you two become good playmates in your early years and good friends when you're older. Siblings are such a wonderful, challenging, and life-shaping relationship. We hope to foster a healthy sense of teamwork and love between you. We know there will be trials and conflicts between you, it's only normal, but you can also learn the hardest and best lessons from a sibling who knows us best, gets under our skin, and still loves us anyway.

You are blessed to have a wonderful, caring Papa, too. He works so hard to provide for us but he also makes and takes the time to be present with us as much as he can. He loves adventure, learning (especially about permaculture, at the moment), sports (especially rugby and basketball), creating & woodworking, and playing with Ian. You are going to adore him and he will look at you with only eyes of love. He's a great papa. We're fortunate to have him.

We're fortunate to have family on both sides who encourage and support us and we are blessed to have many friends in our village who are eager to meet you, bring meals, and help us. You will be loved by so many. You already are.

So, come when you're ready. We have almost everything ready for you and what's not ready will get done in due time :) Our love is here and waiting... that's all you really need.

Mama, Papa, & Ian

Stay tuned...

Boy or Girl?
Arrival Date?

To be determined.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Our Firstborn (A long-overdue update)

I'm not sure if you knew this already, but we are just crazy about this little dude. In three weeks, give or take two weeks, he will be a big brother. We are soaking up as much of him as we can, savoring the moments, and I wanted to get one more post in of his latest goings-ons before our baby comes. It's been a while since I've shared his latest sayings and developments.

This age is so, so unbelievably fun!! His language abilities astound us daily. He continues to love to help in any way, be it emptying/unloading the dishwasher, loading or unloading the washer & dryer, bringing new hay to the chicken coop, feeding the chickens, putting his toys away, putting his laundry in the hamper, and many other things.
That said, he has also become quite emphatic with his use of the word, "No." He has become more opinionated and is able express exactly what he wants or needs. In some ways this has made life much easier, while in other ways it's certainly been a challenge.

His feelings get hurt, he gets frustrated, he doesn't like correction, and he'll separate himself or hide. While it appears that he's pushing us away, normally it's a cry for some one-on-one time with either myself for Jim. We go to him, or he comes to us, and have a conversation acknowledging his feelings and ask if he'd like some time by himself, a hug, or for us to stay with him. Normally he requests a hug, which turns into a little cuddle.
Ian is growing more and more independent with his play and for longer stretches of time. Today I cleaned for most of the morning while he played contentedly by himself, checking in every now and then. During Jim's commute from the clinic to the VA hospital, we chatted on the phone about noticing the direct correlation between how much time he's had one-on-one focused attention to how much time he'll play on his own, with his own motivation.

Lately, his favorite toys are his animals and the barn, his trains, and the castle blocks from Christine and he's also wild about puzzles these days!! We love watching his imagination run with these open-ended toys. In the pictures below he created a lion (left) and PMO (right). PMO meets in a church that looks almost exactly like his interpretation!!
 SLEEP! Glorious sleep. Ian is sleeping through the night!! It's wonderful and amazing. And soon we'll have a newborn and we'll be deprived of sleep again. For now, it's absolutely wonderful. He goes to bed easily around 7:30 and gets up between 6:30-7:15, usually. He consistently naps around 1 PM for about an hour and a half.

We have a solid routine of reading two books, turning on the sound machine and turning off the light, singing songs, hugs & kisses, turning on his music, and then blowing three kisses before walking out the door.

Normally Jim gives him the bath (if he's home) and then we all read books together, Jim leaves while I sing songs, and then we have some time to ourselves. It's been a huge blessing these last few months. Last night I was out and Jim was able to put him down without any trouble. This is a great age.
 The first snow we had only proved to be a light dusting, but I just love this little family photo of us. Currently we have about a foot of snow on the ground, so this pales in comparison.
 These animals travel to the bath and back out. He's crazy about them. They almost always end up in a line like this around the tub.

Baby Dale & Ian

 Ian continues to love to play with Leif in the backyard and to observe our chickens and rabbits. Leif is certainly the most interactive and accessible. He will throw the ball for Leif and then walk up to him and hug him until he drops the ball again. Then repeats the process. It's sweet.

Leif also is very patient with Ian when he's inside the house, too. Ian can climb all over him while he's lying down and he doesn't seem to mind. What a relief to have such a gentle dog.
 Due to the imminent arrival of our baby, we've been having lots of conversations about him/her. We've talked about how mama and papa will go to the hospital and how Ian will stay home with Äma to sleep, play and eat food.... "But Mama & Papa come right back." Yes, we always come back because we love you so much.

We've talked about how the baby might cry and how we'll have to figure out if he/she is hungry, tired, or needs a diaper change. We've talked about where the baby will sleep and set-up the bassinet in the pack-n-play. We've unpacked the baby's clothes, blankets, and toys.

One day he asked me what our baby will eat and we discussed that it would eat Mama's milk. He was holding his baby doll at the time and I asked him what his baby would eat and he stopped and said, "Hmmm, my baby eat sweet potato." Very nutritious!!

His baby has needed much more care and attention during the last couple weeks. She needs to be fed, drink water or milk, changed, and, most of the time, she needs to sleep in the baby's bed. One day she came outside with us to take care of the chickens and he stated that she needed a hood. Considering that it was about 14 degrees F outside, she certainly did require a hood. What a good little Papa/big brother.
 Ian's been very affectionate lately, with many "I love yous" and hugs and kisses. Sometimes he requests that he'd like to "Hold Mama." This means that he wants to give me a hug from behind. Normally he wants to sit behind me on a chair or on the couch and wrap his arms around my shoulders. It's just the sweetest.
 This past weekend we got a foot of snow and Jim didn't have to go to work for three WHOLE days. It was wonderful. The snow was just a little too high for Ian to truly enjoy because he had to hold my hand to get anywhere without falling multiple times, but he was a trooper. My favorite thing was when he'd fall down in the snow and then assure us with an, "I'm okay!!!" Haha! Glad to hear it, little man.

Post-snow fun snuggles.
 Here, Ian had just played in the snow again and was sipping his first hot cocoa while watching Papa dig both of our cars out of the snow.
Here are some of my favorite things that Ian's said recently. I'm sure there are many more that I haven't written down, but at least I've captured a few here:

One day we were heading somewhere in the morning and the sun was shining brightly in both of our eyes. From the backseat of the car I heard a soft, sweet suggestive voice say, "Maybe we need to get our glasses on?" Haha!! I laughed out loud. Yes, that's certainly something that would help!!

Another one of my favorite things he says happens in the car. He says, "Oh hey! You see it!!!" and it's normally followed quickly by a "It's right dere, dis way" with a point of his finger and extension of his whole arm. It's so fun to talk about things that we are seeing while we are driving and I love that he has things he'd like to share with me, too. When we see a cement truck he says, "Dere's a truck. It go round and round!" Adorable.

A common phrase is "I need...." Most of the time it's very sweet and innocent, but occasionally it can come off as quite demanding. We've been working on changing the phrasing and adding please, when applicable. It is probably most used when he wants to play with Papa. He says, "I need Papa fall down!" This means that he wants Papa to come down to the floor and wrestle with him. Oh, the jovial brawls those two get into....!

He also really likes to say, "I need Papa run. Papa run!" They do laps around the house and Ian is getting really skilled at changing directions and "faking" Jim out. If it weren't for Ian's loud stomps and constant giggling, Jim might have a bit more of a challenge on his hands. Ian is so fast around the corners in our house! It's impressive.

Or, this weekend we heard this a lot: "I need Mama and Papa play in the snow." Don't mind if we do! And he kept telling us, "It's snowy everywhere!" It sure is :)

Since he played so well independently today, I took advantage of it and got a lot of cleaning done around the house (nesting much???). After his nap I knew I wanted/needed to get him outside for a bit to enjoy the snow.

I asked, "Do you want to go outside?"
"Soon. I play with my animals."
A while later, "Now are you ready to go outside and play in the snow?"
"No, I want to play with my animals. One minute."
Waiting longer, "Do you want to play in the snow now and take food to the chickens?"
No, one minute. I will play with my animals one minute."

And then finally it was time to go outside and play in the snow. Time to get dressed in his full get-up. I never realized that he was understanding these concepts of time, but apparently he has figured them out.

We ended up having a lovely time outside. We walked down to the playground where he enjoyed clamoring up the steps in his bulky, warm boots, going down the slide, landing in the snow, and then doing it all over again.

Life's about to change drastically for our family and, in some ways, I've had to mourn the fact that Ian won't get my full attention. But I have moved through those emotions and am just getting so excited to meet and hold our dear baby, learn if it's a boy or a girl, and watch Ian become a big brother!!

I can't imagine growing up and life without my own siblings. Life would have been entirely different without them. They were/are my constant playmates, challengers, biggest fans, and biggest critics. We had to learn to be best buddies for entire summers at The Pinery, with no other kids to play with day in and day out.

We want these gifts for Ian and this baby, too. It's not always easy having a sibling, but it shapes us for life and they are the only ones who know who you were and truly are, and where you came from.

Call us crazy, but we're ready for the next adventure ;)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Merry Christmas! 2015

"Why can't we have Christmas the whole year around?" Those are lyrics from a song on one of my favorite Christmas cassettes (yes, tapes!) that my parents have. And this year, I'm spreading Christmas as far as it can go... to the end of January ;) Partly because I haven't had a chance and partly because if I wait any longer than I may have a newborn in my arms and then it will truly NEVER happen. So, Christmas continues...

My parents had a beautiful, slender tree this year. They have so many ornaments, that not all of them made the cut, but it was a gorgeous tree! Ian spent a good deal of time looking at all of their ornaments and Äma happily obliged and talked to him about each one.
 The biggest joy of this Christmas was watching Ian enjoy it so much. He loved all of the new books and stories that came out for the season, he loved the singing, he loved being around family, and he loved opening presents!!
 Mom & James were the chefs. On Christmas Eve they made a delicious baked pork, sweet potato, and apple meal. My mouth still waters thinking about it.
We were fortunate to have Jim around for a few days around Christmas. We drove up to my parents' home on Christmas Eve and stayed for two nights over Christmas.
 Christmas morning we awoke to a 60 degree F day... what?!?

Ian wore his new onesie from Äma that said, "Santa's Little Helper" and he was such a joy to watch throughout the morning. He carefully ripped each gift open and played with each toy until it was his turn to open another gift. We always start with the youngest member of the family and lap around and around again.

It was such a pleasure to spend Christmas morning with him. We couldn't soak up enough of him. It's amazing to think that next year there will be two little ones sitting on that braided rug under the tree.

As per family tradition, we hiked up to Paris View on this very foggy day. 

 It was the first time we've EVER done it in shorts and t-shirts. I can remember one time I thought I would die of wind chill... this was definitely not the case this year.
 Ian hiked most of the way up and down, but here are a few cute shots of this inseparable duo.
We timed our hike perfectly because as soon as we stepped inside the house, it poured down rain. Whew!

Grumps wasn't feeling up to the hike, but he happily snuck away for some reading & playing after our amazing roast beast and yorkshire pudding feast.
 After dinner and before dessert we sang carols. Ian immediately resumed his perch on the stool (where he sits every time Grumps plays for him) and listened to all of us sing carols. It was a really heart-warming time for me, singing these songs with my siblings on either side and my son in rapt attention.
 And, once again, he took his spot behind the piano after Grumps left it vacant.

 He had obviously been carefully observing Grumps' stance. He looks so much like my dad here!!!
On Boxing Day we headed home after a delicious raclette lunch. Thank you, Mom & Dad, for hosting us and for the amazing meals!! What a wonderful visit.

Ian napped while Jim and I enjoyed lots of time to chat and enjoy each other's company. Car rides have a nice way of lending themselves to conversations and purposeful time together.

Late that night Jim's parents arrived to celebrate Christmas with us. The next morning, as usual, Gramee was up with the sun and ready to read and play with Ian!! He was happy to show her his huge stack of library books that sit next to his bed and they read through each and every one of them.
We ate breakfast and then hopped straight into opening Christmas gifts!! We saved our big one for Ian to open at home. Here he is with his new barn!! A home for all of his animals.

Gramee & Grandpa brought their gifts and Aunt Erin & Uncle Russ' gifts with them, so the tree was, once again, full of presents!!

I love watching Ian stick his tongue out as he concentrates. It has always made me think of my grandpa, who did the same thing. John, Jim's dad, commented that Grampy always did that when he was focusing... so, he gets it from both of his great grandfathers!!

Ian was blessed to receive so many wonderful presents, toys, clothes, and books from all of our loving family members. It was an amazing Christmas for this two year old!!
Such a focused little man.
As I mentioned before, we didn't take for granted that Jim had a few days off to enjoy with us. Ian LOVES rough-housing, chatting, and working with his papa.

Gramee & Grandpa came with us for a nice outing to the playground in the morning.

I love this picture of the two of them.
That afternoon we went for a walk on the Huckleberry to stretch our legs and enjoy the weather.

The next morning we had breakfast and then John & Kim headed back to Pennsylvania and Jim started back to work. Thank you for a great visit! Thank you for our wonderful gifts!!

Two days later, Christine arrived and we had our third Christmas!! See, why can't we have Christmas the whole year around?! Once again, we had a lovely gift exchange. It's so fun to have Christine visit and stay with us for a while. She gets into our routine, enjoys doing things in our area, knows many of our friends, is such an easy house guest, and a welcome companion for me & Ian during the day! We're so glad she feels so comfortable with our family.

In the middle of her stay she watched Ian for two nights while we went on our babymoon (already posted about this). THANK YOU SO MUCH, Christine! Our friends Chris & Jess ended up having them over for dinner on Friday and Anna & Steve invited them out to dinner on Saturday. We're grateful for the friends who make up such a great village here.
And that's a wrap on Christmas, 2015!

Next year we'll have another child in the mix. Our baby will be about ten months old by that point and that's crazy to think about right now.