Our Christmas in Song Titles

Right now, I'm sitting in a bed with my just-days-away-from-being-two-years-old daughter lying next to me.

She is wearing footsie pajamas decorated with bunnies and hearts, and she's tucked beneath a slate green woven blanket and a pure white cotton comforter. Yet her gentle breathing and the feel of her relaxed hand on my leg are softer than anything man could manufacture.

---

If you follow me on Twitter, you know we escaped the clutches of the Midwest Christmas Blizzard last week and made it to Colorado, where my parents recently moved. It's been a FULL holiday season. We celebrated Christmas three times in three days -- on Christmas Eve with Corey's parents, on Christmas morning with our immediate family (read: the kids, Corey and me) and on Boxing Day in Colorado with my side of the family.

Not only have I eaten every form of holiday treat available in America, my kids also now own every toy in the world.


We are exceedingly, immeasurably blessed. It is very humbling.

---

I'm technically on vacation this week, so I've been trying to stay away from the computer and all things blog-Twitter-Facebook related. But I can't resist the temptation to share a few seasonal pictures with accompanying song title captions. Because this will only be funny for about another 48 hours. If that.

White Christmas


What Child is This?


Joy to the World



As with Gladness Men of Old


And after that last shot ... really, what more can I say? See you in 2010.

When the Hype Grows Old

I hate to deluge you with baby news -- have I mentioned it's a BOY? -- but my Pregnancy Journal post is up at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. The idea for it came to me Monday morning when I was showering. I actually had to keep reminding myself that my ultrasound was the next day; my mind was so absorbed with Christmas details and the normal stuff I do to run our home, I would completely forget that I had something extra (and really, really special) in just a few hours.

And that made me laugh, inwardly, because I would NEVER have forgotten the ultrasound when I was pregnant with the other kids. The ultrasound was the focus on my week, my month, my life. I counted down the hours; such was the anticipation. But this time? I think I'm a little too familiar with pregnancy to be absorbed like I used to.

Anyway. You can go read more about that at 5 Minutes for Parenting.

---

In other news, there's a HUGE STORM bearing down on the Upper Midwest. I don't watch, listen or patronize the local media anymore -- which is ironic, for someone who used to edit a community newspaper and produce a local newscast for NBC -- but I hear they are hyping it for all its worth. One of my friends said they've given it the nickname "snow-nami." (Insert eye roll here.)

MckMama summed it up well
: It's snow. It's Minnesota. It's December. What's new?

I totally agree.

But I am also weather geek, so I'm still tracking the storm. And since we were supposed to travel this weekend to spend Christmas with my family, the storm is having a huge impact on our immediate future. Right now, the weather service says we could get anything from 12-20 inches between tonight and Saturday morning. If we get anything like that, we'll be home-bound for Christmas, with nary a plan in sight.

Which means I might be the only blogger online the next few days. :-) Merry Christmas!

It's a...

It's a BOY!

More importantly, he's TOTALLY HEALTHY, from everything we could see during our ultrasound this morning. (And we could see EVERYTHING. This was the most comprehensive scan I've ever experienced. We went over the kid with a fine-tooth comb.)

A few thoughts from the ultrasound room:

* Bringing three kids, ages 8 and under, to an ultrasound isn't the wisest choice. We didn't really have any other option, unless we wanted to pay for a babysitter. And we hoped Natalie, at least, would find it interesting, which she did for the most part. But Teyla? She ran around the room and fussed when we wouldn't let her touch the technician's computer. Connor tossed and turned and whined that he was bored. It was a less-than-delightful 30 minutes.

* Corey and I both thought we saw a little something as the technician was whipping through the measurement portion of the ultrasound. We kept raising our eyebrows at each other and communicating in glances. "Was that a shadow between the femurs? Did you see what I saw?" So we weren't terribly surprised when she zoomed in and said, "It's a boy!"

Connor, however, grinned ear to ear when we made him sit up and look at the screen. "You're going to have a brother, buddy!" After the ultrasound, as we were picking up our coats and gathering our gear and generally acting like we had moved into the ultrasound suite, Connor said in a proud voice, "This is the best day ever!"

(Of course, just a few minutes later, when I said we were going to Chipotle for lunch, a place that isn't his favorite, he scowled and said, "This is the worst day ever!" Such is the life if a six-year-old.)

* As for me? I would say the announcement feels amazing and anti-climactic at the same time. So many people close to us in real life have been saying for months that we're having a boy. (At Thanksgiving, my father-in-law said, "So when do we get confirmation that you're having a boy?" Which irked the rebel in me, if I'm honest.)

It's a little like knowing what you're getting for Christmas. It could be a present you're anticipating and excited to be getting -- but if you know what's wrapped and under the tree, it takes a little of the adrenaline out of opening the package.

Still. What an awesome present. It's just what I wanted -- a healthy baby who will add balance to our family. Connor will have a brother. And I will get to use my baby boy clothes one more time.

It's a BOY!

In Which We Talk About Sex (of the Baby)

So I have all these thoughts rattling around inside my head today. Some of them actually make sense and could be written up in a real post with transitions and cohesive reason and everything.

But alas, I can't focus on a blessed thing right now. Because TOMORROW IS MY ULTRASOUND, and if all goes well, WE WILL BE FINDING OUT THE SEX OF THE BABY.

The date has snuck up on me, which is only possible during the holidays. I've been so busy baking and wrapping and exuding holiday cheer, that I haven't been nearly as obsessed with finding out the sex of this baby as I was last time. Christmas is nothing if not distracting.

But as we all know, life goes on, even during the holidays, even during Christmas break when my children are home, amazingly enough. Today, I hired one of our favorite babysitters to take my kids so I could focus on the task right in front of me and clean my whole house. Otherwise, I knew I'd be too flighty to ever finish such a mind-numbing job, not when I have baby plans to daydream about and baby names to dismiss and baby bedding to browse on Pottery Barn Kids.

Plus, it's hard to clean when kids are around. Normally, I do it on a day when only Teyla is home and the older two kids are in school. But with all three of them home and inside (since none of the neighbor kids are off school yet and my kids don't like to play in the snow without friends who don't share DNA)? Fuggedaboutit.

Sidebar alert, but today is not the day to keep me on task: I really like a clean house, but I don't really like to clean my house. Jo @ Mylestones asked on Twitter if it was cheaper to hire a babysitter than a team of cleaners, and I responded that it wasn't, really, but I've never met a cleaning company who really cleans stuff and doesn't just wipe off surfaces. So I bite the bullet and do it myself and farm my kids out to an indoor playground and McDonald's so I can just get it done without having to simultaneously break up fights, cut up apples, make lunch and clean up after the toddler. ("At least I finished this room. Hey! Look! The room I just finished is already destroyed!)

So back to the point: Do you have an opinion on the gender of this baby? Because 95% of the people in my real life think it's a boy, based solely on the fact that we have a pattern thing going (girl-boy-girl-xx). Also, my family of origin has the same pattern -- we are girl-boy-girl-boy.

I don't have a feeling one way or the other (although my back hurts all the time lately, do you think that says something?). But I don't think nature necessarily works in patterns and/or believes in symmetry when it comes to this kind of thing.


Part of me hopes it's a boy, because then Connor will have a brother. But part of me would like it to be a girl, because then Teyla will have a sister close in age, and I've never seen a close-in-age sister relationship. (My sister and I are super close now, but she is six years younger than me -- just like Teyla and Natalie -- so we weren't close growing up. We had too many years between us.)

OK. I'm turning over the mic. What say you?

The Christmas Cookies Made Us Late

Oh. My. Stinkin. Word.

Today was been one of those weeks, y'all. It's the last day of school before Christmas break, which means the kids and I were scrambling to package boxes of Christmas cookies for all their teachers this morning (when we should have been eating breakfast). It was at that moment, at 8:07 AM, when I remembered that Connor was supposed to have cards and a small gift FOR EACH OF THE 17 STUDENTS in his kindergarten class for his party today, and oh yes, each card was supposed to be hand-addressed to his classmates. (It was actually homework, to encourage the kids to work on their writing skills.) And while he Natalie made 17 cards a few days ago, had we finished them? Had he addressed them? Had he packed treat bags? Had he even signed them?

That would be a negative.

So we kick up the adrenaline and start cramming some not-quite-hardened Faux Thin Mints into goody bags with cards and homemade marshmallows. And Teyla has a stinky diaper, which makes her scream with pain, because she also has some diaper rash right now that looks like a third degree burn. (Too many Clementines. That girl is a fanatic.)

We finally get everything packaged and I rush everyone toward the door to get on their coats and backpacks and such, and I'm throwing some more cookies into the car along with some pans of Pioneer Woman's lasagna to deliver and we are now 10 MINUTES LATE, which means we WILL be late for school, which hasn't happened yet this year (which is a miracle in itself, but I don't have time to stop and point that out right now), and Natalie is starting to look very somber and sad about the fact that she will be walking into her class after the bell has rung.

We peal out of the driveway, and I'm halfway down the block already when Connor says, "I don't have my backpack."

Deep breath. Reverse. Inhale. Exhale. Open the garage door. Send the boy to get his backpack, since he'll need his snack after not eating breakfast and he'll surely have tons of stuff to bring home today, the last day before break. So we're loaded again, and now even later, and Natalie has tears in her eyes, and I'm so stressed you could pluck the tune to "Silent Night" on my neck tendons.

Then we get to school and we're scooping all our packages and backpacks and snow pants out of the car when Connor says, "I didn't bring my snowpants."

Deep breath.

"Or my boots."

DEEP. BREATH.

Then I notice: His bag of classroom treats is also missing from the van.

I don't remember anything after that. I'm pretty sure it's because my head exploded

But somehow, we made it to the afternoon. And now I'm sitting here, in my quiet house. Teyla is napping. I've eaten lunch, and it didn't consist of three kinds of Christmas cookies and the icing that had pooled on the wax paper.

And my tree is lit and the snow is glittering and the sun is shining and all is well.

And all will be well.

P.S. I was supposed to tell you TWO DAYS ago that I wrote about the all-important ultrasound over at 5 Minutes for Parenting this week. I'm a need-to-know girl when it comes to the gender, and I detailed why in my post. So far, most of the comments are siding with me. But surely there are some I-want-a-surprise people out there. So come over and join the conversation.
P.S.S. My ultrasound is on Tuesday. AHHHH! I can hardly stand it!

Christmas Salad Dressing

Last Christmas, I was irritable. For no reason I could directly discern, It took me a long time to get into the Christmas spirit. I finally started feeling some goodwill around December 16, when I started baking Christmas cookies and listening to holiday jazz on Pandora. But before that, I was all bah-humbug.

It’s taken me almost a year, but I think I have successfully traced the roots of my bad attitude. And it is this: I don’t know which Christmas to celebrate anymore.

The way I see it, there are two very distinct Christmases these days. There is cultural Christmas, which I also call Santa Christmas. It’s the Christmas of tradition, the Christmas that is best when snow falls and the fire crackles, the Christmas that features red-cheeked children opening presents around a glittering and glowing tree. It’s the Christmas of cookies and egg nog and candy canes. It’s the Christmas of buying gifts and wrapping them and then forgetting where we hid them around the house before the big day. It’s the Christmas of nostalgic music like “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and “The Christmas Song” and “I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas.”

But none of that has anything to do with the other Christmas, which is the Jesus Christmas, the day we celebrate the ultimate gift of Emmanuel, God with us.

Before I get hate mail, let me clarify that I know many of those traditions have roots in Christian symbolism. I know the story of the candy cane and that we give gifts to echo God’s gift to us and that we drink egg nog because it’s made with eggs and clearly there were chickens in the stable that first night.

But really – let’s be honest. Do you think about the shepherds when you crunch a peppermint stick? Do you stop and thank God for his blessings every time you open a gaily wrapped package?

Or do you just celebrate those traditions because they are fun and nostalgic and sentimental and seasonal?

I know what the answer is for me. And to be clear, I have a lot of tender feelings for Santa Christmas. I see nothing wrong celebrating cultural holidays – as long as we distinguish them as cultural.

The trouble comes, in my mind, when we try to mix the two together like some sort of salad dressing. Because eventually, the two opposing forces of oil and water will sort themselves out of the emulsion, and we’ll be left with a nasty puddle on our plate.

Looking back, I think that’s what was bothering me last December. I’ve lived most of my life with the two Christmases whipped together. But last year, I wanted to bring Jesus to the forefront. Connor and Natalie, then 5 and 7 years old, were old enough to really start to understand the celebration. But the more I tried to make God’s gift the focus of our party, the more annoyed and frustrated I got. I just couldn’t seem to make the Jesus Christmas – that of God-with-us and miracles and the unexpected and God’s voice speaking again after a 400-year silence – shine brighter than the Santa Christmas of cookie decorating and gift opening and snow falling.

To be honest, I’m frustrated still. It’s helped to identify the two competing Christmases. But Santa Christmas is so loud and so overwhelming and so everywhere…. I’m left feeling out-voiced and out-numbered.

I know there are a few things we can do to highlight the real meaning of the season for ourselves and our families. I love the idea of a Jesse tree and the Advent Wreath. I really love the idea of giving to those in need and/or cutting back drastically on the amount of gifts we give each other.

But to be honest, I see so little of God in our cultural Christmas, I wonder why I should bother? Why try to keep the two intertwined? The only reason we celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25 is because a Roman emperor decided to “Christianize” a pagan holiday. Constantine didn’t want his people to have to give up their mid-winter festivals, honoring the gods Saturn and Mirthras. So he just blended the story of Jesus’ birth into the mix.

And today, almost 2,000 years later, I’m still trying to sop up the mess. I have oil and vinegar all over my heart, and I don't know how to fuse them back together anymore.

For more on this topic, check out Shaun Grove's excellent post A Reply to Those People and Lifenut's thoughtful You don't have to tell me Merry Christmas. I credit both of those posts with helping me to gel the thoughts in my head.

Snow Day (Part 2)

I was hit in the face with a cold wave of shock when I clicked on my blog yesterday and realized I never shared Snow Day: Part 2 as promised. Because I could have sworn I did that.

This pregnancy (and the all-too-real dreams I can't shake) is eating away my sanity.

So here's the deal. Last week, as I explained in Snow Day: Part 1, we were hit with our first real winter storm. (It's true that we had measurable snowfall in October, but that was freakish and weird. And wrong. So I'm not counting it.) It snowed for about 24 hours straight Tuesday through Wednesday. We were left with about eight inches of snow on the ground.

Here's the view from my place on Tuesday afternoon. (Please note how dark it is. The time stamp is 3:58.)

Here are the extra tree greens wrapped in lights (also described in Snow Day: Part 1) that made it onto my deck just before the snow started falling.

And here's a shot of my deck before sunset on Tuesday night.

It's useful for comparing to the shot the next morning. Here's how much snow we got.

(I love those huge piles of snow on my chairs and planters. It's like meringue for outdoor furniture.)

My deck looks much the same right now. Thursday, it got wickedly cold -- as in, our highs were around 8 and the wind chill was well below zero. (When we drove to school Thursday morning, in the bright and brittle sunshine, Connor was mesmerized by the thermometer in the van. He counted down every degree as we pulled from our heated garage into the cold. "Twenty-three! Fifteen! NINE! SIX!!! ZERO!!!!" It was at that point I wondered if a six-year-old boy's head could literally pop off from excitement.) So all that snow? It ain't going anywhere anytime soon. And we could get another coating of four inches by tomorrow morning.

But you know what? Right now, I'm OK with that. In fact, I'm more than OK with that. I'm thrilled by that. Because here in Minnesota, we do Christmas right. We rarely have to dream of a white Christmas; we just look at our window and enjoy God's creativity.

(I also feel compelled to point out that God himself decorates the North for Christmas each year. Not Martha Stewart, not a human designer. God. Thus, I'm led to believe that, while the South might love Jesus most, as Shaun Groves asserts, clearly Jesus chooses the North first every time.)

And our kids?

Our kids love the snow. Connor was out sledding on the pitiful little bump at the end of our street on Tuesday afternoon, before we even got anything.

To a child, this snow is just a git from God, a beautiful landscape in which to play, laugh, run and create.

When I see it through their eyes, winter is breath-taking. Truly.

Here's to more snow days*. I can't wait.

*This statement expires January 31, 2010. No reminders of such statement can be made after that time. No actual snow days are inferred in the creating of such statement, since Minnesota has an army of snowplows and doesn't cancel school for cold or snow. Ever. The term snow day is to be construed as an expression of freedom and fun only.

Snow Day (Part 1)

Yesterday morning, I dropped the kids at school and ran a few errands with Teyla. There was urgency in my step. The first winter storm of the season was on the way, and I woke up at 6:00 AM with the sudden realization that I knew exactly how I wanted to decorate our back deck for the holidays. But with the snow already coming down, time was of the essence.

My shopping buddy and I swung through Jo-Ann's (to get some cookie exchange supplies), the grocery store (to buy more milk and bananas, the top two items we run out of, and the makings of Cincinnati chili) and our local hardware store (so I could buy a timer for our outdoor lights and make my decorating dreams come true).

By the time we got home, it was only about 10:30, but it felt like we'd been running all morning. I immediately grabbed my extra tree clippings, my gardening gloves (the better to fight off errant tree sap), my white lights, my really cool new timer, and hit the deck. The snow wasn't falling thick yet; it was more of a dusting that was coating everything and making it slick. But the clouds were heavy and hovering.

I was clipping the branches, holding them on the top of the raining and wrapping them with lights when Teyla came out to join me. She enjoyed running her fingers through the coating of snow on the Adirondack chairs and touching the frozen dirt in my pots. But eventually, the cold got to her. So she turned to go back in the kitchen and ... CRASH.

Being a new Minnesotan, she didn't know how slippery her shoes would be on clean linoleum. She hit the ground fairly hard, but what really surprised me was the sharpness of her cries. By the time I reached her, she was standing, shaking her right wrist and hand rather frantically and saying, "Ow! Owie! Ow! Ow!"

I picked her up, gave her a good cuddling, checked her hand and wrist for broken bones (nothing apparent) and, when the crying stopped, I settled her on the couch with a cozy blanket wrapped around her and Elmo on the TV.

I wasn't back on the deck for 60 seconds when I heard her crying again. "Ow! Owie! Ow!" It was still the wrist. She seemed really distraught, which is highly unusual for our tough little toddler. I'm certainly not one to rush to the ER, but this time, I wondered. I called a pediatric nurse at our office, just in case, and she said to put ice on it (which I already did while waiting on hold) and to watch and see what happens over the next hour. If she wouldn't reach for something with her right hand or didn't seem to grasp things well, I was advised to bring her in.

The cold pack seemed to calm my little girl. (I always wonder how much of the cold pack's therapy is physical and how much is emotional.) So I settled her back under the blanket with Elmo still on the TV, made sure she was resting her wrist on the cold pack and I returned once again to the deck to finish stringing the lights around the greens.

Ten minutes later, I was done. I came back inside to find Teyla, asleep on the couch.

It was 11:00 AM.

I was stunned. Teyla is doing great at establishing a sleep routine right now, and nap time isn't usually until 1:00 or 1:30 PM. Asleep? My female Tasmanian devil?

I decided to leave her be but stay in the area (which isn't hard in a small townhouse). I put away the groceries. Still asleep. I cleaned the kitchen. Still asleep. I started some laundry. Still asleep. I went upstairs and cleaned the bathrooms. I cleaned the bedrooms. I did some blogging. Still asleep.

At one point, I heard her stir, so I came downstairs and found her groggily standing next to the couch. I scooped her up, sat down on the couch for a few minutes (my back needed a rest anyway). And she fell back asleep.

All told, she napped 3.5 hours yesterday, which is almost double her normal nap time. By the end, I was wondering if I should Google "how to check for a concussion." But I reasoned she had never complained of her head hurting, and it was possible she was just extra tired from an early wake-up time and a morning full of running errands in the cold.

By the time she got up, at 2:30, she was in good spirits, and her wrist was fine. I was amazed at the restorative powers of a nap -- and at the restorative powers of silence for me. Teyla's unplanned rest meant I had most of the day to putter around the house by myself, watch the snow fall and listen to some Christmas jazz. It was utterly homey, completely peaceful. And in addition to all the other work, I was able to fold about two weeks worth of clean laundry that had been piling up in my laundry room.

I guess it was like the perfect snow day, adult-style. I didn't play outside (once I got the lights up, anyway). But I did enjoy the coziness of the storm and the solitude winter offers.

Looking back, it was one of those unexpected surprises. God gave me a gift in the middle of December. And as always, I am the richer for it.

So this is the story of my snow day. But I have a Part 2, which would be story of the actual storm going on outside. I'm going to post that later today, after I have time to shoot some pictures.

Just an Ordinary Day

It was 18 degrees on the way to school this morning.

The sun struggled to shine through some high clouds and the ground glittered from all the frost and the promise of a storm -- a real winter storm -- hung like a promise in the sky. We could get 8 inches of white powder by Wednesday night. (Or not. The weather is a huge tease this time of year.)

I was driving with my three children in the minivan -- Natalie sitting in the front next to me, telling me her thoughts about the 3rd grade spelling bee today, Connor sitting behind her, detailing to me the kind of equipment firefighters use (bet you didn't know they typically use jets, did you?) and Teyla, all crazy hair and runny nose and pink patches on her face, looking like the sweetest mess you've ever seen in a rearview mirror.

It was just an ordinary moment on an ordinary day.

And I was overcome with thankfulness.

Which is a lot better than being overcome by worry about the future or frustration over the mountain of laundry that needs my attention or loneliness because of Corey's crazy travel schedule this month.

Because truly, I have God. And He is faithful. What can I do but praise?

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
- Psalm 126:3

They Won't Be on the Christmas Card Either

Is anyone else in a race-to-the-finish-line dash to get their Christmas cards and/or calendars ordered by tonight? There are so many great deals out there right now (golden words in my book: free shipping), but they all expire at midnight.

(Pardon me while I go hit "repeat play" on the Musical Baby DVD. Thanks.)


I can tell you one thing: Here are a couple of pictures that won't be going into the calendar.

M
y belly shot at 16 weeks.

I should note that was taken in the morning, when I look appropriately 16 weeks pregnant. By evening, I look approximately 25 weeks pregnant. And no, I'm not kidding. See?

That was taken around 8:30 PM. Notice that I used the camera to hide my face, like one of those black bars they put on the "fashion don'ts" in the back of the magazines. And if you can't see the difference, it's only because I have to twist into an mannequin-like position that is oh-so-comfortable to take my own picture. Either that, or you are squinting. And you really shouldn't do that. Your face could stick that way.

In other pregnancy news, I FELT THE BABY MOVE THIS WEEK. I have the whole story posted at 5 Minutes for Parenting today, in the continuing saga of "And Baby Makes 6: Kelly's (Last) Pregnancy Journal." Frankly, I feel pretty cool that I'm able to discern the baby flutters this early in the pregnancy. You can read the details here.

December 1

This is how I know December has arrived in Minnesota.

I stood on our front stoop this morning, with a bowl of Cheerios in my hand, and I realized the air I was inhaling was colder than the milk I had just poured on my cereal.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas....

---

If you need encouragement, get thee to either of these posts written by some of my best bloggy friends:
Laundry Baskets (by Amy Beth at Ministry So Fabulous)
We're Expecting (by Missy at It's Almost Naptime)

Both of them cracked right into my heart this morning as I read them. And now I'm going to go bawl on my Bible for a little while.

Because sometimes -- no matter the date -- we just need a fresh start.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

This is an ugly truth, but I’m going to say it anyway: Sometimes, my thankful heart disappears as quickly as the pumpkin pie.

Admittedly, it’s been a rough weekend. Corey left Saturday morning for a four-day trip to Haiti. He’s going with one of his clients (Food for the Poor) to see first-hand what they do in a country that is one of the most needy in the world. I’m thrilled he has this opportunity. He needs the tangible reminder that his work isn’t just pushing paperwork and filing reports; he’s helping nonprofits make a difference.

But his trip means I’m home alone with 3.5 kids, a dog and sinus congestion that has been around so long, I’m thinking of giving it a name. (“Hello Mr. Snuh-Fee. Which side of my head will you be clogging with cement today?”)

Thursday, I was awash in gratitude. I cooked a feast for my family to celebrate God's blessings. I was acutely aware of all I've been given, that life isn't always easy, but it is good, a gift beyond measure.

This weekend, gratitude has not been my top emotion.

Instead, I’ve been whiny. Pouty. Frustrated. Stretched. Impatient. Unimaginative.

On Saturday, I spent hours – literally, hours – in front of the computer, mindlessly surfing the Internet as the kids fought and complained around me. We were all prickles and thorns.

Yuck.

So today, I’m thankful for a new day. I’m thankful for the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. I’m thankful for a God who met me in church yesterday morning and gave me fresh perspective (and energy and patience) to face three more days of single-parenthood.

And I do believe I have two pieces of pumpkin pie left. How appropriate.

Maybe I can make those Thanksgiving leftovers last a little longer.

Sami : Part 4 (Conclusion)

If you haven't been with us since the beginning, here's the back-story:
Sami : Part 1
Sami : Part 2
Sami : Part 3
And now, the conclusion.


Two months later, the sting of losing Sami hadn't quite passed. Natalie's broken heart seeped tears from time to time. (Never mind that she had only known the dog for 24 hours. She still carried the dog tags with her as if Sami were the only pet she had ever known, which, come to think of it, she was.)

And I was humbled, incredibly humbled. I had done tons of research on getting a dog, and if you read my blog, you know I had debated it for months. I had felt very positive about Sami once we made the decision to adopt her. But obviously, I was wrong. Horribly, miserably wrong.


When we took Sami back to the rescue society, we promised Natalie that the idea of a dog wasn't off the table. We just needed a few months to regain our balance as a family, to get through the worst part of winter and to re-evaluate our options.


Thankfully, the people at the Border Collie Rescue Society were understanding and helpful. They were also $300 richer, thanks to the adoption fees we had paid to adopt Sami. It was their policy not to do refunds, but our situation was so pitiful, they decided to amend their rules and allow for a 12-month credit period where a family could adopt a new border collie through them free of charge.

Every few weeks, the society's director would e-mail me with some information about new dogs coming into their system. She was especially sensitive about our young children, who now were flirting with a dog phobia. She really wanted us to find a dog that would be perfect for our circumstances.


As for us, we were praying like crazy. We fully intended to keep looking at dogs for Natalie's sake -- yet we were scared that another bad experience would both terrify Connor and Teyla and turn Natalie's wound into a permanent scar. Talk about precarious. We needed a huge slice of God's wisdom topped with a giant dollop of guidance. (Ummm, yes, I am writing this on Thanksgiving. Why do you ask?)


In mid-February, the director e-mailed me about a dog who had been picked up on the streets of North Dakota in early January. (The funny thing about that -- I'm not sure North Dakota has actual streets.) She was taken in by one of the Border Collie Rescue's foster homes here in the Twin Cities. Two days later, she had a littler of puppies.


The puppies were still young -- and adorable, naturally. But the director was more interested in us looking at the mom than the pups. "She's very sweet, mild-mannered, great with the foster families kids. I think she might be the perfect dog for you. She can't be adopted for another month or so; the puppies will need to be weaned. But maybe that time frame is OK?"

It was. We agreed to make a trip sometime in the next few weeks to the other side of the Cities to see Eva and her puppies. We warned Natalie (and my puppy-loving husband*) that we could play with the puppies, but our home wasn't conducive to a young dog at the moment. ("I can only handle so much poop and pee from creatures at knee-level," I said to Corey.) Our target dog had to be the mom.

On the hour-long drive to meet Eva and Co., we were filled with cautious hope. The puppies were about six weeks at that time -- the perfect puppy age. When the foster family opened the gates for Natalie to see the dogs (And may I just say how sweet this family was? They had three large dogs of their own, and then Eva came along and had puppies in their kitchen. Unfazed, they just moved their kitchen table out, coated the floor with newspapers and put up a large circular gate. Their whole house smelled like dog when we walked in the front door, but they were obviously Dog People of the best kind.) Anyway. When they opened the gates, the puppies came flooding out. Natalie sat down on the floor and was immediately covered in a pile of squirming cuteness. She giggled and giggled and the puppies scampered and licked and fought to be King of the Natalie.
We let the puppies have their fun for a few minutes.

Then the foster father put them outside so we could have a chance to get acquainted with Eva without distraction.
True to the director's word, Eva was a sweet, sweet dog. She came walking over to us, head down but tail wagging. When she reached our feet, she rolled over, begging for a tummy rub. The whole time we were there, she never jumped or barked or ran around in circles. She just sat and watched and wagged. She was so calm, Corey wondered out-loud if she would ever play. The foster father explained that dogs are often exhausted after birthing and caring for a litter of puppies. (Go figure.) He said she'll probably regain a sense of playfulness as she recovers, but it seemed apparent to him that Eva was just naturally a mellow, kind and patient dog.

(And honestly, to deal with a litter of five puppies when you are only a year old yourself, you'd have to be graced with extra maturity, don't you think?)

Natalie cried as we drove away from the foster family that day, so tender was her heart toward the animals inside. "I'd really like one of the puppies, Mom," she said. "But Eva would be just as good."

Corey and I talked and prayed and debated and prayed and talked. Every 12 hours or so, Natalie would hesitantly say, "Have you made a decision yet?"

What a wonderful day it was when we could finally answer, "Yes. We've made a decision. We'll adopt Eva. We believe she is the dog for us."

We picked her up a week later. Natalie immediately changed the dog's name to Sami Eva, which seemed fitting since the new dog was crowned with the old dog's tags.

And in the months since, Sami Eva has proven to be God's perfect gift. She adores Natalie, is patient with Teyla (who mostly likes to bang at her face, a toddler form of petting) and plays with Connor. She has only had about three accidents in the house, total. She patiently stays in her kennel when we're gone. She doesn't bark (except when a stranger rings our doorbell, and even then, it's just one deep "woof!"), she doesn't jump up, she doesn't pull at her leash. She loves to go on walks and play hide-and-seek and run races outside. But she's happiest just laying at someone's feet, having her belly rubbed.

Everyone who comes to our house is amazed at her sweet heart and calm disposition.

Honestly? I'm surprised too. I never expected to go looking for a dog and, instead, find an angel with black-and-white fur.





*When Corey and I were newlyweds, we ended up adopting four dogs in two months because we couldn't say no to The Puppy. We look back now and marvel at our insanity. That's when we learned we could never trust ourselves around puppies again.

Sami : Part 3

If you're new, be sure to read Sami : Part 1 and Sami : Part 2 before proceeding. Otherwise, you'll mess up your brain. Seriously. I saw it in a study.

At 3:00 AM, I awoke to Teyla's cries. I trudged the hallway, barely awake, when I heard Sami yip. From the sounds of it, she had been awake for quite a while. I could hear her pawing at her crate in the kitchen. Thankfully, Corey heard the sharp bark too, because by the time I got to the nursery, he was pulling on a sweatshirt and descending the stairs to see if our new dog needed to use the (outside and 10-degree) facilities.


I got Teyla back to sleep about the same time Corey finished his duties. We climbed into our bed and exchanged information, as front-line soldiers do.

"Is she asleep?" he asked.

"Yep. Did the dog go?"

"Yep," he answered.

We both snuggled under the comforter. But we hadn't even closed our eyes when we heard the dog again. "Bark! Bark! Bark!"

We sighed.

And then Teyla started to cry. Again.

We both exited the bed and reported to our respective posts.

This went on for about an hour. The baby would get back to sleep just as the dog barked. The dog would settle down just as the baby woke up from her fitful sleep.

It was not a fun night.

At one point, desperate, I turned to Corey and said, "We can't do this. The dog has to go back."

And then I heard Natalie sniffle. She hadn't heard my anxious plea, but she could hear Sami barking, obviously unhappy with being penned in.

I went to Natalie's bed. Now my eldest daughter was crying.

"Mom, I think Sami needs me," she whimpered. "I can hear her barking. Maybe I need to go down and be with her?"

"No, Natalie," I countered. "Sami needs to learn to sleep in her kennel, without people around. She's just confused right now, that's all."

And then, I let a test shot fly.

"You know, Natalie," I said gently, "there's a chance that Sami is the wrong dog for our family right now. I'm not making any decisions tonight, but we might have to send her back."

Natalie stifled a sob.

I gave her a hug, promised nothing was certain and returned to bed.

---

In the morning, Corey and I woke, bleary-eyed and foggy. We were supposed to be hosting a Christmas brunch for 20 of our dearest friends that morning, people who were visiting family back in the Twin Cities for the holidays. I was so overwhelmed from the guilt and the indecision and the frustration, I couldn't even think about what I needed to do to prepare.

Then, Corey turned to me and said, "Something is seriously wrong with my finger. Even without Teyla and the dog, I barely slept last night. The pain is running up my arm, all the way to my shoulder. I think I need to go the ER."

"Right now?" I gasped.

"As soon as I shower," he replied.

"Then ... then ..." I stammered, thinking of the people coming in one hour and the many items I had to cook or bake and the children in my house who were terrified of the beast currently barking in my kitchen, "then you have to take the dog with you!"

It wasn't a perfect plan, but Corey saw my point. So he jumped in the shower and I headed to the kitchen to try to cook in a completely irrational state.

The kids wanted to watch PBS Kids. I turned on the TV. The dog barked. And barked. And BARKED. She obviously wanted to run around the house and not be in her crate anymore. But Connor was laying across the top of the couch just listening to her, and Teyla (who was just starting to walk at that point) was cutting a wide swath around the kennel.

"MOM! I can't HEAR the TV," shouted Natalie over the incessant noise.

"I KNOW NATALIE! I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO EITHER!" I shouted back.

Corey finished showering and loaded the dog into the back of his SUV. I looked around my kitchen. I had managed the mix some butter into some flour and make some coffee. I hadn't showered. And our guests were supposed to arrive in 20 minutes.

I made a few phone calls to our wonderful, merciful friends and they agreed to give me an extra hour to try and scrape my sanity off the ceiling. It was then I made the decision, the final decision: The dog would have to go.

I broke the news to Natalie as gently as I could. She took it was well as a 7-year-old dog-obsessed girl would -- which is to say, she cried for most of the morning. I could tell she understood -- she has a practical streak, and she didn't want Connor and Teyla to be afraid in their own house either -- but still. Her heart was broken.

Perfect. All our Christmas dreams had come true.

Somehow, we got through the morning. Our friends arrived, full of good cheer and grace, and we had a wonderful time. Corey got back from the emergency room with a hole in his fingernail. The ER doctor was forced to drill through the nail to relieve the build-up of blood that was pooling behind his nail bed, which was putting tremendous pressure on the nerves in his hand and arm. And the border collie rescue society called us back and agreed to take Sami back that same evening.

Natalie was the epitome of pitiful when it was time for Corey to leave to take Sami back to her foster home. "Can I just say good-bye?" she said, her bottom lip quivering.

She came back inside (Sami pretty much stayed in the garage the rest of the day) with the little dog ID tag clutched tightly in her hands.

As Corey drove away, she burst into tears. It was one of the saddest moments I've ever witnessed.

Thankfully, that's not the end to the story.

(One more part, coming tomorrow....)

Sami : Part 2

I don't know if other bloggers do this, but I feel like I'm famous for promising a post-to-come and then never delivering on my promise. I realize this blog is a hobby and I have a life full of people who need me and most of you aren't sitting by your computers wondering what happened to that essay Kelly promised. Still. I feel guilty when I don't follow through.

And the biggest guilt of all for me has been not finishing the story of our dog. You can read
Sami: Part 1 here, and since it was published almost six months ago, you should probably do that to refresh your memory before you jump into Sami: Part 2 below. The good news is -- I'm exorcising my guilt this week by writing a portion of the story every day until it's done. And I can do this because I am officially over the first trimester nausea (insert gigantic woo-hoo here) which means I can enjoy my life again. Even small things like writing this story make me immeasurably happy. It's good to be back.

Long explanation over, we'll pick up the story where I left off in Part 1.


For 30 minutes, Natalie was in heaven. Sami jumped and licked and played and barked and did all the doggy things you expect a (rather large) puppy to do to please her new owner.


Unfortunately, those same 30 minutes were akin to torture for Connor and Teyla, both of whom were terrified by this wild beast who had come into their home and seemingly taken over. Sami lunged at Connor, knocking him over. She poked her nose into Teyla's face, resulting in a shriek from our little girl that we haven't heard replicated to this day. Connor ended up laying across the top of the couch to get away from the dog, and Teyla clung to our shoulders in fright.

It was about this time that Corey turned to me and said, "Look at my finger." I did -- and I gasped. It was purple and swollen, his fingernail was black and bleeding.

"What happened?" I asked, wide-eyed.

"I slammed my finger in the back of the SUV when I was putting the dog's stuff in," he grimaced.

But we didn't have time to continue the conversation then, since the doorbell rang and my family from California came pouring through the door. Mass chaos ensured (which Corey would surely say describes my family even without a wild dog, but in this case, the dog didn't help). We ended up putting Sami in her kennel, which was obviously not popular with a dog who had previously been outside all her life. But we had to do what we had to do.

The evening passed in a blur. It was wonderful to see my family, wonderful to look forward to a week of having them here in the Twin Cities. But to be honest, my brain was in a fog. "Maybe this wasn't the best time to get a dog," I thought. "We just have so much going on right now."

But one look at Natalie's face told me I would have to adjust. At bedtime, she started crying because she missed Sami so much. (Sami was one floor away in her kennel at the time.) "I just love her, Mom!" she sobbed.

After the kids were settled, Corey and I sat on the couch and tried to make sense of our new reality. First, the dog was obviously wild. Sweet, yes. But wild. We hadn't anticipated that she would terrorize two of our three children. Second, we had a whole lot of activities going on the next few days. How would we integrate a wild dog into our packed schedule? We have no yard to occupy her. It seemed she would be in her kennel for most of the day. How would that go over?

And then there was Corey's finger. He managed to hide it from my family all evening, but I saw him ascending the stairs several times to take pain medicine, which was a stunning admission of injury for my husband, who has been known to set his own broken bones so he can finish a game without a visit to the ER.

We went to bed. I had a sick feeling in my stomach, and before I fell asleep, I voiced my deepest fears.

"I think we made a huge mistake," I whispered.

Within 12 hours, I would be proved right.

(To be continued THIS WEEK, I promise.)

In Which I Empty My Brain Onto the Screen

I'm hoping to do some "real writing" this weekend -- which is necessary to qualify with air quotes, since "real writing" at this stage means anything that isn't encased by bullet points -- but I have some nagging thoughts I need to clear out first.

The Pioneer Woman is in Minnesota today, signing her new book at the Mall of America. Allison (from O My Family!) and I talked about going together -- but approximately five seconds later, we realized we'd be standing in a line that could stretch from Macy's to Sears and would probably cover at least three of four levels. Translation: That's a LOT of time for an autograph, no matter how wonderful the autographee. So I stayed home this afternoon and took a two-hour nap (bliss!), and Twitter tells me that Allison is meeting Heather (of the Extraordinary Ordinary) to work on details for Cupcake '10.

I think we made the right decision.

That said, I would really like to get a copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and it's on sale for $10.75 right now at Amazon. Is it wrong for me to buy my own copy and then let someone else (cough, Corey, cough) give it to me for Christmas? Because $10.75 is a steal.

I have a minor cold, which doesn't even come close to rivaling the H1N1-mutates-into-a-cold-virus that tried to kill me in October. That was sheer misery. My sinuses were so closed, I could even Neti pot them. (And yes, I tried for the first time ever because that's how desperate I was. Turns out, you can be too congested for the "nose irrigation" plan to work.) I was literally having to fight for each breath I took for about five days. So this cold? I laugh at this cold.

But still. My throat hurts.

It's a gorgeous, sunny, 50-degree day here, which is a tad odd for Minnesota on November 21. But it's been like this all month. I can't explain it, but I'm thankful, because October was cool and dank and horrible. I believe the esteemed James Lileks said, "It feels like someone shook up the weeks of autumn this year and let them fall where they may." Exactly.


One of my favorite bloggers, Michelle at Scribbit, is giving away a brand new computer this weekend. Technically, it's known as the HP Touchsmart 600, but I call it the most sleek, gorgeous non-Apple computer I've ever seen. You should go enter to win it. I mean, talk about a Christmas gift.


I am trying to finalize my Thanksgiving menu today. I'm trying to decide if I should move out the Green Beans, Watercress and Fried Shallots salad for the more traditional Green Bean Casserole. I'm also debating the wisdom of three pies for eight people, especially when three of those eight are under five feet tall. But how do I decide between pumpkin (my favorite), apple (traditional) and chocolate (for Corey, Natalie and my father-in-law)? I mean, really. That's like trying to solve for pi. (Snort! Sorry. I couldn't help myself.)


Also? Corey wants me to add roasted Brussels sprouts to the menu. But that would mean I'm making seven side dishes. And did I mention we'll only have eight people at the meal? Oy. The decisions.


Connor spent the last hour watching the Lego version of
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Brick over and over and over again. And I'll admit -- it's pretty darn funny. If you are halfway familiar with the Indiana Jones trilogy and you have a passing acquaintance with Legos (or you have a six-year-old who's obsessed, like me), you should check it out. And watch for all the Star Wars references. Hysterical.

Happy Saturday!

Pregnancy Journal: Diet Deterioration

I was so busy yesterday -- HELLO NAUSEA-FREE LIFE, I'VE MISSED YOU -- I forgot to post a link to my Pregnancy Journal at 5 Minutes for Parenting. This week, I discuss the deterioration of my diet over the passage of four pregnancies. (Surely, I'm not the only one who ate vegetables religiously with #1 and fell to counting pumpkin pie as a vegetable by #4.)

I also tell the story of the poor young teacher I scandalized by announcing my first pregnancy. Come over and join me. It's a hoot.

The Pregnancy Journal at 5 Minutes for Parenting also sports some fancy new accessories this week -- an official title of "And Baby Makes Six." And I have a fun, quirky new button that you, yes you, can put on your blog sidebar to spread the word about the Pregnancy Journal.

Here's a preview of the button, and below that is a link for you to package it up and take it back to your place:





I'm having such a great time recording my thoughts on pregnancy during this final journey down Maternity Road. I'm thrilled so many of you are joining me for the trip (at least in written form). (Although, if you want to be pregnant as the same time as me, be my guest.) (UNLESS YOU'RE MY SISTER, who would like to be pregnant at the same time as me but who just had a baby in April and has a 2-year-old besides. You MAY NOT THINK ABOUT ANOTHER BABY right now, Emily. That is all.)

Small Mercies

I was talking on the phone with one of my closest friends this morning, and we were laughing about how different our lives are right now.

In short: She's busy. I'm not.

Besides her normal family and home responsibilities, Lisa volunteers at her sons' school one day a week. She and her husband co-lead one of their church's small group. They also run a karate school out of their home, in addition to the home-based business her husband operates. She has a wide circle of friends. And she's got her immediate family in town, which means weekly visits and check-ins.

I have ... very little. I co-lead a Bible study for our MOPS women. I have a toddler at home (which Lisa doesn't have; her boys are the same age as Connor and Natalie, so her kids are all in school). And I'm obviously growing a human.

But other than that? My plate is practically empty. I don't even have the kids signed up for any kind of lessons right now (other than karate, which has a come-whenever-you-want policy) or a weeknight church group. We are largely just home, with little to no outside commitments.

This is strange for me. My friends can testify -- I am the opposite of a homebody. Normally, I have great difficulty staying at home for even one full day. If my calendar is empty, I will fill it up faster than you can say "Are you free tomorrow?"

Yet this fall, my schedule is wide open.

This is one of God's small mercies. I didn't have the mental capacities to recognize it until this morning. But He knew that, this fall, I wouldn't have the energy for anything outside of my immediate family. So he emptied my calendar without me even being aware.

(In fact -- I just remembered this. In August, our worship pastor asked me to be on a team of writers for our church's Christmas drama. I was so excited by the potential, I practically said "YES!" before I left his office. But I dutifully said, "Maybe I should pray about it first." And after a week's worth of prayer, I had no peace about the idea -- which frustrated me. But having learned my lesson before, I regretfully informed Scott that I couldn't accept his invitation this year. Now I understand why.)

I am humbled at God's love for even this tiny thing in my life.

What about you? What small mercy has God shown you lately?

(Post script: After I wrote this, I realized it fit perfectly with the weekly Tuesdays Unwrapped carnival over at Chatting at the Sky. So I linked up . That's a wonderful link-fest, if you want to read more about God revealing Himself through even the most mundane of circumstances.)

Regional Living

My November magazines have been sitting in a pile on my desk for about a week now. I already went through them, but as I read, I always earmark pages to tear out later -- recipes I need to try, places I want to visit, pictures that make me smile, even quotes that I want to stick in my journal.

So this morning, I decided to tear out the stuff I wanted to save. And sitting there, ripping out pages, I realized I was ridiculously happy just have access to all this information, all that lush photography, all those drool-worthy recipes. I guess I'm a magazine girl.

About this time last year, Boo Mama posted a link to a great deal on "Southern Living" magazine. I think it was something ridiculous like $5 for a year subscription. Since my Google Reader is filled with Southerners, and I like all y'all, I thought I might subscribe to "Southern Living" for a year and see if it didn't help explain the culture of the south to this combination Midwestern-North Woods-California girl.


It did. And I love it. I think it didn't really add new dimensions to my understanding of southern culture -- your blogs do that in a more personal, adjective-filled way -- but it did reinforce what I already believe. Southerners are charming. You eat strange foods like okra and collard greens. You embrace the heritage that is sweet tea. And you always, but always, bake your cornbread in a cast iron skillet.

Another regional magazine I love with equal zeal is "Midwest Living." Midwesterners, by nature, are a quiet, laid-back, unassuming bunch. They aren't ones to toot their own horn. I think that's part of the reason coastal dwellers view the midsection of the country as "fly-over territory" that has about as much flavor as a bucket of glue.

But that's not true, as anyone who lives here will tell you, if you give them a second. And "Midwest Living" is a grand collection of all the wonderful places, people and foods that make this part of the country home to so many. The photography alone stirs my heart -- snow-covered woods, prairies of grasses, lakes sparkling in the sunlight, vibrant fall trees, lilacs bushes heavy with blooms. They all speak home to me.

And the recipes. Talk about comfort food. Some of my all-time favorites have come from that magazine, including this recipe for chili, which has come to be known as Man Chili at my house since it contains three different kinds of meat.

When we lived in California, I subscribed to "Sunset," which could be called "Western Living" but isn't because it's published in California, and have you ever known California to do anything like the rest of the country? But it too was a slice of regional life for people who live west of the Continental Divide.

But surely there are some other regional magazines out there. What magazines speak home the loudest to you? (And if I've already mentioned it, go ahead and agree with me in the comments. I love to find other people who love magazines.)

Rescued

I went to bed at 10:30 last night, but I couldn't sleep. My mind and heart were too full of images and stories from the Compassion Bloggers live video chat.

If you haven't heard, an awesome team of bloggers is in El Salvador this week, witnessing firsthand the miracle that is Compassion child sponsorship. You can read a few of their impressions here (via Molly from ThePipers) or here (via Kelly's Korner) or check out the really fun story about Shaun Grove's circle of life here.

I have to tell you, these trips pump me up. Corey and I have been Compassion sponsors since 2006; we first sponsored Karla (who lives in El Salvador, not so ironically) because we she is almost the same age as Natalie, and we wanted Natalie to grow up with a deep awareness of poverty, compassion and our responsibility as Christ followers.

So Compassion wasn't new to me when Shaun led the first bloggers trip to Uganda back in 2008. But the stories that came back -- the pictures -- the videos. I absolutely fell head over heels in love with an organization I already respected.

It changed me to the extent that I scheduled Shaun (and his sidekick, Ben) to come speak in chapel last year at my alma mater. (Did you know he does that for free? You can schedule him to come to your college, church or annual lutefisk meeting here.) That week, I spent as much time as possible over at Northwestern, working the Compassion table and generally trying not to sob when I talked to the college students about how child sponsorship changes the life of a child across the world.

After Shaun spoke in chapel on Friday, more than 150 kids were sponsored. And I was flying high.

(You can read Shaun's account of the day here, including the hysterical practical joke he played on an unsuspecting student during his evening concert. I won't ruin the story, but I would advise that you go to the potty before you go to any of Shaun's concerts. 'Nuff said.)

I was so excited to think about all those kids being rescued from poverty -- and I was equally excited to think about how the college students were going to be changed by their relationship with these children.

I remember saying to Shaun, "Man, this is addicting!"

He laughed. "Why do you think I do this?"

Now, I know Shaun doesn't just do this because it's fun and exciting to see God work close-up. (Although I will quote a little Beth Moore here and say, "There's no high like The Most High.") There are countless reasons he speaks and sings on behalf of Compassion, just like there are countless reasons I am now an official advocate for Compassion.

Actually, there are about 1,000,000 reasons.

If you aren't already, I implore you to add yourself to that list. You can sponsor a child right now, sitting at your computer, even if you're wearing your pajamas, even if you're listening to rock-and-roll music. (Maybe especially if you're in your pajamas listening to rock-and-roll music.) It only costs $38 a month, which is nothing, even in this economy. It's a new shirt for you, maybe a meal out, a date night, a few Starbucks a month. To a child, it's a new life.

And -- here's the cool thing -- it will be for you, too.

If you have any questions about Compassion or child sponsorship, please let me know. I'd be honored to get you some answers.

I Guess a Bump is Just a Bump

At 5:00 this evening, I realized I hadn’t taken my Zofran today. Normally, I take a pill around 1:00 to get me through the afternoon and evening.

The fact that I didn’t notice that I had forgotten my normal dosage speaks volumes to me.

A few of you requested belly shots. Here’s one I took late last week. Let’s call it 12 Weeks.

I also feel like I need to add an addendum to the post I wrote at 5 Minutes for Parenting a few weeks ago, when I felt like I was showing and requiring maternity clothes WAY too early for comfort.

I went through my maternity clothes about 20 minutes after I published that post. (The comments on it are hysterical and encouraging, by the way. You should read them.) The good thing is, thanks to four previous pregnancies and a sister who shares maternity clothes with me, I have a complete maternity wardrobe. In fact, I think I might have more maternity clothes than regular clothes at this point.

But the next morning, when I went to put on a maternity shirt, I realized with a start that my rather large baby bump disappeared into nothingness under the tent that is a maternity shirt. In short, I looked ridiculous – like a woman trying to pretend to be pregnant. So with a sigh of resignation mixed with relief, I went back to my regular wardrobe and decided I would spend a few more months continually adjusting my normal jeans and sweaters and fending off wayward looks from strangers.

My Pregnancy Journal post over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today is about marking anniversaries. I have now officially passed the time when I miscarried in 2007. It’s always a sad yet hopeful moment to make it beyond that point. Maybe you can relate. See you there.

Just Get Back On the Bike

I seem to have lost my blogging rhythm the last six weeks.

It's understandable; living in survival mode doesn't leave much room for creativity. But I've been off the bike for so long at this point, I'm not sure how to get back on.


And I
want to get back on. I'm starting to feel better -- a credit to Zofran and maybe, just maybe, the fact that I'm now 13 weeks along. (The most severe pregnancy books say the second trimester doesn't begin until week 14, so I'm going with that for now, because I'm afraid to jinx my new-found zest for life.) I'm developing an appetite for words again. I want to write and think and create.

I'm just not sure how to start.

I keep thinking I need to write thoughtful posts, funny posts, full of witty observations and profound realizations. That would be the best way to start down this path again, right?

But my world leaves so little time for that. Just this morning, I was trying to read a few blogs when I turned around and saw this on the floor next to me.


That would be Teyla, covered in raspberry lip goo. And yes, she's spreading even more bright pink lip goo on the carpet. (My apologies for the lack of photo quality. My camera is dying. It refuses to focus anymore, which is more than a tad annoying.)

Sigh.


I know I have deep thoughts. I have a bunch of posts started, and I have even more ideas ramblings around in my brain.


But this is my life. My life is toddler messes and kisses, a dog who needs to go out, laundry that needs to be folded and older kids who need my attention and help.


So I've decided I'm just going to get back on this bike and start peddling. I'm sure some of my strokes will be wobbly and a few will be strong. I might even fall a few times.

But at least I'll be riding again. Because this I know -- I've missed it. (And I've missed you.)

Friday Changed My Life

So I've Tweeted about this a little and written a few e-mails. But I finally feel confident enough to proclaim it here on ye old blog: Zofran is AMAZING.

At my OB check last Friday, my doctor asked how I was feeling. I said that I'm decent in the morning and the day slides downhill from there.

"Do you want a prescription for Zofran?" she asked.

And with that simple statement, she changed my life.

I filled my prescription Monday afternoon, took a pill as soon as I got in the car -- and within 60 minutes, the nausea was gone. Except for my lack of energy, I felt normal for the first time since early September. Talk about an encouragement.

I'm still figuring out the right dosage for me, especially since it's $4 a pill. (And that's for the generic; the brand-name Zofran would have been a staggering $40 a pill.) But I'm happy to report that I feel like I've turned a corner on the first trimester nausea. I can't put into words how wonderful it is to feel better again.


Friday's appointment was memorable for one other reason: I got to hear the heartbeat of our new little one. I suppose I should be used to it by this time, but it never fails to elicit a spine-tingle. I wrote more about that over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. Come and join the discussion.

Let The Sun Shine In

The sun is shining this morning.

I'm so happy, I'm crying.


Literally
. (Nothing like those pregnancy hormones to make you a little emotional.)

October has been dark for me, both literally and physically.
But yesterday, I turned the page on a new month. November feels like a ray of sunshine on my soul. Not only is this the month of my favorite holiday, but our weather forecast is suddenly all bright skies and normal temps (which would be highs around 50 for us, but after weeks of 40-degree rain, I'll take it).

To celebrate, I'm going to share a few fall photos. I took them last week, on our one sunny morning. And I'm telling you -- when the sun comes out and illuminates the jewel leaves God has scattered around the Upper Midwest this time of year, the only thing you can do is worship.



This is the playground at the kids' school. Doesn't it just scream autumn with all those fallen leaves?

It was such a beautiful, if frosty, morning, Teyla and I took a walk at a nearby arboretum after we dropped the kids at school.

The sumac bushes are so bright red, they are almost pink. I love this color.

Overnight frost had iced everything.



My little companion; Teyla keeps me company every day. (I should probably do an update on the kids soon, huh? I know our friends in Africa are salivating for some news.)

Some maple trees near our home. (It was really hard to get this shot. Windy days make macro shots difficult, you know?)

Just looking back at those pictures makes me happy. (And yes, I might be crying again. Good grief.) God is good. Even in the darkness, He shines.

Bring on the sun.

You Capture Autumn - Fallen

For weeks now, I’ve enjoyed Beth’s You Capture carnival, which is hosted at her fabulous blog I Should Be Folding Laundry . This is my first time joining the party, and while I know my picture isn’t your typical autumn portrait, I hope my words will explain why this captures fall best for me this year.

It has been such a weird autumn.

Not only has the weather been downright bizarre – our September was hotter than our August, for example, and October has been freakishly cold and gray and rainy – but I’ve been dealing with the first trimester blahs.

I normally glory in this time of year. It’s so beautiful. The sky is bluer than the brightest peacock, the leaves shine like jewels. The air is crisp, the apples are juicy. We spend every minute we can outside and marvel at the extravagance, even as we ache at its fleetingness.

But not this year.

In fact, looking back over the last few months, I’ve decided that I actually had first trimester depression (which is not a technical medical condition, as far as I know, but stick with me here). I’ve never known post-partum depression, but I’ve had friends who’ve grappled with that dark beast, and I feel like I’ve had my own wrestling match the last few weeks. I hate feeling sick, and dealing with nausea 24-7 for weeks on end drains every ounce of optimism I have. I live in a fog of hopelessness. I isolate myself, mostly because I don’t have the energy to be anything other than a blog. But I also hide in my cave because I’m miserable that I can’t do anything to stop this downward spiral.

I think this depressed lethargy might explain why I didn’t start taking the Unisom-B6 earlier in the pregnancy. As I mentioned in this post, my husband was incredulous when I said I hadn’t been taking Unisom-B6. I protested that it was really due to the fact that I couldn’t find it, even though I knew I had a stash somewhere in the house. He shot back: “But I would have happily gone to the drugstore and bought more! Why didn’t you just ask?”

I had no answer. No answer that made sense, anyway. I guess I just felt so miserable, I didn’t think it could ever get better. “I will be sick like this for the rest of my life,” was a thought that hung at the periphery of my brain. “I will probably die this way.”

I couldn’t even pray. It felt like God’s light couldn’t penetrate my fog. I was alone, miserable and completely without hope.

Stupid? Absolutely. Real? Unfortunately yes.

My experience, small in scope as it was, has given me a new compassion for people who deal with lifelong disability. They must have to fight that battle on a daily basis. Life loses its luster when you don’t feel good. I have a renewed energy to pray for those I know who deal regularly with disease, pain and frustration. Lord, be so very near.

I say this all so you can know: I am getting better. I’m starting to feel again, which is a gift, and I’m starting to regain a sense of hope.

I even see a seed of beauty in this season, this strange autumn that has been more bluster than beauty.

For in the midst of the fallen, there is promise for the spring.