Thursday, December 31, 2015

// you know, 2015...

Life has a funny way of just happening.

I'm not big into New Years Eve but tonight, like all the New Year's Eves that have passed, I can't help but reflect on the previous year.

The year 2015 happened. It seriously happened. So many blessings, so many struggles... so much growth because of both.

The biggest thing of 2015 was the birth of our youngest stud muffin. Our third baby. I'm still in awe that I have three kids. Baffled. Does this life get more surreal than seeing people that are half of you running around? Nope.

I knew my life would change with Saul's birth but I had no idea how much. I often look at Saul and ask myself how I can love him so much when he's been my hardest baby. I just love him so incredibly much. Not more than I love my other kids... just differently. Maybe it's because he has caused me to change and grow like never before.

I think the best way to explain the changes that Saul has brought along is by saying that, since he arrived, I have new eyes.

New eyes for the mess in our house. New eyes for how entertaining and hosting looks. New eyes for what "a lot of laundry" means. New eyes for how much I can put on my list of things to do.

I have new eyes for my other kids... I see their virtues more clearly. I see what good-hearted humans they are becoming. I see where they need to grow and (sometimes) I see how to help them (other times I search for answers). I have learned to see how they need hugs and kisses and that discipline takes a lot of analyzing and racking your brains.

I have new eyes to see that I need help in my every day life (and I've learned how to accept it AND how to ask for it).

I have new eyes to see the wisdom in others and that my way isn't always the best way.

I have eyes to see just how much my husband does around here, how much more he loves me every day, how much he forgives me for so many little faults (which I think are harder to forgive than the big ones).

I see a new and improved family dynamic that I love. I see that my mundane life is super extraordinary by the world's standards... and that I'm crazy about it.

Of course, I see that there is so much more to learn.

It's funny how life happens. When you're in the throes things hurt like a b, desperation sets in, anxiety brews, tears flow. At some point in the last year (maybe more than once?) I felt like I was drowning. Today, I reflect on the year that passed knowing that without all the punches to gut I wouldn't have to catch my breath and straighten up.

Here's to 2016! I'm sure that punches and kicks will knock me down... but here's to getting back up.

((and here's my anthem... because I can't help myself.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

// Saul's Birth

This isn't the birth story I thought I would be writing after having my third baby.

Eleven weeks ago, on March 30 at 12:48pm, Saul Michael was born in our home. His was a planned home birth for which we prepared for months. Almost from the moment we found out we were expecting him, we decided it was time to have a baby here. Little did we know what was ahead of us.

Baby Saul was born twelve days late. It was a long twelve days, to say the least. Not even having given birth to Jake 11 days after his due date and to Siena 10 days after her due date could prepare me for yet another "late" baby. It's a test of patience, strength, will power, and humility that only moms who have given birth after their estimated due date can truly understand.

The beginning of Saul's birth story actually starts on Saturday, two days before he was born (because when you're "late" labor begins when anything at all starts happening). That day we dropped off our kids at my mom's house for a sleep over and headed over to see my midwives. I had already had an ultrasound a few days prior, at 41 weeks, that showed the baby was very happy inside where he had plenty of room and fluid. My midwives confirmed that my kid had no plans of coming out any time soon. His heart rate was steady and his movements were good.

When we left that visit, at 41.5 weeks, we had instructions from the midwives to go out to dinner, have a glass of wine... and wait. If nothing happened within 24 hours, then to begin what they call a natural induction... which involves wine, castor oil, walking, and boom-chika-wow-wow, if you catch my drift. Wine is the only thing I was pleased to see on those instructions. I couldn't believe that at 41.5 weeks, this baby would need so much coercing to get out. While I was discouraged that I was still pregnant, I knew that there was an end in sight as I would not be allowed to go past 42 weeks. I was also committed to avoiding a hospital induction so I welcomed any sort of game plan.

The next day, at around 2pm, I started feeling contractions. They were regular but not painful. Since all the midwives live about an hour away from where we live, we had been told to call them sooner than later even if it resulted in a false alarm. I called the midwives at 4pm to give them a heads up about the contractions. I told them I would get in the bath to confirm it was the beginning of labor and that I would call them back if the contractions continued. While I wasn't hoping for a quick labor, I was expecting a labor similar to my second's which was an absolute dream... around 12 hours long but easy-peasy. A bath and a glass of wine confirmed it was labor... and I was absolutely giddy. FINALLY! Admittedly, I've never been very good at "ignoring labor" as childbirth teachers will recommend to do.

When I called the midwives again they said they were already near my house (just in case) so they arrived at my doorstep an hour later. An internal exam showed I was only 3 cm dilated but on my way into real labor. So they left me with instructions to eat a good dinner, rest, and continue the natural induction plan the next day.

A few hours later, Phil and I blew up the birthing tub and started setting everything up because the next day would for sure be our baby's birthday. I wanted to get a good night's sleep which for the past few months had only happened if I took a quarter (a quarter!) of a Unisom, a very mild sleeping pill. So I took it.

I was able to sleep in between contractions all night even as they got stronger and stronger. At around 4am we called the midwives again. They happened to be tending to another home birth just twenty minutes away from my house so they said they would make their way over as soon as they were finished there. I believe the other baby had just been born and they arrived at my house again less than three hours later.

Before they got here, I changed into my laboring clothes and did some laboring on the birthing ball (relax... it's just a yoga ball you sit on). Now I know that I had made good progress in that time... when my midwife checked me in the morning, ten hours after my first exam, I had progressed to 7.5cm. She didn't tell me this to avoid giving me false hopes.

Things get blurry at this point. I think Phil would be a better person to write the next part of Saul's birth story but I'll share my perspective... jot down what I remember and leave out what I choose to forget.

Labor became incredibly difficult. The pain was so intense, more intense than I remember in my other labors. I felt hopeless and desperate to be done. I was so, so desperate for the pain to stop and I knew that it would stop immediately after the baby was born so I felt a desperate need to get the baby out. It felt as though I was running to the finish line but I was running in place. After talking to my midwife a few weeks later, I found out that I had dilated to about 8.5-9cm but that's where I stayed for some hours. It was like being in transition for an unbearably long time.

All this time the baby's heart rate was fine so we had no pressure to ditch our home birth plan and opt for a hospital birth. As much as I wanted to get in the car and drive to a place where I could get my hands on pain killers, I knew that abandoning our plan would result in utter personal disappointment. As long as the baby was fine then I just needed to work through the pain and my body had to do its job.

I don't remember a lot of the details of those hours. I remember refusing to have my water broken because I knew the pain would get so, so much worse (I recalled from Siena's birth). I remember that getting in the tub made me relax so much that the contractions stopped coming as frequently so my midwife said I had to get out. I remember throwing up. I remember falling asleep while sitting on the birthing ball (thanks, Unisom, I think). I remember asking desperately to be allowed to rest, take a catnap, which I was tired enough to do, but my midwife worried that my uterus was getting too tired so I had to stay awake and make my contractions stronger. I remember being very annoyed with myself for grunting, yelling, and moaning so loudly.

What I remember the most is feeling out of control. It was like there were two of me in my brain: one who wanted to get it together and the other who wanted the volume of my screams to match the level of pain that I felt. Needless to say, I was loud.

Yet there came a moment when the previous of the two won. That's when I got quiet. I got in my zone. I started to labor like I usually do... focused and efficient.

Phil held my hand and coached me, literally said the things you would hear a coach say. This is the time in all of my labors is when Phil earns his gold stars. This is when he is absolutely amazing because he contradicts all of my thoughts: when I say I can't do this, he says yes you can. When I feel weak, he says you're strong. When I think that the baby is never getting out, he reminds me that the baby is almost here. I believe him so I suppose that's what makes us a good team. Although, when I tell him I never want to have a baby again he just laughs a little.

I never confirmed but I believe that this "coaching session" helped me to completely dilate. In the pictures I can recognize this moment. Both Phil and I can see what we call "the look" in my eyes... the look of despair and resignation to the pain. Transition. That's when it feels like it will never end.

That's when it usually ends... but this time I'm not sure how long that part lasted because the infamous urge to push didn't come at this point as I would have expected.

At some point I finally let my midwife break my water only to find out that the baby was not in a good position to be "encouraged" like that. So I had to labor more on my hands and knees in an effort to have the baby turn his face where it needed to be. I was so tired that they placed a mountain of pillows in front of me so that I could fall into them in between contractions since I was almost asleep anyway.

In desperation to be done I made myself push in that position, knowing that I didn't truly have the urge to, but those pushes didn't work. Baby was still not ready to make his way out.

All along my midwives suggested that I should do some things to bring on stronger contractions. I was resistant to their suggestions because I felt that my body should just know what to do. In the end, there is no telling your body what it should or shouldn't do.  It does or doesn't. For this birth, I needed to do all those yucky things they tell you are options when you want to have a drug free birth. Like I have said, there are parts to this story that I choose to leave out or that I've already forgotten about. I like it that way.

When he finally came out, when I was in the bathroom, we found out Saul had his cord wrapped around his neck twice and he was holding his hands close to his face much like he still does now. If no one has said it before, then let me be the first: that hurts like a B.

He didn't breathe or cry immediately. His body was blue and his face was bruised and swollen from being in a not so stellar position for his trip through the birth canal. It was a scary few seconds that seemed like an eternity. Soon enough he let out a loud cry and there was a cumulative sigh of relief.

As if I wasn't already in shock from the difficulty of the birth, I looked down to find out we had a boy baby and I was nearly floored. For nine months I was convinced that I had been carrying a girl so to find out we had a son was almost unbelievable. I will never be able to express the joy I felt to have another son.

Just like that, we were done (with the birth part, anyway). The pain was gone. I walked to our bed with the cord still attached between my boy and me, a weird thing in retrospect. It was all happiness. Just like that. Soon Phil cut the cord and he also held the boy. The boy who had no name for a while. I frankly didn't think we would have to use the boy names so it took me a while to process.

The attending midwife later told me that Saul's birth was what she called "a good teaching birth" for training midwives because of all the so called complications that can be dealt with safely at home but would result in many interventions at a hospital. I guess I'm glad I can be of service?

The million dollar question has been: would I do it again? Would I have another home birth? Would I have another difficult birth like this at home knowing what it would entail?

The answer is yes. I would because in my heart I know that giving birth to Saul in the hospital would have put me on a slippery slope starting with pitosin, then an epidural, then possibly forceps or even a c-section. While I truly believe that those things have a place and can even save lives sometimes, I think my experience proves that there are less dangerous options and alternatives to exhaust before resorting to those, as unpleasant as they can be.

Saul's birth story isn't what I wanted. I envisioned a water birth, catching my baby, and holding him while the birds chirped outside my window and unicorns flew about. It wasn't like that and I've come to terms with it. Birth can be raw and primal and always full of beauty because it culminates with a new little person in the world. I wouldn't trade my experience for anyone's. It's Saul's birth story and one day I hope to tell him all about that crazy day... and maybe ask for an apology from him as well.

Read Jake's birth story here
Read Siena's birth story here

Thursday, March 5, 2015

a bathroom

A few months ago I asked my husband if we could renovate the first floor bathroom. If I remember correctly, he kind of laughed at me. So, basically, never.  

How rude.

So then I had a new project. How could I make this dated bathroom somewhat pleasing to the (my) eye? 

Since gutting the tile walls was out of the question, this is what I came up with. 

The rhino towel hooks are my favorite.

As much as I want to gut the hell out of the tiles on the walls, the floor is totally my favorite!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

// pinch myself

I'm sure I've said this here before for different reasons but if anyone had told me ten years ago that this is what my life would look like at the age of 27, I'd laugh hysterically. I'm pretty sure my parents are still trying to figure out how their utterly rebellious teen of a daughter ended up as a stay-at-home mom within a decade of some very wild antics.

I wonder the same thing myself.

But this is my life and sometimes I have to pinch myself. It's ridiculous. My kids are awesome and hilarious. My husband plays the guitar to them before bedtime which makes it seem like we're in a page of a children's story and he tells me he loves me every night. I spend my day taking care of people I love by cooking and cleaning and hugging and kissing and sometimes I even get to go shopping "for them" and for me. It's all part of the job description.

Is our life a walk in the park? No. We aren't swimming in money. We have bad nights of too little sleep. Our kids don't listen to us and they refuse to eat their dinner. I think my husband works too much sometimes and he thinks I need to snap out my grouchy moods.

I could keep going with a list of complaints but these are the faces I wake up to each morning.

They wake up happy. They wake up knowing they are loved. They wake up feeling confident that today, this very day, will be the best day of their little lives. 

Their joy is irrefutable and resilient. Even a mean mom with arbitrary rules can't ruin their mood.

This is my life, a life I share with a handsome man and three souls who teach me every day that all the crap that I think is important is all just a distraction from what really matters. Jesus. Love. Joy. Loyalty. Companionship.

I don't think I could have gotten luckier if I had tried.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

// home for christmas

Hi. I'm alive. I survived the holidays whilst pregnant, which I've never done before. 
It was exhausting and great. I rarely blog anymore and I wish I would. 

This post is filled with pictures of the Christmas decor that I put up in our house this season. Yes, I do realize it's January 4th. I just couldn't let the Christmas season pass by without taking some pictures of our home all dressed up for the holidays. There is something particularly inviting about my home during Christmas. I never want to leave which is ironic and a little frustrating because it's the busiest time of the year thus the time when our little family is in and out the most. 

I'm posting this mostly as a personal record but I hope you enjoy as well. Here are some posts to our Christmas home in 2011 and 2012. I'm not sure what happened in 2013.

Friday, November 21, 2014

// advent at the tomos

Advent starts in two Sundays. I can't even.

This is my absolute favorite season of the Church. I know it's kind of obvious but whatever.

Advent is such a joyful time... we're waiting for the birth of a baby! It's so full of anticipation.

As a grown up I've really enjoyed really observing the season of Advent in preparation for Christmas and celebrating the Christmas season until the Epiphany long after everyone has ditched the lit up trees.

Plus I'm a TOTAL sucker for family traditions-- old ones, new ones-- I'll do it all. Traditions are so rich. We're a young family so I'm sure at least one of them will stick. Especially during Advent, there are just so many ways to get the kids involved and so many opportunities to make memories.

It's still November. I know. Yes, I'm eager for Thanksgiving, of course, but I find myself a bit impatient for it to come and go so we can dive into Advent.

I'm mentally preparing to welcome the season with open arms. Actually half of my mind is already there. These are some of the customs my mind is preoccupied with preparing for in the week-and-a-half before the first Sunday of Advent:

The Advent wreath is an expected one. I look forward to lighting a new candle every Sunday as a reminder that the big day is getting closer. The Advent wreath is an old Catholic tradition and I love passing it on to my kids. 


A couple of years ago my friend organized an ornament exchange where a group of 24 women each made different ornaments according to the tradition of the Jesse Tree. Each ornament corresponds with a reading in the Old Testament starting with Adam and Eve and ending with angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus. We begin pulling out ornaments on December 1. I find it so awesome to go back in time and remember how it all ties together. Each day at dinner time we pick out the ornament that belongs to that date and read a bit of scripture and reflection from this devotional book .

This kids' Bible is the bomb. We read it regularly at all times of the day and we bring it to Church on Sunday. It has great illustrations, which is a big deal to me. The way it tells Bible stories is engaging to kids but also to adults. Last year we followed an Advent plan of Jesus Story Book Bible Readings. Jake really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to starting again this year.

I've been going back and forth about getting an Elf on the Shelf. I think my kids would be all over the concept but there's a big problem... that thing is creepy. Another issue is that, while we believe in Santa in this house, I try to avoid encouraging a whole culture of Santa-obsession. An elf that reports good behavior to Santa is too much for me. That's why when a friend shared this blog post from The Imagination Tree, the idea of Kindness Elves totally struck a cord. This will be a new addition to our family this year and I'm excited to involve the kids in doing some kind deeds for people we love and hopefully for strangers as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

// kick kick

Everything has been different with this, my third, pregnancy. There were differences in my previous two but definitely more similarities. Naturally, this made me go into panic mode.

I didn't have an 8 week ultrasound as my previous OBGYN usually performs, so when the midwives didn't find the baby's heartbeat at 9 weeks... I freaked out.

Morning sickness never came to me as it did with Jake and Siena's pregnancies. The phrase I've heard so many times, "morning sickness means everything is alright," went from being a consolation to a stab in the heart. Everything is probably not alright then, I told myself.

Seventeen weeks came and then eighteen, nineteen, and twenty. This baby just would not kick me. Every once in a while I would feel a faint nub on my stomach but never repeated or regularly enough for me to find peace.

My weight gain has been slow and not so steady. I expected to immediately blow up with my third baby but every time I weigh myself at the prenatal appointments, the increase is minimal. I know the grass is always greener on the other side, but since all the other common pregnancy things have been almost non-existent, gaining more weight would be consoling to me. I'm working on it. My thanks to Ben and Jerry.

Lastly, the nesting instinct is nearly non-existent. I feel like I'm not even myself any more. My husband is quite happy about this one.

Before every appointment I have found myself preparing (as much as I can) for the possibility that the midwife might not find a hear beat. I'm never "okay" with it, of course, but I acknowledge the possibility.

Twenty- two weeks later I'm finally more at peace than in the beginning. The midwives have assured me that everything is fine and that it's on the spectrum of normal. It must be a very broad spectrum. My last appointment showed that I had gained a respectable 5 pounds in five weeks. Solid. I celebrated with a burger from Five Guys. Duh.

The baby has been kicking away when it feels like it. On a recent night I woke up at 4am thanks to another child making his way to my room and that's when I realized the baby was kicking. Of course it was 4am so my initial thought was "this kid better not be up at this hour when he is outside of the womb" but I'll take the kicks whenever I can get them. They're like fist pounds telling me he/she is okay in there.

I still have to talk myself out of ungrounded fears and trust that everything is expected to be fine.

Worrying is truly worthless. I come up with scenarios in my head that come to life before me and take over my thoughts. Tackling imaginary beasts is exhausting and leaves me inept for a real struggle so I try to just shoo them away.

So for now... I wait for the kicks and simply look forward to meeting this babe in four months.

Monday, October 20, 2014

// away we go

Phil and I try to go away alone every couple of months. Even when life isn't busy, our regular life often leaves us not really even talking. We end up being all business and no fun. Between running in and out for meetings or school or work, baths and bedtime, working after the kids fall asleep, cleaning up after the day, mountains of laundry, you know, growing a baby, and, let's be real, totally passing out in exhaustion at the end of the day... we don't talk about the details of our life any more. 

I strongly believe that in some years that will pass too quickly, Phil and I will find ourselves alone in an empty nest. We are committed to still genuinely liking each other when that time comes.

That's why we go away. 

Last weekend we took a short road trip to upstate-ish New York (Phil says it's more like "capital area" which I don't even know what the heck that means... to me there's New York City and Upstate New York...). We explored a few quaint towns in the area and I realized a few things:

1. We like bookstores.
2. We like live music.
3. We like trying local alcohol (this stinks when you are pregnant)
4. We like antiques and thrift stores.
5. We like to eat. 

After 8 years of being together, I guess we've got each other figured out a bit. Perhaps that's what I loved the most about this weekend: knowing his likes and knowing that he knows mine. There's comfort in predictability.

Here are a few pictures from our weekend. 

We didn't take a single picture together. Typical. 
Also, one of these pictures was posed. I'll let you guess which one.

We started in downtown Albany where we stayed for the weekend since we didn't really know the area. 

Then we headed off to Saratoga Springs. Strolled through the town where we found bookstores, antique stores, and record stores. Jackpot.

For dinner our first night we went to Saratoga Winery for wine tastings, brick oven pizza, and live music.

On Saturday we drove to a quaint little city named Troy. There was a farmers market and cute little stores. It was rainy and it was really a nice fall day.

Of course, I had a burger for lunch at a sub-par spot. You can't win 'em all.

In Albany we saw an acoustic show by Brett Dennen, a guy I used to listen to years ago and still really like. His live show was definitely worth the trip upstate.

On our last leg of the trip, we made a last minute decision to stop in Woodstock NY.

Little trivia which we found out as we were driving into this little hippie town: 

The concert in 1969 did not actually take place in Woodstock but actually 50 miles away in a town named Bethel. I guess the idea was born in this town and I swear I think some of the organizers still live there.

I was really disappointed to miss this. Really, really.

Do you go away periodically with your babe? What do you like to do? 


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