Advent - Contain Your Excitement

Tuesday, November 21, 2017



Advent is coming! Now that we live in the Great White North it is very tempting to deck the halls with Christmas joy right when December 1st hits.

But we wait.

Advent is a season in of itself and it's worth the wait to let Advent do its work. Here's what we do before the joyous day of Christmas arrives!


Advent Wreath and Advent Decorating

On the first Sunday of Advent we put up our Advent wreath, greenery decorations, lights, and hang stockings.


This will be our first year getting a full size Christmas tree! While we'll probably get the tree in early December, I like the idea of not decorating it with ornaments until Gaudete Sunday. The Advent and Christmas seasons are a marathon - best to pace ourselves!

St. Nicholas (December 6th)


Our first Big Deal feast of Winter!
I grew up with the German style tradition of St. Nick filling stockings instead of shoes. I have a whole post on what we put in those stockings and how we celebrate the day.



St. Lucia (December 13th)


Like all good 90s girls, I was introduced to St. Lucia celebrations via American Girl books. This year Therese is finally big enough to play St. Lucia so maybe we'll add in more of the procession this year! Here's what the celebrations looked like last year.



Marian Feasts - Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th) and Immaculate Conception (December 8th)

There might be a lot of feasts in the month of December, but it would never do to forget mother Mary! I don't do anything too big for these feasts, but they are still celebrated.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is patroness of the pro-life movement. We watch the CCC Juan Diego movie and offer a rosary for life.

Immaculate Conception is actually for the conception of Mary, not the conception of Jesus (common mistake). It's also the patron feast day for the United States, and a solemnity. So get thee to mass, pray for the country, and have some sort of white dessert. Boom. Celebrated!

Ember Days - Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday of the 3rd Week of Advent


Those final days of preparation before settling into the welcoming of Christmas! I love Ember Days, but if you've never heard of them you're in good company. They are 3 days toward the beginning of each liturgical season set aside for fasting and prayer and to "to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy." It contains the cleaning and preparing and forces me to stop and enjoy the fruits of our preparations! Read more about them here.



The beauty of letting Advent be Advent is we get to go all out through the whole Christmas season! This is the first year we will not be traveling to family for Christmas, and I'm planning an epic 12 day celebration. More on that later!
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Want more ideas? Check out other Advent posts on this month's CWBN Blog Hop!



Finding a New Beautiful in Postpartum

Saturday, November 18, 2017



Life with three kids - it's a turning point. Three is when there are more kids than adults, more needs than time, and the list of "shoulds" ("I should be getting dinner ready by now." "I should be reading more with the big kids.") reaches heights never before seen as a family of four.

I am a type A person. An overdoer. A constant planner. But even my hat juggling skills are being put to the test.

The temptation to hide in my house and pretend I got this is STRONG. Because I DO "got this" to some extent.
I can get the laundry done (even with all the cloth diaper laundry).
I can manage to feed everyone (even with their insistence that three meals a day are necessary).
I can even manage to homeschool since it directs the energy and attention of the big kids.
....but I can do it a lot better, and as a less stressed mom, if I let people help.

For the past weeks since Matt went back to work, we have been blessed to have postpartum doulas with our family once or twice a week. For someone with my personality, it is a helpful and a humbling experience to have the postpartum doulas here. It means allowing someone to step and and do tasks as good, or better, than I.

It also lets me see that, even with the extra set of hands, the list of tasks does not run out. In some odd way it is freeing to know that even if I had two of me it STILL would not be all done. That list of shoulds would be just as long, and no amount of efficiency would allow me to plow through them all to my satisfaction.

Ultimately the postpartum doulas are my scaffold while we come out of postpartum survival mode and continue to move forward into the beauty of being a family of five. Earlier this year I wrote about the need to value myself enough to move out of survival mode and into the beautiful.
The beauty of friendship.
The beauty of faith.
The beauty of art.
The beauty of connection.
Postpartum is an opportunity to find a new beautiful. 

This is the sixth postpartum week for me. These past weeks I have been preparing to return to the arts I love and activity I crave.
But auditioning postpartum is tough.
Returning to an exercise routine and ballet is tough.
The temptation to just let it go and not put myself out there to be rejected over and over again is high. I don't LIKE being rejected, but rejection is necessary to have the opportunity to perform the art I love. I will be more authentically myself if I am vulnerable enough to go through the (likely) rejections.

A Quick St. Nicholas Gift Guide

Sunday, November 12, 2017


St. Nicholas Day is on the horizon!

In our house St. Nicholas is the first Big Deal Feast of winter. We put up our stockings on the First Sunday of Advent and await the arrival of St. Nick on December 6th.

But what to put in those stockings? Here are the three things I normally include:

1. "Fancy" Band-aids
2. Chocolate
3. Small toy/game

Yes, I give my kids band-aids as a present. You should see the excitement caused by Disney Princess band-aids!
The kids can use the band-aids however they want, provided they only go on their own bodies. Not in your sister's hair, on the walls, floors, or as "armor" on the baby's arm. (I have reasons for my rules. So many good reasons.)

Sometimes I get chocolate coins, but I find the toddlers give up trying to peel them and just end up eating the foil. Now I mostly get really cheap Halloween candy.

We've done waterpaint books, an Uno game, mini-puzzles, and small balls as the toy gift. Normally these come from the dollar store or the clearance section and they have always been a hit.

Now that my kids are getting older, and there are more of them, I like the idea of having a larger shared gift.

My little kids LOVE their My Little Church Magnet Playset from Wee Believers. They are only allowed to play with it during mass, provided they take turns nicely. This will entertain a preschooler through most of a homily!




For older kids, I love this Magi Ornament Sewing Kit. The ornaments could be put to use as the traveling Wise Men for the 12 Days of Christmas or just hung on the Christmas tree.
Magi Ornament Sewing Kit - The Wee Believers Toy Company

This My Pop-Out Nativity would make for a good first Nativity scene if you are short on space.

My Pop-Out Nativity - The Wee Believers Toy Company
If you want to use any of these ideas, Wee Believers sent me a discount code for you to use! KIRBY30 will get you 30% off your entire order.

I pop Overnight Cinnamon Rolls into the oven when we wake up, and they are normally about ready for icing by the time everyone has finished exploring the contents of their stockings. Later in the day we'll read books on St. Nicholas and watch the CCC movie Nicholas: The Boy Who Became Santa.

Simple enough of a celebration to fit into a school/work day, but special enough to stand out for the kids. The magical happy place of liturgical living!

How do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? Is it a big deal in your house?

7 Misconceptions I Had About Motherhood Before My First Baby

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

As I am currently stuck under sleeping baby #3, I got nostalgic thinking of all the things I believed about motherhood before I had baby #1. Past me, LOL. This is not at all how I pictured motherhood, yet everything I need motherhood to be.


1. Community will just happen


It's like my pregnant mind forgot that all relationships, including while you are parenting, will require time and effort.

Community is not impossible to find, but does need initiative. Isolation does not not breed connection. Making the effort to call up a friend for a short chat, invite someone for a walk around the neighborhood, or showing up for a church event pays off.


2.  You need a "mom tribe”

We've all seen the click-bait articles, don't buy it.
The in vogue belief that all moms need a "mom tribe" leaves the unspoken impression that moms can only have authentic connection with other moms. Now it's awesome to connect with other mothers in the same trench, but nothing beats the perspective giving help of interaction with someone in a different season of life!

3.  I know exactly what I will need for baby


Yes I am the oldest of five and have babysat more kids than I can remember, but that does not mean I know what THIS baby will need. All people have different needs (surprising, I know) and what works for one might not work for another.

Time has marched on and people have come up with some hands-down clever tools for getting through parenting tiny people! No shame in needing to invest in a new baby item when it makes the difference between a happy, sleeping, baby and a screaming banshee baby.

4. I will do “x” parenting style, obviously


I only heard that there were such a thing as named parenting styles while pregnant with my first baby. So naturally I had to find my perfect fit parenting style, and commit to it, right then! Attachment parenting was the "in" thing in my area, and people online were gung-ho about it, so that was what I was going to do!
Then PPD happened. And breastfeeding did not work. And the whole thing came crashing down.

If I had given myself the grace to do what worked, and the space to figure out what worked, I could have saved myself a lot of hard times.

5. “x thing I’ve never tried before” is too hard/too messy/too expensive/won’t work 


I am shocked to find myself cloth diapering, formula feeding, and babywearing into toddlerhood. It is the exact opposite of what I assumed I would do, but it works for us.

It is amazing how many myths about parenting one can buy into when not yet a parent. Cloth diapering was my personal minefield of myths. I thought it was only for hippies who did not care much for personal hygiene anyway. It would be too expensive to get started, and there was no way I could manage it when the only access to a washer/dryer was the laundromat two blocks up.

Then I found out my super cool mom neighbor cloth diapered with a diaper service. I did not think they were crazy hippies and they were probably just as budget-aware as us. I had my first sensitive skin baby and need a solution to the perpetual diaper rash.
So we gave it a shot and loved it!

Now with baby #3 we're even washing them ourselves. Not gonna lie, cloth diapering can totally still be messy but it's a lot less gross than I assumed.

6. I will either feel like I can handle anything or be insecure about everything 


There was no middle ground in my early mothering days: I was either supermom with no problems or completely overwhelmed and failing at everything. I would not have admitted this thought consciously at the time, but my control and security in motherhood was very fragile before my first baby. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop or for judgement to happen (Mommy Impostor Syndrome could totally be a thing.)

Owning my motherhood was a process. Admitting I did not have it all together was one thing, but accepting I could be good at something, while still struggling elsewhere, was a novel thing for me.
I did not relax into motherhood so much as actively take up my struggles AND gifts in one armload and keep walking down the mothering road.


7. It will get easier when “x”


I held out a mythical "it will be easier when _____" carrot for too long. There is no easier, there is just different. Learning to watch for a difference, instead of waiting for easy, made a huge change in how I mentally handled my current parenting challenges.

Do you see any of your own misconceptions? Think I'm totally off the money? What were some things you believed pre-babies that life debunked for you?

The Longest Night - Felicity's Birth Story

Tuesday, October 17, 2017



This little lady kept us waiting on her birth!

I had a good amount of prodromal labor starting at about 37 weeks. I had the same thing with John so I could at least tell this was not the real deal, but contractions with no baby as an end result is frustrating when you are term and good to go.

Due date came and went.

As the 42 week mark edged nearer, I started (trying) to make my mental peace with the looming likelihood of induction and a hospital birth. I am not against hospitals, or inductions, but the whole situation smelled eerily similar to the progression of events in our first birth that led to such a drastic difference in birth choices. That was not a road I wanted to walk down again.

At 41 weeks I started having more frequent, and longer, midwife appointments to check on me and baby. Halfway through the week we did a biophysical profile.

Each test and check in always came back with solid results. Both baby and I were doing well, but it was mentally getting to me to see that 42 week mark inching closer.

The evening after the biophysical scan I could tell something was different.

Baby had not been in a great position for most of the end of my pregnancy. (She seemed under the impression that my right hip was her own personal teddy bear.) The downside of being so incredibly flexible when not pregnant is the extra hormones at the end of pregnancy make my body too flexible. It's very easy to move baby around, but also incredibly easy for her to slide out of position.

I figured this might be another set of prodromal contractions as my body tried to correct her position (again).

But they didn't stop. I still ate dinner with the family and we made a plan for the evening.

By 5:30 I was feeling confident enough that this was the real deal to give the midwife and doula a heads up. Contractions were still about 8 minutes apart so there was no big rush.

I had made a checklist of things that needed to happen once in labor, and Matt started getting the big things done. I moved the labor and postpartum kits upstairs and got some of the comfort measures and tools set up.

Matt gave the kids a bath and put them to bed about 7:30 as usual. We had made prior arrangements for a sibling doula to be with them during the labor, but it didn't feel necessary to have her there if the kids were just sleeping. We let her know, and planned to update if we needed support later.

After the kids were down, there was time to go through the labor just the two of us. I feel like the labor was in a bit of a holding pattern while the kids were awake. Once they were safely tucked into bed, it felt like labor had permission to really get going!

By 8:00 contractions had ramped up in intensity and were coming every 3-4 minutes. I let the midwife and doula know the change and they both got ready to head over to our house.

Our doula arrived at 8:30 and I hopped into the shower while she and Matt finished getting the beds double made and birth tub ready.
In early labor my best friends are the yoga ball and finding some solitude. Once I hit active labor I want bigger movement, heat, and water. Water y'all, it's amazing.

The midwife arrived a little before 9:00 and I labored on the yoga ball while we checked vitals and listened to baby.
I had tested positive for GBS earlier in the pregnancy so we had to run a course of antibiotics in an IV. It is not a particularly fun experience to be hooked up to an IV bag in active labor, but this was the best course of action to keep baby healthy. I kept reminding myself that once that IV bag was empty I could get the needle out of my arm and get into the lovely, warm, tub!

We had a birth tub from the midwife that can maintain heat, but the water needs to be at the desired temperature when the tub is filled. Matt had started filling the tub while the midwife was doing vital checks, but the water started to run cold sooner than we hoped. So he boiled pots of water on the stove in the kitchen, hauled them up the stairs, and started filling the tub pot by pot.
That's love y'all.

The doula hung with me while Matt worked on the tub. She had put together a Spotify playlist for the labor, and was doing awesome making sure I kept hydrated, rubbing my back through contractions, and heating the rice sock.

I was finally good to get in the birth tub at 11:00 and it was sweet sweet relief!

The baby's less than ideal position meant that I was dealing with a lot more back pressure, but the extra buoyancy in the tub helped take the pressure off my legs and let me try to move more to help baby turn.

By 1:00 contractions had intensified to what I would call transition level contractions. These are long, hard, big contractions.

I'm just going to note again here that this baby was not actually born until 6:30. That would be 5.5 hours to go with transition level contractions. I'm glad I did not know that then.

The backup midwife arrived at about the same time as the big contractions. She's generally there for baby once they're born. Her arrival is comforting to see when you can only hope the finish line is getting close!

After an hour of those contractions I was getting very tired. We decided to have me get out of the tub and check on baby's position. While I was dilating well, baby was not descending yet. ("Are you kidding me kid?!")

It took both midwifes, the doula, and Matt all working hard to support trying to get baby to turn. I honestly lost track of all the different things we tried, but I am impressed with the working knowledge we had on that team. They never seemed to run out of ideas, even though no one had gotten any sleep yet that night.

It had already been a long labor. The midwife gave me another antibiotic dose  and we planned to try and have me eat, hydrate, and rest a bit if possible. I was not tolerating oral fluids well anymore due to the intensity of the contractions so a new IV bag was started. I was so tired I was not planning on moving far anytime soon anyway.

Baby had other plans! I'm not sure how long I was able to rest in bed, but I suddenly woke up very certain that SOMETHING was different. That something resulted in my water breaking.

Normally, the way my births have gone, once my water breaks I'm extremely close to delivery.
Not so this time.
There was a nagging little bit of dilation to go. I think it was at this point I started saying, "How is that possible?!"

Cue more work trying to help baby descend. Her little head still seemed just off centered enough to not fully enter the pelvis.

At 5:30 I got back in the tub. I was clearly going to need the help of the water to hold the positions necessary to get the baby in the right position for birth. I was so tired and ready to be at the end.

Labor had been going for 13.5 hours now. The midwife let me know my options at this point. While me and baby were still doing well on vital signs I was very tired, and I had the option to transfer in order to get an epidural and rest in the hospital. It was not an emergency situation, and she still had ideas of things to try, so the decision was up to me.

I thought about the possibility of transfer through the next many contractions. I had never transferred in labor before and was not thrilled with the idea of a car ride while in transition. As I started adding up the time for each step of a transfer process the more I felt that, at least at this point, transferring would delay the finish line.

It was about this time when I started to hear the kids waking up.
That's right. They had actually slept through the night, despite my decidedly NOT quiet labor happening right outside their bedroom door, and were still just hanging out in their room.
Sound machines, people. They work wonders.

Matt texted for the sibling doula to come for the kids, and I kept working on hanging in there through contractions.
I never actually said out loud that I had decided to stay and keep laboring at home. I just kept going. Expecting everyone else to be telepathic. As one can do in labor.

Shortly after I mentally arrived at the decision to stay, baby (finally!) decided to figure out how this exit strategy worked. It only took a few contractions, and Felicity Anne was born in the water a little before 6:30 after 14 hours of labor.

She arrived at about the same time as the sibling doula. The kids got to come see their little sister in her first few minutes out of the womb.

Matt carried Felicity over to our bedroom, while the midwife and doula helped me out of the tub, and the sibling doula got breakfast for the big kids.

The midwives were busy checking vitals on me and baby, cleaning up, draining the birth tub, and starting laundry. Our doula made me a BLT which tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten.

When we measured Felicity I was shocked to hear she was a chunky 9lb 10oz! She had a dent on the top of her head where she had kept hitting the top of my pelvis during contractions (the dent disappeared after a day or two.) Suddenly the length, and difficulty, of the labor made a lot more sense!

All of the post-birth things take at least two hours. I was very glad we had the sibling doula for the big kids. After an all night labor it is a relief not to have to worry about keeping an eye on the well rested, and excited, big siblings.

We spent a few days just getting reset on sleep after that all-nighter of a birth. The kids have done fabulously with their new sister, and we've all enjoyed getting to spend this postpartum time together as a new family of five.

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Thanks for reading if you made it down this far! Here's the birth stories of our two older kids, if you are so inclined. (I can't be the only one who loves reading these things, right?)







Meet the Latest Model!

Friday, October 13, 2017

7 Quick Takes with This Ain't the Lyceum

It's been a busy few weeks around here!

1

This little lady was born!

Meet Felicity Anne


2

I'm hoping to get her birth story written up this weekend, but here's some short stats for the meantime:

Born on October 5
9lb 10oz and 21in
14 hour labor
1st water birth 
2nd home birth

EDIT: Finished her birth story! 

3

She's been a hit with her big siblings.



4

Matt has done a great job stepping in as homeschool teacher.
The kids think it's really cool because "Dad's never taught anyone before!"


Not true, he taught college students when he was in grad school, but John and Therese are likely his youngest pupils.

I am grateful we decided to enroll in Mother of Divine Grace this year. Getting to quickly print out a checklist of what needs to be done has made it fantastically easier to hand over the homeschool reins.

5


I have been making great use out of my postpartum kit!

The surprise rock star of the postpartum recovery time did not even make the original list.


One Christmas my mom gave all her daughters (and son-in-law) YETI ramblers with personalized decals. They are fabulous for hanging out by the lake, but I did get a ton of use out of mine until now.

It has a lid that does not involve messing with straws, and insulated enough to keep things at the temperature I want = perfect for postpartum.

6

It's getting chilly at night here so we've been having some snuggly evenings here in Minnesota!

The other day we had a fire in the fireplace and made some s'mores. The next morning John informed me that we got to have s'mores because "it was the feast day... of the STAR WARS!....So kids can have s'mores for the star wars." 

Bigger Sci-Fi nerds than I, who would be the patron of Star Wars if you could pick? 
I feel like it should be a Capuchin saint. They already have the Jedi robe thing going on.

7

I am looking forward to finding our new groove with three littles in the house, but I am also looking forward to getting to enjoy our first true Fall!

My mom will be visiting in time for Halloween and this will be our kids first year trick or treating. I don't want to miss it, but that also means I should figure out a warm enough baby wearing costume.

It's going to be a dark hole of Pinteresting and it'll be awesome!

I might do a Tolkien inspired costume just to get to use one of these amazing Middle Earth themed baby wraps.

Thworted in My Reasonable Expectations

Tuesday, September 26, 2017




In case you haven't figured it out from the lack of baby arrival announcement on social media, baby has not been born yet. It's only a few days past due date, but it very quickly felt like time was moving at me.

We all know the feeling of a hope, a prayer, that gets the answer "not yet". I've found the hardest to accept of those "not yet" responses are the ones that come for those hopes that were reasonable expectations.
These are not things that were a stretch or outside of normal.
These were things that seemed almost like certainties.

Not getting the promotion at work even after great reviews from your boss and a steady track record.

Not being welcomed into your neighborhood mom group even though these ladies have seemed perfectly friendly before.

Not finding "Mr. Right" by 35 even with a clearly discerned vocation to marriage.

These are the things that can rile us. The things that make you want to shake your fists at the heavens and demand an answer.

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)

There's my answer. This is not up to me. This is not even up for my understanding.
Everything in me wants to say "I know, but....". That's normal and that's ok, but I'm not going to find peace that way. Peace will come when I stop riling against the injustice of the situation and start noticing the graces present in the situation.

Here are some of the graces of having a baby taking her sweet time finding her birthday:

Giving those little lungs lots of time to be ready for the hard work of breathing.

Giving me more time to shower my 5 and 3 year old with mommy attention.

Giving my husband and I extra evenings of at home date nights that are so much easier when all kids are capable of going to bed and staying in bed.

Giving me the opportunity to be physically uncomfortable and have something to offer up for others.

That there is still nothing wrong with me or baby, just her needing a little more time in utero, is something to be grateful for - even with the aches of late pregnancy. This is nothing I can't handle. God knows it, I know it, I just have to accept it.
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