Thursday, February 26, 2015

Trip to Blue Ridge

Thought I'd share a few photos from the trip we took to Blue Ridge with friends that I mentioned in the last post.  We had six adults and 14 kids ages 1-10 at our friends' cabin for the weekend.  Here are several of them roasting marshmallows.  Lots of them had given up sweets for Lent, but this was Saturday evening after the vigil Mass that we attended, so they were on their Sunday freebie day at that point.  Apparently you don't have to abstain from whatever you've given up on Sundays during Lent... nobody ever told me that when I was a kid!  So I tend to just give something up throughout Lent including the Sundays.  This year for me: casual Facebook use and hot chocolate.  The hot chocolate is a huge sacrifice for me, let me tell you.

Lucy and Rachel, partners in crime.  These two are about 3 months apart in age and used to regard each other with suspicion, but lately they have become buddies.

An aerial shot taken from the stairs of several people watching a movie one evening

Some of the grown ups on the porch

Me with the handsome hubby

Group shot of all the kids...  If Lucy and Rachel look less than enthusiastic about this, it's because they are.  Both were dropped into the shot by their dads on the count of three for the photo because both were refusing to participate.  Antisocial three year olds!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Artwork and Thoughts, on a Snow Day

That comma in the title is intentional... because I don't have many thoughts on the snow itself, just other thoughts.  But here are the gratuitous kids in the snow photos... as the snow was falling, I convinced them to at least go outside and check it out.  The older two did last about a half hour.  The snowflakes falling were the biggest I have ever seen (which probably isn't all that big, seeing as I live in Georgia). 

This is when the snow had only been falling for about an hour.  My younger two kids are not big fans of the snow.  So I am kinda glad to have given up Facebook for Lent (except when I have to go on to check La Leche League related messages, which is quite often lately, or to specifically send a message or post to somebody... but I am not going on Facebook to just scroll through and read things during Lent or to post things and make comments and such, hoping to free up time to do some reading and stay on top of Caroline's school reading better).  I know there will be lots of photos of people's kids loving the snow, and mine just don't.  Caroline does - she'd stay out all day if other people liked to be out there with her.  Chris came home early as the snow was falling, and they went out together and sledded.  Cecilia and Lucy went out with him briefly and then came back in, but hey, there was no crying involved, so I count that as a victory.  If it is still cold enough tomorrow, maybe we can both go out and convince them that sledding down the road is fun!  Our neighbors always loan us their sled because their daughters are both mostly grown up.

Snow calls for popcorn and something warm to drink.  Here's my coffee snob equipment.  My brother gave me a coffee grinder for Christmas!  So I have whole beans from the awesome coffee shop.  I also have a travel mug that brews the coffee in it like a French press (it's there behind the coffee, with the red lid).  I can be a total coffee snob when I travel, too!  Today I wanted the whole four-cup pot, so it was trusty Mr. Coffee that got the brewing job this afternoon.

I promised to share some of the girls' artwork, so I will stick it throughout the rest of this post.

Collages based on the book The Last Straw... they traced a camel outline and then used fabric scraps, strings, beads, sequins, foil, etc. to make the things on the camels' backs.  Caroline's on the left and Cecilia's on the right.

I am so excited that we are having a La Leche League of Georgia conference in November!!!  It will be November 6-8 at Jekyll Island, and our keynote speaker is Dr. James McKenna!  He runs the mother-baby sleep laboratory at Notre Dame, where he has studied the way nursing mother-baby pairs sleep and how they sync up with each other.  The science backs mothers' age-old instincts: breastfeeding babies were designed to sleep in close proximity with their mothers.  I saw him speak at the last La Leche League International conference in 2007.  I am so excited to talk this conference up - I hope we have lots and lots of families attending, in addition to many of Georgia's LLL Leaders!

Cecilia did both of these self-portraits of herself in her ballet recital costume.  The one on the left was done with pencil before she added the color, and the one on the right was drawn with the watercolor crayons as well as being colored with them - resulting in two different styles of artwork.

I was so hoping that I could be bringing a new baby to the conference... but that won't be happening now.  Having the newest baby at the conference would have been so fun... although the drive to Jekyll with a two week old wouldn't have been, ha.  So... on the chance that I could be very pregnant at the conference instead - which is also fun, but not as much as having the tiny baby in a sling as you move around to all the different sessions - I will just hope and pray that my midwives would be cool with me traveling to Jekyll a few weeks before my due date.  I'm the one responsible for getting the program booklets all typed up and ready for printing, so that along with just loving to be at the conferences makes me really want to be able to attend!  I already booked our room!  I am so ready to be pregnant again, so if I have to miss the conference because of that, then so be it... but I will try like crazy to be able to make it there!

This drawing should have been up higher, apparently, with the LLL conference paragraphs...
Caroline drew this from a statue of Our Lady of La Leche when her art assignment was to make a line drawing by looking at an object with form and trying to draw the outer edges exactly as they appear.

Another exciting trip to look forward to... Chris has a business trip to Austin, Texas in late September.  I would imagine I wouldn't be "too pregnant" to travel then, and so I am planning to go with him!  Lucy will be four by then.  It makes me sad to think that I have not had that big of a space between any of my children so far.  I can't believe she will be so old!  Chris and I haven't done any trips together without kids since before we had any kids!  The last one was a trip to Charleston, S.C. at the end of December when I was pregnant with Caroline, over ten years ago, so this will be a fun special treat for us!  Chris is going for a Spiceworks conference (think big computer geek thing with awesome stuff like open bar evenings with geeky clear cups with Windows logos on them with flashing LED lights in the bottoms, ha ha).  So he will have meetings in the day, but there are a few mealtime and evening events that I will be welcome at, and then we can also spend a little time exploring Austin.  I have never even been to Texas before!  Supposedly Austin has a big music scene.  We will plan what we will do closer to that time!  We will fly out of Atlanta... it has been ages since I have flown, too!  The last time would have been when I was in high school!!!

Cecilia's contour drawing of a toy horse

And speaking of high school... and music... I think I am having an early mid-life crisis or something.  A few weeks ago, there was that thing where Kanye West insulted Beck at the Grammys.  I so don't do pop culture any more, so I barely know who Kanye is.  But Beck - I know Beck!!  I was pretty much going to marry him when I was in high school.  So I read up on the story, because he was my favorite musician all through high school and into college.  After my Guns 'n Roses/Metallica/Megadeth phase of 7th/8th grade, and my Nirvana phase of my freshman year... then came Beck.  So I started listening to a couple beck songs on Youtube.  How did we ever do anything before Youtube???  See, I sold off most of my Beck CDs sometime after getting married, because I just didn't listen to them any more (and at that point the dream had died since I was married to somebody else, ha ha).  I sold a bunch of others, too, but certain ones I kept that I still did - and do - listen to some.  Spacehog, The Toadies, The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots... I kept those. 

I LOVE this watercolor drawing of Caroline's.  Something about it is so kid-artsy.  I just made that term up so I hope it makes sense to somebody besides me.  Cecilia made the unicorn and ballerina cutouts that are also pinned to the corkboard.
So anyway, about Beck.  I was reminiscing and listening to some Beck songs.  And then I go to wondering, if Beck is still releasing new albums and has been pretty consistently since his beginnings in 1993, then why did I stop being a Beck fan?  Why did I stop buying his CDs, and when did that happen?  Was there a big gap between the last album I bought and the release of his next album and I lost interest?  So I looked at the dates.  Odelay was the last album of his I bought, so I looked at the release date - 1996.  Makes sense; I remember buying that one in high school and then taking it and all my Beck albums on to college with me in 1997.  So I looked at the next album's release date - it was fall of 1998.  I was shocked - a Beck album was released in fall of 1998 and I didn't buy it???  But I still loved Beck then!  At least... I know that I had pictures and posters of him on my dorm room walls in my early college years, at least the first whole year.  And fall of 1998 was only the beginning of my sophomore year.  So how could I have not realized - or not cared - that Beck released a new album???  Well...

Cecilia's drawing of "princess Lucy"

... I decided I would listen to a few of the songs from that album, because surely I would vaguely recognize one of the popular ones from radio air play, right?  Right.  I did.  I recognized some of the titles and listened to those, and I knew them.  So I started to play the other songs on the album... and I knew them, too.  I listened to the beginning of each song on that album, Mutations, and I KNEW THEM ALL.  Yet I didn't remember buying or owning that album.  It was like REVERSE DEJA VU, if that is even a thing.  But you don't just know every single song on an album that was less popular than the album to which it followed, unless you owned the album.  I was dumbfounded.  I must have actually OWNED THAT ALBUM and somehow not even remembered!!  I kept asking Chris, while sitting on the hearth making s'mores with my laptop playing Beck songs at midnight, "What is wrong with me?  How could I have forgotten owning this album??"  His answer: "Maybe your brain is broken."  All I could think was, "Yeah.  That is the only explanation."

Caroline's watercolor of herself and two others in her dance recital

So I bet you guys all think I am nuts now.  What would be the big deal about me forgetting owning an album?  I bet lots of people have done that.  And I forget lots of details.  But not that!  That is not the kind of thing I forget.  Especially Beck, who was a long-lasting musical obsession of mine.  So yeah, I think my brain is broken.  And now my midlife crisis: I bought some old CDs that I used to own.  A few bucks on Amazon and I will have Beck and Radiohead to listen to in the car again.  If that is the worst midlife crisis I have, then yay.  Although I think it is still technically too early for a midlife crisis, seeing as I am not 40 yet. 

Another watercolor of Caroline's

We went to Blue Ridge with some friends over the weekend who have a family cabin there... lots of fun.  We had six adults and 14 kids there!  The adults had fun pulling up songs on Pandora and Youtube... after the kids were in bed, my friend Elizabeth and I reminisced about our Guns 'n Roses days.  They pulled up a Beck song for me.  We listened to a wide range of music, from the 60s through the 90s.  Apparently I liked some of the same music as my friends, friends who are now old parents along with me, ha ha.  From music I owned on CD like Jane's Addiction and Tom Petty to music that I liked when their songs were on the radio or MTV but didn't own the albums, like Weezer and Talking Heads (which are very different from the music I hated but still knew well from the radio and MTV, like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Smashing Pumpkins - although now I can tolerate the Pumpkins some in my old age, ha)... we listened to some fun stuff.  Another band I used to like, Pearl Jam, was brought up... I really stopped liking them by college, but said that I still loved their song "Black."  Elizabeth agreed that was one of the best songs ever - we really should have known each other in high school, ha.  It was nice to be able to hang out with a group of Catholic homeschooling parents for the weekend.  We talked some about our plans to start a moms' book club, which will be nice.  I need accountability to make myself get some reading done - instead of blogging and reminiscing about 90s music, ha ha. Maybe we will talk about the impact of music and pop culture on our kids... I really don't know what to do about that.  Of course, in my opinion as an old parent, today's music stinks for the most part.  I can see that my parents really didn't limit my musical preferences when I was in high school... other than to express disapproval when I brought an album into the house with a "parental advisory - explicit lyrics" label on it.  I can look back as an adult, and I can say that I wasn't really negatively impacted by the music I listened to overall... but I recognize that some of the messages in some of the music I liked were potentially poisonous.  And that will impact different people in different ways, and I don't know that you can identify how it will impact you ahead of time.  As I was listening to a few Radiohead songs the other day, I was almost crying because they were so mournful to me... yet they didn't impact me that way back when I was listening to them in high school and college.  They were just good songs to me then, and I guess I didn't think very deeply about the lyrics.  So, something to ponder.  Always something to ponder with parenting decisions, and I don't think there are any easy or obvious answers.  Being overly sheltering and protective can result in them not knowing what to do with these kind of things when they grow up completely and leave the house... so, as with most things, I don't know the answer.  I do think that by homeschooling and not having things like cable/satellite TV, we already have a more limited exposure to things like popular music of today and such.  I guess we will cross those bridges when we come to them, trying to talk about it all so that our kids know what is going on in the world around them... that whole "in this world but not of this world" idea.

Had to include Lucy's artwork too.  She likes to use glue, so often I will cut random scraps for her to glue onto paper.

So if you see some crazy lady in her mid-30s driving around blasting Radiohead or Beck next week, you will know that it's me.  Living my early mid-life crisis.  If I start buying old Nirvana albums, please have me committed, because I really can't even tolerate their music any more now!  If I start buying New Kids on the Block albums, well... you will know I am too far gone to be helped at that point.

Cecilia's St. Cecilia statue and Caroline's Joan of Arc, made with clay yesterday
Thoughts, yes, but not many about snow.  As I promised.  At least I have an excuse for my rambling thoughts now - my brain is just broken. ;)

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Modern Mothering and Miscarriage, Rants and Reflections

So here's some of the loveliness that is going around online lately...

First, the whole vaccination thing.  Apparently the measles outbreak where 90 people at Disneyland came down with it has some people up in arms against the "anti-vaccine nuts."  Apparently some of them want others to be charged criminally for making parenting decisions that they disagree with. Honestly, I loved this response by Matt Walsh, that basically, people who want to make skipping or changing any vaccines on the typical schedule a punishable crime are trading in our liberties and essentially allowing for the government to make decisions for us about our children. 

This quote from the article:

"In short, as we have seen time and time again, despite Ben Franklin’s urges to the contrary, many people will choose safety over liberty, no matter how slight the risk and how serious the infringement."


 He goes on to detail how the risks are indeed slight compared to the risks related to actual crimes that have the intention of harming others, such as drunk driving.  Good article, so I won't say much more about it.

Vaccines are one of those very tricky parenting topics.  I mean, we all know that breastmilk is the optimal nutrition for babies.  We all know kids are safer in carseats than in a regular seatbelt when they are young.  But we really don't all know all there is to know on vaccines.  I honestly don't know who is right or wrong on this.  As a result, we have selectively vaccinated our children.  I am always open to learning more and always debating which ones we should consider getting.  Up for current consideration is the MMR vaccine for our oldest because she hasn't had it, and I have found in my research that the risk of arthritis in adulthood increases if this vaccine is gotten in adolescence.  I want my daughters protected from rubella especially before they reach childbearing age because of the devastating effects it can have on unborn babies whose mothers catch the illness.  So I need to first get a titer done to see if perhaps maybe she has been exposed to rubella naturally and built up immunity to it... and if not, make a decision.  I hate that the rubella vaccine is cultured on aborted fetal cells and that Merck has a monopoly on it in the US - I can't get it made more ethically here even though it can be and is being made ethically in other countries.  And I am not traveling to Japan to get an ethical vaccine.  Also, Merck will not make a single dose vaccine - your child must get the combination measles, mumps, and rubella shot in order to get any of those vaccines at all.

I hate that people are so angry about this... I have seen people personally say that parents who don't vaccinate on schedule are "negligent."  What those people fail to realize is that vaccine injuries do exist and so how, exactly, is a parent concerned about vaccine injury negligent?  Usually these people have read and asked questions very thoroughly.  I still find myself on the fence... there are so many vaccines now, whereas up until about 1990, there were just three shots: MMR, DTaP (then the DTP version), and polio.  That is a huge increase in what we are being asked to inject into our children and so people who don't do it and have concerns are certainly thinking about it - they aren't usually making an ignorant or negligent choice.  What those who want to treat this choice as criminal cannot answer is this: How is a child who dies of a vaccine-preventable disease more important than a child who dies from a vaccine-caused injury?  There is not really an answer to that question.  And I have seen a few anti-vaccine people say things like, "How awful that you inject poison into your child!"  Also unnecessarily harsh and not what the vaccinating parent is trying to do, just as the non-vaccinating parent isn't trying to spread illnesses to vulnerable people.  I can see both sides of this issue, being one who is still somewhat undecided, and I am always dismayed when I realize that other people cannot.  And that they even want to demonize people who have come to a different conclusion.

The thing is, some people who choose not to vaccinate have reasons that they believe are for the greater good.  They aren't simply doing it out of the selfishness of not wanting to potentially expose their child to toxins in vaccines... some truly believe they are bad for our health and are leading to all sorts of auto-immune diseases and other health concerns that seem to be rapidly growing in our society currently.  And until we have real, solid answers - proof of how and why we are experiencing increases in some of these illnesses and health problems - then we can never be totally sure.  Some people believe that exposure to some of these viruses in the wild is what is truly going to build healthy immune systems... so for this line of belief, avoiding vaccinations is done out of concern for public health.  Do I believe this myself?  I have no idea, honestly.  I am ready for somebody to come up with some proven and unmistakable answers, but I don't think that is going to happen.

So, the idea that people could sue other parents (first 3 paragraphs of that link are filled with "fighting words" designed to fuel outrage, btw) if it is proven that their child passed a vaccine-preventable disease on to somebody who then suffered from complications of the illness... where does that end?  How far do we trace back to find where the disease originated and can we sue all those people as well?  What if the disease actually began in a vaccinated individual, who was injected with the live virus (measles being an example of a live virus vaccine) and the virus then "shedded," meaning got out of that person's system and infected another person with measles... do we get to sue those parents for choosing to vaccinate?  What about parents who don't get antibiotics for their child and he infects others, can we sue them, too?  Can we sue other adults who come to work while fighting off colds and such and then get others ill?  Doubtful, seeing as how important the bottom line is to many employers in this country - what, you're skipping work today because you have a stuffy nose??  Can we sue parents who "choose" to work, sending their kids to day care when they didn't "have to" financially, because their kids are sick more often and more likely to spread illnesses? 
The bottom line?  ILLNESS HAPPENS.

From the article linked above:
"“Life has lots of risks,” Holland explained. “And the idea of imposing legal liability on parents who don’t vaccinate implies that vaccines are both perfectly safe and perfectly effective.”
“Vaccines aren’t perfect. Sometimes they don’t take,” said Holland. “There are vaccine strains of disease and wild strains, and allowing parents to sue one another gets you into some crazy places and complicated problems.” Take a parent who believes their first baby has had an adverse reaction to a vaccine.. If those parents decide against vaccinating a subsequent child, are they exercising a medical or a personal belief exemption — and would a person be able to sue them for their decision not to vaccinate?"

And, the fact that nobody speaks of... perhaps because they don't even know this... if people should be able to sue parents for not vaccinating their children, then shouldn't people be allowed to sue vaccine companies after being injured as a result of a vaccine?  What's that, you say?  People can't sue a vaccine manufacturer if that vaccine causes their child injury or death?  No, they can't, as of 1986.  The government created the "National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program."  If they deem the injury or death to be truly vaccine-caused, then they will pay you, instead of you sueing the maker of the vaccine - because then they might not have enough money to keep making more vaccines, causing potential for shortages, and the government has decided getting vaccines is in our best interest above and beyond those individuals who have serious life-threatening reactions to vaccines.  These drug manufacturers are protected by the government from paying for any wrongful injury or death that their products cause... what other products are protected in this way by our government? 

And so who pays for these vaccine injury claims?  Where does the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program get its money?  Each vaccine is taxed at a rate of 75 cents.  Combination vaccines are taxed for each separate disease they are vaccinating against: the MMR vaccine, for instance, is taxed at $2.25 per vaccine.  So the drug companies are completely protected from losing money over lawsuits as well as losing credibility by having their names involved in lawsuits.  In its first 20 years, the NVIC program had paid out nearly 2 billion dollars to those deemed to have been injured by vaccines, and only about one in three claims filed is even judged to be vaccine-caused.

So, up next in the cheerful world of parenting news... Similac made a "commercial."  It really is just a video that you can watch online, which on the surface appears to be telling parents, "Let's all get along; we are all good parents trying the best we can."  I watched it and immediately didn't like it.  I felt the sentimental goosebumps at the end that the advertisers who made it intended (that's the power of advertising via media!), but my brain was saying, "Wait.  I don't like this."  Similac did an excellent job, I must say, at portraying this loving emotional feeling to make people think they are trying to help break down the largely media-fueled "mommy wars."  The thing is, nobody really acts the way the stereotyped moms in the ad are acting.  The reason I dislike the ad, I have come to realize, is that it portrays these people as the worst stereotypes you could come up with of what they are.  Then it makes it so that since everybody in the ad comes together despite their differences, then all parenting choices must be accepted as being equivalent, meaning that those who want to support breastfeeding are just pushy and mean to moms who had to use formula... when in truth, most moms actually want to breastfeed and many need support to do so.  Anyway, this article on Evolutionary Parenting does a better job than I can do at explaining my discontent with the ad, really, so I recommend reading it if this ad has been on your radar recently (and you can watch the ad there, too, if you haven't seen it).  Sure enough, as soon as the author wrote that she didn't like the ad and why, she got a bunch of commenters who were personally offended that she didn't like it because they couldn't breastfeed for x y and z reason... when she had said nothing at all about their personal choices and circumstances.  All from saying she didn't like an ad that everyone else had jumped on the bandwagon for with loving admiration.  In effect, starting another "mommy wars" battle.  Because a FORMULA company wanted to make an ad that would make us focus even more on these stereotypes of mothers supposedly judging everyone just because they breastfeed or want to help other women to breastfeed.  The formula company has further pointed out and focused on our differences, and that part sticks, not the happy ending.  In effect, Similac has succeeded in causing formula-feeding parents to point the "hater" finger at breastfeeding supporters simply because they cry foul at this ad made by marketers of infant formula.  Well played, Similac, well played.

From the article:

"After the initial shock that so many people could read something so personal into something about an ad by a company, I realized that my prediction of what would happen was shown to be true, just earlier than I had anticipated.  The ad has now perpetuated the mommy wars and helped some moms see judgment everywhere."

and this:

"What was more baffling though was that people decided that not liking an ad equals not liking people that use the product."

and finally, this:

"Whatever you personally felt about this ad, please just be willing to accept that someone else didn’t like it. Someone else has a view of marketing that is perhaps more jaded than yours (and perhaps more realistic?), but that it says nothing about you personally. Not every comment is a dig at your choices. "

So... on to other parent-related topics that are in my own personal brain rather than fueled by online articles lately, then.  These were just two that made me think recently.

On miscarriage... there are lots of questions mothers have about it, questions you don't think of before having had a miscarriage.  From the drastic, "Will I ever be able to carry a pregnancy to term again?" to the simple yet seemingly unanswerable ones like, "How soon is it okay, medically speaking, to conceive again?"  Apparently each case is different anyway, so some women will experience a return to normal fertility immediately whereas others may take months for the pregnancy hormones to completely leave their bodies.  Nobody seems to be consistent on the answer as to whether or not a woman can ovulate again while she still has low levels of pregnancy hormone in her system following a miscarriage.  One nurse told me that you won't ovulate again until the hormone is gone completely, and that makes logical sense, but apparently it is not always true.  Looking around online, you find many women who say they ovulated when their pregnancy hormone levels were under 100 but still above 5.  Mine were at a 7 when last checked in early January, which the OB/GYN deemed acceptable, that I didn't need to have the level checked again unless I had problems come up.

So, according to the experts, when is it considered okay to conceive again?  Here are the answers:

"No need to wait; once your body is ready, then you are fine.  No increased risk of another miscarriage based on not waiting like we used to think; waiting is outdated advice." - an OB/GYN

"We tell people to wait through one full cycle before trying to get pregnant again." - a nurse at an OB/GYN office

"Give your body two to three months to heal." - a homebirth midwife

"Wait three cycles.  You need to build up a good uterine lining so a baby has a soft bed to land in."
- another OB/GYN

"Three to six cycles is what we are supposed to recommend, but I know plenty of people who conceived again in the very next cycle... we aren't in charge; somebody up there is." - an ER doctor

So... yeah.  I was even more baffled that the "your body will know when it's ready, no need to wait" advice came from a medical doctor, because it sounds so natural-minded.  And it is backed by science: Mayo Clinic agrees that conceiving again right away is not associated with increased risk of repeat miscarriage, and that the risk actual does increase if you wait for six or more months.  A reassuring fact comes in the form of this information: that less than five percent of women will experience back-to-back miscarriages.  Reassuring, that is, until you think of the people you know personally who have experienced multiple miscarriages in a row.  And you think, "Do I really know that many people, or has this really happened to more than 5% of my personal friends who have miscarried?"

I don't like not knowing what my body is doing, so emotionally it was hard to recover in those first several weeks, not knowing what my body was doing cycle-wise.  Seems to have gotten back to normal now, so that has been reassuring.  I don't like being on edge or overly worried... I know there are risks with pregnancy as with many other things in life, and getting neurotic about it won't help anything.  I do like the attitude of "we're not in charge."  Letting nature take its course rather than trying to formulate some exact science in when it is medically "okay" to conceive again.

So, we said a St. Gerard novena, since he is the patron saint for pregnant mothers and those wishing to become pregnant... hoping for more peace on the situation and to be relaxed going forward, not to overthink things to the point of needless worry.  I am going to start a novena to Our Lady of Lourdes tonight, since her feast day is on February 11, which is the earliest day I could take a pregnancy test this month... not knowing at all what it would show.  Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to St. Bernadette and told her, "I am the Immaculate Conception."  Conception.  My kids and I will be hosting our monthly Catholic homeschool group this Friday, and we will be focusing on Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette, watching a movie we have on the story and reading a story.  I would greatly appreciate any prayers for peace of mind and acceptance of God's will for me from those who happen to read this (about the whole fertility thing, not the homeschoolers coming to my house, ha ha).  I'm kind of hiding it way down here after all the ranting above, I realize. ;)

One thing I found to be very certain for myself: I wanted to talk more about it with other moms who have had miscarriages before than with those who have never had one. 

I have read a couple things about miscarriage... just one or two articles of "things you should know about friends who have miscarried" kind of things.  And I have found that they don't really fit me somehow.  It is still all so abstract to me... when you lose a baby you never were even able to see, then it doesn't even feel completely real.  So no, I don't find myself wondering or imagining what she would have looked like... I don't even know if she was a she or a he, anyway.  Maybe once I hit those dates... what would have been my due date... next Christmas... maybe then it will hurt and I will be wondering what that day would have actually been like had things been different.  Everything I have that is a concrete reminder that she really existed is in a little box on my dresser.  I also have a hydrangea for her sent by a sweet friend that I will plant outside when it is warmer, so that will be another concrete reminder... and we have an engraved brick for her in a prayer garden at our church.  Today we placed her remains under it - finally, after waiting over a month for the monument company to stop dragging their feet on finishing it - and our deacon performed the Rite of Committal. 

When they first built the prayer garden a few years ago, anyone who wanted to could buy a brick, either for their own family or as a memorial for somebody.  Our deacon told us that a few people have placed miscarried remains under bricks there - so that is not its main purpose, but it is a respectful way of handling miscarried remains.

We chose to use the brick under our family's brick... to spread the bricks evenly around the garden when they first built it, they spaced the bricks out with blank ones in between.  So there was a blank one available under ours.  After placing the remains, we all went into the church and prayed the rosary together (well, Lucy ran around a little in the empty church, but the older girls, Chris, and I prayed the rosary).  That is my special rosary for Mary Karol around the brick in the photo, another tangible item I have as a reminder of her.

Over Christmas, my brother who is currently a transitional deacon gave me this beautiful blessing.

I have also learned now, having gone through this, that it has made me sensitive to comments others make.  I never liked the comments of, "Oh, we're DONE having kids, thank goodness!" but those particularly come across hard now when I hear about parents with that mentality.  It is also hard overhearing people being thankful for not being pregnant, or saying things like, "Oh gosh, I hope I'm not pregnant!"  I know this is my problem, and I can remember times when I was overwhelmed with my current kids and thinking no way could I handle another baby at that time, so I understand... but this has given me a new perspective.  It will be more difficult to fear pregnancy in the future because the ones that are carried to term will be that much more precious to me.  Another difficult thing is seeing people who are announcing that they are due around what was to be my due date... or a month later, and knowing that they have made it through that first trimester with a normally-progressing pregnancy, and knowing that I was ahead of where they were - that I should have been holding a newborn before they would be - but I won't.  Their arms will be full before mine.  It is also hard knowing some pregnant moms who didn't even intend to become pregnant and are - not that they are acting bitter about becoming pregnant unintentionally, but because... well, because they just are, and I am not.  Selfish thoughts, really, but maybe somewhat normal.  My body did go through a major hormone shift of rapidly rising hormone levels to rapidly falling hormone levels.  My body was expecting to be pregnant and to be needing to be in maternity clothes soon, and that didn't happen - it's like a disconnect between brain and body.  So in expecting to be pregnant, my body senses it when my brain picks up on the fact that other people are pregnant.  So it is hard to see/hear about pregnancies, although seeing babies themselves, already born, is comforting to me somehow.  I know I have been a lot more sensitive to my own toddler, my "baby," lately, and wanting to snuggle her more... as she grows more and more independent each day, and I ask myself, "Surely I would have been ready to have another baby now; why did I wait so long?  Lucy is so grown up lately!"  Hindsight... I didn't predict it nine months ago because she was still quite a handful then!  She has grown and changed so much in a few short months...

So, all that to say... there is not necessarily a "normal" way to process miscarriage, and maybe some people will be more sensitive to some things than others.  And since I get that, I am not going to be mad at anyone for saying or doing anything that might make me bristle... I mean, a pregnant mom can't help walking past me looking pregnant, now can she?  Or that she happens to have difficult pregnancies when I love being pregnant?  It's not anyone's fault.  I am very grateful to people who have continued to ask how I'm doing and for expressing their thoughts and prayers for us.  The few cards given to us are kept in that little box because, again, they are tangible reminders of something so intangible to me, even though I have the confidence that her soul is a very real thing... it is till hard to grasp it when I never even saw her.

One other thing... nobody tells you exactly what to expect during a miscarriage.  I had a very helpful online friend who gave me the most realistic idea of what to expect.  I certainly didn't expect to black out, though.  I also didn't expect the doctors to not be able to tell me when I'd passed the baby's remains.  The ER doctor insisted that I wouldn't be able to tell, although apparently many moms have been able.  He said he never could distinguish it visually in this early of a miscarriage... and as I was at ten weeks, I was thinking, "Early??"  The baby was only measuring 5/6 weeks, however.  Without going into too much detail, I will say that with the help of ultrasound, we are confident that what we placed under the brick was what we intended to place there.  But if any other mothers who are faced with a miscarriage are reading this, hopefully they will understand that it is not always a clear thing to tell for sure... that you can't expect closure from actually knowing the moment that the actual remains of the baby have passed.  It upset me at first that I couldn't, and I think my expectations were influencing me there.  Like so many other things - there is no exact textbook way something will play out; every case can be a little different.

It still doesn't all seem totally real, nor does it seem right to add all this onto the bottom of this post, but it feels weird to give it its own post, too.  There is no normal, I guess is what I keep learning.

So... one last thing to wrap up this way-too-lengthy post.  Those legwarmer thingies that I have mentioned a few times and promised they are cute and not tacky or 80s-looking... I took a picture so I could prove it:

Except it doesn't really prove it, because I am sure some people probably still think they are ugly.  But I love them, and they are warm!!  But yes, everyone's experience will be different, and so... if you think they are tacky, just don't tell me that. ;)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Ramblings, Part III

Beef stock... looks delicious with all those vegetable chunks floating around in there, huh?  Well, it was, after I strained it, that is.  We made beef stew with it a couple weeks ago and froze the rest, although I should probably just thaw it and have us drink cups of it.  Maybe that will help us with these little colds that we seem to keep catching.  Cecilia has been coughing since about four days before Christmas, literally.  Right now I have chicken stock simmering on the stove to use in cream of carrot soup tonight (I know, sounds gross, but it is absolutely delicious, I promise, and my kids all love it).  I still can't get my stock to gel and considered being a cheater and just adding this gelatin to it myself, ha ha.  We have used it to make our own lemon gummies and also to just add into smoothies, so maybe that makes up for my gel-less stocks.

I have been on a health food kick lately (I mean more than usual, if you can believe that is possible).  Coming off the Christmas season, I wanted to get back to normal since we had been eating more treats and junk food than usual.  And I figure that has made us more susceptible to illnesses.  So, lots of nourishing foods lately to help us through this cough and cold season, and also to give my body lots of nutrients to recover from my miscarriage and to get me on track for healthy eating should I get pregnant again soon.  I have also been adding some good-for-fertility vitamins to my own diet as well as daily flax oil.  The kids are taking vitamins C and D daily, and we are all taking elderberry syrup as a flu preventative every day (so far, so good, crossing my fingers)... except we just ran out, and I can't make more until our local health food store gets more raw honey.  I may have to see what honey options they have at Kroger.

Lucy has been developing her palate impressively in the last few weeks... we have been eating lots of vegetables lately: broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, beets, parsnips, carrots, kale, spinach are just a few from the last week off the top of my head.  Lucy has been my most reluctant eater-of-vegetables so far, but she is catching on suddenly!  I always put a bit of everything on her plate, even if she has said she doesn't like it, and we always have them take at least one bite.  So, most of her solid-food-eating life, she has been given the head of one spear of asparagus on her plate whenever we eat that as a part of dinner, and she would take a little nibble as her one bite.  She gets a small salad every time we have it for dinner, and she has started eating several bites of that on her own.  She will now eat an entire spear of asparagus without any prompting from us (she had to ask for more the first time because she only had the one token piece on her plate).  I cooked eggplant slices under the broiler and then baked them with marinara sauce and mozzarella, and she asked for seconds.  When I was cutting up some raw kale, she begged for some.  Then she thanked me profusely, ha ha.  She did the same with raw cabbage while I was chopping that up to go in a salad.  She ate the celery sticks instead of just licking the peanut butter out of her "ants on logs" snack.  And she likes cauliflower in most of its forms at this point (covered in cheese being the favorite).  When we were at the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga a couple weeks ago, she noticed some kale growing in a planter on the rooftop area and asked, "Can I eat this?"  It is exciting to see how accepting she has become of a lot of our commonly-eaten vegetables.  I figured she would start to eat some of them eventually since the older two did... I am a believer in the exposure method.  We eat them frequently and they see them on their plates often, and eventually they eat most of them.  Lucy still won't eat corn or peas... but hey, who needs corn, anyway?  It is funny because most kids who don't like many veggies will eat corn! 

On the topic of healthy eating... I have been debating whether to keep drinking decaf Irish breakfast tea or to switch to decaf coffee for my morning cup of enjoyment.  The thing is, I have to have a little sugar in my black tea.  I have tried to like it with honey, tried to like it with stevia, and I just can't.  I use raw sugar from the health food store bulk bins, but still... sugar.  I like to try to only have sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, and the occasional baked item make with sucanat.  And... I love coffee with no sweeteners.  All it needs is cream or milk to be perfect for me.  So... decaf coffee with a little whole milk?  Or decaf black tea with the same milk plus a teaspoon or so of sugar?  Which is the healthier option, especially for somebody who hopes to become pregnant?  It is good quality decaf, both the coffee and tea, decaffeinated by the water method, which is supposed to be gentle and chemical-free.  Feel free to weigh in with a comment!

Gabby selfie
The morning after we went to the Emerson Hart concert, Gabby was being her usual friendly self, laying on top of people and shedding on us as a token of her love.  my brother was on a trip to the Holy Land at the time, and he had been sharing photos from his trip on Facebook, including one where there was a cat in one of the shrines that looked very similar to Gabby - Gabby's scraggly Middle-Eastern cousin, I assume.  So Gabby texted a picture of herself to him using my phone, since she was sure he missed her, and she didn't want to get replaced by some cat in another country!  He responded with, "What, no Mason photo?"

Mason selfie attempt
So he got this a few hours later when Mason took a break from her aloofness and graced us with her presence briefly.  I was surprised that she actually approached the phone while it was focusing and sniffed at it... her PTSD must be wearing off for her to not be afraid of approaching a strange object held by the Bringer of the Loud Two-Legged Ones.

Also in Atlanta was this sad sight...

This used to be the house across the street from my parents.  It was there at Christmas, and it was gone two weeks later.  It is sad because they are knocking down all these houses and building McMansions that cost over half a million dollars each.  The houses take up most of the space on the lots so they barely have yards and they tower comically over the older homes that are still left.  I am so glad my parents' house is safe because nobody wants their lot since it has a creek on it that has occasionally flooded into the basement.  My parents are probably not so thrilled as I am, ha.  They don't get sentimentally attached to houses, although they have lived in this one since before I was born!  But I think their lot is great - a corner lot, creek, woods, plus a flat yard area... perfect for kids.  My brothers and I practically lived in that creek in the summers!

And here is my favorite place to go when at my parents' house: Trader Joe's.  My mom and I discovered the little clothing store next to it, the Lemon Drop Shoppe... it is where she got me the legwarmer thingies I talked about before.  As I was there taking this picture, it struck me that I have likely spent months of my lifetime in these two shops... Trader Joe's only in the past seven or so years, but before that, in high school and college, I was in the space where the Lemon Drop Shoppe is practically every few weeks for many, many years... because that used to be Wolf Camera.  After I no longer seemed to live in the creek, I seemed to live at that Wolf Camera, ha ha.  It only closed with maybe the past five or so years.  I spent much time and much money in there!

And finally, a piece of what appears to be some kind of deep poetic writing from Caroline.  I found this written on a napkin.  Chris and I thought, "Wow, that 'death is not an expirement' part is really deep!  Especially with how the word 'expirement' is set off by being alone and a few spaces below the rest."  Nope, it is actually a misspelling of 'experiment.'  And it was apparently based on a fortune cookie that my brother Tim got when we went to Restaurant with him several months ago.  So... yeah. 

Well, that is enough rambling for now, I suppose... maybe more soon! :)