Friday, September 30, 2011

Luke's First Injury

Luke's first injury
 Given his fall down the stairs, his love for climbing, his new affinity for jumping on the furniture, and his fierce independence, I've already started preparing myself for the idea that Luke will be our kid that breaks limbs and needs stitches. There are emergency room trips in his future. I know it in my bones.

This morning, he got his first official injury, meaning, one that left a mark.

 Every morning when we leave the house, he walks across the porch and down the stairs by himself. He's like a horse at the starting gate, bursting out of the front door when I open it. He stops along the way to greet all of the statue animals, and by the time I've put the bags in the car, he's coming down the stairs. He is very careful, coming down sideways so he can hang on to the railing with both hands. I'm usually there to grab him at the bottom so I can put him in his carseat.

This morning, just as I turned around to get him from the steps, I saw him fall from the bottom step onto the driveway. On his face. He was wearing pants today, and I think his foot got caught in his pants leg, tripping him up. I knew from the landing that it hurt, and then he started to cry. I scooped him up and got a close enough look to know there was blood, so we headed back into the house to clean it up.

He was crying hard, so I sat on the toilet and nursed him while I wiped his face with a warm rag to clean off the dirt and blood. That calmed him down enough that he tried to get out of my lap as I put Neosporin on the scrapes. By the time we headed back out to the car, he was well enough to slide down my leg and toddle across the porch and down the steps all by himself.

He has a scrape next to his eyebrow, under his eye, and on the corner of his nose. I can't tell yet if it's going to be a nasty bruise, but it already looks pretty pitiful - especially with those sad eyes and that puffed out lip. I'm pretty sure he's going to work this for all it's worth.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Operation Bigger House: It's Begun

With the big tree gone, work on our home addition officially started last week. The first day, two saw horses showed up in the yard. The second day, a trailer full of scaffolding appeared. The third day, the fence came down and bricks started disappearing. The fourth day, the air conditioner was moved. The fifth day, all of the brick and the basement window was gone, and the outline of the addition was spray painted on the grass.
Disappearing bricks

Pile o' bricks - these will be used for window sills and trim work

Cutie Patootie, and Jewel E. Cat
Yesterday, I happened to be home because I felt like I was swallowing razor blades and I had a back injury (punk kids!), so I got to watch the backhoe dig up the giant stump and start digging out the basement. The stump took all morning, and a couple of times I actually gasped out loud because I thoutght the backhoe man was going to throw himself out of that thing. The whole tractor lifted off the ground, except for the shovel that was stuck in the stump.  Here it is. It really does look like five trees all stuck together.

Sweet Ella (modeling new shoes) with the stump for perspective of the size.
The beginning of the new basement.

Side view of the new basement.
They didn't finish digging because of the rain, and because they accidentally found the drain pipe for our washing machine, so right now there is a backhoe parked in our yard, a mountain of red dirt, and a large hole. Georgia already dropped a tennis ball in it, but I forbade her from retrieving it. My carpet is pitiful enough with out red mud being tracked all over it.

That's the progress from the first week.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Closure: Reflections on Jake's Birth

In almost exactly a year’s time, I can finally say that I’ve made peace – with my births, with my body. Not the scar, it’s just a scar, but with the idea that my body turns against me while I’m pregnant, leading to the scar. The scar itself has never really bothered me so much as the message it sends to my children. But do you know what I’ve realized? It’s not a bad message. Sometimes c-sections are necessary. Sometimes, that’s how a baby is supposed to be born. I still want her (them) to understand normal birth, but it’s okay that I had two c-sections. I am not weak or less because I made those decisions, and given all that I’ve learned in the last three years, I’m pretty sure I would make the same decisions again.

Before and immediately after my nephew, Jake, was born, several people inquired into my mental state regarding being present for his very natural birth. I can honestly say that I made peace with my own deliveries before Rebecca went into labor. I knew that I had to. It wouldn’t be fair or helpful to her if I brought that baggage to his birth, and rather than check it at the door, I opted to just unpack it and a put it away. I have two beautiful children; there’s no reason to carry that luggage around with me any longer. Some of it was unpacked here, in the open, but most of it was through reading and watching other births, from many perspectives, including midwives and OBs. I’ve learned more about Gestational Diabetes, more about breech births, more about how others made the same decisions and why.

I did have a brief, wistful moment of heartache as I watched Jake’s head emerge from his mother’s body, but it was gone as quickly as it came. One bit of my c-section experience was useful to Rebecca. I knew that locally injected lidocaine was available to numb the site of her IV (she had a Hep lock), and after a couple of failed attempts to start the line between contractions, the lidocaine made her a lot more comfortable when they tried again on the other arm.

I also had to answer a few of her questions with, “I don’t know; I had a morphine pump” when she asked things like if the cramping would hurt when Jake latched on to nurse the first time. It did. A lot. But, I was able to reassure her that her reaction to the uterine “massage” they do after the birth to check the bleeding was completely appropriate. That hurt like the devil, even with the morphine pump. So, no, she wasn’t overreacting.

Helping them learn to nurse in the days and weeks after he was born humbled me to my core. It was a lot harder than I expected it to be. Trying to help someone physically position themselves and the baby is a lot harder than doing it yourself – like trying to tie a tie on someone else’s neck. I did my best, but I felt like a bumbling idiot. I tried hard not to, but I’m sure I may have driven them nuts with all of my information. It was just another situation where I struggled for balance between being a know it all and providing helpful support. I have cried and worried with her as they’ve found their way, mostly on their own. I also realize that that’s as it should be since it’s her body and her baby and her accomplishment. I’m happy to help her find answers when she needs them and to reassure her when she’s experiencing “normal.” I understand, now, how/why new mothers often give up breastfeeding so early; that for some women, it’s not only not easy, but it’s really hard work. It has not been an easy road for Rebecca and Jake, and I hope that she will share her experience one day for the sake of helping others and giving hope where, as I learned, it can be so desperately needed.

Breastfeeding veterans, I encourage you – regardless of whether your nursing relationship was easy from the first latch or you shed blood, sweat, and tears for every swallow of milk your baby got – to be gentle with new mothers. They not only need support and good information, they need to know they are doing the best they can and that they are doing it well.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Supper at Our House

This is what supper time looks like at our house right now. If you've never had the pleasure of dining with a toddler who is learning to self-feed, enjoy! And, if you will have a toddler learning to feed himself in the near future, get a dog. I'm so serious; just ask the server at Olive Garden who wishes Georgia was a service dog, and thus able to patronize restaurants. Just feed him, you say? So he doesn't make a mess, you say? Sure thing, and then everyone is subjected to his screeching wails of offense at being fed. And then he fasts, because, well, if he can't do it, then no one can (enter grouchy, hungry baby).
Luke, belly full and ready for bed.

Me and my wonky eye, concealing a mouth full of food for a picture.

Ella with her dessert.

Dave, the only one without a full mouth.

The aftermath.
Thankfully, Luke only took a power nap so I didn't have to decide between putting him to bed covered in squash casserole or waking him while cleaning him up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kiddlet Tidbits

I’ve been collecting random kid quotes and happenings for a few weeks, but none of them were enough for an entire blog post, so I’ve decided to put them all together in one.

- One night, while Ella was dramatically wailing about getting out of the shower before she was ready, Luke came into the bathroom and laid his head on her leg and patted her to make her feel better. She, of course, didn’t “wike him to touch” her, but I told her to shut it because he was being sweet because she was crying. It does my heart good to see him showing concern and compassion. I know that by virtue of being female, Ella is biologically wired for those behaviors, but I didn’t know what to expect from Luke. My worry about that has been alleviated. He has the sweetest spirit. He loves on the baby dolls, the stuffed animals, Ella, and, have mercy, when Baby Jake cries, he just about can’t handle it. He has even cried with him, when he couldn’t reach to pat him or rock him in his carseat. (He does pat and rock a little too vigorously, but we are working on making his “soft touch” softer. The cats and dogs will thank us. And so will Jake.)

- In the middle of the night a few weeks ago, Luke saw Ella’s water cup beside her bed and he went nutty asking for “Ju-ju” (juice). I took him to the kitchen, poured a cup of juice and took him to my bed. He sat up, drank half of it, and then fell face first into the pillow with a belch. When I laughed, he kicked his feet in response and passed out without nursing. That was the first time he has accepted a cup in the middle of the night.

- Someone taught Ella to say “Roll Tide!” Now, she yells, “Roll Tide!” and throws a crimson colored football at us (which she picked out at Target because it’s Roll Tide-colored). She has a good arm, and sometimes she actually catches it when you throw it back to her. Luke likes to take a handoff and run with the ball so that she’ll chase him.

- September 13, 2011 is a day to be preserved in history because both of my children slept through the night. This was Luke’s first time ever, at 5 days shy of 13 months old. I still woke up at 3 am when Ella was talking in her sleep, but I didn’t have to get up. Luke woke up at 5:20 am, calling out “Mama? Mama?” (I was already awake). He nursed and went back to sleep for an hour. Except for the headache from the stiff neck because I barely moved all night long, it was a glorious night. I’ve probably jinxed myself for a year now, but I needed to share this with other sleep deprived mothers who need some hope.

- Over the weekend Ella asked me these questions: “Mama, when will I have a baby?” and “Will it be a girl?” and “Will you come to my baby shower?” I did tell her that she won’t have a baby until she’s grown, and only God knows if it will be a girl, but I will definitely be at the baby shower. Now she’s planning it.

- My favorite recent quote happened yesterday while we were jumping in the bounce house at a Jump Zone birthday party. She bounced over to me and said, “I love this!” She’s come a long way from last year’s disastrous Pumpkin Patch experience.

- After our latest discussion (yesterday) about which clothes are appropriate for church and which are not, she told me, “I’m going to be a gymnastics teacher when I grow up.” That’s right, so she can wear shorts and tank tops all the time.

- Finally, here’s a shot of Luke that looks remarkably similar to one of my baby pictures. This is just one of his latest feats. He also climbs into the middle of Ella’s little table and stands on it, and he stands on the ottoman and jumps, then scurries down and runs away before I can catch him to get him down.
Luke, helping with the laundry.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Operation Bigger House: The Tree Is Gone

We are distraught about it. Crazy, I know, considering this is a step in the direction of more space that we desperately need. We are having a hard time shaking the thought of, "Who are we to kill something that God created hundreds of years ago?" But, it's done and there's no undoing it now.

Giant stump

This is what's left of it. The stump is big enough that we could host a photo shoot of a family of five sitting on it.

Ella, standing on the stump.

For perspective, here's my preschooler standing on it. Bonus, you get to see how adorable she is in her leotard. We went straight to the backyard after gymnastics so I could take some pictures before it got completely dark.

Site of the addition, sans tree.

This is a  bad picture because I was struggling with my flash and the lighting, but you can see the stump where the tree used to be and the now wide-open space that will house our addition.

Site of the addition, from the tree stump.

This is a better picture, looking directly at the back of the house where the addtion will be built. I'm standing behind the tree stump.

We are supposed to meet with the contractor tonight to find out what happens next. He has told us that once the tree was removed, he'd bring in supplies and our project should take about 90 days once they break ground. I'm hoping he gets started quickly and that it will be finished by Christmas. I just have a feeling we'll need closure on this for the new year.

As for my spirited daughter and her resistance to change, so far she's doing okay. We had some almost-tears last night when we were talking about our new bedroom and she asked me, "Mommy, will I be able to come to your new bedroom?" I don't think she understands yet that it will be connected from the inside of the house,  and all she'll have to do is walk down the hall.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Operation Bigger House: Tree Removal Day 1

These are the pictures from the first day of the tree removal. Basically, they took the top out of half of the tree yesterday - the half that was hanging over the house. 
75% of the tree is still standing

Photography is not my calling, but with this picture I was trying to give an idea of how tall the tree is. I was standing pretty close to the base of it - well, as close as I could and still get the top in the picture. See where half has already been cut?

This next picture shows both the relation of the tree to the house and the site of our addition. The piece of the tree that was already cut actually hung over the roof of the house, filling most of the space you see from the chimney back toward the fence. It was huge.

You can kind of see where the base of the tree started as one and then grew apart as two, but it's mostly hidden behind the yellow chipping machine in this picture. I don't think Dave and I together could wrap our arms around the trunk at the bottom.

The addition will extend into the backyard, toward the tree, from the back of the house where you see the two windows at the end. Ironically, we will be building in the only area of our backyard that currently grows grass. Hopefully, with the massive tree gone, grass will start growing in other places, too.

Site of the addition
 I love our shady backyard, but it really could be a little less shady. That tree you see on the right side of the picture, right next to the swing set? It might be even bigger than the one we are currently having cut down. Lots of shade there = very little grass = plenty of dirt/mud. And leaves. We didn't even know we had grass back there the first year we lived here until Dave started raking that fall and we realized there must have been years worth of leaves on the ground, smothering the grass.

Just for fun, I included a picture of Georgia. It's been a long time since I posted a dog picture here, and she accompanied me on my trek through the backyard to take these pictures. Don't tell her, but it was really a plot to get her out of the house so Dave could play football with the kids without her big brown self right in the middle of it, knocking them down. She was happy to help.

Sweet Georgia Brown

The back of the house, from the fence.
I took this last picture for posterity. The view of the back of our house from the fence is what sealed the deal for me. I just fell in love with it then, and I know I took a picture of it a long time ago but I couldn't find it. Before we change it, I wanted to capture what it looks like today. It's a bit different now because there used to be a ramshackle little greenhouse building on the far right (where you can see the garbage cans). Dave tore it down with plans to rebuild it again one day, but we haven't gotten there yet. With two small children, adding another bedroom quickly became our top priority.

Now that we are officially started on this project, I am so excited about all the plans we have for our house. I just keep telling myself, "Patience, Grasshopper."

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Did Not Name Our Daughter Katie

While Katie was on the short list of names while I was pregnant, we went with Ella Grace. I feel the need to state this for the record because she has corrected me so many times that even I am beginning to think her name is Katie Grace.

She told me that she wants to change her name to Katie Grace. In fact, at times, she just won’t answer to Ella at all.

Why? The best I can tell, there are two reasons.

1. Her favorite gymnastics coach is named Katie.
2. Her college-age cousin that she adores is named Katie.

I guess we’ll play along with this game for a while, but despite her most logical arguments, I will not concede to legally changing her name. I suppose, if she keeps this up for another 16 years, that I can’t stop her from changing it herself one day, but I’m hoping she decides to like the name we gave her.

In other news, Operation Bigger House is officially underway. The giant, centuries-old, oak tree in our backy-ard (that’s how Katie Ella Grace pronounces it) is coming down as I type. It will take a couple of days to get the whole thing down. That’s how big it is. We are sort of sad about it. Dave even had to go out there and tell it goodbye this morning. I guess we have a love-hate relationship with that thing. On the one hand, it’s massive, very close to the kids’ bedroom, and frequently drops limbs on the house and fence (though none big enough to cause significant damage yet). It’s also smack in the middle of our future master suite. On the other hand, it’s huge. It’s obviously been there for a very long time and it just feels wrong on some level to remove it for our own convenience. BUT, I just keep reminding myself of my unreasonable fear that it will fall on my sleeping children in the middle of a storm one night, and I don’t feel so sad about it. Plus, we are building a much needed addition in that space. Much needed. Did I mention that we need another bedroom in our house?

I plan to document this operation in pictures, so look for some in the near future. I guess I’ll start with the tree removal, but I didn’t take one this morning because the guys were already in it, cutting it, and I’m careful about posting pictures of people who might not appreciate having their picture on the internet.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Every night after bath, my house turns into the set of a music video with Dave as the featured artist singing Who Let The Dogs Out?

To say that the kids (and the dog) love it is a gross understatement.

We have a large, stuffed dog – an artifact from Dave’s childhood – that is big enough for Luke to sit on, and Dave makes it sing, bark and generally create chaos. It usually sits on the shelf above the toy box, and it wears an ugly, blue baseball cap that Dave won for Ella out of the machine at Huddle House.

When Luke gets out of the tub (he’s almost always the first one out because he doesn’t like the “kids sit in the tub” rule), I wrestle him into a diaper and then he goes straight to the toy box. He stands there, looking at that dog, dancing his white-boy dance (stiff upper body, bouncing at the knees, arms by his side, you know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout), and singing, “Who-who!” I get the dog down, and put the hat on Luke’s head. He likes to wear it sideways (see white-boy reference above).

Dave bursts into the room singing, “Who let them dogs out?” with Georgia at his heels, and it’s a full-blown party with loud singing, dancing, dog jumping, baby squealing, wrestling, and what have you. Sometimes it sounds fun enough to roust Ella out of her tub-languishing, sometimes she just ignores them, but when she joins in, the chaos gets ratcheted up another notch. Occasionally there’s bed jumping, but that usually means a quick end to the party so it doesn’t happen often.

Where am I while all of this happens? Far away, lest I trample all over the fun with silly notions of quietly winding down before bed.

And then, somehow, it all comes to an end, hopefully without any crying, and we settle in to read books. Half the time Davey-Dave is so worn out from letting the dogs out that he falls asleep in the middle of the book he’s reading. The kids take a little longer, but I’ve come to appreciate this evening ritual as a last blast of energy-burning fun, so I guess we’ll keep it up as long as Luke keeps saying, “Who-who!”