one long winter

I’m certain I’m not alone in thinking that this has been a loooong winter.  After the first of the year, Terry hit the road for his new job and traveled extensively throughout January and February.  And of all places…to sunny California!  In the midst of his travel, my beloved grandfather passed away (which deserves its own post) and since then, we have battled multiple colds, a bout with a stomach virus (which forced Terry to come back early one week), a household full of strep throat, and one very bad case of diaper rash which required a special trip to the doctor’s office and a prescription for some homemade concoction from the clinic called “poop goop”.  Seriously, those were the words that were printed on the label.  The weather needs no explanation.  With three small kids in tow, there have been many days where I decided it wasn’t worth the risk or the effort to bundle everyone up and go some place.  There was one week in January where all three kids had colds, Jude was up every hour of the night for multiple nights, school was cancelled due to weather so we didn’t leave the house for the entire week and by Thursday afternoon, I managed to fall down the stairs with Scarlett in my arms.  Thankfully, Scarlett was not injured, but I was fairly banged up.  Scarlett was so upset by my own tears after falling and so stir crazy from being cooped up all week that she literally sat on my bed and screamed at Britta and me for 45 minutes.  She capped it all off by heading upstairs and biting (yes, biting) our coffee table out of pure frustration.  At that point, Britta turned to me with a blank look on her face and said, “Maybe Daddy is coming home today.”  To which I replied, “Nope!  Not today.”  All I can say is uff da.  The week ended with Terry missing a flight connection, not getting in until Saturday afternoon and flying out again on Monday.  By the time Terry got home all I could say to him was, “I’m thankful that we will never have to live through January 2014 again and that our kids will never be this young again.”  Yes, it has been one long winter.  I promise I am sharing all this for more than my own need to vent and get sympathy.

It’s been a trying winter and in no small part due to Terry being gone a lot.  We are very thankful for his new opportunity, but I have been out-of-it as far single-parenting while Terry travels.  Truthfully, it’s an entirely different group of kids for me.  He hasn’t traveled like this since prior to Reece’s hospitalization.  Needless to say, I am out of practice.  Not only am I out of practice, but without Reece here as my helper while Dad is on the road, I’m way off.  It certainly makes me miss him even more.  Sure, Britta is nearly the same age as Reece was when Terry was gone before, but it’s just not the same.  The whole scenario has revealed many shortcomings I have as a parent.  And these shortcomings have reminded me over and over again about a post I wrote on Like Olive Shoots entitled 51 Things I Hope I Never Do Again.  That particular post has easily generated the most traffic on the blog other than the posts around the time Reece passed away.  It was written early on in Reece’s transplant as he really started becoming ill from the cord blood.  I remember sitting in the hospital wishing I had the same issues and challenges as I did on any ordinary day of my life.  I remember feeling trapped in such an obscure life place with no way to fix any of it.  Life felt completely out of control.  I promised when we eventually were out of the situation, I’d be a better mother…more loving, more compassionate, more creative, more tolerant…more whatever.  I promised I would remember how hard it was in the hospital and that, no matter what, our challenges at home would not compare.  While they don’t compare, the demands at home are still great.  The day-to-day can still be tough.  And you know what I’ve learned in the last 20 months?  I’m really not any better at parenting than I used to be.  I’m different at some things and I’ve changed quite a bit personally, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t gotten any better at being a mom.  I have strengths and weaknesses just like anyone else.  But I had convinced myself during our time at the U of MN that I would somehow be better at “mom” after going through all of that.  Well, my perspective is now different and I’m still good at some things, but I need a lot of improvement on others.  The “needs work” category has never been more apparent than in these last cold months.

Actually, if anything, I may have gotten worse at the things I need improvement on.  I’ve realized that I’ve been pressed in many ways throughout these last few months and nothing surfaces more in pressure situations than the ugly things.  Or is that just me?  Maybe it’s just me.  When I’m pressed, I’m no sweetheart.  But I’m trying–wow–am I ever trying to work on these things.  In particular, I am trying to work on not having a short fuse with my children.  Most days are just fine but there are a few moments baked into the most random places where I really have to work hard to not lose my temper, with Britta in particular.  One such moment happened about a month ago.  We were having a great day and leaving the gym on yet another very, very cold morning.  Britta was dawdling as we got into the van (getting the kids in and out of the van is no small process with the three kids in car seats).  In my desperation to get her to pay attention and get out of the extreme cold (I could tell she was deliberately trying to disobey me by not getting into the van) I did not handle the situation well.  But even as I was strapping her into her car seat I apologized for losing my temper and told her as hard as I try, I’m not perfect.  I will always tell my children their only perfect parent is Jesus.  Period.  But it just felt yucky.  I felt like I should be past this–I should be beyond this.  I know what if feels like to wish you handled every situation well.  I have certain memories with Reece, in our every day life, that I wish I had handled better. Those memories, at times, torment me.  I know every parent has these moments; I’m not unique in this way.  I’m also not unique in avoiding them–they didn’t magically disappear after Reece passed away.  But I know the feeling of regret over them.  I know the feeling of grief over them.  Nevertheless, I have accepted that my other kids will experience my own faults just like Reece did.

As I got in the driver’s seat of the van I was deeply sorrowful over the way I handled myself with her.  Then the words came to mind, “…and love covers over a multitude of sin.”  Thank-you, God, for that.  And it’s so true.  It doesn’t make sinning any less wrong; I’m still working on many, many things that I need to keep in check.  However, I needed to remember that my loving actions greatly outnumber the not-so-loving ones.  Most importantly, I take those words to mean that Jesus’ love for me and my kids fills in the holes of my parenting gaps.  If nothing else, they will be taught that in my shortcomings, Jesus will never fail them.  I’m not trying to replace God.  That’s a big revelation for me, because it basically lets me off the hook of beating myself up over my failures.  I still grieve my failures with my children, but knowing I can’t be perfect helps.

Here’s the deal–there is blessing in seeing your child live their entire life.  I can speak to a much bigger picture than the average parent (one of the ways I am a different person and different parent than I used to be).  I know in a deeply personal way that Reece was not thinking of my parenting shortcomings before he coded or passed.  His last months with us demonstrated love and commitment and perseverance–both parent and child.  There was no heartache about time-outs or me losing my temper or the things that Terry or I did wrong in our parenting.  Our final exchange of words was tender and loving and that is a gift.  It’s also extended to me as grace in parenting my other kids to know that this Bible verse is true and that I’ve seen it in action.  It’s not worth beating myself up over a single moment in January 2014.  The picture is so much bigger than that; life isn’t lived in a single moment.  That is encouraging to me.  It releases some of the angst I feel over moments I had with Reece and also from the temptation to beat myself over similar moments with my younger three kids.

By the way, I’m so glad that I titled that post “51 Things I Hope I Never Do Again”, versus “51 Things I Promise to Never Do Again”.  Because I’m pretty sure I’ve done nearly all of them since I wrote it and that would just mean I broke 51 promises.  Lord, help me.

Birthday Season is upon us in our household.  Reece’s birthday is in two weeks.  I’m sure I’ll be posting about it soon.  If you think of us, we covet your prayers.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

hello, 2014!

Here we are again.  January.  A new year.  I told Terry on New Year’s Day that it is funny how a new year seems fresh and full of possibilities, when in reality, it is just another day on the calendar.  It’s like we all need this big permission slip to hit the reset button and have a new beginning.  Apparently, we need this every 365 days, because we could just continue on our with daily life and not celebrate the Earth’s one revolution around the sun.  Maybe we need a reason to extend the Christmas season by another week; a good excuse to take some extended time off of work.  Either way, there is something about January that makes things feel clean.

January is here and, in our family, it marks another year since we embarked on our BMT journey with Reece.  Of course Reece passed away in July 2012, so July has become an anniversary month of sorts for that reason.  But January holds another anniversary and it would be remiss if I didn’t confess…it haunts me.  It encompasses an anniversary of commencing a complex process that brought us down a twisty, tangled road full of confusion, emotionally-charged experiences, loss of innocence, and a fair amount of mental damage.  January 2012, on the surface, had all the markings of new beginnings and a fresh start.  However, it never lived up to its promise, despite us marketing it that way to Reece, and now it merely feels like one big, empty, cold month.

My collective assessment from both my writings and my memories is that in the first year after the loss of Reece, we operated out of mostly shock.  We were very much still in that shock-place last January when we learned we were pregnant.  As we pressed forward through the year, the stark contrast between being pregnant with a new baby and grieving the loss of Reece became strange, at best.  As July came with the first anniversary of Reece’s passing, I felt a fair amount of relief in knowing that we had survived the first year and would at least be off the hook of saying, “It was only a year ago that ________ happened.”  Little did I know to expect that my relief would be short-lived when I hit a low point for the remainder of my pregnancy.  By this point, I was in my third trimester and people were asking me (just like they do any other pregnant woman) all about our new baby on the way.  In the midst of innocent questions like, “Is this your first baby?” or reactions like, “Oh, now you’ll have a boy to go with your girls!” lie complex answers from my end of the spectrum.  I found myself wary to discuss the details of my family with anyone, because it was emotionally exhausting.  Additionally, with only eight months in between giving birth to Scarlett and getting pregnant with Jude, my body felt the effects of very little recovery time.  Even though all probably looked normal to a passerby, life felt raw.

Jude was born in September.  He is such a little love.  Nevertheless, any time we add a baby to this house (and I am sure many people can relate), our world is turned upside down.  With our youngest two only 16 months apart and Britta being only three, it has required a pragmatic approach to everyday life.  My day is typically spent wiping tears, wiping noses, wiping butts, and wiping up the floor.  While I certainly think of Reece every day, the demands of our kids here and our overall exhaustion have been somewhat distracting from what I know is still freshly needing to be dealt with in regard to grief over him.  Granted, Jude is only four months old, but as the dust has settled, I am able to see things a little differently than I did a year ago.

First, I can say that the overall shock of Reece’s passing has somewhat disappeared.  There are still times when I say, “I can not believe Reece isn’t here with us.”  But we aren’t walking around shell-shocked like we were last year.  We aren’t just getting up and walking aimlessly around the Mall of America because we don’t know what else to do.  (Yes, we did that for quite a while after he passed.)  However, because that initial shock has somewhat dissipated, it has afforded more room to feel shock about what actually happened during our time with Reece at the U of MN and surrounding his funeral.  I can’t believe that Reece, for the last year of his life here, was a terminally ill child.  For half of that year, we didn’t even know it.  I can’t believe much of what we witnessed during his hospitalization.  I can’t believe the routine that he had to live through.  I can’t believe how we operated out of our home while Reece was ill–what it looked like and felt like.  I can’t believe the conversations we’ve had to have or the decisions we’ve had to make.  I still can’t believe we had a funeral for Reece.  We had a funeral for Reece.  And we had a memorial service for him.  I can’t believe I got up in front of several hundred people from various ages and stages of Terry and my life and told them about my son.  People wept over him.  Terry and I often look at each other and say, “How did we become that family?”  In fact, if you looked at our family make-up two years ago, you wouldn’t even recognize us today.  Reece isn’t here, but we have Scarlett and Jude with Britta sort of gluing it all together.  It all seems so strange.

Second, I’ve been able to simply let go of many hurts that transpired after Reece’s passing.  I’ve let go of expectations I had about how some of our friends would or would not embrace us.  I’ve realized that they hurt over Reece, too.  Last year, it was hard to see past my own pain to realize what others might be feeling in this regard.  I’ve decided that it’s ok that some of our friendships fall to the back burner or take a different course.  It isn’t because we don’t care and I realize now that it likely isn’t because they don’t care…it’s because it just needs to be that way.  I trust that God has a plan for those friendships, just like everything else.  I harbor no resentment towards them.  In fact, I do care deeply about each family or friend.  I’ve come to realize that sometimes, it simply is what it is.  Most importantly, I’ve realized that it is okay and that I don’t need to try to scramble to fix it.  Truthfully, I couldn’t even if I tried.  I also trust that different people will come into our lives and several have already at this point.  Most of the angst I felt in regard to our social connections being completely disrupted has been removed.  I feel at peace with this.

Third, I have come to realize that people–whether they knew us before or are just meeting us for the first time–will always identify us as “the family that lost a son”.  It is part of our identity.  I remember a handful of people I met prior to our own loss who had had a child pass away.  I never looked at them the same again.  I had so many things that would run through my mind when I would see them.  I had so many questions.  I didn’t know what to say to many of them.  But, regardless of my relationship with them, their personal loss of a child was never far from my mind.  Now, I can see it in other people’s eyes when they look at me.  Or at least I can see it in some people’s eyes.  It creates distance and questions and fears…fears for being somehow offensive to us (unlikely) and fears of what it would be like to lose a child of their own (also unlikely).  It is a little unsettling at times, because I just know there are thoughts and questions racing through their heads.  I can tell some people dread if the subject comes up…if Reece comes up.  It is part of the way society identifies me now.  Parent of a dead child.  Only he’s not dead…he’s alive in Heaven.  It’s a miracle.  But people get lost in the passing part and get shifty with the Heaven part and often it creates a barrier.  Even so, I am ok with that.  That’s part of my life’s journey now; it was planned for me to walk this road.  Just like any other child, you are proud to be your child’s parent, regardless of who they are or what they do.  I’m proud to be Reece’s mom.  Being Reece’s mom means he comes up in conversation and, often times, it’s very normal conversation like how we handled potty training or why we chose the preschool that my kids attend.  For the record, if you ask me, I would likely answer just about any question you ask about Reece or our family.

One final noticeable change that I’ll mention is something that has just occurred to me recently.  While I can say that I’ve become a bit of a recluse in my social life, I have found it therapeutic to reach out in my every day functioning, mostly to total strangers.  I have begun to see people differently or perhaps it is that I can see the neediness of the human condition differently.  Where once I assumed the worst (e.g. someone that looks crabby must actually just be a crabby person), now I am able to better give the benefit of the doubt (e.g. said crabby person is actually going through something rough or having a bad day, etc.).  I actually strike up more conversations at the gym, touch a person on the arm when I am speaking with them (if it’s appropriate, that is), and do my best (although I still need a lot of work) at trying to listen to a whole story someone is telling me without bringing it back to myself.  I think it really stems from my own thought that when I see a person who I can see is having some sort of struggle (and really, who isn’t) I think to myself, “To somebody in this world, that is their Reece.”  That homeless person on the side of the road, that overweight teenager who is self-consciously lifting weights at the gym, that elderly woman who needs help getting her coat on…to someone, somewhere, that person is the child of parent who loves them like I love my own kids.  That parent would feel pain in knowing their child is struggling in whatever capacity it may be.  It really makes me think of people in a more loving way.  And hey, I can still be a jerk like the next person, but the point is, I have begun to notice others and I realize that just by noticing the smallest thing and mentioning it to someone, it often brings a person out of their shell.  By doing so, it actually makes me feel a whole lot better.  It takes the focus off of my own struggles, if only for a moment.

I’m entering 2014 without a lot of expectations.  I’d like to not feel exhausted come December.  I’d like to feel like I spent quality time with each of my children.  I’d like to be a more gentle and loving wife.  I’d like to be better at keeping my emotions in check.  I’d like to feel like I’ve made an impact, if even only a tiny one.  I’d like a year where we can hold steady as a family…not add or definitely not take away.  Slow and steady wins the race.

a good reason to celebrate

It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone…and a strange, mixed-bag sort of year at that.  I told Terry yesterday that I think 2014 is going to be a “good” year for us, whatever “good” means.  I can’t say I’m sad to see the year come to a close.  It’s been brilliant and tumultuous, much like 2012 in that way.  I’m hoping for some sort of leveling off next year.  We have big changes to go through (Terry just started a new job, Jude is still a baby, we are hoping to move out of our home, etc.), but I’m thinking we can handle those things.

So here we are, back in the Christmas season.  For me, things don’t feel as raw in regard to Reece as they did last year.  I’m thankful for that, because I can’t say this is the case for every member of my family.  I can’t say I’ll always feel this way, so I am appreciating that this year I don’t feel down about Reece.  I miss him, but not in a depressing sort of way.  Every day has some raw moments, but the sum of all of the day is generally positive.

Nevertheless, this time of year is interesting, because it conjures up a whole host of emotions about certain things in regard to Christmas, Jesus, the nativity story, and the way society frames this.  I’ll admit, I didn’t grow up in a household that put a big emphasis on Santa, so it’s never been a big draw to me.  In fact, Terry was displeased to hear that when Reece was two I told him Santa wasn’t real.  I know, I know…bah humbug.  However, the following year he had completely forgotten I had told him that, so I didn’t totally ruin it for him.  Still, I’m not a fan.  I do have some Santa décor in the house and we do visit Macy’s Santaland every year.  That said, I was totally shocked at my frustration with Christmas in general last year and that it had very little to do with Santa.  I certainly think we need to celebrate Jesus’ birth, don’t get me wrong.  But many people would say things like, “I’ll bet they are having a great party in Heaven!”  I think this was meant to console me and I certainly am not bashing on people for attempting to say something to be cheery and with good intentions.  But after hearing this a few times it made very little sense to me.  We celebrate Christmas in December because of other pagan holidays (and I’m no history buff, but I did enough “Google research” last year to know that Dec 25 is not likely to be Jesus’ actual birth date).   Then I became lost in the realization that every day in Heaven must be a huge celebration of Jesus…not just one day or month (or for some people from the day after Halloween until well beyond Jan 1st when all Christmas décor should be taken down…in my humble opinion).  I realized that our view of Heaven is so minimized here.  We give it such little thought and I now spend so much time thinking about what Heaven must actually be like that it drove me batty to make an assumption that Dec 25 is different than any other day there (much too long of a topic to get into in this post).  Thus, last year I walked through the motions of Christmas and found myself exhausted with trying to imagine Heaven’s reality, yet being trapped in society’s version of Christ’s birthday.  I was not exactly looking forward to going through it again this year.

Thankfully, this year has felt a little more relaxed.  I’ve come to the conclusion that while Dec 25 likely isn’t the day Christ was born, the citizens of Heaven and Jesus Himself must also know that it is important for us to celebrate His birth.  It isn’t about the actual day, but about the fact that He was given as a gift.  I’ve found my way back to having an enjoyable Christmas season.  I’ve found some ways to make Reece a part of our family’s traditions so hopefully it won’t feel completely void of him.  I’m thankful that we started traditions with him while he was here so that we can continue those traditions and have the continuity between all of our children in that regard.  And truthfully, those things are important to me and encourage me.  Those things matter.

One thing I have done recently is watched “The Bible” miniseries.  It is really good.  We recorded it off of the television and I have been watching bits and pieces during nap time.  I normally lose interest after about an hour of any movie–especially a miniseries, but this one kept me captivated.  Yes, I do understand that it is someone’s interpretation of the Bible and that these people are actors.  However, there is something about watching what biblical events probably looked like, what the people looked like–the culture, the background, the various situations they were in–that made it powerful.  Because I was fitting in bits and pieces here and there, I started with Jesus’ ministry, worked back through the Old Testament, ending with Jesus’ birth.  While so many things stand out from the series (including the struggles of all of the Jewish people, the Patriarchs, and certainly Jesus’ disciples), watching the portrayal of Jesus was quite impactful.  For me, seeing His compassion towards people and a representation of how He handles various situations with grace towards others (unwanted and unloved people, sick people, outcasts, greedy and rich people, friends who betray Him, and even those who mocked Him while He was dying) made me appreciate Him even more.  Instead of just reading words on a page about Him, it actually portrayed that He had emotions as a real person, because He is a man.  It also showed His love for people, even when they didn’t love Him.  And when they killed Him, wow, did it feel personal.  It made me want to jump through the tv and start kicking and screaming at people to figure it out!  Overall, it made me weep for what He did for us.

I told a close friend of mine, shortly before Reece entered the hospital, that if we lost him during the BMT process I would spend the rest of my life struggling to not elevate my desire to see Reece over my desire to see the Lord.  This was an accurate statement and often one that weighs on my mind.  Although I know the Lord understands the pull, I have in the back of my mind that it will be a challenge for me in my life.  Well, I got to the end of this miniseries…again, not the exact representation of Jesus, but one that tried to stick closely to what the Bible says.  I felt so much gratitude and love for Him.  I’m just so excited to see Him.  It’s personal.  It’s personal because of Reece, but it’s also personal because I am so incredibly grateful for Jesus.  I love Him and I’m so darn unworthy of His love.  It felt reassuring to have those feelings.  I love Jesus because of Reece but I also love Him for reasons that are completely unique to me.  I see this as progress in my life.

The other big thought I had when it finished was that I am so grateful that Reece is with Him.   There is no where else I would rather him be.  Jesus is perfect and His love is perfect.  Words can’t describe how thankful I am that Reece is seeing Jesus face-to-face.  I can’t wait to see both of them!

When Reece was in the hospital I remember praying for the people reading our blog.  Since Reece passed, I don’t have any memories of praying over this particular blog and its readers.  However, I am going to pray that anyone who reads this post understands how awesome (and I mean truly awesome) Jesus is and how incredibly wonderful it will be to see Him face-to-face in Heaven.  Better than Hawaii in winter.  Better than a hug from mom when you are sad.  Better than the Vikings actually winning a game.  Better than your morning cup of coffee.  And certainly better than whatever you may have wrapped under your Christmas tree.  I pray you know Him personally.  He’s not a gimmick and He’s not fake.  Jesus really is real.  We really will not make it to Heaven without knowing Him and loving Him.  He is truly something to celebrate…every day of the year.

Merry Christmas!

we had a baby

Yes, we had our baby boy. He’s pretty awesome in every sense of the word. Life has been crazy and sleep-deprived, hence the big, long sabbatical from blogging. Somehow, we managed to space our kids in ever-decreasing age increments (three years, two years, sixteen months). From my vantage point today I would not say the sixteen month spacing is my favorite. It’s two babies in the house. Blessings, yes they are, but it is challenging. Wow, challenging doesn’t even really accurately describe it. Still, this isn’t our first rodeo and we recognize that things will ease up as we work through different ages and stages with our kids. I keep saying, “I know this will get fun at some point.” Right now, all the kids are fun individually, but I know when things start to gel, they will be fun as a group as well. I hope that makes sense. I’m not Complaining; I’m just…complaining with a lower-cased “c”.

I’ll spare the details of the birth and say that I gave birth to a healthy baby boy in mid-September. We named him Jude. His birth was the only one where we did not spend the entire hospital stay debating the name. That is because we knew we were going to have a baby boy several years ago and, if our strong feelings about having him were true, we would name him Jude. When I look back now I have such a fascinating picture of how our family was formed and when and where God let us know how our family would be completed is no exception to it. It’s too long of a story for the amount of time I have to type it all out tonight (hitting the hay early these days!). Perhaps I’ll get into it another time. However, the name “Jude” means “praise or thanks”. It is indeed fitting. I have much gratitude for all of our children. This boy, being our last child, has a name that sums up my feelings towards our being gifted with him, as well as Reece, Britta, and Scarlett.

The girls are fascinated with him and very “hands on”–which makes me nervous at times. Still, I’m glad they are excited to be big sisters and I feel strongly that Reece is aware of his younger brother (and excited about him!) as well. I don’t know how to describe that other than ever since his passing there are things that I feel deep in my soul to be true…this is one of them.

I’ve written a million blog posts in my mind over the past couple of months. I certainly needed the break from blogging and have found, yet again, clarity about writing. The last few months of my pregnancy were quite challenging on multiple fronts and being able to just “be” and experience it all was important. As we get our feet back under us, I plan on continuing to write. I just needed to get this post out there that we did have our sweet little guy and that we are busy, but surviving. Our life continues to be a challenging and often foreign concept to us–at times it seems unrecognizable. Nevertheless, the undeniable, tangible blessing of a new baby in my arms is incredibly grounding and certainly affirms that we are held in the palm of God’s hand.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40:11

life with the littles

It’s been about a month since I last posted and I just can’t seem to get things on here more frequently.  I really enjoy writing and hope that I can figure out a way to make it a more regular event.  It is a true reflection of how busy things have been around here and how much time I have to myself these days. I’m not complaining–nope. It’s just a fact of life.

The summer has been flying by and I–unlike so many Midwesterners–am not at all sad that this is the case. I’ve never been a huge “summer person”–whatever that means. Mostly, I am antsy for this baby to get here and to be finished with the chapter of life entitled, “Pregnancy”. I’m trying my best to savor it, but it is getting harder and harder with each passing day. Pregnancy alone is fine, but combined with an active one-year-old who gets into just about everything, it is brutal. Pregnancy is one of those events in life, where you simply forget about all the ins and outs of it after you get through it.  I get to certain stages and have very little memory of what I experienced in previous pregnancies.  Additionally, I was so stressed out and distracted during my last pregnancy (plus, my parents and aunt were primarily chasing Britta), that I don’t recall many of the normal pregnancy-related happenings other than the crazy monitoring at the end.  I really can not remember back four years ago (or seven, in Reece’s case) to remember all the nitty-gritty details I experienced with Britta. Plus, I think I was spared (mercifully) from some of the aches and pains during the last pregnancy.  Even the fourth time around has its own set of surprises.  Still, one thing that I have experienced in all four pregnancies is this: I get tremendously excited when I see food expiration dates on packages that are either my due date or even beyond!  I’m not talking about cans of soup and boxes of Uncle Ben’s wild rice.  I’m talking about milk, cheese, and anything that, should you eat it past that date, it could really get your tummy turning.  That’s right–every time this gets me super excited.  You should have seen me buying milk at Target with the family the other day.  Terry just stared at me in bewilderment when I enthusiastically shouted out that the expiration date was only a day before our due date!

Since my last update regarding my pregnancy (found here), things have calmed down a bit as far as our doctors’ monitoring of the Little Dude (Britta affectionately calls him, “Pineapple”).  My follow-up ultrasound showed that he was measuring at the 40%–a bruiser in this household–and that they had originally had the wrong due date in radiology.  Basically, he was never as small as they originally thought and he made up for lost ground in the month between ultrasounds!  I go back in for what may be my last ultrasound prior to delivery (assuming all growth has held steady) in another week.  We’ll see what’s happening, but right now they are treating this as a, “boring, normal pregnancy.”  We’ll take boring and normal!  This baby is quite active and while Scarlett has no clue how her world is about to change, Britta loves feeling him kick around and is always proud to tell everyone that she is having a baby brother.

As one can imagine, these last few weeks are full of baby and house prep.  We have not become more efficient at front-loading our baby prep work with each successive pregnancy.  We must be clutch players or clutch parents or clutch whatever.  Actually, I am not a clutch kinda gal at all, so while I await the upcoming dates set aside to get this stuff done, I find myself nesting like crazy to try to control something…cooking, cleaning, and making lists of things for Terry to get done.  Which always goes over really well.

We haven’t been the epitome of health this last month either. Between colds, sinus infections, and reactions to medications, we are thankful to be a healthy foursome for the time being.  We spent one entire Saturday in the ER with Britta.  She had a fever the day before and woke up complaining of head pain.  We were advised to take her to the ER for fear of bacterial meningitis.  In the ER they initially suspected strep throat, but when the initial test results came back negative and her CBC revealed elevated bacteria levels, they felt there was enough ambiguity that they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out anything serious.  So, we immediately clicked into hospital mode and it fit like a glove.  We naturally began silencing beeps, finding supplies, understanding a disturbing amount of “hospital-speak”, and engaging in our regular, light-hearted, distracting hospital banter which is our joint way of coping with various amounts of stress, depending on the circumstance.  As the doctor was prepping us for the procedure she was apologetic and kept telling us she wouldn’t want her own child to have a spinal tap.  Confused as to what the procedure actually entailed and trying to gauge how worked up I “needed” to be in my own mind, I looked at her and said, “Is this as invasive as a bone marrow biopsy?”  She replied, “Oh goodness, no!!!”  Terry, as he always does, stayed in the room for the procedure (I rarely opt to do so).  Again, as the doctor was discussing the procedure Terry asked, “Do I need to gown up?”  She looked startled and said, “Oh no, it’s only me that needs to use a sterilized surface.  You guys really have seen a lot.”  The difficult part for us was the partial sedation she was placed on that lasted for hours afterwards where she was in an awake-but-somewhat-vegetative state.  We had never experienced this with any other child (full sedation is more like going to sleep and waking up normally).  Thankfully, the spinal tap results looked great and were negative for meningitis.  We were released in the evening and given a call the next morning saying that the overnight culture for strep came back positive!  We were humbled with the actual results and grateful it was nothing more.  The doctor was apologetic that we had to do the spinal tap and I was thankful we did it so we could be released of the worry.

One funny story came about from that night after we returned home.  As Britta came out of the sedation further, she acted almost drunk.  The doctor warned us about this as it is usually what happens.  (My gut reaction when the doctor mentioned this was to ask, “So you mean she’ll get slightly cocky and demand to sing karaoke?”  But I refrained.)  Sure enough, as she further awoke, she began to slur her speech when she started chatting with us and needed lots of help moving around.  It was a two person operation to take her to the bathroom.  So as Terry and I crouched down about eye-level with her sitting on the potty, she looked at me and said, “Mommy…Mommy is mean to me.”  (Again, sounding like a very drunk person and wobbling as she tried to maintain her balance.)  Terry, feeling badly that I was getting accused of being mean, chimes in and begins to say, “Britta, why would you say Mommy is mean?”  But she cut him off mid-sentence when she pointed to him and said, “And thaaaat guy!  He is mean to Scarlett!”  We couldn’t help but sit there and laugh.  She finally disclosed that we are mean for putting them in time-outs.  No, we do not put our one-year-old in official time-outs.  But Terry did use the verbiage with Scarlett recently after she maniacally crawled across the floor to bite Britta.  Just another day in the life with The Littles.

The week of July 4th (and 5th, of course) went really well.  We ended up spending those days at my parents’ home.  On July 5, we took the girls strawberry-picking.  It was fun and fitting as Reece absolutely loves strawberries!  They are one of the few things he ate on a regular basis–even in the hospital.  The girls enjoyed the time and we did as well.  As predicted, I did feel a sense of relief after that week passed and yet I found I was met with heavy, heavy feelings about a week later that continued throughout the month of July.  But I’m not going to blog about it today.

We are so thankful for the many people who reached out to us over the month of July and mentioned Reece to us.  People from many different facets of life reached out to either share a memory or let us know they were thinking of us and it means a great deal.  I continue to feel a sense of gratitude for what we are given and hopeful in the direction life is taking us.

“The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.”

~Max Lucado