Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our Christmas Tree

Yesterday, Amanda and I put up our Christmas tree! Receiving cards and family pictures is definitely my favorite part about the holiday season and this was a fun way to display them and fill in the blank spot on the wall that has been there since Mike moved the entertainment center downstairs last January. Amanda like identifying and talking about the polar bear, kitty, Santa, snowman and truck. I enjoy seeing our friends and family.

And just a few more pictures to wrap up the Christmas season! Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas on Hold


It's true. I have my hands full which is why I have only a few random photos from my dad's service on Wednesday. We tried to caputure a family photo but both girls had burst into tears by the time we got all together, so it was put off again.

It was a beautiful and intimate service for my dad. It was mostly just our northen Minnesota family and we enjoyed our time together. It was really nice to have so much space to gather together as a family. Usually, we all meet at my mom's house but with thirteen kids and fourteen adults, it was nice to have a little room to spread out. The boys had space to run around and the girls had space twirl their pretty dresses.



I hope everyone got in their snuggles with Christiana. She was pretty fussy when we first arrived and cried when anyone tried to hold her, but after the service and a nap in the pouch, she was passed around and loved on.
Tyler really has some skill on the piano but he is shy and wouldn't play during the service. He did entertain us in the social hall afterward though.

I knew this Christmas would be a little different because I hadn't plan to travel for the family celebrations at all, but obviously traveling for my dad's service was pretty important. We did head home right after the service so we didn't have to deal with the stress of staying overnight. Then the snow began to fall and fall and fall. Mike was planning to take the kids up to his mom and dad's for their Christmas celebration but all the celebrating has been put on hold.


It has left a strange void for us on Christmas Day. We haven't bought gift for each other our or kids for several years because the grandparents have always provided plenty of presents. So, here we are on Christmas Day, completely unprepared to celebrate in any way. It feels weird. But at the same way, comforting because things are different this year.


Usually my siblings and I gather to open the gifts from my dad. Providing them with gifts was always very important to him. Some years he bought what we suggested and some years he bought things that he thought were really fun like a remote control skateboarding dude. This year, there were no gifts from Grandpa Ken. There will be, for in his passing, he made special provisions for us but today there were no presents to open and nothing tangible to hold in ur hands.


Last year, was the first year I can remember since he left that we were able to celebrate with him. It was precious time and that's how I will remember Christmas with him. I'm so glad we had that time.

Mike and the kids will head back up north to visit his parents and their presents are waiting for them but I think today was a hard day for them.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

33 Weeks

"Are you getting all fat yet?" That's what my favorite (only) sister wanted to know.
What do you think?

Just ignore the toddler throwing a fit at my feet and the teenager kicking baby toys around the living room. I was.

Wishing Illinois was closer. Again.

Today was the funeral for my dad in Illinois. I was not able to go because I have been getting lots of contractions and pelvic pain when I'm on my feet too long or too active. It's been really hard to not be there with my mom and siblings. Tony went with my mom.

My dad's family is a fun, wild crazy bunch and I'm sad to miss seeing them all together. It is a tradition that family members who are missing from important family events are represented but an inanimate object such as a pumpkin or balloon. I'm told our family is being represented by a family of moose. I hope some one took pictures for me.

After today's service, my dad will be cremated and brought back to Minnesota for a burial service on Wednesday in the town where we grew up and most of my family still lives. It's only an hour and half away so I will be able to go to the service.

I'm so thankful we are able bring him back to Minnesota. It really helps bring closure to the loss and wound that was opened 17 years ago when he divorced my mom and left. We have kept in contact, he's come to visit, we've visited him and he's always sent birthday cards and Christmas gifts, but we've missed him. It's been especially difficult when he's gotten sick and been hospitalized and we can't be with him.

It brings me peace to move forward and remember the good times and memories we made when we were all together and we were a family. That's how I want to remember him and how I want my kids to know him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More of My Dad

Here's my dad with Tony and his dog, Tessie, in 2003. He really appreciated when we would come to visit and thanked Mike for bringing us. He had great hair. If the thing about male pattern baldness is true, my boys will have great hair, too.

I was able to see my dad this summer. He came to Minnesota for a visit during the time we thought Grammy was dying. After everyone visited Grammy at the emergency room, we went back to my mom's house where Dad came to visit.

He had a special connection with my aunt, Sr. Maria, and she was very happy to see him and talk to him. My dad traveled with my grandparents out to California when she took her finally vows many years ago.

We treasured every moment with him because we have known for years how precarious his health was. We are thankful for the time we had with him that we didn't expect. We should view all our relationships that way. We just never know how much time we have with our friends and family. Every moment is precious.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Dad

Update: I apologize if this post keeps popping up on your Google Reader. I keep adding things as I think of them. I want to remember them all.

My dad:

was the third boy of five boys and two girls.

grew up in downtown Chicago.

was one of only a handful of white kids in his school.

used to help himself to the corn syrup from the truck at the candy factory near his home.

lived in a neighborhood where the houses were so close together, when he was sent to his room he could shimmy down between the houses and come around and knock on the front door. I wonder if the pain on his bottom was worth the look on his dad's face.

would escort his mother with his two older brothers to the factory where his dad worked every night so she could safely bring him dinner.

was a straight A student but quit to join the Navy.

never learned to swim. Apparently, they only teach you how to float in the Navy.

moved to northern Minnesota and became a farmer, rancher and gardener.

also worked in a mysterious place filled with dark rows of shelves containing strange mechanical parts and smelling of motor oil.

could fix any machine: tractor, lawn mower, baler, tiller.

bought me a Lady and the Tramp dog from Hardees once when we were there without my siblings. Going to Hardees was a very rare treat especially with out my siblings and especially purchasing the ever-advertisted toys. I kept it a really long time.

used to be the one to pick me up from school when I got sick.

made me bait my own hooks and clean my own fish.

completed his GED and taught himself computer programming.

rushed our kitten to the vet one Saturday morning and comforted us on the way home because the kitten needed to be put down.

taught me how to drive a stick shift in our field.

loved western movies and Star Trek.

rescued my friend's family from frozen pipes by crawling under their trailer house and using a hair dryer to unfreeze the pump's sensor.

never got used to the fridgid Minnesota winters.

taught himself computer networking.

gave me this advice about freeway driving, "Don't worry. If their car is nicer than yours, they aren't going to hit you!" It was '93 and I was in his '82 Granada.

would read anything you put in front of him.

once recommended ginger beer for female cramps. (Knowledge he gained because he read everything that was put in front of him.)

has three children and ten grandchildren.

always ended his phone calls and visits by saying, "I love you!"

after being diagnosed with lymphoma and as he was preparing to begin treatment seven years ago, I asked him what he needed pray for. He said, "You and me." He just wanted to know our relationship was good.

never liked to let us know how sick he was.

fought diabetes, liver problems, lymphoma, and kidney failure,

but in the end it was his heart that failed him.

We love you, Grandpa Ken, and we hope to see you again!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More ABC Practice

We got this fun ABC puzzle from our neighbor. Beneath each letter is a picture that starts with that letter. It was fun to watch Mike and Amanda play with it one evening. She would pick up a letter and he would say the letter and tell her the picture. She would then find the picture. I was impressed. Now, she knows the names of most of the letters, the picture that goes with each letter and where it goes on the puzzle. Although, when she wants us to do the puzzle with her she will hold up a puzzle piece and holler, "Mama!" until I say the letter name and picture.

As much as I enjoy teaching Geometry, Grammar and World History, I really enjoy teaching preschool! I get more time to teach preschool these days since Mike has taken over all of the other schoolwork correcting and teaching in preparation for February.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Family Photo

After many failed attempts to capture the family picture everyone has been asking for:





Seriously, that was the best one of the bunch that I took before the little girls started to melt down.


We decided to go with this mosaic of pictures to send out as our Christmas picture.

I made this for free on some web site but it's in low resoultion so we didn't think it would print well. After realizing it was December and too late to order something else, we just decided to print this one out on our computer. I started by writing out notes to everyone, but today Amanda just helped me stuff envelopes, tear off the seal and paste the postage stamps. Hopefully the post office doesn't care of they are upside down or sideways!

I hope all your holiday preparations are going well! I'm still fighting constant nausea but enjoying the wild acrobats of this little baby in my belly, catching lots of giggles, smiles and snuggles from Christiana, watching Amanda grow smarter everyday, appreciating Tony's progress in kitchen clean-up and laughing at Tyler's refusal to wear a warm coat. It's going to a long winter for him!




Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving!

I am very thankful to have been able to spending Thanksgiving with my mom and grandmother. In August, we thought Grandma was going home to be with Jesus, Grandpa, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul, four of her favorite people.
But here she is! Traveling to visit family, learning to walk again, celebrating her 90th birthday and enjoying her grandchildren and great grand children. What a blessing!
Much of her recovery was due to ever vigilant care from my mom and the special visit from her daughter, Sr. Maria. I'm so glad my brought her to visit our house for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful blessing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Toddler-Free Weekend

My weekends usually look very much like my week days especially if Mike has to work or is gone hunting. However, last weekend, I convinced him to take Amanda along with both boys when he went hunting. He stays at his mom and dad's so Amanda was able to hang out with Grandma while Daddy went out to hunt. While I did spend plenty of time resting and snuggling with the baby, I made good use of my time without my little helper.

The first thing I did was to pull out one of the sewing machines that my neighbor had brought over. They were extra from her quilting club at church. The first one I picked sewed perfectly right away. Yeah!

Then I cut up this super cute wool sweater that I found at the local consignment shop for $10.50. The consignment shop in town is very nice so all the stuff they had was in beautiful condition. They also had a light blue sweater that was a size 2X. I could only imagine how many pairs of recycled wool longies I could make out of that sweater. Too bad is wasn't pink. I might still go back and see if it's still there.
I was able to make three pairs of wool longies out of the sweater I bought. Two were for Christiana and one was for Amanda. The one pair I order online cost me $15 including shipping so I think this was a pretty good deal.

I also moved Amanda's old crib into Christiana's "room." Her room is in our closet. The crib fits with no room to spare. This crib was left over from the local Catholic church's rummage sale when Amanda came home. One of our friends knew about it and let us know. We didn't get hardly any baby stuff before she came home because I thought it would be too hard to have that stuff around just waiting for a baby.
Then I set up Amanda's new crib. Again, our friends at the Catholic church sent us an email that there was a crib available at the church. Somebody had donated it for them to give to some one who needed it. It's so nice and pretty. It almost inspired me to finally paint the girls' room. Almost.
I am very thankful for the productive weekend and for all the generous hand-me-downs we receive.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Never leave the house?

Okay, so "Never leave the house" is a bit of an exaggeration. We do try to get out for some fresh air and sunshine when it's nice out.
Where we live, it is customary and smart to put on something orange if you go walking in the woods during deer season. Despite the fact that we were only walking on the road, Amanda wanted to wear the orange hat that she wore on the weekend when Mike took her in the woods.

Amanda is growing up so fast. She can hop and get two both feet off the ground. She likes to jump off of the couch and jump down the stairs while holding on the the railing and some one's hand. She is beginning to try to sing every song she hears and is learning to do her alphabet puzzle. She can almost count to ten. It's not completely understandable but gets the right number and order to her words for the numbers. Today, she counted as she put away the rolls of toilet paper. She can put on her boots and her mittens by herself and one day she walked almost a mile. She enjoys singing in church and follows along with her finger in the book.
She has also begun to try using her signs to get what she wants or avoid correction. For example, if you tell her, "No" or "Eat nicely" she will whine and sign and say, "Potty? Drink? Eat?" We have fallen for it enough times, that it has become a bad habit that we are working on. She will then cry if we don't answer her requests. This has become a real problem at church, so we are doing some home training to get her to sit nicely. We had to do the same thing with Tony when he was two. We would sit in front of the T.V. and hold him while he thrashed and screamed and said, "We are practicing for church." I had worked with Amanda last week, but it didn't translate to success this week. Mike is going to spend time working with her this week and hopefully next Sunday will go more smoothly. This is another challenge we hoped to have worked out by February. Mike and I will have our hands full with the other two babies so we need Amanda be more independently well-behaved and not expect to run out several times during the service. We thanked our congregation in advance for bearing with us and we work through this process.
Okay, enough blogging. I'm avoiding correcting homework. That's definitely my least favorite part about homeschooling at this age.

Recycled Wool Longies

Wool diaper covers have always intrigued me but I just wasn't sold on the idea. I was generally happy with my Super Whisper covers. A friend sent me a couple of recycled wool longies, but I just hadn't tried them. That was until Christiana's rash problem. She needed to be in a breathable cover, so I pulled out the longies. The miracle of wool is amazing. I have not used the Super Whisper wraps since.

I secure Christiana's flat fold diapers with a Snappi and then pull on the wool longies. When she wakes up from her nap, I remove the longies and lay them over the heating vent. While Christiana is awake, she is just in a cloth diaper with a Snappi that I change as soon as I notice it's wet. I keep her sitting or lying on a waterproof pad. When I'm holding her, I notice she is wet before I get wet. When she's ready to go back to bed any dampness in the wool is gone and there is no scent. Stinky diapers and covers have always been a huge problem with the Super Whispers.

I would love to have some pairs for Amanda, too. Her waterproof training pants are always stinky, too. I may not like the wool longies for a breastfed baby because of the runny, leaky bowel movements, but I guess I'll find out in a couple of months. It depends if I learn how to wash them without shrinking them and can impress this same knowledge upon my laundry helpers who are just now comprehending the cold pre-rinse/hot wash regime. Once I had a load soaking in cold water and one of them put the sopping wet, dirty diapers into the dryer and turned it on. Gross. "Something is wrong with the washer, Mom. It still has water in it."

Recycled wool longies are so easy and cheap to make if you have the right resources. I often imagine myself going to a big church rummage sale at the end of the day and finding mountains of leftover wool sweaters for really cheap. Even a thrift shop might have wool sweaters for little cost that can quickly and easily be made into cute wool longies with just a little bit of sewing. However, ahem, I never leave the house except to go to church or the doctor's office. It's just not worth the nausea involved, so I'm either going to have to (gasp) buy some wool longies online or have somebody else do the sweater hunting for me. Too bad rummage sale season is pretty much over in our neck of the woods.

Four Months Old

At four months, Christiana weighs between 12 and 13 lb. She is wearing 3-6 size clothing and still fits into newborn shoes.
She drinks about 6 ounces of soy formula every four hours during the day. I had her on a three hours schedule when she was on breastmilk, but it just dawned on me the other day that she could go longer between feedings. She goes 10 to 12 hours at night between feedings. This schedule seems to suit her very well. She is sleeping better and seems much more calm during the day. Shortly after writing my post about her need to be swaddled and patted to sleep, she began to learn to fall asleep by herself. By three months, she was consistently falling asleep on her own with very little fussing.
We are also enjoying longer periods of awake time during the day when she is very happy, vocal and active. When ever she catches any one's eye she will coo, laugh or screech. Yesterday, she stayed happy and awake throughout the whole church service. She really enjoys Amanda's activities. She has very good head control and can push up on her elbows. Even though she rolled over several times when she was two months old, she rarely rolls over now. Perhaps it's because she can still see what going on by propping up and her elbows so she doesn't feel the need to roll over.

She still needs to be tightly swaddled at night to sleep well and she has been able to break out of her swaddles lately. Last night, I tied a silk scarf around her after she was double swaddled and she slept from 9 pm until I woke her at 7 am. Hopefully, this is a new pattern and not a sign she's getting sick!
I did discover that even though she can go through the whole night without a feeding, I cannot. I still need to get up to take the Unisom and B6 and have a little snack part way through the night otherwise, I am very sick the next day. Oh well, we need her sleeping through the night so she can share the room with Amanda. There is little hope that I will be able to sleep through the night anytime soon!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

28 weeks

Which means I only (or still) have 12 weeks left!!! It feels like a long time when I sit down to nurse Christiana or go to make her a bottle. I'm anxious to provide her with dairy-free breastmilk. It also feels like a really long time when I consider eating. I'm weary of eating tiny meals so often during the day and dealing with nausea.

It feels like a really short time when I consider that Christiana still wakes up several times a night so we can't put her in Amanda's room yet. She no longer needs to eat at night, so I just change her diaper and put her back to bed. She often has a bowel movement in the middle of the night, so I can't just ignore her crying. We also don't have a second crib yet and we're not sure if we're ready to move Amanda into the single bed in her room. Right now Christiana sleeps in a bassinet in our closet. We would have to clear it out in order to make room for a pack-n-play or crib, so hopefully she starts sleeping better before she outgrows the bassinet.

Thank goodness she doesn't have Mike's genetics. Tyler outgrew the bassinet in a couple weeks. He was nearly two feet long at birth. We didn't even bother with Tony. We probably won't have as much time in the bassinet with this baby. At 19 weeks, this baby's head measured for 19 weeks, but it's femur measured for 20 weeks. I can imagine this little baby will pass up Christiana in height and weight in a very short time.

Until then, I will just get through today and look forward to meeting this little baby in February.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finally!!!!

Christiana's adoption is final! We are officially her forever family. Today a friend from church who is a notary came to our house. Our lawyer called from Florida with the number to the court room and told us when they were ready for us to call. The judge had our notary swear us in, our lawyer asked us some questions and Christiana's adoption was declared official. Yeah!!! Due to a couple of typos, the papers will be signed tomorrow morning, but the important part is done. The adoption has been approved.

This was certainly a comfortable and unique court experience. The girls were napping and the boys were playing games in the basement.
Christiana is just over four months old. Amanda was almost eight months before her adoption was final. It so nice to have this step complete.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Random Pregnancy Facts 27 weeks

1. I have gained 20 lbs since my first O.B. visit at 12 weeks. I had lost five pounds with the morning sickness before that visit.

2. My blood pressure was 100/50. Isn't that almost dead?

3. I am an offical card-carrying member of the Rogam Shot Receivers Club.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Diagnosis

This post is a bit late but it's part of the reason for the lack of posts.

Starting at about three weeks, Christiana developed a bumpy rash on her ears and neck. It spread to her face, scalp, back and diaper area. Our chiropractor suspected a milk allergy and suggested we switch to soy formula. Mike couldn't believe soy formula would be better than the donated breastmilk and she wasn't really having a digestive issues.

We did our best to treat the rash with a variety of ointments, oils, lotions, etc. Nothing seemed to help. She also developed redness under her arms, the rash around her diaper area worsened and she began losing her hair from the cradle cap. Our medical doctor also thought the rash on her face and neck was caused by a milk allergy and also suggested soy formula. She did say that the under arm redness could be yeast and prescribed an anti fungal cream. She also recommended hydro cortisone to reduce the swelling.

It was frustrating to try so many different things and see no improvement. Finally, I went back and checked the archives of a blog I had started reading. She had also be dealing with a little boy with a crazy rash and food allergies. I remembered her doing a post about all the things they had tried to relieve his discomfort. I actually went to look to see if there was something I hadn't tried, but what I found was the answer that has really set my mind at ease.

What she had found was that her son was suffering from Infantile Seborrhoeic dermatitis. It's similar to the condition that causes dandruff in adults. The pictures and descriptions matched Christiana's condition exactly and the treatment was the exact opposite of what we had been trying. Instead of infrequent bathing and keeping her moisturized, we needed to give her daily baths and keep her as dry as possible. Of course, this is the exact opposite of everything I have been taught about African American skin but I was willing to give it a try.

The problem is over production of skin and oils and a suseptability to yeast infections. We have been using hydro cortisone and the anti fungal cream during flare-ups, keeping her in cloth diapers and wool covers, bathing her every day, changing her shirts frequently and using corn starch to keep her creases dry. She has been doing much better and we are managing it. The hardest area to manage is her diaper area. I remove her diaper the minute she wakes up and try to give her as much air as possible. She's had terrible flare-ups on days when she is stuck in disposables all day.

She should outgrow this condition by six months but it could take longer. The condition is not necessarily caused by a milk allergy but many babies with this condition also have food allergies so we have had her on soy formula since running out of the donated breastmilk. I am counting down the months until I can provide allergen-free breastmilk for her. Only three more months to go.

So, these special needs, in addition to the pregnancy, the toddler, the teenagers and school work, I haven't had much time for pictures or blogging. I'm sorry! I think of you often! I read your blogs when I get a minute and hope some day to catch up on my blogging, including writing more about our time in Florida.

Do you think that will be any time soon? :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yeah!!!!!

We received a notice today that Christiana's finalization hearing with be on November 12th! We are so thrilled! We will have a lawyer representing us in Florida and we will be sworn in via telephone in the presence of a notary.

Hopefully, the fact that her name was spelled wrong on the notification documents doesn't mean it was spelled wrong on the other court documents. Otherwise, we might just have to give up and concede to calling her Christina.

No, not really!

The Noodle Dance

We're not sure why but the mention of noodles for dinner inspires this dance every time. This time Amanda was standing on her helping chair and had to get down to do the dance. She is a silly girl!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wanna see the new do?

I love my long hair and I like to keep it long for my hubby, but...

It takes a little time and a lot of aloe vera gel to make it look nice. Usually it is up in a large, heavy bun out of the way of dirty diapers and baby spit. During a season in life when I don't feel very good, having a short, fun cut makes me feel less frumpy when I have to get everyone out of the house and don't have the time or energy to fuss with my hair.

I decided to go big and get enough cut so could donate it. I tried to donate my hair when Tony was two but he got into the pony tail and pulled it all into a terrible mess. Here's the pony tail we cut off. I'm keeping it hidden from Amanda until I can get it mailed off.
So, are you ready to see the cut?
How about a little more?



Okay, now I'm just playing with the camera!


Here's the back.


And finally the front!


I really like it and it feels great. It ended up being a little shorter than I was expecting, but it will grow back soon enough. Especially since I probably won't have much time for hair cuts anytime in the near future.
Today, I had to leave Tony in charge of the girls because Mike couldn't get away from work. As Amanda was throwing a fit when I was leaving he begged me, "Please can't you take her with you?" She was happily watching Sponge Bob by the time I came back so he must have survived. Christiana was still sleeping like I expected.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

3 1/2 Months to Go!

Say good-bye to the long hair! I have a hair cut scheduled for Tuesday!
Remember last year's fall photos here and here? Things look a little different this year!






Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gotta Love Minnesota!

Amanda was delighted to wake up and see snow on Saturday morning. She loves her winter clothes and couldn't wait to get outside to play after breakfast. She doesn't know it's only the beginning of October and it really should snow until at least the end of October!