Sunday, September 22, 2013

Introducing JANE (part II)

So, May arrived and we knew Jane would come any day.  We had not decided on a name.  I think some of the top contenders were Caroline, Mette, Iris, and Jane.  I frantically nested and organized, painted and prodded Eric to do projects.  We all thought that Jane would probably come early (as Hope and Esther had), and that she would come quickly (as Hope and Esther had).  Not so.  Bethany Darling and I shared a due date, and Clementine was born a week early.  I did not even go see her in the hospital, due to my jealousy and despair, and also a stomach virus that was raging through the house.  I remember sitting like a beached whale on the curb in front of our house while Esther threw up into the gutter.  Later, I sat like a beached whale on the front steps while Hope threw up on the sidewalk.... I did somehow manage to get up and hose down both spots.

Finally, on Jane's actual due date, I started the day by feeling "funny".  As the day progressed, a beautiful sunny spring day, I experienced contractions frequently.  Somehow I knew that these were not doing much, even if they did hurt.  I didn't call Eric to come home from work, despite the fact that our original plan had been to call him immediately to high tail it home.  The general consensus had been that this baby (being the 4th in a line of quick births) could be born in the car on the way to the hospital.  To tell you the truth, I think Jane was not positioned well to descend with the contractions.  She was way to horizontal, due to the fact that I was carrying so "out".  Also, after months of chronic pain, I was not optimistic that my body would do the right thing in labor, so I think I was subconsciously resisting labor.  I repeatedly told people that I wished I didn't have such strong convictions about natural birth because it sounded awesome to schedule a C-section!  I had finally recognized the pride in my heart that had driven me to take such a hard line approach to childbirth, and at this point, I had nothing left to prove.  By God's grace, I had successfully had three wonderful natural births. Nothing left to prove, and a lot of exhaustion, pain, and doubt.

Eric came home after work, my contractions ebbing and flowing all day.  We had a babysitter, Beth Wilson, come over and we went to a parenting class at church.  I was greatly encouraged by the theme verse for the night, "Count it all joy brothers, when you endure trials of various kinds..."  This was a trial of a various kind, and I would try to labor in joy.  I couldn't sit in the chair, and contractions were getting stronger, so I walked up and down the stairs of the church office while listening to the teaching.  After getting home from the meeting, I knew this was it.  Although I still expected it to go slowly, I started to gather stuff and try to decide if we should go to bed or just go to the hospital.  By this time, it had started raining.  I was having contractions that really hurt, so Beth Wilson and Maureen Gray (really not sure how Maureen was already there), gathered the older girls in their arms and walked them through the rain down to the Gray's to go back to bed.

Eric and I officially left for the hospital, and the rainstorm of the night began in earnest.  We drove the 20 minutes to Riverside with pouring rain, thunder and lightening.  We parked and started walking into the hospital through pouring rain, sloshing in deep puddles.  I was wearing my black chaco sandals, a black knit skirt, and a grey striped t-shirt, which were all soaked by the time we got inside.  In the wetness outside, I had thought that possibly my water had broken, but when I was examined a few minutes later, it turned out that I had peed my pants during a contraction.  An awesome perk of womanhood...

When the nurse checked me in, it was just a little before midnight and I was dialated to 5 cm.  Relieved to be at 5 cm, I knew that it could be only a few hours.  On the other hand, I had been contracting all day and only gotten to 5 cm.  What!?!?  We decided to walk the halls, and with each contraction I became more and more insolent and angry.  Pain is lame.  We had brought a big burgundy bath towel from home, so with each contraction, Eric would use the towel from behind to pull my belly upward.  This was a variation on the common use of the Rebozo in Latin America.  The towel pulled the belly upward, making the baby more vertical and puting more direct pressure on my cervix.  This was very helpful.

Labor progressed normally for me, the main difference being that it was a little slower (though the same pattern) as the other girls.  The other marked difference was that I was trying to submit to the pain and open up to let my body do it's work, but instead of being happily resigned to it, I was angrily and doubtfully resigned.  Every time the midwife took vitals or checked on baby, I expected her to discover a complication.  Not a healthy frame of mind.

After awhile I took a warm bath, which totally stalled labor and I practically went to sleep.  Sleeping sounded great since I had been up almost 24 hours by this point.  My mom was there to offer support and homeopathic remedies, so she gave me a few things that helped the labor kick back in again.  Eric was coming off of the family stomach virus and also really tired, so he had a hard time sticking with me.  We had always had a "day job" baby before... labor starts in the morning and baby is born sometime in the day, so this stay-up-all-night labor was rough.

Around 4:00 AM, the midwife, Heather, checked me and I was between a 7 and 8.  We decided that I would labor walking for another hour, hopefully be at least at 8.5 cm, fill the birth tub, break my water, and baby would be born.  I set a mental goal to have this baby by 5:00 AM.

So, we painfully labored and walked.  Around 5:00 AM, my mental state was shifting, back labor was in full force, and I knew I was getting closer.  I pretty much announced that I was ready to be done, so lets move on with the plan.  Thankfully I was getting close to 9cm, so I got totally naked and ready to get in the birthing pool.  Unfortunately, the nurses had never used a birthing pool, and were really slow.  So, for the next 45 minutes, I stood in the room, naked and contracting, in transition, waiting for the pool to fill up.

Eventually, the midwife decided that the equipment in the room was not working properly, and I was required to put my clothes back on, walk down the hall, and start this in a new room.  We were mad.  I was trying to control my anger because I wanted to be in a good place when I finally got in the pool, and I didn't want to be a jerk to the nurses.  I was also worried that my contractions were slowing down, so for over an hour I refused to sit down, but stood swaying, gyrating, and generally trying to help labor progress.  Eric was getting mighty sick of pulling with all his might on our makeshift Rebozo.

By 5:30, I got in the tub.  Pubic Symphosis Disorder (the source of all of my crotch pain) can be much worse during pushing and crowning, so I was determined to have a water birth in order to minimize the pain.  Once I was in the pool, all went as planned.  The midwife broke my water, and within a minute or two I was dying to push.  The midwife had stepped out of the room, so a kind, veteran nurse read my signs and jumped in the deliver the baby.  With the first push, she was crowning, with the second push her head was out, then two pushed later shoulders and baby were totally out.  The midwife was there for about half of it.  Sure enough, the water birth was less painful.

The stinky part (no pun intended) about a water birth, is all the nasty stuff in the water afterwards.  Also, it really stinks to get out of the warm water and onto the cold bed to birth the placenta.  Still, the miracle of birth had occurred.  A beautiful, simple, natural birth.  A healthy baby and Mom, proud dad.  The oxytocin did wonderful things to my brain, and my anger and doubt diminished.  Now I was thankful, proud, and in awe.  Breastfeeding went well, and I was filled with peace.

To be continued...

introducing JANE (introduction)

Hello blogger (and future me who will read this when I am old and totally grey),

It's been a long, long time since we've met.  Blogging about our life has taken a back seat to, well, LIFE.  Life is good and busy.  Not unusual, not extraordinary, but blessed and busy for sure.  Now, I've been haunted by guilt over these last many months about the total blog absence of our youngest child.  If this blog is to serve as a journal for our family, we've got to introduce all of the characters.

So, "character" she is... Jane Amaya Patenaude came into the world around 5:00 AM on May 24th, 2012.  Jane is now almost 16 months and a real handful.  She is a busy walker, inquisitive, demanding, and not very flexible.  She is adorable and playful (loves hiding and playing some variation of chase).  She eats lots of things, but really adores grilled zucchini, bananas, roasted chicken, apples, cheddar cheese, and scrambled eggs.  She has recently discovered crackers and cookies of all varieties and of course loves them too!

So, back to the very beginning.  The pregnancy with Jane started out with a lot of excitement.  We had tried to get pregnant, and were really excited when it quickly "worked".  We were really enjoying our little family with three sweet sisters, and we felt like there could never be too much of a good thing.  Although we sort of hoped for some variety with our fourth child, we were totally pleased when we found out we were having a girl.

The pregnancy was a little rough.  There were no serious complications, but within a few weeks of being pregnant, I was experiencing significant back pain and morning sickness.  The back pain was manageable with chiropractic care (love Dr. Wilson!), and the nausea did subside by the second trimester.  To add to the exhaustion of pregnancy, we jumped into a flurry of house buying.  I spent months and months looking at houses and wishing for a sense of certainty about any of them, but to no avail.  Finally, after about 6 months of looking we ended up feeling God's leading to the new house in Bloomington.  So, at 18 weeks pregnant, the week before Christmas, we made the move.  Now, we didn't move far and we didn't leave friends, school, church, work or anything else important.  BUT, moving was still hard!  It takes a good while for a house to feel like home, and there were lots of wonderful new neighbors to meet.  It stressed me, though it was mostly a good stress.

The not so good stress came in the form of Pubic Symphosis Disorder.  With all the hauling, moving, lifting, and lugging, I ended up separating my public bone and giving myself some rather serious chronic pain for the rest of the pregnancy.  During the day, my pain levels were around level 5, but at night (when I wished to be soundly sleeping), my pain levels were really high.  So, the pregnancy progressed with me in constant pain, growing gigantic, and trying to settle into a new home.  We did things like replace all the floors, and paint many rooms.  I unpacked lots of boxes and moved lots of furniture.  We also did our best to raise three girls (potty training Esther), and lead a brand new small group.  As all of these stresses started to press me, my excitement over this pregnancy waned.  I still wanted this baby, of course, but in my spirit, the default setting was subtly shifting from faith and excitement to fear and doubt.

My body had failed throughout the pregnancy by giving me more pain than I had ever endured before.  I had also had a near-fail of the test for gestational diabetes, so I was doubting my hormones.  Contractions were more frequent and I felt weak.  I was even carrying much further out, which I attribute to my poor core strength after carrying three other babies.  Believe it or not, eating small amounts of raw liver was a necessary daily boost, and I napped a lot too.  By the time May rolled around, I was even dreading labor, which had been a breeze (comparatively speaking) with the last two girls.

more to come....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Esther at TWO (and a half)

Dearest Esther P,

Your birthday has long come and gone, but I never did write a birthday post for you. You have certainly not been forgotten, just postponed!

So, instead of writing as if I remember exactly what you were like on your 2nd birthday, we'll start right now. You are exactly 2.5 years old. The entire family adores you for your laid back ways, ready giggle, and tender spirit. We all gush over you, telling you what a sweet little girl you are. Eva and Hope both love to play with you. You and Eva play games of tag or tickle together. She is always happy to read to you or help you with something. Currently you and Hope play house or Little People together all morning most days. Usually Hope is the mom and you are the "tweetheart", but sometimes you reverse roles and you get to boss Hope around. Amazingly, you two almost never fight.

By yourself, you spend most of your time playing with baby dolls. You dress them, push them in the doll stroller, rock them, feed them, nurse them, and generally dote on them. You often tell me that your baby is crying because "she/he misses his Grandpa and Grandma." Speaking of playing baby, you are really tuned into the upcoming arrival of your little sister. When we go out, you tell people that "My baby sister is coming out of my mommy's tummy soon. But I'm not a big sister yet." You like to rehearse all the things that you are going to do to take care of your sister. I think you understand what is coming, and I think you'll adjust pretty easily. Of course, time will tell!

You have been VERY much the baby of the family for awhile though. Up until a few months ago, you seemed to be pretty naive to "big girl" stuff and content to let Mom and Dad guide you through life. Two year old independence has arrived, however! Around February, you pretty much demanded to be potty trained, telling me when your diaper was wet and insisting, "I need to use the potty, mom!" These last few months have been so insanely busy for me that I pretty much decided to take your pants off and let you figure it out on your own. Sure enough, within a few days (and many accidents), you considered yourself done with diapers. You still wet at night and have a few accidents each week, but for the most part you have done a good job of potty training yourself! Now you tell me, "I'm a big girl. I'm bigger than Eva and Hope."

One funny anecdote about your being a "big girl" happened last week. In our new neighborhood, the kids play outside almost constantly. They go back and forth from yard to house, riding bikes and scooters in our dead-end street. The bigger girls are allowed to roam pretty freely, though they always have to ask if they are going to another person's house. Around dinnertime there were a bunch of kids in our yard, I was making dinner, and Daddy was working on some project. I looked down at my phone and saw a text message from our neighbor and church friend (about three houses away). It said, "Esther is here. Can she have some lasagna?" WHAT??? Esther is not at our house? The rule for you is that you never leave our yard without Eva or Mom or Dad. Eva was in the back yard. Well, I walked down immediately to retrieve you. You were sitting up to the dinner table eating lasagna with the Gray family. You told me that you had ridden Hope's scooter over to the Gray's. WHAT??? I didn't even know you could ride a scooter! Needless to say, we talked a lot about the boundaries on the way home. I was just floored that sweet and docile Esther had her own big ideas to see the world!

Now for some Esther data: You are average size for your age, but are still pretty squishy and roly-poly. You love to dance and sing in a pretty little voice. You wear size 2T clothes and wear size 7 shoes (you've just recently mastered dressing yourself). Your favorite foods are spaghetti, lasagna, bananas (about 3/day), smoothies, and raisins. You don't prefer beans or most veggies, but will eat them if force fed. You've recently discovered videos and think Dora the Explorer is the bomb! You love to be read to. Your favorite books are "The Very Busy Spider" and a Bible songbook. You are really interested in learning the letter names, so you are constantly asking me what each letter is. I think you know about half of them by now. You are a bright little girl, and often repeat my own explanations or books we've read word for word.

I've said it already, but if I were to sum you up in a word, it would be SWEET. You are well-loved by your family and friends. We adore your gentleness, happiness, empathy, and cooperative nature. Some have said you are an "old soul", which is an interesting observation. I guess we'll know about that as you grow, but for now the observation does reflect something about your open and loving spirit.

Esther, Happy Belated Birthday! You are a treasured part of this family!

love, Mom and Dad

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Festive Saturday and a Recipe

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Our day started when Eva woke Eric and I up before 8 AM this Saturday morning with a pinch and exclamation, "Happy St. Patrick's Day. You're not wearing green!" Of course I wasn't wearing green in bed, unless you count the crusty sleep boogers still in my eye. She respected my warning to NOT pinch Esther and Hope awake, and the next time we saw the three girls, they were all dressed in green and ready to live it up.

I crawled out of bed a while later to make green smoothies and green scrambled eggs. I had been holding on to these kiwi for a few weeks now, willing them to ripen at just the right time for a day of green goodness. This is the delicious recipe for our green kiwi smoothies. And, you can't taste the kale at all, a good thing. Eric declared these "delicious", which is really saying something, for him.

Green Smoothies (serves 4-5)

2 bananas (I used frozen)
1 c. plain yogurt or kefir
1 1/2 c. fresh kale (you could probably use more, it was truly unnoticed)
6 kiwis, scooped from their skin
1-2 t. raw honey
3 T. flax seed, ground

Mix it all up in a blender and enjoy! I'm thinking it would've been yummy to add some honeydew melon or pineapple too.Eva was really wound up about life this morning! And you can see a glimpse of the living room of our new house behind her. We are installing wood floors and new drapes next week, so this may be one of the last pictures taken with the lovely baby blue drapes. Real sad about that.... Not!
Hope slurps green...
Esther has the absolutely cheesiest camera grin, but I love it. She loves her smoothies, and her leaving her long hair untouched by me. When I try to comb it or add a barrette, she tells me, "I'm just fine, Mom." (insert lisp on jusssst).
Not sure why I included this awesome example of food photography... Pioneer Woman, watch out! I could kill things with my flash! Anyway, this is the green breakfast in all it's glory.

This day (and week and whole winter) has been awesome because of the record high temperatures. Today, the Twin Cities boasted a high of 81 degrees, a sure record! The average temp is apparently 41. We've been in shorts and tank tops most of this week, which is totally premature, but totally wonderful. My cheeks are a revived rosy hue, and like "magic" my mid-winter blues have pretty much evaporated. Thanks, vitamin D!

Eric's childhood best friend, Eric Barnum, came today for the weekend, so he and Eric did lots of game playing and goofing around. They also cut down some enormous, overgrown bushes that were flanking our front doors. It was a dramatic improvement, allowing us to walk up the front walk without being slapped in the face by a juniper. We can also see out our front window. A definite improvement, also giving me the satisfaction of marking something off my "pre-baby to-do list". YES!

I also had some fun baking a few Irish inspired recipes. Both were a big treat, though not really nourishing at all. If you're in the mood for some empty (and heavy) carbs try Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes and Irish Beer and Cheese Bread. Your taste buds will thank you, even if your gut doesn't. And, on that upbeat note, I go to clean up the kitchen. Erin Go Bragh!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

3 Burning Questions

Greetings! This post is meant to fill in the blanks on many things that have happened over the last few months. Rest assured, we've been busy.... just not busy blogging!

1. Why don't you blog anymore?
Several reasons which may become evident as you read more, but one prominent one is that our family PC crashed back in July and we haven't replaced it. Turns out, I like being partially unplugged. Texting is high tech enough for me, and the impersonal nature of the cyber world makes me shiver sometimes. I truly fear for the social/relational context that our children will be living in by the time they are adults. So, I am trying to stay (sort of) "unplugged". Of course, the Internet is a pretty good tool for some things, so I do hope to blog a bit more. And I still check facebook almost every day. And currently I am stalking dining room tables on craigslist. And Eric talked me into joining pinterest last week. BUT, since I only have computer access when Eric brings his work laptop home in the evenings, I definitely have limited time to spend in front of a screen.

2. So, are you having another baby?
YES!!! I am 28 weeks along, which puts me right at the beginning of the third trimester. How funny that there hasn't been even a mention of New Baby on this blog yet! We are expecting a girl (yes, we're filled with trepidation for the teen years). This pregnancy has been fine, but clearly each pregnancy gets more difficult. Comparing this round to my first pregnancy with Eva (these girls will both be May babies) is amazing. I sailed through the first one with zero problems, but now days aches and pains are the name of the game. Worth it though, I'm sure!

3. And you moved?
Right again! We started to feel like it was time to move last spring, mostly due to the housing market being so cheap here. We weren't expecting another kid then, but we knew that our 1400 square foot home couldn't support our growing family forever. After some ups and downs (house hunting was so emotionally draining for me!) and looking for about 6 months, we finally knew what we wanted. In the long run, after quite a bit of negotiating and praying, we ended up buying a place that is about 10 minutes from our old house, on the bluffs of the Minnesota River Valley. We were able to keep Eva at her school and gain quite a bit of space inside and out. So far, our neighbors are really nice people. They still don't feel like old friends (of course), but hopefully that will come in time. We are LOVING being able to walk from our backyard down to the Minnesota River and the miles and miles of hiking paths and mountain bike trails!

Surprisingly, I kind of liked moving, despite the fact that we moved one week before Christmas then went to Colorado for Christmas vacation! Some of you moving experts know that moving often would get really old, but it was adrenaline producing for me. I felt so productive all the time, with packing, unpacking, organizing, and fixing. After a few weeks of living here though, the fun wore off, and suddenly I looked around and felt decidedly out of place. I tell ya, moving is SO emotional! There was a definite turning point then, after about a month when I started to feel "at home". I can't wait to bring a baby home here and go through a sunny summer to really start to cement this place in our hearts.

The house has been practically untouched since it was built in the early 1970's, so we have quite a few updates planned for the future. Hopefully I'll document it! And one last tidbit- we became landlords in the moving process. Our dear, tiny, old house is being rented to a nice, little family. So far it's been no big deal, except for the week we spent working like dogs to get the house rental ready.

There are many other little details about life that I would love to record. Maybe another time. In the meantime, I'm off to snuggle Hope back to bed and put my big belly to bed!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Happy Birthday Hope!

Much belated, but better late than never, here are my thoughts to Hope on her fourth birthday.

Dear Hopers,

Congratulations! You have reached your dream of being 4! For months now, I've thought of you as already four... not sure why... I always think of you as older than you are. Truthfully, that oversight on my part gets you into a lot of trouble. It's hard to remember to treat you as a four year old and have four year old expectations, when you tag along with your big sister all the time and are much taller than the average kid your age. But alas, you and I are bumbling along and I fully expect we'll emerge alright in the end ;)!

Hope, this year for your birthday you chose to have "bike ride birthday bash". You take great pleasure in riding along behind Daddy on the tag-along. You are pretty distracted and not much help in pedaling, probably because you are savouring the wind in your fluffy blonde hair or the trees whizzing by you in a blur. Bike riding is not exactly an athletic endeavor for you, but as in all of life, it is a magical adventure. You are such an emotional girl, and all of your adventures are either perfectly magical and bound in layers of imagination, or all together awful. It seems to be we are always riding the wave with you- to the heights of laughter, joy, and silliness. Then to the depths where you are nothing short of despondent and hopeless. What a ride!

Silliness. You have been such a fun kid to be around. We suspect you are the clown of the family (right behind Daddy, of course). You seem to have a knack for what will catch us off guard and make us giggle. You really get Eva and Esther going with your silly monologues or funny dance moves. Your friends seem to think you're pretty funny too, and they definitely motivate you to dig deeper (and sillier)! You and Hazel are still going strong as best friends. You are both extremely loyal to one another, and it seems a day at church or with friends just isn't quite good enough without Hazel around. Of course you roll together on the highs and lows of being four, so it is not always a tranquil scene to see you together. You always seem to make up though, and you spell out your great affection for each other regularly.

You seem to be a bit of a free spirit. I often wonder if there is any way that you and Eva are alike... the answer is probably only in your looks! You sort of wander carefree through life, taking it as it comes with a good measure of wonder and imagination. You thoroughly enjoy playing with others or by yourself. Your alone play is really amazing to listen to, so full of life and curiosity. Things that seem completely common and normal to the rest of us, fall completely dull on you. One example is food- our family likes to eat good food. You, however, don't really seem to care about food at all. You virtually refuse to eat meat, for the reason that it doesn't taste good to you, and you feel sorry for the animal. At a meal you usually ask, "Is this pig? or cow? or chicken?" Eva says, "it's pork, Hope. You'll like it!" And you respond, "Is that pig?", then you push it away. Hot dogs, of course, are a different story :). In fact, the only food you care anything about is junk food, as far as I can tell!

You love adventure, fun, and anything girly. On the flip side, you disdain structure, limits, and expected outcomes. This year, we continue to participate in the Preschool Coop. While you like to see your friends and listen to the story, you find the structure to be draining. You complain about calendar time, saying it is sooooo boring! I assume that it is good for you to practice paying attention to logical and sequential activities since, obviously, you won't be able to live forever in your fairy tale world. I am surprised, however, at your recent interest in letters and words! At your own pace, in your own time, I'm sure you'll come to love school and all that it entails.

Being the emotionally sensitive child that you are makes you a great snuggler and very affectionate. We can count on you finding your way into our bed almost every night, just to be near and snuggle! You really love a good wrestle with Daddy and or some time cuddling and reading with Mommy. In general, your emotional ups and downs are much less extreme if we keep that emotional love take FULL! You definitely challenge me to unearth the emotional, sensitive side of me, but I think it's good for both of us.

In general, you keep us guessing. Whether it's a new emotional roll, a mischievous act that catches me by surprise, wandering off to the neighbor's a few times each day, or your interpretations and opinions of the world around you. I'll think we'll be able to count on you to keep us on our toes and look at things from a different perspective!

I'm thankful that you are becoming a healthier child. Sometime in the last year, we took the plunge and tried giving you cooked egg whites. Your former severe egg allergy seemed to have been healed. You were so proud to be able to eat the whole egg with the rest of us! Last winter was pretty brutal with numerous ear infections and two ruptured eardrums, but you do seem to be getting stronger. You had a virus this week that ran it's course in only a few days, which was a real praise! Speaking of sickness, you remember to pray every day for your cousin Solomon Leo's fight with leukemia.

Things you love- pink, princesses, sweets and breads, jewelery, pretty things. You are a warm kid and always wearing the least amount of clothes possible... usually skirts and frilly shirts. You wear size 5 clothes, size 11 shoes, and your crazy self-imposed haircuts are finally starting to grow out so that we can do stuff with your hair. You are obsessed with boyfriends and people getting married. You tell everyone that you have a boyfriend named Isaac Boldt, even though I'm always responding that you don't actually have a boyfriend. You and Isaac do seem to like each other an awful lot though!

Oh Hope! You are wacky, fun, and full of new ideas. We laugh, shake our heads, sigh, and get white knuckles being your parents, but we wouldn't have it any other way! We're so thankful that God put you in our family and we pray for abounding grace for you in the future. Happy Birthday!

We love you so much,

Daddy and Mommy

Monday, September 12, 2011

1st Grade

The morning of the first day of First Grade was such fun! No real fears, few unknowns, morning routines already very familiar. This is the outfit Eva chose for her first day. Showing off the new hole in her mouth left after she pulled her tooth out a few days before school started.

Found the new locker... right across the hall from her Kinder teacher, Sra. Ponce Carmona.

And, found her chair, right next to her friend Matthew from last year. Then the nerves started to set in just a bit. As we walked into the classroom, the teacher was no where in sight and the rest of the kids looked alarmingly somber. No one was talking or excitedly showing off new school shoes, or even smiling. Eva was brave, though pretty nervous, I think. I was curious all day to find out if the day had gone well. She claimed that your teacher was going to be very loving and kind after the first day's impressions. By the second day, though, she was a complete wreck after school. By the third day, I was considering investing in handcuffs and a padded room. Eva was throwing tantrums and "blowing off steam" of an intensity we had not experienced before. I was starting to get concerned, wondering what was going on at school and if the teacher was just too strict or tough.

Eva shared that she had gotten yellow cards (like a warning) on Wednesday AND Thursday, which was a complete surprise. Her Kinder teacher had continually praised Eva's good behavior, and often said she was possibly too concerned about following the rules. ****An aside- at home, Eva is not at all a perfectly obedient child (far from it!), but at school she is so concerned about pleasing her teacher, that she really works hard at it.**** When I asked her what the yellow cards were for, she said that she hadn't been watching the teacher the entire time she was talking. The other one was for being distracted by the boys who sit at her table. She said, "those boys aren't really very interested in learning. But I get distracted by their talking!"

Ugh. Not a great start to 1st Grade at all! As a former teacher, I wasn't surprised that Sra. Castro was starting the year out strict. But.... As a mom, I was concerned that Eva was going to have a crushed spirit and not be confident in her relationship with her teacher.

Well, Friday afternoon rolled around, and all the craziness of the early part of the week was nowhere to be found! As Eva and I talked about her school day, she said is was "Great!". She said that her teacher had told their class that they, "learn faster than all the other classes." Alrighty then! She was very proud of this "fact". Apparently Eva's competitive nature just needed some props from the teacher? Or maybe she was just happy to have arrived at the weekend? Do teachers generally use false praise to garner the allegiance of their students???

All of the enigmatic events of last week make me very, very curious about the rest of this school year. I think we could've said, "Toto, we're not in Kinder anymore." and "Welcome to the big leagues, Eva!"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Camping Pictures

Here are pictures from last weekend's camping outing with our small group. Although it was short, it was very sweet! The first few hours were not documented as people trickled in, set up tents, applied bug dope, explored our surroundings, played whiffle ball, and munched on trail mix.

Eventually a critical mass began to gather by the fire. This was the Reece's S'mores debut, as well as the debut of a less than stellar gluten free apple crisp recipe that I tried in the dutch oven. Always fun to try, not always a success though!

This is the crowd around the fire... the Lindquists, Madalyn and Hope,
The Gibsons and Nate,
Eric, Becca B., Lily, Bronte, Esther, Leah (Eric M. is cut off),

Me and Ashley the camping mega-maniac,

Bert, Beki, Beth, Anna, Ian,

The campfire was the location of many scary stories, a few funny stories, great testimonies, deep talks, singing, and laughing. Eventually everyone drifted off to bed.

In the morning, everyone slowly drifted back to the fire, where it was more of the same, except with glorious sunshine and a bit of...

hair braiding and

caterpillar rescuing... Yes! That is a huge, juicy, green caterpillar giant. Hope is a caterpillar fanatic!

The campsite was well stocked with a myriad of different kinds of caterpillars. The girls founded a caterpillar hospital, though I'm not really sure what took place there. Madalyn is holding up her arm to show off an albino crawler!

Shelly and Sarah talked,

Becca knitted,

then we all headed to the lake for lunch.

Gwen was a tummy time superstar!

Esther was a sand castle eating superstar!

Hope was a sandy sunbathing superstar!

Anna took Esther and Ian out for a wet romp, which they both loved!

Eva practiced the backstroke for probably the last time this summer.

And..... one out of order photo. Tim and Ashley at the fire.

Shelly and Anna chit chatted, and Eva splashed them with water (WHO? Eva?!? Couldn't be....)

And, a fun time was had by all!

Camping with the Eikum Small Group

Original title, eh? As you might have guessed, we went camping with our small group this weekend. We accomplished a one night stay at Baker Park Reserve, just 30 minutes from home. To all you locals: I really liked this park! Close to home, clean, great facilities. I think we'll be going there again, but hopefully for a longer stay next time.

Small group camping trips always create a fascinating group dynamic. You are not necessarily camping with your best friends, or your children's grandparents, or avid outdoor adventurers, or people who even like camping! You are there simply to be together, get to know each other better and make some memories. So, here are some of my favorite memories from the trip:

A derailed kickball game after our ball suddenly deflated and permanently failed it's calling in life.

Becca Bice's carefully and neatly packed individual bags of gorp, as well as AMAZING mint brownies and homemade salsa with chips.

Ashley developing her athleticism, combining jump kicks and Frisbee.

Eva erupting in giggles watching Ashley work on her Frisbee skills.

Hearing Bronte and Lily share their testimonies of God's grace to them.

Singing with the guitar around the campfire.

S'mores made with Reces peanut butter cups.

Explaining the full moon to Hope, who them suggested that tomorrow there would probably be a "triangle moon."

The kids glee over finding a "secret path lake".

Madalyn, Olivia, Eva, and Hope collecting scores of unique caterpillars and creating a caterpillar hospital.

Telling our real life scary stories around the campfire until half the girls were afraid to even walk to the outhouse.

Bronte, Beth, and Becca Bice's terrified screams after Eric ambushed them on the way to the outhouse. (All time best scare!)

Bronte's sharp reply to Eric, "What are you!?! Twelve!?!"

Falling asleep in the tent without a rain fly, gazing at the full moon.

Waking up in the tent to sweet Esther prying at my eyes and exclaiming, "Wake up, Mama!"

Shelly's Old Country Buffet mock-up at our campfire breakfast. Incredible spread!

Sitting around in the sunshine, chatting and mentally thanking God for blue skies.

Ian and Esther clowning around together, kissing and hugging and "running" down the hills.

Everyone taking a turn at holding peaceful Baby Gwen.

Hope and Esther getting ridiculously dirty, and once again proving that all things fun necessitate stain treatment.

A perfect day to sit by the lake.

Girls building sand castles and soaking up the late summer sunshine.

Anna and Jason taking Ian and Esther for a romp in the lake. tons of baby giggles!

Standing in the water shooting the breeze with the Lindquists, savouring every last breath of summer.

My tank has been refilled and I am both tuckered out and invigorated!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The mundane and the negative

OK, apparently I am in a once a month blogging pattern, which is not satisfactory to me, but probably won't be changing anytime soon. Now, the title of this post is, I fear, a solid preview. Nothing much is going on in our life (hence, the mundane). There are a very few things are going on, and today they are mostly negative. Admittedly, not VERY negative, just not very positive. And admittedly, as soon as I type something such as "mundane and negative", the Spirit pricks me and I am reminded that underpinning all of the day to day bleh, we have very, very much to be thankful for. Starting with Jesus, and well, ending with Jesus (with a long list of other taken-forgranted blessings in between).

So, what about the mundane? Suddenly this week with the beginning of the school year, everything is all about routine and schedule. Our lives, usually different every day and sprinkled with a variety of people, outings, sibling squabbles, and read-alouds, are now ruled by morning drop-off and the afternoon bus stop. We also throw in three meals and one afternoon nap. At times during the dizzying summer months, I longed for the boring winter routines, but this week has been a little too dull for my taste.

School itself is good though. Eva likes her teacher, Sra. Castro, and has nice kids in her class. She has two bus buddies, crisp, unstained school clothes, a gaping hole in her mouth left by one of her front teeth, and a decent ability to be responsible. All good things. Today she also had evening crying spells and angry meltdowns, which I can only attribute to her being a child (naturally) and harboring some unexposed emotional stress. Maybe she is a little overtired at the end of a full day immersed in her second language??? Perceptive, huh :). After tonight's bedtime train wreck, she shared all about the hard parts of her day: boys distracting her, teacher unintentionally embarrassing her, too short recess, coveting school lunch, etc... sounds like Jr. High to me!

Now for the mildly negative. We've been house hunting all summer in hopes of upgrading our digs. In early July we put an offer on a place, didn't get it, but it wasn't too big of a deal. Last week we found a place that we imagine HAS to be the very best thing for us. The house isn't amazing, and would need work, but the lot is HUGE and very private. Our prayer has been for a place that is centrally located in the city (or first ring sub burbs), but feels like the country. Kind of impossible, right? This house seems like the closest thing to that. So, we offered yesterday in a multiple offer situation, and found out today that our offer is the "runner up". This is a short sale, and apparently enough things can go wrong with short sales that they keep a runner up on deck, I guess. This news was pretty disappointing.

Now, we have certainty that God has good things in store for us, whether it be this short sale, a different house, or maybe staying put right here. BUT, of course I still felt a little deflated. We will keep praying, hoping that somehow our offer will move into first place. We will also keep praying that God would guide us to the right place... maybe this isn't it?!?

Alright, moving on to the quite negative news. We found out late last week that our nephew Solomon (Eric's brother Ryan's boy) has leukemia. Big bummer! We are so sad for his family and for him, knowing that they will have a long and arduous journey ahead of them. However, the doctors are giving him a really optimistic prognosis, so we are praying with full confidence for complete healing. Please pray for Ryan, Stephanie, Thor, and Solomon with us. We are confident that God has good things in store for them too!

Ok, now to end on a positive note. The beastly garden season is at it's peak right now, and my counters are covered with jars of lacto-fermented pickles, boxes of plump, red tomatoes, and bags of freshly dug potatoes. Vegetables are the name of the game, and the answer to any hungry plea. "How 'bout carrots? Baby tomatoes? Cucumber slices? Go pick some green beans"! Even though it can be overwhelming, fruit fly inviting, and labor intensive, I am proud of the produce and the hands that earned it. Gardening is rewarding!

Also on a positive note, we are going on our first camping trip of the almost-over summer (gasp!) on Friday with small group peeps. Everyone in our family is excited! Hopefully I'll blog again with pics after the outing.