Friday, October 30, 2009

4 Weeks

Baby Esther is four weeks old today. We have been having so much fun snuggling, nursing, cuddling, changing diapers, and assisting gassy baby that I practically forgot about blogging. Just kidding... but add all the above to running to preschool, entertaining flocks of visitors, folding laundry, celebrating our Halloween costumes, attempting to get into profitable family routines, and more I just haven't had time for blogging! This post will be mostly pictures of Esther, but the other girls have had some memorable moments lately too, so hopefully it won't be too long before I blog again.

"Baby E" is generally very content and relaxed, no problems with car rides for this one... But after all, she is a baby and occasionally seizes the opportunity to behave as such!
As I mentioned, we've had a constant flow of visitors, some of whom I've already documented. It was a special treat, though, for my grandparents from Colorado to fly in this week. I guess they couldn't stay away after the baby boom in our family this fall! Here is Esther with her Great-Grandma Knudtsen.
And her Great-Grandpa Knudtsen. I'm pretty sure he was happy to give her right back this time!
Now this is more typical... just chillin' out on the couch and dozing off just about anywhere you put her down. We're not sure about her eye color yet. They're black-ish right now, but every once in awhile they hint at blue. That would be fun!
Starting to get tired (again). Some fun facts about Esther at 4 weeks old:

Weighed 10 pounds, 3 ounces a few days ago - Wearing size 1-2 diapers and 0-3 month clothes - We've gotten a handful of real smiles in the past few days. Yay! I've been waiting for this all month! - Nurses approximately every 2.5-3 hours during the day, and no longer has to be woken up for every feeding - Takes about 6 naps a day lasting about an hour - Loves to be held and stare at faces - Has a gassy gut EVERY night between 9 pm and midnight. Fortunately I'm learning that if I drink a cup of chamomile tea before nursing her at night, the problem is avoided! - Sleeps on her back - Typically sleeps about 6-7 hours at night before waking to eat -Prefers to be held facing out or in the "cradle" hold - Has a few hints of baby acne, and has been bathed a scant three times in her life - Enjoys riding in the Baby Bjorn - Still has LOTS of dark shiny hair with a hint of red in it - Is very patient and relaxed with her sisters who love to hold, cuddle, kiss, and hug her all day long.

Now, an interview with her oldest sister:

Mom: Tell me about Esther.

Eva: I love her (big, happy sigh). And I think that she's nice, too. And I love her this much (holding her arms waaayyy out).

Mom: What did you tell me about how she smells?

Eva: Her head smells like breast milk and her hands smell like cheese.

Mom: Huh.

Eva: And I love her very much!

This is the end of my story, so that's all about Esther at four weeks old. We're off to ready ourselves for a Harvest party tonight. Stay tuned for pics of this dressed up family soon! Any guesses at our costumes???

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Station #6

This year we are doing a grand experiment in extracurricular activities. Since, in my opinion, home-life is the best curriculum for a young child, any activity outside the home counts as extracurricular. In the past we have done almost nothing aside from Sunday morning church activities, save a few swimming lessons, but this year we're doing swimming, hoping to start ballet after the holidays, and *gasp* preschool. And we added a newborn to the mix. I'll tell you when we start to feel over-scheduled, but for now it is all fun and games.

Preschool was a hard decision for us. We are still leaning towards homeschooling for kindergarten next year, so I questioned if going to preschool would set a bad precedent. Also, making preschool work is difficult when you are a one car and one income family. After much prayer and discussion, we decided that we would try to get Eva into a preschool. She wanted it sooooo bad... just to do anything "special" and outside the home. I compared the pros and cons of several options, but then a completely unique option came on the horizon. As it turns out, we have chosen to join a "preschool co-op." We meet two mornings a week, the fee was $10, and the moms take turns teaching. Two moms (with apparently lots of free time... ha ha) lead the charge and have taken the time to establish a very detailed and fun curriculum for the year so we always know what to teach and what our kids should be learning. The curriculum includes lots of typical preschool stuff: calendar, weather, play time, snack, reading, art, character traits, and more. So far, Eva is really enjoying the time, and I have had a lot of fun teaching as well!

Back to "Station #6".... today was our first preschool field trip, and we went to a fire station. I thought it was super cool and really enjoyed learning about a fire fighter's job, as well as seeing everything up close. Truthfully, Eva was disappointed because it wasn't like the Curious George book in which he visits a fire station (Naughty Curious George always has more fun as he wreaks havoc wherever he goes!), but I think she still learned a lot and had fun. So, Station #6 is the busiest station in Minneapolis, and the 15th busiest in the nation. There were six different crews on while we were there, and it was thrilling (and a little scary) to see the firefighters race to the trucks whenever a call came in. We got to see plenty of action! The firefighters who gave us our tour actually had to leave part-way through and passed us off to another crew to finish the tour. I'll mix a few fun facts about fire fighting in with the pictures: This dude is a firefighter in full uniform. He is wearing protective pants, coat, boots, gloves, mask, and helmet. He also sports an oxygen tank and axe. All of this weighs about 60 pounds! He looked a little scary to the little ones in his attire, and boy was he sweaty when he disrobed! The oxygen tank will last him 30 minutes, at best, so it is important to move quickly.
Hope is sitting in the driver's seat of a small firetruck. We looked at lots of different kinds of trucks, but our tour guide only let us get in "his" truck. This truck is primarily for medical emergencies. This crew (EMTs) respond to the most serious health related 911 calls. They have an impressive response time of about 3 minutes or less, compared to the ambulance which averages at least 7 minutes.
Here, Eva poses as a firefighter. Becoming a professional firefighter is a pretty big achievement. There is a training school to attend, testing that is extremely physically difficult, and then you basically have to win the lottery! For every open position in Minneapolis, there are 2,400 applicants. I have a friend from high school that works at Station #6, so apparently he was one of the lucky winners! The schedule seems pretty peachy, they work ten 24-hour shifts each month. They eat, sleep (in their own private bedroom), play, exercise, and work during a shift.Here are the girls sitting on the big front bumper of the truck. There is room for lots of people to climb on a firetruck, but when it's time for a call, the firefighters are all safely buckled in to regular seats in the cab. Were you wondering where the dalmation Fire Dog is in all these pictures? Station pets were outlawed about 20 years ago in order to allow for firefighters with pet allergies :(.Here are all the kids, along with two firefighters who very kindly showed us around, answered our questions, and instructed the little ones on fire safety. They even requested a special "test" alarm to be rung, welcoming us to the fire station. Not everyone was able to make it today, but (L-R) Eva, Hope, Nina, Elijah, Kara, Zoe, Madelyn, Katelyn, and Rina partook in the festivities. Way fun!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lengthy Update :)

We're still alive here, really! I've wished to post pictures and a brief update many times, but seriously (!) life keeps on moving, and fast.

To answer the basic questions, we're all currently healthy, happy, and in a period of adjustment (which takes different forms for each of us).

Eric went back to work yesterday after his two week (paid... thank you corporate America!) paternity leave, and the girls and I had a peaceful day at home catching up on laundry and making sure everybody got naps. Today was busier- Eva had preschool and Hope and I took Esther to her weight check at the Dr.'s office. We also fit in a trip to the grocery store (first time with all three!), and of course took naps.

The Dr.'s appointment was awesome for two reasons. 1) Esther is doing well and, despite her lazy eating habits, has gained over a pound in less than two weeks. 2) I remembered all of my insignificant little questions, the Dr. was on time and EFFICIENT, and we didn't have to defend why we don't vaccinate our babies. Good day.

I have had a less-than-stellar recovery the last two weeks. I've alternated between feeling totally great and becoming a complete train wreck. I think I overdo it when I feel good, which has resulted in a case of mastitis, a trip to the ER for severe abdominal pain (I honestly expected them to do a hysterectomy on the spot, I was in so much pain!), and some "elimination issues." So, naps are in order for Mom for the next few weeks for sure. Thankfully, during Eric's paternity leave he was a champion servant! At every breakdown moment, he took over all of my responsibilities and more. There were many days when I did absolutely nothing besides rest and nurse Esther. A servant-hearted husband is a total blessing!

I am completely in love with little Esther. I've been told that each child grows up faster than the one before, and that you enjoy each one more and more. I think that must be true, as I can hardly believe she is already almost 3 weeks old. And I am definitely savoring these cuddly days with a sweet, sweet baby. I am a blessed mama, indeed.

The other girls have been adjusting quite well also. Eva is almost as in love with Esther as I am, giving her innumerable kisses and cuddles each day. She happily holds her and "shooshes" her when she fusses. She says over and over, "I love, love, LOVE her, mommy! She is sooooo sweet." Hope, on the other hand, spends very little time focused on Esther. She likes her and is kind and gentle, but doesn't seem to have the same infatuation that Eva posseses. Generally, Hope seems to be missing a few snuggles with mom, needing tons of sleep, and constantly asking to read books together. Thankfully, the potty training appears to be holding! All in all, the girls are good.
So, here are the pics:

I'm guessing Esther was about 4 days old in this picture... just chillin' with mom in bed.
I tried to get a good picture of Eva holding Esther, but every time the shutter opened, Eva immediately switched her smiley face to some ridiculous expression. She had perfect timing because I have a hilarious series of about 15 different silly faces, and Esther still sleeping!
Finally, a pretty good smile. And doesn't Eva look so OLD in this picture! I feel like she has turned into a big kid overnight!Esther gets lots, lots, lots of lovin'!
Grandma Patenaude came to visit when Esther was exactly one week old. Grandma P. is getting really, really good at holding babies (after four of her own and ten grandchildren!), and Esther didn't seem to mind at all :).That weekend marked the first real snow of the season, October 10th, so early. Again, I look at these girls and can't help but think they've grown up so much lately!Grandpa Patenaude came to visit the next weekend, when Esther was exactly 2 weeks old. He brought the girls a huge pumpkin and carved it with them on Saturday morning while Dad and Mom got to sleep in. That was wonderful...
The day after Grandpa Patenaude's visit, we were planning to go to an apple orchard and state park with some of our friends from college. I was bummed when I came down with mastitis since I figured there was no way I would be able to go. God answered many prayers though, and I recovered quickly and was able to enjoy a BEAUTIFUL fall day out with my family and friends. We went to Taylor's Falls, which is one of my favorite day trip destinations, and the girls really enjoyed climbing around on the rocks and sitting by the river.

I know I sound like a broken record, but doesn't Eva look older in this shot... and when did she learn that rock star-ish pose?!?It has been a dry year, meaning the leaves aren't really impressive this fall. However, near the river, the colors were stunning. So, that's all folks. Hopefully, I'll return to the bloggy-land soon. If not, you can assume I've been taken hostage by three little girls and a laundry pile :)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Our Other New Baby

Gestational period of approximately 7 weeks, and counting.

After years of dreaming, deliberating and debating the costs, Eric finally felt like it was time to take the plunge.
It was (is) a labor of love, including: 5 gallons of Round-Up, 300 feet of poly pipe, a countless number of couplers and joints, 30 feet of copper pipe, 15 sprinkler heads, 6 lbs of Bachmann's custom blended MN grass seed, three complete weekends and 15 evenings after work, some help from a couple of trusty friends, who knows how many shovelfuls of dirt and trips of the wheelbarrow, 2 hours of Becca's pregnancy spent digging trenches on her hands and knees, 35 trips to and from the Home Depot Rental Center (roller, tiller, etc.), a custom designed schematic from Toro, and one vacuum-pressure breaker (because Eric likes things to be up to code and pulls all his permits as he ought).

Add in the hours and hours Eva and Hope spent engrossed in tactile play in the world's largest sandbox, the vast army of worms rudely interrupted from their simple lives of tunnel digging, the innumerable loads of laundry set on "heavily soiled" and "second rinse" with a few scoops of Oxi-Clean for good measure, the muddy fingerprints and footprints found on all possible surfaces inside our home, and the weeks of surrendering to the disaster zone therefore deciding not to clean.
And let's not forget the 150 days (at LEAST) spent waiting for the city of Richfield to replace the old driveway apron with a cement curb. Perhaps there were 10+ calls of urgency to the city, which finally resulted in an entire baseball line-up worth of men and TWO cement trucks arriving to put in 15 feet of curb and work for approximately 20 minutes. Don't get me wrong... we love the efficiency of government, but really folks?!?And, I'm not sure from where abouts they rounded these fellas up... the cast of Survivor comes to mind...
Now, our new "baby" is thriving in damp fall conditions, growing up healthy and strong!
We now have a completely level, weed-free, underground sprinkler system engaged front yard. And though I am in disbelief, Eric says it was a simple project, really. By the spring, our newest human babe will be able to crawl around and enjoy the pleasure of a lush, green, soft and inviting lawn! Ahhh spring greenery.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Birth Story

The story of our third daughter's arrival begins a few days earlier than her actual entrance into the world. On Wednesday, I had a check up with my midwife. She checked my dilation and told me that I was at 3 cm (gaining just one cm from the last week), but the check really hurt which made me suspect something was transpiring. After that appointment I started having cramps, contractions, and bloody show for rest of the day. The following day was the same, but the contractions never got closer than 10 minutes apart, and though they hurt, they wouldn't hold me back from anything. I suggested to a few people that they pray for the baby to come, just because this vague sort-of labor thing was starting to wear my patience!

Thursday afternoon, with my house practically spotless after weeks of go-go-go, my friend Bethany and I sat down to "finally" have a little fun with this pregnancy. Our four daughters (combined, between the two of us) watched on with great intrigue as she transformed my prego belly into a "weaving from the 1960's" (Eric's words). I had zero contractions during the two hour ordeal, but the baby was kicking all over which added a little comedy to our routine!
Bethany, a former art teacher and painter, took to my stomach free hand with henna dye. Truthfully, we're always talking about ways to keep our lives out of the trenches of the mundane, and this seemed like a fun approach! These were the last pictures we took of me pregnant... wish we would've had the presence of mind to take one or two standing up and see just how far out baby girl was hangin'. I also didn't take any pictures of the finished product; all you can see here is the belly with the dye still on. It did turn out really cool though.Thursday night I had a few hard contractions, but nothing regular. I woke up in the morning suggesting to Eric that today would be a good day to have a baby, but I wasn't "feelin' it." I putzed around the house that day, doing some small tasks and blogging about our October money plan. When it came time to put phase one of the plan into action, the girls and I donned our rain coats to walk around the block to the gas station ATM. Wouldn't you know it, just as we were heading out the door, I thought I wet my pants (just a little). So, I changed my pants, put my jacket back on, and we made the short trek. As I stood in line to pay for the two doughnuts we had picked out (now, that's prenatal nutrition for ya!), I wet my pants again (just a little). We meandered back home, and I started to make lunch. When I sat down to eat, I knew this was for real. Though I had been suspecting a small leak after our walk, my water broke in earnest and I knew it was go-time!

I called Eric at work, telling him that my water had broken but I wasn't having contractions... just plan on coming home from work on time, OK? Then I started to call our battalion of childcare providers. The girls were supposed to be cared for at our house by Eric's sister-in-law and nieces, but it turned out that they had a really busy weekend at their house. We started making alternative plans. Since they would be coming a small distance to watch the girls, we thought we might need to drop them off at a friend's house to wait. I started calling all our pre-arranged options, but no one was picking up! Within a few minutes of my water breaking, contractions had started, so now I called Eric again to tell him that he better come straight home. He was home within a half hour, and by the time he got there I was having very frequent, very painful contractions. We still hadn't heard from any of our babysitters, so in desperation I called a neighbor who we barely know. She had been to our house a few times for play dates, but I still I would've called them acquaintances. In a conversation that lasted 15 seconds (no kidding, I checked my phone log), she agreed to watch the girls indefinitely and immediately.

Eric was gone for about 7 minutes dropping the girls off, in which time I threw some necessities into a suitcase and plopped down on the couch to wait. He came back, loaded me into the car, and we were off. We sat in traffic for a bit, but were to the hospital within 20 minutes. By the time we arrived, I knew that we didn't have a lot of time and I was thinking about the Group B Strep issue... wanting to have enough time to do a round of antibiotics.

We valet parked the van, "hopped" out, and started a 26.2 mile walk to the labor and delivery floor. Wouldn't you know, the hospital is under construction, and you literally follow a yellow line of masking tape through many, many miles of tunnels and "secret" corridors. Thankfully, we happened on a labor and delivery nurse along the way who served as our guide. I stopped with each contraction to hold onto the wall, cursing the ridiculous nature of this situation. I remember saying, "man, if a woman was about to have a baby this would be horrible" about 10 times during the journey. Upon arrival, a glassy eyed nurse gawked at me and repeated 15 questions that I had already answered until a very nice young nurse led me away while Eric fielded the questions.

The labor progressed like they did with the other girls, constant and steady. I was thrilled to see my favorite midwife - the midhusband - was on call, and he had the best possible nurse with him as well. We felt truly blessed to have such a relaxed, natural birth loving team. After a few minutes, the midwife checked me and said I was at 8 cm. I was already feeling some back labor (a sure sign of transition, for me), so I wasn't surprised at all when he told me it wouldn't be worth it to do the antibiotics. He had a short conversation with Eric explaining why I shouldn't have the IV (an incomplete round would do more harm than good), then he stepped out for a few minutes.

He told me later that he was at the other end of the hall when they told him to RUN because I was pushing! Literally, I think I had about 5 back labor contractions before I rolled over on my side, yelled, "I'm pushing this baby out NOW," and pushed. After the first push, I looked down and saw a little round head full of thick, black hair. Since our other girls were totally bald, it was so fun to see something different. It totally distracted from the pain, and after one or two more pushes, she was lying on my chest screaming.

Our friend Bethany, pictured above in the "tattoo parlor," had come to record the event for us. Amazingly, she was able to pack us a lunch, drop her daughters off, and be there for about half of the labor. She taped and snapped a lot of pictures, but I probably won't be putting any of them on this family friendly, public blog :). We had invited my mom to come as well, but sadly she didn't make it until a half hour after the baby was born. After it was all done, Eric was the timekeeper: I called him to come home from work around 1:30. We got to the hospital at 2:43. Baby girl came barrelling out at 3:34. This was one fast labor! We joyfully admired baby girl and celebrated a happy, quick arrival. The rest of the hospital stay was pleasant... the girls and Dana and Hannah came to visit shortly after dinner. My sister and Jon and Levi came around the same time. The next day we only had a couple of visitors, all in all it was a low key time. We spent much of it deliberating over the baby's name:After the bustle of comments about the Group B Strep issue, I'm sure some of you are curious how that turned out. I felt great peace about not doing the IV antibiotics, as if God has planned the timing of the labor to eliminate a few decisions for us. They did a slew of blood tests and extra vitals on the baby and have declared her "good" for now. She did struggle in the first few hours to keep her body temperature up, but that resolved naturally and wasn't a real sign of infection so soon after birth.

Eric and I marvelled over and over at how happy we were with the birth. Labor with Eva was chaotic for a variety of reasons, labor with Hope was very similar to this one only an hour or two longer. Somehow though, the tone and the pace of this labor felt so ideal. I was able to relax through most of the contractions (really... Eric spent most of his time in the delivery room on the phone or chatting with the midhusband), and the pushing actually felt like a relief- aside from the severe burning sensation :). We are thanking God for a simple, uncomplicated birth. And, I'm considering that my intense intake of raspberry leaf infusion really helped to have my uterus and mind nourished and ready to go. Even recovery has been easier than the other two (so far...) with little bleeding, less cramping, and a noticeable lack of lower region soreness. Thank God! Now don't get me wrong, I'm still tired and my body is certainly recovering from an intense workout... it's just that it could be way worse than it is.

Now we're home and after days of indecisiveness about a name, we've finally decided. Actually, I thought we had decided earlier in the day today, but Eric said he took one last vote at a men's meeting at church tonight. The vote was evenly split, and I'm sticking with our previous decision. We had a lot of names that we kind of liked, but nothing that really grabbed us, so it was hard to narrow the choices. Normally I am indecisive and Eric makes his mind up quickly, but this time even he couldn't decide. Our final two candidates were Metta Jane (Metta after Eric's great grandmother and Jane after my grandmother) and Esther Hansen (Hansen is Eric's middle name and his mom's maiden name). Now, after forcing you to read this super long post just to find out the name, I introduce to you:

Esther Hansen Patenaude

Monday, October 05, 2009

She's Here!!!

Most everyone knows by now, but

The newest sister HAS ARRIVED!!!
We are enamored with baby girl and quite pleased after our first full day home together. For those who keep track, the stats:
8 lbs, 8 oz.
22 inches
Born on October 2, 2009
3:34 pm
I'll post more details about the overwhelmingly fast labor and delivery tomorrow, as well as pictures, and - drum roll, please - the name (which we are finalizing tonight)!!!
(and for anyone following the polls, the arrival came exactly at 39 weeks.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

spend less challenge

We're doing it again this year! On Mary's inspiration, we'll be doing a low spending month in October. Last year we tried it, and I was so pleased to end the month knowing that I had spent less than $100 on everything! For us, October is the perfect time to do it too... coming off the summer when it feels like spending gets a little out of control, and right before the holidays when I know spending gets out of control. I have a mental image of autumn's falling leaves, like our falling expenses. Something like that, anyway.

This year it will be interesting to see how it works out since this is baby arrival month. We could incur some extra expenses with convenience foods, parking at the hospital, baby necessities, etc., but I think I've planned ahead through the summer so that this won't happen. Especially in the area of food, I don't foresee a lot of spending. We have our freezer stash, and the ladies from our church are planning to bring a few weeks of meals too. So, in theory, it shouldn't be too hard to spend little and save much.

The plan is simple: Today the girls and I walk down the block to the gas station, withdraw $140 from the ATM, and I put away the debit/credit cards. I keep $100 in my wallet, Eric gets $40. It can be spent on whatever we want, really there's no budget plan. The goal is just to not spend it all! A few areas fall outside of the cash jurisdiction: mortgage, utilities, fuel, and medical bills (which will be adding up soon!). Will any of you join us?!? At least follow along and tip me off to the sweet deals I'll be sniffing out at the grocery store!