Baby Name Game (Round 4), Clue #3

Clue #1

Clue #2

Gender neutral names are super hot right now, and are one of the growing current trends in baby names (at least according to Nameberry.com, my favorite online naming source)  I like some of those names and I can appreciate the parents who don’t want their daughter (say in her resume) to be discriminated against simply because of her name.

That being said,

Clue #3: we once again chose two very obviously feminine names for our baby’s remaining two names.  

Both of these names have a history of nearly 100% femininity and we can’t see either ever making the leap over to the boy’s side (though I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would see the day that James was given to so many little girls…).  We picked very feminine names for our other three girls, and we will continue that trend to our fourth.

Since this is my final round of baby names, I will let you in on a few of my favorites, now crossed off of our list forever. For a while, I did like Evelyn (one of those 100% female names today which actually has a history of being commonly given to males), and also considered Edith (another name shared with males back in the 19th century)  Evelyn would have been nicknamed Evy but I didn’t like that it rhymed with “heavy”.  Edith I didn’t care for as much as our other girls’ first names, but I did like Edy as a nickname (rhymes with needy).  I didn’t like that both of these names shared a first letter with Sib’s given name, though that was something I was willing to overlook if we couldn’t find anything else we were in love with.

Suffice it to say, we scratched both of those when we came up with daughter #4’s name, as we found something that suited us better and met all of our criteria 100%.  Two final hints I will leave you with

  1. both of those nickames I listed above require a pronunciation guide (much like our first and sometimes second daughters’ nicknames).  This baby’s nickname pronunciation should be obvious to all who encounter it.
  2. Though both of her given names will be strongly feminine, one of her names has a common male counterpart (i.e. Stephen/Stephanie)

-smk

Baby Name Game (Round 4), Clue #2

Intro

                                                                      Clue #1

So as I said last week, this baby will have three given names, followed by our last name.  That means she will have two middle names, with the second one being more of a “stick it on there because it looks/sounds pretty”, versus something she will forever be legally documenting.  All of our girls have the same formula for their names and this means

Clue #2, Baby Surprise’s second middle name will be a color name

Yes, we did this on a whim with our first, but it stuck for the second and we like that all of our girls will have this, both as a conversation piece and also as a common thread amongst them.  Why a color name?  Well, there’s no good answer to that.  I have some artistic background (and that’s mostly where I’ve come across the color names we’ve used previously, in oil paint sets and the like) and N appreciates and has a deep love for art.  So I guess you could say it harkens back to that.  A slight nod to our interests.

Least you think we will use something like Blue, Scarlett, or Violet, let me warn you first, though:

1) This color name is in a different color family than the others we’ve used before. This was important to me even though I found myself, once again, drawn to so many shades of blue, green, and purple and their prettily named variants. I would rather the girls each have their own shade.

Truthfully, I initially had my sights set on Marigold. This satisfied the equation since it is a yellowy-orange color, not one of the named above.  I also like that it had Downton Abbey ties, which is silly, but all of our girls so far, have had a piece of their name featured on the show.  but…

2) N really wanted us to use something that wasn’t so obvious. Since we often explain our girls’ names to people and then have to explain what color their color names actually describe, he wanted this baby to have her own illustrious but inconspicuous name.  He went on a hunt and came up with a short list to present to me (a first for both of us).  One name on there stuck out and long story short, it won.

It satisfies both criteria: different from the other colors we’ve chosen and uncommon enough that we have to tell people what color family it is from. (plus it sounds good with her name, which, of course was our unnamed third criteria).

So there you go.  Another piece of the convoluted puzzle as to how we come up with our babies’ names.  This one a shout-out to dad, who for the first time ever, both suggested and partially named one of our girls.

-smk

Clue #3

Asparagus Spear me the details

Well surprise, Surprise, we have come upon another month, month seven.  I’m about 31.5 weeks and we are down to the final countdown.  10, 9, 8…single digits from here on out.  It just struck me yesterday that I will only write two more of these.  And that’s IF I make it all the way to my due date (which seems more than likely given my history, but a pregnant girl can hope–for just a few days early, right??)

Baby Surprise is the size of an asparagus stalk (really??) and growing bigger/fatter each day. This is an important season of brain growth and lung development for her, as well as packing on the pounds to be as ready as possible for birth.  She is still not a very active baby, but when she is, it is very noticeable.  Her movements are a lot more forceful now that she’s bigger, and I can also feel the more subtle ones as well.  Standing up has become a new dread, because as soon as I do, all of the pressure from her little body and extra fluid goes right to my bladder.  Not a good time of year to also have a cold, let me just say that.

I do believe she is head down now, based on where I can feel her most forcefully.  Occasionally she goes somewhat diagonal, head pointing to my left hand side, a favorite position for all my babies.

In a moment of candidness the other night, I was attempting to tell MG how I always get a little sad following the close of Christmas and the beginning of a new year. But then I realized that I have one VERY exciting thing to look forward to and it is just around the corner.  Sadness squashed.

This is a great time of year to be large and pregnant because winter has finally arrived and in many ways, I have found it refreshing.  I rarely find myself cold these days (well, indoors), an improbability if you look at my past history.  Skin, as a whole, is covered up and pools are closed so it is easy to hide beneath a large sweater and jeans that feel like pajamas.  There are treats in abundance right now, and seeing as how I passed my second GD test, I am able to enjoy them without counting the cost of every single one. There have been many retellings of the Christmas story, each one a boon to pregnant women and the stirring up of the emotional mirth as it relates to being a mom, having a baby, giving birth.

The only downfall, as I see it, is the sickness going around.  And this year it has been especially bad.  The flu, strep, stomach bugs, and all kinds of mysterious upper respiratory junk is going around and this month alone, we’ve had fevers, coughs, and a terrible amount of mucous.  MG brought it home first and true to form, about a week later, I found myself feeling like I was going to die (or at least wishing someone would come and put me out of my misery).  Ten o-clock at night, after a day of prepping for Christmas activity and talking all day, my throat feeling like cut glass every time I spoke or cough, my voice baritone with congestion, I found myself violently shaking from chills, unable to even sleep for about two hours as this precipitated into a fever.  The fever thankfully, for myself and the baby, only lasted for about 24 hours and never got above 101, but it cost me my extended family Christmas that I was looking forward to and bought me a recovery day on the couch in an empty house.

These mysterious illnesses are always miserable, but imagine having this while you are pregnant, so there are literally no medicines you can take without severe warnings (and potentially harsh consequences), you must continue to monitor your baby throughout, making sure she is kicking around normally, and there are no comfortable positions as you may not recline on your back or stomach so that baby has enough blood flow and room to move.  Misery.

Anyway, the hope is that we will have an iron immune system for the rest of the pregnancy and first precarious months of the baby’s life, and I think we’ve earned it, too, with the amount of stomach bugs, colds, and coughs we faced in 2017.

On the horizon of this month, I see another chiropractor appointment (and because I FELL in a slippery parking lot this month {while holding Sib}, I’m hoping she can correct whatever damage I did in that), bi-weekly doctor appointments, a babymoon for just N and I, a LOT of sewing/prepping (or at least I am hopeful), and gathering the last of the baby items.  Oh, and we still haven’t transitioned Sib up to her new room but we’ve started the process of transforming the room and it feels so good.  January is the longest month of this pregnancy we have left, as February is just a short four weeks and then it’s baby month!

January is also always a purging month and I love to hop aboard that train after filling our house with sweets, Christmas decor, and lots of new toys. We’ve been selling a lot of unused items via Craigslist and marketplace and that is certainly something that scratches the nesting itch for me.  As soon as the Christmas decor came down, I felt an OVERWHELMING need to clean, organize, discard, and prepare. I spent the first few days of the year doing just that and it felt just as good as I imagined it.  I now feel like I can breathe, create, and continue to make way for this baby.  I’ve got my lists and I’m checking them off, twice!

There has been little sleep this month, but lots of rest, with a nearly three week Christmas break and lots of time at home with little sick ones.  Insomnia has plagued me hard, though not in the traditional sense.  If I get woken up in the night (other than to use the bathroom, of course, which still happens with great regularity), a fairly common probability with all the people that live here, it takes me no less than two hours to fall back asleep, sometimes more.

I’ve tried all the tricks in the book, thinking about nothing, thinking about every problem and solving them 100x over, breathing techniques, not looking at any screens or turning on any lights, relaxing, etc.  Frankly, I just lay there, eyes closed, often surprised when I have to visit the restroom throughout the duration, that another hour has passed.  It’s a costly problem to have when you have children hard-wired to wake up at a pre-determined early time every single day, but the only thing I can do to help it is to go to bed early and hope for the best.  So that is the continual plan for now.

Soon those awake hours will not result in a restful, prone position, but rocking and shushing for undetermined amounts of time. So I’ll count my blessings for now and pray that the next two months bring us a lot less sickness and more time enjoying our final moments as a family of five!

-smk

Baby Name Game (Round 4), Clue #1

If you haven’t already, check out our Intro to the Games here, first

It’s time to begin the clues and the first one should come to you with very little, well, surprise:

  1. This baby will have three given names, followed by our last name.

As I said previously, we have a little baby name box that we neatly try to fit all of our girls’ names into (and would-have-been-boys as well).  We didn’t start out thinking we would create our own baby naming guidebook (for ourselves), but after the first two were set just so, we wanted the third and fourth to feel a part of the group too.  Having three names to pick for EACH girl has been a little trying at times (especially towards the end), but also fun as it gives us a little bit more of a creative stretch.

In truth, almost no legal forms have ever asked for our girls’ second middle name; so in the eyes of the law, these names are nearly non-existent. BUT, we enjoy that each of our girls have the same formula to their names, a bond they can share over the years.

When they get married, they will almost certainly drop one, if not both, of their middle names.  But we like that they have the choice in that and which one they will keep going forward.  A theme you will see woven throughout is that we like to give our girls options.  Both N and I ALSO have two middle names as he was given two in the hospital (his parents couldn’t agree in the moment which one to use and therefore decided to go with both).  And I added my maiden name onto my legal name when I got married, in order to match, so technically I have two as well.

We are a family of four-namers, and we like it that way,

-smk

Clue #2

2017 with a bow

It’s the last day of the year and it always comes with a hint of sadness and a bit of reflection for myself.  Another year has been written down, in totality, in our family books.  The girls each added a higher notch on our family growth ruler, celebrated another birthday, and all of us packed in 365 days of life, building lots of memories along the way.

This year was a good one, but I don’t feel AS sad to see to it go as I have some in years past. That being said, it was a great improvement to 2016, and I feel thankful for a year of some reprieve following that one.  Still, it seems too soon that we have gotten to this point, the days flying by much faster than I care for and a big giant pin about to be stuck in the space labeled 2017.  Here we are.

Of course I would be remiss in not mentioning that this year was very big for us in one major way.  We spent half of the year in ignorant bliss about the direction our family was going and then the other half reeling from the shock that we would be adding in another one, later coming to be known as our fourth girl, Baby Surprise. It seems this year had a very clear demarcation to it: the half of the year BEFORE we found out about Baby Surprise and then the half of the year AFTER.  Both good in their own right, just approached AND remembered with different feelings.

That was our biggest news but we also went on two vacations, one long one to Seagrove Beach and the other a mini vacation to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. I’ve come to realize that when we are singing over our (proverbial) champagne about the memories from each year, vacations are always the highlights for me.  So many good feelings surrounding vacations, with memories almost pungent from how real they still feel.  I love the way they force you to slow down, leave behind, take it all in, and somehow, always leave differently.

Besides those two vacations, we also went to Indiana three times this summer and said goodbye to N’s grandpa, Grandpa Joe.  We had lots of visitors, especially this summer, and have carefully crafted our own perfect guide to the city; including where to eat, what to do with/without kids, and what to see along the way.  It’s becoming our home.

We’ve become more established here, in our hometown, and settled into our new normal.  This was the year we declared “our grocery store”, “our church”, “our gym”, & “our pool”.  We poured a lot of love into our home, some of it via physical labor and some of it via digging into our pockets to pay someone else to do the manual labor for us.

The biggest change to our house we made was our floor/kitchen renovation this spring. We even got kicked out and had to go live with my parents for a week+ while the heavy duty work was being done.  Almost a year removed, and I’m still so glad we did it.  A huge improvement from what we moved into and certainly more our style.

When you move into a house that’s 15+ years old, there are bound to be some surprises, and we had a few of those as well.  But when I look around our house, I don’t see any big gaps anymore.  We used to have a non-functional eat-in kitchen because we didn’t have a table that fit there.  This year we gained that, among an array of other things you buy/build/borrow to make everything from your old house transition successfully into your new one.  It’s still hard for me not to look around and see all the things still left to do, though thankfully this is a list left more in my head and not glaringly obvious when you walk in the door.  But such is the case when you live in a house built 15+ years ago: almost everything is due for an update.  The bright side to that is that get to pick these updates to my liking.  But still.  Almost everything is due for an update.  And the way our time and money seem to traditionally work is that not everything gets updated in the same year.

That being said, I hope in 2018, we see a lot less workers in our house.  Between this year and the seemingly endless rolling in and out of the sticky, plastic, carpet-protecting, runner at the schoolhouse, I’m tired of turning over my routine to the schedule of others. It’s especially difficult when you have a nursing/napping babe, and I’ll be getting another one of those in about two months.

My greatest wish for 2018 is that it brings more reprieve and peace.  That sounds like a crazy wish when you are planning to add in another child (a fourth one at that), and maybe it’s a bit idealized.  But there’s a method to my madness.

Though as I said earlier, 2017 wasn’t a rocky year of deep lows, but there are a few negative feelings left over from it.  N was very busy.  I don’t think busier than he’s ever been (that would go to our first year in the schoolhouse when his job was ultra-demanding, he was taking a labor-intensive class for his doctorate, and we were also undergoing renovations on our house), but because the girls are getting older, it felt like more of a sacrifice at times.  Add to that the weariness and sickness of a surprise pregnancy and a super sensitive emotional meter that accompanies each one, and there were many days I barely scraped by with either my nerves, tears, stomach, or mind in tact.  We also got sick a lot this year.  Unusually so for us.

To cap off the year, MG spent a late night in an ER full of fluish, vomiting, and hacking children to be seen for a badly split open chin (all the way to the bone).  Those accidents happen so fast. One minute I was lying on the couch reading a Christmas book to Sib, thinking about how I was going to bed early (*that’s another thing.  I think I went to bed around 9pm for most of this year) and savoring the delight of the older girls running around and acting silly around us.  The next minute, I was throwing on blue jeans and putting boots on my hysterical 7 year old, trying to explain to her that we weren’t going to call an ambulance to come take her away, but we were headed to the hospital right now.

Seven hours and seven stitches later, she was nearly as good as new, but once again, my nerves were left rattled and my mind wondering, when is there going to be peace in our house again? (ironically or not, she broke out in hives from the medicine used to treat the stitches and spent the last days of 2017 with a puffy face and on steroids.  What a month for her!)

Thank goodness for family that lives nearby.  Like my mom coming over to stay at the house so N could join me in the ER and help us keep our sanity after going on hour four.  She finished cutting and baking the sugar cookies for our planned decorating party the next day and cleaned our kitchen while she waited up into the hours to make sure we got home safely.

Just a reminder that we’ve had some rocky moments this year, but each one has come with a safety net.

To finally circle back around, the word that has been haunting me in this time as I reflect back on 2017 and pray forward to 2018 is peace.  I’m not sure if this is a positive peace (like everything is truly going to be okay, even better than imagined) or a negative peace (like this year is going to be turbulent, so find your Peace now and hold onto it for dear life).  But I have been constantly reminded of one of the names of Jesus being the Prince of Peace and also coming to this world to bring peace.  Either way, I’m clinging to that for now, and will continue to meditate on what it means as this year is slowly unveiled.

I also deeply hope that 2018 is a redemptive year for us. I openly wrote about how I felt some of the joy surrounding Sib’s birth and her first year of life was stolen from us via the massive upheaval in our lives that year, her lateness and consequently my induction, and her scary illness.  I had made peace previously with it by saying, well we’ll never have to do any of that ever again. But now that I’m looking down the barrel of another potentially trying but also potentially lovely year, I’m hoping that we get to enjoy, thoroughly enjoy, the fruits of our labor (so to speak), as we add in the final piece to our family puzzle via a sweet, precious newborn (my favorite).

Traditionally, transitions are NOT our sweet spot.  This is something we both laugh over and stew over, a bit anxiously at times.  But this transition is one we have seen coming from a mile away and that has given us a lot of time to prepare for, and talk over, what we want it to look like, to the best of our ability.

And so, with that, 2017 comes to a close.  A fond farewell to you, my friend.  I’m thankful for the growth you brought us, the memories I have made with you, and the closeness I have felt to my family inside your bounds.  But it is time to cast you off and see what your dear sister has for us as we set sail upon her.

And thank you, as always, for finding your way here time after time, Reader.  I will see you on the other side,

-smk

Baby Name Game, Round 4!

Well, here we are!  I’m 31 weeks, which is when I typically start this riveting game*, but I’m still running about a week behind because this is the INTRO into the game, not the first actual clue.  I *do* have a basic outline written for the clues, so it should be easy to pump them out soon, BUT, I’ve been catching up on other projects lately and with the holidays this week, this has not been as big of a priority as I would have liked.

As announced in the title, this is round 4!  Rounds 2 & 3, should be easy to find in the archives and round 1 was only visible to our “lucky” family.  Back when I was pregnant with MG, it started as a series of emails since we did not reveal the name to anyone prior to her birth. I still appreciate a good surprise (for others, not myself!) and I know I’ve said this many times, but just for the sake of fitting it neatly in here, I love the moment of the big reveal of our baby name.  Because we put so much thought into our names and because I feel like our chosen names say something about us, I revel in that moment of the announcement.  Right up until that very moment, I am sealed lips about the name and often have nightmares in which I accidentally tell someone or publish it publicly.  It just wouldn’t be the same to me if it went down that way.

I’ve been a name aficionado since, well about as long as I can remember.  I put a lot of deep thought into the names I gave my dolls and stuffed animals, pets, and then of course girls.  I spent money on baby name books long before we were pregnant and would flip through the pages,circling potential winners (those are pretty funny to look back on now!).  A badge of honor on my chest is that I’ve had multiple friends solicit my naming advice over the years (though in full disclosure, none have actually used any of my suggestions, to my knowledge).  I also have been able to successfully guess a few friends and acquaintances babies’ names prior to their birth (okay, like 3).  Nameberry.com has been my favorite naming website to consult through the years and even though I had given up on the idea of adding another little girl to our family some time ago, I, thankfully, still had a running list of inspirational names that we were able to draw from when we found out about our little surprise.

It is a topic I’ve chatted about, ad nauseam, to many friends, my sister, and my husband.  One of the saddest things about closing this chapter of my life is also not having any more future babies to name.  But because we follow a similar pattern with each of our girls, it has also gotten a little harder each time. And so, for that reason, it took us a little longer than usual to settle on this name. But that is all I will say for now.  The upcoming clues will give you some more peaks behind the scenes.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this isn’t really a game at all.  The clues are specifically designed so that you CAN’T guess the actual name.  Really, this is an anticipation-building (hopefully) activity that can help pass the time for both of us and also give you some insight into the complicated logic of how we choose our dear daughters’ names.

Just a heads up that these clues are going to be very similar to the the rounds posted previously.  Some will be nearly identical, because, well, we have ourselves a little baby name box that we neatly outline each time.  What can we say, we didn’t think we were theme-y people, but look at us now!

After her birth, all will be revealed and I will break down the clues to help explain them further, as well as give you the total meaning behind her name.

That being said, and just to throw some confusion to the plot, there are actually SOME differences this time so I will leave you to read about those in the clues that follow.

Let the pre-gaming ceremonies begin!

-smk

(*”game” is a loose interpretation, depending on how much you enjoy being stumped for 10 weeks of vague “clues”)

Clue #1

Lettuce Have a Baby

Six months have passed with our little surprise and that means we are in the FINAL trimester of the FINAL M pregnancy.  It’s no doubt this has been my quickest pregnancy yet (based on feelings), and though one would think with your fourth pregnancy, especially one of the same gender, one would know what exactly what to expect.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t exactly rung true.  But for now, let’s take a look back on this month.

I am 27 weeks and baby is the size of a head of lettuce (or something like that).  I do know that three weeks ago, she measured a pound and a half (average, so they said), as I had a followup ultrasound to check on the PAC I mentioned last time.

It was my first and only time at an MFM (maternal fetal medicine) and for that I am so grateful.  Those places are a little bleak, with rarely good news coming from them, and I was reminded of an author, one in particular that I have closely followed her story, who received dire news about her baby at that very building a few years ago.  Thankfully, my visit was mostly precautionary, though there was always the chance they could discover something unexpected as they looked at things a little more in depth than my initial anatomy ultrasound.

The tech spent about thirty minutes on me, measuring the normal things again, studying baby’s heartbeat, and then the majority of her time was spent thoroughly looking at her heart.  And I mean THOROUGHLY.   She looked at it from every angle, having me position myself in different ways at times, zooming in on certain spots, and sometimes displaying colors on the screen to show blood flow.  The tone of the exam was a positive one, though she warned me she could not tell me results directly, it seemed to be going well.

Afterward, I met with the doctor on staff (i.e. not my normal OBGYN) who explained that everything came back healthy, from the look and function of her heart to her heartbeat.  There was nothing abnormal discovered in her heartbeat this time!  He said that it’s not uncommon for that to happen either. So I was merrily dismissed and breathed a sigh of relief that we could check this box off on the list of pregnancy anxieties.

The next big surprise this month came in the form of a little clear, 10oz drink.  On the morning of November 17, just a week or so before Thanksgiving,  I went in to take my glucose tolerance test.  Once again, this being my fourth time, I knew the drill.  I protein loaded in the morning and swallowed my drink quickly, met with my doctor in the interim time it took for the hour blood test to be drawn.  I felt fine, all things considered, as I have most of the pregnancy (well especially so in comparison to my previous ones).  I felt a little ill that afternoon (hours after the test), but chalked that up to the combination of the sugary drink and a high carb lunch.  It resolved when I ate a healthy dinner.

So it came as a big surprise when the nurse called me on Monday morning to tell me that I had FAILED!  I wasn’t sure if I should take it as a greater loss that I had failed by 3 points (so close!), or a sign of encouragement (I was so close to the line that I’ll more than likely pass the next test?).

Nevertheless, I was dazed for a few hours from the news.  The three hour test scares me a little (12 hours of fasting, drinking the glucose, then three more hours of blood draws and fasting).  The diagnosis of gestational diabetes scares me even more (greater risks for so many things, including a induction, which I have been DESPERATELY hoping and praying against).  That test comes this week, and since I’ve had some time to process the news, I’ve been able to come to more of a peace about it.  A few personal friends and acquaintances have had GD and while it is a serious diagnosis, thankfully can be mostly managed by a clean diet (and that has a few more benefits to oneself as well).  In the mean time, I have cut way back on carbs and sugar, hoping that baby can remain happy no matter what, and am resolved to my fate, whatever that may be.

I’ve also been preoccupied this month with baby’s position.  The ultrasound revealed she was breech, and though this isn’t anything serious yet as she is still small enough to change frequently, it made me consider what I can do to get and hold her in a good position until birth.  In the past, birth positioning has been a struggle with all three of mine.  For some reason, my body likes to hold them high, fluid level also high, so they do not drop down and become engaged, signaling for labor to begin.  Bea was the only one that I went into labor on my own, and that was with my water breaking first, so who knows if she even intended to come at that point.

Even so, I had my easiest labor with her as she came out correctly and with no back pain on my end.  With the other two, I was induced (by water breaking), and had horrible back pain, specifically in my sacrum (a bone or two above the tailbone, from my understanding).  All three have wanted to come out sunny side up, but only MG succeeded.

Anyway, this had me researching spinning babies (i.e. everyday exercises you can do to help position your baby more ideally for birth) and the Webster technique (i.e. a technique done by a certified chiropractor that aligns your sacrum).  I found a chiropractor who specializes in it and I went to see her today.  It was a good experience, not too unlike my other prenatal chiropractor experiences, but I’m seeing her a bit more preemptively this time.  I’m hoping she can help me avoid this dreadful pain again, and the price will be worth it, if not for peace of mine alone.

One thing she asked me to work on is not crossing my legs.  I am a habitual offender of this (I’m struggling right now as I type not to cross at the knee.  My legs always feel so much happier elevated).  Every time I cross my legs, my hips go out of alignment a bit and with my already loose ligaments, they don’t naturally go back in place right away.  This creates a less than ideal opening for baby to comfortably sink into, and instead could be a reason why my babies stay high, avoiding sharp bones poking them as they attempt descent.  So add this to the list of ways a pregnant woman must make herself uncomfortable, including not sleeping back nor belly, trying to stay on left side as much as possible, never reclining (to keep baby from going spine to spine), and now no crossed legs.  It feels like a lot, but I am determined to do everything, in my power at least, to make this my best labor and delivery yet.

Finally, we were able to tour the hospital where we will (Lord willing), be delivering this baby in roughly 3 months.  The facilities are nice and very accommodating for the natural birth I hope to have again this time.  This being a new hospital for us (4 babies, 3 different hospitals!), there are some things I miss about my last experiences, but also some things this hospital has to offer that my previous ones didn’t.  It’s hard for me to let go of past experiences sometimes, and not let them shape how I think the future will be.  But that’s what I’m working through right now and I love this verse that came up in my Bible app this morning, “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13)

Between all of that, Thanksgiving, MG’s birthday, deal shopping, company, and the like, this has been an eventful month.  I anticipate next month to be similar, if not even more busy. That’s part of what makes the time pass so quickly, but also so thankful for so many good things to celebrate.

As I order another embroidered PBK stocking and sign our names to another annual Christmas card, I think about what Christmas will look like this time next year.  Four girls (!) to trim the tree, curl up and read Christmas books together, open the Advent calendar, circle every last thing in the Target toy catalogue, cut and decorate sugar cookies, and talk about Jesus’s birth.  There is something about the feeling of our family’s circle coming to a close.  It makes the traditions feel more alive and the memories more noteworthy. No more waiting for things to change and no more years of progress with anticipation of regression.  This is the time of our lives.

-smk

Seven

As of this early this morning, around 2:44 Indiana time, we have a newly minted seven year old!

I think I say this every year, but this milestone was a tough one for me.  Just about a week ago, I went to bed thinking about it, my heart already stirred by a tv show we had just finished and my emotions constantly being plucked by the ever controlling pregnancy hormones, and I cried my eyes out. 

I also think there is something particularly poignant about her birthday landing between two, already sentimental, holidays and each year it gets me where it hurts.  Plus, this time last year, my friend Amy was in the hospital, fighting for her life (though I didn’t know it at the time).  We tragically lost her just a few days later.  MG’s birthday will always hold a tinge of bitter remembrance of that time.

After my little crying jag, I was able to move on, focusing on the excitement of the little thrills the day will bring (lunch + treats at school, the Belle birthday cake she carefully picked out, the American Girl doll she doesn’t know she’s getting…).  But there is something about birthdays that cause me to become a little reflective too, sometimes perhaps too much so.

I was thinking about how over Thanksgiving break, she had asked to watch Frozen and my heart fluttered.  It’s been 4 years since that movie came out and about that same length of time since she became completely captivated by princesses.  Though her tastes have since grown with the numbers on the calendar, in a strange way, that movie has defined so much of her childhood.  So many birthdays wishing for a certain princess toy, so many days spent in a princess dress up, so many afternoons spent blaring her princess cd’s at the highest possible volume we allowed her.

Those cd’s have, thankfully, travelled with her from each playroom to the one she currently resides in (though she sees much less of it these days with school claiming 1/2 of her waking hours). And I always know it’s a holiday break when I hear one blasting upstairs and the footfalls of dancing feet; though she rarely attires in costume these days, and is more prone to leotards and ballet tutus.  It makes me happy. She still is a princess lover at heart, even though the heart has grown quite a few times since the first discovery.

But time has quietly slipped by, once again, and without even realizing it, the moments have faded of her requesting a showing of the princesses she used to hold so dear.

It also gave me a small pause when she requested the aforementioned movie, and I suddenly realized I still have a girl (and another on the way), that has never seen Frozen, never perused our extensive dress up closet, never memorized the entire Disney princess lineup, nor danced to the same, tired princess cds over and over.  I’ve been saying lately that when MG and Bea are both in school next year, I will get a second chance at raising them, via their younger sisters.  In many ways, I hope this rings true.  Both with Sib following so closely in line with MG, and the hopes that this next baby takes more so after Bea (just to be fair).

Their childhood was magical, in my memory at least, and I consider it the deepest honor that I get to relive parts of it again.

But the evidence shows that childhood is waning, at least for a certain seven year old.

I’ve found that seven is a tricky age because she is still very much a little girl but inching closer to a bigger one.  She can still squeeze into the last size in toddler clothing, but fits some into the “big kids section” too.  She is obsessed with all things American Girl, but still sleeps with Stella. She still prefers to be read to every night, but is constantly sounding out words that she sees in the world.  She asked shyly to see my phone the other day, using it to record pictures and video, and then felt appalled at the sound of her own voice.  She gives hugs and kisses often, lavishing praise, but also tests more boundaries with her language and tone, trying to figure out what is acceptable and how far (ironically, we are also doing the same).

To that end, she’s been a good first child for us.  Cautious in pushing boundaries, slow to latch onto trends of her more “tuned-in” peers, a deeply helpful and servant heart at her core best.  She’s gone easy on us, thus far, and has made parenting feel like 95% joy. But if that’s the case, why is it that I carry the most regrets about my parenting over her?  It’s not because she has been our charge for the lengthiest amount of time.

I was 26 when I had her, not too young by most standards, but still not fully mature according to science. I learned everything on her.  She was my training ground and the measuring stick I used to pass onto the others.  I’m still the hardest on her, if I’m being honest, and hold her to the highest standards.  I think because she’s a first and I’m a first, it is inevitable we will rub each other more commonly. Me, reading her actions and desperately hoping she doesn’t make the same mistakes I do.  She, always seeking my approval but incapable of fully feeling it.

Thankfully, we haven’t hit too many bumps like that just yet, but it is just under the surface of our relationship, if you sniff around for it.  And so far, she’s been very grace-filled towards my parenting mistakes, though they warn me that I only have about three years of that left to fall back on, if anything can be told by norms.

One quality that I have greatly appreciated in her this year is her tenderness.  She doesn’t make a lot of egregious mistakes, but when she does, she is quick to fix them.  She is fast to mend things with a heartfelt apology and also a little prone to teariness.  Not the kind of crying that puts you off because it is over the top, but a hint of red eye and a glimmer of a tear when she is rueful.  Or is genuinely happy. Or is reminded of the past (she tearily brought up our passed kitty, Birdie, the other night).  She has many endearing firstborn qualities but is not a perfectionist. (something I appreciate because neither am I)

I think she must be bound to be a teacher (though I won’t hold her to it).  She naturally knows what Sibby needs (Bea too) and tends to them, sometimes better and with more patience than myself.  Princess playing has drastically ebbed, and when she has a few minutes to herself after school, she comes home and sets up a classroom of her own.

How can I not love this little creature that is a miniature replica of myself?

She enjoys school, lost her first teeth this year, asked to take the training wheels off her bike, has mastered reading, has learned the basics of piano, memorized Awana verses, has so many theological questions, and begged to accompany me in sewing and baking projects.  She is fun to be around when she is not moody nor too silly (something I find seven year olds particularly good at).  She is good at punchlines and appreciates a good story.  She loves theater and dancing and singing at heart.  She confessed to me the other day that she only wants to be two things when she grows up: beautiful and famous.  But most importantly beautiful.

I’m hesitant to let this year go because it was so good and I crave more time with her, wondering if I savored it enough, parented her correctly, and if the scales of judgment will show that I did right by her in the end.  But move forward we must, and in the hopes that more good and sweet memories, and perhaps a few more showings of Frozen will find their way to us in the next 365 days.

I started this blog when she was one year old, almost exactly.  Six years of her being my muse, though I’ve added in a few more characters since then.  She is nearly too old for me to continue telling her story. Now that she is mastering reading and writing, it is almost time for her take the pen.  Naturally, and purposefully, as she has gotten older, the stories have strayed  from her more and more to both protect her and give her the freedom to grow up on her own terms.

But I am thankful for the six years of stories that she helped me accumulate and look forward to seeing how we unfold the next chapters of her story.  If history has taught us anything, it is bound to be good.

-smk

A page from the M family diary

It’s been a while since I’ve written one like this, a travel story from our family vault.  I don’t know how well these posts fit in with the overall cohesiveness of my blog, but since I don’t keep a journal, I enjoy looking back on these to read later.  So that’s why it’s here.

This trip caught us by surprise.  We only found out, with about two weeks notice, that N would get Veteran’s day off.  And with a baby coming at the end, but not the very end, of the school year, and a job that just started a year ago with a clean slate of vacation/sick days (i.e. very little), we have tried to use them sparingly.

So we jumped at the chance to take a mini-trip, though it almost got spoiled by a rainstorm.  Yes, the Tuesday before we left, I woke up (around 1am #murphyslaw) to an unmistakeable dripping sound coming from our kitchen.  There were at least six spots in our kitchen ceiling where the rainwater was dripping in and pooling onto the floor below (our NEW floor, mind you that we had just laid in March).  N and I worked quickly to mop up and contain the water, puzzled as to why this was happening, especially since there was a bedroom (and not a roof) directly above the most worrisome drip.

Since then, we’ve seemed to diagnose the problem (and will be getting a new roof and ceiling out of it, it seems), but of course the timing couldn’t have been worse and made us question whether we should continue on with our trip plans or just throw in the (soggy) towel.

Thankfully, my dad stepped in and was able to be at our house while we were away, to meet with insurance and roofers, and the like.  We took off across I-40 as soon as we had eaten breakfast and tried not look behind.

Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge was our ultimate destination, with our first stop being a picnic lunch in the Great Smoky Mountains.  The last hour or so of the drive was through a small town and across The Tail of the Dragon, which I later found out is an infamous stretch of road known well to motorcyclists who love the thrill of the twists and turns.

I’m not one who becomes car sick easily, but with babies growing me, I’ve always been a little more prone to feeling it.  Plus it was nearing lunchtime, which for some reason, my pregnant self confuses hunger with nausea, so I was ready to be at our destination and out of the car.  We were just at the entrance of the park when we thought we were turning into it, but instead onto another 15 mile stretch of twists and overlooks into the great park itself, but nowhere to actually breach the interior.

To compound the frustration, our cell phones completely lost service about a mile from the entrance, which meant we had no navigation nor any idea how long this road would be, other than the mile marking signs along the way.  It was just like being back in the 1990’s again, and as bad as I imagined.

Finally, we made it to the end of the parkway and were able to use more signs to guide us, more directly, into the entrance of the park.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a good parking/eating/hiking area immediately, so we kept driving.  We began to see signs for Cade’s Cove picnicking area so we blindly followed along, hoping for the best, at the end of another long and twisted 7 miles.

But we reached the end and it was as if the Heavens opened all at once.  There was a row of picnic tables, evenly spaced, with a nice bathroom (another thing on our wishlist during the last hour of the drive), an ambient stream coursing along a shallow riverbed, and beautiful sunlight streaming through the gorgeous, gilded autumn trees. We had arrived.

We ate lunch and enjoyed the sights and sounds of God’s beautiful handiwork. I don’t think there could be a more ideal picnic spot on the face of the earth.  We could hardly finish our lunch before the girls were begging to play in the stream (though we shooed them away as it was too cold, and possibly dangerous).  Instead, we followed the stream backwards, and uphill, hiking up a short incline and stretching out our car legs.  It couldn’t have been a more beautiful fall day with the leaves’ burnt reds and oranges and beginning to cover the ground.

On our way back down the incline, we saw a pack of wild turkeys, who were completely non-plussed by the sight of us, and continued to scavenge crumbs off the ground while the girls watched in fascination.

Around 4pm, the sun was beginning to arc into its descent and we decided to make our way down and out of the mountains. I’d seen a Sweet Shop at the entrance to the park and had promised the girls a treat on the way to our hotel.  We continued to navigate by signs, with no luck from our phones, and discovered, to our dismay, the shop was closed. We continued to blindly drive, back the way we came, hoping we would see signs for Pigeon Forge or our phones would pick up soon.

About ten minutes later, we began to read hand-lettered signs on the sides of the road, hand-tacked to poles.  It was a shop promising fudge and ice cream and all the delights a Great Smoky Mountain tourist could want. N pulled over the car, finally, in front of a shack with signs promising, “worth the stop”.  We eased the girls inside, only to find no ice cream, old and oddly-wrapped fudge, and a bowl of ring pops for a $1 each.  (MG also discovered a very old looking box of sweetarts with a garage sale sticker of $2 on the lid).  Adorning the shop were also lots of rocks, crystals, and other breakable items, right in the eyesight of Sib.  We quickly backtracked and found our way back to the van where we promised the girls we would find something better than that.

Luck was on our side about 5 minutes later when we passed a very touristy, but still an actual building promising homemade fudge and other delights.  Inside was decorated with Christmas overkill and long, counter height tables with open jars of all kinds of sauces and jellies for customers to sample.  They also had about a dozen barrels filled with assorted, old-fashioned candies, though the girls ended up choosing fudge after a free sample.  A first for them.

Shortly after, our phones finally kicked back into gear and we were able to successfully navigate our way to Pigeon Forge.  Our hotel was located at the end of a long strip of crazy looking museums and dinner theaters.  The girls kept asking if each one was Dollywood, but each time we would say no, and promised it would be better than they could imagine.

We specifically chose our hotel for its promise of a grand, indoor pool and its suite style rooms.  We willingly pay just a little extra for the extra room and when we are traveling with a pack n play and not a great out-of-crib-sleeper, it feels worth every penny to us.

As soon as we got checked in, we had to go to the pool right away.  This one was perfect because it had a 1.5 foot deep pool, shallow enough for Sibby to walk around in, a small splash pad, another shallow pool (only going up to 4 feet), and then two, two story tall water slides that started indoors, went outdoors, and then finished inside in a wading pool.  I immediately wrote off the slides, thinking the girls would be too afraid of them.  They both summed them up and said they weren’t interested. That was fine because we had a lot of swimming to do.

But about 15-20 minutes later, MG made up her mind that she wanted to try it. I thought for sure she would chicken out after getting to the top of the stairs, but instead she launched herself into the very dark tunnel and exited about 6 seconds later. She said it was awesome  and continued to go up and down, over and over again.  Well LB was not going to be left out so she had to try it too.  Once again, I waited for the moment where she would back down gracefully from the stairs, but she flung herself into the tunnel, cheeks full of air, and held her breath the entire way down.  She, too, declared it awesome, and went again and again.

An hour and a half later, we were worn out and ready for dinner.  I’d called ahead to a pizza place and they delivered to our room.  The girls took a warm bath and then devoured their extra-large slices.  N and I strategized breakfast and decided that Paula Deen’s restaurant would be our #1 choice.  He called to ask for reservations, wait times, etc.  They said they stopped serving breakfast at 10:30 and that there was usually never more than a 10 minute wait. Perfect.

Sibby was beyond exhausted at this point, having only caught a short nap in the car (ironically on the 15 mile detour that soured our pre-lunch dispositions).  She willingly went into her pack n play, but when N went back into the room to retrieve something (per my request), she was set off into a fury of tears.  The only thing that would calm her down was to rock her and she quickly fell asleep on me in our darkened room, something she hasn’t done in months but brought me quickly back to her baby days.  It was a sweet moment I savored for about 10 extra minutes before texting N.  We ended up moving her pack n play into the main room and the rest of us into the bedroom as it was past the girls’ bedtimes at home.

We pulled each one into a bed with us and N began telling stories, from our first date to our engagement, to the story of our day that very day.  We had to keep shushing the girls as their giggles got too loud.  It was a sweet moment for me, being with just them for a little bit, a taste of the old days.  Man, do we love our Sib, but she brings down our average a bit, (though it won’t always be that way), and it was nice to have some alone time with the oldest.

We all fell asleep somewhere between 9pm-10pm, and I prayed Sib would successfully make it through the night.

Sadly, my prayers were not answered as I had hoped and the first wakeup began around 1:30am.  Disorientation and diaper changes claimed the next 4 hours of sleep for me, and some for N as well. Thankfully, she did a final four hour stretch until about 9am.  The girls slept that late too, which was awesome, and promised a good start for the day.

We assessed the time and decided to go ahead and pack up our room since checkout was drawing near, then we would go visit Paula.  We also had to buy DW tickets at the front desk, so by the time this was all completed, we were leaving our hotel at 10am.  We rushed over to the restaurant, which was a 15 minute drive.  I hurried inside, asking for our name to be put on the list, but they said the earliest we could get seating was 11am and they would be serving lunch.

With great disappointment, we moved on and began the hunt for another place.  But at this point, it was nearing 10:30 local time, when most restaurants stop serving breakfast and begin transitioning to lunch.  There were a few dedicated breakfast houses, but on a saturday morning, they all had hour long waits.

Finally, we passed another little shack, of sorts, and hoped we would fare better than our shack experience yesterday.  As it turned out, they had a table immediately open for us and served breakfast all day.  We eagerly accepted.

After a smorgasbord of biscuits and gravy, inch thick pancakes, froot loops for Bea, and an omelette for me, we were happy and satisfied.  And it was time for Dollywood to open!  Perfect timing.

And…as this has already grown long and detailed, perfect timing for me to stop here. To be continued…

-smk

October

1) September is waning and with it, summer.  I know autumn officially started last week, but there is usually nothing heralding its entrance, save for the ever darkening evening hours, which always makes me a little sad.

The pool just recently closed, but the temperatures have stayed high.  I, for one, don’t mind them in the eighties, and welcome their presence for as long as possible. My heart says stay but my mind knows that October is just around the corner and with it, 60’s and 70’s, goosebumps, dark suppers, and a reluctance to leave the house past 6pm.

2) And now October is waning.  It was a good month, indeed, with summer-like temps, a pumpkin patch, company, touring through a fabulous parade of homes (twice), and accumulating baby things.  Yesterday was October’s last day, but perhaps its grandest, with sugar rushes and cute little girls dressed up in costumes befitting of their fantasies.  October is a good month to be a parent.

3) November is here now and will bring with it a much anticipated family trip, holidays, holiday prep, shopping, and on the final day, a very important birthday (MG).  Yes, November is probably my favorite month of the year, though I dread the cold and darkness.

But we will make the most of it and the girls will still make their way outside most days to play, while the sun is still high, and enjoy the fresh air while they can.  The good Lord knew and I feel much more at home here in the South where the cold temps don’t begin until December and winter doesn’t linger beyond its welcome.

I feel a little behind the eighth ball having a baby coming in (early) March.  I’m much more suited to May, when I have 5 months after the holidays to nest and prepare for the incoming little one.  But come January 1, we will have more like two months.

Two months to create a big girl room for Sib, take a babymoon, sew some pieces for the newest (I’m definitely behind on this aspect, as with Sibby, I had begun sewing for her around 13 weeks.  This time around, I’ve been more caught up in making things for the older girls), and put the final touches in place for her arrival.

A good friend of mine just had her fourth, a baby girl, this week and it reminded me of the goodness that comes with the new additions.  And how good I hope and desire this to be.  I want to do it all perfectly, from the name, to the announcement, to the coming home outfit.  Though these won’t be important to others, they will be to me.  And they are what I dream about and have focused on, perhaps unnecessarily so, each time.

For some reason, and I know I’ve shared different aspects of this before, I’ve felt a hesitancy with this one.  Maybe it’s because it’s so certain she is my last. And I feel both a paralyzing desire to do it perfectly and also an equally strong desire for it not to end.

Maybe it’s the lack of planning that ushered in her arrival and  I still feel so caught up in the life swirling around me that I’ve been unable to give her her proper due.

If that’s the case, January will certainly be a good time to slow down and focus on finishing this race well, and to my own fantasized standards.

For now, I look outside my window.  It is 1:15pm and both of my two at home are quiet, which allows me a small measure of time to be so as well.  The leaves are surrounding my window, hesitantly turning, but still mostly green and furthermore glued into their proper place.  It doesn’t feel like baby season, not yet.  It feels like the end of October and the beginning of November.  And for now, that is exactly where I want to be.

-smk

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