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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Help Wanted

Dear friends,

I am in need of both prayers and assistance.  I am now in the 27th week of this pregnancy, and as I have mentioned before on this blog, I am having all kinds of problems with varicose veins.  I developed vulval varicocities (vaginal varicose veins) toward the end of the first trimester, and now they are spreading down my legs.  The vaginal veins are absolutely unbearable, shooting pains and intense aching all the time, and my legs are so bad that I’m having a really hard time walking.  I’m wearing 2 kinds of supporters daily, but my doctor says that pretty much all that I can keep the veins from getting worse (and oh my goodness, I cannot even image what “worse” would feel like!) is to be on bedrest.  Of course, all of this adds up to mean that I am not really capable of taking care of my kids right now (nor will I be for the next 13 weeks).

First of all, I need prayers.  Prayers for my physical pain, and prayers for my emotional state.  I just feel so absolutely helpless and frustrated, lying in bed or on the couch and watching someone else take care of my precious children.  I’m sure that all you other mommies out there can understand how much I want to be doing that myself.  (Plus, I’m sure that all the crazy pregnancy hormones in my body aren’t really making my emotional reactions any better….)

Secondly, I’m looking for help.  As you may remember, I babysit an incredibly sweet 4-month-old, so there’s her to consider in addition to my own kids.  In the short term, I am trying to cobble together a schedule of friends and family to come over and help me during the day.  If you or anyone you know and trust would have a day available and be willing to help out with the kids, please let me know—I would be incredibly grateful!  I somehow need to find enough people to cover the undetermined amount of days until we can reach a more permanent solution.

Long-term, the friend that I babysit for and I are looking to hire a babysitter/nanny to watch all 4 kids (her 1 and my 3, while she works and I’m on bedrest).  If you know of anyone in the Lafayette area who would be interested in a full-time babysitting/nannying job, please put them in touch with me.  We’d like to find someone to start as soon as possible.

Since we moved here less than a year ago, we don’t know a ton in the area (other than those who work with Ben and are on essentially the same schedule as him), so we’re really not even sure where to start in finding the help we need.  Any prayers, help, or advice would be hugely appreciated!

Thank you, friends.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

27 Weeks

27 weeks.  The third trimester.  Hallelujah.

Let me point out a few things about the picture above to you, in case you didn't notice them on first glance.  First, I am huge.  This is perhaps not surprising, as I have been immense with all of my previous pregnancies as well.  When I was pregnant with Bryn, random people accosted me all the time to ask when "the twins" were due.  When the school year started in August, a teacher who actually had twins of her own took one look at me and said, "Whoa, when are you due--today or yesterday??"  Um, not til November.... another 2 1/2 months, thanks.  And so it has gone with each pregnancy, and this one is no exception.  Well-meaning friends and acquaintances look at me and assume that I'm due in April.  When I correct them and say, "No, not til June...", their eyes widen and they unconsciously take a few steps back.  Scary, I know.  Yet in every pregnancy, whenever the OB measures my gigantic belly, they reassure me that it is right on track for whatever week of the pregnancy I'm currently in.  So I think the actual reason that I get huge is because I have a really short torso.  I mean, I'm short in general--only 5'2".  But my torso is especially short (which causes problems when buying clothes), so my babies really have nowhere to go but straight out.  Hello, gigantic belly.

Another thing to notice: This baby is carrying really high.  I thought that boys were supposed to carry low and girls were supposed to carry high?  Or at least that's what many, many random women told me during both my pregnancies with Bryn and Shay.  Both of them carried extremely low, which caused the aforementioned random women to stop me in public and congratulate me on my "baby boy."  When I would correct them, saying, "No, actually, it's a girl," they gave me incredulous looks and told me that they were certain the doctor had gotten the ultrasound wrong because, after all, girls never carry so low.  (This led to many middle-of-the-night panic attacks on my part as my due dates approached and I wondered if maybe I was about to birth a boy instead.... but no, both of them really were girls.)  So my girls were low and now my boy is high.  Huh.  Apparently my body does it backwards.  Which is fine by me, since the lower this kid gets, the more he presses down on my varicose veins, and OUCH.

Which brings me to point #3 about this picture: my super-sexy compression hose.  They actually don't show up as well as I was expecting in the photo, which is somewhat of a relief.  I now have to wear these awful compression hose every day.  They can't repair the damage that has already been done to my veins, but they might possibly be able to prevent the veins spreading.  These are the same orthopedic hose that little old ladies wear, and they are pretty hideous.  In order to hold in the veins, they are incredibly tight.  It takes me about 10 minute to struggle into them every morning, and then it feels like my entire leg is in a tourniquet.  They also tend to bunch around my ankles and my knees, which really adds to the overall super-sexy effect.  While I am very grateful for the current run of beautiful weather, the sunshine and warmer temperatures have already left me sweating heavily inside the skintight hose, so I can only image what it will feel like in, say, May or June.

And that's not all.  What you cannot see in the picture (or hopefully in real life) is that over the hose, I also have to wear a V2 supporter.  These hideous torture devices are made specifically for women with "vulval varicosities" (read: vaginal varicose veins) and are pretty close to the female equivalent of a jock strap.  It is incredibly tight and incredibly uncomfortable and leaves huge welts on my skin where the straps cut.  But I do have to admit that it makes the vaginal veins slightly more bearable.

Next, my ensemble.  Thanks to the V2 supporter (which I have to wear over a pair of shorts, to keep the straps from slicing too deeply into my skin) and the compression hose (which are incredibly hot and itchy), I already have many layers on bottom before I even start to think about my clothes for the day.  (Side note: you know how pregnant women have to go to the bathroom like every half hour?  It takes me at least 10 minutes to get in and out of all these layers each time I go.  I feel like I spend my whole life in the bathroom.)  Combine all of that with my aforementioned hugeness, and I'm having a very hard time finding clothes that fit over both my gigantic belly and all my bottom layers.  So for the time being, I am wearing dresses every single day.  The fabric is relatively comfortable over my belly, and they don't add another layer of heat to the bottom.  But since I previously wore dresses maybe once a month (and that's a generous estimate), this is taking some getting used to, for both me and friends who do double-takes when they see me.  Oh, and dresses really show off the super-sexy support hose to their fullest advantage.

When considering my ensemble, we also have to look at my shoes.  Obviously flip-flops are out, thanks to the support hose.  In fact, anything open-toed is out, since the hose have awesome dark thick tips on the toes and heels.  Also, I cannot wear anything that requires tying or positioning in any way, since I can barely reach my feet.  Which leaves me with these awesome old-man house-slipper type shoes that I found on clearance at Walmart.  Oh, the classiness.

I am also no longer wearing my wedding ring, because my fingers are too swollen to fit it on.  (In case you're wondering, my ankles are also quite large.)

The above picture was taken on the day that I did my glucose test (and the site of my needle prick then bled through the bandaid).  Thankfully, I passed the glucose test--no gestational diabetes for me!  On the down side, the test revealed that I am severely anemic.  The nurse suggested that I start taking a daily iron supplement.... and when I told her that I already do that, she was rather flumoxed and suggested that I now take it up to 2 a day.  The same blood test also revealed that my TSH (thyroid hormone) is also out of whack (again) and led to another adjustment in my dosage, meaning that I am now on more synthroid than I have ever been before.

So all in all, I'm kind of a mess.  Particularly considering that my OB wants me on bedrest because of the veins (which I will post about later).  BUT, the really important thing is that no matter what goes wrong with me, I am thrilled to report that this baby is 100% healthy.  He's growing exactly like he should, with a nice strong heartbeat.  So while I'm definitely ready for all of these medical problems to go away, I'm aiming to hang on for another 13 weeks and have a healthy, safe, perfect little baby.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book #7 of 2012: The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer is the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, written by Patrick Ness.  The first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, was good but took me a while to get into.  But with this one, I was hooked from the moment I picked it up.... which is why I finished it in just a few days (days during which I was also on a busy out-of-town trip with my daughters), in spite of the fact that those 3 books I mentioned for Academic Super Bowl are still hanging over my head (guilt guilt guilt).

In The Ask and the Answer, the narration switches back and forth between Todd (the hero and narrator of the previous book) and Viola (the dauntless and inspiring settler from Old World).  These changes in narration drew me in immediately.  I spent pretty much all of the first book wondering what Viola was thinking, and finally, I got to find out.... and I have to say that I found her every bit as brave, strong, and inspiring as I had hoped.  Two books into the trilogy, I'm still just not sure what I think of Todd.  On one hand, he tries really hard and has the best of intentions.  On the other, dang, that guy makes bad choices.  So I'm reserving judgment on Todd until I finish the third book, where I sincerely hope he redeems himself for his poor choice at the end of this book.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself.  As the book begins, the evil Mayor Prentiss has captured all of New World with his army and has set himself up of the President of the entire world (though really, there are probably only about 1000 people on this planet, all of whom now live closely under his surveillance in New Prentisstown).  A mortally wounded Viola has disappeared, and Todd is held prisoner by the Mayor/President.  The President tells Todd that he has big plans for a boy with so much potential, but Todd's sole motivation is keeping Viola safe and finding her again.

The President sets up a dictatorial regime.  All the women on New World are moved to living quarters separate from the men.  All men are recruited to the President's army or put to work in other jobs that he deems useful.  All of the Spackle (the aliens native to New World) are rounded up like sheep and forced to do manual labor while being guarded by armed men.  And anyone that the President thinks might have useful information is tortured until they bend to his will.

Over time, Todd himself is slowly beaten into submission.  He struggles to maintain his own humanity as the President assigns him more and more horrific tasks, with his own life and Viola's always hanging in the balance.

Viola, meanwhile, was taken at the beginning of the book to Mistress Coyle, the most skilled healer on New World.... and, coincidentally, a woman with both power and a plan to overthrow President Prentiss.  The President's original hope was to manipulate Viola into becoming his informant, but she refuses to become anyone's pawn.  Mistress Coyle and all of her cohorts disappear from New Prentisstown, hiding in the wild and beginning a movement known as the Answer.  The Answer raids New Prentisstown for supplies and bombs various strategic locations around the city, creating chaos.  Eventually, Viola is taken by the Answer against her will.

Both President Prentiss and Mistress Coyle recognize the sheer will and potential in their young prisoners, and both seek to turn Todd and Viola to their own purposes.  Both Todd and Viola recognize the evil and power-hungry natures of both leaders and struggle to determine which side is "right" when both have inflicted so much pain and suffering on the people of New World.  Both are used against their wills to achieve horrible things, and both wonder if they have lost each other forever.

In many ways, this book reminded me of Mockingjay (the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy), in its stress on the horrors of war and the corruption of both alternatives for a leader.  But whereas I thought that Mockingjay was the weak link in its trilogy, The Ask and the Answer was definitely better than the first book in this trilogy.  The book ends in yet another cliffhanger, with the armies of President Prentiss and Mistress Coyle poised to attack each other, two more forces appearing unexpectedly and ready to annhilate both sides, and Todd and Viola separated, contemplating leadership, and struggling to find what's right.

One thing that I really loved about this book was the repetition of the idea that "we are the choices we make."  While things might have been easier for Todd many times over if he had just killed the President during one of his many opportunities, he acknowledges that taking a life would change the essence of who he is.  Another great character was Corrine, the young healer who refused to take either side in the conflict, opting to take suffering on herself rather than allowing others to come to harm.

My friend Katie over at YA Book Love says that the third book (Monsters of Men) is the best of them all, so I'm anxious to get to the library and check it out.  Having finished the second book, I now want to go back and strengthen my recommendation for the first one, since this trilogy clearly functions as a whole and it just keeps getting better!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

February in Review

Time (or past time...) for the monthly check-in on those 2012 goals:

1. Read the equivalent of a book a week.
I'm lagging sadly behind in this area.  I've only read 6 books so far this year, and since there have been 9 weeks in the year thus far, I really need to get moving.  Shameful, really, when I have a bookself full of ones I'm dying to read and an even longer list besides.  My problem is that I'm coaching the English Academic Super Bowl team at the local high school, so I've been working my way through three lengthy non-fiction pieces about the Revolutionary War to prepare for that.  Definitely not my usual style, and very slow going.  And I feel like I can't justify picking up a "pleasure reading" book until I'm done with all of those, so I've kind of reached an impasse.

2. Blog regularly.
Only six posts in February, and this is my second in March.  I would not call that "regularly."  I know I've also been bad about posting regular family updates (which was actually the point of starting this blog in the first place), so I need to get better about that.

3. Monitor my own health; stay get healthy; keep this baby healthy.
I am thrilled to report that the migraine preventative that my neurologist started me on last month has worked wonders.  I'm down to probably one migraine a week, which is what I typically get even when I'm not pregnant (and am on a different preventative).  I've actually liked this preventative really well and have had basically no side effects with it, so I'm thinking seriously about staying on it even after delivering instead of going back on Topomax.  It is rather cost-prohibitive, but for a good medication, we might just have to make it work.
In other (less happy) news, my varicose veins have been spreading.  They are really painful, all the time.  My doctor tells me that I'm supposed to spend as much time as possible sitting and elevating my feet... which is far easier said than done when I have 3 kids of my own and babysit another.  I have to wear a V2 support strap all the time (except when I'm sleeping), which creates all kinds of awkward wardrobing problems.  I also had to get fitted last week for compression hose (like the super-thick kind that little old ladies wear), and once those come in, I'll have to wear them all the time too.  Fingers crossed that the veins will go away after this baby arrives!
In spite of all my pregnancy-related maladies, though, the baby is still competely healthy and growing well, which is the important thing, so I'm willing to deal with just about anything else.

4. Organize photos and memorabilia.
I've managed to sort through (almost) all of our old photos as far back as our digitizing goes (to May of 2003).  I've got them all saved to cds by month and uploaded to Flickr.  Phew!  Feels great to have that done.  Now I just need to go back and do the 3 months that we lost when our old computer died, and then I can start scanning old(er) photos.

5. Get our house into "finished" condition.
In mid-February, Ben and I took an afternoon to figure out where to hang all our picture frames, and then he did the actual nailing.  I painted a second wall of Liam's room, but then my varicose veins prevented me from getting any further on that.  Thankfully, Ben's parents came to visit this past weekend and finished the painting for us!

6. Love, value, and respect my family.
While not "measurable," I hope I'm doing okay on this.  I admit to being a huge grump a lot of days, thanks to headaches, varicose veins, exhaustion, and other fun pregnancy stuff, but even on the "bad" days, I love my family more than anything in the world.

7. Read the whole Bible and spend more time in prayer.
I'm still up-to-date on the chronological reading plan I'm trying this year.  I've fallen behind in the book I'm doing with my Bible study group, though--largely because I've had sick kids for the last 3 weeks and thus haven't been able to make it to study, argh!

8. Be positive.
Again, I'm big with the grumpy lately.  Working on it.  Silly pregnancy hormones!!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

World's Sweetest 2-Year-Old

Ever since Liam was born, he has been the world's sweetest little boy.  He's always been so cuddly, content, and laid-back.  Ben and I used to joke that we should just stop having kids with Liam, since no other child could ever be as sweet and perfect (of course, that joke isn't funny anymore!).  Even as he enters the Terrible Twos and throws the occassional tantrum, I have to admit that compared to the girls at the same age, Liam is a walk in the park.

He loves to read and frequently brings books to all his family members.  He has a huge vocabulary that grows by the day.  While all of my children have been impressive talkers, I would say that Liam takes the prize.  He's determined to keep up with his two big sisters in every way, whether it be learning to count (I heard him to go 18 unprompted the other day!) or scaling the bunkbed ladder to join them on Bryn's top bunk.

At two years old, he's already developed a strong little personality (clearly a "must" to make sure he doesn't get steamrollered in this family).  When he wants to do something himself, he flatly refuses help and keeps on trying until he achieves it.  But he can also be sweet and compliant, like how we simply put him in his crib and turn out the lights at bedtime, and he drifts off peacefully to sleep by himself with minimal complaints.

He loves animals of all kinds.... and living at camp, I really do mean "all kinds"!  He is fascinated by the dogs and cats of the other camp families, and the mini-farm is his favorite attraction.  He adores the chickens and knows the names (and noises) of all the other animals.

With Liam being the first boy after two girls, it's so fun to see him develop his own set of interests.  While it's true that his sisters have occassionally talked him into wearing sparkly princess crowns to join them in dress-up, he's pretty much boy all the way.  His favorites are dinosaurs, cars, and trains.  He also loves music of all kinds.  One of his favorite playthings is the toy guitar he got for Christmas, but given the chance, he prefers to strum on Ben's real guitar.  While I am pleased to report that he doesn't know the name of a single Disney princess, he is quite familiar with the likes of Lightning McQueen and Mater, Mickey Mouse, Woody and Buzz, and Diego.  Other interests include puzzles, blocks, and coloring.

While Liam was previously our voracious eater, trying anything and everything, the arrival of his two-year molars have slowed him down considerably.  His current favorite foods are waffles and yogurt (especially GoGurt), and he would eat them for every meal if he could.  Shay has unfortunately also fostered a sweet tooth in her little brother, and he is rather partial to candy hearts (the kind that are popular at Valentine's Day) and chocolate chip cookies.

He calls both of his big sisters by name (Bryn and Shaylee), and he pronounces his own name as "Limam" (though he does occassinally slip and call himself "Aiden," an identity crisis that will surely only get worse when little brother arrives).  He's utterly in love with the little girl I babysit (Molly, almost 4 months old), and he can often be found cuddling her, kissing her, and telling Mommy that "Baby is cute!"

Here's a few shots of my sweet birthday boy in action...  We love you, Liam!!