Friday, November 14, 2014

Breaking Radio Silence!

Hey, everyone!

Just a quick note to let you know that our newest member of the family decided to make a crash entrance on Wednesday (November 12th) - and here SHE is!

Sorry for the blurred picture - we didn't get a lot of pictures this time!! 

That's right, our first girl!

I will try to post my birth story in the next couple of weeks but wanted to let you all know that baby had arrived safely and is doing beautifully.

We are blessed, and we thank the Lord for our newest child and first girl!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Especially for the Introverted Introvert

There are good blog posts out there.

There are really good blog posts out there.

And then there are those blog posts which grab you by the shoulders, slap you across the face, and say, "WAKE UP! I'm talking to you, so PAY ATTENTION!"

This was one of those blog posts.

It is rare that I run across an article that describes exactly, point-for-point, what I am and what I am experiencing, but this one was me to the very core. I saw myself in every word of this post, and it was a blessed relief. Yes, there are people like me out there!

The author writes:
"A highly sensitive person is someone who’s more sensitive to physical and/or emotional stimuli than the general population. They have sensitive nervous systems, are more attuned to subtleties in their surroundings, and are more easily overwhelmed by highly stimulating environments.
"Interacting with people drains introverts; sensory input — sights, smells, sounds, emotional stimulation — drains highly sensitive people. (HSPs are more likely to be introverts, but about 30% of HSPs are extroverts.)
"I’m an HSP to the core. In practice, that means I avoid violent movies, am easily overwhelmed by loud noises and bright lights, need time and space to regroup on busy days, and feel like my head will explode when two people try to talk to me at the same time."
I loved everything she had to say! Her article also answered a lot of questions for me - questions that have driven me nuts for years. Basically, WHY can I not handle so many of the things that other homeschool mothers handle so routinely and so gracefully? (Things like noise, messes, tons of crafts, busy schedules, etc.)

This article answered many questions, and gave me a lot of peace. It's not a matter of "I've got to improve! I need to stop failing!" - but rather a need to honor how God has made me, without trying to force myself into a mold that I will never be able to fit. 

The "survival cheat sheet" in here is pure gold. Definitely check it out!

Read the whole article here

I've printed off the entire article to put in my parenting notebook, and I'll be rereading it often. 


Hat tip to Zsuzsanna for linking to this article! 

* Despite the way I have labelled this post ("Especially for the Introverted Introvert"), the original author notes that 30% of HSPs are, indeed, extroverts. Just an FYI. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Mercy Gilbert Hospital Rocks!

I'll be posting more on local hospitals later, but for now, I just wanted to share the letter that I emailed to Mercy Gilbert after touring their birth center this past week.


Dear Mercy Gilbert Staff,

This past week my husband and I toured the Lund Birth Center at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, and we were extremely impressed with the high quality of your facilities, staff, and services that you offer at the birth center.

 Here are some of the things we love about the maternity care you offer at Mercy Gilbert:

- Welcoming labor doulas, siblings, and birth plans (rather than discouraging all of the above, as many hospitals do)

- Making water labor widely available (and encouraged!)

- Welcoming midwives to your labor staff

- Encouraging mother who want VBAC births and/or unmedicated births, as well as maintaining a low rate of cesarean births

- Your commitment to couplet care and breastfeeding, as well as to non-interference in bonding and rooming-in

- Making labor tools such as birth balls and peanut balls both available and encouraged

- Respecting the rights of parents to make individualized choices for their labor, birth, and newborn health care

- Your lovely (and quiet!) facilities – both within the birth center and throughout the hospital

We have toured several other valley hospitals, and none of them could even come close to the quality of care offered by Mercy Gilbert. We very much thank you for the hard work you have put into creating such a wonderful environment for babies and families. Congratulations also on your upcoming designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital!

 Sincerely Yours,
Diana J.

Week 38 Pregnancy Update

Hello, friends! This will most likely be my last pregnancy update before baby makes an arrival, so here goes!

Pregnancy and Pregnancy Health

All continues to go well with baby (and me!). My midwife has taken to indulging in fits of maniacal giggling when we take my health measurements every week, because this pregnancy has been just so textbook. I'm not complaining!

Our little Flipper has been in a different position at every appointment (transverse posterior, suspected breech, LOP), so I'm hoping to hear that he is in a nice anterior vertex position at our next appointment. Labor is challenge enough without adding in a posterior position!

Yesterday I finally dug out all of our birth supplies and put them in one place together (stuffed behind the bed!), so we are officially "ready" to have this baby... any time. YIKES.

What's Going On Around Here!

Homeschool Field Trip season continues...

Pumpkin Patch!

Fire Station!

Did I mention this? I finished Spring Cleaning! Yes, sometime in late October - it only took me something along the lines of five months to complete. Good grief. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun, but goodness - can I please have a cleaning crew to help me next time? Who knew that one small house could take so much work? And most of the jobs already need to be done again!!

I also learned that I will never again attempt to wash walls. They look ten times worse than they did before!

I have nearly finished up my list of pre-baby to-do items. Many were scratched off into the "forget it, not happening" category, but I did manage quite a bit. Here are a couple of the ones that are left:
  • Get the carpets cleaned (I think I waited too long on this one)
  • Make and freeze baby's birthday cake
  • Email our Christmas letter (we're going virtual for just this year)

Additionally, I have reached that place in pregnancy where my one deepest desire is to have a perfectly clean house. All the time. NOW. As a friend of mine said, "There comes a time in every pregnancy when you think, 'I have not yet vacuumed and mopped the entire house today, and that is NOT OKAY." Amen to that! Unfortunately, I cannot keep the house as clean as I would like - pregnant or no, there is a troop of little mess-makers following me about who make that goal impossible. But I do my best. My emotional well-being is pretty much dependent upon the cleanliness and order of our house, and during the end of pregnancy that relationship is upped astronomically. 

Unfortunately, exhaustion has reared its ugly head, so I am (really!) trying to slow down my pace so that when birth-time does arrive, I can face it with some level of energy.

Finally... our Christmas tree is up! Yes, and our outdoor lights, too! Do we win a prize for the first people in the neighborhood-city-county-state to have Christmas things up?

The 8yo has been begging for Christmas things for weeks (months), so we finally said okay! But honestly, I did want to be done with it before baby comes, so it's just as well.

I have the feeling that there are many more things I wanted to mention, but my brain, dear friends, is toast. So we'll leave it here, and I'll try to remember all of the things I've forgotten for my next update (if there is one!).

Lots of love, dear friends - have a wonderful weekend! 

Entranced watching the new house being built across the street. We need one of these every year - just to keep the toddler occupied! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Encouragement for Mamas in the Trenches

Last week, a fellow blogger (Wendy at Contentment Acres) wrote an excellent and very encouraging post, and I wanted to share it with you!

In this article, Wendy writes as a mother who has "reached the other side," sharing her perspective of having finished the very-young-children stage of her life.

Sometimes it seems as if this stage of life will never end (and more importantly, will kill me before it does), so it was awesome to hear her long-term perspective.

She writes:
"I have beautiful scars that tell the story of a girl who followed where the Lord lead and learned incredible things she can now use for His glory. God not only knew what He was doing He was giving me what I had prayed years for: a broader witness for Him! My story of hyperemesis gravidarum and pregnancy losses has been around the world. So many people from different countries have read the story that I have lost count! I have made so many friends through it. My relationship with the Lord has deepened. I couldn't see where He was leading at the beginning. Now I see! The path less traveled has views few get to experience! If you are convicted God is leading you to do something, and it is in line with Scripture as a whole, I encourage you to run, not walk, and don't look back.
"On a side note, I wonder how many prayers we think go unanswered simply because we will not follow where He leads because it looks scary or embarrassing or might cause us emotional and physical pain or insult our sense of pride or cost us something in some way? We get so greedy and expect things to be easy. We forget God requires much of us and that this life is likened to running a long distance race."
And then:
"I am going to miss having babies. 
"I am going to miss feeling my babies move inside of me and knowing that God is doing something miraculous right inside of my body.
"I am going to miss my family taking joy in those first movements and talking through my belly to our "wee one" with prayers and songs and sweet messages of love.
"I am going to miss my husband's tears, special look my way, and deep gratitude at the gift of a new child. He has never worn the same expression at any other moment as when he was holding one of our children for the first time."
Read the rest here.

Though this article is geared specifically toward mothers who struggle with hyperemesis gravidarum, it is widely applicable to every mother. Check it out, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Week 36 Pregnancy Update!

I'd better get on writing this post, considering that we're almost to week 37! Humph. Somehow this pattern seems vaguely familiar.

It's just amazing how the time flies at the end of pregnancy.

And as time is getting short, I find myself with very little time for blogging. Let's move!

Pregnancy and Pregnancy Health Update

Nausea levels: Anywhere from "comfortable" to "ick" - depending on how tired I am, the time of the day, and how much sugar I've cheated into my diet. Ahem. It's hard not to cheat - considering that my cheat time (over at the end of the year) is running down before my very eyes, even if sugar does still make me sick. Excuse me while I go and get a cookie, and then we all can listen to me complain about how crummy I feel afterwards.

Pregnancy Measurements: Both baby and I continue in all standard measurements to be absolutely 100% standard. Last night, my midwife said, "You are having a textbook pregnancy!" And that's the word I've used repeatedly to describe this pregnancy: textbook. Every measurement (FH, FHT, BP, etc.) has been exactly spot on.

Baby Names: We finally have baby names! (Did I already mention this?) Don't worry, they'll change. But at least we're somewhat prepared.

Home Visit: Two weeks ago our birth team (midwife, student midwife, doula) came over for our home visit - always so much fun.

Birth Supplies: All of our birth supplies are prepared, purchased, washed, etc., and ready to go. Now we just have to dig them out of all of the corners where I've stored them and put them in a centralized location. We'll do that within the next week or two.

Pregnancy in General: This last week has seen incredible changes in how I'm feeling. My energy is fading fast, mobility is growing increasingly difficult, and I sometimes wonder if my body is simply going to fall apart before the baby makes it out. I'm overdosing on relaxin hormone over here, for sure! My Braxton-Hicks contractions have also turned nasty, which has made me wonder if baby might arrive earlier rather than later (a sure sign that we'll go late).

What's-Going-On-Around-Here Update

Homeschool Field Trip Season is in full gear! Here are a few of our latest outings:

The historical Rosson House in Phoenix:

Doing period chores. Why don't they work so eagerly at home? 

Playing period games. 

Vertuccio Farms in Gilbert:

Local Alpaca Farm - Pictures coming soon!

Homeschool Lessons: We are soldiering ahead, though I am finding it increasingly difficult to do so or to find the motivation to do so. But my iron-clad rule continues: Math gets done OR ELSE. Another major focus right now is chores, which continues to be a major headache. However, I am forcing myself to stay faithful on this issue because I know how important it is. More on that later (if I have time for it, which I probably won't).

Before Baby To-Do List: A good number of my items have been transferred to the "forget about it" list. For items that I still want to get done (and have a reasonable hope of doing so), I'm doing my best to work on one "office" task (letter-writing, emails, etc.) and one cleaning/prepping task (cleaning out freezers, etc.) per day. Are they getting done? Well, yes. Slowly. Sometimes.

My goal is to complete major projects by the 38 week mark (something like 12 days away) and then focus on slowing down and maintaining while we wait for baby. Actually, I'm ready for that phase right now, but I have too many projects that I don't feel comfortable abandoning. We'll see!

Lepkuchen Day: We celebrated our annual lepkuchen-making Christmas open house this past Saturday, a full month earlier than normal! It was exhausting, but we still had a lot of fun baking our traditional cookies and getting to see friends and neighbors. We passed cookies and Christmas letters out to all of our neighbors, and that will be the extent of our Christmas baking (except perhaps for some sugar cookies for the family to decorate).

I'm sure there's more, but I think I'd better finish here! I will do my best to check in at least one more time before baby makes his debut. I also have other blog topics that I'd love to post, so we'll see how that goes. (It probably won't.)

In the meantime, have a lovely weekend, dear friends!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Halfway Through Our Homeschool Year! (And Reflections Thereupon)

As of last Friday, we are halfway through our homeschool year. We're finishing up our one-week break now, and next week we'll start one more six-week term before baby arrives. If baby can conveniently arrive four days late, we'll finish the term perfectly!

Having reached our halfway point, I've had some time to reflect on what I've learned this year. Most of it has been quite surprising.

Last year, I was the PERFECT HOMESCHOOL MOMMY. In other words, we did everything. School, crafts, science experiments, fun projects, field trips, park days, academic extras - everything. Every week. Period.

At the time, I didn't realize it, but I had put my self on the high road to homeschool burnout. I was determined to be the perfect homeschool mom if it killed me.

And it nearly killed me.

Ditto with holiday overkill.

I didn't realize how badly I had burned out until summer break came and I found myself increasingly disinclined to start up again. Ever.

You'd think I would have been more careful, because I've seen what burnout looks like - and it's ugly. I don't ever want to go fully into that land. But I was well on my way.

The main lesson learned was that I need to guard myself from following other homeschool moms out of envy, guilt, or anything else. I need to focus on the Lord's will for OUR homeschool and follow that. Otherwise, I'm just going to hit the road to burnout again... and again... and again.

If last year was "The Year of Really Over-Doing It," this year is "The Year of Recovery."

I'm recovering from... homeschool burnout.

I spent a good bit of this year recovering from... morning sickness.

I will spend the last third of the year recovering from... childbirth and having a newborn in the house again.

But the main recovery of this year is definitely the burnout issue.

This year, I have felt extremely disinclined to do any of the extras. Recipes, crafts, science experiments, etc. - all of those have gone from weekly to rare. I simply cannot garner any enthusiasm for them! Part of that may be morning sickness and pregnancy fatigue, of course, but I think that a lot of it is still residual burnout from my perfectionist drive last year.

I'm still praying and thinking about what I need to do to maintain a workable long term solution to avoiding homeschool burnout. I know that I need to scale back. I know that I need to respect my own needs (like my need for a clean house). I know that I need to pray more, and to seek the Lord's will for our homeschool (as mentioned above). But finding that perfect balance between my natural inclination (meaning no crafts again, ever) and the perfect-homeschool-mother bit (all extras all the time! more! more! more!) is going to take some serious time.

Additionally, I have found that this year has not been as much about academics as it was last year. For the most part, second grade has been a continuation of first grade. Aside from changing our math curriculum, there haven't been too many changes. (Next year, when we add grammar and spelling, will be a whole different critter.) And in many ways, I haven't been too worried about academics this year. (Except for our son's handwriting, which is so atrocious that we might as well have him apply to medical school now.)

This year has focused on slightly different areas:

  • Organization
    • I'm learning to keep simpler homeschool records that will be sustainable when we add more students. 
    • I'm re-learning how to plan meals. 
    • I'm working on chore charts. 
    • I'm organizing my cleaning methods. 
  • Behavior
    • We're working on obedience with the 2yo and attitude issues with the 8yo. 
    • We're working on consistent discipline (which is so incredibly hard!).
    • We're tackling the issue of picky eating and table manners. 
    • We're working on family dynamics and on creating a peaceful home.
  • Character
    • We're working big-time on the issue of diligence, primarily through the medium of chores. This has been so much more work than I thought it would be, but I am soldiering through the challenges. If I don't fall over dead before we work through those challenges, I'll post about the whole thing sometime. Don't count on it any time soon. 

From the past two years, I can see one thing very clearly: Every year will carry its own challenges, and each year will be very, very different from each other year. There's no such thing as simply saying, "We homeschool." It's more a matter of, "Our first year was the year that went smoothly. Our second year was when we dealt with sibling bickering. Our third year was when Mama was on bed rest." And etc. As in parenting and family life in general, each year and each season will have its own strengths, its own weaknesses, and its own challenges. 

While that's rather intimidating, I'm very grateful that the Lord is always in control and is working with our family on the areas with which we need help and improvement. I'm praying that we will always be headed in a more mature and godly direction - as opposed to moving backward! (Though that's probably inevitable, at least occasionally!) 

I'm planning on keeping the rest of the year low-key. After baby arrives we will necessarily have to scale back on any unnecessary extras, and the few months following will depend primarily on baby's temperament!

One change I have made recently is to re-think our afternoon reading time (science, history, literature). Over the past few months, I had noticed with some alarm that our 8yo had gone from "Yay! Reading time!" to "Mommy, do we haaaaave to?" After thinking about it, I realized that my selections of reading material had transitioned from "fun stuff" - good-quality fiction and science/history readers - to incredibly boring factual books (i.e. "Let's read all about the culture and socioeconomics of Peru," etc.). I am currently working on bringing our reading time back to books that give us joy rather than books that are deadly dull to both of us. 

I am also in prayer and thought over several issues that must be decided before summer break. These include:
  • Will we start either Spanish or piano for the 8yo next year?
  • Which language arts program will we select for the 8yo? And do we want to do a package curriculum (all language arts subjects included) or separate curricula by subject (i.e. spelling, grammar, etc.)?
  • Will we continue to use the same method for history and science?
  • And finally, how are we ever going to get this child writing more easily?
Lots to think about, lots to pray about, lots to do. 

This hasn't been a thrilling year, so far, but it's been an interesting one - and I've learned many things that will hopefully bless our home in future years. 

I'd love to hear from you, dear friends! Have you dealt with any of the same issues? How did you deal with them?

Have a lovely week, my friends! 

I'll leave you with a picture that demonstrates exactly why it is so difficult to home educate with a toddler in the house!

My husband was laughing hysterically but still managed to grab his phone. This is one of those pictures we'll save to show his future wife!