Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Week, Briefly (The Baby Came!)

We tried to have school, but I was so unable to focus on anything that I gave up.  I couldn't get myself to make simple assignments.  Even reading aloud left me breathless and exhausted.

We went on an outing on a weirdly warm January day.

I left Dad with the kids at a playground and walked over 4 miles trying to kick labor into gear. 

No luck.

My mental state of being was bad.  It didn't matter what I knew with my rational mind.  I was sleep-deprived, exhausted, unable to breathe, unable to think, unable to laugh or find any sort of perspective.  I felt serious depression/anxiety fluttering around the edges of my brain.  I recognized the signs of needing help because I've been down that road before.  I needed the baby out NOW.

But he didn't come out.

I took the kids to their Explorer's Club meeting.  We all made valentines to be delivered to local Meals on Wheels recipients.  The kids churned out over 100 valentines in a happily productive hour.  I picked the brains of other moms as to how they found the mental fortitude to keep going past their due dates. 

I saw my midwife. 

She asked, "How are you?"

I burst into tears.  "What are my options?" I begged.

She took me very seriously.  "Let's check you out and see what we can do," she said.  Details aside, the safest route was to schedule an induction the next morning.  We did so, and I left the office with the first hope I'd felt in many, many days.

Then my water broke spontaneously that night!

Baby L.0 arrived in the wee hours of the next morning. 

Pictures (at least the ones we take) never do justice to how beautiful a new baby really is.

Though I am an absolute birth story junkie, I find I am reluctant right now to tell the story in detail.  Suffice to say that he is perfect, and the rest of us are as happy as can be.  All of the dark thoughts that plagued me are gone.  My heart and spirit are as light and joyful as possible.

The rest of the week spun by as L.0 and I rested quietly in the hospital while Dad and the rest of the kids had adventures together.

There is always a line of kids wanting a turn to hold the little fellow.  Kisses, coos, and smiles are the order of the day right now. 

So we'll "let the baby be the lesson" for a while.

We'll discuss school another day.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#18)

This week will forever be remembered in our house as the week the baby didn't come.

During the week the older girls did the barest of basics for school each day:  personal scripture study, reading journals, and math.  The little guys were free to immerse themselves in creative play . . . and they reveled in it.

 Every day (except Monday) we went on some sort of outing to keep me from going crazy--I've never been pregnant so long before!

Over the weekend Dad, S12, and I fell victim to the stomach bug the rest of the family had last week.  So on Monday we recuperated.  I had irregular contractions all day.  The littles were busy, busy, busy playing, but I wasn't really tuned in to what they were doing.  At one point as I passed the dining room I noticed a puppet show going on:

I was intrigued, so I stepped into the room to get a better shot, and I discovered that they'd spent the morning creating "Fun Land."

"Pupit" theater.

Animal play area

Reading area

Trains and peg building areas

Cars area

I Spy

Spirographs and supplies

Doll play area

Self-serve ticket booth
 It was lunch time when I made my discovery, so immediately after lunch, the whole family went to Fun Land for an hour or so.

It became a day that I was really glad "regular school" didn't get in the way of real learning and family together time.

Tuesday:  We spent Grandma's Christmas money on going out to dinner and a movie as a family.  We also visited our new cousin--who was due to be born the same day as our baby.  She's perfect and beautiful. 

Wednesday:  Dad and I went to the temple.  We set the goal of attending the temple once each month this year, so even though I was having contractions and insane hot flashes, off we went--hoping that I'd be in proper labor by the time the session was over.  We attracted much attention from keen-eyed older women who could tell something was up, but we arrived home not any different from when we started.

We also went for my weekly appointment with my midwife who, based on the whopper of a contraction I had while she was measuring me, checked my dilation and discovered that at 39+ weeks I'm sitting at 2 cm and 80% effaced.  This is horrifying for me because I've never once before been less than 4 cm by 36 weeks.  As it has taken me at least 2 weeks to go from 4 to delivery for all 5 of my previous deliveries, I'm discouraged and terrified that I'm going to be pregnant for another month or more. 

This pregnancy and birth is quite different from what I'm used to, and I have no idea what to expect at all in the coming days.  It will be an all new learning experience.

And this is officially my longest pregnancy ever.  Will it end?

I drowned my fears in helping the little girls sew stuffed dolls with their Christmas sewing kits:

Thursday:  We drove to IKEA to walk and walk and walk.  It was fun, and the kids found some treasures, and Dad and I found some items to put on our wish list, but all it did was tire me out.

In the afternoon, while the older girls did some school work, I cleaned out the van, rearranged the car seats and booster seats we currently use, and installed the baby's car seat.  This is not because baby seems to be coming any time soon, but because I3 needs time to get used to his new place in the van before baby's arrival.

The little guys spent hours and hours enjoying the box the car seat came in:

Friday:  We went to the zoo.  We walked the whole thing.  My belly hurt, but the pain was not caused by proper contractions.

Saturday:  During the night A7 woke crying and coughing with terrifying stridor.  It took a good half hour to get her breathing comfortably again, during which time I debated and tried to work out the logistics of getting her to the ER.  Eventually our efforts at home worked, and she slept with me the rest of the night (Dad was at work) with a humidifier running.  This morning I can hear that I3 has a hoarse voice, H5 is coughing intermittently, A7 says her throat hurts, and I'm feeling exceptionally watchful.

I think I'm glad baby isn't here to catch whatever it is the other kids have right now.  The only question is, will he try to come when I'm dealing with multiple kids with breathing issues all while Dad is at work?

E14 gets to attend her first Cinderella Ball--a church-sponsored formal dance/seminary devotional.  She's got a gorgeous gown to wear, and one of the other teen girls is having a big pre-ball make-up/hair/dressing party at her house this afternoon, then her parents are going to take all of the girls to and from the dance together. 

I hope the whole night is magical for her.

It is hard for me to call this week 18 of school, as it doesn't seem much like a school week, but we did a whole lot of life learning, so I will let the title rest.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On Back-To-School Interviews

image credit

A reader asked me about our back-to-school interviews. 

Honestly, they're so simple that it's never occurred to me to write about how we do them.  But here goes. :)

We have these interviews because my older kids work almost completely independently these days.  They just pick up their crates of school stuff, go to work, hand their crates back to me for me to check stuff, and repeat the next day.  I can completely lose touch with what's on the kids' minds if I don't make a concerted effort to listen.  They will often offer their opinions about their work as they do it, but I might not be actively listening if they're complaining while I'm in the middle of a reading lesson with H5 or making dinner before Dad goes to work.  The interviews give me a chance to focus on one kid at a time and take their opinions seriously. 

Mid-year Interviews:
After any break from school I sit down individually with each kid and her (so far they're all "her"--our only "he" is too young for this tradition so far) crate of school stuff.  I make sure I have a notebook and something to write with.  After writing the child's name at the top of the page, we start going through her books.  I ask questions like:

*Where did you leave off before the break?
*What's good about this?  Why?/Why not?
*Is anything not good?  Why?/Why not?
*Is there a reason to keep using this?  Why?
*Is there a reason to stop using it?  Why?
*What were your goals the last time we talked?  (It helps if I have the notebook I used the last time we had an interview, but sometimes that notebook has disappeared.  I try to transcribe my notebook scribblings into computer documents, and that helps, too.)
*How have those goals changed?  How are they the same?  Why?
*What should we keep doing? 
*What should we change?

Our interviews are not formal--we just sit on the couch or at the table and talk (M12 just read this over my shoulder and said, "You talk.  The rest of us moan and groan about what we have to do."  Which just goes to show that not everyone has positive feelings about these interviews!).  I don't have a questionnaire that I follow or anything.  We just look over what we have and talk about it.  (I find it hilarious that E14 looked over my shoulder and said, "We had back-to-school interviews?"  "Remember that day I sat on your bed and we went through your school crate, and you told me you wanted to start Latin . . .?" I asked.  "Oh, yeah," she said.  That's how informal these sessions are!)  As the kids talk about what's in front of them, our conversation hopefully also includes some of their wishes and dreams that we might not be currently working on.  I make notes and turn the notes into a plan for the next semester or next month or next season or whatever time period we're facing.

Interviews for a New School Year:
With a few modifications we do the same thing for a new school year . . . right at the end of the old school year.  We pull out the crates of current school stuff, but we also pull out the boxes full of finished work, and we go over what's been accomplished (or not) and figure out how to try to achieve new goals for the new year.  That gives me time to assess what we already own and make decisions about what we ought to purchase. 

As we get close to starting school we do it again--checking to see what's changed in their hearts and minds since we last had formal school days.  There's a limit to what we can and can't do, but they at least get to talk out their hopes and dreams.  They also get to check out whatever new purchases I've made and dig through boxes of supplies and books that I've set aside for their use during the upcoming year.  Usually having a box to go through helps them focus on what we have rather than what we don't have, and they start to be excited to dig in.

Then at the start of a new school year we have our interviews once again, but this time they have a completely different format because we're implementing plans already made rather than putting plans together.  I still meet with each child one-by-one; I still have a notebook and pencil at hand; we still just talk together, but we don't know what's working or not because it's new!  So we look over the books and supplies and get familiar with them.  We discuss what we hope is a doable level of work.  We decide how much and how often school subjects need to be done--with me madly making notes the whole time.

At the end of the interviews I type up their plans, turn them into check-off sheets, give the kids copies of their check-off sheets, and we all go to work.

I hope that answers the question.  :)

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#17)

Monday we started the day with a hearty Dad-breakfast.  He cooked up hash browns, eggs, and sausage patties, then served them all with a gallon of orange juice.  He loves to do it; the kids love to eat it; and I thought it was a fun final-day-of-vacation sort of thing to do.

 After chores and breakfast, we had back-to-school interviews.  I didn't want to do them; I felt overwhelmed and exhausted at the thought of them; I'm glad we did them.  Now, no matter when the baby comes, we've organized ourselves for the semester, and the kids can carry on.

Life goes on a lot the same as it was before the break.

*J11 asked to continue her penmanship lessons even though her penmanship is truly beautiful.  Who am I to say no?

*M12 and S12 dumped their language arts lessons.  We'll look for a substitute sometime later, but for now they're reading and writing daily in various journals, so I'm not worried.

*E14 asked to start Latin (a new subject), and we've dumped our plan to do Apologia Biology in favor of Alpha Omega LifePac Science 9.  I think the Alpha Omega program is less rigorous than Apologia and more approachable (the separate lesson books are less intimidating than a huge textbook) for our girl.  Dad agrees that it is a better fit for her skill/attention/motivation levels at this time in her life.  I priced out the needed supplies, and ordering the complete book set, the experiment DVD, and the experiment kit at was the best priced option I could find.  As she finished Health last semester, this new science class will take its place in her schedule.  It is a year-long course, and I'm not sure how we'll go about timing it, but at least she can get started.  We're also putting away the Calculus Without Tears book for a little while and having her return to fractions work in Math-U-See Epsilon. 

Dad worked on mending the hole in the hallway ceiling that he made with his foot (and body--you should see his bruises) while searching for some missing DVDs on Sunday night.

Sunday night

Tuesday night.

Tuesday was our first day of school after the Christmas break.  It was terribly long (some kids not turning in school work until 5 pm!) and achingly hard.

I3 threw up all morning.

He fell asleep in his chair because his bed was all taken apart so I could wash his bedding. 
 I had a midwife appointment before lunch (baby positioned head down and "very low"--believe me, I feel it)

H5 and A7 had fun doing their school, but the rest of the kids had the same blahs I had.
I was in tears at the dinner table--not a good way to end the school day.

I continue to have contractions off and on all day, but they go away every night.  I'm walking around in a constant fog.

On Wednesday I woke up absolutely unable to face a full day of school.  It's not that the kids make me work all that hard . . . so I'm not really sure why I couldn't face it, but there it was.  I asked Dad if he could handle spending the morning at the art museum with us before he had to head to bed.  He said yes.  So we went.

It was a good morning.

After lunch, the older 4 did the bare minimum for their academics--personal scripture study, math, reading.   Everyone was done by 2:30 pm so we did a walk-at-home video.  I didn't want to get up and walk, but I want this baby born, so I walked.

Then kids did their own thing:

I3 did M12's hair while she read.  H5 amused herself by giving "bunny ears" to everyone.

E14 worked on making adjustments to the strapless (!) formal dress she bought.  It has a long way to go before it passes as modest enough to wear.
 Still no baby.

At least I didn't cry at dinner.

On Thursday we took a sick day--5 vomiting children.

This is A7 falling asleep during story time the night before the bug hit everyone. 
Poor sick kids!
S12 and J11 were the only ones not taken down that day.  S12 wandered around the sleeping, moaning, aching bodies of her siblings and muttered, "I'm bored.  I'm so glad we have a big family.  I'm so glad we don't have just 1 or 2 kids.  I'm bored."

For that, I'm thankful for that sick day.

Something in my body shifted so that walking suddenly became excruciatingly painful.  Walking was my one consolation, my one comfort, in this uncomfortable time.  At least the kids needed me enough to distract me from my despair.

Whoops!  Number 6, J11, was added to our stomach bug casualty list at 9:30 that night.  S12 got a bucket and towel and laid them out next to her bed just in case . . .

Friday was a recovery day.  

S12 is still symptom free.  Isn't it funny how some people resist bugs and others don't? 

Everyone watched 3 episodes of Signing Time this morning.  The older ones pretend to not like it, but I've noticed that if it is on, they can't resist.  I'm calling that school for the day--1.5 hours of foreign language. 

Everyone is quiet--in need of lots of rest and calories after yesterday.  I'm glad to see their appetites back, even if they are tentative.  I've played Uno and Connect 4 with the little guys; the older ones are reading, reading, reading in bed.  The sun is out, but the temperatures are low, and we're just doing what we need to do today.

I can walk again, but I'm having other strange excruciating pains that are not contractions.  I'm weepy, exhausted, and just done.  I'm also having very mild contractions, but they're staying irregular.  I long for them to turn into real labor, but I'm afraid I'm in for an indefinite number of days of waiting.  Though I'm not doing a very good job, I'm working hard at counting my blessings.

On Saturday some of the older girls are scheduled to go visiting some new members of their class at church.  Otherwise we're simply doing chores and getting through another day of waiting.  I'm trying to come up with a fun distraction that will help us (me!) find joy in the day.  I think I'll check the weather forecast to see if it will be warm enough to bundle up and go for a winter hike.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Week, Briefly (Starting a New Year) and Bonus: A Day in the Life--December

 Sunday was the last of the year.  Here's J11 in her special outfit that her sisters helped her coordinate so she could wear her Christmas boots to church.  It was I3's last day in the nursery.  Next week he joins primary--the regular children's organization at church.  It was also M12 and S12's last day in their primary classes.  Next week they will join Sunday School.   Dad was home from work, so he was able to take the older 3 to the youth fireside at the Bishop's house.  It was about the Middle East.  One of the girls in the youth group just moved here this very year from Cairo, Egypt, so she had a lot to offer the discussion.  I grilled my girls about what they learned because I was curious, but they were too focused on the social aspects of being together with the other youth to answer any of my questions.

Monday Dad and I ran some errands after my appointment with my midwife (I'm registered at the hospital and she says that barring some unusual circumstance, she'll be with me when I deliver), not the least of which was using our Christmas money from Grampa C to purchase 2 ceiling fans--one for over the kitchen table and one for the dining room.  Dad got the first fan up that very afternoon, but as daylight waned, A7 helped him out by holding a flashlight for him.

Tuesday we had friends over, the S-- family.  They are our neighbors from our old house.  They attend public school, so we only see them when they are on vacation.  Though I don't have pictures of our friends, the picture above of my kids playing one of our new Christmas games is perfectly representative of our visit--the kids played games and laughed all afternoon.

Wednesday was New Year's Eve, and I had plans to have a present an hour to open just the way we did last year.  I'd scoped out all kinds of fun activities and had a great schedule worked out, but then budget realities hit (guess I spent too much at Christmas!).  I had to let go of my plans and make do with what we had.  But that was a blessing because I was too tired to organize and wrap a dozen boxes.  The kids and I sat at breakfast together and worked out a schedule for the day.

Here's what we came up with:
9:00 am breakfast
9:30 am chores (there are always extra chores to do before celebrating)
10:15 am big girls make brownies/Mom plays games with little kids (we played Uno)
11:00 am do a walk-at-home video
12:00 pm lunch/clean up
1:00 pm make decorations and cut confetti
2:00 pm clean up craft messes and frost/decorate brownies
3:00 pm play games (we played Apples to Apples and New Year's Eve BINGO)
4:00 pm make dinner
5:00 pm  dinner/scriptures/family prayers
6:00 pm do year-end inventory/see Dad off to work
7:00 pm clean kitchen/get ready for bed
7:30 pm kids start movie while Mom takes E14 to church dance
8:30 pm make popcorn
9:00 pm toast the New Year/eat snacks/toss confetti/tuck smaller kids in bed
late night--Mom and older girls play games while waiting for E14 to come home

Making confetti out of colored tinsel left over from last year.

Punching holes so we can string up the flags to make banners.

More confetti!

Cutting out the flags.

Using left over birthday decorations that also became Christmas decorations as New Year's Eve decorations!

Stringing up the flag banners.

E14 entertained I3 all afternoon with this train track and town.

He loved it.

So did the other kids.

I think we vacuumed 6 times that day!  The floor just always seemed to be dirty!

The banners were so pretty and festive.  (They're still up)
We kept our schedule quite well.  The main change to it was that I'd forgotten that one activity on the plan I had to dump was a photo scavenger hunt.  What we did instead was look through our photo files on the computer--every single photo we took in 2014 starting from January 1 and working our way right up to December 30.  Whenever we got ahead of schedule we gathered around the computer.  The kids loved it.  So did I.  

Our biggest laugh was when I3 saw this picture:

It was taken January 2014 when he was still little enough to want to do everything his sisters did.  He LOVED that tutu.  But 2014 was the year he figured out he was a boy and that boys do things differently from girls.  When he saw the photo he exploded, "I'm wearing a DRESS?!?!?!?!?"

This little man got too tired to even finish the movie (Christmas in Connecticut) that the kids were watching, so as soon as I got home from dropping E14 off at the dance I tucked him into bed.   I got the popcorn made just as the movie ended, and the other 5 kids and I toasted the New Year with sparkling cider in Dixie cups.  We ate our yummy brownies, munched on popcorn, and decided we were too tired to dance and toss confetti.  We opted to wait for the next day when E14 would be home and I3 awake to enjoy the activity with us. 

I tucked in the little girls and joined M12, S12, and J10 for what turned out to be a 2 hour marathon game of Phase 10. 

We were so tired and so glad when the game finally ended!

It was just minutes to midnight when we finished and E14 came home (the church leaders didn't want the youth out after midnight, so they rang in the New Year at 11:00 pm and were home before midnight).  We watched the clocks click to 12:00 and then went gratefully to bed . . .  after texting Dad a Happy New Year and telling him that we love him.

I'm so glad we spent $0 on the celebration.  We had so much fun with what we already had on hand!

Thursday was lazy and slow. 

We looked at more pictures--the kids loved going back to laugh at Mom and Dad in their pre-kid days when Dad had a goatee, and Mom did her hair cute every day.   The kids asked us if we missed all of the traveling and adventures we used to have.  My honest answer? 

Nope.  I was very happy then.  I'm even happier now.

After I insisted that the computer be turned off, the older ones turned I3 into Harry Potter and had him chase a "snitch" around the house.

Then we broke out the dance music and confetti.

It took 2 hours of non-stop vacuuming that day plus additional vacuuming the next day to clean up.

But it was so worth it!

Friday I kept my promise to the kids to take them out to spend some of their Christmas gift money.

M12 got a lovely jewelry case; E14 bought some make up and fake nails; S12 and J11 are saving their money for special purchases; I'm saving I3's money for a date further away from Christmas to give him time to enjoy the presents he has now; A7 and H5 bought Spirograph sets. 

They've played with them endlessly--worth every penny!

Saturday I woke up having contractions, but we needed to go grocery shopping, so Dad and I got that done while the big girls read library books and the little ones continued playing with their Spirographs.

We did another walk-at-home video, and I kept right on contracting . . . only to have them slow down when I got tired and sat down to read for a little while.

It would have the baby on G'ma's birthday.  Instead we made a birthday "card" for G'ma  that we sent to her via email.
I had each kid dictate a birthday message to G'ma.  I3's was "Merry Christmas!"
 Then a surprise came in the mail--presents and a letter from our pen pal 2nd cousins in California. 

Opening the box

I3 got a "ninja guy."  He's carried him around non-stop since Saturday.

A7 and H5 each got a homemade Christmas ornament.

Popping the bubbles that the presents were wrapped in was a lot of fun!
We replied to their letter with an email because I am just not very likely to organize a proper letter writing session any time soon.

It's been a happy vacation week. 

The big question now is whether to start school again in the week ahead or just wait.  Will I have the baby sooner or later?  Monday would be a great day--there's nothing on the calendar, and Dad's off work. :)

But maybe Baby will keep us on tenterhooks, teasing us until closer to his actual due date.

We don't know.

I guess we'll plan to start school.

(But I'd like it better if Baby chose to arrive instead!)