Monday, December 26, 2011


Matt had last Friday off from work, and as much fun as we had dragging five kids to three different stores together, we decided we needed something more fun that night. After an early gf pancake dinner we piled all five kids in the car once more and drove half an hour to a nearby town that had a fantastic lights display in the town square.

The kids oohed and aahed and we drove into a Christmas wonderland of lights--except for Toby who was sound asleep and Elijah who was ready to eat. Matt decided to take the three girls out to walk among the lighted displays while I sat in the van and nursed Elijah. I watched their shadowy figures disappear into a crowd. For awhile longer I could discern where they were from the little red flashes of Emma's light-up shoes, then I lost even that hint. The van grew colder as I sat in the darkness. After ten minutes or so I turned it back on and strained my eyes for a hint of my family's whereabouts. I began to imagine scary scenarios that could be keeping them away so long--it's a little curse of my overly-imaginative mind. I thought about calling Matt's cell phone to let him know that Elijah was almost done eating, but then remembered that the phone in my pocket was dead.

I studied the masses of people again and finally caught a faint flicker of red lights near the feet of a small figure a full block away. Two more little figures walked in front of her with an adult in the lead. OK, I thought, at least I know where they are, and they're all together. I watched the crowd in front of me again, knowing it would be a few minutes before Matt and the girls made their way back. Suddenly a child in a dark coat dashed alone in front of a display of carolers and disappeared behind a pine tree far to my right. "That looked like Hannah," I immediately thought, but I dismissed that thought because I was sure I had just seen all three girls with Matt. In the span of about 10 seconds the argument continued within me, "But the kid was wearing red pants, I think...was Hannah wearing her new red pajama pants tonight? And it carried something that could have been Hannah's blanket...did Hannah bring her blanket with her?" I couldn't remember for sure, but I decided I better get out and go check on the child, just to be be sure.

I detached Elijah and slung him over my shoulder (still wearing his snowsuit), just as the child came racing out from behind the pine tree and back towards the carolers. It was Hannah! I fumbled with my locked door, then jumped out of the van. She was running away from me and screaming frantically at the top of her lungs, "Mommmmyyyyy!!!! Mommmmmyyyyyyy!!!!!" Crowds of strangers were staring at her, bewildered. I ran towards her (little Elijah bouncing on my shoulder) and called her name. It must have looked like a scene to end a sappy movie as we ran towards each other and hugged.

Poor Hannah was shaking and sobbing, "I couldn't find Daddy! He was just gone! I was trying to find you in the van!" I calmed her down, then realized my predicament: Toby was alone in a running van half a block back and Matt was somewhere in a crowd half a block ahead, surely frantically trying to find Hannah. I wished I had remembered to charge my cell phone. I grabbed Hannah's hand and half drug her along the sidewalk towards the place where I had last seen Matt, glancing back every few seconds towards our tiny van. Within a minute I heard Matt yelling Hannah's name. He was relieved to see her with me, but I was surprised that neither Naomi or Emma was with him.

"I told them to stay right where they were," Matt said, "because I knew I couldn't cover ground quickly enough to find Hannah with them following." Looking ahead down the sidewalk I saw the girls standing stone-still under a streetlight.

"OK, take Hannah then and go get them," I said, "I have to run back to the van because Toby's alone." Within five minutes we were all seven safely back in our van, but it took much longer for my heart to stop pounding. On the way home we sorted out what had happened.

Matt was leading the three girls from one display to another when Hannah's mind had wandered from the task of following him. She remembers hearing him say that they were going to turn towards a different display, but can't exactly remember why she kept walking straight. "I was just following the lights," she admitted quietly. When she realized she was separated from Matt and had no idea where he was she ran a full block back to where she remembered the van being parked to try to find me, but she ran to the wrong parking lot. That was when I had first seen her. Failing to find me there, she began screaming, but I couldn't hear her over the noise of the engine running and the heat blowing. Meanwhile Matt had only had his eyes off the girls for fifteen seconds or so, but by the time he realized she was missing, she had already bolted for the other end of the park.

We had a good talk about safety and what to do if you're lost on the way home. Hannah was still a little shaken when we tucked her in bed. I have a feeling she'll be watching her parents a little more closely the next time we leave the house together.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Babies Don't Keep

I wish I had more time to blog. So much is happening at our house, but I guess that's exactly the reason why none of it is being recorded here. Back in the days when only one funny thing happened each day I had plenty of time to share it with the world, but now, with diaper changes and feedings and rocking filling every spare moment, there's little time to preserve those memories here. My camera has had to do most of the memory preserving for now.

Elijah is gaining weight and growing up quickly. He's also becoming more demanding. He knows who his mother is and he's not about to lose her. But, strangely enough, his constant demands don't bother me quite so much with him. I waited a long time (well, it seemed long to me) to have another little bundle to carry around in a sling and rock to sleep, and I want to enjoy it this time. The other kids have also helped to ease the burden on me. Hannah stands guard over Elijah's bouncy seat most of the time, bouncing it whenever he fusses. Naomi has also taken turns bouncing the seat, although she usually has an "Encyclopedia Brown" book in the other hand. And, if the sisters are all occupied Toby is more than eager to take a turn bouncing the seat--the helpfulness of which is still to be determined.

I've been thinking more about the advice I'd like to give to a first-time mother, and feel the need to vent some of it here, that way if she doesn't want the advice she doesn't have to read it, but here it is, just in case she doesn't mind.

You wait so long for that little bundle, and for a few moments after he is born all is perfect and happy, then he wants to eat...and then he poops...and then he cries. You will repeat this cycle every half-hour for the next six months at least, and as much as you love the little darling it will get old and you will feel exhausted and frazzled at times, maybe most of the time. One night, when he cries for the 58th time, you will feel more like an angry grizzly bear awakened from winter hibernation than a loving mother eager to dote on her darling babe.

So here comes the advice part, and of course it is my opinion, and of course there will be thousands of loving mothers out there who have done it differently and who will disagree vehemently with me, but it's my there.

* I sleep with my babies beside me (gasp! horror of all horrors!) and they've all survived so far. In fact, I'm pretty sure our chances of team survival are greater this way, as it has preserved my health and sanity. If you have a FIRM queen sized mattress, you are not extremely obese, remove heavy blankets from your bed,  keep your pillow clear of the baby's face, keep your baby on the side of the bed between yourself and safety rail (not next to your husband), and don't drink alcohol or abuse drugs you are almost certain NOT to smother your baby. The vast majority of infant deaths due to co-sleeping break one of these rules. Mothers naturally sleep in a more light stage of sleep and are in-tune with their baby's every breath and movement. I don't have the time to list my sources to support this, but you can reference Dr. Sear's "The Baby Book" for some support. The point is that babies know when they are near you and when they're not, and if your babies (like mine) won't have anything to do with being put down alone in a crib, put them down near you! If your babies (like mine) want to nurse every hour or so, lay them down where they can nurse while you sleep!

* Nursing doesn't come naturally to most mothers. Sorry. Please read books, take classes, practice latch-on technique with a baby doll, and know where you will turn for support if you have trouble. Does your hospital have a certified lactation consultant available? Is there a La Leche League meeting near you? Otherwise, when you run into trouble as many mothers do, you will be tempted to "supplement" with formula (which will jeopardize breastfeeding altogether) or give up completely. What are you going to do when you experience pain during breastfeeding, the baby doesn't seem to be getting enough milk, or someone tells you that supplementing with formula would be better so you can get some sleep? Have answers, be prepared, because you'll be too tired to find answers at 2:00am when your baby is screaming. One awesome book to read is "The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers." Buy it, read it, you'll be glad you did.

* To Buy:
--A boppy pillow: you're going to spend about 8 hours a day nursing for the first few months, get comfortable. Yes, it's worth the $20.

--Washable cotton nursing pads. If you have a generous milk supply, it will leak. The disposable kind are uncomfortable and trap moisture on already irritated skin.

--Large (30" X 40") cotton thermal (waffle weave) blankets for swaddling the baby in. Swaddling does not calm the baby down, but if you swaddle a screaming baby and then calm him down he will stay asleep or calm longer than if he were unswaddled. This keeps him feeling snug and keeps the startle reflex from flinging his hands into his face every time there is a loud noise. Oh, how I wish I had known this with Naomi! Learn how to really swaddle too: tight, tight, tight! There is a technique taught with pictures in "The Happiest Baby on the Block" that I love and it even impressed the nurses in the hospital when I showed them. This book is a good read anyway, I like the "Swaddle, Side, Swing, Shush, Suck" method of calming babies that it teaches.

--Buy two kinds of baby carriers: a sling, and a Baby Bjorn front carrier. Your baby will have times (or weeks) when he will scream like you placed him on a bed of nails every time he leaves your arms. You will lose your mind if you spend your day trying in futility to re-calm him and and lay him down again. Strap him to your body and continue your day. The sling allows the baby to ride in multiple positions, including all swaddled up and is easier to slip the baby out of when he's sleeping. I use a sling for quieter activities like going to church. The Baby Bjorn is ridiculously expensive, but it is indispensable to me. I don't like the cheap immitations. It allows baby to be so securely strapped in that you don't have to use one hand to steady him, like you should with a sling. I use this when trying to do real household chores like vacuum, laundry, dishwasher, walking outside, and other activities where the baby could conceivably slip out of the sling. This is also wonderfully stimulating to baby's growing brain. He will like to be close to you, feeling your every move, and listening to your words. He will grow up to be a child prodigy like my kids. Or at least you can hope.

--A bouncy seat that actually really bounces. I can't believe how many "bouncy seats" have toys and vibrators and easy-fold features, but don't actually freely bounce up and down. If it doesn't bounce easily when you apply light pressure with one finger, don't buy it, your baby will hate it. Get the plain old, ugly seat that can make your baby's head jiggle with the least effort on your part. When you're trying to eat dinner and bounce the fussy baby with your foot, you will be glad you did.

Above all, please remember that that little slobbering ball of discontented fury will only be so cute for a few weeks. Soon enough the fussing weeks will be replaced by the potty-training months and you will wish you had absorbed that soft baby smell a little deeper while you could. Count his toes, stroke his tiny little calves, kiss his downy hair, and repeat, "This too shall pass...all too soon."

I once saw this poem on the wall of a house filled with teenagers. I've always remembered the last line. Today I took the time to google it and was delighted to see that it was written for a fifth child. It really is a perspective that a mother of many babies has more so than most first-time mothers.

Song for a Fifth Child

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing
will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up,
as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs.
Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby
and babies don’t keep.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Elijah--Week 1

Little Elijah has now been a part of the family for one week. The most difficult twelve hours were last Saturday night when I got a flu shot in one arm and a Dtap in the other (to keep me from catching flu and whooping cough and passing them on to Elijah), Elijah began waking up to the world and making demands, and a virus that had been incubating for a few days surfaced that gave me horrific body aches and chills. I found myself alone in a quiet hospital room (Matt had gone home to help my mom put the other kids to bed), with a fussy baby who refused to be placed in that cold plastic crib, and feeling more achy and exhausted than I'd felt in years. Those were the longest 12 hours that night. Matt had been planning to take the kids to church in the morning and pick me up from the hospital that afternoon, but I called him at 7:30am and pleaded for him to rescue me earlier, which he did.

Thankfully, things have looked much brighter since I arrived at home. Elijah seemed to settle immediately once he was back in a house full of children's voices and the continual sounds of dishes and toys and slamming doors. He's never so relaxed as when I hold him close and start yelling at the girls to clean up their toys. Ahhhhh! Home sweet home.

Elijah has certainly been our easiest baby so far. I have been saying that with every baby since Naomi, and they just keep getting easier. I'm not sure if that is God's gracious way of giving us only what we can handle, or if the babies only seem easier because I am more experienced, or if they actually are calmer babies because I am a calmer mommy. Maybe some of all three, but whatever the reasons, it is a winning combination. By this point in my mothering career I can nurse, and diaper change, and swaddle, and soothe babies in my sleep (and I often do), which leaves all my waking energy to just enjoy those adorable baby faces, and tiny baby sounds, and sweet baby smells. I have never spent so much time just staring at a baby before, nor have I ever enjoyed it so much.

I have to insert here a pat on the back to my Mom who made all those staring hours possible. She stayed with me until yesterday taking care of all the household chores so that I could rest and enjoy the little guy. If she hadn't, I probably wouldn't be quite so energized and upbeat right now.

The kids have really taken to the baby. There haven't been any outright signs of jealousy, although Toby has seemed a little lost as to how to act around his brother. He has been oscillating between his "time to show off for company" mode and his "time to whine and be clingy because I'm insecure" mode all week. This is to be expected, and he is gradually growing more comfortable with Elijah. Toby knows that he can "read" books to Elijah, sing him songs, and gently rock the bouncy seat. He has also generously shared his kiki with Elijah and loves to be told that he is a good big brother. He says over and over, "Isn't baby Elijah so cute?!" Today when I got dressed he looked at my shirt and said, "Oh! That is a beautiful shirt! You look so beautiful!" One week postpartum and in my sweatpants, that was just what I needed to hear.

Hannah has been my number one helper with Elijah. She loves to sit beside him and read him books. She lets him hold her finger and says that he has caught her in his "sister trap." She knows how to start his swing and put his pacifier in his mouth, and she too loves to share her special Piglet blankie with the baby. This morning she came to snuggle beside me in bed and just stare at Elijah while he slept.

Naomi has been slightly slower to warm up to Elijah, but is quickly becoming a great help as well. She has spent the majority of the week reading Hardy Boys books one after another (at least one per day!), but when she does surface to interact with the rest of the world she loves to dote on her baby brother and advise Hannah when Hannah isn't properly caring for him.

Today the kids each got out a baby doll and began practicing diapering and swaddling their babies. They took their babies inside a fort they had built, then Hannah yelled, "Quick, everybody inside! There's a tornado coming!"

"Yeah, hurry!" Toby hollered, "There's a big tomato coming!"

Even Emma was giggling as we all held our babies tightly to guard them from the big tomato. Killer tomato aside, it has been just about a perfect week--one that makes me look forward to the next one.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The New Morning Routine

5:00am-- Nurse Elijah

5:15am-- Change Elijah's diaper

5:20am-- Nurse Elijah again

5:35am-- Change Elijah's diaper again

5:40am-- Nurse Elijah again

5:55am-- Ahhhhh! Sweet Rest

5:57am-- Listen to Naomi clop down the stairs

5:58am-- Listen to Hannah run down the stairs

5:59am-- Listen to Naomi run up the stairs and into my room to tell me that Hannah couldn't wait for her to get off the potty so she peed on the bathroom floor.

6:00am-- Go downstairs to clean up Hannah and bathroom floor

6:15am-- Ahhhhh! Sweet Rest

6:20am-- Nurse Baby Elijah

.........etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum.........

8:15am-- Coffee! while I hold the cutest, most precious baby in the world, who is worth every minute of sleeplessness. Sleep is so overrated anyway.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Elijah Gabriel Eby Arrives

My mom and I sat at lunch last Friday discussing our plans for the rest of the day. We agreed that I should cut Toby's hair that afternoon, and probably just do Matt's as well that evening so I wouldn't have to worry about that after the baby was born...if he was ever born. There had been almost no contractions that day and no sign of any changes, so I bathed Toby to remove the dried bits of food in his hair and sent him to the kitchen where everything was set for his haircut. "Go sit down in your booster seat," I told him, "Mommy will be right there and we'll cut your hair." I drained the tub and decided to use the bathroom one more time.

I was shocked and disoriented when my water broke (thankfully, in a very convenient place!) "What in the world was that?! I know my bladder doesn't hold that much. Oh!....Oh!!!! I know what that is!" So I opened the door and yelled for my mom like a little kid. "Mom!....Mom!! Mom!!!" And she came running as I said, "My water broke!"

You have to understand a little background in order to fully feel the gravity of this moment for me. With Emma I had gone from zero labor to delivering a baby in exactly one hour after they broke my water in the hospital. It was so hard and fast that I have been ever paranoid after that that if my water should spontaneously break at home I might not have enough time to get to the hospital before delivery. For weeks I had been saying, "The only real emergency would be if my water broke. We'd really have to hurry then, but that isn't very likely."

My mom's first words were the same as mine, "Oh!...Oh!!!...Who should I call first?" Fortunately, I had anticipated both of our minds being adrenaline fogged in such a scenario and had posted a list of numbers on the fridge and the order in which they should be called. Mom got busy calling my neighbor while I tried to figure out how to appropriately dress myself with this new development. Then I found my cell phone and called Matt. He was working at a blood drive 40 minutes from home and over an hour from the hospital. He didn't answer the first call (apparently because he was pulling a needle out of someone's arm--like that's any excuse). But he did pick up after my second frantic attempt. I was sure I didn't have time to use complete sentences so I just said, "Water broke. Going to hospital. Please come. NOW."

"Are you serious?" he first asked, but I think he quickly realized that I wouldn't call him at work with that message just for kicks, so he didn't wait for me to answer. "OK, I'll leave now," he said quickly. My neighbor arrived and took over the phone calls while Mom and I dashed out the door. Poor Toby never got that haircut he'd been promised, and he clearly didn't understand as well as the girls what was going on, but that explanation would have to wait.

I sat on a pile of towels, navigating my Mom to the hospital. We drove quickly, but began to ease up as we neared the hospital with no real contractions setting in. I called Matt again to let him know he probably had plenty of time. At the hospital my mom could have dropped me at the front entrance, but I didn't want to be left to wait while she parked the car. We headed for the parking garage instead, and I waddled through the garage holding a large bath towel between my legs. Mom and I were both laughing as the passing drivers stared. "Just smile and act confident," I advised, and so we did. In the hospital doors we grabbed the first wheelchair, and I felt much less ridiculous riding on a towel than walking with one between my legs.

The labor and delivery staff first sent me to a triage room, but after a few minutes of my sitting on a soaked towel they realized that there really wasn't any question as to whether the water had broken and decided to just get me settled in a room. I began to relax and let the reality of the situation sink in as I changed to a hospital gown and settled in a bed. I was hooked to monitors and signed papers. Matt arrived just as the nurse was getting my IV set up. My contractions were light and far between so Matt and I walked the halls for an hour to see if it would speed things up. "So was everyone at your work excited when you left?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said, "I didn't wait to see their faces." Back in our quiet room he remarked, "The longer we sit and wait here, the sillier I feel for having rushed all the way here."

"Well, we just didn't know," I replied, "and I'm glad you're here."

At 5:45, just over four hours after the breaking, we agreed to let the nurse-midwife add some pitocin to my IV to help speed up the labor. It didn't take much to put me into a regular labor pattern. We started the quiet music and I began to try to focus my attention, but our nurse seemed a little oblivious. She turned on the florescent lights and jabbered loudly. By the 7:00pm shift change I was very ready for a different nurse. The new nurse was in training to be a nurse midwife. She immediately dimmed the lights and put a lavender scented candle on a warmer. She talked only when necessary in a hushed low voice, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. She helped me settle on a large exercise ball with Matt sitting behind me. I rocked and breathed and leaned back into Matt, and though it was painful I felt safe and in control of the process.

Around 8:00 the nurse asked if I would like to get into a warm tub. I was surprised since I'd never been allowed to do that in labor before. She said the monitors would work fine in the water, and it felt wonderful even with the extremely intense contractions that were coming now. On the fourth contraction in the tub I said I needed to push. I was shaking when they helped me back to bed. "Well, you're only 6 centimeters," the midwife said. Generally an OB will tell you not to push until you're at 10cms, but the midwife listened when I said, "That's what they told me five minutes before I delivered my last two babies." She quickly donned her delivery gear and prepped the room.

"How do you want to do this?" she asked me, and I nearly couldn't believe my ears. I had been forced to deliver my last four babies while on my back in bed, but the midwife let me stay in control this time. I chose an unconventional position for sure, but she was flexible. No one yelled at me when to push or when not to push. Matt put in some different music I had selected and with the next contraction the midwife checked me again. "Is she complete?" the nurse asked.

"Baby's here," the midwife said quietly. And out he came with what seemed very little effort. "Look, he's holding his cord," the midwife cooed. Matt cut the cord while the baby squawked softly. They placed him on my chest then and left him there for a full hour, something again that I had never had before. Little Elijah Gabriel Eby immediately calmed when placed on my skin. He peeped his eyes open and quietly looked around. We talked to him, and after a while he nursed. Normally after birth I'm being stitched up while someone is weighing and measuring my screaming baby, but this time no stitches were required and my baby was snuggled happily next to me.

"Well," I smiled at Matt, "that was such an easy delivery I think we could have a few more if they'll all be that easy."

Matt laughed and asked the nurse, "How often do you hear that in the delivery room?"

"Um...never." the nurse answered honestly.

Praise God with us for the safe, timely, and relatively easy arrival of Elijah Gabriel Eby. He has been warmly welcomed by his siblings and amazes me with his quiet, alert, and peaceful spirit. But those remarks will have to wait until another blog post. I have a hungry baby to feed.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Progress and Patience

The Old Wives say that storms send women into labor, maybe because of the change in barometric pressure. Tuesday night, as a snow and ice storm blew over us, I went into regular contractions, but they settled down again after a few hours. At my weekly check yesterday the midwife said I'd moved from 1cm to 3cms, so at least progress is being made.

More strong contractions followed yesterday afternoon and evening. When Matt came home my mom and I went to walk at the mall to see if we could move things along. I waddled as hard and fast as I could (which really wasn't all that fast), until my fingers were swollen and my legs were numb, and I'm sure I looked really ridiculous. After half an hour I had to slow down as the contractions picked up and then stabbing pains set in. We decided to limp back to the van, and things settled down again on our way to a restaurant for a little refreshment. A few strong contractions gripped me at the restaurant, but I tried my best to smile and converse with the waitress like normal.

By the time we arrived home the contractions were mild and far apart. Only a few woke me last night. My sleep was far more interrupted by Hannah, who first lost her blanket then had a bad dream, and by Toby, who needed more water. This morning all is calm again.

The midwife said yesterday that their standard practice was not to let women pass 41 weeks of pregnancy. My next check is on my due date, next Thursday the 8th. If I haven't had a baby by then, they would schedule the "eviction" (as she called it) for the following week, sometime between the 12th and the 15th. I can't imagine living with contractions of this magnitude that long, but I guess we make it through a lot of things we can't imagine. Time will tell.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

From the Splendid Mind and Mouth of Toby

I wish I had the presence of mind to write down every funny thing Toby utters, but then again, I'd be writing all day long. He just has way too much spunk mixed with an amazing vocabulary, and sometimes it's hard to believe what emerges from his mouth.

"Hi, Toby, how are you today?" the church nursery worker greets him.

Toby replies just as natural as any adult heading to play with a car garage, "Oh, I'm doing fine."

He's careful to use complete sentences, even when being defiant. He doesn't just answer, "No!" as any other naughty two year old. He answers, "No! I will not obey!" Which, leaving no room for ambiguity, should secure his punishment--except that when he sees me raise an eyebrow and come towards him, he's quick to recant, "Well...I guess I will." This is a particularly amusing response when I'm particularly ticked and moving quickly towards him, as it comes out more like, "WellIguesswill!!!" followed by a cheesy grin of repentance. But no, the power struggle is not over yet. On more than one occasion I have conceded to forgo the deserved consequences in light of his penitent spirit, only to hear him mutter as I walk away, "Well, I guess I WON'T."

Sometimes he takes a less openly defiant approach. He's learned that a question softens the blow of disobedience. This morning when my mom asked him, "How about you try to go potty now?"

Toby replied, "How about I try NOT to go potty?"

If the action we desire of him comes in the form of a command, rather than a question, he enjoys turning it right back at us. If we say, "Toby you need to go upstairs right now," he finds it amusing to respond, "No, Mommy, YOU need to go upstairs right now." Well, at least it's amusing to say, even if Mommy's response is less than amusing.

He's also pleased with another ingenious consequence-delaying response that he's found. When caught in blatant disobedience I will often question my kids to make sure they understand the coming consequence. I will say, "Toby, what did Mommy ask you to do?"

Toby will have no choice but to answer, "To pick up the crayons."

Since he has openly decided to read a book instead, I will drive home my point with, "And did you obey Mommy?"

Quickly dropping his book and moving to the crayons he will respond sweetly, "Um...not...yet."

Last night as Matt was tucking the kids in bed, the girls were all showing Daddy their Care Bears. "Mine is Rainbow Bear," Hannah shared, pointing to the rainbow on her bear's tummy.

"Ah my ih Guh-ee Beh (And mine is Sunny Bear)," Emma continued, holding her yellow friend.

Toby, looking at the picture of the large yellow trophy cup on his blue bear, responded in turn, "And mine is Coffee Bear!" Which is an entirely logical conclusion, especially if Matt is your daddy.

Later, as Matt gave Emma a hug he said adoringly, "Emma, you're my cuddle bug." Emma smiled sweetly in approval. Matt then turned to Toby and asked, "Toby, are you my cuddle bug?"

"No," Toby replied, "all I have is money." I'm not exactly sure why he said this, but it brings to mind the song "The Cat's in the Cradle" where the father asks his teenage son to sit and talk awhile and the boy replies, "What I'd really like Dad is to borrow the car keys. See you later, can I have them please?"

And just how did Toby acquire this amazing command of the English language? Well, Naomi and Hannah are pretty good teachers, but more than that he's not afraid to ask when he doesn't understand what's being said. The new annoying never-ending question from his mouth is not, "Why?" it's "What does that mean?"

"Mommy, will you give me more water?" He asks.

"In a minute," I answer."In a minute?" he queries, "What does 'In a minute' mean?"

"It means I will fill your cup in a little while, when I'm ready," I retort, losing patience, as I am clearly otherwise occupied.

"A little while? What does 'a little while' mean?" he presses.

To my horror, I have realized that "What does that mean?" can continue just as infinitely as "Why?" And with Toby's realization that language is power, I'm likely to face a lot more "What does that mean?" questions--at least until I've raised up a fine scientific lecturer, or lawyer, or maybe politician.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Step On the Path

For one week now my Mom and I have shared the chores and passed the time playing Scrabble. Yesterday I laid on the couch and smelled homemade chicken soup that I didn't have to make, and I almost felt like a little kid again. As the first snowstorm of the season settles over us, we're hoping there's something to the labor and delivery nurses' claim that storms send women into labor.

Today, as I tried to land my "Z" on a Double Word Score, Naomi's nephrologist called to talk over the results of her yearly tests. Her ultrasound showed nothing too surprising: kidneys that continue to be too dense with cysts, too small, and filling with scar tissue. Her 24 hour urine collection continues to show that her kidneys are dumping an abnormal amount of protein--a sign that they are struggling to keep up with her growth. While the protein isn't a huge amount, it has been there on three separate collections over the course of a year now and clearly isn't going to resolve.

The nephrologist thought it was time to start Naomi on a daily medication called an ACE inhibitor. The medication is normally to control blood pressure (Naomi's runs a little high anyway), but also helps to preserve kidney function in this kind of situation. The idea is to try to ease the burden on the kidneys as much as possible so that the function will be preserved and a transplant delayed as long as possible. Naomi is nowhere near renal failure yet and probably won't be until she is in her teens or twenties, but starting the ACE inhibitor now is a wise way of delaying the inevitable perhaps an extra year or two, possibly more.

It's strange. It's only a little pill once a day--something to add to Naomi's daily vitamins (due to the liver disease) and melatonin (due to the pineal gland cyst) that she takes anyway. But for 7 1/2 years we've bragged that Naomi and Emma were doing so well they didn't need prescription meds for the ARPKD/CHF, and that era is over.

It's just a little pill once a day, but it is the beginning of a lifetime of medication for my daughter. She will never go a day again without needing pills. I'm thankful that she's come so far with so little intervention needed, but it is hard to make the adjustment, to know that only more intervention is to come. I don't want to make more out of it than it is--it's just a little pill. As the liver doctor said in October, just one more step down a path we already knew we were on. It just seems we can't walk this path slowly enough.

Friday, November 25, 2011


I have truly enjoyed reading over all of my blog posts from last year, but none has so amazed and humbled me as reading "A Pillar of Fire by Night" from November 12, 2010. After over a year of unemployment and living with in-laws, it seemed like God was intentionally blocking every opportunity that crossed our way, intentionally foiling each plan we made, and though we were truly mystified by God's choices we knew he was doing something purposeful. This is a quote from that post:

"Lately Matt and I have taken comfort, ironically, in just how awful some circumstances have been. Last week Matt actually had a job offer over the phone, and we told the kids that Daddy had a job, and their little eyes glowed, and we celebrated! But several hours later the company had to renege because, though they were well aware that Matt's dad worked at the same place, they weren't aware that their company's hiring policy forbid them to hire two family members. "Well," Matt said, "only God could orchestrate something that awful." And, though we're not exactly sure what God was trying to work in that situation, it gave us a strange sense of comfort to know he's doing something in our lives."

It hurt to finally have a job offer, then have it snatched away. It seemed a bit like a cruel trick, like a dangling carrot, like the work of a malicious god, certainly not loving, but even when we couldn't imagine how, we somehow knew it was the act of a loving God. Though the situation grew only more baffling over the next few months, one year later we have the pleasure of peeking behind the curtain and seeing exactly what the wizard was working.

Matt got an awful factory job in January and we took a rental house on the edge of a small town. In April, when Matt's dad left his company, the company called Matt to offer him the phlebotomist job that he had been denied in November. We weren't sure what to do. It would be a better job for sure, but we had settled in a house 36 miles away from it! A couple from our church tentatively offered to let us move into one of their rental houses much closer to the job, so, as much as we didn't want to move again, Matt took the phlebotomist job and we planned another move. We couldn't have been any more puzzled with God's workings than when the rental house with the family in our church fell through. Now Matt had a job 36 miles from our house, a commute we couldn't afford the time or money for. We watched for other rental houses closer to Matt's job, but I had no peace at all with taking any of them. They were in unsafe neighborhoods, or too far from church and family, or too small for our growing family. So we stayed in a house we were happy with, and a job Matt was happy with, even though we ended each month in the red financially. Surely God had something he was working.

It wasn't until Matt landed the job with the American Red Cross one mile from our current house this September that we finally saw the pieces fit together. Matt couldn't get the job that he was offered as a phlebotomist at his father's company in the city last November, because if he had we would have moved to that city and been locked into a less-than-ideal job and housing situation. First, God gave Matt a factory job that enticed us to choose the house we needed to be in. Next, God gave Matt the phlebotomist job far from our house so that Matt would have the training he would ultimately need for the Red Cross job right down the road from the house we already lived in. That job offer that so broke our hearts one year ago was not the act of a malicious deity, it was the loving first step on a bewildering path to a beautiful resting place, and I could never have planned it better myself.

This Thanksgiving we are settled in a home, Matt's job is stable and adequate and rewarding, and we await the birth of our fifth child, who is perfectly healthy. But even better, we have the gift of knowing that the Lord is our shepherd. He leads us beside quiet waters, as well as through dark valleys, but his rod and staff comfort us until we come to green pastures again.

You may never have the joy of peeking behind the curtain and understanding the reasons for the dark valleys you walk, but, baffled as you may be, the promise stands:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Right-Side Down

This morning the OB says to me, "So the ultrasound shows that the baby's breech?"

"No," I reply, "actually, that's just what the nurse-midwife thought when she felt him."

The OB wrinkles her forehead and says, "Well, why didn't she scan you?" (How the heck should I know?) "Let's go scan you now, just to be sure we're not wasting our breath." (Good idea!)

And the ultrasound clearly showed that baby was actually...head down! I will never know if he was breech on Wednesday or not. Perhaps he was and he decided to turn because I laid upside down on an ironing board, or perhaps he turned in response to the prayers offered, or perhaps he was always head-down and I just need to be thankful that I didn't turn him breech with all the antics yesterday. Whatever way it is, I am happy.

In defense the midwife, and myself, who had trouble telling the baby's position for sure: the placenta is anterior, meaning it is attached to the front wall of the uterus. This makes it much harder to feel the baby's position since you're feeling through several extra inches of placenta. An anterior placenta also would have disqualified me for an ECV (doctor turning the baby head-down) since the danger of causing the placenta to detach would be too high. So it's a very good thing he is head down!

Once again I am ready to go into labor NOW, before he does flip breech or anymore drama enters my life. Plus, it's the weekend and Matt's on his way home. Time to get this show on the road.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Upside Down

I wasn't too concerned going into today's OB appointment. Baby had been "oblique" or just a little to the side at my last appointment, but I was fairly confident he had turned to the proper position since he felt much more upright now. I was correct that he had turned, but I was wrong about the direction. Baby is now completely breech. Little stinker. This is more and more likely as I have more babies since the uterus is less tone and baby has more room to move about. The good news is just that though--he still has room to move about. Hopefully he will either turn head-down on his own or the doctor will be able to turn him without much effort.

Unfortunately, I saw a nurse-midwife today instead of an OB, and at this practice the nurse-midwife is not allowed to even schedule an ECV (external cephalic version--an attempt to turn the baby head-down by pressing on the baby from the outside). So I have to go back to talk with the OB on Friday morning, at which time she will schedule the ECV (if he's still breech), hopefully for early next week before baby gets too big or too lodged to turn.

Until then I will be hanging myself upside down multiple times a day, playing music at the lower end of my abdomen, and using hot and cold packs to try to lure the baby to turn his stubborn head southward. And in a drastically new change of attitude, I will also be hoping NOT to go into labor, since the doctors will not attempt to turn a breech baby while I am in labor, nor will they let him arrive bottom-first through the normal route--it would be an automatic, fast C-section if my water broke or labor set in right now. Alas, more drama. Lets just hope he gets his head in gear and doesn't try to exit until then.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Waiting Week

My creative genius seems to have been crowded out by this baby right alongside my stomach and my bladder. Days go by when I actually have the time to write in my blog and I can't think of anything to write. I'm sure the kids say and do funny and memorable things--if only I could remember them. People talk about the "fog of pregnancy" and the incredible focus of a pregnant mother on her impeding arrival as the due date draws nearer, and it is all true. I tell myself that I need to enjoy these last few days or weeks before I have a newborn sapping away all of my time and energy, but all I can think is, "Get this baby out!" I remember when I was pregnant with Hannah, how Matt tried to convince me that the longer she stayed in the better--she would be easier to care for when she did come out. But after days of me not being able to think about or talk about anything else, even he was ready to have Hannah arrive so that we could move on with our lives.

There have been some funny moments, but when they happen I am so unmotivated to put in the effort to write them in my blog that they just become short facebook posts instead. Then I sit down to write in my blog, and I've already used up all my funny stories. Ah, well, I'm sure that once this baby comes I'll have tons of new material to blabber on about. Until then, here's a brief update on Eby household happenings.

Matt is out of town again this week for more training. This new job has a ridiculous amount of training overkill. He is staying (all expenses paid) in a nice hotel and eating three restaurant meals a day. I am staying at home with all four and a half children and eating beef stew from a can, because when Matt's not coming home to dinner all my ambition to spend the afternoon cooking quickly disappears. The kids have been enjoying continuing their bedtime routine with Daddy via video conference over the Internet. Apparently The Hardy Boys are just as riveting over Google Chat as they are in person because all three girls sit stone still and listen for half-an-hour to their virtual dad reading, and I get a nice little break.

Naomi continues to be healthy and extremely helpful, and I continue to be amazed and thankful. She often helps to get Toby dressed and fed. She folds laundry, empties the dishwasher, and just pitches in graciously when asked. Today at lunch she did admit that she wished there was a "reading land" where she could just read all she wants to. I said I couldn't imagine her reading much more than she already does. Hannah offered that maybe in reading land Naomi would even be able to read while she eats and sleeps.

Hannah has been following in Naomi's footsteps with a love a reading. How could she not learn to love reading with such an example? At the age of five, when public school would have her learning her letters, she is reading 2nd grade chapter books with great comprehension. She has also taken up reading to Emma and Toby, which makes everybody happy! Unfortunately, Hannah has also taken a turn for the unstable again. She goes through phases of emotional upheaval unlike any of my other kids. Lately everything sets her in tears, and it seems that the more individual attention I give her, the more she craves. I instinctively back away from this bottomless-pit of neediness, but I'm trying to overcome my fear of being sucked in and give her the extra time and attention she obviously needs right now.

Emma has been blossoming quite beautifully lately. She's finally taken off with learning to recognize and write letters and numbers. She's become quite the artist with stick figures and smiley faces, and she's so very proud. She should be. Special speech preschool has been good for her self-esteem, even if her actual speech hasn't improved much at all. While Hannah seems to burst into tears over everything lately, Emma seems more content and confident than ever--which is good for me, because two bottomless pits of neediness might just consume me completely.

Toby doesn't understand why Emma won't talk properly, and he's begun either correcting her or making fun of her regularly. He means it all in good fun, and she seems to take it well, but I'm a little at a loss as to how to answer him when Emma tries to say "Okay" and Toby asks me, "Why does Emma say 'Ogay'?"  He has also begun experimenting with substituing a "g" for every other consonant the way Emma does, which amuses him greatly and irritates me to no end. I don't need two people speaking Emma's dialect around here.

Toby cares nothing for using the potty, unless it's bedtime, of course. Suddenly, the boy who hasn't voluntarily sat on the potty all day has to sit and dribble out a half-ounce every ten minutes, but I hate to discourage him. It's win-win for him. He gets to get out of bed, and Mommy has no choice but to praise him for it. He then milks his advantage further by asking with all sincerity, "Do you know where my bed went? I can't find it." Somehow my assurance that it's likely right where he left it, doesn't satisfy him. So up the stairs we go and I tuck him in again, for another 10 minutes.

Toby is also antsy. All Mommy wants to do is stay home and rest. All Toby wants to do is go--somewhere, anywhere! Just say the word and he's putting on his own shoes and coat now, ready to break out of this prison cell. Unfortunately, Hannah suddenly doesn't want to go anywhere. She burst into tears at the same time that Toby started celebrating when I told them they were going to a friend's house tomorrow while I'm at a doctor appointment. Hannah likes this friend's house, but she says she just wants to lay in bed, for a long time. She does have a nagging cough and a stomach ache, but I suspect that all the changes coming have her longing for security beyond physical rest. I know she is excited for the holidays and the new baby, but sometimes we can be excited and apprehensive at the same time, and I think she's caught in the middle of it all.

I am convinced that I will go into labor any minute now, and I will probably remain so convinced for another three or four weeks, but don't tell me that, or I may punch you. I am thankful that I have family visiting this weekend and my parents coming for Thanksgiving next week. I need to be kept busy and distracted right now. If all looks normal at my OB appointment tomorrow I'll be settling in for another week of waiting. If not, well, at least I'll have something more exciting to write about.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Getting on My Nerves

With one month and two days to go until my due date this baby has been getting under my skin and on my nerves, and recently he's become a real pain in the rear. I've had periodic nerve pain at the end of my other pregnancies, but this little boy has taken it to a whole new level. I will be innocently going about my life when searing pain will shoot down the back or inside of my leg, causing it to buckle underneath me. It's not a conscious choice to relieve the pain, it's reflex that I have no control over at all.

Last week I was standing at the kitchen table chopping vegetables when the pain struck and I barely got the knife down and my hands on the table to steady myself. Yesterday was particularly challenging because the pain came relentlessly again and again. I was shopping and only stayed upright because I could lean on the cart. I was cleaning and had to grab for the nearest chair or counter. Twice I was literally stuck on the floor after changing Toby's pull-up. The nerve pain gripped me every time I tried to move my right leg at all. Matt had to come behind me and hoist me up, and back on my feet again I was fine, at least for a few minutes.

Today at church I moved cautiously, staying near chairs and counters and walls, and several times I was struck and had to steady myself. I feel like I need to go out and buy a cane. Tonight at dinner Hannah offered these reassuring words, "Well, Mama, if you can't get off the floor tomorrow when Daddy's at work, we'll just bring everything to you that you need."

"No," Matt said, "what you girls need to do is get a big wheel and hook it to the ceiling and throw a rope over it. Then you can all pull Mommy up off the floor." The girls all giggled. Ha ha.

When I pointed out that cardboard and scotch tape probably wouldn't hold me up these days, Hannah had an even better idea. "We could get one of those machines that they use to build buildings, like the one that lifted the tree off the Baron's house. What's it called?"

Matt's eyes laughed, "A crane? Yes, you could get a crane to hoist Mommy off the floor! Good idea, Hannah."

I just want you to know, in case a crane pulls up to my house tomorrow, not to worry. It's just my children helping Mommy off the floor again.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

You Mash It, You Eat It

Yesterday morning, after my angelic daughters folded two loads of laundry for me, I headed upstairs with the hefty basket full of folded laundry. It was an accomplishment to make it to the top with that basket, and my heart was still pounding when Toby appeared at the bottom of the stairs with a banana. "I want a banana!" he demanded, "Open it!"

I was not about to run back downstairs so soon. "Toby," I informed him, "if you want me to open the banana you have to ask nicely, and I'll open it for you after I put the laundry away." He knows what it means to "ask nicely" and he often does, but yesterday he was in the mood to assert himself, maybe just to see what would happen.

"No!" he yelled back at me. "Open it now! Open it! Open it!" When I raised an eyebrow at him and then walked away, he laid down on his stomach at the bottom of the stairs and began pounding the banana on the floor as he yelled over and over, "Open it now, Mommy! Open it! I want a banana! Open it!" The only reason he was spared immediate consequences was that I was determined to get the laundry put away before heading back down the stairs again. Perhaps he thought he was gaining ground with me, perhaps he was pleased with himself, or perhaps he was ticked that I was ignoring him, but he pounded all the louder as he yelled.

Once the laundry was away I calmly walked back down the stairs. He stopped and looked at me like, "Now what?" In the silence I said calmly, "Toby, let me show you what happens to a banana when you pound it on the floor." I strapped him into his booster seat in the kitchen and removed the peel from a pile of brown mush. "You said you wanted this banana," I continued, "I asked you to wait until I was done putting laundry away, but you banged it on the floor. Now it's all yucky. You made it yucky, and now you're going to sit in that chair until you eat it."

Suddenly Toby didn't want the banana so badly anymore. Actually, he didn't want it at all. "No!" he yelled at me. "I don't want that banana! It's all yucky! Put it in the garbage!"

I knew I was setting myself up for World War III, but I also knew this war needed to be fought, so I dug in my heels. "No, Toby. You smashed the banana because you wanted it. I'm not letting you out of that seat until you eat it," I reaffirmed. And so it began.

You would not believe the way this strong-willed little two-year-old boy carried on. He was not pleading for mercy either, he was defiant! "No, Mommy! I won't eat it!" he screamed loud enough for the neighbors to hear. "I WOOOOONNNNNN'T!!! It's YUCKY!!! Put it in the garbage! Put it on the floor! It's gross! I want a different banana! YOU eat it, Mommy!"

I sat out of sight, trying my best to block him out. From time to time I reappeared to make sure he still remembered why he was in his booster seat and what he had to do to get out. He remembered just fine, but he figured he'd rather die of a cardiac arrest or at least lose his voice for a few days first. This went on for two full hours! Sometimes he would stop sobbing and screaming and I would go back in and even give him a hug, and ask him gently if he was ready to obey. Suddenly he would stiffen and remember that he was at war with me, and it would start all over again.

Near the end of the second hour I came into the kitchen to cook lunch. Toby was pleased to hear this, but flew all to pieces when I informed him that he wouldn't have any lunch until he ate the banana. I guess that wasn't what he was hoping to hear. By the time I was done making lunch and dishing up everyone else's plate, Toby sat with puffy red eyes, lifelessly staring at the pile of brown mushed banana in front of him. I reminded him one more time that that was the banana he had pounded on the floor, and that he needed to eat it since he had smashed it. This time he didn't yell in defiance, he sat and looked sadly at it. "Should we pound bananas on the floor?" I asked him.

"No," he said remorsefully.

"What happens to them when we do that?" I continued.

"They get all yucky," he admitted.

"Should you have waited patiently for Mommy to open your banana?"


Seeing that his spirit had finally bowed to my authority, I decided to compromise, "How about you just eat one big bite?"

He brightened up and readily agreed. One bite of mushed banana went down, and one boy happily ate lunch and took a good nap. My ears stopped ringing about the time he woke up again. He hasn't smashed any bananas since, and I've heard a lot fewer defiant words from his mouth. One point for Mommy. Now if only I could get him to use the potty.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Return of the Night Shift

The day we moved into this house we found that we could not fit a queen-sized box-frame around the turn at the bottom of our stairs. Apparently queen-sized beds didn't exist in 1890? Our only choice was to cram the more moldable mattress up the stairs and just lay it on the floor. We were fine with this arrangement at the time, but I remember thinking to myself, "The only time this could be a problem is in the last couple months of a pregnancy." And here we are. Not only is it difficult to get oneself out of a bed on the floor when one can no longer bend in the middle and one's middle weighs an extra 20 pounds, but pregnant women are also plagued by the need to use the bathroom somewhere between three and ten times in a night, and the only bathroom in this house is downstairs.

On top of my need to catapult myself off the floor and traipse down the stairs to the bathroom every hour or so, the children have decided to sabatoge most of the remaining minutes in between my regular travels. I had enjoyed a long period of relative night-time peace, but somehow the stars have aligned against me in the last week or two and all four children have decided to become nocturnal hunters. I am the prey.

Toby has once again decided to take in most of his liquids at night--it's only water, I have no idea why this is so appealing to him, but because of his unknown kidney condition I am hesitant to limit his intake--this, of course, causes him to flood even the most absorbent night-time pull-up. Somewhere around 3am, if I haven't remembered to change him earlier, he will wake up screaming that he's wet and if I don't hear him screaming, I'm sure to hear Hannah yelling at him to be quiet. I change his pajamas, lay a towel over his wet bed and call it good enough, but he wants more water. Sure, little buddy, why not send Mommy down the stairs yet another time tonight so you can wet through your pajamas again before morning? And down I go, and up I go, and back into bed I flop.

Not long after that Emma will wake in a coughing fit. She has always been sensitive to viruses. Any little bug will set her wheezing and coughing like a life-long smoker for weeks, and she happens to be going through another several-week battle with some germ. She will thunk wildly as she coughs, fling open my door and plop herself down on the bed I have all set up for her on the floor beside me. I will sigh, give my pillow one last hug, and heave myself back up out of bed again. At least, because I've anticipated this visit, I have a dose of cough medicine and the nebulizer treatment all set up and ready to go--no more trips downstairs this hour. But alas, Emma has drained her water bottle as well and the cough medicine tastes nasty--down I go again, and up I go again. She drinks, she breathes the albuterol mist, and her cough quiets at last.

I want only to rejoin my long-lost pillow in bed, but I decide that I'd better make a last bathroom stop, since I'm already out of bed. Down and up again. I flop in bed, and endure at least ten minutes of protesting squirms from the baby within. Finally he quiets, I relax, and I begin to drift to sleep...until Emma drifts to sleep just before me and begins to alternate wheezing inhales with snoring exhales. She sounds like an elephant slurping in a trunk-full of water and blowing it back out again every two seconds. I contemplate waking Matt and asking him to carry her back to her bed, but her wheezing is just severe enough that I figure it's safer to keep her beside me, just in case she gets in distress. I lay awake trying to find a song that fits the beat of her snoring, just to amuse myself, and I finally drift to sleep.

It won't be long until Hannah sneaks in to ask me if that thunder she heard was a normal thunderstorm or a severe thunderstorm; or Naomi wakes to use the bathroom and, because her ankles don't bend well, she thunks down the creaky stairs with all the grace of a hippopotamus; or Toby wakes again crying in delerium from a bad dream; or Naomi wanders in to let me know she's having trouble sleeping and ask if it's OK to get up at 5:30am; or Matt's alarm clock goes off because he has to work early today.

Some mornings the children have been angels and have blessed me greatly by waking quietly, playing peacefully, and waiting patiently while Mommy sleeps in, but then there are mornings more like this morning. This morning I lay listening to Emma and Toby fight over and over in their room and when I called Toby in to scold him for taking Emma's toy he informed me that his pajamas had orange juice on them. When I asked him why he admitted plainly, "because I spilled it...all over...and it made a big big mess."

Today I was also blessed to develop Emma's cough. This apparently disturbs the little baby within as much as me since he has to do a few sommersaults everytime I cough. I probably need sleep more than ever tonight, and I probably ought to head to bed, but I doubt I'd find much sleep there. Here's hoping this virus will soon leave us, the children will give up their nocturnal roamings, and I will find rest again before my fifth sleep-thief arrives. Then again, maybe this is good practice for what lies ahead when he comes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Restless Nesting: Hinges and Doorlatches

On February 24th, I posted Cordelia's Hinges to share how I was enjoying even the painstaking work of cleaning up the details of our new home. At that time I had high hopes of continuing to clean hinges, window pulls, and other antique details, but once I found out I was pregnant in March, that all came to a screeching halt. Nausea, fatigue, and concern for the baby's safety when working with chemicals and possible lead paint left my project counter covered in tools and my hinges covered in paint.

Recently my nesting urge has picked up, and while I only meant to clean off that cluttered project counter, I couldn't resist indulging in a little bit of hinge-cleaning on the side. Don't worry, I was painstakingly careful about the baby's safety. I scraped the paint outside in the fresh breeze while wearing rubber gloves. I covered all chemicals with lids and left the doors open to ventilate the house. And I worked in small intervals with plenty of rest and fresh-air breaks. He was safe, I promise.

There was one door catch on a door to my kitchen that had been bothering me. I think it cleaned up pretty well.

And one very visible door, off of my living room has been glaring at me with broken, ugly hinges for far too many months now. This simply had to be remedied. When my front door was replaced shortly after we moved in I saved the old hinges before it was thrown away, hoping to one day clean them up and use them to replace some broken hinges. Here was the result:

Top hinge before

Bottom hinge before

Top hinge again

Cleaning up the hinges I had salvaged from the old front door

Hannah said she liked the pink hinges better, but I had to disagree

Off comes the pink

Top hinge after replacement

Bottom hinge after

A full-door view
I am pleased with the results, but strangely enough, it seems that hanging an enormous solid-wood door on hinges when seven-and-a-half months pregnant does serve to exacerbate both heartburn and backache. Therefore, with this little stunt out of my system, I have retired my exacto knife and cleaning chemicals to the basement, where they shall stay for at least a few months. The rest of the antique detailing can wait: I have enough general organizing and scrubbing to do to satisfy my nesting instinct for the next few weeks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Low White Cell Counts: October Update

I was a little nervous driving back to the children's hospital today after the flat-tire incident last Friday, but once we'd passed the infamous corner where I'd waited three hours for a tire change I relaxed, the morning sun lit the gray October sky, and I almost enjoyed the drive. It was an early morning today trying to get all four kids out the door in the black night of 6:00am. The younger three enjoyed the day with Matt's sister and her kids, Naomi and I had plenty of time together again, and I wasn't plagued by too many contractions as I drove.

The whole day went completely on schedule, in fact, and our appointment, which was certainly necessary, didn't bear any surprising new revelations or begin any new crises. Naomi's GI doctor said that Naomi's spleen had enlarged another couple of centimeters, and while her low white cell counts and enlarging spleen are certainly signs that the liver fibrosis is progressing and causing the pressure in the portal vein to rise, that is exactly what we knew would happen, and it is happening very slowly. She (the doctor) did not seem at all worried at these new signs--they are simply a few more steps along a road we already knew we were traveling.  She still felt that major complications such as severe immune deficiency and sudden GI bleeding were probably years away.

The doctor also clarified that Naomi's white cell counts might not actually rise out of the "normal" range when she is fighting infection, something I wish the ER doctors had known when they kept insisting that Naomi's white cell counts were "normal" and I kept saying "but they're high for her." It is possible that, with Naomi's condition, boosting the white cell counts into the "normal" range from "below normal" is all Naomi's body could muster to fight infection. However, while this might confuse the ER doctors, the GI doctor did not feel that Naomi was severely immuno-compromised yet or that she was in danger of not being able to effectively fight infection.

So, while Naomi may one day face severe immune deficiency and life-threatening GI bleeding, that day is still a good distance down the road. For today there is no quarantining Naomi from germs, life-flighting her to the children's hospital, or planning major surgeries. Today the doctor ordered some blood work to re-check on the status of the celiac disease, the liver function, a blood count, and some vitamin levels that have been running low. She decided she would like to see Naomi every six months now, instead of every year, and she gave us some information on being involved in a new multi-national study on infant siblings of children with celiac disease that is designed to settle the debate about whether early introduction of gluten to babies with the genes predisposing them to celiac increases the risk of the child developing celiac disease later in life.

Today we drove home under the gray October skies and dragged three reluctant siblings from a house that was clearly more fun than our own. Today the three girls are setting up a pretend veterinary clinic and doctoring up a line of illness-and-injury-stricken stuffed animals while I cook dinner. And I'm thankful for today.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flat and Futile

First, before you say "typical girl" to yourself or "that's a pregnant woman for you," let me remind you that the way we process life's circumstances and the decisions we all make are based on the previous experiences we've had. Shortly after we were married one of the rear wheels on Matt's old Ford Escort began grinding and the back end of the car swaying. We were told by a mechanic then that the wheel had nearly fallen off. We were also recently told by a mechanic that something was wrong with the back end of our Toyota Camry that caused it to feel a little loose and rattle, but that it didn't pose a safety hazard. With these experiences in mind, I think it was actually quite understandable that I immediately assumed that mechanic had been wrong when the Camry began to shake and make a horrific grinding noise today on my way to the Children's hospital with Naomi.

One hour away from home, I had just passed a rest stop, feeling that I could make it to the next one, when there was a sudden, horrific grinding noise from the back end of our Camry and I felt the car become difficult to control. I immediately pulled into the right lane, then the shoulder, and about ten yards further to the intersection of a small side road. Shaking with the adrenaline surge, I was adequately prepared to defend myself from any attacker, but found it more than a little difficult to think clearly. I began to hop out of the car so I could have a look at the rear wheels, but I thought, "Silly girl! What in the world am I going to see? If something is that seriously wrong with the car I might as well stay put and call a tow truck ASAP." But where was my cell phone? OK, there it is. Now who am I calling? Oh yeah, I have AAA coverage. Where did I put that card?

So I proceeded to call AAA and order up a tow truck, then my friend who was watching my kids, then another friend who agreed to drive down and pick me up, then my parents because, well, they're my parents, and then Matt's voicemail, even though I knew there wasn't a thing he could do, and finally the children's hospital to cancel Naomi's appointment. By that time I realized I needed to save my cell phone battery so I sat a minute watching the wild clover wave in the ditch beside me. Finally, I decided there couldn't be any harm now to taking a look at the back wheels, even though I most certainly wouldn't be able to see anything, and it obviously wouldn't change my situation at all.

Coming around the rear end of the Camry to the passenger side, I suddenly felt utterly ridiculous. The tire was completely flat and ripped to shreds. It looked like Sasquatch had attempted to eat it for lunch. Oh. A flat tire. Right.

For half a second I wondered if I should be able to handle this myself, but 0.5 seconds later I recalled that my last lesson in flat-tire changing was fourteen years ago in driver's education class. About that time I also recalled that I was seven months pregnant and that squatting for an extended period of time while trying to turn lug nuts with all my might would probably be less than an ideal way to spend my morning.

One humiliating phone call to AAA followed to change my tow truck request to a tire change request. "Umm, so I actually looked at the car,'s a flat tire...sorry...guess I should have looked before I called you." Then I called my friend, who was nearly half-way to meet me and told her to turn around and go home. "Um...sorry...guess I should have looked at the car before I called you...oh wait...maybe I should make sure I actually have a spare tire in the trunk...hang, OK, you can go home now." And then I called my parents, and then Matt's voicemail again. Regaining consciousness, I began to compute just how late I would be to the neurosurgery appointment, and decided that I could still try to make it there after my tire was changed, if they would accommodate me showing up two hours late. Unfortunately, they would not accommodate the pregnant lady with the sick daughter and the flat tire. Rules are rules, sorry, then next available appointment is November 3rd, ma'am. So I booked us for November 3rd and wondered just what adventure I could look forward to if I went into labor on my way to that appointment. And then my cell phone battery began beeping, so it was just me and Naomi and the waving ditch of purple clover.

It was a pretty ditch, and I was thankful that it was a warm day and that I had packed lunch. I almost could have been content to wait for the service man to change my tire, except that by this point my bladder was threatening to burst. I looked back at the horizon where the giant McDonald's/BP rest stop mocked me less than a mile away. Then I looked at the warm, inviting ranch house just in front of me with the well groomed yard and the pretty mums beside the porch. I calculated the odds of a demented mad-man living in that house and grooming his mums just hoping to lure in some innocent lady who had car trouble nearby, and I found the odds fairly low. I decided to take my chances ringing that doorbell over squatting in a ditch with ankle-high clover beside a busy highway.

Naomi skipped happily in front of me to the house and we rang the doorbell...once, twice, three times, but alas, either no one was home, or the demented mad-man inside decided to wait until I died of a ruptured bladder before making his attack. Back to the car we went, where I sat looking at the McDonald's/BP sign and then the ditch, and back to the sign. About this time an old man with a white beard pulled up beside me and rolled down his window. Thankful for his gesture of concern, I opened my door and walked to his van window. "It's just a flat tire. I'm OK, triple-A is on their way," I assured him.

He wrinkled his forehead and looked at me with contempt, then remarked in all seriousness, "Didn't your daddy ever teach you how to change a flat tire?!"

Taken slightly aback, I responded, "Well, I learned thirteen years ago, but I am seven months pregnant now. I think I'll let triple-A handle it." He slobbered slightly on his beard, shook his head in utter disgust, and drove away. With that new temperature reading on the local hospitality I began to feel fortunate that no one had answered the door at the house.

I passed time in my car wondering if someone had actually slashed my tire on purpose the night before and composing nasty letters in my head to the cruel person who would do such a thing. Then I calmed myself and went over again in my head all the things I was hoping to discuss with the doctor today that would now have to wait until November 3rd.

The recent CT on Naomi's spine had shown "incomplete fusion of the posterior elements at L5," which means that one vertebrae in Naomi's lower back hadn't formed properly. Apparently this can be a normal variant of anatomy that causes no problems whatsoever, or it can accompany other spinal-cord abnormalities, namely a "tethered cord." The Internet articles had warned that a tethered cord, which is generally a birth defect but worsens over time, can cause club feet (which Naomi has) and a host of neurological symptoms as the child grows, including back pain and Naomi's newest symptom: pain trying to uncurl her toes.

I had wavered about whether or not to make another trip to the neurosurgeon to ask about yet more strange symptoms and my Internet research. Sometimes I just feel like I must be the most annoying, paranoid mother to these poor doctors. The spinal abnormality could be harmless. Naomi's club feet could very well be due to low levels of amniotic fluid during pregnancy because of her kidney condition. It's just that that explanation has never fully satisfied me since Naomi's kidney function was more than adequate when she was born, no ultrasound or measurement ever suggested I had low amniotic fluid, and her kidney condition actually causes her to pee excessively, not too little. Her recent symptoms of tight legs, worsening club feet, and painfully curled toes could be a result of tight tendons and ligaments because she laid in bed for too long in the hospital without stretching them out. But these could all point to a tethered cord as well, and that would offer an explanation as to why what should have been a routine spinal tap caused her excessive pain for weeks afterwards.

I had called the neurosurgeon two weeks ago to discuss some other concerns with him, and I had not ever received an answer. Then, on Wednesday, when I was about to call him again with my new concerns, I suddenly received a computer generated courtesy call to let me know that his office had taken the liberty of scheduling an office visit for Naomi today at 1:00pm. I decided that must be a sign that I should drive Naomi down to see him again and ask him about my new concerns.

But here I sat, me and the clover ditch and the mad-man's house, not any closer to answering the profound medical mysteries inside my daughter. I wondered for awhile if she would be better off without me constantly dragging her around to doctors appointments, but then I recalled just how much she has improved in the last year since I pushed for answers and found that she had celiac disease and a host of other food sensitivities. The stomach aches are gone, the joint pain has vanished, the tantrums have diminished greatly, and it is because I relentlessly pushed for answers. Whether I seem crazy or not, I know that I must continue to ask questions and demand accurate answers: the consequences of my laziness could be too great if I didn't.

Exactly three hours after I placed the SOS call to AAA, and just as I felt I must be succumbing to water intoxication, a tow truck arrived. A kind man hoped out, jacked up the car, popped on the new tire, and had me back on the road in under five minutes. God bless that man. He also assured me that no one had slashed my tire, but the wall had blown out in seven places as I drove to the shoulder and pulled off the road. A large silver screw embedded in my tire was enough evidence of the cause of my troubles.

I was back at the McDonald's/BP travel stop thirty seconds later. Within an hour I was safe at home, wondering why my day had been completely consumed by futility. I may never know, but I can decide to be angry with the unforgiving universe or I can decide to be grateful to the God who put a screw in my tire. Maybe the doctors appointment isn't what Naomi or I needed today. Maybe it's better if I remember that today was ultimately out of my hands, much the same way my daughter's health is. There's rest in remembering that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Farewell to Summer: An Apple Orchard, Lake, and Eby Home Album

Sometimes, as I sat in Naomi's hospital room, I thought about the fall we were missing: the apple orchards and lakes, the crisp sunshine and the colorful leaves. So when Indian Summer made its glorious appearance last week, I tried to make the most of it, beginning with visiting the nearby orchard last Saturday with our cousins. 

I marveled at the colorful ridge of trees just across the highway.

Even our house seemed to fit in better with the fall weather.

We watched the farmer harvest the bean field outside our front porch.

Then we went to the orchard again! This time with a home school group.

This girl gets thirsty!
Yesterday was Matt's day off for the week, and the weather couldn't have been more beautiful with sunny skies and 75 degrees, so we took the kids to a nearby lake for some playground fun and wading.

Emma looks like she's in a guillotine here :)

Beautiful swans...of course, you can't tell they're hissing at the kids!

So much for rolling up the pant legs...good thing I brought spare clothes.

Beautiful summer,...

...farewell until next year.