Saturday, June 30, 2012

Melty Memories

When Katie was born two years ago, my mother flew in from Minnesota to help.  The surprising highlight of the visit came one evening when she decided to treat the girls to ice cream at the local Byrne Dairy.  Robyn and Amber each had a normal scoop (we didn’t know they offered kiddie-cones) of rainbow sherbet and since it was the end of the day and we were eating on a picnic table outside we let them revel in all of its melty marvelousness unrestrained. 

What a mess.

Only a couple of cell phone photos of the event exist, and, while the girls certainly do look sloppy in them, they don’t even begin to capture the full ice cream insanity.  The best moment came when Amber realized her arm was literally stuck together and she wasn’t able to unbend her elbow.  Mom and I nearly fell off the bench watching her try to peel her upper and lower arms apart.

ice cream 011

ice cream 009

That was the beginning of a tradition: when Grandma comes, we go for ice cream. 

Her recent trip to meet little Matthew was no exception.  Once again we found ourselves sitting in the shade at Byrne Dairy; once again we bought the non-kiddie-size and let the girls go at it.  No one’s skin got stuck together this time, but there was still plenty of sticky sloppiness to go around. 

The trouble with dribbles.

Got ice cream?

I think it's safe to say that happiness is a two-year-old with an ice cream cone.

Even at four years old, though, Amber was still great ice cream entertainment.  Here she is trying to steal a lick off of Katie's cone. 

Another great moment?   When we realized she had eaten half of the paper wrapper at the bottom of the cone without noticing. 

Burning off some of the ice cream-induced insanity by dancing on the grass.

Little Matthew slept through the whole event.  Just as well: he has to wait until next year for his turn to try some anyway.

Apparently two-year-olds don't have the monopoly on melty messiness.  Maybe it's hereditary?
Thanks for visiting, Mom!  We had a great time and can’t wait for you to come back in the fall: hopefully it will still be warm enough for another ice cream run in September!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What we did instead last Monday

AKA: The Post Where You Get To Hear the Whole Birth Story. (You've been warned... :)

Just-born baby Matthew Bryan, all ready to start snuggling.
Bryan and I went to bed Sunday night convinced Monday would be a normal day.  I was planning on going strawberry picking with the girls.  Bryan was looking forward to a week at work.  While we were optimistic that Baby might come sometime during the week (I'd been having strong, fairly consistent Braxton-Hicks since Friday morning), officially the due date on all our paperwork was still another two weeks away so we were trying not to get too excited.  Two weeks is too long of a time to be both miserably huge and constantly on edge thinking "it's time! it's time!"  

I didn't sleep particularly well though.  I kept waking up tossing from one side to the other, thinking that things were even more uncomfortable than usual, but quickly drifting off again each time.  At least that's how it was until about five in the morning.

Looking indignant when, after an hour of cuddles, he finally had to be cleaned up and had to have his reflexes checked.
Around five something woke me up, but I wasn't sure exactly what.  Still groggy, I managed to check the clock before drifting off, waking up eight minutes later to some cramping that came and went fairly quickly.  Maybe?  Maybe?  Now suddenly wide awake,  I lay in bed starring at the clock, willing another eight minutes to pass.  The minutes seemed to take forever and I felt so normal in between I started to blame it all on the crepes and pudding we'd had for dinner.  For just a moment it had seemed so convincing that suddenly looking at just a "normal" day was surprisingly disappointing.  Even the trip to the strawberry patch didn't sound as fun as it had when we'd planned it on our Sunday walk the afternoon before.

And then, at exactly eight minutes, there was a contraction. Definite start.  Definite stop.  More painful than merely uncomfortable.  I was ecstatic!

With all of our babies I've gone into labor while sleeping.  With Robyn it was during an after-work evening nap.  Amber and Katie were both first thing in the morning.  In the past I've generally gotten up, walked around, gotten a drink, even taken showers, just to make sure it was "the real thing" before waking up Bryan.  Not this time.

My two best boys!
I was so sure and so excited I started shaking Bryan's shoulder as soon as the contraction passed.  When he finally woke up (he's a notoriously good sleeper) I started saying, "I think it's today!!"

To which Bryan starred at me blankly.  "What's today?"

It didn't even occur to me that he wouldn't, of course, know I was talking about the baby, so I assumed he was wondering what the date was, what the baby's birthday would be.  "June fourth."  I added, "Monday June fourth," for good measure, in case he was really disoriented.

"Okaaaaay," Bryan answered tentatively.

Finally it dawned on me that he really had no idea what I was talking about.  "The baby!  I think we're having the baby today!"

At that point he leaped into action.  Soon we were up, dressed, tracking contractions on my tablet, and even more sure that we were in labor.

This labor was different from any other I've experienced before.  With every other baby I've had 30-45 second contractions 1-2 minutes apart right out the gate.  Having an eight minute rest between seemed heavenly!  The actual contractions were longer and more painful than I remembered this early in the process, but what wonders to have so many minutes in between!  I'd heard of people being told to "rest between contractions" and known some people who say they even "drifted off to sleep between contractions" all of which had always sounded impossibly odd to me.  How do you fall asleep when you've barely got time to catch your breath before diving into another one??  Now it made so much more sense!  I felt great between contractions!

Since I felt so relaxed and the contractions were so far apart, getting out the door almost felt leisurely compared to some of our other dashes to the hospital.  We took nearly an hour to get the girls up and dressed, double-check the hospital bag, and even fold a basket of laundry before finally heading out to take the girls to the homes of some very kind, rather early-rising, friends who had agreed to watch them for the day.

The girls came to meet Matthew later that afternoon.

Once Bryan and I were alone in the car it finally all started to seem real.  It was raining and I remember just feeling so excited and so nervous I  hardly knew what to do.  I couldn't even drink the strawberry-banana smoothie we'd stopped at McDonalds to grab on our way.  The contractions were still nearly 6 wonderful minutes apart, although they were also getting strong enough to remind me of just what a painful experience the whole giving birth business actually is.

Apparently we weren't the only ones thinking about the whole birth business that morning.  Some of the nurses blamed it on the stormy weather.  Some mused that it was because it was Monday.  Whatever the reason, the maternity wing was bustling when we arrived.

Our midwife was already at the hospital when we got there, taking time to settle us in before heading off to deliver another baby.  The Birth Center portion of the hospital where we had made arrangements to deliver was full, so we were initially sent to normal Labor and Delivery.  While we were able to get into one of the Birth Center rooms before actually delivering, we heard later from one of the nurses that by mid-day not only was the Birth Center full, so were all the beds in Labor and Delivery, AND all seven beds in the Labor and Delivery triage area.  Seeing how busily the nurses were bustling around trying to take care of everyone, I wondered if things must be just as busy in heaven on days like this, trying to make sure all the last-minute preparations are taken care of before these little babies are launched into mortality.

They were especially fascinated by his teeny tiny little toes.
The contractions were coming closer to every four minutes, and were requiring serious concentration, by the time they hooked us up to the monitor, but I still felt great.  When our midwife came into check us I'm not sure who was more surprised, us or the nurses, to discover that we were admitting with a dilation of 8-almost-9.  I'd been hoping we were at a 5 or a 6...not 8-or-9!

At that point the midwife let us choose.  She said she'd be happy to break my waters (what we've normally done not too long after showing up at the hospital) and we could have the baby in twenty minutes, or we could live out my dream of finally getting in the jetted tub.

I chose the tub.

I've wanted to try laboring in a hospital jacuzzi since before Robyn was born.  Unfortunately, our turbo-speed babies have never made that an option.  Not this time though!  Off to the tub we went!

What followed was by far the most relaxed, slow-paced, labor I've ever had.  I spent some time in the tub.  I walked around.  I snuggled with Bryan.  We talked and laughed and, other than some really pesky contractions, had a rather pleasant morning. We even joked that it was one of the best dates we've had in years.  While occasionally we're able to sneak off for a night out, the idea of spending daytime hours alone together has been pretty much unheard of for the past five years.

And Bryan was wonderful!  The nurses even commented about what a good team we made.  Other than getting a baby out of the experience, spending so much time with my favorite labor coach is one of the things I look forward to most as the end of pregnancy comes into sight.

A baby brother of their very own!  (I loved that in the Birth Center the beds are big enough for everyone to climb on together!)

Admittedly, though, our morning probably wasn't as productive as it was pleasant.  After a couple of hours we still weren't quite complete, so we decided to get on with things.  I asked for a shot of Nubain and then the midwife went ahead and broke my waters.

The Nubain was a new experience for us.  With Amber and Katie we relied entirely on Lamaze to work through labor.  I always feel like I'm managing really really well with breathing techniques...until my water's broken.  After that, literally within minutes, suddenly I'm complete, and there's just no option other than to have a baby and get it over with, but it tends to be pretty intense and pretty overwhelming.  This time, even though things still seemed controllable at the moment, we went ahead and did the Nubain just before having my water broken.  

Matthew getting his first bath.  The Birth Center nurses even let the girls help with it.
It wasn't like I expected.  I didn't get super sleepy or nauseous like people had warned.  It didn't even actually seem to affect pain perception particularly much.  It mostly just made me really relaxed.  I think it pretty much did what Lamaze does when it's working right.  Everything was still absurdly awful, but it made it a lot easier to keep breathing and to have rational thoughts through the middle of it.  (Like, "You aren't actually going to die..." :)  The hard thing with Lamaze alone, for me, was if you get off your rhythm even for a moment it's like hurtling into a horrible abyss and once you start to unravel it can be a real fight to get back in the zone again.  The Nubain made it easier to stay centered and to keep panic from nibbling in at the edges.

True to our previous experiences, it only took a few contractions after having my water broken before I was feeling "pushy."

All clean and warm.
I remember the instructor at the class Bryan and I took before Robyn was born extolling the "joys" of pushing.  "After all the pains of labor, it feels so good to puuuuuuuush!"  (Visualize sweeping arm motions to go with that statement.)  Those words have come back to me at this point in every one of our labors, and every time I wonder, "What the heck was she thinking???!"  Sure, labor is painful up to that point, but it's largely an experience of endurance.  You're just trying to survive as you surf from one contraction to the next.  When its time to bear down, though, your role suddenly switches from relatively passive participant--your body's doing most of the work for you--to the driving force.  It hurts.  The more you push, the more it hurts.  But the only way out is through it, so you just push more.  And so it just hurts more.  I'm not sure "joy" is one of the words I would use to describe it, other than perhaps in reference to the realization that soon baby will finally be here. 

I know they turn down the lights during delivery, but I think I also get a bit of tunnel vision at this point that makes it all seem even darker than it is.  It's like everything in the whole world disappears, very literally, except for what's going on inside.  I could hear the midwife and Bryan talking, but it seemed very far away, with very little to do with me, even though I'm sure everything being said was probably directed at me.  Even between contractions I just wanted to close my eyes and ignore everyone, waiting for the next swell to start.  I did latch on to the midwife's voice, though, when I finally heard her say, "Oh!  You're so close.  Another contraction, maybe two, and we'll have this baby."

Clean?  Check.  Warm?  Check.  Swaddled?  Check.  Snuggled? Check.  Sleeping?  Check.  Life is good.
It seemed so hopeful, but so unlikely.  I was in such a different world by then it didn't seem possible that it might all actually end, that we might actually get a baby out of the whole process.

And then, ring of fire.  A very detached part of my brain--the part not involved with gritting teeth, holding breath, and pushing until you think you might black out--actually responded to that by thinking, in dramatic slow motion, "Hey, it really does feel like a circle, I can feel the whole circle, and it really does all hurt, interesting..." just before the midwife announced, "We've got him!"  (Which is of course followed by the second, shorter, ring of fire that they don't warn you about as you push out big boxy baby shoulders.) 

Katie kissing the baby goodnight before heading home with Daddy.
I've always wanted to see one of our babies actually be born, but it never seems to work out.  Same story this time.  They even helped me into an angle where I should have been able to, but I was so focused internally I literally couldn't see anything.  Oh well.  At least I got to use the jetted tub.  :) 

Close-up of baby before he woke up.  So handsome!
And then all of a sudden they plopped our beautiful baby on my tummy.  I was panting for breath, the nurse was kindly mopping up the puddles of sweat I seemed to have generated, and here was this beautiful little bundle of wobbly arms and legs just waiting to be snuggled.  He was pinky-gray, covered in goo the consistency of cream cheese, and so obviously perfect I couldn't believe he was really here.  With each of our babies, that first moment has always been so hard to drink in.  I think I normally start babbling, almost delirious at the reality of the baby really being here.  After months of pregnancy and hours of labor, to have the baby actually here, in my arms, ready to be explored and loved and held, seems too good to be true.

Hanging out with Katie and Mommy waiting to be discharged the next morning. 

Matthew weighed in at 8 lbs, 6 ounces: our first baby to tip the scales past the 8 lb mark.  He had an Apgar score of 10 and a head full of soft auburn-brown hair.  His big toes jut out to the side a little and he has large hands.  His back is a bit hairy, his ears stick out a little, and he has almost no eyelashes to speak of.  And I'm fairly convinced there has never been a more beautiful baby boy in the whole world.

Showing off the cute monkey on the bottom of his going-home outfit.

Looking back it all feels like a blur.  Sneaking out of Primary to go throw up last fall.  Spending the holidays trying to find excuses for a nap.  Losing sight of my ankles.  Outgrowing my normal clothes.  Outgrowing my maternity clothes.  Heartburn, insomnia, congestion, carpal tunnel...  It's hard to believe nine months could be erased so suddenly by one cute little pudgy face.  And yet none of the mess of pregnancy seems very memorable compared to the wonderfully wiggly little body we got to take home with us from the hospital.

And he's all ours, forever and ever and ever! 

Family picture!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

What we were planning on doing last Monday

I got an email over the weekend indicating that our favorite farm was going to be open for U-Pick strawberries beginning Monday June 4.  The email also suggested that because of the unusually early warm temperatures (followed of course by hard frosts) they were only expecting about half the usual strawberry harvest.  (I believe the phrase the email used was that they planned on “closing early and closing often.”)  Since Mondays tend to be a good get-things-done day for us, I figured I’d take the girls right when it opened and see what we could find before things got too picked over.  I also figured it would be a happy distraction from being insanely pregnant.

We didn’t end up going on the 4th, but we did make it out to the farm today.  Thankfully, any fears of the patch being picked clean were unfounded: there were plenty of ripe berries just waiting for little fingers to find them.  

As we drove out to the farm, Bryan and I realized that this is actually the fifth time we’ve picked June strawberries here.  That’s starting to sound dangerously close to being an honest-to-goodness tradition at this point: crazy!  It’s hard to believe that the first time we came here, Robyn was significantly younger than Katie (she was only 16 months old) and we had to teach her what to pick.  So many springs later and no one needed any teaching: everyone knew just what to look for.

Robyn was our expert strawberry finder.  She seemed to hone right in on where there would be nice big clumps of berries waiting.
You can almost hear Katie saying, "Oh!!  Baby berry!!"  (Accompanied, of course, by a semi-shrill shriek of joy. :)

Amber showing off her latest fistful of strawberries.

Not only that, they were all really good hard workers.  Even though we got there early, it was already 80 degrees before we even started which made for a hot and sticky harvest.  On the upside, the entire field smelled like cooked jam, which the girls admitted was pretty nice.

My favorite little migrant workers.
Strawberry sisters.
It's good they were such pleasant little workers, because we had big plans for all those berries.  Since the price had gone up a fair amount since last spring (darn that late frost! :) we only picked about half as many as last year.  It ended up being just right though: we were still able to make up a couple batches of freezer jam, enjoy some strawberry popsicles, and slather our French toast in strawberries for dinner time. 



Besides going picking together and making jam, we apparently have another berry tradition around here: babies.  Of the five times we've picked at this farm, three times we had less-than-one-month-old babies in tow.  I wonder if someday just the sight of strawberries will make me baby hungry?

You can't really see him, but Baby is snuggled up in there.  (A friend of mine lent me her Moby Wrap a while ago so I could use it as a pattern for my own little wrap.  I'm so glad!  How did we ever have three babies without one of these??!)
P6100037 you can see him.  Definitely the pick of the patch. :D
Speaking of berry traditions, we rounded out the morning with one of our other farm-day favorites: ice cream! 


No ice cream for this little guy.  Better luck next year!
 We've had such a great time with Bryan home from work this past week, with today's strawberries being one of the big highlights.  It will be really hard to send him out the door again tomorrow morning.  Sigh.  I guess it's back to the real world after that.  But at least it will be a real world that now includes a freezer full of strawberry jam.  (Oh, and a really cute little baby boy too. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Can’t Leave Katie Hanging

A lot has happened over here recently, but it would be a shame to get ahead of ourselves and skip entirely over Katie’s big second birthday.


I can’t believe she’s TWO!  Apparently, neither can she.  Anytime someone asks how old she is, she says “four.”  It scares me to think how soon she really will be four.  Don’t these girls know growing up isn’t allowed???


This year, Katie’s big day happened to fall on Memorial Day.  And not just any Memorial Day, but a Memorial Day when some of my very best friends from Minnesota happened to be in town for the weekend.  This is the second time in roughly a year that we’ve been able to have a “Chaska East” reunion in Syracuse and it amazes me nonstop that we’ve had such good fortune.  Who moves over a thousand miles away from home and then still gets to hang out with their best friends from high school?

To celebrate the unofficial start of summer and take advantage of our wonderful finger lakes, we ended up all heading out to Seneca Lake State Park—one of our favorite places for summer fun. (Things we love about Seneca Lake: there’s a great playground, the beautiful lake for a backdrop (and swimming later in the summer), plus a really fun “sprayground” for the kids to splash in.)

Going for a ride together on the playground.  (Not pictured: Daddy pumping furiously with his arms to power the little tram.)

Little Amber and Big Amber hanging out.  The husbands engaged in a little friendly competition pumping their wives back and forth.  To make things more difficult (my friends all weigh pretty much nothing) Amber got to tag along on the rides. 


Of course, in true Memorial Day fashion, we also picnicked.

My three favorite little girls.

My three favorite girls from when I was little.

We brought Pink Lemonade cupcakes to celebrate Katie's birthday with the group.

I was really excited to have an excuse to use these cupcake wrappers.  I found them clearanced after Valentines Day and immediately thought of a certain little baby that we routinely called "Katie-Bug" when she was born.  (We even brought her home from the hospital in a little outfit with pink lady bugs on the toes.)

 My amazing, waaaaaay too generous, friends, made the occasion extra festive by bringing presents.  In fact, not only did they bring gifts for Katie, they brought goodies (like fabulous Slinky-brand pinwheels!) for the big girls and a super cute outfit for baby brother.  (And a package of…um… “pee-pee teepees” for baby.  Nothing says friendship like that… :)


Being a spaz while we wait for the sprayground to re-open.  This happened a lot.  Perhaps the concept of a swim diaper is a little bit more complicated than it would seem...

Afterwards we also had a little family party for Katie at home.

Nothing says two-year-old girl like a very pink, very pastel Elmo cake.  (It was hard to eat this one: it reminded me a little too much of the imaginary food on Hook.)

Guess who decided where to put the candles?  Hint: it was a boy.

Playing Goldilocks with curly ribbons.
This is a Goldilocks I wouldn't want to find eating my porridge.  Spoooooky. :)

Suffice it to say, we think Katie had a BALL with her big day!

Happy Birthday, Katie!