I have so much to be thankful for this year it's hard to know where to start. Obviously, my four (!!) beautiful, healthy children. In particular, for Claire's surviving her terrifying hiking accident this summer and for another successful VBA2C with George. For Adam's job, with his company's extremely generous paternity leave policy and for his promotion which perfectly coincided with our first bill for Catholic school tuition. For our cozy rental home, in such a great location and with the absolute nicest landlords. For all the wonderful teachers our children love dearly - Claire's preschool and kindergarten teachers, the great volunteers at Catechesis, Ms. Madeleine at Maggie's art class who always has extra supplies for Betsy to participate, and Ms. Allison our lovely music teacher who has known each of our children since they were babies.
But, right at this moment, I'm feeling especially grateful for my mom. She very, very generously stayed with us for three weeks surrounding George's arrival, just like she did when Maggie and Betsy were born. She was primarily here to watch the girls while I was in the hospital, which was a hard enough job in itself. But she did so much more! Cooking dinner, doing laundry, deep cleaning the bathrooms, stocking the freezer with delicious meals and dozens of chocolate chip cookies, making sure Claire and Maggie each got some quality time to beat her at Candyland. Betsy asked about her repeatedly when she left last Saturday - it's a good thing it was only for a few days, as my parents and brother were all here to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.
Isn't it a wonderful thing to look back at your childhood and want to give the same memories to your kids? This summer, I was thinking that maybe I should be taking our children on more exciting outings, like venturing into Seattle for the zoo, museums, etc. But then I remembered how much I loved our summers growing up - swimming at the pool, going to the library, and having friends over to play. That's what I want to give to my kids too. I hope I can also give of myself and my time so generously when I am a grandmother one day.
We had a really nice, low-key Thanksgiving. Claire was off school the whole week and Adam took the girls on a fun little outing each day - to an indoor playground, to a puppet show at the library, and to see the resident turkey at the farm park. I joined them for Mass on Thanksgiving and a trip to Pike Place Market on Black Friday. George's first non-church or doctor's office outing! We all made something for Thanksgiving dinner and watched Elf while the turkey roasted. I'm pretty sure Claire is the only person in existence who has found that to be a scary movie. She gets a little too emotionally invested these days, which she definitely inherited from me. I'm still scarred from my first and only viewing of Titanic as a child.
You have to drive through the Cascade Mountains to get between here and my parents' town in Eastern Washington. It's not always possible to do in the winter. All the passes are closed when there's too much snow. Sadly, that means we won't see my parents or brother for Christmas. But, we will see my sister, because she'll be back (for good!!) from her missionary service in Honduras. We can't wait to see her!
Born Saturday, November 11th at 6:00 a.m.
8 pounds, 6 ounces and 20.5 inches long
George was due on Sunday, November 5th. After Betsy's successful VBAC, I thought George would probably also be late, although of course I was hoping he arrive a bit sooner! It was actually pretty fun to have another weekend before welcoming a new baby. I went to the movies twice, with my mom and with Adam. My mom and I got pedicures and Adam and I went on a grocery shopping and coffee date.
By Monday I was starting to feel antsy. This time around, I resolved not to stress myself out by trying a million natural induction methods. I limited myself to one per day. On Monday, I raked all the leaves in the front yard, which involved lots of squats. On Tuesday, I went to prenatal yoga. On Wednesday, Adam came with me to my OB appointment. After the doctor informed me that nothing had changed from the previous week and swept my membranes again, we walked up all 18 flights of stairs at the hospital.
On Thursday, I woke up with contractions every 10-15 minutes apart. We went on a long walk around the neighborhood, during which I spent most of the time walking with one foot on the curb and one on the street. Apparently this can help baby settle into a good position. The contractions continued at the same pace all day Friday, except my calves were super sore from all the curb walking. By Friday evening, I decided to bring out the big guns and try one of the few natural induction methods I hadn't done before - using the breast pump to stimulate things and hopefully bring contractions closer together. I read online to do fifteen minutes on one side, fifteen minutes on the other, take a ten minute break, and repeat for about three hours.
So, we rented Wonder Woman, which was a pretty funny female empowerment movie to watch right before giving birth, and got started around 9:00 pm. Contractions quickly moved to three or four minutes apart. I only made it about ninety minutes before pumping got too painful. We decided to finish the movie and see if contractions kept up at the same pace. Thankfully, they did, and we headed to the hospital around midnight. I've read lots of blog posts about what to pack in your hospital bag. By our fourth baby, we are extremely minimalist. We just brought our camera!
We arrived in triage around 12:30. I was dilated to a four and 50% effaced. Once I was moved to a delivery room, a resident came to have me sign consent forms for a trial of labor and a c-section, should it be necessary. An anesthesiologist came to talk about epidurals. The nurse placed an IV and fetal heart monitors, which are kind of annoying but necessary for a VBAC. Finally, we were left alone. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to get an epidural first or have my water broken first.
I was worried about getting the epidural too early and things slowing down, because you can't receive any Pitocin with a VBAC. Since I came in just dilated to a four, I thought I should wait until I was further along. But, it was also the middle of the night and I was exhausted, so getting the epidural first ultimately won out. I am very, very glad it did. The epidural was placed at 3:00 am and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep before the anesthesiologist even left the room.
When the doctors came into break my water at 4:30, I was "complete with a lip." By the time they came in again at 5:30, I was definitely feeling a lot of pressure. Everyone assured me George was so low I'd just need to push through one contraction and he'd slip right out, which wasn't exactly the case. I'm not quite that efficient! But twenty minutes later, at 6:00 am exactly, he was here. I was so happy to finally meet him, so relieved pregnancy was over at last, and honestly just in awe that his delivery had worked out how I'd hoped. It almost felt more surreal than my first VBAC with Betsy. I mean, anything can happen once, but for things to go smoothly twice? We are very thankful to have a great hospital nearby that is so supportive of VBACs after two c-sections.
After a couple hours, we moved to a room on the postpartum floor, where we napped for a couple more hours and then Adam went home to get Grandma and George's big sisters. They were all very excited to meet him, even Betsy. She is about the same age as Claire when Maggie was born. Claire didn't really seem interested in her new sibling at first, but Betsy is so much more verbal and, as the third child, so much more aware of the world. Of course, she eventually lost interest and found every button to press in the hospital room.
We've had our children in three different hospitals thus far and every time we've been frustrated with how vague they are about discharge procedures. There was a sign in my room that said discharge would be at noon, but to let your nurse know if you'd like to leave earlier. Right away, we told the nurse we'd like to go home as soon as possible. Guess how early we got to leave? At 11:30. But since last Sunday afternoon, we've been enjoying having George at home. And Adam too, because he'll be off on paternity leave until the new year. The real hero of this story is my mom, who has been so amazing over the past few weeks that she deserves her own post!
I saw Jim Gaffigan say somewhere, "When did October 31st become the last day of Halloween?" So true! On the Friday before, I took Maggie and Betsy to a little preschool Halloween carnival at our town's community center. Claire's school had a Trunk or Treat event after her last soccer game that evening.
We spent the weekend jumping in leaves and carving pumpkins. Never again will we let each child pick out a pumpkin to carve! Well, at least not until they're old enough to actually help. Claire and Maggie kept talking about getting Halloween decorations, but thankfully were content with one $3 package of fake spider webs this year.
On the actual holiday, Claire got to wear her costume to school for the kindergarten Halloween party, while Betsy and Maggie were invited to wear theirs to music class.
We had our second annual "spooky dinner" before trick-or-treating. The mummy hot dogs and skeleton veggie tray were a big hit.
But the mummy apple slices could use a bit of work. Trying a different fruit idea next year! I also branched out by making these jack-o-lantern smoothies, which will not be appearing on the menu again. Way too labor intensive (I used melted chocolate to paint the jack-o-lantern faces on each cup) and, of course, my kids barely drank any (they were orange banana flavored).
Claire and Maggie rejected all of my family costume ideas (Peter Pan, Charlotte's Web, the Ingalls family) because they really wanted to dress up as Skye and Everest, the two girls dogs on Paw Patrol. I wasn't quite willing to let the themed costume tradition die yet though, so we rolled with it. Betsy was a member of the kitty catastrophe crew, perfect for our mischievous toddler. Apparently there's an episode in which the Paw Patrol save a walrus and his pregnant wife, the inspiration for the adult costumes. We found the walrus hats on Etsy and the girls' outfits at Target.
We trick or treated at about a dozen houses and then the girls were happy to pass out candy at home for a little bit before bed. A successful Halloween in the books! Although, if you're Catholic, you've still got two special days to celebrate. We all went to the School Mass first thing Wednesday morning for All Saints Day. That evening, we gathered all of our saint icons and statues onto our prayer table and sang a litany of saints. We went to Mass again on All Souls Day and got a beautiful candle blessed. That evening, we looked at pictures of our relatives who've passed away and prayed for the repose of their souls. I like to think the fact that our kids are named after saints and relatives help make these two holy days more meaningful for them at such a young age.
Podcasts. I never miss an episode of Young House Love Has A Podcast,Happier With Gretchen Rubin,Fountains of Carrots,and Messy Parenting. My favorites probably being the last two. I love Fountains of Carrots' book club episodes - The Blue Castle was such a charming story! And I feel like their episode discussing The Crown vs. Victoria was pretty much made just for me. Messy Parenting is hosted by a Catholic couple with ten children. They share SO much wisdom in every episode! Podcasts make cleaning bathrooms and doing dishes infinitely more enjoyable.
Take Up And Read. It will come to an end once we have a baby in our room again, but I've actually established a pretty good habit of waking up before our kids for some quiet prayer time. Claire's hiking accident inspired me to make this a much bigger priority. Being quite pregnant helps too, because when my alarm goes off in the morning I usually have to use the bathroom very badly or I'm just so uncomfortable that I spring out of bed quickly. I have been absolutely loving the Take Up and Read Catholic bible journals, written by Elizabeth Foss and a whole team of wonderful ladies.
Well Read Mom. A lovely friend started a Well Read Mom's group at our parish this fall. It is such a fantastic program! I'm a decent reader (usually averaging two months a book) but it's so nice to have a book club dedicated to reading more high-brow literature than I would usually choose for myself. The first selection was Gilead and the second is O Pioneers! which is actually free to download via Kindle. I fit most of my reading in at the gym, although in the bath (with lavender epsom salts) is my very favorite and occasionally I can sneak a few pages in the late afternoons while my kids are happily occupied (always accompanied by some chai tea.)
Read Aloud Revival. Their themed monthly picture book lists are the best! At the beginning of each month, I sit down and request them all from the library (checking the comments too for even more ideas). Then we have quality picture books waiting for us when we visit each week, simple as that. They also have some great chapter book suggestions, but I've found more recommendations from Everyday Reading (her mom's blog is great too!), from browsing homeschooling curriculum, and from awesome friends like Rosie and Bethany.
Funny TV Shows. We watch a lot of sitcoms - The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Last Man on Earth, The Middle, The Goldbergs, Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, American Housewife, Speechless. That really does sound like a lot, but since we watch them all on Hulu without commercials, it's only about 3.5 hours of television a week. Laughing together is such a great way to end the day! We do make an exception for one drama, Madam Secretary. We enjoy it so much we even watch with commercials on the CBS website. Out of all of these, we would most recommend The Good Place. One of the main characters actually reminds us a lot of our pastor, which makes it even more humorous. The first season is on Netflix if you'd like to catch up!
British Period Pieces. Well, you can probably guess that I'm super, super excited for the second seasons of The Crown and Victoria this winter. Somehow I haven't gotten into Poldark though. I'm very intrigued by Outlander, especially since I've read several of the books, but I've heard it's almost as graphic as Game of Thrones. I'm really looking forward to seeing these four films, all being released this fall - Viceroy's House,Victoria and Abdul,Goodbye Christopher Robin,and Breathe - although I'm betting I'll have to wait for them to come out on video.