Carseat Shopping with Preschoolers- Britax Endeavours

As you know, I’ve been confined, a prisoner, if you will, on bed rest for the last month. For someone who LOVES baby things and happens to be pregnant…and in need of baby things…this was torture. So, one of my first stops on my first day of freedom was Buy Buy Baby to check out all that has changed since Bug was cooking in my belly. And, woah! It’s a LOT! One of my favorite things we checked out was the new Britax Endeavours infant carseat. This seat goes from 4-35lbs, which for a mama with a high risk of birthing a premie, this is great news!

 

Obviously, Bug exceeds the max weight limit! But he approves the comfort level!

With the steel anti-rebound bar, there is 30% less rebound in a front or rear crash.

Even Chuck could maneuver its user-friendly design.

“Baby” the cabbage patch doll appreciates the safety measures present both with or without a base. With latch or auto seatbelts, Baby is riding with exceedingly high safety standards.

Chuck really enjoyed learning about how she can help take care of her new baby sibling in this #1 safety-rated seat. Bug, on the other hand, enjoyed torturing his sister. What can I say, they were stoked to get out of the house, too! I dare you to watch to the end without laughing!

Carseat Shopping With Preschoolers- Video

 

*I was compensated to check out this rad seat. All children and their wackado behaviors are my own.

30 Days

Thirty days of confinement, rest, restrictions and caution. Thirty days of figuring out a new normal and a new sense of purpose. Thirty days to dwell in my thoughts and fears and hopes for this baby and our family.

I haven’t done them well. I don’t know how one does. Two young children who need every piece of me that I can’t physically give and one deep-rooted character of pride sitting in my heart; these have been my companions. I didn’t realize how dependent I am on being INdependent until this last month. Ladies from bible study asked 10 times before they finally TOLD me they were coming to clean my kitchen. A meal train that ended up being a literal lifeline for my family was set up without me signing off…and I am so, so glad. Several friends grocery shopped, played mom-taxi and entertained my minions…all just by DOING. Because, you see, if there is one thing us moms are great at, it’s LOOKING as if we have it all under control….even if that’s not logistically possible. So, I dedicate the last thirty days to those who just DO. Thank you.

Now, the next thirty days? Who knows?! I was tentatively released from strict bed rest! It turns out the complete placenta previa that was aggravated by a pretty large subchorionic hematoma just…moved. I mean, last week it was bad. Really, really “you’re gonna have a c-section if you don’t go into preterm labor before,” bad. And this week, God said, “move!” and it did! Even my high risk doctor was surprised at the level of progress. The hematoma is still there and relatively large, but without the concern of the previa, it’s not as big of an issue right now. I am still on “light duty,” but I am able to leave the house. I can take Chuck to our Classical Conversations community day without reprimand and I can resume our normal dance/Awana/mops routine. Most exciting to me….TARGET! I know, so basic, right? But really, Chip and Joanna have been waiting for me. I must go!

I am 18.5 weeks at this point and while spending so much time with my own thoughts, I began to count down to different milestones. The most pivotal of these to me is 24 weeks. Twenty four weeks…the point of viability. The placemarker in gestation where I will never hear the words “there’s nothing we can (will) do. Just go home and manage your expectations.” Those words still burn in my ears after our traumatic night in the ER in Vegas. So, 24 weeks comes, get this, on Dec. 24! My little minnow will be statistically “viable,” a saveable miracle on Christmas Eve. How’s that for divine?!

This Sunday, Bug turns three and I can’t help but remember these milestones with him. His pregnancy was easy, for the most part, until the end. When I was 18 weeks with him, we were camping out in the mountains near Kern river, roasting marshmallows, blissfully unaware of just how much could go wrong. And here we are with this one, thanking God for each day closer to viability. It’s that way with life in general, right? We go along whistling until someone bumps us…and then someone bigger, then maybe a car or truck and then the whole dad-gum train runs us flat over and we are like, “good grief! I get it now! Life isn’t promised. Each day is a complete and utter gift. I get it.”

So, on Sunday, we will celebrate another gift of a day with our baby (middle) boy and we will once again get on our knees to thank our Heavenly Father for all the days we’ve had, and hope to have, to bring glory to Him, raising our tribe, sewing seeds of grace and mercy and working so very hard on clipping those ties to pride. Grateful for days and the ways, He shows us gently (or sometimes not SO gently) the reflection of the parts of ourselves we need to give to Him. I do get it now.

 

The Bed Rest Project

We’ve been given a diagnosis.

We drove four hours from Vegas, on pins and needles, because I had started to bleed again Monday morning. It is agonizing, that visualization that your baby is dying inside you and there’s nothing you can do about it. But, we slid into a parking space just in time for my OB to fit me in at the end of his day. We fidgeted in our seats and tried to entertain two car-weary kids in the waiting room in anticipation of what that ultrasound screen would show.

And then, there it was…the blip, blip, blip. We still had a heartbeat! And a subchorionic hemorage. After a visit with the high risk perinatalogist, the SCH was confirmed, as well as partial placenta previa. So, I’ve been prescribed complete bed rest for the foreseeable future. There is always the hope that the placenta moves and the hemorage heals itself, but until then, I will do whatever I’m told to keep this little one growing!

I’m almost 16 weeks and that’s the farthest we’ve made it since Bug. I’m counting everyday I get to feel flutters and hear that heartbeat as a giant blessing. I find myself still in disbelief that we might actually get to meet this one. We might actually get to smell that new baby smell and cradle a tiny little head again. It’s a strange space in which to live, straddling grief and joy. Guardedness and celebration.

The kids are excited. Chuck is sure I am growing a “Crystal Snowflake.” I haven’t the heart to tell her that, I am absolutely not going to be presenting her with either an exotic dancer or a recreational drug. Bug is sure it’s a boy and since the only sweet baby boy he knows is his auntie’s, he calls our baby by the same name. At least they will both be equally disappointed with our name choices!

They’ve been troopers with the bed rest thing. I keep reading blogs from women about how to stay sane on bed rest. They encourage things like, “finishing a good book,” or “catching up on episodes of Game of Thrones.” My favorite, though is “learn a new hobby like crocheting!” These people obviously have no preschoolers to entertain. I’m going to start a series on realistic activities to do from bed when you have kids. It will include things like, “learn to take the fewest steps possible to the bathroom to see what the two year old flushed. Again.” And, “try not to stress as you hear the entire contents of the top pantry shelf crash to the ground.” And my personal pick, “learn a new skill: interpret whether the silence is a blessing or worth investigating.” In the mean time, I’ve decided to document our daily bed rest diaries on Instagram under the hashtag #theBedrestProject. Check it out. Seriously riveting stuff, y’all!

Thank you for the prayers. I know I’ve asked for the reserves over the last year and a half. I’m reminded by those around me that this season (or decade) of life won’t last forever and soon enough, my prayers will be lavishly bestowed on others as theirs have been to us. I’m still waiting for the lesson in all this. Maybe there isn’t one, or at least one that we will know until that Glory day. But, I am thankful for today. So, so thankful for this life growing inside me.

Secondary Infertility and losses

Last summer, I decided to take a break from facebook. We had just experienced the heartbreak of our second miscarriage. The ridiculousness of political rants and petty complaints became a very unwelcomed distraction from processing our pain. Leaving was good for me. I learned to cling tighter to my Savior, instead of drowning my mind in constantly refreshing my feed. Brent and I worked through our raw hurt together, again, this second time, and came out on the other side stronger than ever.

Then, it happened again. And again. And again. And again. During this year hiatus, we have grasped to a tiny life, five different times, only to be shattered as it slipped away. That’s six in total. Six babies in heaven. I’m still jaw-dropped at those words. Our most recent beloved went to be with Jesus this month, almost a year to the day of his sibling.

I’ve been reminded over and over again that God put us on this earth to live in community, to glorify Him. His love is only reflected by ours. So, this village, the people who’ve brought coffee or embraced snot-drenched sobs on their shoulders…these are the Hands and Feet. These are the ones who, without always the right words, show with action, the cross. Thank you.

There’ve been other tragedies and joys and endless hours of news, both personal and public, through the last year. It’s documented in my heart, instead of my page. Our actions, and inactions, haven’t always been understood or appreciated by those around us, and that’s ok. Healing and grieving and growing are processes, undertaken in intimacy with Jesus. Everyone does it differently. But, all you who’ve suffered, too, know, I know. And I love, too.

My babies all have names. They’ve all been loved for every second of their existence. Every bit of their being was felt and cherished. They will be remembered at due dates and loss dates…even if I have to reference my “list,” because there are so many. What mother doesn’t remember her baby’s birthday? I’m trying.

So, I suppose the point of this is…well, I’m not really sure. Maybe to try to express courage? Or insight for those who’ve wondered? Or just to document some late night, wine-induced rambling from an aching mama-heart.

Chuck and Bug are our world. They perfectly stretch our parent wings and if they complete our family, we are joy- filled. But, we stand in utter confusion at God’s plans for our family. It’s a sense of paralysis. So, I humbly ask, for those who’ve walked through the fire of secondary infertility or recurrent losses, please reach out. I need some anecdotal hope, one way or the other.

And to my husband, thank you for being mine. Thank you for holding my hand so tightly when I’m crashing to the ground. Thank you for carrying the weight this year. You have. All of it. This life hurts, but it’s also full of sweet, sweet joys and I’m so glad you’re the one by my side for them.

 

Four times the Love

When we decided to become parents, we thought it would be easy. Not the parenting part. We knew that would be a journey of trials and errors and celebrations and triumphs. But, the getting there part. We thought that would be easy. It took seven months to conceive Chuck. I know now that’s a blink compared to some struggling to become parents. My pregnancy with her was hard. I think most pregnancies are, but the hardest part was the day the dr couldn’t find her heartbeat. I was 20 weeks along and I braced myself to become my worst nightmare. After an agonizing two days and an appointment with a specialist, our girl was declared completely fine and normal. We rejoiced at the news and went merrily along under the assumption that we had experienced our parenting hurdle. Because we only get one, right? Little did we know….

When Chuck was two, we decided she needed a sibling. Both my husband and I come from large families and we wanted our girl to know the joy of a brother or sister. This time, it was easy. But easy things don’t always last. Mora, or “Blue,” was our first baby born in heaven. Bug came along directly after- our “rainbow” baby, as babies born after loss are called. The night he was born, I held him in my arms and clearer than any human voice I heard God say to me, “he’s not your last.” This was actually really shocking to me. Here was my son, no more than 8 hours fresh, my perfect daughter was at home with Papa and we were done. The girl, the boy, the “dream,” right? But, I embraced it and went on for almost two years with the peace that God had one more baby planned for our family. I just knew it.

Before we decided to get out of God’s way in the path to baby number three, we steadied ourselves with the reminder that it had taken more than half a year the first time and a loss the second time, so surely this time would have its bumps. We had no idea what that really meant. After 6 months, I finally got the coveted two pink lines. I protected that secret for three days so I could reveal to my sweet husband the glorious news in the grand way it deserved. The day after I announced to him, I started to bleed. It was happening again. I was so heartbroken. Had I not heard God correctly? So we tried again and got pregnant the very next month. And I lost that one, too. I was so, so angry. Why? Why? A million times why? We shelved the idea of adding to our family to deal with our tattered selves and to just love on our little family more. Five months passed with no more pregnancies, but also, no more losses. For that we praised. We dragged ourselves from the gutter of bitterness and came out on the other side at peace. God does great things with broken people. Thankfully, He is there even when the healing hearts fail again because this week, we’ve needed his mercies once more. Our fourth baby was born into the arms of our Lord shortly after Valentine’s Day. What a sweet love day gift to our baby, to be born into that peace. I’m not angry this time. The bitterness has dissolved. I am so sad and I long to smell that sweet new life smell again, but I don’t know what God has in store for us. I’m being still. I’m listening. I’m staying home and hugging my earth babies because if we are meant to be a family of 8…with only four of us in this house….I will accept that. But, I love my heaven babies. All four of them. I yearn for the first time I get to see their faces and hold them close. Until then, today, we rest.

Princess Chuck turns 3!

I was given free product in exchange for this post. As always, opinions are solely my own.
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When I received the email notification we had been chosen again this year to host a Disney @Home Celebration party, it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was sitting at the kitchen table contemplating baby Bug’s hospital stay the night before. He was still wheezing in the other room and my girly, Chuck, was squirming in my lap for the attention she so desperately needed after a night away from mama. Little did I know we would be headed back to the hospital the next day as Bug’s oxygen saturation dropped dramatically and he became dehydrated. But, amid all the nerves and chaos that happens when your newborn gets really sick, we got this exciting announcement! What a mood lifter!

 

Once the roller coaster ride of our 8 day stay in the pediatric unit had ended, it was time to start planning little Miss Fancy Pants’ birthday party! First, since I knew the theme would be “Sofia the first,” I had to figure out a way to make it coed appropriate. C has lots of little dudes as buddies and I didn’t want them to feel left out if we did a princess only tea party or something. So, I asked the most dapper of guys in our life, Papa bear! He suggested a  “ball.” Knights, pirates and princes would be welcomed to join all the princesses for a fun royal ball! It was perfect! We found a cute template on evite.com and set the date…wheels were in motion!

 

Now, for decorations, food and activities! I had planned so many fun things to do…outside. Our royal ball would be held in our backyard with a projector movie of Sofia the first playing for the duration of the party. There would be strand lights and Chinese lanterns and magical, mystical accents to make our setting perfect. Weeeeellll, the best laid plans, right?! Instead, it rained.

 

We moved as much as we could indoors (including all 60 guests in our 1000 sq. ft. home!) and scrapped the rest. In place of twinkly lights, I hung streamers from the ceiling.

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Where we would have had outdoor garden games like croquet (I really had planned to teach three year olds to play with mallets. For real.) we instead had a dance contest under our covered patio as the warm Southern California rain poured down. We played “freeze dance” and all the kids giggled as if it was the best activity ever!

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With the crayons and coloring book we received in our box, I set up a “decorate the castle” station where everyone could color a Sofia picture of their choice.

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We ate cupcakes from Sam’s club and homemade turkey wraps. I made “princess pops” with marshmallows on sticks with cupcake liners to look like ball gowns. They looked more artistic on Pinterest, but that didn’t seem to affect how quickly they disappeared! The Sofia table decorations got plenty of compliments!

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My favorite detail of the whole shindig was the photo booth I set up! I found three old shutters listed for free on one of my local garage sale pages on facebook. Then I strung together scrap fabric and tulle to make a streamer for the backdrop and placed purple pillows around an ottoman to make a “throne.” The kids all loved having their royal headshots taken!

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When the royal processional was ready to retreat, we sent them each home with a little something special. The princesses left with everything necessary for a pretty manicure and the princes left with either a knightly shield or a pirate band tambourine. I think they were all graciously received.

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Although things didn’t go as we had originally planned, Princess Chuckles enjoyed her special day and has woken up every morning since asking if it was time for her birthday again! Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate with us and thank you Disney for the opportunity!

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I received free product in order to write this post. As always, opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Snuggle All My Bugs Together

imageChuck is adjusting pretty well. I would say that being 2.5, a precocious little genius and accustomed to being the constant center of attention could all prove to be pretty big hurdles to scale when it comes to adding a baby brother to the mix. But, she loves him, she “just LOVES him SOOO much!” Her words. And actions, as she tries to smother him with All.The.Love!

When Hfoe brought C to the hospital to meet her new comrade, he also brought the Calico Critters and school that I had gotten ahead of time to be the gift her baby gave her. It was a glorious plan in my mind. She would be so enamored with the baby and then he/she would give her a gift, too?! Wow, this sibling thing is pretty awesome! I also thought the little critters would be a perfect “sometimes” toy for her to play with only when I was nursing the baby, thus keeping her both occupied with the “special” toy and blissfully unaware that I was trapped on the couch, plugged in, unable to reprimand her for whatever she happened to be getting into at the moment. The best laid plans…

As they walked into our hospital room, I had baby Bug in his bassinet so the first thing C saw wasn’t HER mama holding a different kid. I squealed with delight to see her and invited her to join me on the bed. We hugged and cuddled and then she said, “Mama, what’s that?” “That’s your brother, G. Would you like to hold him?” “Sure, Mama.” So, hubs took baby boy out of his cozy bed and we cocooned Chuck in pillows as we laid him precariously in her lap. She poked him and kissed him and examined his tiny face…and then she was done. She wanted to explore the interesting hospital room. But, first, the gift! “OOOOH, cooool!” She loved it! That’s it. I was a genius and my plan was going to work perfectly.

Then, Buddy started to cry. I saddled him up to my boob to nurse (at which he was already a pro) and I didn’t think anything of it. She had her magical toys, after all. Oh the sob that broke from her sweet little gut just about broke my heart. I have actually never heard my girl make that sound before. “Nooo, don’t give him milkies! That’s my milkies, mama! Why, mama?!” It makes me tear up writing this two months later. I had no idea that it would hurt her so much to see me share her special mama time with another baby, without ever asking her if it was ok.

C only gets nursed to sleep now, so I guess I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to her. I was very wrong and it has taken a long time to make things right. After lots of explaining that he can’t eat the food she can and involving her help to get burp rags while I breastfeed, she now shares milkies with her brother without a fight. In fact, on occasions when Hfoe has to work late and baby Bug is awake when I put his sister to bed, she will ask to “do milkies all together…so I can snuggle all my bugs.” I love her terminology to describe our tandem nursing sessions. It is such a sweet, sweet time where she caresses his head and he holds her finger and I stare at them both in the dark. I know that C will likely be weaning completely soon, so I am cherishing what little time of this we have left.These two precious little beings, my snuggle bugs, all together, doing their “milkies”…I never want to forget it.

Firsts on Firsts on Firsts

The single most covetable part about being a mother, in my opinion, is the privilege granted to me to be the eyes that witness and the ears that hear all the firsts that come from this tiny little human. It seems like every week is equivocal to a moon landing in one form or another. Chuckles had a big couple of weeks this month! Between her leaps in vocabulary and great first time experiences, I am chalk-full of accounts for September.

"Hey Bear! Look at me, Bear!"

“Hey Bear! Look at me, Bear!”

I guess we really started the month at the end of LAST month with a trip to visit the cousins in Oregon. Chuck loved waking up every morning to the giggles of her built-in family playmates. There is just something so special about watching your kid bond with their life-long buddies. Knowing that these tiny people will grow and go their separate ways over the years, but will always be able to come back together to reminisce about breakfast around the table with “not-so-hots” and cousin craft nights that got a little TOO glitter-heavy makes my heart so happy. While we were in Oregon, we decided to take a little detour to see some friends who had recently moved from our area up that way. What a refreshing time of fellowship with some sweet friends whom we have missed! Somewhere along the way, we decided to make the stop at Wildlife Safari. Have you heard of this place or a place like it? It’s a drive through zoo where the animals roam (mostly) free. I remember going to a place like that in Arkansas called Arbuckle Wilderness when I was little and it made quite the impact on my aspiring Zoologist self. However, I don’t remember it being THAT cool! Wildlife Safari turned me into a giggly kid and turned my giggly kid into quite the chatterbox! “Hi Bear! Hey, look at me bear!!” Her mantra of the drive has now become a Crunchy house catchphrase because it made us laugh endlessly while in the park. Her favorite animal in the park was the “scary chicken” that kept coming up to the window for food…of course this was an emu, but “scary chicken” actually seems more fitting. Needless to say, Chuck’s first time at the drive-thru zoo was a roaring success!

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This is her reaction for the Frozen float in Mickey’s Soundsational Parade at Disneyland….You’d think she’d appreciate my rendition.

Another first for this growing kid of ours recently has been her usage of certain phrases, correctly, that send us into stitches. C has always had a great vocabulary and was able to express herself from an early age. But this level of comprehension (and wit) is new. For instance, she, of course, loves “Frozen.” Like it has for every other two-year old girl on the planet, Disney’s latest princess flick has found it’s way into our sweet girl’s heart as an instant favorite. She would listen to the soundtrack on repeat if allowed. So, it stands to reason that her papa and I know ALL the words to one notable song in particular. C has decided, though, that our sing-along sessions just don’t do the film justice and as we head into the hook with great gusto, our dear girl will shout, “Hold it!” with her hands held up and a furrow on her brow. Kills us every time. In addition to her lofty musical critiques, she has crafted quite the imaginary scenarios of which we are expected to partake….and know all the rules. One example of this is the tea party she likes to host on a daily basis. The cups must face a certain direction and we must only eat cookies (not biscuits) off the plates. If I “eat” something I’m not supposed to, I will receive a stern, “No mama, like this.” from my bossy strong girl. My favorite phrase at the moment, though, is “I no hafta (fill in the blank), mama.” The most common blank-filler is “I no hafta nap now,” but you can also fill in with “eat that” or “clean that” or “do that.” While I know at first read this seems like she is talking back and perhaps in need of some nose on the wall time,  it’s actually funny because she is such a little mini-me that her inflection and tone make her sound EXACTLY like my “persuasive” voice. When I am trying to convince Hfoe that I don’t really need to clean the bathrooms today or that I don’t really “hafta” cook dinner tonight….my tiniest ears are listening and mimicking ME! It’s both a funny and humbling reminder!

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First Fish!!

We had a proud moment first while we were all in Colorado this month for hunting season. Since Hfoe harvested his elk on his second day out in the woods (thank you, Jesus for a full freezer for the next year!), Chuckles and I got to enjoy a little more family time with him than we were expecting. On one of those days, we decided to head down to the community pond at my grandma’s cabin and try C’s luck at fishing. After a couple of slapstick moments of chasing after grasshoppers for bait, we were ready to cast the line. Papa threw out the first cast and asked me to hold tight to the pole, while Chuck, in all her mini-fisher glory, manned the reel. It was truly a group effort…and it paid off! C was so excited as that bobber disappeared under the water and I helped her snag her first little trout. She reeled it in with papa and squealed uncontrollably as it flopped and flipped at her touch! This was one of those moments that, despite her age, I really hope she remembers, at least partly, because it was kind of magical….and a little slimy!

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Kicked in the head by “Brother-Sister”

A couple of my favorite firsts from this month involve C’s “brother-sister.” She got to feel baby kick for the first time as we were laying down to nap one afternoon and then she told the baby “I love you, baby” completely unsolicited for the first time soon after. Talk about melting a mama heart! I sure hope this sweetness continues once the runt is born!

As we head into the last 8 weeks of this pregnancy, I am reminded to take every opportunity to step back and enjoy each of Chuck’s “firsts” because soon we will have another first-timer on our hands. I am most excited to see my TWO babes meet each other for the first time. Now, THAT is sure to be a monumental first for our whole family!

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Being a good big sister, feeding bear.

 

She wants another diaper genie? How rude!- And other comments on a second baby shower…

When we first found out we were pregnant with this little bug, we were understandably hesitant to show happiness, joy or even hopefulness, since just the month before we had lost Blue. But, slowly, as the months have gone by and the tiny heartbeat remains strong and the kicks come more regularly, the existence of this growing little nugget is cause for more and more excitement. We talk about names and plan our future adventures with a fourth family member in mind. It’s finally FUN!

Bug’s first headshot.

 

I am halfway through this pregnancy and with the 20th week comes the onslaught of many decisions, plans and, well, opinions! The latest question posed in my birth group (yes, I am one of those women who discusses things like breast tenderness and morning sickness with total strangers…SHOCKING, I know!) is “Would it be acceptable to have a baby shower for my second/third/fourth baby?”

Until this pregnancy, I never questioned it. Of course you should shower EVERY baby with love, attention and celebration because life is a miracle no matter which way you cut it. Heck, I have thrown a couple of subsequent child showers for friends myself! Had I performed some etiquette taboo?! For shame!

That is, of course, until I was faced with dissenting opinions by some of those people closest to me with the talk of a second shower for this baby. Apparently, “no one does that.” And, “it’s rude and seems like begging for gifts when you should already have everything from baby one.” And my favorite, “Why would you want to do another shower. Didn’t you get your fill of silly games the first time around?” Soooo…..

My first response was one of surprise because I simply didn’t know this position existed. And then I felt a bit defensive. Being a person who questions EVERYTHING, I wanted to know WHY no one does it, WHY it’s rude and WHY anyone WOULDN’T want to celebrate every additional child with which they are blessed.

What I have found is that just like many “etiquette” traditions that seem outdated and maybe even offensive, the “only have one baby shower EVER” argument is routed in old fashioned necessity. Back in an era when people were broke and popping kids out every year, it was seen as rude to expect other people who were just as broke and child-full as you to give you the necessary accouterments for every child YOU bore. Gifts that were given the first time around were often handmade and constructed to outlast 1, 2 or 5 kids. Very little was disposable and many things were handed down from sister to cousin to friend. There was no such thing as a sonogram to determine the gender of the growing little bundle of joy, so everything was created with neutrality in mind. Swings were made of wood instead of hot pink or Navy blue fabric making them perfectly acceptable for 4 kids of different sexes. Little boys wore dresses for crying out loud! Relatives and acquaintances alike brought food to the shower and for weeks after the birth of the baby and also helped out as a village with the older children to give mom the chance to bond with baby. In these ways, mother and baby were gifted and it was seen as a bit greedy to ask for more. In short, a “shower” was simply an outlet for a get-together of gift-giving.

This looks totally safe, right?
Girl or boy? You tell me.

And on that note, shouldn’t I still have everything from Chuck? I mean, she’ll only be almost 3 years older than this kid. Surely we have all the baby items to be handed down. Well, no. Actually, we pretty much have to buy everything except toys and clothes if this baby is a girl. We were in a really bad car accident when C was 10 months old and her carseat had to be “totaled out.” So, rather than replace it with another infant seat so close to her first birthday, we bought her big kid seat that she is still using. She is also still using her crib that has been converted into a toddler bed because I was trying to be so efficient with our purchase the first time around. In addition, she still uses her booster seat at the table because we never bought a high chair and her bouncer and swing were passed to friends and acquaintances who were in need. Every baby needs new diapers, wipes, burp cloths and toiletries since those obviously don’t pass from one child to another. So, no, we DON’T have everything if that is the argument against a shower. Every family has circumstances of which you may not be aware. Don’t be the judge. Instead, maybe ask “do you have everything you need?” That’s so helpful! And let’s be honest…nobody “needs” many of the gifts they receive at a shower anyway. Three diaper genies are given because people are thoughtful and love to celebrate a baby. Not because that is a number one necessity for kidlet!

Fast forward to today, 2014. Things are a bit different. Most people, including Hfoe and me, are perfectly capable of taking care of all the children we choose to have. My baby is not going to go naked if I don’t have a shower. My child will have a place to sleep and play and eat if nobody buys us a crib, a playmat or a highchair. In fact, I don’t want anyone to buy that stuff for us. I want to be self-sufficient. But, I also WANT to have a shower. It is NOT about the gifts. It is about celebrating this little life that Hfoe and I (and I suspect MANY of those who would be invited to a shower) have prayed so diligently for. It is about recognizing this baby is just as special as Chuck and just as wanted as baby Blue was. I want to talk and laugh and play silly games with those people who love this kid already in celebration of his or her BIRTH day. And isn’t that what a shower is today anyway? A pre-birthday party? I mean, why is it considered perfectly acceptable for people to throw a birthday party for each of their five children every year, but heaven forbid a second baby get a shower?!

I guess my point is this…in the old’n days, showers were for much needed gifts. Period. Today, showers are for celebration and eating good food and laughing at the joy on a new mom’s (or second-time mom’s) face when she feels that little one kick in a room full of her favorite people. Gifts are nice, but they aren’t the purpose. Gifts help, but they aren’t necessary. Gifts are fun, but they shouldn’t be a point of contention. If your focus is on the “rudeness” of ASKING for gifts, when in reality no gifts have been asked for, perhaps the person in the mirror is really the one with the skewed outlook. Give with a happy heart, but if you can’t, don’t. You will still be welcome at my party!

Wait! More Kisses!

My family is pretty smart. Not in a pretentious, “we have better genes than you,” way, but we are generally pretty intelligent folks. I am the oldest of five siblings and as such, I have been blessed to watch the younger kids grow up and discover their brainy-ness along the way. D is next in line after me and the kid is a genius. No, really. He legitimately has a genius IQ as discerned by an actual clinical test when he was a child, not the half-baked kind from IQtestForFree.com. After D comes K. K knows something about everything. And he will let you know it. Every time. It can get really annoying because just as you buck his know-it-all attitude, Dr. Google tells you…he’s right! Let’s just say I will never challenge him to a game of Trivial Pursuit! Third middle child status falls to S. S is the quiet intellect whose way with numbers and relationships will see him running some fortune 500 company one day. He not only has book smarts, but he has a genuine heart and intuition for people that goes beyond intelligence. Finally, the baby of the family, my sister M just graduated from high school. Not only did she play varsity basketball and volunteer for her church in her spare time, but this smarty also managed to graduate second in her class of over 600 kids! With this honor came the responsibility of delivering a well-prepared, funny, yet inspiring speech to her fellow classmates, while simultaneously trying not to cry and remembering to breath. She nailed it! I know because although my whole family lives nearly 2000 miles away, I got to be there for her special moment. It meant so much to me that she sacrificed the plane ticket to come see us in CA which was originally to be her graduation present, in favor of Hfoe, Chuck and me being there on that day.

Chuck was less than thrilled to take family photos after graduation.

Following graduation, M did, in fact, come back to California with us. She used the money she had been working for all semester to buy her own way out for three weeks in this sunny place. We had big plans to conquer all while she was here and we came pretty close to that goal. Between shopping on 3rd Street Promenade, ogling giraffes and zebras at the LA Zoo, doing Disneyland and beaching it up from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica, she checked quite a few things off her “to do in LA” list.

Meeting Goofy at Disneyland with Aunt M.
Impromptu parade watching in Santa Barbara. Summer Solstice. Who knew?

Of course, Chuck was in Heaven having her aunt attend to her every beck and call. The daily mantra first thing every morning became, “M comin’ toooo?!” I loved watching my baby sis play with the most precious person in my life and build a relationship that so many of my friends with close families experience on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, this sweetness was sprinkled with brat face moments as well. There were a few times I got the very clear picture of what having two will resemble. An 18 year old knows quickly how to antagonize a two year old and a two year old knows LOUDLY how to protest! But, mostly, the sounds of giggles and nightly games of chase while I cooked dinner just filled my soul with happy.

The Giant Sea Otters were the highlight of the zoo day!

Probably the biggest highlight while M was here was the cruise we took for Hfoe’s and my 5 year anniversary. The ship sailed for three days just out of Long Beach harbor to Ensenada, but the getaway was exactly what we needed. Plus, I felt like such a rich kid travelling with my own personal nanny! We had a delicious dinner every night and fun activities during the day. Chuckles really dug the kids camp and came back with a smile on her face after every session with them. M and I got some one on one sister time one night when Hfoe settled in early with the nugget. We went to see a comedian who, despite his title, really wasn’t all that funny and we decided to leave. Besides, the karaoke was far more hysterical to listen to! Hfoe and I also got a romantic date night which seems to be few and far between these days with the cost of childcare. So a big, fat THANK YOU to M for her gift to us of watching the kid so we could have alone time! We debarked the boat in Ensenada as a family and explored La Bufadora and the adjacent market place. We didn’t buy much, although I’m sure many a deal was to be had. M did experience a “first,” but I will let her share that story for herself!

Mini golf champs on the boat.

Once we returned to LA, we only had a week left with my sweet sister. I think the realization of that hit us and caused us to kind of take it easy, soaking in every moment those last few days. We swam at the local pool, shopped a little more and just watched movies at home pretending this is what we do every day…ignoring the impending reality. We spent Independence Day boogie boarding and barbecuing on the beach in Ventura, rounding out a perfect visit with a perfect, sun-soaked afternoon.

No trip to LA is complete without Sprinkles cupcakes.
Aunt M is a genius for sure…too much to carry? Use a sled!

I suppose this post is a bit of a diary of sorts for me. It’s not my typical entry, but I do have a message, a thought I hope to inspire among my readers.

Goodbyes are hard.

Cherish your family. If you live close to them, make time to see them. Some of us don’t have that luxury and it is a sad, heartbreaking day when you have to take them to the airport only to hear your two-year old shout, “STOP! WAIT! More kisses!!” as your baby sister walks behind security ropes to get on her plane back home. I love my family more than I can express and although I know three weeks with each one of them isn’t possible, I want it. I want them and I hold them each in my heart every day. And of course, we Facetime. Thank the Lord for genius technology! Who knows, maybe one of my smarty siblings will invent the next generation device to keep us “close” when we can’t be. Hey, while you’re at it, could one of you work on the teleporting thing?