Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It's another...GIRL!

Sunday, October 4th at 10:39 am we welcomed our fourth baby, another girl, into the world. Samantha Lee was born at 7 lbs and 15 oz and 21" long with a perfectly round head.

I was so uncomfortable toward the end and just done with being pregnant and by Saturday was still kind of disappointed that I had no progress up to that point. Saturday afternoon we took the kids to the mall to walk around since it was rainy and chilly outside. That night we put the kids to bed early and Tom wound up falling asleep after putting them to bed, which was probably good since he got a solid night of sleep. I stayed up until about 9:30 or so reading downstairs. I was dozing on and off and had a couple of faint contractions so I decided to go up to bed.

As usual I woke up in the middle of the night to pee, as did Lexi. Then around 4:00 am I woke up with a really painful contraction. I got up to pee and then tried falling back asleep, but by the time I started dozing again I had another contraction. I finally decided to get up to see if they would go away or strengthen. And since it was already 4:15 or so I figured I may as well brush my teeth before going downstairs, which then woke up Tom. I told him not to get up, but he knew better and came downstairs to keep me company. The contractions didn't go away and were about 8-9 minutes apart and strong. After about an hour or so of them I called the on call doctor to see what we should do. While we waited for the call back I had Tom call his mom to have her come stay with the kids just in case we wound up having to go in. 

Dr. Shin called me back and sounded so groggy. Of course I would be too at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. She asked what my progress was at my last appointment and was surprised when I reminded her that I had none. She said to go ahead and get to the hospital, but not to be surprised if I was sent home. I was pretty sure this was the real deal - I mean I know my body well and the contractions were painful and by the time Dr. Shin had called me I was having to stop to rock and breathe through each contraction. 

We got to the hospital just before 7:00 am and went up to Labor and Delivery to get checked and see if I was going to stay or be sent home. I gowned up and got in bed and was shocked to discover that I was already 6 cm and "stretchy." Of course that meant that we were staying put. The nurse started my IV so I could get my epidural in time and while the contractions were only about 10 minutes apart they seemed to be doing the job and I was able to breathe through them. 

The anesthesiologist eventually came in and placed my epidural. Shortly after that Dr. Shin came in and broke my water and they placed a catheter to empty my bladder.

Once we knew we were staying and it was officially baby day, we started spreading the word to let other people know and Aunt Peggy came over to keep us company. Tom and Aunt Peggy got some breakfast and we sat around chatting for a bit. 

The next time I was checked I was around 8 cm. The nurse kept checking on me and was paranoid that I'd be ready to deliver and I wouldn't know. I promised that I would be able to tell and would alert her the minute I felt like I was ready. After an hour or so I started feeling a lot of pressure build up and knew I was ready. I had Tom call in the nurse and gave Aunt Peggy a hug goodbye. 

Dr. Shin came back in to check me and announced that it was indeed time to deliver. While she gowned up and the nurses got things ready for delivery and the baby, I tried my hardest to not push. Once they were ready they had me do one small practice push and then told me I could push for real with the next contraction. I pushed through two contractions and out came baby girl. Tom got to announce that it was a girl and Dr. Shin put her on my chest while Tom cut the cord. I got to hold the baby for quite some time before they took her over to the warmer to check her vitals and clean her up. Her APGAR was 9 and 9 and Tom took a lot of pictures while the nurse cleaned her up, weighed and measured her. 

This was also the first time I actually saw the placenta. With all of the other babies I wasn't really paying attention after the baby came out, so I didn't even notice what was going on. 

I feel like this delivery was the calmest. Besides me and Tom there was only Dr. Shin and two nurses - one for me and one for baby. After Samantha was born and she and I were cleaned up, everyone pretty much left us alone for a bit. She immediately latched on and nursed for about an hour. During that time we sent messages out to everyone to let them know we had another baby girl and Tom went to get Aunt Peggy to let her meet the peanut. 

We were in the hospital for 29 hours and then came home and got settled in with our regular routine. The kids have been so happy with having a baby in the house and the biggest problem has been the arguments over who gets to hold her first and for how long. 

Samantha is the perfect addition to our family. Our two Thomases were destined to be surrounded by girls. 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In which the girls get glasses

As part of the preparations we're doing to get ready for the baby to arrive, we've been running around tying up lots of loose ends. Got new tires on the car, refinanced the house for a lower rate, purged a bit, and took the girls for annual eye exams. I took Stasa in last year before school started and she was borderline with needing glasses. The doctor had suggested we monitor her and bring her back again to be retested. Lexi's daycare held a free vision screening which she failed. At a parent teacher night that same week her teacher mentioned that Lexi had been favoring one eye and seemed to have a hard time seeing during circle time.

I made a last minute appointment for both girls with the eye doctor for this past Saturday. I honestly thought that we would be in and out, but instead we wound up being there for a couple of hours. Stasa went first and did great during the first part of the exam. I was worried about Lexi cooperating since she refused the vision test at her annual physical exam. She actually did better than Stasa did.

Then we went back with the doctor. Stasa hopped up in the chair and had a bit of trouble focusing at first. We finally got her to understand the importance of being honest about what she was seeing and to try her hardest. She has a slight astigmatism in both eyes and is just slightly nearsighted. The doctor wrote out a prescription for glasses and mentioned that Stasa would likely only really need them in school.

She hopped down and then it was Lexi's turn. Lexi knows the alphabet, so I was confident that she would at least be able to get through the exam. After working through most of the exam, we paused and the doctor gave her some strong eye drops to dilate her eyes. Since it was going to take about 20 or so minutes for them to work we went next door to the Lenscrafters to let the girls pick out their frames and to get Stasa's glasses started.

The girls tried on nearly every pair of frames in the kids section and immediately settled on what they wanted. Not surprisingly Stasa chose pink plastic Ray Bans and Lexi picked out purple Ray Bans. Both much nicer than my first pair of glasses - something I pointed out to them when Stasa was a bit upset that she had to get glasses.

After that we went back to the doctor's office to finish up Lexi's exam. She actually did great and once the doctor found the right lenses for her she was able to identify most of the letters. Unfortunately her right eye is considered lazy. The doctor said she could only get it corrected to 20/30. She asked us to come back in six months to have her vision rechecked and to give the prescription a chance to help her eye get stronger. If when we come back her eye can't get to 20/25 with corrected vision, we'll be sent to see a specialist to discuss the possibility of patching. The doctor also suggested we have Stasa wear her glasses all of the time to make it easier for Lexi to keep her glasses on.

And with that news we took Lexi's prescription over to have her glasses made and went home to get Tom and Tommy before picking up their finished glasses. They've both been diligent about wearing their glasses since we picked them up. We also bought both of them cords to help keep the glasses tight on their faces. Stasa complains now and then about wearing them and not wanting the cord on her glasses, but I haven't given in because even with insurance glasses are pricey and I don't want them falling off of her face while she's playing outside or at school. Lexi, on the other hand, hasn't complained once. Not once. She carefully takes them off at night and for baths and puts them on first thing when she wakes up. We think she is seeing the benefit of having them (no pun intended). We've also pointed out all of the people in our family and who we know who also wear glasses. Luckily there are quite a few in our family who do and there are a handful of kids in Stasa's class who wear glasses and her wonderful teachers made a big deal about how awesome her new frames are.

And they both look absolutely adorable in their frames, don't they?


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The exhaustion sets in

38 weeks, 3 days.

No progress.

Well, technically I guess that's not completely fair to my body. I was considered 30% effaced and "soft," but no dilation, which after dealing with annoying and irregular contractions was a disappointment to hear. Oh and apparently I've lost weight. But that's not as surprising seeing as I can barely stomach a full meal without feeling overfull.

And so I wait. I go back for another check next week. But.

I'm tired. Exhausted. All the time. I wake up every few hours at night and it's been taking me longer and longer to fall back asleep. It seems worse this time and by the afternoon I'm ready to pass out, which I often do after logging off for the day.

I stupidly got my hopes up for this appointment knowing that I was getting checked. And I know, I know, cervical checks mean squat and that you can go from being closed up to fully dilated overnight and that you can walk around 3 cm dilated for days. But still. I had hoped for something - just a smidge of progress.

The other kids all came slightly early: Stasa at 38 weeks 6 days, Lexi at 38 weeks 5 days and Tommy at 39 weeks 1 day. Maybe this one just wants to be a trendsetter in the family.

Don't get me wrong. I'm incredibly happy that I'm healthy, that the baby is healthy and that I feel well other than the exhaustion. I'm grateful that I'm able to safely carry the baby to term and am not on bed rest or anything like that. But.

I'm tired. I said that already. But I am. So I bought myself a chocolate frosted donut to cheer up. And it helped.

Friday, September 25, 2015


I've never really put all of this out there nor have I shared all of my feelings about this with anyone beyond Tom, but lately I've been having a lot of dreams about my mom. It's probably the pregnancy hormones messing with me, but there it is. She's been on my mind a lot and consequentially I've been thinking about her last days a lot. Here's what I remember.

About a year after Tom and I were married I got a call from my brother. He said mom had collapsed and was now in the hospital and the doctors were saying it was likely a stroke. We left immediately, driving that night down to Richmond to be with everyone. The next day at the hospital mom was up and talking, not feeling great, but getting back to her old self. I was just leaving her room when one of her doctors pulled me aside and asked to speak with me. He showed me into a small room and without pause blurted out mom's diagnosis. "She has cancer. We believe it's stage 4 lung cancer. You should prepare yourself to say goodbye to her in a few months."

I remember standing there, shocked. I barely managed to put together a coherent sentence and started falling apart when the doctor looked at me and sternly said "You can't go back in there looking like that. If you cry she'll cry and then she won't hear what we're saying."

If I could go back in time I would throat punch that doctor. His bedside manner was nonexistent.

And so we went back to her room and they broke the news to my mom. She took it much better than the rest of us. A plan was made for her radiation and chemo and other meds and she was eventually discharged home.

Up until around the time I was engaged, my mom and I had a pretty tumultuous relationship. It was great when I was young, but then got worse as my parents divorced and steps entered the picture. It wasn't until I was with Tom that I really reconnected with my mom. And then it was great - we were talking nearly every day and Tom and I would visit mom and David and everyone on weekends.

So when she was diagnosed with cancer I was devastated for many reasons, but selfishly I was pissed that just as we were getting our footing again she was being ripped away from me.

At the hospital her prognosis was just a few months. The cancer had spread throughout her body and was quite advanced. But my mom had the best attitude and believed that she would beat it. I wound up packing up and living in Richmond with her for a few weeks to help drive her to appointments and just to be with her. Thankfully the company I work for is supportive and before flex work was the norm, they let me work from her home for as long as I needed to. My team even sent her a beautiful arrangement of gorgeous white flowers.

It's funny that no matter what age you are, when you go "home" you quickly and easily fall back in to that parent/child relationship. My mom was the sick one and yet she doted on me and I loved it. For me it brought back all the good memories of my childhood. She made me deviled eggs - and I've always loved her deviled eggs better than anyone's - we watched crappy television together, she came up to my room at night to chat and we just spent time together.

Shortly after the diagnosis my brother was scheduled to fly out to begin his work with the Army. We got up at an insanely early hour and I drove him to the airport to see him off to Korea. That left mom, David and our little brother, Josh, at home. Josh was so young then - just a peanut in elementary school and David was working as much as he could while still trying to stay within the median to allow them to receive Medicaid so my mom could keep getting treatments. God, I remember going to the Social Security office with her and to appointments only to be told she wasn't getting treatment because Medicaid denied her due to David making too much that month. The whole thing was a circus and so ridiculous.

I eventually packed my stuff and came back home to Tom and our life here, but was still in daily contact with mom. I literally started every day with a call from her and we would email back and forth throughout the day. I still have each and every email she sent me - no matter how insignificant or silly. It took me a long time to remove her contact from my phone and I think it just happened one day after I upgraded to a new one.

Over the course of two years my mom bravely battled cancer. There were so many procedures and hospital stays and Tom and I got used to driving up and down 95. In fact, there was a great fried chicken place down the street from the hospital that Tom loved and the cafeteria food was actually pretty decent. We got so used to the hospital that we knew our way around better than the halls at work. We would all take turns hanging out in her hospital room, keeping her company and just visiting. At one point Tom and I thought it would be funny to see if a hospital glove could fit on my head and it did! I wish I could find the picture of it - I looked so ridiculous and I can still hear mom laughing at me.

After awhile the doctors talked to mom about her options. The chemo was destroying her body and it was taking her longer and longer to recover after each treatment. She was tired. And she made the bravest decision. She chose to go home on hospice care and let nature take its course. To this day I don't know where she got the strength to make that decision. During her battle she had also gotten more involved in her church and I think she gathered her strength from her belief in God.

Then one night in December 2007 I got a call from David. Mom had rapidly declined and it was time for us to come down to say our goodbyes. I remember hanging up the phone and rapidly throwing clothes into a bag and Tom doing the same. We sped down 95 at which point Tom realized he left his laptop at the office. Shrugging that off we continued on and got to mom's house. I had just talked with her. She was up and walking and talking and fine. When we got to her house that night and walked in she was in a wheelchair barely sitting up and being spoon fed.

I was shocked at the transformation. I mean I had heard what David said on the phone and yet I still wasn't prepared to see my mom like that. About 15 minutes later Ryan came in. The Red Cross had gotten in contact with him in Korea and had flown him home to be with mom. She literally brightened up when she saw him. An actual smile on her face.

The next few days were a blur and nearly eight years later still feel like a dream. We each took turns sitting with my mom in her bed. At one point I decided that enough was enough and took a bucket of cleaning supplies upstairs and tackled the bedroom we were staying in - it was a mess from my brother and stepbrother staying in there. I remember coming downstairs when we finished and telling my mom all that I had cleaned. In hindsight it seems silly that I spent some of my last days with her cleaning the house, but I think at the time I just needed to feel useful and see that I was doing something - anything really. As mom deteriorated we all realized that plans should be made for her funeral so Tom and I went out and met with a funeral director and came back with information and pricing to share with the family. That meeting was one of the most painful things I've had to do. No one wants to sit with a stranger and pick out a coffin for their mother who isn't yet dead.

Shortly after that was the day everything happened. Our worlds changed forever. That Wednesday night Tom and I went up to bed as David took over being with mom. He and Ryan promised to wake us if anything happened. And so it did. In the wee hours of the morning Ryan came running up the stairs. "Come now. She's dying." I have never jumped out of bed so fast in my life. David, Ryan, Tom and I gathered around mom in her bed, each of us holding on to her and telling her how much we loved her. We eventually woke up Josh to let him say goodbye. I'm still not sure if he fully grasped what was going on, but I couldn't imagine him not having the chance to say goodbye. Shortly after that mom took her last breath.

Something else I never shared with many people is that I was pregnant at that time. We had just found out right before we went down to my mom's that last time. At the time Tom and I kept saying what a blessing it was to have life coming in to the world with all that was going on.

As that rotten day wore on I needed to break free and get home so I could just be. Tom and I drove back home with the intent to change out our clothes and be back in time for the funeral. I don't know what I would have done without Tom. He took care of everything - calling everyone for me so I didn't have to think about it. The support we got from family, friends and colleagues at that time was overwhelming. One of my best friends immediately got on a plane and flew across the country to be with us. I will never forget seeing her show up and all she did to support me.

The funeral itself was something I barely got through. I cried through most of it, not wanting to believe this was real life. When it was over, I got up and saw all who came. Family...friends...and my boss and closest colleagues. A fresh wave of emotion washed over me seeing everyone there and in that moment I felt so much love. For mom, for me, and for everyone.

Once the reception was winding down we hopped back on 95 to head home. I think all told I wound up taking three weeks off of work. A day or so after being home I started bleeding...heavily. Being new to the whole pregnancy thing, I knew it wasn't the best sign, but also didn't want to panic. Stupidly I dragged my exhausted self to bed thinking the bleeding would stop if I stayed still. I woke up early the next day and nothing had changed. Tom drove me to the hospital where we discovered that I was miscarrying. Grief upon grief. Why not just pile more sad on top of everything I was already feeling? I vaguely remember the days following that, but know that I spent a lot of time sobbing into my pillow or just staring in space. I've never felt so emotionally drained in my life.

This December will mark eight years since my mom died. And like I said at the beginning, the past couple of weeks have been full of dreams and thoughts about her. Last night I dreamed that she was still alive - sick, yes - but still alive. And I was pregnant and she actually got to be with me and feel the baby kick. I woke up in the middle of the night in tears because I thought it was real and then felt a stab in my heart when I realized it was all just a dream.

I wish it was all just a dream. Nothing is more painful than losing the person who loved you first in the world. The person who loved you unconditionally.

I love you, Mom.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thirty days

Thirty more days. One month from today baby number four is due. It seems crazy that it's almost here. And yet in some ways I am so ready. This week has been a rough one thanks to a nasty cold. I'm finally on meds and hopefully on the mend now because having a violent cough while hugely pregnant is absolutely no fun. My belly is sore from the coughing and once I start coughing it triggers Braxton Hicks contractions which are also uncomfortable. I'm just a ball of fun these days. Other than that I've been soaking up all of the last bits of this pregnancy. This baby moves all the time. It makes me wonder if it'll actually sleep after birth. At least it makes kick counts incredibly easy to do.

On Labor Day I felt well enough to sit outside with the kids while they played. It's funny how we'll have them outside running around all day and at the end of the day they're still full of energy. Well, that or they're just so tired they can't wind down for the night. Watching them play together is a lot of fun especially when they're actually getting along. I drew a road around our cul-de-sac for them to ride their bikes and scooters on and they spent most of the day alternating between riding around and embellishing the road with a sidewalk and many many houses.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

First day of first grade

005_FDOS diptych

Well, the day has already come and gone. Stasa started first grade this week and came home after her first day happy to tell us all about her new teacher and room. She was also thrilled to wear her new uniform, though we'll see how long that excitement lasts. I will say that I'm looking forward to no arguments over what she can and can't wear.

I think first grade is going to be another huge transition year for Stasa. Kindergarten was a transition, but at least she still had naps and a couple of recesses every day. This year though, it's a lot more. No naps (though she hasn't taken one since mid-way through Kindergarten) and only one recess. This year she'll also have homework - not a ton, but homework nonetheless. I'm confident that Stasa will excel this year as she does every year. She's a happy and caring little girl and craves knowledge - she literally soaks up everything. As we worked on her summer math workbook we saw how logical she is when solving problems. I will say that I definitely need to work on my patience when helping with homework. Here's to a great year!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

End of summer beach trip

Since we have a baby coming in about eight weeks I can't really take off a whole bunch of time as I'm saving all of my leave for maternity leave, but we wanted to take the kids to the beach for an end-of-summer vacation. My cousin's engagement party happened to fall on a Saturday evening and was being held near a beach so we decided to extend the weekend into a mini-vacation. The kids were beyond excited about spending time away at the beach, but I was still a bit wary about how crowded the beach can get and keeping an eye on them all. Turns out it was easier than expected.

We took off early on Friday and arrived before lunch. Our room wasn't yet ready, so we made some sandwiches, packed up our lunch and stuff for the beach and walked over. The kids could barely contain their excitement and started digging in the sand the minute we dropped our stuff. We rented a beach cabana every day so we could have some shade and a place to stow away our stuff.

The first beach day we spent as much time on the beach as we could and left when the kids started to look tired. After checking in to our room, we got everyone showered and dressed and then headed over to The Beach Pub for dinner. I had a pound of crab, but I should have gotten the flounder again. Don't get me wrong, the crab was good and definitely satisfied a craving I was having, but the flounder was so delicious last time. Like melt in your mouth delicious. Tom got some sort of platter and shared a scallop with me and I almost took the rest of them from him. And the hush puppies that came with the meal? They should be served with every meal everywhere. Enough said.

After dinner we walked the boardwalk with the kids and saw the statue of Neptune and took a few boardwalk pics. 

On the walk back to the hotel we stopped at Dairy Queen and got ice cream. It was about that point that Lexi started falling apart in a major way. Sheer exhaustion got the better of her. So we went up to our room, got everyone ready and put them all to bed. We had initially planned to read or watch TV or something once the kids were asleep, but we both wound up falling asleep with them. Good thing, too, because Tommy was up at the butt crack of dawn. 

I swear he got up early every day just to see the tractor comb the beach for trash. He also loved watching the people running and biking on the boardwalk and the garbage trucks. Once the rest of the family woke up we headed down for a quick breakfast before getting ready for the beach for the day. 

Our set up on Saturday was similar to the day before, but in addition to renting a cabana we decided to also rent a lounge chair so we could have a clean space for the kids to sit off of the sand while they ate lunch. This was our set up for the day. We also put out another towel about 10 feet in front of this set up and dumped the rest of the sand toys with it. Kind of our way of extending our beach space and line-of-sight to the water. 

Tommy and Lexi spent most of their time playing in the sand and running back and forth to the water. Stasa alternated happily searched for shells and body surfing the waves. 

Eventually we were all in the water playing in the waves. Tommy reached up to be held and snuggled right into my body. The kid was done. I took him up to our spot, wrapped him in a towel and lay down with him. He quickly passed out and stayed asleep for a couple of hours in the cabana. 

This one was a beach bum, too.

Although that didn't last too long. She stayed still long enough to warm up and then was up and playing in the sand and water with Stasa. 

We only stayed until about 3:00 on Saturday since we had to get ready for the engagement party and wanted to give the kids some time to cool off and relax out of the sun. Even then we managed to get in a solid six or so hours on the beach. The girls passed out in the car on the way to the party - the sun and surf took a toll on them. I remember as a kid coming home from my grandmother's, Garu's, house having spent the whole day on the beach and riding the waves and just crashing on the sofa still in my swimsuit. Those summer days are still some of my favorite memories and seeing the kids play like that brings back all the good feelings from those days. 

The kids were okay at the party - now don't get me wrong the party was great, but the kids must have been bored. We stayed a couple of hours and left a little after bedtime for the kids. Unfortunately we had to wake them all up when we got back to the hotel so we could get them up to the room and ready for bed. Fortunately they fell back asleep pretty fast and Tom and I were able to hang out on the balcony to people watch and chat.

You'd think that taking a beach vacation would be relaxing, but when you're traveling with a 2 year old who enjoys waking up every day at the crack of dawn. 

At least him being up early helped us all take full advantage of the day. Bright side, right? So once again we went down to breakfast after everyone was up and had a chance to actually wake up. After that it was back to the room to pack our lunch and things for the day. Since this would be our last real day on the beach we wanted to spend as much time as possible in the sand and surf. And again we rented a cabana and beach lounge and the kids immediately dropped their stuff and started playing. We lucked out with the weather - it was absolutely gorgeous every day and this day was no exception.

We spent nearly eight hours on the beach that day. Tom and I were spent, but I bet the kids would have happily played for a few more hours. We packed up, got back to our room and got the kids cleaned up so we could head out for dinner. We debated driving someplace, but I really didn't want to get in the car with the kids for fear of them falling asleep and being grumps during dinner. We walked up and down Atlantic and settled on a Tex Mex place and then walked the boardwalk some more before calling it a night. As we were getting ready for bed we were on the fence about spending another day on the beach or just getting on the road early. 

Of course the llama was up and at 'em before the sunrise again. 

This morning though his incessant chatter woke everyone up early and after thinking about it we chose to get some breakfast, pack up and get on the road. I'm glad we made that choice because traffic wound up not being too bad and we got home early afternoon with enough time to rest and get everything cleaned up from our trip, including washing all of the sand and grit on the car. And hey, we even got a couple of hours of peace in the car on the ride home.