More 2012 in Review

This has been A Year. There’s really no other way to describe it. It was, by far, the best year of my life to date, and there’s a part of me that doubts that there will ever be another year quite as good. The events that occurred, and the timing of those events, was so outstanding that all I can do is sit back and thank God for the way He arranged this year of celebrations for my family!

January was by far the quietest month of the year. We celebrated our 100th day of school, and Ladybug joined in, as she unofficially started kindergarten during that month. We finished preparing our home for Chickadee’s arrival. I was sad to see the end of One Life to Live, although, if it had to end, it certainly went the right way. We also re-subscribed to cable TV, so I spent a lot of my pregnancy-induced sleepless nights catching up on What Not to Wear!

In February, things started to get busy. Ryan rejoined the American Kantorei for the Bach at the Sem series, and we all enjoyed attending his concerts. I got to see Chickadee holding onto her umbilical cord during an ultrasound…it should come as no surprise, then, that she loves holding onto my hair now! We also made sure she’d be well-equipped for her first Opening Day and Cardinals game. Turkey had two teeth pulled, and hardly even noticed it happening. Ladybug picked out new animal print glasses. We had a fun field trip, started a new Lenten tradition, and celebrated Leap Day. Above all, we spent all of February excited knowing that Chickadee would be arriving the next month!

Without a doubt, March was the craziest, most exciting month of the year. The highlight was, of course, the birth of our little Chickadee. A few other things happened, too, though. We finally got a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was very exciting for me. We had fun celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and even got to help Moose make a Leprechaun trap for school. I spent a lot of time baking, even though I couldn’t indulge in eating many of my creations due to gestational diabetes. Turkey turned nine. The children got to meet their new sister, and we brought her home!

April was almost as busy as March. Turkey and Bunny were confirmed on Palm Sunday, the same day Chickadee was baptized into God’s family. That was one of the most amazing, emotional days of my life. We celebrated Easter a week later. We had our traditional Opening Day food fest at home, and less than a week later, took Chickadee to her first Cardinals game. Much to Bunny’s delight, an American Girl store opened in St. Louis. We found that last year’s bird’s nest was once again in use. We also had the interesting experience of oven shopping.

Things remained busy in May. Chickadee started smiling at us–so cute! Our new oven was delivered. I got a new pair of glasses for the first time in over five years, and I must have been inspired by Ladybug, because they, too, have an animal print. The next generation of baby birds hatchedLadybug turned five. Ryan and I got to go to the Cardinals game (along with Chickadee), where Tony LaRussa’s number was retired. The following day, Ryan and I (and Chickadee, again), went to the Science Center to see Star Trek: The Exhibition. Moose graduated from kindergarten. We not only went to Art on the Square, but actually bought something for the first time ever. We spent an afternoon at Grant’s Farm, one of our very favorite places to go. Ryan and Ladybug went to a Cardinals game, just the two of them, and got to meet Fredbird and get autographs from two players. We celebrated the birthday of the church on Pentecost  Turkey started his third season of parks and rec baseball, and loved every minute of it.

Life finally slowed down a bit in June (but only a bit!). We celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee from afar. As part of our celebration, we had our first tea party of the year. This was one of my favorite non-family related parts of the year, learning all about the Queen and her reign. Turkey and Bunny finished third grade. The summer really started to heat up, making everybody miserable.

July brought an end to the slower pace we enjoyed in June. I spent my first-ever day at the spa, and hope I can go back again sometime. We celebrated the Fourth of July in our typical fashion, but sans fireworks, thanks to a ban on them due to excessive heat and drought. Turkey had his last baseball game of the summer. Bunny turned eight, and we enjoyed tea party number two of the year to celebrate. Chickadee attended her first-ever VBS at our church, along with the rest of the family, of course. She also gave up being swaddled at bedtime, which was a little bittersweet. We enjoyed the beginning of the London Olympics, which included tea party number three, and special lessons in school.

At the beginning of August, we managed to tear ourselves away from the Olympics long enough to go to Build a Bear day at Busch Stadium, which also included a walk along the warning track. It was also a “turn back the clock” night…I loved the throwback uniforms and high socks! We had our own family Olympics, in which “Team Markel” won. We got rid of cable TV–again. I got ready for the start of our fifth year of homeschooling by rearranging the school room–again. Moose started first grade, Ladybug officially started kindergarten, and Turkey and Bunny began fourth grade. We went apple picking and got 12 pounds of apples. Chickadee was our little tagalong in school, and constantly kept the whole family amused with her antics.

At the beginning of September, I worked on creating a logo for our school, with help from the children. We were quite happy with the results. I discovered that one of my favorite books ever had finally been reprinted. Chickadee started crawling. We saw the Thunderbirds perform at the Scott Air Force Base air show. We took in another baseball game, and had a kind usher take the best picture of the seven of us to that date. Chickadee reluctantly started eating solid foods. We had fun making handprint angels on Michaelmas.

We spent the month of October learning about the Reformation and enjoying the beautiful fall colors. We had our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, where we picked over 40 pounds of pumpkins. Moose lost three top teeth…eating became a very interesting activity for him! Ryan and I enjoyed the “Kozmania” that overtook Cardinal Nation, especially since we had seen his very-first major league at-bat the year before. I finally found a hat to wear to church. We watched Felix Baumgartner’s incredible, insane skydive from practically outer-space, some of us with morbid curiosity.

In November, Chickadee figured out how to pull herself up to a standing position. Moose turned seven. I had my best-ever game in Bookworm, and promptly stopped playing so I could go out on top. We started Thanksgiving school, and a “Thankful Tree.” We had a nice Thanksgiving…it was especially fun to share Chickadee’s first Thanksgiving with her! We went to our town’s tree lighting, and then went back downtown on a nicer day to look at all of the gingerbread houses. I rearranged our schoolroom–yet again. I think it will stay this way for quite a while! We started our Christmas celebrations a little early by taking the children to their first Boar’s Head Festival, in preparation for our “Christmas in England” theme in school this year.

December brought our favorite time of the year…the Advent and Christmas seasons! Many of our favorite activities take place in December…Christmas on the Hill, Tuba Christmas, and going to St. Charles for the Christmas Traditions festival. In school, we continued making banners for the church year, and learned about Christmas throughout England’s history, which included reading some great books, such as A Christmas Carol. We had a Christmas tea party (number four for the year!), and an English Christmas dinner to accompany our lessons. It was great fun being so very British this whole year! We added readings for the Great “O” Antiphons to our Advent traditions. We spent a lot of time baking, decorating, and delivering cookies and other treats, and basically kept busy right up until Christmas. It was especially fun to get to celebrate a first Christmas again! We even had a white Christmas, although a few days late…but it was still during the season of Christmas, so it counts! I did a lot of work on my blog this month, too, adding pages for liturgical year things such as feasts, festivals, and commemorations, the Jesse Tree, the Great “O” Antiphons, and the Jesus Tree, that are important to our family.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 holds for our family…I know that there will be lots more holidays and celebrations to look forward to sharing together. I pray that God blesses all of your families as greatly as He has blessed mine!

There’s Always Something New

I had an ultrasound again this morning. You’d think that after so many children, and having had so many ultrasounds with each child, I’d have seen it all by now. But you’d be wrong!

The ultrasound tech was taking the measurements she needed, and commented on how Chickadee’s hands were right up by her face. That wasn’t surprising to me…in every ultrasound I’ve had, she’s always had at least one hand right up by her cheek, and once, I even think I saw her sucking her thumb. But then she zoomed in on one of Chickadee’s tiny hands, and showed me how Chickadee was grasping the umbilical cord. And Chickadee proceeded to hold onto it for the entire ultrasound, which lasted about 20 minutes. For all I know, she’s still hanging on!


To be fair, I’ve heard that babies can do that in utero. But I’ve never actually seen it happen, not even in other people’s ultrasound pictures. There was something both very sweet and very amusing about it. It really makes you wonder…why? Is it a sensory thing? Is is a security thing, like holding onto a blankie? Is she just bored in there and looking for something to do?

I have no idea why Chickadee does most of what she does in the womb, (including what must be some amazing gymnastics, based on the movements I’ve felt!). But, I love her little personality, which is already quite evident, and I love that even though I’ve been through so many pregnancies, I can still be surprised!

Gestational Diabetes

Please note that in sharing my experiences, I’m not advocating that anyone do things differently than prescribed by their doctor, and I’m no medical professional–I’m simply trying to encourage others going through this same thing. I know that the first time I was diagnosed, way back with my first pregnancy, I felt lost and scared, and like I had done something wrong. A little encouragement can go a long way!

I’ve had gestational diabetes diagnosed in four of my pregnancies. To be honest, I think I probably had it in the other one, too, it just wasn’t caught. Different place, different doctor, blah, blah, blah. So I’ve become very experienced at handling it, and learning what works and what doesn’t.

First, let’s talk carbs. Based on the diet I was given by the nutritionist that works with the maternal-fetal specialists that handle diabetic patients, I’m allowed about 11-12 “servings” of carbs a day. What constitutes a serving? 15 grams of carbs equals one carb serving, at least in my diet. The general breakdown of these servings is 1-2 at breakfast, 1 for a morning snack, 3-4 at lunch, 1 for an afternoon snack, 3-4 at dinner, and 1 again for an evening snack. So, in general, definitely not more than 13 servings, and usually closer to 11 for the whole day.

Here’s what I’ve learned about that. I need to stay really close to the low end of the carb range at breakfast. I think part of it is my personal metabolism, but I think this tends to ring true for gestational diabetics in general–you need to ease into the day, carb-wise. And for me, the carbs can’t come from cereal. The nutritionist that I first saw referred to cereal as “partially digested food,” which is gross, but true, when you stop to think about it. Even the high-fiber cereals, when hit with milk, start to break down, so there’s just not much work for your body to do in the digestion process. Thus, higher sugars. Protein is important at breakfast, to balance out the carbs. So, a piece of whole grain, low carb bread, with some peanut butter or an egg on top is an excellent choice. This is my most redundant meal…I don’t tend to stray from eating the same thing day in and day out, which, let’s face it, can be boring. But when you’re trying as hard as possible to stay right around 15 grams of carbs at one meal, you have to deal with not having a lot of options.

Lunch provides a little more flexibility than breakfast. I usually stay around three carb servings at this meal, but I also don’t feel bad if I approach four. And 45-60 grams of carbs does leave you with a lot of options. A sandwich, (again on whole grain bread) is one option, as is a  salad and some yogurt, or a bowl of soup, and, depending on the carb levels of the soup, a piece of bread on the side. Even a small serving of pasta is doable. Again, it’s important to remember to balance the carbs out with fiber and protein.

Dinner is the meal at which I’m most likely to eat my full allotment of carbs, mostly because I just really like dinner, and want to enjoy it! You have to be careful, though, of meals with side dishes. A sloppy joe or hamburger is usually OK by itself, (unless the bun is huge!), but when you start adding chips or fries on the side, it can add up really quickly. I speak from experience, because I’ve made the mistake of not really paying attention to the total of the parts of a meal like that, and my blood sugar reflected it. But, in general, you can eat most of the things you normally would, as long as you pay close attention to portion size, and again, balancing the carbs in the meal with protein and fiber.

Snacks can be interesting. It’s actually nice to have an excuse to snack, especially if you’re hungry all the time. And the regularly scheduled snacks are important. It can be a challenge, though, because sometimes you just don’t feel like eating, and yet you know you need to, to make sure you don’t start having unexpected dips and spikes in your sugar levels throughout the day. And then there’s the issue of finding a snack that fits into that one carb serving limit. My favorite snack is a high fiber granola bar. While the carbs look high on the surface, there are some adjustments that can be made in regards to net carbs, because of the high level of fiber. So, the bar has 24 grams of carbs, but also has nine grams of fiber, which can be subtracted from the carb total, leaving you with 15 net carbs. Right where you want to be!

Other good snacks can be a few crackers with some cheese, some cottage cheese, or some yogurt, (depending on the sugar content). Fresh vegetables make a good snack, (although not so much carrots or other starchy vegetables), but you have to be careful with fresh fruit. Bananas are a gestational diabetics mortal enemy, despite their high nutritional content! But, as with meals, you basically want to balance your allotment of carbs with something that either has fiber or protein or both. Just because you can have 15 grams of carbs doesn’t mean you want to waste them all on a sugary treat. It may be satisfying in the short-term, but it won’t stick with you, leaving you feeling sluggish and hungry, and can leave your blood sugars out of whack later.

Of course, there are times when every pregnant woman wants to splurge on a treat. And it can be done, very occasionally, if you’re willing to make up for it. Exercise is great at lowering blood sugar. So, if you know you’re going to be enjoying a (small) piece of birthday cake, plan on taking a walk afterward. You’ll feel better for it, and it will help regulate your blood sugar, keeping it within a more acceptable range. Exercise is also beneficial if you know you have a meal that your body doesn’t process as well, like my issues with breakfast. This doesn’t mean overindulging in the meal, but if you go for a walk after, it may help prevent your numbers from getting too high.

Of course, everybody is different. With all of my pregnancies, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to control my gestational diabetes through diet, (and exercise), alone, so all of my advice comes from the perspective of never having needed medication. Some women do need medication, and of course that’s OK. You do whatever you have to do to keep yourself and your baby healthy. You don’t have total control over how your body reacts to this kind of situation, and no matter how hard you work at controlling your diet, you may need extra help. What’s important is following your doctor’s recommendations, and being honest with him or her about your numbers, how you’re feeling, and any problems you may run into. If they know you’re struggling with a particular aspect of managing your diabetes, they’ll be better able to figure out how to help you, and keep you and your baby healthy!

Still a Girl!

Today I had a follow-up ultrasound, because they couldn’t get a good look at Chickadee’s heart last time. I had the tech double-check and make sure we’re really having a girl–not because I thought anything had changed, but because I’m always paranoid that there was some kind of mistake, especially once we start buying baby things.

I’m happy to report that she is “still” a girl, and everything looks great! She already weighs almost a pound and a half, and every time we see her, she has a tiny hand up by her face. We’ve never actually seen her sucking her thumb in utero, but I’m wondering if that’s what she’s been up to.

After the somewhat rocky start this pregnancy got off to, I’m just happy that everything is just the way it’s supposed to be!

Pregnancy Slang

I really hate most pregnancy slang. It just grates on my ears to hear it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so overused on TV, or if many of the words and phrases are somewhat negative words I used to hear thrown around in high school, (’cause Teen Mom is a new thing, right?), but I can’t stand it.

I don’t care what the popular vernacular is…I am not “prego,” “pregs,” “preggy,” “in a fix,” and I’m certainly not “preggers.” I also most definitely do not “have a bun in the oven!”

If slang is unavoidable, I prefer to go old school: “expecting,” “with child,” (if it worked for the Virgin Mary, it works for me!), even “in the family way,” (you know, just in case I’m giving birth in the 1800s). Those seem to at least have less derogatory meanings behind them, and somehow seem a little more modest, probably because of how old-fashioned they are.

Mostly, though, I’m just going with what it is–I’m plain old pregnant!

Why I Have the Best Husband Ever

On Monday, after the big ultrasound where we learned we’re having a girl, Ryan took us all out to dinner. Not just any dinner, but our favorite restaurant to go to if we happen to be in St. Louis–Seamus McDaniel’s. Home of the best burger in the metro area, if not the world. We all love going there, so this was a big treat.

That’s not why Ryan is the best husband ever, though…that’s just why he’s pretty great!

After dinner, he stopped at 7-11 to get the children slurpees, (he’s also the best dad ever), a rare treat since we are severely lacking in the 7-11 department in Southern Illinois. But, when we have the chance, it’s one of those things from our childhood that we really like sharing with our children. They really enjoyed their special dessert.

But I still haven’t gotten to the part where he’s the best husband ever.

For the better part of the last week, I had been craving saganaki. What can I say? This baby has a very ethnically diverse palette! This is another food item that isn’t easy to find in our area, though. So, on the way home from 7-11, he stopped at Olympia Kebob House, and got me a “dessert,” too–an order of saganaki!

There are no words to describe how very delicious that cheese was. But, it was exactly as I had been imagining it for the last week, and I enjoyed every last bite.

Definitely the best husband ever!

The Tie Breaker

With two boys and two girls in the family already, we knew that this baby was obviously going to be a tie breaker. Today was ultrasound day, where we hoped to find out who was going to “win.” I’m happy to announce that the balance of power in our household has tipped in favor of the girls!

Our little Chickadee, (nickname subject to change), was mostly cooperative during the ultrasound, although I’m having another one in four weeks, because she was doing her best to hide her heart. Everything looks good, though, and I was especially relieved that I no longer need to live in fear of the one pregnancy complication I knew was possible, and potentially dangerous.

While we were out, I stopped to buy her a “going home outfit” at the Carter’s store, (I like to plan ahead). I figure the weather in March will be similar to the weather now, so the timing was perfect. I was quite shocked to remember just how tiny newborn clothes are, though!

Today was a great day, and I’m happy that we can now give this little person a name, (and grateful that I can stop trying to come up with a boy name, because that wasn’t going very well!)!

It’s Just Like Starting Over

I have discovered that this fifth baby is the most similar to the first, and in many ways, I feel like I’m starting completely over.

I guess it’s because of the amount of time that has passed since my last pregnancy, but it seems as though I’ve forgotten everything. What medications are safe to take, what’s on the do-not-eat list, what symptoms are normal–it all seems new to me.

I’m also suffering from paranoia similar to that of my first pregnancy. I assume that this is mostly due to the loss I suffered in March, although I’m sure it’s also partly due to the length of time since my last pregnancy. But I worry about this one more than I have since the first pregnancy. I question every twinge and symptom, I panic at the doctor’s office each visit, (until I actually hear the heartbeat), even though I have no reason to, I worry about what could go wrong between now and the due date. I know that this worry is not good, and is pointless, and is all stuff that probably won’t happen. But I just can’t help myself.

And then there’s the issue of starting over in a material sense. I got rid of all of my maternity clothes, so I’ve had to start over in that regard. But with the first pregnancy, at least, I knew that there would be many more pregnancies to follow, so I didn’t mind spending money on clothes. This time, however, I’m trying to buy as few things as possible, since they’ll only be used, (by me at least), for one pregnancy. This translates into a very limited maternity wardrobe.

And then there’s the issue of things for the baby. We got rid of most of our baby stuff, either due to recalls, (both of our cribs), expiration dates, (infant car seats), or plain old use, (high chair and swing). The only thing we really have is plenty of clothes, (although a lot of those fit in the worn category, too), and that’s only because I’ve been too lazy to sort through them, and figure out which sentimental items should be kept, while the rest are donated. I think I’m actually going to have to create a registry, (something else I haven’t really done since the first), just to keep track of everything we’re going to need to buy, or I’ll forget something for sure!

It’s weird feeling like a first-timer when this is going to be our fifth birth. I imagine that feeling will also carry through to the newborn stage, because I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten everything I know about infants, too!