Friday, November 30, 2012

18 Weeks Ultrasound

It has been a year and two months since we lost our daughter Violet and we carry the pain of that loss around with us everywhere we go and into everything we do. It's not so intense and sharp as it once was, but it's there and very close to the surface. As we go forward with our current pregnancy, the loss of our daughter is even more palpable and even more poignant for us, thinking about the kind of big sister she would have been, what she would have been doing at this stage of her life, and how wonderfully crazy our lives would have been had we been looking forward to being the joyfully exhausted parents of two under two rather than constantly anxiety-ridden parents of one who may or may not survive to his first birthday.

We had our first anatomy ultrasound this past Monday before heading down for my Uncle Paul's funeral and as excited as we were to see Baby, it was an excruciating experience emotionally. We had been directed to the high risk doctors in Saginaw for the procedure because, with this pregnancy, our doctors are doing everything they can to cover every single base. This ultrasound was different in that 1) I didn't have to do it with a full bladder (hallelujah!!!) and 2) it came with a consult afterwards which consisted of going over, once again, every single detail of Violet's short life, my pregnancy with her, the minute-by-minute account of what happened the day she passed away, what was done for her intervention-wise, how successful she and I were at nursing in the three days that she lived, and so on. They FINALLY were able to talk the U of M into giving us the synopsis of the genetic consult and test results that we had done with her and basically it was four pages of, "We don't have a clue...*shrug*" Add to that the fact that the doctor who saw us left a WHOLE lot to be desired on the bedside manner front, and it was agony.

I couldn't help but draw parallels between our 20 weeks ultrasound with Violet and this one with Beanie. With Violet, we were overjoyed at the prospect of seeing our baby, of finding out what gender she was, of making sure that everything was alright. I remember Hubs being absolutely glued to the screen until he was certain the baby's brain was developed properly, that the heart was pumping properly, and that movement was happening properly. I am hopeless at knowing what I'm looking at when having ultrasounds, so I just laid there, nervous, and tried not to pee. (Seriously, forcing a woman who is 20 weeks pregnant to drink a full 32oz of liquid and then hold it for an hour and a half while a stranger pushes on her abdomen should be classified as cruel and unusual punishment.) After we were done, I remember fairly dancing out of the small, dimly lit room with an enormous smile on my face and throwing my arms around Hubs, who spun me down the hallway a couple of times. We were elated. Thrilled. Ecstatic. It was a GIRL! And she was PERFECT! WE DID IT!!! We went straight to Walmart to have the photos on the cd we'd been given developed and it was all I could do not to show them to every passing stranger in the store. "See our baby?! Isn't she PERFECT?!"

This time was different. We sat watching the screen, every nerve tense, watching the little baby on the screen punch its little fists and kick its little legs. "Is it moving enough? Is there enough room for it? Is its head big enough? It looks a little small..." Beanie wasn't feeling cooperative and so the nurse wasn't able to get half the shots she needed for the file, and we discovered the reason that I haven't been able to feel much movement (another cause for anxiety)- I have an anterior placenta as well as a slight case of placenta previa (which for those of you who don't know: An anterior placenta means that the placenta attached at the front of the uterine wall rather than on the sides or back, which is more common, and acts as a pillow between baby and mama's nerve-riddled front of the uterus. It also forces the baby to grow further back in the mother's stomach cavity, which can be a lot more uncomfortable since that means internal organs get shifted around a lot more. Placenta previa means that the placenta is growing close to or sometimes over the top of the cervix, which can be dangerous to the mother if it doesn't move over the course of the pregnancy. Normally as the baby grows and the uterus expands the placenta, which is firmly attached to a specific area of the uterine wall, will move along with the uterus and out of the line of danger, but sometimes it will stay put making the odds of having a cesarean section much higher as a way of keeping the placenta from rupturing during labor. My case is very slight, meaning that the placenta isn't actually over the cervix and is very likely to move. The odds of having one of these things happen in pregnancy are not great, but having both of them happen are, according to the doctor, astronomical. Lucky, lucky us.)

We were able to ascertain that Beanie is a BOY though, and we are thrilled about that. We're naming him Wesley Scott, after my dad. That news was overshadowed, though, by the knowledge that the doctors have no idea what happened to our daughter who was born perfect and passed away three days later. This means that they have no clue if it could or will happen again, what to do to prevent it, or what to even test for. So it feels as though we're going into this pregnancy looking down the barrel of a gun, so to speak. When we left the offices after the consult was over we made it to the car before we both started to cry. This whole process is unbelievably hard. There aren't words for it, honestly. It's times like this that I'm reminded of a "Christianity-ism" that I came across years ago-

"The God who made the universe is big enough for your anger."

I think that so often we think that being a "good, faith-filled person" means sitting in church and smiling benignly when bad things happen to and around us, as though nothing affects us. But it isn't. For me, it means knowing that I can get so mad at God that, if I saw Him face to face, I could rant and rave like a lunatic- and He'd still love me. He understands that I don't understand. He knows that it's hard and that He will never be able to give me an explanation that will make me feel okay about my daughter dying. He knows that I hurt so much that sometimes my pain feels like an actual tangible thing that I carry around with me like a purse. He knows that I know that He makes the plan and that He could've stopped this from happening any time. And He didn't. And that burns like fire. He knows I'm angry and He understands. 

AND HE LOVES ME ANYWAY.

Because He IS my Father. I remember getting SO ANGRY at my parents growing up that I could just spit. I'm sure I hurt them more times than I could count. I'm sure I hurt myself with that anger, too. But my getting angry with them didn't mean that they didn't still love me or want was best, not just for me but for the whole family. 

And that's Heavenly Father.

He's big enough to understand my pain and anger, to see me glaring up at the sky sometimes with tears streaming down my face. He can take it. He knows. He knows because His son died, too. He knows that pain. He gets it. And He's okay if I need to be mad for awhile. Because even the act of my being angry at him means that I still believe in Him. If He wasn't there to be mad at, I wouldn't be mad. He loves me and He knows that I believe in His ability to make things right. To have a plan. To know what He's doing. I may not like it (and let's be clear- I DON'T LIKE IT), but I still believe that the whole situation is in His hands. 

So I'm angry right now. But it's a faith-filled kind of anger. And as much as I'm angry, I'm still trusting Him to make things right. To make them work out. To have a plan. Because frankly, at this point, that's all I CAN do. I'm almost halfway through this pregnancy and at some point, Wesley Scott is GOING to come out. There's nothing I can do about that. I just have to wait and try to trust that Heavenly Father knows what He's doing and how much I can take.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why I'll Be Taking a Break for Awhile

6 years ago we lost lost my Grandpa Anderson to whom I was very, very close.

3 years ago we really and truly lost my mom to Alzheimer's.

1 year and 1 month ago, we lost our beautiful daughter Violet.

And today, we lost my uncle to brain cancer.

It doesn't feel real to say any of that out loud, let alone all together in a list like that. It feels like too much, as if it's too heavy to carry around. It's too sad, too hard, too everything to put into words.

My soul feels bruised, and badly, like a boxer after a prize fight.

I feel like a bird with a broken wing who is stunned at suddenly being grounded, confused by the pain, and terrified at its immobilization. It hops and jerks and spasms, desperately trying to escape a pain that actually radiates from somewhere deep within itself.

I remember once when I was very little my family took a trip to Lake Michigan and I was playing in the waves. It was summer and for some reason the waves were really strong that day and I was very small by comparison. I was playing a game with myself, jumping into the waves as they rolled in and knocked my down. One minute it was a joyful game of oneness with the water, and then suddenly the waves started to come faster and faster and harder and harder, knocking me down over and over again. I would try to get my legs under me, but just as I would start to stand up, another wave would knock me down again. I started to choke and sputter, fear clutching at me and making me panic. I hadn't yet learned to swim and terror clung to me, making me feel like I was all alone in this wide open water doing battle for air and purchase on the ground.

And then, suddenly, I was being plucked out of the water and held close by my dad. And it was all over. The fight was finished and I slumped against him, relief and tears rolling through and over me.

Today, I was sobbing so hard that I could hardly breathe let alone articulate what I was feeling to my husband who held and rocked me. I found myself silently patting my open palm against my chest, and realized that my heart was trying to speak with gestures what my mouth didn't yet have words for- it burns. It aches. It feels like a tearing in my soul. It feels like a giant is squeezing my heart. It feels like boiling water in my veins and sand in my mouth. It hurts with a hurting that there are no words to describe.

And so I just sobbed, letting my hands and salt water say what I couldn't.

And I'll wait. I'll pull away for awhile from structure and schedule in order to allow my breath to once again fill my lungs. I'll wait until I feel that warm hand grab me from the surf and cuddle me close the way I know my Heavenly Father does in times like this, with soft words and comforting embraces. I'll take some time to allow the burn to cool to a slow flame. I'll let my mind catch up to what my heart knows.

But for now, I hurt. 

I hurt for my dad who has lost his best friend.

I hurt for my Aunt and cousins who have lost their husband, father, and confidant.

I hurt for my grandparents who have lost a son, because I know better than most that NO parent should have to bury a child, no matter the age.

I hurt for everyone who has lost, again, in our family.

I just ache.

And I wait for release.
For relief.
For rescue.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Meal for Mondays - Pork Chops and Rice

Okay, you guys. This is another Cheryl Daunheimer (a.k.a. my mom) Special, so this is guaranteed to be simple, stick-to-your-ribs, EASY to make fare. Hooray! It's honestly delicious in the fall and winter (at least I think so! Well, I and my family), so it's perfect for me to share right now! Also...look. I know that a lot of these recipes that I'm sharing aren't exactly gourmet fare. I know. I do. But...for me, that's not really the point. I remember the feeling I would get coming to the table and seeing these simple, easy, and yet familiarly delicious dishes on the table. It was homey and comforting and...just...simple. And I loved that. I cook things for my little family that WE like, things that my the Hubs feel loved and appreciated. Things that don't take me all day to cook (unless I'm using my beloved Crock Pot!) and that I can bring to the table with relative ease but that still taste delicious to US. I'm really and truly not trying to compete with the amazing gourmet stay-at-home-wives-and-mothers who moonlight as chefs in their spare time.

See...honesty time: I do not love to cook. It's not my passion. 

But I DO love to cook for my family. 

So...those are the only reactions that really matter to me. I share these recipes on here with you all because I think that maybe you'll enjoy them, too, and also because I'm sort of voyeuristic in that I love to get glimpses into what everyone ELSE is doing and what THEIR normal looks like, so maybe other people want to see mine. You know? If you choose not to check in on Mondays or if you choose not to make these particular recipes in favor of something fancier or something...I dunno...just...ELSE, I guess, that's totally fine with me. Because THOSE recipes are the ones that will become special to YOUR family because they'll remember YOU preparing them. These ones are special to mine.

I apologize too...I have NO pictures for you. Had I been bright, I would've taken pictures while I was cooking this tonight, but for the moment all I would have to offer you is pictures of my dirty dishes and I don't think anyone wants that. Unless the sight of them would move you to pity and cause you to come over and do them FOR me, in which case, please let me know. I will be glad to humiliate myself in exchange for free dish washing service!

Ahem.

Here's what you'll need:

Ingredients:

*1-2 pork chops per person (bone in or bone out, it really doesn't matter. I say 1-2 because if you have hungry men or teenagers in your home or if your chops are particularly small, you may need more than the rest of us!)

*1 can cream of mushroom soup

*1/2 of a large sweet white onion, sliced into thin strips

*1 soup can worth of milk (<----do cups="cups" dirty="dirty" for="for" it="it" love="love" measuring="measuring" no="no" p="p" us="us" you="you">
*white rice

Directions:

In a large skillet, cook chops in oil with onions until cooked completely through and onions begin to caramelize. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix soup and milk together until completely blended. When chops are cooked thoroughly, pour soup and milk mixture over the top of them and bring to a low boil, stirring around the chops as well as you can to avoid scorching the milk. Reduce heat and cover. Allow to simmer until soup reduces down to a thin gravy.

In another pot, make white rice according to package instructions. Serve chops and sauce over the top of the rice on each plate. I like to sprinkle mine with a little parsley as well, just to add some color. I also like to serve this with my mom's "signature" fruit salad- sliced bananas, sliced grapes, canned mandarin oranges, and canned pineapple. Mmmmmm mmm!

So there you go! Pork chops and rice, from my table to yours, with love. Enjoy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Citygirl/Farmgirl Fridays - It's SO Beautiful Out Here!


When the Hubs and I first moved out here, I was really, really nervous that I would hate it. I mean, we're about 20 minutes north of the closest grocery store, and half an hour from church (I end up doing most of my make up in the car. Early mornings are NOT my gifting, for sure) and my bestie's house. It feels pretty far removed from civilization sometimes. I'm even in a totally different "town," technically, meaning that when Hubs and I talk about going the places like the store we refer to going "to town." It's like Little House on the Prarie out here, you guys. I might start referring to the Hubs as "Pa" when Beanie makes his/her appearance.

But then...then. I fell in love with it. Completely and utterly. I love the way it just smells like fall out here in the evenings when the air is crisp and all of our surrounding neighbors have their wood furnaces stoked up so we can smell the oak and pine smoke wafting on the breeze. I love the way I can hear dry leaves from the trees of the woods that surround our house blowing around on the paving stones in the backyard when I'm drifting off to sleep. I love looking out the back window and seeing deer wandering down the paths in the woods behind our house.

And would you just look at this gorgeous sunset that Heavenly Father treated us to this evening? I just love the way the trees looked black against all the riotous color of the sky. It was, quite literally, breathtaking. I actually experienced a jaw dropping moment when I happened to glance up from organizing my recipes at my kitchen table and saw this glowing through my kitchen dining area windows. The picture doesn't even begin to do it justice...the colors seemed to be on fire they were so vibrant.


Can you believe it?! This is my FRONT YARD you guys! I am so incredibly blessed and I am reminded of that every time I step outside my front door. Sometimes it's just refreshing to be reminded that Heavenly Father knows what I need better than I do. This isn't a life that I would have chosen for myself three years ago, but today? I wouldn't trade one single crazy, animal packed, hectic, hard scrabble, two-steps-forward-one-step-back moment of it.

This really and truly, for me, is the sweet life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

OrgnizaFUN - Meal Planning

Welcome back! Thanks for hanging in there after I missed last week! Things have been a little bit crazy around here what with The Hubs being in school and working full time and Beanie has been making me a little bit sick the last week or so. Nothing major, just enough to make me want to lay on the couch and never get up again. S/he also seems to think that we need 10 hours of sleep at night in order to function properly. Lol.

But I'm back!

And I'm excited to show you one of my very favorite projects that I've done and it was SO inexpensive to make!

Now, I'm a planner. I have always liked to know what's coming next so that I can anticipate what needs doing, what I need to work on, what I should wear, etc. My meals are no exception.

You will be amazed what a difference this one simple thing will make in your everyday life! No more, "Hey honey? What's for dinner?" ringing across the house from the living room...at 5pm...and you've got nothing handy except a box of mac and cheese and a sad jar of pickles of indeterminate age.

It makes SUCH a difference to know that you've got what you need for meals handy, that you know what meals you're going to make, and what is handy in your food storage for add-on items (veggies as a side, fruit salad, etc).

In a corner just above the bookshelf where I keep my cookbooks I have this hanging:

(True confession: I'm in love with my little vintage toy tin stove there. The Hubs bought me that at the Antique Festival last summer and it came with all of these darling little pans and things, and it matches my kitchen perfectly! I knew it just belonged in my kitchen.)

I bought the 8-frame picture frame at Wal-Mart for $10 and I had the letter stickers, scrapbook paper, and dry erase marker on hand. It was as easy as pie to make- all I had to do was pick out complementary scrapbook paper that matched my kitchen colors (red and aqua...I love), trace the glass inserts and cut out the paper, add the heading ("The Schmidts' Week" in my case), add the days of the week, and assemble. Presto! Instant weekly menu! And I absolutely love it. Everyone knows what's coming, I can see at a glance what I need to plan on making every night, and it's easy to change if there's a last-minute request for something.

This is the last thing I look at in the evening, so I know what I need to be working on for dinner the next day. It lets me know if, while I'm chopping up veggies anyways, if I can just do tomorrow's veggies and save myself the hassle tomorrow. It reminds me if I need to get up a little early to throw something in the Crock Pot. It's a wonderful, easy resource.

I've seen this used for a variety of other purposes too- I've seen them in kids' rooms so they all know what activities they have coming up on a given day that week (no more, "Hey mom? When's my ballet class?"), which is nice because it teaches them a sense of personal responsibility for knowing what their schedules are. Rather than just running to you to ask, they can go look at their schedule and know for sure what's happening. It teaches them to rely on a planner/organizer rather than on a third party for their schedules.

I've seen it used as a family schedule for activities. I've seen it used as a  chore chart (Sally does dishes on Monday while Janie sweeps the kitchen floor and makes beds, etc). It's a WONDERFUL way to keep track of your FlyLady information, too! What day are doing which chores for the Zone we're in that week? Now you know, right away! (For those of you who were at my class earlier this month, you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, you'll have the opportunity to learn more about it next week!)

It's a great visual tool to have in your home, it teaches your family to a planner for their information rather than running to you (or yelling for you, more usually) for the day-to-day details of your family's life.

I love that it's broken down so easily and allows you to take things one week at a time, too, rather than looking a calendar with a full month on it chock full of information, which can be a little overwhelming.

It's a small, easy step in the right direction. Your family will LOVE having an idea of what's for dinner (or what activities are coming, if that's what you decide to use it for), it will simplify things for you because you'll know in advance what you need to do to be ready for tomorrow, and being ready is HALF of being organized!

The frames come in brown and black and they're in the frame department of WalMart! Have fun with the papers you pick out, the fonts you choose for your stickers, whatever! It's completely personalizable and these make WONDERFUL holiday presents! Do you need a gift for you Visiting Teachees? These are a great idea!

Have FUN and remember- DON'T STRESS!!! We're doing this Baby Steps at a time!