Sunday, February 28, 2010

Simplify

What do you get when you marry this…

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with this…

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MARCH!!!

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Eagerly awaiting tomorrow (March 1) to hang this simple wreath of grapevine and forsythia to welcome the month of March!

Goodbye Winter…the Vernal (March)Equinox (otherwise known as SPRING in the northern hemisphere) is mere weeks away (3/20).  And with it, Mother Nature ushers in warmer temps, April showers, and beautiful May flowers!

Wishing you a peaceful and simple Sunday,


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our Homemade Valentines

Since my Christmas post is normally completed in January, it is quite a feat to actually post Valentine’s Day during the month of February!

This year, Mary Catherine asked if she could make homemade valentines for her classmates.  Not being overly crafty, I was a bit overwhelmed by the idea, but gladly put on my “we can do anything” attitude and bounded off to Michael’s Craft Store with my very crafty daughter. 

We had a successful shopping venture and this is what we returned home with:  lots of foam stickers, heart-shaped cardstock, beautiful glitter scrapbooking paper and ribbon.  Somehow the paper doilies that were in the shopping cart didn’t quite make it to checkout.

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To speed along the process of creating 15 homemade valentines for classmates and teachers, I traced and cut-out the scrapbooking hearts for Mary to adhere to the heart-shaped valentines.  Her first attempt at using glue stick to attach the scrapbooking paper was unsuccessful, so after a  quick lesson in the art of how to use Elmer’s Glue, she moved on to greater success…and adhesion!

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Next, she attached her foam stickers to the inside of her valentines and diligently “signed” her name to each one.  I never tire of watching a preschooler/kindergartner print their name…it’s just the perfect example of childhood innocence!

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(We haven’t quite mastered the “only use a capital letter for the first letter in your first name” rule, but we’re almost there!)

Finally, it was time to insert valentines into envelopes.  I thought we were finished, but my little Picasso had other ideas.  She insisted on coloring all 15 envelopes using either a red or pink crayon (front and back) and adding more stickers.  I tried to warn her about this undertaking, but I guess true crafters don’t see coloring as a form of punishment!!! LOL

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Now, I know these weren’t the fanciest or most beautiful valentines out there this year…I’ve seen the most incredibly creative/crafty scrapbooking valentines floating around on the internet, but I truly had tears in my eyes when she proudly handed them over to her teachers to be distributed into mailboxes.  (I know, it’s a pregnancy thing!)  Even her teachers were overwhelmed by the amount of time and effort that she placed on making each of these homemade valentines.  She truly put her “heart” into this project.

Hoping your Valentine’s Day and the month of February was filled with lots of hugs and kisses!


Friday, February 26, 2010

Girls Weekend Pictorial

Last weekend, my best friend since childhood visited me.  She took the Missouri River Runner (Amtrak) from St. Louis to Kansas City.  She arrived on Friday afternoon and left Monday afternoon.  It was  a great weekend filled with giggles, girl talk, and of course, shopping!

IMG_2565This is Kansas City’s beautiful Union Station.  The inside is even more impressive, but I have yet to master indoor flash photography!

IMG_2566 These two cuties were my guest greeters…they were beyond excited that Shannon was coming to visit THEM!  LOL

IMG_2568 After departing the train station, I took full advantage of the fact that we were in downtown Kansas City (I live BEYOND suburbia!) and as it was dinnertime, treated our guest to authentic Mexican cuisine.  Manny’s is a favorite restaurant of ours…not so much because of the food, but because of the ambiance and the memories associated with the place.  Chris took me here on our first date and we’ve celebrated subsequent wedding anniversaries and of course new baby excitement!  What pregnant lady doesn’t crave chips, salsa and guacamole?

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After dinner, we went home. (It was a cold and rainy/snowy weekend.) As you might have read in other posts, I am working on the gift of hospitality for Lent (and beyond).  So, to greet my special friend, I purchased fresh bouquets of roses and tulips to have in her room.  I also purchased a few little items from Bath and Body Works (shea butter infused socks, bubble bath, lotion) to make her stay more comfortable.  Oh, and I removed any and all traces of toddler toys from the freshly scrubbed bathtub in my guest/hall bath!

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On Saturday morning, I put Daddy on babysitting duty and Shannon and I took off to The Plaza, Kansas City’s uniquely beautiful outdoor shopping venue.  Of course, with rain/sleet/snow, we did little shopping. Fortunately, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art is just a few block off The Plaza and we spent a snowy afternoon indoors.  I must say the art is much more beautiful in the company of a girlfriend than 20+ Third Graders on a school district field trip!

After several hours perusing art (I never tire of staring at one of the 3 panels of Monet’s Water Lilies) hunger drove us back to The Plaza where we enjoyed appetizers and beer (okay, Diet Coke for me) at O’Dowd’s Little Dublin.  The stout looked delicious and the Potato/Ham/Leek soup was to die for!  We also shared Farmhouse Potato Pancakes (it was a carb-laden meal!!!)

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Best Friends since childhood!  We’ve known each other since we were 8-years old.

Sunday was the main threat of the storm with lots of freezing rain and snow.  We didn’t venture out, but rather stayed inside warming ourselves by the fire, taking naps, and doing lots of snuggling with this cutie:

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(I think Ben’s found a new best friend!)

Monday meant the return trip home and after dropping Mary off at PreK, Ben and I took Shannon back to Union Station for her return trip home.  It was a lovely weekend that we do annually in January/February (note to self…change the date!) and I am already looking forward to next year’s visit! 


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hospitality/Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday As today is Ash Wednesday, I thought it only fitting to share with you a few thoughts that I came away with from Day 3 of Living Sacraments:  Being a Sign of What We Believe.

The theme of the final day’s retreat was Loving Service as Sacrament.  What do we do as Christians to demonstrate to others that for us (as Catholics) the Eucharist becomes a verb that does justice through the gift of hospitality?

Father Lou shared with us that serving others is the greatest way that we can be Christ to others.  That through our hospitality we can live our life story that is connected to God’s story for our life and honor the sacredness that each person represents as a child of God.

Many of us already do this…as mothers, as wives, as husbands, as fathers, as sons and daughters.  We serve those that we love. But what about those we don’t love…don’t know?  Do we serve them?

As Christians,  the Season of Lent, of fasting and abstinence, is not simply a form of penance.  It is also a call for us to take stock of our spiritual lives. As Lent begins, we should set out specific spiritual goals we would like to reach before Easter and decide how we will pursue them.  For my husband, children and I, we will be looking for opportunities to serve Christ through the gift of hospitality…both to those we know and the strangers that come into our lives on a daily basis.

As I close, I’d like to share with you a simple example of hospitality in action from a few months ago:

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www.joesdiecastshack.com/archive.htm

After dropping Mary off at preschool, Benjamin and I ran through a cold, bone-chilling rain to our car. As I was strapping Ben into his car seat, a mom in a hurry whipped into the parking space next to me and ran into the preschool, obviously running late.  Before I had even got myself strapped in, she was back out to her car, frantically trying to start it.  (The car was an older model, very beaten up.)

I rolled down my window as rain/sleet spit  at my face and asked her if there was someone I could call for her.  With tears in her eyes, she thanked me, but said that she had a cell phone and could call her husband.  He was a mechanic and had been meaning to “fix” her starter, but just hadn’t gotten around to it.  She also mentioned that she was worried because she was running late and needed her job.

I knew what I had to do.

“Is there someplace that I can drive you to?”  Her face lit up and she asked if I could drive her to the gas station in town where she was a clerk.  It was a short 2-mile drive and yet she was so grateful…like I had just driven her 200 miles.  I can’t even tell you how good it felt to have provided a tiny bit of hospitality to this stranger.

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In the words of Bette Midler, “From a Distance”:

“God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us, from a distance.”  My prayer this Lenten season is that people of all faiths, of all religions, may look for opportunities to serve others and share the gift of hospitality.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Dance/Our Appt. with the Perinatologist

renoir26 As I mentioned last week (before I began experiencing problems with wireless internet connection), I was attending a 3-day evening retreat through my local Parish church.

The general theme of the retreat was Living the Sacraments:  Being a Sign of What We Believe.

Day 1 was “Story as Sacrament”.  Basically, as a sacramental people we come to understand that there can be no sacrament without story:  that the story of our lived experiences is connected to the story of God’s covenant of enduring love for all people of faith.

Day 2 was “Relationships as Sacrament”.  This too was an equally powerful and moving theme.  Several things jumped out at me that Father Lou shared with us:

First, Jesus hung out with sinners!  Throughout the New Testament are examples of Christ’s love for those that society considered “unworthy”.  The Paralytic and His Friends (Mark 2: 1-12); The Man Born Blind (John 9); The Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8: 2-11); and The Leper (Mark 1; 40-45).  Yet, how often do we choose not to hang out with those we consider “unworthy” either because they have “wronged us” or do not meet our standards or expectations of being a good “Christian” a good “parent” or a true “friend.”

Yet GOD loves us unconditionally, with all our faults.  It is a beautiful dance that God does with us…He shapes us and molds us and wrapping His loving arms around waltzing with us then steps away allowing us to make our own choices; choose our own dance steps.  Sometimes we stumble and fall, yet God is there to pick us up and wrap His loving arms around us; to be our dance partner once again regardless of the wrongs we have done. 

Yet, in our humanity we are frail.  As a sacramental people, we must understand that regardless of the wrongs a person has done (to us, to others, to themselves) they are a creation of God and therefore sacred in God’s eyes.  It is not for us to judge (not to be confused with appropriate justice in terms of criminal activity) and withhold our love, forgiveness, etc.

Another important point during Day 2 of the retreat was the necessity of us as Christians to learn to “Breath Under Water”.  According to Richard Rohr, OFM, “Every moment, though barely realizing it, we breathe into our being the questionable values and multiple additions of our society.”

And then it hit me:  how much faith and credit had I been giving the medical community rather than God for the conception of Mary Catherine?  A lot for sure.  Certainly, I have always shared with people that I thought God was the ultimate “Great Physician” when it came to our in vitro success, but gradually…over the years…I have come to rely more and more on the medical community and less and less on God to oversee the well-being of my pregnancies.

Especially so with Baby #3.  I have been so caught up in the what-if scenario from the prenatal testing that I almost forgot to factor God into the formula.  And if I believe that all of God’s people are sacred, than this little being, even if s/he has Down Syndrome is a sacred soul in God’s eyes. 

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(I thought this necklace was so sweet.  It was created by a young man in honor of his sister who has Down Syndrome.  It is a symbol of chromosome 21 in triplicate, otherwise known as Down Syndrome or Trisomy 21.)

As we wrapped up Tuesday night’s session we were asked to ponder over what thing in our lives we were powerless over.  Geeee….I don’t know…the outcome of this pregnancy?  We were then asked to think about how we can turn this powerlessness over to God and how this weakness can become our strength.

I decided right then and there to turn this whole situation over to God.  As I went to sleep that night, I prayed that God might take this anxiety from me and that I would have the courage to walk into the perinatologist’s appointment the next morning with grace and strength.  And I did.

Ironically, as I was up early getting ready for the 8 AM appointment I caught Beth Moore on television.  Her theme:  Do You Turn Over Your God-Confidence to Other People?  Meaning, instead of believing what God speaks to you about yourself, do you believe what others tell you, even if it isn’t the truth?  WHOA!  It was like another sign from God saying, “Valerie, listen to me…Baby K will be fine; stop putting your faith in “tests” and put your faith in Me.” 

Since last Wednesday, I have felt an incredible sense of calm and peace about this situation.  (It also helps to have an incredibly loving, supportive, and optimistic spouse for a husband!)  At the appointment, not much could be seen (soft-tissue markers) for Down Syndrome, but what the specialists could measure was completely on track and normal for a 14W6D baby.  As it was today, it will be tomorrow, completely in God’s hands.

Blessings to you all,


Yes, I’m Alive…and Doing Well

Just a quick note, to let all of you know that I am alive and doing well.  I have been struggling with computer issues since last week.  I couldn’t get wireless internet and when I did, it would dump me off as I was reading and commenting on your blogs or emails.  Bah humbug!

So, I am excited to say that a simple technical maneuver by my loving husband (literally moving my wireless adapter from the back of the computer to the front!) seems to have done the trick. 

I am back up and running and look forward to posting and visiting this afternoon/evening…I love it when my husband is on duty and there’s no guilt for being on the internet!!!  :)


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Our Story IS God’s Story

I was going to originally title this post, “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly of Prenatal Testing”, but in the spirit of optimism decided to go with my GOD title.

Suffice it to say, that when I haven’t blogged in awhile, it’s a safe bet to assume that I have had heavy thoughts on my mind.  This would be the case since I posted last week.

In a nutshell:  my high-risk OB offered me several different options when it came to prenatal testing including non-invasive treatment (NT ultrasound), much more invasive treatment (such as amniocentesis), or the do-nothing at all approach.  Let’s just say, I should of went with the last option.

Now, I’ll be the FIRST to sing the praises of the medical community.  After all, after 4 consecutive miscarriages attributable to various causes, we turned to the medical community and the option of  in vitro fertilization to conceive our first born, Mary Catherine.  We have NO REGRETS!!!

But, prenatal testing…that’s a different beast entirely.  And truth be told, as much as the scientific community has made in advances in helping infertile men and women overcome their struggles to conceive, there is still SO MUCH we as humans do not understand about the actual workings of conception.  Hormone levels included.

So, being 40ish, I felt “pressured” if you will to at least do “something” to check on the well-being of this little life growing inside of me and opted to do the NT ultrasound.  It was a lovely experience and baby looked beautiful practicing his/her acrobatics and waving at us from in utero.  After the ultrasound, as I was getting dressed, the technician said, “now you know, I need to walk you down to lab to have your blood drown for the NT blood test.”  I was shocked and unprepared to respond.  The last thing I wanted was blood work…I have heard so many stories about false positive readings and the anxiety it caused, but because I was caught off guard, I blindly followed the tech to lab.

Ten days passed and not a word and I figured all was good.  Until.Last.Thursday.  I got the dreaded “triple screen phone call.”

Basically, it was explained to Chris and I that my blood work showed elevated hormone levels that point to an increased risk for Down’s Syndrome.  Honestly, I wasn’t all that surprised.  The risk level she gave me for a 40-year old woman is 1:56 births that will be a Trisomy-21 baby; my blood work showed a risk of 1:17.  But, if you want to play the numbers game the odds are still in my favor , 94%, that I would have a normal-chromosomal baby.  The doctor was very kind and said my NT ultrasound had great measurements (neck measurement was 1.88 mm and needed to be less than 3mm) and the blood work was shocking. She reminded me that this was not a diagnosis, just a risk assessment and that the test carried a high false positive rate.

I researched a ton over the weekend and felt really calm.  I truly convinced myself that this was a false-positive response and that the follow-up ultrasound at the perinatologist TOMORROW will be fine.  Until I had my 14-week check-up yesterday.

I met with my actual OB (not the on-call doctor that delivered the report) who was nothing but doom and gloom.  She truly talked like she knew baby had Down Syndrome.  She made one comment that particularly irked me about the heartbeat.  After finding it with doppler (which is sometimes difficult at 14 weeks) she said, “well, its a great thing when you can find a heart beat with THESE babies because the longer they have a heartbeat in utero, the greater their chances of survival.” 

WHAT?!!!!

Needless to say, I was a basket case all day on Monday.  The tears started in the parking lot the moment I left her office and I cried ALL DAY…for hours!  I can’t even imagine how much cortisol was coursing through my veins, but it couldn’t have been healthy for baby or me!

Incredibly enough, I had signed up for a 3-day parish mission retreat through our Catholic church.  Although exhausted from all that crying, I knew I needed to go.  Chris kept the kids at home so that I could go and meditate by myself.  It was the best choice I could have made.  God works in mysterious ways.

The gist of Day 1 was this:

“God made us because God loves stories.”  --Elie Wiesel

Basically, our entire lives are made up of a series of stories…stories, that if we choose to believe, are CONNECTED  to GOD’s Story for our life.  This gives us HOPE which is a cause for CELEBRATION which in turn, TRANSFORMS Our Story into God’s Story for our life. 

Obviously, being 40, my life is made up of many different stories, but as I sat and listened to Father Lou, I was thinking about my story of infertility.  It has been my cross to bear, yet, if I believe that God is always with me…even during my saddest, lowest, most anxious times, than I see that my story is really GOD’s story for my life.  And in the end…my story (or at least this Chapter of my life’s story) ends with triumph over the cross with the birth of Mary Catherine, Benjamin Paul and Baby #3. 

And, if as Christians we realize that all that GOD has created is good, than even this little baby, if it in fact has Trisomy-21 or Down’s Syndrome, is the FACE of GOD and will not be a cross to bear, but rather the gift of GRACE to our family.

And that is my story.  May God bless you each and every day as you live out your life’s story which, if connected, is God’s Story for your life.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Meet my new BFF, Zofran!

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Dear Blog Readers,

First, a huge THANK YOU to all of you that have left us such kind words and congratulations on this latest pregnancy.  I, especially, cherish each and every comment and plan on visiting each of you personally to say thanks.

Second, suffice it to say that my blogging has been, at best, sporadic since November.  While it can be attributed to several different issues of malaise, the worst culprits have been insomnia and nausea/vomiting, which I have decided, go hand-in-hand.  For weeks now I have been suffering in silence (okay, I’m not so silent around my poor husband), but I have been reticent to blog about these problems.  There’s just something unsettling about listening to the infertile one, now pregnant, complaining about symptoms.

Sooooo, I’ll just say that there’s been lots of puking and not very much sleeping going on.  Until.Last.Night.

Meet, my new friend, Zofran.  Zofran and I actually go way back…all they way to my pregnancy with Mary when I was still puking at 20-weeks.  Really, all I need are a few tablets to settle down my stomach and allow myself to regain my composure!  (It’s also my go-to-friend after surgery…I’m an anesthesia-puker, which is always ugly after c-sections!)

After the okay by my OBs office, my husband was able to bring home my prescription last night and I actually kept down a bowl of soup.  I SLEPT through the entire night and took a 2nd tablet this morning.  I have since kept down breakfast.  (I think my weight-loss plan is coming to an end!  LOL)  I have also done more housework in 2 hours than I have in the past 2-months.

Regardless of how I have felt, life has continued on.  I have still been SIMPLIFYING (i.e. getting rid of crap) and compliments of my parents generosity at Christmas, I have a beautiful new woman’s writing desk that I can’t wait to share with you. (I love “grown-up” furniture…you know the non-fiberboard stuff that you don’t actually have to put together, but is DELIVERED to your house!!!)

Finally, Happy Groundhog’s Day!  While we are not happy that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and that we might have to endure six more weeks of winter, Mary, Benjamin and I are eager to start making homemade valentines for the Grandmas, classmates, teachers, etc.

While I’m still feeling good, we are off to Michaels.  I will definitely be by sometime today and/or tomorrow to say hello and thanks!

Love,