A Summer Reading Adventure

Last week we finished our Read the World Summer Book Club. It was based on the book “Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time” by Jamie Martin. We used a chapter a week to go through different areas of the world, selecting books to read and activities to do as we went.

Some weeks we were more into it than others. Some books were better than others and sparked more conversation and exploration. All of it was an exercise in learning about the wider world. Geography, language, customs, history. We talked about all of it through the stories told in the books we chose, all of which were recommended in Jamie’s book.

We began with gusto with Multicultural week, focusing on exploring lots of different cultures all over the world. We picked several books with this emphasis, and started out coloring each country that we read about on the map that was provided in one of Jamie’s first posts about the book club.

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After doing this for a few days, the girls lost interest in the maps, which we dropped, but not the stories.

We rolled right into the second week focused on Africa with books and movies from the library about Kenya and Mali and Madagascar. We read about cassava plants and how tapioca is made from the starch of these plants, so I got tapioca pudding for them to try. They didn’t like it (neither do I), but they found it “interesting,” for sure.

After Africa, we moved to the chapter on Europe. There were lots of books in the Europe section of Jamie’s book (and the Asia section) that we have read already, but there were still plenty to choose from that were new to us. One that my girls and I especially enjoyed was “Boxes for Katje.” I had grand plans to make something European for dinner one night that week, maybe from one of my French or Spanish cookbooks, but I flopped on that one.

Next up was North America. Jamie suggested lots of good books, but our favorite that we read was “Jingle Dancer,” about the Native American traditional dance performed in a dress with metal “jingles” on it. We ended up going down a YouTube rabbit hole after this book, watching video after video of jingle dancing and various other types of traditional Native American dance. It was absolutely fascinating, and the girls just kept begging for more.

Our zeal for the book club hit its low point during the Middle East week, when we only read one book from those I checked out of the library. We quickly rebounded with Asia week though. I don’t know what it is about reading books set in Asia, but we have always loved reading about this region of the world. From our old books, “The Story about Ping” and “A Pair of Red Clogs” to the many new ones we read during this week of the book club, we just really enjoy the richness of Asian culture as we experience it through picture books.

One of our favorites during this week was “Bee-bim Bop!” which included a recipe  that we promptly made together, and which led to the girls’ first experience with Korean food (including kimchee!!).

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The other favorite of the week was this:

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The original name of this book was Little Black Sambo, and my grandma used to read it to me when I was little. I didn’t realize this was the same story when I reserved it from the library, but inside the jacket it explained the original title. The memory of my Gram reading it came rushing back, and I was so excited. I can vividly remember the distinct voices she used for Little Black Sambo and the tigers. I tried to replicate them in my reading of the story, but I didn’t do it justice. My girls enjoyed it anyway, of course, and so did I.

The next week was Latin America week, during which I picked a couple of books set in Brazil and made a lame attempt at an Olympic connection, but because we don’t have TV and weren’t really able to watch much of the Olympics, it didn’t really resonate.

And finally, Australia, Oceania, Polar Regions, which we wrapped up last week. I found these two reading “Diary of a Wombat” in our swing set tower the other day.

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As I walked away after taking this photo, I heard them bust out in giggles over the silliness of the story. I love sharing special moments over books with my girls, and even more seeing them sharing the love of books with each other.

My Big Fat Curriculum Post

It’s that time of year again. Back to school is coming. At our house it will be upon us in about two weeks. Miss will be in second grade, Lass in first, and Sis in PreK4.

I’m simultaneously very excited and sort of scared to death. I’m not sure how it’s going to work to homeschool with a newborn in the mix. I’m banking on the possibility that he may nap every morning between 9 and noon. If that doesn’t happen, I’m screwed.

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BUT, either way, I have my curriculum all lined up on my brand new pretty shelves and I’m so flipping excited about it I have to share.

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I’ll start by telling you why we changed our curriculum from what we had last year, which was Sonlight. I picked Sonlight, hoping for a literature-based curriculum. Unfortunately, it turned out to not actually be what I consider literature-based. Usborn books about space and history don’t really qualify, in my opinion. A lot of the books were more textbook-y, and they seemed to bore my kids. I ended up ditching a lot of their selections in order to add in Five in a Row and The Story of the World. We didn’t like the math or the handwriting programs that came with it either. Plus, though I knew that their curriculum was not Catholic and that I would need to add in some religious studies to make it more in line with our faith, I wasn’t expecting to be so uncomfortable with the religious elements they did have. I ended up not using any of their religion choices and completely replacing them with Catholic Heritage Curricula’s study and lots of our own books.

By the end of the year, I was hardly using any of the sources that came in our Sonlight box.

So. That’s what we are not doing again this year.

Instead, I switched to Build Your Library as our main curriculum, and then added a bunch of stuff on to that. BYL is a secular curriculum that comes with literature, science, history, copy work, narration, and art study. You can check out BYL’s second grade package, which is the one we’re using, here.

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I’ll do the science, history, art study, and literature read alouds with all of the girls together before they split to do their individual skill work.

Which includes:

Math – Miss hated doing math in a workbook. So this year I’m switching to Shiller Math, which uses a lot more brief lessons and hands on activities. I’ll also use Life of Fred from time to time and the IXL app for a fun change of pace.

Reading – We’re sticking with All About Reading. We all like it and it works. Miss is a pretty fluent reader, so mostly she just needs practice reading and reminders to sound out the words she doesn’t know. But I’ll finish up the AAR Level 3 with her and continue Level 2 with Lass. Later in the year I may start Level 1 with Sis, since she’s already finished the Pre-reading program, but I’m not in any hurry (she’ll mostly be doing typical preschool ABC, counting, sorting, coloring, cutting, pasting activities).

Language Arts – We’ll be doing lots of reading, narration, copy work, poetry memorization, etc. as part of our BYL curriculum. I’m also using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 2 for Miss and Level 1 for Lass, as well as possibly including some of CHC’s Language of God for Little Folks. We’re using All About Spelling and My Catholic Speller Level A for Miss and My Very First Catholic Speller for Lass from CHC for spelling.

Religion – We use the Faith and Life Series from CHC for Miss and Lass. I added some books for Miss since she will be receiving her First Holy Communion this year.

If you click the images above it will take you to an Amazon page where you can read more and/or purchase the books (They aren’t affiliate links, I’m just trying to make your life easier).

Handwriting – Most of Miss’s handwriting practice will be copy work, either from BYL or from the Catholic Heritage Handwriting Series Level 2. She has expressed an interest in learning to write in cursive, so I’ll start having her do that a little later in the year as well. Lass has CHHS Level 1 for handwriting, and Sis has an old Seton handwriting book that I never ended up having Miss do.

Morning Time – Our morning time will start with singing a hymn, prayer, the Pledge, calendar, and then read alouds (like science, art study, and literature; we’ll mostly listen to Story of the World in the car). This year I’m also going to include nature study, SQUILT music appreciation, some easy art projects, the Bedtime Math app, and the occasional poetry tea time. I’ll alternate these activities throughout the week. I got awesome ideas from the podcast Your Morning Basket for making morning time more rich and more fun for all of us.

There are a few more odds and ends here and there, things I hold onto to add in and change things up a bit from time to time, but that’s the gist of it.

I love this time of year. We have new notebooks and pens and binders. I’ve stocked up on lots of new art supplies. I’ve reread Teaching From Rest. I even got some brand new PlayDoh. We’re basking in the last few weeks of summer, and I’m looking forward to the excitement of our new year.

Three Girls and a Boy

We’re two months into this four-kid gig. It’s pretty wonderful and a little crazy. I had gotten kind of used to sleeping through the night, walking freely (sans baby carrier and diaper bag), not changing diapers, not even wiping butts anymore! But this little one makes all the sleep deprivation and everything else so, so worth it.

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His sisters dote on him, and that’s a big change. The last time I had a newborn, my oldest was three. It’s a bit easier this time around since the girls are independent in many ways and love to help with their brother.

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And speaking of the girls, apparently having a baby boy after three girls brings on lots of comments from strangers. Most are well-meaning and seem genuinely thrilled to see our little family. They seem to think it’s great fun that we had a boy after three girls, as if they’re truly happy that we get the joy of having children of both genders.

However, there are always the other comments too. “You finally got a boy!” and “Your husband must be sooo happy to have a boy!” and one man even said, “I had three girls. I didn’t have another because I was afraid it would be another girl.” I usually just smile and say something like, “Yes, we’re so blessed/my husband is happy to have four beautiful children.” And to that man? “We love having girls!” I mean, really? People say this stuff right in front of my daughters! I’d love to shake them (the weird strangers, not my girls) and say, “Please do not assume that all this time we’ve been pining for a boy. We were not trying for a boy. We are beyond thrilled with our son. He is awesome, but our girls are too!”

Bah. End rant.

Anyway.

Life with four kids is really cool.

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^^Sometimes I literally sit and hold him like this for over an hour, happily ignoring the overflowing laundry baskets around me and just basking in his snuggly baby-ness

We’re loving having a sweet baby around. This sweet baby.

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I think it was my mother in law who predicted that I might be able to more easily enjoy him and soak up this time with him since the girls are older. She was right. This time around, since I know that this is very likely the last time I’ll get to hold and snuggle and care for my own newborn, I’m trying to savor every bit.

He’s growing a changing so fast, and I’m trying to burn into my memory every little milestone and special moment. The way he snuggles up so perfectly on my shoulder. The way he smells. His first laugh during a bath on St. Anne’s feast day. All. of. it.

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We’re doing great here.

Three girls and a boy is perfect.

Two Weekends

At the beginning of this month there were two special weekends. At first glance they seem like they were quite different, almost opposite of one another.

One involved a band and lots of beer and a party and lots of people and fireworks.

The other involved Mass and sacraments and many fewer people and a nice quiet dinner.

On closer inspection, however, they were pretty similar in many ways too. They both involved a great deal of joy and celebration and family and friends.

The first of these was a big 4th of July weekend we had, hosting the band and having a party for them to play for some of our local friends. We made multiple beer runs, and there were lots of off-color jokes and loud music, and our friends brought awesome fireworks that we set off in our backyard.

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Some of our friends even got up to sing, and there was a contest to see who could come closest to successfully singing “Love Hurts.”

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I even sang “Little Willy” while nursing. Definitely a band first.

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But beyond the party, there was lots of great family fun.

There was lots of cousin bonding time:

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A team effort to make pizza on Sunday:

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^ Instructions ^

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^ Everyone helping ^

One of my favorite things about the weekend was that the kids organized and got to work on the band equipment still outside after the party and put on a kids’ band show.

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They composed their own music, practiced, and played a show for the grown-ups after dinner. It was unexpected and hilarious and such a joy to observe.

It was a fantastic weekend of family and fun.

And the very next weekend was another big celebration for Baby Boy’s baptism.

A smaller group of family came into town for his special day, and it was so lovely and such a blessing to have them here.

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Baby Boy’s godparents are his oldest cousins, which I think is just so special and wonderful.

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The baptism itself was beautiful and unforgettable.

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Two weekends. Boundless love and joy. Priceless memories.

Down the Homeschool Rabbit Hole – 7QT

I’ve had homeschooling on the brain for the past few weeks, with thoughts about how things are going to go next year and excitement about all our new curricula (which I eagerly purchased in April and will tell you about soon). I’m beginning to feel that urge to get out all the things and get everything organized for fall. But then Baby Boy needs to eat or be changed or rocked, and so I don’t get into all that yet.

I have, however, been looking at resources online and learning lots of new things through various websites and podcasts and books. I found a new book and fun summer activity. And as I’ve been reading about this endeavor, I’ve been led to other great resources, and I’ve found myself falling down the homeschooling rabbit hole. It’s been quite enjoyable and informative, so today I’m linking with Kelly and sharing seven of the (nursing-and-newborn-friendly) things I’ve been exploring to prepare myself for our upcoming homeschool year.

ONE

It all started when I saw that Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool has a new book and is hosting an online summer book club to promote it. The book, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time, is a collection of recommendations and summaries of children’s books about different people, places, and cultures around the world. The books are grouped by geographical area, and the online book club going on right now focuses on one area of the world, and the corresponding chapter in the book, per week. So far we’ve done a multicultural week, an Africa week, and we are now finishing up our Europe week, with North America coming up next.

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TWO

Sarah MacKenzie has been kind of a co-sponsor of Jamie’s book club. I have read plenty of Sarah’s blog posts at Amongst Lovely Things, and have read her book Teaching From Rest, but I haven’t been into much of her content in a while. So when I saw she was doing the book club with Jamie, I thought I’d go over and check out some of her stuff. I watched a bunch of her scope videos on how she does homeschool, and then I decided to look into her Read Aloud Revival (RAR). This is a podcast and, for members, a set of online master classes about ways to cultivate a reading culture in your home. Right. Up. My. Alley. So I joined up and have been master-class-watching for weeks, along with watching her videos and listening to podcasts (all nice things to be able to do while nursing a baby!).

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THREE

When I was watching one of Sarah’s videos, she mentioned a series of podcasts called “Your Morning Basket,” hosted by Pam Barnhill. These podcasts are about ways to implement or improve on morning time in homeschool. I did something in our homeschool last year that could roughly be considered morning time, but I have been wanting to improve this starting point of our day, so I was interested in checking out these podcasts. I have been listening to them from the beginning and I have learned so much from them! I’m a little addicted to them, to be honest.

FOUR

When I clicked the link to buy Jamie’s book, one of the other books Amazon recommended for me was How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. I recently got the Usborne Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare, and my kids were devouring the stories, so I decided I would get the book and be a bit more intentional about teaching them about Shakespeare and his stories this next school year. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m eager to. Sarah MacKenzie also has a podcast and an RAR Master Class about this, and Pam Barnhill has a podcast on it too, so I’ve got lots of resources to help me when I’m ready to implement it into our school.

FIVE

I got a mass email from Jamie about the book club, and in it she linked to her free ebook, Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom (which you can get by entering your email on her blog in the sidebar). I clicked through to the book and read it real quick. One of the links in the ebook was to a resource for putting together unit studies called Konos. I have always felt drawn toward unit studies in our homeschool. Even though the curricula I purchased last year and this year are not unit-studies-based, I have a love for them and am always looking for ways to incorporate units. I’m really, really dying to buy some of the Konos curricula, especially the Obedience unit, which includes a medieval section and would fit in nicely with our history reading this coming year, but I haven’t done it. Yet.

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One of the Your Morning Basket podcasts I recently listened to was about incorporating music appreciation into morning time. Pam talked to Mary Prather, who is the creator of a music appreciation curriculum that is affordable and seems simple and fun. It’s called SQUILT, and it has me quite intrigued. I am really hoping to implement this into our curriculum for this year.

SEVEN

On another YMB podcast about narration, I learned a bit more about the philosophy of Charlotte Mason, and discovered the website Simply Charlotte Mason. I have not been an official follower of the Charlotte Mason method, but our curriculum for this year has some CM-esque elements to it. And as I learn more about the CM style of homeschooling, and get more into the information on this website, I am thinking that I might want to incorporate even more in the future. I love the idea of teaching through using living books, which is why I like using literature-based curricula. I could spend days looking through just the Bookfinder of the Simply Charlotte Mason site. So much good stuff.

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And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Looking through all of these resources has me very eager to get out all of my stuff for next year to get planning and figure out if I’ll be able to add in a Konos unit and/or SQUILT, and how/when I’ll incorporate Shakespeare. Right now my school room is a mess, because I just don’t have enough shelf space. So I’m not going to pull out the materials for next year until I get some new shelves built and can organize everything better, and have a place to put the new stuff. New shelves are being installed on Tuesday, so by Wednesday I should have it all out and be gleefully poring though all of it. I can’t wait.

For more Quick Takes, check out This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Baby Boy’s Birth

I just love birth stories. And I really enjoy reflecting on labor and delivery of my own kids. So, three+ weeks after the fact, here’s the story of my little man’s birth.

Note: I’m not going to go into crazy detail, but there are a few birthy-type words coming up, so be forewarned.

My due date was May 31st. I had an induction planned for June 1st. All my kids have been born past their due dates. But, up until the first few times that my OB checked my “progress” toward being ready to deliver, I thought I might go into labor early this time. My last two kiddos were breech until being turned at around 37-38 weeks. This little guy was heading in the right direction the whole time, which led to him being much, much lower than any of his sisters had ever been, to the point that I kind of thought he might fall out. Therefore, for a while I was sure I would deliver him early.

So, I was a bit surprised to find out that, at each OB appointment in the few weeks up to my induction, I had made almost zero progress toward being ready to deliver. One centimeter at each appointment. One. At my last appointment one week before my induction, I had to see a different OB because mine was out of town. He said I was at one centimeter “on a good day.”

This lack of progress made me a little nervous, because my doctor said she might want to give me some pitocin for my induction if I wasn’t any more dilated than that, rather than just breaking my water, which is what I had done for my last induction.

Knowing that I planned to deliver without pain medication again, I really wanted to avoid pitocin if at all possible. So I was really, really hoping to make a bit more progress before induction day. Fortunately, the night before my induction was scheduled, I started having some stronger contractions at about 3am. They weren’t regular or very close together (just enough to keep me mostly awake for the rest of the night), but they were much stronger than any I had had previously, so I was hopeful that maybe they were doing a bit more work than had happened up to that point.

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The contractions never did pick up or turn into actual labor, so on induction day, we showed up at the hospital as scheduled at 6:15am.

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My doctor came up to break my water at around 8 am. At that point I found out that the contractions from the night before had been working. I had progressed to 3cm, which was a big relief.

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I asked my doctor to hold off on the pitocin, and she didn’t have any problem with that. About a half hour after she broke my water, I was about to get up and start walking to get things going.

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My husband and I walked, and he hummed or sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” (a favorite hymn) as we went. With my previous induction, it took several hours of walking for my contractions to really pick up. This time around, it took much less time. It was only an hour to an hour and a half before I was ready to stop walking and stay in my room to manage the contractions on the big yoga ball. That’s what I did with my last labor and it was the best way to deal with the contractions then, so this time I figured I’d start out by trying what worked before.

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The yoga ball was the most comfortable way to labor this time as well, though I was struggling a lot more this time with back pain during contractions, so they seemed harder. During each contraction I tried to offer it up for an intention from the list I had made. Offering the pain I was experiencing for the intention of another was helpful, but I did have a few contractions where I couldn’t seem to focus my mind enough to think of an intention to offer up (and by the end I lost my ability to focus on this technique at all!).

After a couple of hours, the contractions were getting really intense. The nurse checked me and I was only at 5-6cm, which was pretty discouraging. I think I was remembering my previous labor too much and how quickly that ended up, and hoping for the same fast resolution this time, which led me to feel disappointed when it wasn’t wrapping up as quickly as before.

My back was killing me. My husband was awesome. He kept reminding me to keep relaxed and to breathe slowly. Up until I got close to the end, I think I did a pretty good job with this, thanks to him.

After a little longer the nurse checked me again, or maybe it was my doctor, I’m not really sure, and I was at 7-8 cm. After this, everyone seemed to think that delivery was rapidly approaching. My doctor even stayed up on the delivery floor, not far from my room. So when the nurse asked me if I wanted to get out of the bed and back onto the labor ball, I said that I might as well just stay where I was.

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In retrospect, I think this was a mistake, as laboring for that last little while on my back on the bed was really, really awful. I think the yoga ball would definitely have been better. The one good thing about being on the bed was that I was able to doze off a bit in between contractions. Since I had been up since about 3am with contractions and nervous anticipation, I was pretty tired. My husband thought it was pretty amusing that I was snoozing between contractions, and I think he was making jokes about this to the nurse. To which I replied, “I can still hear you” quite a few times. It seemed to me in the moment like a little bit of comic relief, though I’m not sure if it was actually funny.

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^^ It’s quite possible I was asleep when this photo was taken ^^

Anyway, when I was awake and contracting, I remember praying for St. Rita’s intercession during this last part of the delivery. She’s my Confirmation saint, and I remember thinking that she had children so she would understand what I was going through. And also, I was praying for Mary’s intercession, because she’s Mary.

When I started to really feel like I needed to push, my nurse said I wasn’t quite fully dilated, so I had to wait a bit. My doctor told her to get out a labor ball thing they called “the peanut.” I had to try to roll over on my side, as much as that was possible given my enormity and pain level, and hold this peanut-shaped labor ball between my knees for a while. This was supposed to be some sort of magic trick to move things along the last little bit so I would be ready to deliver.

After doing this for a bit, my doctor came in and said the trick had worked. So, on the next contraction I started to push and then started to scream. I clearly remember having the thought that if I was screaming, I couldn’t be pushing very well. So I clamped my mouth shut and got to work. At least for a few pushes. I still yelled a lot, though, especially right at the end (my husband got a video of the birth and it was, um, intense). I think it was about 4-5 contractions after I started pushing that my little man came into the world, just over five hours after my doctor broke my water. He emerged with his fist up by his face, just like he often was in ultrasound images.

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He was absolutely perfect at 9 lbs., 11 oz., and 21 inches.

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It’s been over three weeks, and sometimes I can still barely believe he’s here.

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 Welcome to the world sweet boy.

Our Rainbow Baby

When I became pregnant with our baby boy, I decided that I would not allow myself to be fearful about my pregnancy or the possibility of loss. I told myself that I was going to be joyful and not hold back my excitement out of fear of another miscarriage.

In spite of this, I still had moments of anxiety and many fears crept in.

I first heard the term “Rainbow Baby,” when I joined a Facebook group for Catholic women who are pregnant after experiencing loss. I joined the group thinking it would help me in my efforts to defeat fear. I figured that being part of a group where people were posting about being pregnant after having had miscarriages would be a positive experience.

Instead, this group only sparked and fueled a great deal of anxiety. So much so that I hid the group from my newsfeed and never clicked on the items that frequently popped up in my “Notifications.” There were so many women in the group posting about their own fears and past experiences of losing babies at all different stages of pregnancy, and I just couldn’t hear those things. I felt kind of guilty about it, but I just couldn’t.

Unfortunately, this group and my own experiences with loss had increased my knowledge and awareness of all the potential things that could go wrong during 40 long weeks of pregnancy.

Anxious thoughts came to my mind in spite of my efforts to avoid them.

I was fearful of losing my baby in the first trimester.

I was afraid we would see something terrible during the 20-week ultrasound.

I was worried that any brief period of time during which I didn’t feel him moving meant something had happened to my baby (fortunately this was rare for him).

I was fearful of stillbirth, cord accident, some sort of trauma during delivery, etc., etc.

I repeated to myself over and over and over again my favorite prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Every time an anxious thought would come to mind, I would immediately pray this. And it always helped. Always.

And so did the idea of a “Rainbow Baby.” I just loved thinking of my son this way.

To me, a rainbow is a sign of God’s promise and of His immense, merciful love. It is a reminder to have faith and to know that He is with me in all things.

Almost two years ago, right after leaving the ultrasound appointment in which I had learned of my second miscarriage, a detour forced my route home past a Catholic church. I saw the sign and immediately pulled over to go inside and pray. I made it to a kneeler where I wasn’t able to do much more than look at the tabernacle and sob. I couldn’t get my words to form a coherent prayer, but my heart was reaching out and Jesus heard me in my brokenness and He answered. In that church, before Jesus in the tabernacle, I received an answer to my unformulated prayer. It was, “Don’t give up.” I heard these words spoken to my heart as clear as a bell.

That was in July of 2014, and I have never forgotten that moment. I reflected back on it during many of my fearful times during my pregnancy. It seemed to me like something of a promise.

I remembered this promise on the day I went for my second OB appointment. In spite of having seen the baby on ultrasound at my first appointment, those fears had crept in, and I was very nervous that something might have happened and there would be no heartbeat when I went to my second appointment (the month between appointments in the early weeks of pregnancy always seems so long!).

When I arrived at my appointment on that day, anxious and eager to hear my baby’s heartbeat again, I pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, and I saw this:

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I instantly felt less afraid. I knew it was a reminder for me to have faith. I went into my appointment, and rather than just hearing his heartbeat, I got to see my little guy again on the hand-held ultrasound. Such relief.

Last Wednesday, our Rainbow Baby arrived, happy, healthy, and perfect.

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The day after we brought him home from the hospital, this picture was taken from behind our house:

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When she saw it, my five-year-old said, “Mom, that’s just like the rainbow God showed Noah!”

God’s promise.

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Our little Rainbow Baby is here. He is a miracle. A precious gift from God.

I literally sit and stare at him for long stretches of time and marvel at his very existence. I realize that, on that day almost two years ago, when I was experiencing such deep grief and despair, God knew that this little boy was to be our baby that we would get to hold on earth. I didn’t know it, but He did.

Our son is a reminder for me that God can do anything. That His plan is always for good.

That fear is no match for faith.

Preparing

Baby Boy is due to arrive in seven days. If he doesn’t, he is due to be evicted in eight days.

That means I have no more than eight days left to be pregnant.

Since I feel like I’m ninety months pregnant, rather than nine, and I’m so eager to meet my little boy, I’m naturally very excited to know that he will be born soon. But, I’m also feeling a little bit like I want to freeze time (only a little bit!!), because I know this is very likely the last time I will ever get to experience pregnancy.

At this point, I’m enormous, and my back hurts, and I can’t get more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep because hip pain wakes me, and going up the stairs feels like climbing Mt. Everest, and my feet and ankles and legs are ridiculously swollen.

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But I’m still trying to savor these last days, and I’m trying hard to smile and laugh about these things instead of being grumpy about them or bursting into tears (because yeah, I’m that tired and emotional and pregnant!!). I mean, check out that picture of my feet! I do look kind of funny:

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And on a more serious note, I remember very vividly the many months that I prayed for this very cross, this beautiful cross that I’m currently so blessed to carry. So every time I’m tempted to be upset about these discomforts, I try to think about those months and those prayers and realize what a true and amazing blessing these small aches and pains are. That’s not to say I don’t have moments of self-pity or complaining. I do! But I try (really hard) to remember to offer them up for my friends who are suffering the pain of miscarriage and/or infertility, or those who are struggling with even more difficult pregnancy symptoms and sickness. They are never far from my mind.

In these last few days I’m trying to prepare for labor too.

My bag is packed and double checked. I got a pedicure. I have written out babysitter instructions and done tons of crazy grocery shopping for all the things we might need while I’m at the hospital for a few days. I’m reviewing and revising my old labor playlist. My Kindle is charged.

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And I’m also preparing for an experience that is different in many ways than my other labors, because this time I recognize the hand of God in the creation of this little life and the beautiful process that is labor and delivery. I’m creating a list of prayer intentions and thinking a lot about redemptive suffering.

Before my conversion, I never thought of suffering as anything but suffering. I always just thought it pretty much sucked, period. Though of course I’ve always recognized that the suffering that happens during the labor and delivery of a baby is different from other situations, in that you know the whole time that it is for an awesome purpose. But still, always before it was just something to get through to get to the real prize.

Now I understand that the suffering in itself can be beautiful and purposeful. Both in that it leads to the obvious and most amazing outcome of holding a sweet little miracle at the end, but also that the suffering itself can be a way of growing closer to Jesus, if I look at it that way and offer it to Him. I love knowing now that I can embrace and offer this suffering, uniting it with the Passion of Christ, for the good of others.

This is both still a little bit confusing and something that makes perfect sense to me.

So, as I’m trying to prepare for labor and meeting my son, I’m praying a lot (this often just takes the form of a frequently repeated “Jesus, I trust in you”), and I’m trying to picture what it will be like this time. I honestly don’t know. I suspect there will be plenty of prayer, and also that it will be much less elegant than what I have in my mind now. I imagine there will be plenty of cursing and yelling just like before, even if I like to think I’ll be peacefully thanking God for each contraction (insert laughter here). I don’t really know.

What I am sure of is that I will feel God’s presence as I bring His newest little miracle into the world.

It won’t be long now!

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day…

I’m thinking of my Mom. A woman who sacrificed so much for me, and worked so hard to raise me well. I often made it very (very, very) difficult for her, and yet she loved me fiercely no matter what (even though I know I sometimes wasn’t very likable). She taught me so much of what I now know myself about being a mother. It’s true what they say about not really understanding your own mother in many ways until you have children of your own. I understand so much more (and man, I feel bad about being such a jerk in my adolescence and early adulthood!!). She is far away from me today and I miss her terribly, though I always keep her close in my heart.

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I’m thinking of myself as a mother. About how much I have changed over the past almost eight years, since learning that I was pregnant with Miss. About how motherhood has caused me to grow and stretch (in more ways than one). How this has sometimes been painful but has always been beautiful. I love so much more now. So much better, though far from perfectly. I know what it feels like to watch your own heart outside your body and to feel intense terror and pure joy about it at the same time.  I’m learning every day from these sweet little ones about joy, and sacrifice, and trying so, so hard to be better. And failing. And trying again.

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I’m thinking about all the amazing women who have taught me so much about how to be a good mom. Some of them have mothered me. Some of them have walked beside me through this journey. Some of them I know mostly from reading their words and interacting with them on this good old world wide web. They are members of my family, both near and far, friends, also near and far, kind women I’ve met at church, ladies who write great blogs, and others. We really aren’t meant to mother alone, and these women help me to feel lifted up in myriad ways.

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I’m also thinking about the women who struggle on Mother’s Day. Those who have lost children. Those who have lost babies before ever having a chance to see them or hold them. I think about those who are longing to have babies of their own but have been unable to conceive or have miscarried or are still waiting for the right person to come along to have babies with. I think of how painful it was to wait for this pregnancy and lose two babies over the past few years, and it breaks my heart to think of those who are still waiting, many of whom don’t have other children to hold while they wait. I always keep a special place in my prayers for these mamas, but especially today.

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To me, Mother’s Day really isn’t about cards and flowers. Heartfelt words of appreciation and love from my husband today nearly brought me to tears in a way Hallmark could never do. For me this is a day to reflect on this beautiful vocation, in my own life and in the amazing women I see all around me. It is a day to be so grateful for these women and for my precious children and for the blessing of this life.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Twin Cities Adventure – 7QT

Last week we went to Minneapolis/St. Paul. It was such a fun time. I wanted to get in one more road trip/field trip before the baby arrives, and this was a great low stress trip to take. Here’s a quick recap:

One

We stayed in a really good hotel, the Homewood Suites by the Mall of America. When I travel with the girls, I like to get a suite that has a separate bedroom for them, so I can stay up a little while after putting them to bed and not have to hide under covers with my Kindle or something. Super Friend recommended our hotel to me, and it was perfect for our purposes. It had a little kitchen area, a separate bedroom for the girls, free breakfast, free dinner, and a pool. It also had the most uncomfortable sofa bed ever. No hyperbole here. I literally felt every spring under my body as I slept. The second night we were there, I contemplated scootching one of the girls over and sharing a regular bed with one of them, but the beds were only full size, and well, I’m kind of full size at this point too. When you add in my pregnancy body pillow, there was no way I was going to fit into one of those beds with one of my kids. However, even with the horrid bed, the hotel was excellent, which makes a solo road trip with kids so much easier!

Two

I got to see Nell!! We went to Nell’s beautiful old house and had a wonderful time with her and her sweet kids, and we got to learn her big news when one of her littles spilled the beans for her. So much happy! She is seriously the best hostess. Some people just have a gift for making others feel special and welcome. Nell has that gift. And it is always a treat to spend time with another mom who gets me. Big highlight of the trip for me.

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Three

We visited the Minnesota Science Museum in the afternoon. They have a fantastic Mummies exhibit there right now, and my girls are very into ancient Egypt and mummies. It was a huge bonus that we got to learn about how they practiced mummification for thousands of years in Peru too (I had no idea it was a thing there). The Peruvian mummies were very different from the Egyptian ones, and it was an awesome history lesson. The girls all said that one of the highlights of their day was making Peruvian dolls.

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Four

They also really loved the dinosaur exhibit.

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Five

After we had a free spaghetti dinner at our hotel, I took the girls swimming in the hotel pool. None of my girls is a super strong swimmer yet, and the water in the pool, even at it shallowest point, was too deep for any of them to touch bottom easily. Combine that with the fact that I am pretty slow-moving these days (no speedy water rescues for me right now!), and it was a no brainer that all my kids would need to wear their floaties the whole time. They didn’t seem to care one bit though.

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Six

The aquarium at the Mall of America was amazing for such a small place. The girls were able to touch and feed stingrays, and also watch them chasing each other because they’re mating right now.

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 It was definitely one of the favorites from the trip.

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Seven

I don’t really have a seven. That was it for the trip. We got lunch in the mall after the aquarium and then drove home. It was the easiest drive of any of our trips so far. Chicago is closer, but has so much traffic, seemingly at all times of the day. This drive was smooth sailing and not too long.

I love these trips with my girls. Next time we take one I’ll be pushing a stroller again. It might be a while before I’m brave enough to do another trip with a little baby, and I’m not sure where we’d go next. A friend recommended going somewhere on an Amtrak train, which is definitely worth looking into. Someday. . .

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