Friday, April 3, 2015

My Kids Say the Darndest Things...New Edition!

I periodically share funny things overheard in my house...and it's that time again. It's been awhile, so there are many!!

Our neighbors gave the girls Dora cupcakes leftover from their 2 year old's birthday. Charlotte's had a Boots decoration on it and she commented, "He's a monkey." Caroline (7) - never one to miss a beat - said dryly, "And he smells like one, too."

Emily (12) brought home a CD of music for her upcoming school chorus concert. There are a couple of songs from "Grease" included; of course, she has never seen the movie.
As we were listening to them, she suddenly exclaimed, "Oh!!!! I get it! It's like 'grease'! I always thought they meant 'Greece' and I kept thinking, these people don't sound GREEK!"

Caroline (7): Why do we have to eat *every* night???
Charlotte (3): Mom, were you ever a twin?
                      Do Max and Ruby have a mom? Where is she???

After seeing "Cinderella," Charlotte referred to the fairy godmother, only she called her the "heavenly
golf-mother." Another day, she called a lightning bug a "light-up fly."

Caroline (6), on a snow day: Does Grandma know we're out of school today?
Me: Yes, she saw it on the news.
Caroline, rolling her eyes: Old people are *always* watching the news.

One recent Wednesday, there chance of a little snow overnight. When I picked Charlotte up at church, she excitedly told me that they had done a snow dance. When we walked out into the precipitation-less evening, she peered up at the sky and said, "Oh, MAN! It didn't work!!"
We introduced the kids to "We Are the World"...I can't believe we haven't done that before, since it's The Most Epic Thing That Ever Happened in the History of Entertainment. They were familiar with some of the people and seemed to enjoy the song, even though they didn't understand just how incredibly amazing the whole thing was.
When it was over, Caroline (6) asked, "Was Bob Hope in that?"

My mom gave each of the girls a dollar bill. Presumably figuring it was a good question for a 1st grader, Grandpa asked Caroline, "Whose picture is on a dollar bill?" Charlotte (3) immediately piped up, "George Washington is on mine."

Charlotte (3): Mama, are my underwear on backwards?
Me: No, baby, they're on sideways.

On the way to church, passing some of the stately old homes near downtown:
Emily (11): If I was ever going to live in one of those houses, I'd make sure it wasn't haunted first.
Me: How would you find out?
Emily: I'd interview everyone who'd lived there who wasn't, like, dead and stuff.

Charlotte (at age 2) went to her room to get her little pillow out of her crib. She couldn't get it and she yelled out, "Attention please!! My pillow is stuck!!" 

Charlotte (3): Listen! I can pray! *singing* God our father, God our father! Bless our day, bless our day! How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you! A-men! A-men!

Caroline (6) was playing wiffle ball with Eric. Girl's got skillz, so she hit one a long way and started running, yelling, "1st! 2nd! 3rd! TOUCHDOWN!"

Emily (11):
1) Is that an adult minute or an actual minute?
2) Isn't there some kind of golf move called a birdie?

Caroline (6): You know how when people get married and the woman is in charge?

"I don't want to do X today because this isn't the outfit I have planned for that." Emily, fashionista.

Snuggling up with my sweet Charlotte, I said, "My baby!" In the same nurturing voice, she sighed, "My grown up!"

Baseball with Emily: "Ok, so they have more points than we do?

Charlotte referred to her sleeve as an "arm holder."

Eric: Look, there's Peyton Manning on the front page of the paper.
Caroline (6): Who's Peyton Manning?
Eric, hiding his shock and horror: He's the quarterback for the Denver Broncos.
Caroline: Oh. I don't know anything about baseball.

Caroline (5): There's a light in the fridge; why do you never turn it off?


Charlotte referred to a car horn as a "honky."


Taking Charlotte out of the car, I commented, "Shew, this car is dirty - I need to vacuum it!"
Charlotte replied, "Go ahead. I won't judge."''

Emily (11), responding to news she didn't like: Dude! That's, like, total buzzkill, bro!!

Waiting in the car line at school, Caroline (6) said, "Is it okay that Grandma picks us up sometimes? Because that sign says No Trespassing."

At church, Emily told me she didn't want to get in trouble there, reasoning that "I have a pretty clean record here!"

Emily, to a sister, in a 'duuuuh' tone: "They don't even eat tacos in Harry Potter because they're British!!"
Caroline: Daddy, can I see your bald spot?
Emily: How can you NOT see it?

Caroline was wondering how Santa can be everywhere (like at the mall, drugstore, etc) and Emily explained her theory that all those Santas are the real Santa's helpers. After all, she reasoned, the real Santa is too busy getting ready for Christmas to be anywhere but at the North Pole.
Caroline: So he just stays there and never leaves until Christmas Eve?
Emily: Well, DUH, just for the Macy's [Thanksgiving] Parade!

Charlotte and I went to the post office. At the counter...
Charlotte: Can I have a lollipop?
Super nice PO man: I'm sorry, sweetie, we don't have any lollipops.
Charlotte: Mommy, let's go to the bank!

Caroline (5), in a sincere but lame-o attempt to pull rank: But I'm the 4th oldest!!

Caroline referred to a baby shower as a "baby wash."

Charlotte (2): I don't want to wear socks!! I want to wear my toes!!

Caroline: I am NOT changing my name when I get married.
Me: Ok. How come?
Caroline: Because I LIKE Caroline!!!

There was a dead possum in the street right in front of our house. (May he RIP.) Charlotte looked out the window and saw him.
Charlotte: What's that, Daddy?
Eric: It's a dead possum, sweetie.
Charlotte: HI, DEAD POSSUM!!! (pauses to observe) He's messed up!!

After a 1 mile fun run, Emily (10) reported, "I ran almost the whole way! I only stopped 4 or 5 times."

Caroline, 5, referring to clapping: I will get a clause of around if I wear my crown to music class! 

Emily, after spotting an old poster of a gymnast: Mom, it's that gymnast you like! What's her name...Mary Poo Retton?

Caroline asked her friend Kathryn if she knows the song "Sweet Caroline." She explained, "It's my song because my name is Caroline and I'm sweet. Except that Neil Diamond didn't know me back when he made it." Her tone seemed to indicate that now, Neil Diamond not only writes songs about her but he comes over for dinner every Thursday night. (If only!!)

Charlotte (2) as we drove by the mall: Look! It's the mall! It's so beautiful!

At the pool one Saturday, we were waiting out a rain delay. The girls, Caroline's friend and I were hanging out in the lifeguard station out of the rain. A lifeguard asked them where they go to school; each one answered and then Charlotte piped up, "I go to Mellow Mushroom!"

Emily: The inside of my nose smells like blood. I think it's bleeding in there. Here, smell it.


Emily: I like Sunday School because they give you doughnuts and you don't even have to pay for them!!!!

Caroline: Mom, do dogs hold their noses when they go under water?
Me, confused by the line of questioning: No...
Caroline: Oh yeah!! They don't have usable thumbs!
Although she meant "opposable," it was fairly impressive reasoning from a 5 year old.

Caroline, in one day:
1. It's hard having two sisters. One cries and one yells at me.
2. I'm too tired to go to bed.

We had a storm and the thunder scared Charlotte a bit. She asked if there would be more, then thought a minute and said, "Thunder is all gone. The End."

We were listening to Darius Rucker's version of "Wagon Wheel" - a favorite in our house.
Darius Rucker: baby plays the guitar, I pick a banjo now...
Caroline: How can a baby play a guitar?

Emily, walking into the kitchen: Mmmm, what's for dinner?! Smells like Cheez-its!!

Caroline: Charlotte is crying because she has a poopy diaper. And maybe because I pulled her hair a little.

Caroline:  Can I watch TV? Nothing with parrots, please.

Caroline, singing "Jingle Bell Rock" - the part that goes "mix and mingle in a jinglin' beat...": Books-a-Million in a jinglin' beat! That's the jingle bell rooooock!"

And finally, proof that the kids get their wacky senses of humor somewhere, a classic exchange between hubby and me...

Eric commented that he didn't think we would've been high school sweethearts if we'd known each other then, being that he was a jock and I was...not.
Him: You were probably too nerdy for know, not cheerleader-y enough!
Me: Suuuure, like you were fighting off cheerleaders left and right.
Him: Well, maybe not left and right...just left!
Me: So, they saw you and left?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Road trip!

This summer, we embarked on the longest road trip we've taken since our 2007 trip to Boston. For that 18-hour (one way) trip, we had one 4 year old child in the back of our sedan (and one in my belly, but she never made a peep and never once asked to stop to potty). For this one, 12 hours each way, we had not one, not two, but THREE (ages 10, 5, and almost 2) children in the back of our minivan.

Y'all. I was nervous.

In theory, I love the idea of a roadtrip. I have wildly romanticized ideas of car trips. We might even hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" in those fantasies. Just maybe, I'm saying.

In reality, I hate road trips that last longer than approximately 34 minutes. They're boring, the kids get squrimy and wild - and so, so noisy. They complain a lot and somebody always has to go to the bathroom. So I was not looking too forward to our drive to the Sunshine State. I barely survived past trips to the coast of South Carolina and Florida is 3 times as far.

But I was determined to make it as smooth of a journey as possible. And guess what? It actually went pretty well. We had to leave a day late because my husband had an eye injury requiring him to keep his eyes closed as much as possible for about 18 hours. (A story for another day. And incidentally, we have the best optometrist EVER.) Since I wouldn't let him drive with his eyes closed and he did NOT want me to take over, we had to wait for his eye to heal before we could hit the road.

I think we owe our fairly easy trip to some meticulous planning...but mostly it was a gift from God. Even so, I thought I'd share some tricks and tips that helped make our trip smooth - maybe they'll help you, too. So here are my top 10 travel tips:

1. I made each child her own bag of snacks, which she kept within reach near her seat. I bought lots of snacks and put servings in snack bags and divvied them up into small tote bags. Each girl had plenty of options and I never once had to go through all of the choices and toss random bags of crackers around the car at children who didn't catch them and then dissolved into tears. (Not that it's ever gone down like that, mind you.) They were allowed to have a snack pretty much anytime they wanted and didn't have to ask. (Hey, anything to keep them quiet, right? My kids are pretty good about stopping when full.) Most snacks were fairly healthy but the big two girls each had a couple of "treat" options, too. One morning on the drive home, I popped a bag of microwave popcorn in our hotel room and divided it in to ziplock bags (see #5) for each one. They loved that! (But outside of that salty treat, I tried to make most snacks not too salty...then they just ask for drinks and you know what happens next. Pit Stop City.) I doled out drinks judiciously. (As a side note, I always have anti-bacterial hand wipes and hand sanitizer in my car. If you don't, be sure to grab some before a road trip. You never know when you'll need to "wash" your hands and sometimes the bathrooms you encounter don't have soap! Grody!)

2. Each girl also had her own "entertainment" bag at her seat. My oldest packed her own bag so I have no idea what she put in it, but she stayed busy the entire trip, so maybe she should be writing this tip. Grin. In the other 2 bags, I put coloring books, crayons, stickers, books to read, picture books for the baby, etc. - pretty much anything they could use in their seat and that have didn't a million tiny parts to get lost in the car. I tried to get a few new, small things for their bags for the sheer novelty of new.

3. A portable DVD player was a lifesaver, especially for the littlest babe. I refused to purchase a car with a built-in player because I think it should just be for long drives and I don't want to argue about it every day. But for a long trip, it's so nice to have. (We bought ours about 7-8 years ago for under $100. They're probably cheaper now but ours has lasted all this time in great shape.) I let the girls choose a few movies each; I took the discs out of the boxes and put them all in one small plastic box with a lid to save space and hassle. I kept the box easily accessible right behind the front middle console and I handled the setup.

4. Before the trip, I printed out some "scavenger hunt" lists and a couple of U.S. maps. The big girls looked for items on the list (one had pictures with the words for the 5yo so she didn't get slowed down by words she didn't know). The U.S. maps were useful for playing the license plate game (finding plates from every state possible) - the oldest would check off each state we found. (She also checked off states as we drove thru them, but there weren't that many.) We also played a few rounds of the venerable alphabet game. There are numerous resources online for car games and other road trip entertainment ideas far more brilliant than what you will find here. Amen.

5. Besides the snacks mentioned in #1, I had a large plastic box (i.e. Rubbermaid) filled with more snacks - it held full-size boxes and other assorted snacks. These were our snacks for while we were at the beach and to refill the individual bags before the return trip. Another important addition to this box was ziplock bags of all sizes. I took one gallon sized bag and tucked a large stack of other sizes inside so it didn't take up much room but had all we needed. The bags were so handy for making individual servings for daily jaunts, the beach, pool and short car trips during the week. In the hotel room, I used disposable cups for their snacks, but when there weren't enough, I'd use snack bags. No mess, nothing to wash. (And just to note, I'm no Scroooge - I let the kids have the thrill of getting a snack from the vending machine or gift shop a couple of times, but it saves a ton of money to not have to get ALL snacks that way. And yes, I'm aware that my method is not green at all. But we don't do that at home.)

6. I also brought along a case of bottled water, a couple of boxes of juice pouches/boxes, Coke (for us, not the young'ns!) and a bottle of grape juice for the hotel. It ended up not being that hot while we were beachin' it, so we didn't need as much water as most years, but I like being prepared and not having to run to the grocery store. (Or worse, spend $2 on a bottle of water from a vending machine.) I kept a small cooler near my seat so we had cold drinks while riding and I could also carry it to the beach or on day trips. But as I said earlier, I made sure the girls didn't overdo the drinks while we were riding, just to minimize stops a little.

7. Some years, we bring along bread, peanut butter, jelly, etc and make the kids PBJs to take out on the beach if we plan to spend several hours there. I know many people rent condos and cook many of their meals. But I figure I cook every day at home, vacation is, well, a vacation! So we go out to eat. Some days, we eat a late breakfast, early dinner and no lunch - or just a snack or ice cream - and some days we eat a cheap breakfast or lunch, but we do prefer to dine out. Without breaking the bank, of course.

8. When we're taking a couple of days to reach our destination, I pack differently. This time, we were spending one night in a hotel somewhere between home and the beach (and vice versa on the way home). While most of our stuff was packed in our individual suitcases (hubby and I share one but the kids each have their own small one), for that one night I put each person's change of clothes, pjs and basic toiletries in one suitcase. Then, when staying for only one night, we only have to take that one bag inside instead of half a dozen. I repack and rearrange on the way home to do the same thing and put that bag on top in the back of the van for easy access. The kids usually have their special pillows and stuffed animals in or near their seats and they take them inside for the night.

9. Remember to take your address book, list of addresses or access to that info online. Kids love to send postcards, so it's nice to have address info handy. Stamps, too. Some hotel gift shops sell stamps, but not always. Tip: most Walgreens drugstores sell books of stamps. My kids insisted on sending postcards to almost everyone they ever met, so we had to hit Walgreens for more postage.

10. Laundry. It's a dirty word, is it not? But we sure do produce a lot of it. I'd prefer not to do laundry on vacation, but I usually do 1-2 loads toward the end of the week. (That's less to do when we get home, at least!) But I take along my own detergent and fabric softener so I don't have to either buy overpriced items out of a machine or run to a store to buy full-size versions I have to drag home. I either buy a small, travel-sized bottle/box of detergent or just put some in a small travel bottle or ziplock. I throw a couple of fabric softener sheets in there and I'm good to go. I'll start a load or two one night as we're settling in for the evening and it's clean and dry by the time I go to bed. (I'm not one to stay in the hotel laundry room with my clothes. I stick 'em in the washer and leave, return to put them in the dryer, leave and come back when they're dry. I'm not that worried about someone stealing our not-expensive clothes. Who does that?)

I'd call our trip a smashing success and my careful preparation certainly helped make it smooth. What tips do you have?

The end of our real estate story...2.5 years later

Reading through some old posts, I realized that I wrote about our horrid real estate ordeal but never updated the blogosphere about it later. And since I know everyone was waiting on pins and needles, wondering, "Did those nice people ever sell their house?", I thought I'd update. Grin.

After almost 2.5 years on the market, we got an offer in October 2010. It wasn't a terrible offer, but it was a contingency, meaning the buyers had to sell their house before they could close on ours. We accepted it with the understanding that we'd take another, non-contingent offer should one come up. (Meaning we continued to have showings and such.) Strangely enough, a couple of weeks later, we got an offer. It wasn't a stellar one, but we had pretty much resigned ourselves to accepting a not-as-great offer for the chance to finally get the heck outta Dodge.

Caroline and I spent several full days house hunting with our realtor. I counted one day and I took her in and out of the car 18 times. (Caroline, not the realtor. That would be weird.) We narrowed the field until we had about 5 houses that were our top choices, then Eric went to see those. There were a couple of decent options, but we both agreed that our favorite was a quaint Cape Cod in a great location. We saw it at least 4 times before making the offer (and I hereby apologize to the sellers for that). The offer was made and settled, but the poor sellers were quite gun shy - they'd almost closed on it shortly before that but the offer fell through at the eleventh hour. Literally, like the day before closing. Which worked out well for us, but I understand how frustrating it was for the sellers and how they didn't really believe we were seriously going to buy the house until we closed.

We were supposed to close on 12/17, but we had numerous delays related to our buyers. They had to redo their loan and all sorts of things that caused delays - they weren't their fault and they were still all in, but it was certainly frustrating. By the time everything was ready to close, it was actually January 7. We closed on our old house that morning in a bit of snowstorm. Luckily, our buyers were willing to let us stay in the house until the next evening, so we had time to move. The only teensy problem was that we weren't sure we could close on our new house yet and the sellers weren't willing to let us move in before closing, even though they were already moved out. (Their realtor advised them to not let us do that...bugger.) We were potentially going to be homeless for the weekend if we couldn't close until Monday. So we had closed on the old house and returned there and finally got a call around 1:00 that we could, in fact, get closed on the new house that afternoon at 3. WHEW! So we closed and spent one last night in the old house and officially moved in Saturday.

Did I mention that about a week before Thanksgiving, we'd found out I was pregnant with Charlotte? While we'd kept the news to ourselves, it certainly added another layer of stress to the whole thing!! It also meant I shouldn't be moving furniture or heavy boxes around. Luckily, we had several guys helping us move, so I was able to sit out the heavy lifting without anyone questioning me!

The next few weeks were crazy - getting unpacked and settled in a new home, Emily starting a new school (she started when they went back after Christmas break, just a few days before closing), and also planning for a baby. About 2 weeks after we moved, we found out she was a she and also shared the news with the world. I felt compelled to get everything possible done around the house before the baby arrived, so I spent the rest of winter and spring organizing, painting, etc. By the time baby arrived in June, it felt like we'd been here forever.

We love our new house and it's in a great location, close to everything and convenient to nearly everywhere we go. It was a terrible ordeal of real estate horrors, but we made it through and we're very happy with the end result. Every day I am thankful that we have a comfortable, cozy home I love in a great neighborhood, we have awesome neighbors, I can get to Target in 3 minutes and I do not have to prepare the house for showings all the time. Hallelujah!!!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My funny kids...

Back by popular demand (okay, not really...I made that up) - things overheard in my house:
"Stand right here where my pants are."
"You smell like bones!"
"I don't want a chicken sandwich - there's chicken on it!"
"If my face was a hamburger, I'd eat it!"       
"Stop it! You're scratching my hair!"
Emily (10), ordering breakfast: "I'll have two biscuits, kill the gravy."

And a collection of funny things in our household over the last couple of years:

I was bragging on Caroline's great work toward reading - she's so close to reading independently.
Eric: Wow, smart AND cute! A deadly combination.
Caroline, with a sigh: But I still can't snap my fingers.

Not exactly the news I want to hear from upstairs: "Mommy! My window is in the yard!"

A firstborn has the best, cleanest, most age and developmentally appropriate toys. A third child hears these words from her father: " with these socks."

I was putting the Pack and Play (portable crib) in the car.
Caroline: What's that, Mom?
Me: The Pack and Play.
Caroline: Oh. Is that Spanish for "bed"?

Quote of the trip: in the car, Caroline asked me to start her "Animal Baby" CD over (yet again) and Eric said: "Ugggh...I'm gonna poke out my earballs!!!"
Second prize goes to Emily, who warned me, "Before you start harassing my father, you need to know that vibrant colors do NOT match those shorts."

On the way home from school, we saw an old toilet put out to the street for the trash service to pick up. Emily (9) said "I've heard of Porta-Potties, but that's ridiculous!"

Charlotte was squealing and screeching about something this morning.
Caroline (4): Charlotte!! A) you're too loud and B) you need to stop screaming!

Emily: I feel sorry for gravity.
Eric: Why?
Emily: It has to work SO hard!

At church, we had communion. Caroline gladly took the bread, but when offered the cup, she shook her head and politely said, "No, thank you!"

1. "I'm pretending I have a baby and it's getting milk from my boob."
2. Me: Who wants to get my phone for me?
Caroline: I will!!! Then can I have a dollar?

Our Emily is a budding greeting card designer. Her best homemade Valentine's card was for Daddy. It read: "Did it seriously have to come? I mean, mistletoe is bad enough but a holiday *devoted* to kissing?" (inside) "Yuck in complete and utter capitals!" This barely topped the one for her teacher with a poem that began "Some teachers are crabby. Some pencils are stabby..."

We had a big fly in the house and never caught him. The next day, Caroline spotted him in a cup of water on the counter. Without missing a beat, Emily said, "Is he doing the backstroke?"

Actual conversation: we were talking about a new girl in Emily's dance class who just moved here from Iowa, Eric says ,"Wonder what brought them to this area?" Emily says with a shrug, "Maybe they like hillbillies." Dude. Beverages nearly exited noses.

Caroline, O Child of Great Expectations, tore open an Easter card from Grandma while commenting, "I hope there's dollars in there!!!"

Caroline: "I like cats. I don't like squirrels...actually I do like squirrels, but I don't like skunks. Can we go to the playground?"

Our comic relief this week was once again provided by Miss Caroline. First she requested the song "Chinese Buffet"...that would be "Surfin' USA." (Though I think we could come up with some pretty funny lyrics for her version.) Then we were in Wal-Mart when she wrinkled up her cute little nose and commented, "It smells in here."

We're in the car and Caroline starts talking to the car ahead of us..."Get off the phone and drive!! Stop smoking! QUIT PLAYING WITH YOUR HAIR AND DRIVE!"

Emily: "I had a bad dream last night, but I know it's not real because there's not a sink in the van."

Caroline walked into a restaurant and ordered Germ-X with her food...classic!

Emily was telling Caroline about the Elf on the Shelf who keeps an eye on their behavior and reports back to Santa each night. Em said, "If we're bad, then Santa just brings us lumps of coal!" Caroline excitedly added, "or SOCKS!!"

Caroline's funniest questions of the week:
"What is God's middle name?"
"Do ghosts have eyebrows?"
"Why does Pal's have a mailbox?"
"Does the moon go to sleep at night?"
"Is Grandpa your brother?"
 "Mommy, why doesn't Grandma have kids?"

Eric: Let's go over the river and thru the woods to Grandma's house.
Caroline: Can we just go to Grandma's and not in the river?

Today's installment of "not the answer I was looking for"...Me: "What did you do with X mess?" Child: "I wiped it on your pillow." Um...

Yes, my 3 year old likes to sing "Viva Las Vegas." Only she says "Jesus Las Vegas." Funny in more ways than one.

So, you know how some Christmas ornaments have strings or ribbons on them to use for hanging them on the tree? And on others, you need to attach the little metal hooks? Yep, those are called...hookers. Ah, Christmas According to Caroline!!!

I feel confident that Emily is getting adequate Daddy-time...we passed a police car and she commented, "There goes the Po-Po!"

Caroline: Why don't cars have feets?
Emily: The Flintstones car had feet!!

Water, water everywhere

So I wrote this about 4 months ago. Just now publishing. Yep, I'm the ball.

2012 proved to be quite a summer for my family. So many things happened and strangely, there was an overwhelming theme running through those months: water.

First, it was our inaugural "pool summer" - we had a pool membership at the local country club for the first time. We had visions of spending many a summer afternoon lounging around the pool. (Or something like that. We have 3 kids, you know.) We kicked off the summer right, spending Memorial Day soaking up the sun and fun at the pool.

About a week and a half into summer vacation, we headed for our annual beach trip. (See? More water. Stay with me.) We had to skip our trip last year for the very good reason of me being approximately nine hundred months pregnant with one Charlotte Olivia, so we were extra anxious to hit the surf and sand.

The first couple of days were filled with - guess what? Rain! Finally, on Wednesday, we were able to take full advantage of all the beach has to offer. We spent most of the day and the next at the hotel water park, the kids' favorite place. Thursday afternoon, we went to one of the pools with a couple of small water slides. Emily, 9, walked up to one of the slides and slipped, falling on her left arm. She came out screaming bloody murder. Given her strong propensity for the dramatic, we assumed she wasn't badly hurt. She finally calmed down, but never really recovered. We moved to the beach, still assuming she was fine, but she just laid on a towel and wouldn't play. She wanted to return to our room, so she, Charlotte and I went back. She struggled to change out of her bathing suit and said she didn't feel well. I was beginning to suspect she had truly hurt herself since she was carrying on for such a long time.

Finally, after an early dinner, we decided either a) talk of taking her to a doctor would snap her out of it or b) she really did NEED to go to a doctor. We went to one Urgent Care facility and it was closed. (At 6pm. For real.) So, we stopped by the hotel to ask about the nearest ER and off we went. Strangely enough, the ER was empty and we got right in. Emily was very upset about being there but seemed to know it was necessary. But she was so nervous and jumpy that when a nurse came in to ask questions, Emily screamed, "Don't touch me!!! Nooo!!" (And I DO mean screamed. Y'all. It was downright embarrassing.) When that same nurse came back a bit later with two syringes full of Motrin, Emily nearly jumped out of her skin, thinking they were shots!!

We spent about two hours there - Eric and Caroline in the waiting room, Caroline (4) having been threatened within an inch of her life carefully instructed to not touch anything - Charlotte (the world's biggest mama's girl) with Emily and me. Emily got several views on an xray and we received the unfortunate news - she had a badly broken humerus, which she immediately said was not funny at all. Bless her heart.

She got fixed up with a snazzy sling (no cast, apparently they don't do that much anymore, plus the break was so high near her shoulder that it would've been hard to cast anyway) and we left the hospital around 9:30. Poor baby!! We felt awful that we'd downplayed her pain and waited so long to take her to the hospital. As a side note, this will be the feature story on my Mother of the Year Award application. It should seal my victory, yes? But we reassured ourselves a smidgen by remembering that she is a classic wolf-crier and that the break itself didn't get any worse in a couple of hours. (And she'd instinctively kept it almost entirely still because of the pain, so she didn't do any more damage. She suffered through the pain a little longer without any relief, but it was going to hurt regardless.)

This part of our story is also known as "How to Double the Price of Your Summer Vacation in One Easy Step."

We immediately assumed our summer was down the drain. We were pretty bummed, but Emily was a tough cookie - she had a pretty positive attitude from the start. What a kid! The next day, a gorgeous, hot, sunny day, Eric took Caroline to the water park for the day and I took the other two shopping. We hit the party store for birthday party stuff for Charlotte (her first birthday was the next week) and the mall. We had a great time and it took Emily's mind off her arm. Girl loves to shop.

After returning home that weekend (and surviving the first attempt at bathing the broken-armed easy task!) we had to visit the pediatrician Monday morning. He sent us to an orthopedic specialist, who took more x-rays. He was super reassuring and even said Emily could get in the pool and let her sling dry out afterward. That made her feel much better!

The next weekend, Eric was golfing while I took the girls shopping for new bathing suits - Emily needed one that was easier to maneuver with her sling and of course, Caroline had to have one, too. When we got home, I walked into the bathroom to wash my hands, carrying the baby. (Paranoid germaphobe that I am, I have to wash my hands as soon as I get home from anywhere. And Charlotte spends 75% of her time on my hip.) I turned on the faucet and - snap! - it broke off...water shot straight to the ceiling, running down the walls and pouring gallons of water on me immediately. I was in shock! I screamed, set the baby down on the floor in the hall and realized I couldn't turn off the water with no handle. Fortunately, I thought quickly enough to get under the sink and shut off the water supply, but of course I was already soaked and the bathroom was flooded. Wow! (Husband was impressed that I knew how to turn off the water supply. Du-uhh.)

The funny thing was, I went out to the living room (which is all of about 10 feet from the bathroom) and the girls just looked at me like "What? Why are you all wet?" They hadn't even responded to my screams. Thanks a bunch!

The faucet was completely broken and not fixable, so we had to buy a new one and wait to have it installed a couple of days later. (We're not the fix-it types.) It was inconvenient to have one less sink, but what can you do, right? Here's the purty new hardware, brushed nickel:

That same week, the big girls went to VBS...the theme? "Operation Overboard." MORE water! The entire church was transformed with ocean and water images. The girls had an absolute blast and VBS itself kind of answered a prayer, as we were looking for a new church home. (Long story, but some very high-school-clique-style drama at our old church had really turned us away. We weren't involved in it at all, but we didn't want to be there anymore.) We ended up joining the church where the girls went to VBS and we love, love, love it.

But I digress. (How unlike me.)

As the summer continued, we spent as much time at the pool as possible. Emily was a good sport even though she couldn't really swim - she was just happy to be able to get in the water. July was awfully rainy, though, stealing away some of our pool days. (Sometimes about 5 minutes after we'd get to the pool. Blargh.) After 6 weeks in the sling and a couple of more appointments with the orthopedic doc, Emily was set free in late July! The break - which had been a very clean one - was healed completely and she was allowed to work back up to regular activities. She even learned to jump off the high (and low) dive - for her that was HUGE. Huge, people.

As we got into August, we were trying to enjoy the last bit of summer - school starts early in these parts - and spending the last before-school weekend at the pool. That Sunday, we were poolin' it when a vicious storm rolled in. We went inside the "snack shack" to eat dinner and wait out the rain, hoping to avoid being drenched. It was the worst storm we'd had all summer and the rain continued to pour - POUR - down for an hour before we finally decided to make a run for it - it didn't seem to be letting up. Eric got the car and picked us up as close to a door as possible, but we were still soaked instantly. Leaving the club, we saw standing water in several places. We were amazed at the amount of water everywhere.

School was supposed to start the next day and Emily's school has a ridiculous policy of not posting the class lists (letting kids know which teacher they will have) until the first morning. Each year we've checked the night before just in case but apparently a list-hanging ghost posts the lists at 6am that day. (Really, what's that all about?) We decided to give it a try, though, and drove by the school on our way home. That meant taking a different route than usual, but it's only slightly out of the way.

We drove by school - no lists, of course - and then headed for home. About 1/2 mile from home, there was a bit of water in the street. It was a totally flat area of the road and little indication there was any need to worry. We considered turning around but decided it was okay to keep going. Mistaaaaaaaaaake! As we drove into the wide but seemingly-not-deep puddle, it began to rise, water rushing down one street and into the intersection where we were. And then...the engine died. So there we were, water rapidly rising and the rain still pouring heavily, and our car is deadsies. We sat in shock for a minute, wondering what to do. Another car was headed in our direction, but they saw us and stopped about 30 feet away, a safe distance from the rushing water.

A man emerged from the car and walked over to see if he could help us. God bless kind strangers! We decided we needed to get out of the car and the man offered to drive us home. But there was the teensy problem of a foot of muddy water standing around the car; we quickly decided we'd have to climb out the windows so all that water didn't rush into the car. Yep, Dukes of Hazard style. First, I reached back and unbuckled Charlotte and brought her into the front seat with me. Eric climbed out his window and slogged around to the passenger side. We had the girls leave their shoes (flip flops) behind so they didn't wash away in the water. I remembered to grab the garage door opener and my cell phone and I held onto them tightly...I wasn't about to go fishing! Eric pulled Emily out the back window and the other man pulled Caroline out (she's a lot more easygoing about strangers and stuff). They carried the girls through the water and to the other car, where the man's wife and young son were waiting. Then Eric came back and got Charlotte so I could climb out my window. (Amazingly, no one fell out a window into the water...not even klutzy old mom!) The water was up to my knees. We'd decided Eric would stay with or near the car (it was smack in the middle of the street, after all) and the nice strangers would drive us girls home. So, off we went - luckily there is a different, simple route home that didn't involve the flooded area because of where the man was parked. (We couldn't have accessed that route without going through the flooded area, though, in case you were wondering.)

We were soaked with rain and flood water, and the man - who was wearing jeans - was soaked from helping us; he'd walked right into the flood water to help without a second thought. At least we were still in bathing suits and cover-ups! When we approached our house, I could see the driveway and street were flooded. We had to stop ahead of it to avoid the water. Just as we stopped, two of our neighbors, John and Keith, walked up, looking for us. They'd decided to check on us since they hadn't seen us and weren't sure if we were at home. We have awesome neighbors! I opened the garage and immediately, water poured into it. Some had seeped in anyway, but more flooded in right away. But it was the only way to get inside. The water in the garage was only about to my ankles, so it wasn't too bad. It's all relative!

After getting the girls out of the rain, I ran back outside with my camera because I knew Eric would never believe the water. I snapped a few shots of the foot of water by our back fence and side yard, which was entirely under water. Many neighbors were out checking on each other and marveling at the water - everyone said they'd never seen anything like it before. 4-6 inches of rain fell in an hour! We do have a creek in our backyard, but it wasn't even the real problem - the drainage system is simply not made to withstand that much water that fast. This is a portion of the driveway and side yard...

John and Keith, having been brought up to speed on our situation, were planning to help Eric push our car out of the water, but Keith and his wife needed to pick up their son at church first. Eric had been taken in by some kind people we didn't even know, so he had a dry place to wait. (Our car was close to their house.) After Keith returned about 15 minutes later, he and John headed up to help Eric. They were able to push the car out of the water, but it still wouldn't start. They all hoped it would start after drying out for a few hours.

They brought Eric home, and by that time, all the standing water had drained. It had been less than an hour, but somehow it was all gone. (And no, he couldn't believe the pictures.) Everything was sopping wet, but there was no standing water left. The garage had drained - but it smelled so bad!! We found only a tiny bit of water inside the house. Amazing.

The next morning, the car still wouldn't start so it had to be towed. Boo. We were able to get a rental late in the day (not easy when you need a minivan - we were lucky it only took a few hours!) We filed a claim with our insurance, which lifted a potentially huge financial burden off our shoulders. We found out the next day that the car needed a new engine and carpet, so we had to wait for the insurance company to look at it to determine if it would be deemed a total loss.

Guess what? It was.

Because of the severe flooding all across the city, the first day of school was delayed by two days. A few of the city's school buses were damaged and a couple of schools had minor water damage.

Thursday, we had to go clean out all of our personal items from the car...and boy, did it stink in there. Yowsa. Many things were water-damaged or just flat out soaked through. I had to throw away a few things from the back of the van. We rescued all the girls' stuff and such, and said goodbye. (Goodbyes are very difficult for Emily.)

That weekend, we had to go car Ugh! We were fortunate to be able to find a newer van (same model we'd had) with less miles on it for almost the exact same monthly payment, with some bargaining and a down payment of our settlement check.Whew!

The flood was the end of our water-related incidents, at least for the time being. But what if we choose to look at water in a different way? Not as the injury-and-disaster-causing element, but as the life-giving one. Water is essential to life and water is also symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Maybe all the water was supposed to remind us of God's presence, His ability to bring us through the deep waters, His love as deep as the ocean. He kept us safe through all these trials, most  all of which could have had far worse outcomes.
Consider John 4:13-14
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’”

And to borrow from one of the kids' VBS songs from this summer....

"The river's deep
the river's wide
The river's water is alive
So sink or swim,
I'm diving in!
So sink or swim,
I'm diving in!"

At times we might have thought we were sinking, but we've gone through the deep waters and come out swimming. Thank you, Lord, for that!

And despite all the troubles, it was ultimately a wonderful summer - those puddles of discontent were nothing compared to the oceans of despair that almost drowned us at other times in our lives. (I'm talking to you, 2010.) We can look back and smile at those puddles...they make fond memories and great family stories.

And just a little take-away advice...don't drive through puddles. They're deceptive little boogers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The (Lengthy) Story of Baby Charlotte's Arrival

What month June was!! I’m finally getting to finish jotting down the full details of our wild ride. Fair warning that this is a very long entry, but these are all details that I will look back on someday and want to remember. I needed to write all this down for myself as much as for anyone else!

It all started at around 37 weeks, when my beloved and much-trusted Dr. May gently suggested that I consider induction around 39 weeks. He didn’t put any pressure on me about it or do anything but explain some good reasons to consider it, given my high-risk status, advanced maternal age (ack!!), etc, and then left it up to me entirely. We’d also had some growth concerns with Charlotte just a couple of weeks earlier, but those had settled back down to normal. Plus, my amniotic fluid level was low - not dangerously so, but borderline - and we'd had one non-reassuring non-stress test. Those were factors to consider.

Now, I am normally anti-inductions and unnecessary interventions. I was induced with Caroline because I was past due and high risk - and I had a good experience with it - but I really had never considered it before my due date. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a fair idea and Dr. May’s reasons made a lot of sense to me. For example, the longer she stayed in there, the greater my risk of developing a blood clot; being on a blood thinner reduced my risk but did not eliminate it. If you didn't know, I have a blood disorder that puts me at a higher than normal risk of clots; it's not an issue in regular life, but it makes my pregnancies high-risk. During pregnancy and post-partum, I have to give myself Heparin injections 2x/day to lower my risk. Fun stuff! My risk is really pretty low on the spectrum, but it's present. It means I have extra tests and monitoring, but it's not really a big deal. Anyway, induction carried virtually no risk and he said it only increased the risk of a c-section by 1%; probably even less in someone like me who’d already had two textbook vaginal deliveries. So, somewhat grudgingly but feeling like it was the right thing to do, I scheduled my induction for Monday, June 13, which was 39 weeks, 3 days. (And hoped I'd go into labor on my own before that!) As it turned out, it was probably a good decision.

Having not gone into labor yet, the plans didn't change and we had to be at the hospital at 6am on the 13th. As with Caroline’s induction, it was surreal to drive to the hospital knowing we’d have a baby in a few hours, even though I wasn’t in labor. (I’d actually had tons of contractions during the night, but they weren’t “real” ones.) (Side note: I like parentheses.) (Maybe a bit too much.) Three kids and only once have I taken the ride to the hospital while actually in labor! We arrived at Franklin Woods, got registered and shown to our room in the Family Birth Center. FW is a brand-new hospital and absolutely gorgeous. It replaced the aging hospital where Caroline was born, and most of the fantastic staff is the same.

Emily and Caroline were happily snoozing at home, with my parents there. We got to our room, settled in and did the usual blood work and other fun stuff. Around 8:00, Dr. Hallman - he was the doctor on call that day - I‘d seen him several times in the office and was comfortable with choosing his call day - came in and broke my water, started the Pitocin drip and off we went. I was only about 1cm dilated when we started the process and the baby was still up fairly high and posterior, so she had a long way to go. (This was opposed to Caroline - at 4 days late, she was lower and I was dilated 3cm before labor even started. It made for a 5 hour process, start to finish!) It was sort of weird because after he broke my water, he couldn’t tell for sure if he’d been successful. It was quite awhile before we could be sure it was broken because very little was coming out when I moved around. Anyway, every half hour, my terrific and adorable nurse Teddi came in and upped my Pitocin.

For the next several hours, not much happened. My Pitocin was steadily increased and I was having regular contractions, but not dilating very rapidly - by noon I was still only about 3 to 4 cm. But I was in no pain at all and very comfortable. The big girls and my parents visited, I listened to my iPod, read a little and surfed the internet through my television in my room. How cool is that?!

By about 2:00, I was finally starting to feel some contractions and I had dilated to 4 to 5 cm - slow progress but at least I was finally headed toward active labor. At one point, Dr. Hallman said I was moving slower than he expected, but it wasn’t a big deal and eventually things would get moving. He was positive, unworried and never started talking about surgery like some doctors might. He knew I was totally opposed to surgery unless it was an emergency situation. (I love labor/delivery way too much to be "robbed" of the experience! Plus I don't like knives!)

Funny aside: Eric left around 1:30 to get something to eat (at my insistence) and on his way back to my room, he ran into Dr. Hallman, who told him I was 4 to 5 cm. Eric walked in and said he predicted I was 4 to 5 cm, trying to make me think he just guessed that. I immediately asked, “Did you see the doctor out there!?” So when the doc came to check me again next, Eric told him that story and also predicted how much more I was dilated. Dr. Hallman said, “If he gets it right again, I’m giving him his Junior ob/gyn badge!” Loved that guy!

At my 4:00 check, I was 6cm - and finally in some real pain. I was also on the highest amount of Pitocin I could have - which I semi-jokingly referred to as the "legal limit" - so my contractions were pretty strong. (By that point, when Teddi would come in and say she was increasing my Pitocin, I would think, “Do you have to?!" Pitocin makes contractions much more intense - and thus more painful. I've had completely natural contractions and I've had Pitocin-enhanced ones...Pit makes them much, much stronger and more regular.) I’d planned to use no pain medication, but I’ve done this enough times to know that anything can happen - I never say never! Eric asked me periodically if I wanted an epidural and I kept saying no.

From 4 to 4:40, I was in a great deal of pain with every contraction - it was intense but never unbearable - it's a blessing of labor that just when you think you can't handle another second, the contraction ends and the pain subsides. By 4:40, I was sure I was nearing 10cm and was starting to have the urge to push, but I wasn’t even able to verbalize it. I didn’t have quite enough time between contractions to do anything but rest up and gather breath for the next one - any other effort was wasted energy. I was totally in the zone...aware of what was going on around me but detached from it and not really able to interact.

Teddi came in about 4:45 and I was in the middle of a contraction, but I heard her say she’d check me again at 5. I was thinking “I’m 10 cm!!! I’m sure of it, please check me now!!” but couldn’t get thoughts to come out of my mouth. I was also thinking “If she comes in here and tells me I’m still 6cm, I’m gonna need some medication!” I was sweating so hard; I had ice cold washcloths on my neck and head to try to cool me down. My sweet hubby could literally feel the heat coming off me and was keeping the washcloths cold for me and doing what he could to help. (Which, of course, wasn’t a whole lot at that point.) He was also watching my contractions on the monitor and announcing when one was beginning (I was thinking, “No kidding!!!”), often marveling at how intense some of them were  - off the charts sometimes - and being amazed that I was tolerating the intensity. What can I say? I'm a beast. I had my iPod on through earbuds and was zapping through my play list, vaguely listening to anything that seemed calming, soothing, inspiring or motivating. I remember listening more than once to the Eagles’ “Waiting in the Weeds” because it is such a beautiful, soothing song with vivid imagery to give me something to think about besides  “ouuuuccccchhhhh!!!!!”  (Although now when I hear that song, it makes me think of pain...)

I watched the clock between contractions, and finally, just before 5, Eric asked me if I felt like pushing. I was so grateful he asked because I definitely did!! I would've just started pushing on my own, but a) it's not good to push if you're not actually full dilated...I worried I wasn't or that I'd push too fast and 2) I was a little worried the baby could come out too quickly and no one would be there to play catcher! Not sure Hubby would stay upright! He ran to tell Teddi. She rushed in and barely started to check me before saying “Woah! You are definitely ready to push, I won’t bug you any more!!“ Yep, I went from 6 to 10 in about 40 minutes...ouch!

In an instant, the room was readied for delivery. The doctor came in, the isolette for the baby was brought in, tools and such were brought out of the woodwork, it seemed. (A light or something really did come down out of the ceiling!) Next thing I know, I’m pushing! I definitely appreciated the speed with which they got ready - knowing I had no pain meds, they worked very quickly. It didn’t take long at all to deliver the babe - maybe 10-15 minutes. Pushing isn’t nearly as painful as contractions before you start pushing - I don’t know why other than that pushing is a relief and something concrete to focus on. I did have a hard time catching my breath in between pushes - for some reason, that’s been hard for me with each baby. I guess in the midst of pain and pushing, I lose my ability to control my breathing or focus on breathing properly. I remember Eric telling me, “You can do it, this is the last time you ever have to push!!” and he made some funny jokes during the process, too, though I appreciated them more after the fact. I also distinctly remember stopping and looking around in between contractions to see all these faces peering expectantly at me. The doctor, 3 nurses, and Eric, all just as calm as can be, and me, sweating like a hog and barely able to breathe!! There was also a funny moment when one of the nurses, who was waiting across the room by the isolette, gazed out the window at the beautiful mountain views and absentmindedly commented, "This sure is a great view..." We all looked at her like "WHAT!?" before she added, "...out the window!" Given her bird's eye view of the pushing process, we were all glad she finished that sentence!!!

Though tired, I managed to summon one last burst of energy and Charlotte Olivia popped right on out into the world at 5:22pm. She weighed 6 lbs 9 oz, was 20 inches long and was, of course, absolutely precious. (I later joked that by the third, they practically fall right out. It’s not true, but it does get easier with each one.) As the nurses got her cleaned up and “tagged” with her bracelet etc, they said her cry sounded strange and they wanted to take her to the nursery where they could assess her a little better. (We could tell that her cry sounded strange - it was sort of hollow or muted sounding.) I got to hold her just briefly before they wheeled her out. I got all cleaned up and all that good after-birth business while Eric called the girls and family members with the good news.

Pretty soon, everybody was cleared out and I definitely felt 100% better than I had an hour earlier. I had cooled down and was comfortable again. Charlotte was still in the nursery, unfortunately, so we were all alone. I was able to eat dinner - I was starved, obviously! - and post the good baby news on Facebook less than an hour after delivery so that many friends could know (I mean, my access was right from my bed! I would've been even faster if the words weren't so tiny all the way up on the was hard to read what I was typing!). A little later, the girls and my parents came to visit. Charlotte still wasn’t available so they stayed a little bit and then left to eat dinner and came back in a bit. Eric went with them and while they were gone, I got up and washed my face, put on a clean gown and my night nurse changed my bed linens and such. I was much more comfortable with my regular bed; they add a big comfy mattress after delivery - the bottom half of the bed breaks off for delivery, then they fix it afterward so it’s more comfy.

After the family returned, we got to have Charlotte in my room for a little while and take a few pictures and such. The girls were tickled to meet her and she had presents for her big sisters!! Quite the quick shopper, that one! After awhile, mom and dad took the girls home and Eric stayed with me awhile. Later, the neonatologist came in to fill us in on what was going on with Charlotte.

Dr. Bharti was super nice. He explained that Charlotte had air leaks in her lungs - called a pneumothorax. This isn’t terribly uncommon and usually resolves itself within a few days, but babies with this problem are monitored very closely, as it can quickly become very dangerous. Because of the air leaks, her breathing rate was over 100 breaths per minute - 60 or less is normal - it was disturbing to watch her little tummy go up and down that quickly. She couldn’t attempt nursing until her breathing was back within normal range - trying to coordinate her breathing, sucking and swallowing could've put her in distress - so they put a feeding tube in her nose. (They brought me an electric pump and I started pumping every three hours that evening, so they could give her whatever I could produce and so that my milk supply would come in on schedule.) Also, her lungs looked “hazy” on a chest x-ray, which concerned them even though they couldn’t be sure why they were hazy. The regular pediatrician also came by that night and had pretty similar opinions about everything.

Late that night - at least midnight - I was able to go to the nursery and hold Charlotte for awhile. She was in an incubator with lots of wires attached to her, so I had to pull a rocking chair up beside it, leave her attached to everything and the nurse would lift her out and lay her in my arms. I felt so, so sorry for her - evicted from the nice cozy womb into a place where she was constantly being poked and prodded. I felt so guilty at first, wondering if things would've been different if I'd only let nature take its course.

I did “kangaroo care” so she’d have the all-important skin-to-skin contact - I tucked her right inside the top of my hospital gown so she could snuggle on my chest. This remains her favorite place to snuggle - we call it her happy spot! After some time with her, I went back to my room to pump and try to get some sleep. Pumping every 3 hours, I didn’t get to sleep much - I’d pump for 20 minutes, then use little syringes with needles to painstakingly slurp up every drop out of the pump/bottles and then take it to the nursery, then come back, clean all the bottle parts and prep them for the next time. The whole process took about 45 minutes, then I’d go to bed and sleep for about 2 hours before doing it all over again. That first night, I didn't even get to bed until about 2am. (After getting up about 5:00 Monday morning. Long day!) My nurses knew my schedule so they waited until I’d be up pumping if they needed to check on me, so that was a big help! My relatively easy labor and delivery also included an entirely painless recovery and no problems at all - which was a true blessing considering the stress and exhaustion of the next few days. I really didn’t feel at all like I’d just given birth - no pain, soreness, or physical exhaustion - I felt completely normal and not even tired physically. (My nurses kept saying, "Really? Are you SURE you don't want anything for pain?" But I didn't have any pain!) That was a godsend and really helped me to physically survive the rest of the week!!

Breakfast arrived at 7am - I love meals brought to me on schedule! - so I was up early from my scattered, short night of sleep. I got up and showered before the doctor would be in so I was sure not to miss him. That morning (Tuesday), the doctor reported that Charlotte was improving but still not able to nurse or be off any of the monitors. I visited her frequently and held her as much as I could, but I still felt so far away from my sweet baby. They did bring her in for about half an hour around lunch time so the girls could see and hold her. Then, right back to all the monitors. That afternoon, my dear friend Beth and her daughter Marlee visited for a bit - they only got to see Charlotte through the nursery window, but it was a treat for me to see them!

I spent the day visiting Charlotte, trying to rest a little and - of course - pumping. No way was I going to let a bump in the road keep me from nursing my baby! I worried so much that the delay in nursing would make it hard for her to get started - I wasn't going to give up, but I was concerned that it might be quite difficult to succeed. I was thankful I'd already successfully nursed two babies, so I was much more confident about the whole process - but still worried.

I have to mention that the staff at Franklin Woods was downright phenomenal! Every single nurse we met was outstanding. I've already mentioned the wonderful Teddi, but the nurses who cared for me after delivery were all so sweet and helpful and the nursery staff was fantastic. They were very accommodating and welcoming when I visited Charlotte frequently - I never felt like I was in their way or being a bother. One even grabbed my camera and snapped some sweet photos of me holding her - I never would’ve thought of that - and those pics are priceless!! We were so lucky to deliver there. I even saw the terrific nurse who helped deliver Caroline - Katie was so sweet and awesome that I’ve always remembered her. She was off the day Charlotte was born, so we got the fantabulous Teddi instead - they both take the cake as best L and D nurses ever! - but was there the next day and got to see Caroline, too. We could not have been more impressed with the entire staff at FW - everyone was wonderful and supportive, especially when things took a turn for the worse.

That night was much like the one before - I held Charlotte for awhile and then returned to my room. It was almost midnight and I was so sleepy, but I had to pump before bed. I’d found a snack to tide me over til morning (there's really not a hungrier person on earth than a nursing - or pumping - new mama) and I laughed at myself - there I sat in my hospital bed eating a sandwich, pumping and typing on Facebook, all at the same time! My nurse came in and laughed and said, “I’ll come back when you’re finished mutlitasking!” I got a little bit more sleep that night because I got an earlier start on the sleep-wake-pump-sleep cycle.

Wednesday morning, the nurses reported that Charlotte had a good night and seemed to be making progress. I already knew there was no way she’d go home that day, but they’d told me that after I was discharged, I could stay in my same room while she was still there, for as long as needed. (I could come and go anytime, but I could be there with Charlotte 24/7 if I wanted.) We were expecting an extra 3 or 4 days perhaps, but assumed she'd stay at Franklin Woods - I thought our window of needing the NICU was over, but I was wrong.

Since I thought the babe was improving, I was feeling more upbeat until about 9:30 when Dr. Bharti came in. I was glad to be perched on the end of my bed while we talked, because I wasn't at all prepared for his news; he said that though her air leaks were almost gone, her lungs were still hazy and he wanted to move her to the NICU for treatment for pneumonia and because she wasn’t absorbing nutrients well.

I asked how a newborn got pneumonia, since I tend to think of it as something infectious. He said most likely, she swallowed too much amniotic fluid - which is full of protein - and it irritated her lungs. That, combined with her air leaks, just created an environment where pneumonia could develop, but it wasn’t something viral she “caught” from someone. That made me feel more like it was good for her to go ahead and get outta there, not letting the pneumonia continue developing. As for the cause of the air leaks in her lungs, they aren't entirely sure. One theory is that the lungs just hadn't quite finished developing, the other theory is that the huge force of pushing during delivery can actually "pop" holes in the lungs. That theory might explain why a pneumothorax is most often found in a large baby, even though Charlotte is certainly on the small side. The force of pushing is probably stronger in a non-medicated delivery, too.

She looked even worse once she got to the NICU.

I was so upset to hear she’d be moved to NICU because that was at another hospital about 2 miles away and I had no clue if I‘d be able to be with her. They estimated that she’d be there for 5-10 days. But I held it together for a few minutes until I went to see her. I had barely walked in the nursery when Eric, my parents and the girls - none of whom had any idea yet about the NICU move - showed up smiling and waving at the nursery window on their way to my room. I started to cry the minute I saw Charlotte, but I didn't want the girls to see me crying - I didn't want to upset them or make them worry that something worse was wrong - so I tried to hide it and discreetly get them shooed away from the window. Finally they moved so I didn’t have to hide my tears and the ten people offering me tissues!!! I got it together enough to go see the girls but then went back to Charlotte and held her for awhile until the “transport team” arrived from JCMC. All of this happened quite quickly. I went back to my room while they prepped her and they brought her in when she was ready to go.

Nothing quite prepares you for seeing your tiny, 2 day old baby in a huge contraption for transportation in an ambulance. I nearly lost it again when they wheeled her in...I could barely even look at her in that thing without wanting to weep. She still had all of her wires attached but was also covered by a huge black “seatbelt” that went in several directions, keeping her from moving at all while in transit. And she was inside a portable incubator, modified for travel. The whole thing was nearly 6 feet tall. It was awful looking. In the photo below, that's my dad walking behind her...he's just over 6 feet tall, so you can see how tall the whole thing was.

We got to see her for a minute and the terrific nurse explained everything to us, as far as procedures, where she was going, etc. They rolled her out and off to the ambulance, which took her on the short ride to the other hospital. It was strange and sad to think of my tiny baby all alone in a big ambulance - her first car ride wasn't supposed to be like that. But we were left without her. It was excruciating... one of the worst feelings I've ever had.

That day, a couple of friends stopped by to visit us - thanks Michelle and Pam!! They weren’t able to see the baby because she’d already been moved, but it was so nice to see familiar faces. My parents had planned to go home after I got home, but they were more than willing to change their plans and stay as long as needed. They took great care of the big girls and I never worried about them for a minute. It was tough for me to feel torn between my big girls and their needs and the baby, but having my parents to take care of the big girls made it much easier. I still felt bad that I had to be away from them so much more than expected, but knowing they were in good hands meant I could focus on Charlotte as much as possible - and I knew that right then, she needed me more than my big girls. (And they were having so much fun they barely missed me!) We truly could not have made it through the week without my parents and their abundant help and we could never thank them enough!

Soon, the girls and my parents left and Eric left to go to the NICU to see Charlotte after she was settled. I hadn’t been discharged yet but would be as soon as I was ready. I showered and got packed up and waited for Eric to get back. My mind was so exhausted and overwhelmed by everything! I finally left around 3:00. It was so strange and sad to leave without a baby; my arms felt so empty. We headed straight for the NICU.

The first NICU Charlotte was in was a sad place - very sterile, hospital-y and drab, with lots of babies and very little privacy. It was also very secure - we picked up a phone that alerted a nurse inside, told her who we were and we were buzzed in; we had to scrub our hands and arms for 3 minutes after entering, then we were able to see the babe. She was all hooked up to monitors for everything, plus still on oxygen (though it was just precautionary, they didn’t think she really needed it) and her IV had been moved to her foot after falling out of her tiny hand. In the NICU, the incubators were "open air" rather than closed in with "walls," so it was much easier to get close and touch her. She was on IV nutrition only for 48 hours to give her system a chance to settle down. She had been taking a pacifier some and sucking on it pretty well, which I was glad for since it was her only opportunity to suckle. I felt so sorry for her. Poor baby! It broke my heart for her to endure so much so soon. I still find that I feel sorry for her, even though she doesn't remember any of it!

There wasn’t much to do there but stand by her bedside and look at her sad little self, but we were able to hold her as much as we wanted - which was pretty much the whole time, of course. We stayed until we were kicked out for shift change at 5:30 and then met the family for dinner. Let me tell you that after 3 solid days in an extremely quiet hospital environment and under tremendous stress, going to a very noisy restaurant was almost more than I could handle! My senses and nerves were so overwhelmed that I nearly couldn’t take it. I had no idea that noise could bother me so much! I had trouble focusing on anything and my mind was completely in the NICU with Charlotte, though I tried hard to give my big girls as much attention as possible. 

That night was one of the toughest nights of my life - I couldn’t stand being away from my baby! It literally hurt to know that I was home and she was across town in a little incubator all alone. It broke my heart in a way I didn't know was possible. I stayed busy till bedtime, cleaning up and getting the house organized a bit (though Eric and my mom did a great job of keeping it in shape while I was gone, I needed to have some control over something!) and such. Plus I was still pumping every 3 hours, of course. Overnight, I slept pretty well out of sheer exhaustion - finally in my own bed - but was up pumping regularly. And crying…I spent each pumping session in tears because my baby felt so far away and it felt completely wrong that we should be apart. I could have stayed at the hospital with Charlotte, but I would've had to sleep in a small, not-terribly-comfortable chair (like a basic office desk chair!) in a brightly lit ward with virtually no privacy or quiet. I could have done it, of course, but I knew I needed to try to get some sleep for at least one night. There was hope of getting a private room in a day or two, so I decided to take it day by day but spend that first night at home - I was terribly sleep-deprived and exhausted from the stress of the week. I felt terrible that I wasn't with the baby, but I knew I needed some sleep in order to handle the coming days. Though she was sleeping almost all the time due to her medications, I know she KNEW when I was holding her; while she was far too young to process me not being there, she would naturally be more at ease if I were.

I never truly doubted that Charlotte would be okay and everyone reassured me, “She will be fine, she’s in good hands” etc. But what not everyone understood was how hard it was to be separated from her - that’s what was making the ordeal so much more difficult. I knew her health issues were not imminently life-threatening, but being away from her and not knowing for how long was the hardest part. I knew she was in great hands, but I never expected to be physically separated from my newborn baby - it was my toughest parenting experience ever. I was constantly aware of how much worse it could have been and grateful her issues were less serious than many - we didn't fear for her life, weren’t facing months in the hospital and there were no long-term effects expected - but it was still a huge emotional challenge.

In those days and the ones after, we had SO many people supporting us and praying for our sweet Charlotte. We really, truly felt the love and prayers. My sister even shared the story with a lot of her friends around the country and we received cards and notes from several of them - so sweet!! I don't think I will ever understand why God heals some babies and not others - there are so many things we cannot understand or know the reasons for - but we are so grateful that it was His will to heal her. I believe God works through doctors and gives them the knowledge and ability to help heal patients, and they were wonderful. We truly felt His healing touch on Charlotte and we truly felt lifted up by the prayers and thoughts of so many people. As tough as the whole thing was, we never felt alone. And as always, Eric was my rock - he never lets me down and always makes me feel better. This was another one of many, many things I never could have made it through without him by my side. He is the absolute best.

In the morning, we were up and out the door by 9:30 on our way to the NICU. We stayed with Charlotte until we were kicked out around noon when they had a new admission in - they got everyone out for those and that one in particular was a really serious case with lots of extra people and equipment. While we were waiting to return, two friends brought lunch to us - thanks Chris and Chance! Beth's sweet hubby Mike also visited that day and got to see Charlotte.

We were able to get back to Charlotte around 1 and I was even allowed to try nursing. She didn’t do much but at least we tried! (I didn't have to wait the 48 hours they'd said the day before.) The big girls and my parents visited in the afternoon - 2 at a time, as we were limited to 4 people visiting total, including us, at any time. (Siblings were the only children allowed to visit.) Sweet Caroline went up to Charlotte and sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to her! What a sweet moment. Emily laid her finger on Charlotte's palm and Charlotte reflexively closed her fingers around Emily's - boy, did that make Em's day! She told everyone about that and we made a big deal about it because she didn't do that to anyone else! Emily is our extremely sensitive child and she was definitely a bit scared of all that was going on, so we were grateful for anything like that helped make her more comfortable. She's old enough to understand that something was wrong with the baby and all the adults were very stressed about it, but not old enough to grasp that everything really would be okay soon; Caroline is happy-go-lucky anyway, but also too young to understand the gravity of the situation.

We left about 3:00 to come home and rest a bit before returning - the NICU environment was exhausting and overwhelming. About 4:30, the NICU nurse called and asked if we could come back over because Charlotte was being moved to the (newer) Niswonger Children's Hospital NICU (adjacent to JCMC) with private rooms, meaning I could stay with her 24/7! I wasn’t even going to believe it until I saw it, but we ran back over to the hospital right away. When we got there, we weren’t allowed into the NICU for about 30 minutes because of an admission - it was frustrating because they asked us to get there by 5 and we broke our necks to make it and then we weren’t even allowed in! Finally, we were let in and she’d already been moved, so they showed us to the newer NICU. Charlotte looked about the same except for having her IV in the top of her head now…that nearly killed me! (Just being real here: I was quite glad to have missed that particular procedure...don't think I could've handled it without needing an IV myself.)

But WOW. What a huge difference!!! It was a brand-new, gorgeous NICU wing with private rooms - each room had all the equipment needed for the baby’s care plus a couch/bed for a parent, a recliner, bathroom, tv, etc. I was so ecstatic!!!! I would be able to stay by Charlotte’s side for as long as she was there...I don’t know when I’ve ever felt such relief!! We stayed for a bit, I was able to feed her again - and that time she did much better - then we left to have dinner with the family and pick up what I needed from home so I could stay at the hospital. Mom and Dad brought me back a couple of hours later so they could see her and I barely left Charlotte’s side again.

I was still pumping AND feeding every 3 hours, sometimes simultaneously since she wasn’t taking in that much at once. In between feedings overnight, I slept on the surprisingly comfortable couch/bed, but of course there were lots of interruptions - nurses checking Charlotte’s vitals regularly and even a chest x-ray around 4am! Plus every time I'd just about be settled and asleep, some montior would start beeping. But we were together so I didn’t care if I didn’t sleep a wink! The big girls could only visit once a day for about 15-30 minutes, so Eric was mostly with them rather than me. Mom and Dad ran home overnight Friday to restock their medications, get more clothes, etc and returned Saturday morning. It was very quiet because I was alone with Charlotte a majority of the time, but I was never bored at all! Despite the circumstances, it was a precious chance to spend time with Charlotte in a way I wouldn't have been able to at home, where so much else would have been going on. I'm grateful for that quiet, calm time with her - it was one of several silver linings of the enormous cloud over us that week!

The nurses in the Niswonger NICU were so fantastic - Katherine was our main night nurse and she was outstanding and so sweet. We really had wonderful nurses at every point in our ordeal and the neonatologists (Dr. Bharti and Dr. Shah) were superb. We met so many nice people - 2 different ladies who worked there live in our neighborhood - one we’ve seen out walking her dog since then, and she stopped to ask how Charlotte was.

Friday was more of the same - pumping/feeding, lots of kangaroo care and resting. Beth visited that day and was so thrilled to hold Charlotte. And there was also wonderful news within 24 hours of being in the new NICU - Charlotte’s air leaks were completely gone, her pneumonia was gone, her feeding tube was removed and her IV was removed! We were so happy and excited and had the possibility of going home the next day. She did have a fierce diaper rash they attributed to the antibiotic she was on for the pneumonia. It required a prescription-strength rash cream and took about a week to clear up.

Friday night was much calmer for us because Charlotte had fewer monitors on. We had also progressed to feeding on demand rather than on a set schedule, so we could theoretically get more sleep. But Miss Charlotte decided that night that the only way to sleep was cuddled up on Mommy’s chest, so I spent most of the night in the recliner with her laying on me. (It was the only place to sit/lie down with her because it was beside her bed and she was still attached to some monitors.) I had worried that she wouldn’t be much of a snuggler because she had so little cuddle time in her first few days - but she has definitely made up for lost time and can’t stand to NOT be cuddled! That night, while snuggled up with Charlotte, I felt a powerful sense of peace...I truly felt the healing presence of Jesus in that room.

Charlotte also passed her car seat challenge that evening - she had to sit in her car seat for an hour while being monitored to ensure that the more upright angle didn’t cause her any problems with her breathing, heart rate, etc. She passed just fine! She was still breathing a bit rapidly when she’d get angry (like when we changed her diaper or she was poked and prodded), but when she was calm, she was within normal range.

The next morning, I waited a long time for the doctor to visit but he finally did around 11:30...and said the magic words: “She can go home!” Dr. Shah also said, “I told your husband 5 to 10 days…we beat that!” He said it truly looked as if she had never had any problems - she seemed like a totally normal newborn. I was so happy that we were on the road to bringing our baby girl home! The actual births of my babies notwithstanding, that was the happiest moment of my life!!

By the time we got everything done (lots of paperwork and other clearances) and were ready to go home, it was at least 2:30. There was a driving rainstorm but who cared!? We were going home!! Charlotte had her hospital picture made before we left and we headed for home! Emily had gone to VBS all day with a friend and wouldn’t be home till after 4. She didn’t know for sure that Charlotte and I would be getting home that day, so she was happy to see us.

Ready to go home!

Later, we all went out for dinner and afterward, Eric and I had to stop by the NICU to pick up the phone charger I’d accidentally left in my room. Emily and Caroline came home with my parents and when we got back, we had a big surprise party waiting! Emily had spent ages planning a welcome home party for us - she did such a great job!! There was the cutest banner EVER, handmade by Emily, streamers, balloons, cake, presents, etc - she went all out!! Grandma had helped her with everything, but all the ideas were hers. What a babe! We had a fun party and then our first night home with Charlotte was just great. We were just so happy to have all 5 of us in the same place.

Emily's banner, which now hangs in Charlotte's room!

We had such a wild ride that week - so much joy and so much stress and worry, too. I felt so very low when they took Charlotte to the NICU and felt such enormous relief and joy when we were cleared to bring her home. So many ups and downs, highs and lows, in one short (but also long!) week.

Since we’ve been home, we’ve settled in beautifully and stayed busy - for better or worse, we’ve barely missed a beat. The big girls have gone to VBS and swim lessons, we spent a week with my family and now it’s almost time to return to school. (Ugggghhhh…a schedule!!) Charlotte is such a good baby and so incredibly sweet. One of the blessings of her ordeal is that she will never remember any of it - and we thank God for that. We’ll never forget the sights and sounds and emotions of that week - I’m scarred for life!! - but luckily she has no memory of anything. (And incidentally, I'm still grateful for any meal that does not come from a hospital cafeteria!)

She’s a great sleeper - IF she’s near mom. Put her down in her bassinet, crib, etc, and she’ll be awake within 10 minutes (usually less). Lay her on or by mom and she’ll sleep for hours!! The big sisters have adjusted well and love to kiss, hold and coo at baby sissy. They both suddenly seem so much bigger and older because I subconsciously compare them to this tiny infant!

Charlotte has the sweetest disposition and she’s very calm and laid back. She sleeps a lot, but when she’s awake and alert, she’s very calm. She’s been smiling and cooing a bit recently, too. We are so blessed, so complete and so grateful to have her here, healthy and home!