Monday, September 20, 2010

Jen


My friend Jen is coming on Tuesday night from Texas. Her flight arrives at 11:05 pm. Stinker. I think she does this to me on purpose.

I know I said I don't have a 'best' friend ... but ... She is one of my dearest closest bestest friends. I cannot wait to see her. Jen is one of those friends that is my heart, if that makes any sense. Really though, one of the (many) reasons I would consider her a best is because Josh (her hubby) and Mike are also besties (although, I'm pretty sure they don't refer to each other as such) and Mike is slightly highly bitter than Josh isn't coming as well. He hasn't seen Josh since we went to Texas last November to visit them. I think he may be going through withdrawls. It really isn't fair since Mike and Josh were friends first and Jen and I married into the friendship but ... well, too bad for them.

We aren't always on the same page. 
Ok, often we are in totally different chapters. 
But it works.

When Mike and I were engaged we went to California with Josh and Jen. When we'd been married a couple of years we went to Mexico with them. We had our first two babies weeks apart from each other. When our firsts were less than one we packed them up and went to Las Vegas together. Because we are smart and awesome like that. (What were we thinking?!)


Our firsts, Jillian and Lincoln, have pretty much already made life long committments to each other. Lincoln says things to me like, "When I grow up and marry Jillian and we live in Texas, will you visit us?" And Jillian does things like turn a paper plate into Lincoln's face and carry it around all day.



We all do it  ... when our friends have babies we say things like, "Oh, Lincoln! Here's your girlfriend Jillian!" and everyone laughs and says "Oh! How sweet!" while the babies do things like drool and poop and we take pictures of them together as if they actually know what's going on. But no one actually grows up and gets married to that one special baby.

But sometimes, I really think Lincoln and Jillian may be the exception. Actually, I really hope they are. Because just like her mom, Jillian is my heart ... and I find myself hoping ...


Last night as we were putting the kids into bed Lincoln asked, "Is Auntie Jen bringing me anything?"
I told him she would probably bring him a picture from Jillian.
He responded, "Maybe she'll bring me Jillian!"
Mike said how nice that would be and Lincoln sighed, "That would be paradise."
My little Romeo...er, only, without the whole fueding families and suicide thing.

Suffice to say, I'll be MIA for a few days.

Have a great week everyone! (And Twyla ... sorry AGAIN about the Debt Story ... you know I love you!)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thirty One-derful

Today is my 31st birthday.
There is much to discuss about officially being 'in my thirties' although I wish to dismiss all of that and focus on one simple thing.

Last year at my 30th birthday party ...

I was ... um ... ample.

I was uncomfortable being that big but I wasn't ready to really do anything about it. I covered my body with baggy jeans, flowy shirts and lots and lots of hoodies. If I were complimented on how I looked, I could never accept it. I wanted to be comfortable with my physical self, but I really never could get there.

In Januray Mike and I began working out and dieting and we both lost weight. I began to become more comfortable with the way I looked, a little bit more confident but I could never totally just embrace my body. I was proud of what my body had done ('Well, I've had four healthy babies ... it worked like it should have!) but not proud of what my body looked like ('I may have lost weight ... but these stretch marks sure aren't going anywhere!')

Yesterday Mike took me to the Westin for a night. He had booked a room that came with a $100 shopping spree at the mall across the street. So, we checked into our room and then walked over to work on spending some money and to find me a comfortable pair of jeans. I have lost just over 20 pounds since my last birthday but was only wearing one size smaller than I had been before losing weight. I chalked it up to having had four kids in five years - after all, ones stomach can only be extended so many times before it just gives up, right?

We walked into the Lucky Jeans store and when I told Stuart, the oh so friendly and abundantly helpful sales clerk, what size I was he looked me up and down and said, "Oh honey. No you aren't." Then he laughed and pulled down a pair of jeans that was TWO SIZES SMALLER than the ones I had on.
"Oh Stuart, you flatter me. But really ... this number here? It's much too small. Much. Much."
Again Stuart laughed and walked me to a dressing room.
And then something very strange happened. Something totally unexpected. I put those teeny tiny jeans on ... and they actually buttoned. They didn't just button though ... they actually looked good. And my stomach, that I had given so much grief, stayed put, not popping over the top like I had expected it to. I stood there in disbelief, and honestly, total shock. I could not believe those jeans fit me.

Upon seeing the $115 price tag I thanked Stuart for his help and left the store. We went to a few more stores and at each place it was the same; they laughed when I told them my size and pulled smaller sizes down for me to try on.

We ended up at the Gap where I purchased their Perfect Boot Jeans ... two sizes smaller than what I had been wearing.



I don't know about you, but this was a HUGE confidence booster for me. And a wake up call. Why am I constantly selling myself short? Why, when someone gives me a compliment, do I blow them off? Why can't I accept my body for what it really is? Which is apparently, a lot smaller than I thought?

So, with a little bit of angst, and also a little pride, I had Mike take this picture of me this morning.



I feel better about my body today than I have in a very long time. I've worked hard to get here and I'm proud of what I've accomplished. I know I have to continue to take care of myself if I expect to stay in these jeans, but getting them on and looking good in them only solidified that in my mind. What I've been doing ... it's been working, I'm not going to quit.

As I head into my thirty second year of life, I am determined to change my attitude about myself and my body image. I resolve, that when I look in the mirror, I will see the woman in the size 4 jeans and stop mentally adding the layers and pounds until I resemble the woman squeezing into the size 10/12, hoping that they'll loosen up just enough so I can sit comfortably.

I'm ready to start seeing my body the way Mike does - or, at least, start attempting to.

And I'm finally ready to truly appreciate that with everything I've put my body through during the last eight years of pregnancy and nursing, it has come out a winner, without feeling the need to attach any "except for's" to it.

*I went back and forth about sharing my actual size because I know sizes are arbitrary and we all are built differently. I had a huge wake-up call yesterday that totally shifted the way I saw myself so please take the post as I meant it - just a small retrospective about where I've come from and realizing where I'm actually at - and my attempt to start seeing the beauty in my physical self.*

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not Remembering Wednesday ...

I'm sorry I am not doing my normal Remember When Wednesday Debt story. (Especially to you Twyla!)
Life has been busy, what can I say? It's a good busy though - I'm very thankful.

This weekend I had the opportunity to do two photo shoots. I did senior portraits for my cousin, Maddy, and family portraits for my cousin, Jesse. My family has been super supportive of my photography ventures and I am thankful there are so many of them so I've been able to get in lots of practice. 

The two shoots this last weekend convinced me that I not only want to, but am ready, to take my photography from a hobby to ... well, whatever the next step is. Business, I suppose. The fact that my aunt paid me after she saw the pictures and my cousin's wife said her pictures got over 60 comments on Facebook did nothing to discourage me, I can tell you that much.









But that's all. I've just decided I want to. The whole 'actually stepping out' thing may take some time. And a website. Honey...are you reading this?

Although...I do have my first official paid shoot booked. So, I'm excited about that.

Yeah!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Looking Ahead

What ... oh what?! ... have we done?

This morning as I sat on the couch with a two year old flickering the lights, a three year old crying about how little attention she receives, and a five year old pinching a seven year old, I wondered if a) I could possibly retreat to the bathroom with a bottle of wine unnoticed and b) whatever in God's name possessed me to try homeschooling in the first place?

Months ago I began this journey to figuring out what being a homemaker meant for me. I hesistate to write about it often because it is really a rather personal journey and because it seems to take me much too long to figure out what the next step on this journey even is.

In June Mike attended a seminar on safety. I had been under the assumption it was on officer safety with regards not only to the violence toward officers in our area but all over the country. I was wrong. It focused mostly on terrorism and what he could do to better protect himself, his family, and his community. During one of the breaks Mike called me and said, "Gen...I'm so weirded out by all this information I don't even want to put L on the school bus tomorrow."

It didn't bother me that Mike was having a momentary lapse in his normally very tough exterior, which, usually sends me into an immediate freak out mode. My reply, which surprised even me, was, "Isn't it interesting that you would say something like that to me during this time when I am so open to what being a homemaker means for me and for our family?"

There it was, so simple and obvious ... my next step.

And thus began our journey into homeschooling.

For a few weeks I prayed that if homeschooling was what was right for our family that God Himself would shout it from Heaven. Something like, "Hey! Idiot! Homeschool your kids!" Week after week there would be no shout, but my curiosity had begun to grow and mature into interest, and I soon found that my interest had blossomed into full blown passion. Perhaps the shout I was waiting for came to me in a way I should have been expecting from the beginning ... a simple whisper.

The choices available to homeschooling families are so vast I have found myself drowning in them so although I now know homeschooling is the right decision, I don't know much else. I feel behind and inadequate. The only routine I have successfully established is sitting the children down and reading a story from the Children's Bible and then we all head to the table and draw a picture of what we read. And even that (please see first paragraph) seems to be a challenge.

J's picture of the story of Cain and Abel. Pretty sure this would get me called into the principal's office.
And what more? Above and beyond Bible studies, which are so very important to us and our faith, what am I going to do with these four children? How am I going to make sure they are not only adequately educated but also adequately prepared for the real world? And above and beyond that, when am I going to find time to spend alone with my husband? That man who still makes my heart do little flip flops when he walks in the door? (Oh Lord may that never stop!) For crying out loud, not even four months ago we were in the middle of our five year "We just have to get the baby to school so we can finally be alone again" plan. Why are deviating from that?

Of course, along with my worries, I see my second grader who has difficulty doing simple single digit addition, even though we were told by his first grade teacher he was doing fine in that area. I see my Kindergartner who couldn't even make it through his first reading lesson with his own mother without his Blankie and Puppy nestled neatly around him. I see my children, no longer fighting and instead laughing with their best friends, play mates ... school mates.

So I am at a cross roads; somewhere between Teacher of the Year and Boozehound hiding in the Bathroom.

The Lord is going to help me figure it all out. That's what this blog is all about after all; His gentle leading of those with young. And I remember what was written millenia ago, although I feel it may have been written specifically for me.
Psalm 105:4 "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."
and
1 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us over to a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
 
And I can say with (a little) confidence ... I think I'm ready for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Remember When Wednesdays: The Debt Story Pt 11

"But how much will it cost us?" Mike asked, rightfully so.
"I don't ... I don't honestly know. According to the gal at the insurance company, since we've met our deductible this year, they should cover everything. The only things we have to buy are on the list from the midwife ... all said and done it's less than $70."
"Oookay," he said slowly. "How much does having the baby at the hospital cost?"
"Well, at a minimum it will cost us $375 for my stay in the hospital, plus another $375 for the baby, from what I understand."
"So, let me see if I understand this? If we do a homebirth, you get the natural delivery you want and most likely won't have to pay more than $70? If we do a hospital birth, you'll likely be induced, get an epidural, not have the delivery you want, and we'll end up having to pay $750?"
I nodded.
"So, what are we deciding then? It kind of seems like a no brainer."
"Really? I mean, are you comfortable with having a baby at home?"
"Is the midwife prepared for emergencies? Does she have oxygen? Did you ask about meconium?"
"Yeah, all of that. Here's a list of all the reasons they'll take us to the hospital, a list of everything they bring with them, and the mec, if it's not dark, won't be a big deal."
He looked over the papers I had brought home from the midwifery clinic.
"I guess, let's do it. I think it'll be fun."
"Fun? Are you sure that's the term you'd like to use?" I teased him.
He winked at me. "Baby, with your easy labors, it won't be anything less!"
I laughed and tossed a pillow at him.
"If I could move any faster than a slug you'd be in so much trouble right now!"
He easily dodged the pillow and said, "Don't I know it!"
***
"Do you have a pediatrician?" Darlene, our midwife, asked.
"No, not really. I mean, we're trying to find one. I've been really unhappy with ours."
"Oh, let me give you the number for Dr. S. He has a clinic not too far from here, it's a private practice. He is very supportive of home and birth center births and won't give you grief. He actually approached me and asked if we could work together. I think you'll like him."
I took his card and prayed he would work out for us.
The next day I called Dr. S's office. I explained that we were having a baby and considering coming to his office. I asked about his fee schedule.
"Oh," the receptionist replied, "we do all our own billing. He'll be more than willing to work with you as far as payment goes. It really won't be an issue. Just call after your son is born and we'll get you in right away."
It seemed too good to be true; but I hoped, that maybe we had finally found the right doctor for our children.
***
I opened my eyes in the dark, wondering if it was the urge to use the bathroom that had woke me. I laid there for a minute, closing my eyes, hoping I could fall back to sleep. The tightening that began at the bottom of my stomach and rocked through my entire body assured me that I would most definitely be awake for quite a bit longer. In that moment I remembered what real labor felt like and wondered why, during the last few weeks, I had ever thought I was in labor. I watched the clock now, waiting for the next contraction. It came ten minutes later. I waited for the next before I woke Mike. Eight minutes later. Far apart but they were real and I knew this was going somewhere. I reached over and grabbed Mike by the shoulder.
"Honey," I whispered softly at first.
"Honey," I said with more urgency. "He's coming."
"Really?" he asked sleepily. "How are the contractions?"
"Uh, ten minutes and then eight minutes."
He sat up and turned on the light. "Should I call the midwife?"
"Let's wait for a few more." The next one came six minutes later, followed by another one six minutes after that. "Ok, call the midwife."
She told us to call her back when they were closer together. Mike and I laughed. I knew it wouldn't be long.
Fifteen minutes later I was in the tub, in full active labor, when Mike called her again. My contractions were now two minutes apart. "It's just how we do labor around here," I hear him say. I found myself laughing in spite of the waves attacking my body. It was so true - it really was how we did labor.
***
I stared at our newborn son sleeping sweetly next to me in bed. I looked at the clock; it had been less than four hours since I felt my first contraction and the baby was here and the midwife and her assistant and all our family had already come and gone. Mike stroked little Sim's cheek and chuckled.
"Having an eight and a half pound baby in less than two hours? Like I said ... easy and fun."
I chuckled with him. When he was right, he was right!
***
Sim made funny noises when he breathed. At first we thought they were cute, but when he cried and he hardly made sound, and when he was totally relaxed and sounded like a duck, and when his lips had a shade of blue to them, we knew something was off. After a visit to the doctor and a chest x-ray to determine everything was fine, we were sent to Children's Hospital in Seattle.
"I'm sorry I have to do this to you," Dr. S said. He looked truly upset. "I know it is out of the way but they are the best place to go and there is something wrong and I don't know what it is. It's the best place to be."
I was alone with Sim in the car and cried. I called Mike, distraught.
"Your mom is going to get the kids. Come and pick me and we'll go together. I'm not letting you go down to Seattle, with an infant, in a post-partum state, alone." I was so thankful for him. Even though I didn't want to waste a minute, I knew I couldn't make the drive alone and was relieved he wanted us to be together.
We checked into Children's a few hours later and they ran a few tests and did a few more x-rays. They felt like they knew what the problem was, laryngomalacia, but they wanted to keep us overnight for observation. I wouldn't have it.
"Will laryngomalacia kill him?"
"Well, no. But if we're wrong you could end up back here tonight."
"But you don't think you're wrong."
"Well, no. But it is better if you stay."
After many back and forth conversations I was exhausted and the hospital staff finally won. We were admitted into our hospital room and Mike had to leave us for the night.
I was frustrated as I crammed myself onto the small bed next to Sim's crib. He was attached to all sorts of wires that were monitoring his breathing and heartrate. I knew that we really were in the best place, but I missed my bed, and strangely, I missed my other kids. Everything I had tried to avoid by having the homebirth we were now going through; and as much as I hated to admit it, the $375 price tag for a night at the hospital was not something I wanted to pay for, especially since I didn't feel it was necessary.
The next evening we were discharged with a diagnosis of laryngomalacia and reflux and instructions to give our two week old heartburn medication and to bring him back in six months for more extensive tests. He had never spit up before and after a brief talk with Dr. S I threw the medication away. Two months later he was breathing normally and quietly and we canceld his follow-up appointment.
***
I stared at the insurance statements in disbelief. After Simeon's birth we owed nothing. Everything was covered, every bill was paid. After our visit to the hospital we had a $375 charge; they had a financial relief program that we'd applied for and received.
We now had four children and, apart from diapers, it wasn't costing us any more money than when we'd had three. In fact, even with the birth and the hospital visit we'd still been able to make a large payment toward our credit card.
"Hey, Mike!" I called. "Guess what? It looks like we're going to pay our credit card off ahead of schedule!! Bet you didn't expect that?!"

To be continued...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A (nother) Obession

Weird, huh?
It's just that with a little olive oil and butter something magical happens and I cannot get enough of it
.
Hello Swiss cheese and hamburger patty. I'm so glad you showed up ...

In other, less (perhaps more?) random news ...

My baby turned two. I was looking for any reason to make this cake and his birthday proved to be the perfect excuse. Plus...ice cream helps to take my mind off the fact that I no longer have a baby. *sniffle*

This is EV. I cannot help but want to nibble on her cheeks. They look as if they taste like marshmallows.

This is my nephew, Zayzay. I mean ... really.

Another nephew, JT. He reminds me of trouble. In a really adorable package. I had just caught him picking his nose.

And another nephew ... (forgive me Tara) ... his favorite toy when he comes over. It makes Uncle Mike very proud. 

And Tara, by the way, is due any day with baby #4. A girl.
Woot!
  
Speaking of random, here's a piece of advice:
When you are making hamburgers for dinner, and you slice up some dill pickles because you love your children and know how much they love dill pickles, do not eat one of those dill pickle slices, however tempted you may be, if you've just removed mint gum from your mouth. Just ... trust me. Don't do it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Remember When Wednesday: The Debt Story Pt 10

I hung up the phone, frustrated and cursing the ease of cell phone buttons, wishing I had an old clunker I could just slam down.
"What's wrong?" Mike asked as he grabbed an apple.
"The stupid Clinic. I called before Judah's well-child visit to see if we could pay cash since I knew our insurance wouldn't cover it. I thought maybe it would be less expensive. The gal told me they would run it through insurance to get their 'contracted' rate, which would be less than what they would charge. Guess what? SHE LIED. Since our insurance doesn't cover that type of visit, they of course didn't have a contracted rate, so we have to pay the full amount. One hundred. Eighty. Dollars."
Mike let out a low whistle. "You paid it then?"
I sighed loudly. "Yes. I told them I was frustrated with it, and the guy said he would pass my frustrations along...there's nothing he can do. It just ... sucks." I sighed again and then said something I'd been thinking about for awhile. "Honey, we need a new pediatrician. We need to go somewhere where they are willing to work with us, as far as money goes. The Clinic is such a huge corporation and the individual doctors have no power over what is charged. I'm also frustrated with our level of care. The doctor was with Judah for five minutes; when I said I was worried about his speech he didn't even listen to him talk. We've just ... we've got to find something else. The baby is coming in less than two months and then we'll be spending a lot of time at the doctor. We need to find one who is more flexible."
"Well," Mike replied, "start asking around. I'm sure there's a doctor around here somewhere who isn't part of the clinic."
***
I could hear my phone ringing on the other side of the house. I walked as quickly as my large stomach would allow me to try and get to it in time.
"Hey, guess what?" Mike asked when I picked up.
"What?"
"I just had to go to a 911 hang-up at a doctor's office. A naturopath. He's also a pediatrician. Cool, huh? They don't take our insurance but they do all their own billing and would be willing to work with us on a cash basis. Want to go meet him?"
It seemed to be an answer to prayer!
"Well...if he doesn't take our insurance what about all the visits that ARE covered by our insurance? We'd still have to pay out of pocket for those?" I asked.
"Well, I guess, yeah. But, it's worth a visit, right? It could honestly cost us less over all if we aren't dealing with deductibles and everything." He had a point.
"Well, I'd love to meet him. I'm so sick of the Clinic I'm willing to look into just about anything. I've got news too. I was checking out our bank statement, and the Clinic refunded us the $180. I thought that was weird so I called and the gal I talked to said that for some reason they'd refunded us, but they showed that we still owed them. She looked into it and it was some weird computer glitch. That first guy I'd talked to put in the notes that I was frustrated with their billing policy, and since the refund was their fault, they just wrote it off. We got the money for that appointment back!"
"Honey! That is so awesome!!" Mike replied. "Just one more sign that we are on the right track."
***
I waddled into the naturopath's office with Mike and our three children in tow. There was a playhouse in the waiting room, rows of books and the receptionist was very kind. She took us to a room with a desk where we were to wait for the doctor. "Just like the movies," I whispered to Mike.
The naturopath walked in and we introduced ourselves and explained our disappointment with the medical treatment we'd been receiving and also with the charges we were having to pay. I asked about his well child visit schedule.
The doctor leaned forward and said, "So, your midwife will do the first visit. I'm assuming you're doing a home birth, right?" I laughed out loud. I immediately realized how rude I was but the notion of home birth seemed laughable. I composed myself. "Uh...no. We are using an OB at the hospital."
"Oh," he said, looking disappointed. "I wish you would come in for another appointment just so I could talk to you about the benefits of home birth. But, you have to do what you are comfortable with."
He then went into how often he likes to see children, as well as how he felt about vaccines.
"I also strongly discourage sugar and television."
"Oh, right of course..." Mike and I nodded in agreement. I hoped the suckers I had in my purse hadn't been poking out and thought of the Fruity Pebbles we had given the kids for breakfast while they watched Curious George on PBS. "Sugar and TV ... yuck." I tried not to make eye contact with Mike.
"Well," the doctor said standing up, "you are welcome to make an appointment if you'd like. We'll be more than happy to work with you on a sliding scale if you're paying cash. Hopefully we'll see you again." With that he walked out the door and we went back to the waiting room.
In the car Mike and I talked about the pros and cons of the visit. As much as I liked his natural approach I didn't want to feel guilty every time I gave my kids sweets. I also knew we wanted our children vaccinated, even if it was on a delayed schedule, and I didn't want to be reprimanded for that decision. I knew he wasn't going to be the doctor for us, but I also knew we wouldn't go back to the other doctor, which left us back where we started.
"Funny what he said about home birth, huh?" Mike said, noticing I had become quiet.
"Yeah ... funny."
I was quiet for a few minutes before Mike broke the silence. "Funny, but you're thinking about it now, aren't you?"
"Oh no. Well, not really. It's just, I know Dr. N is going to induce me, which I don't want. And I know if he doesn't, and I'm not at the hospital, that my labor may go so fast I won't make it to the hospital, and then I have the baby in the car, which...thankfully we have leather seats, but really? Not my favorite idea."
"I can't believe you're actually considering this."
"I didn't say that. I just mean it makes sense. A little." I paused. "Oh please. Can you even imagine? Me? Having a baby at home? I'm so sure."
"That's the thing, honey," Mike said lovingly. "I think you are so sure. You just don't know it yet."
***
"Hi, my husband and I were in there yesterday? Yeah. Um...the doctor mentioned that he had a midwifery clinic that he recommended? Yeah? Can I get that number, please?"

To be continued...