Thursday, December 01, 2016

Piper is 4 years old

She is 4!  How did this happen?  Time goes by so quickly.  Piper is such a sweet girl.  She is growing in confidence and independence.  Being the only girl, she is like you would expect:  all things girl and rough and tumble.  She loves to play the fighting games right along with her brothers but adores makeup, dresses, shoes, nail polish, etc.  She loves to color and you can find her coloring on any and every piece of paper she finds lying around the house regardless of whose paper it is.  Actually, some of the pictures I snapped of her show markers all over her arms and I didn't make her wash them because it is certainly a part of what makes Piper Piper.  She regularly comes in the house with bare feet that are all muddied from following her brothers all over the yard.  She loves to try and write her name.  She usually writes it with two P's next to each other and then an I and after the I a squiggle.  She has a harder time with the E and R.  That said, she regularly writes Eli's name on her artwork.  She currently loves to watch Sarah and Duck, Masha and the Bear, Octonauts, and anything Micky Mouse Club House.   Piper also loves to sing, play outside, and take baths.  She loves Eli and follows him around the house all day.  

For the most part, Piper is really easy going.  The only time I really have a hard time with her is during Sacrament and even then, it's usually at the end.  She likes to be giggly and antagonizes her brothers to no end.  She pokes them, takes their pencils, draws on their pictures, tries to climb on them and make them laugh.  When I try to get her to stop and do something quietly she becomes defiant and throws elbows and has been known to scratch me (thankfully that hasn't happened often).  She does not like to be restrained at all so if I try to get her to stop she gets really angry and I end up having to drag her out into the hallway.  Usually it is just a matter of getting her out of the pew and sitting quietly on a chair for a minute and then I can talk to her and tell her what I expect and when she is ready we go back.  It's frustrating to still be doing this with her at 4, but we are making less trips to the hallway (only one a week!) so I'm sure she will get better. 

She is not afraid to fight with her brothers and isn't very good at taking instruction from them at all.  It drives Will crazy when he is trying to watch her and she basically ignores him.  We are trying to teach her that she has to listen to them when them when they are in charge.  

Three funnies from Piper:  

In the van the other day she was singing loudly to a song on the radio when she stopped and said, "If I were a rock star I could sing as loud as I wanted.  Well, I guess I am a rock star."

She has been practicing her skipping lately.  The other day she was skipping into a store and turned to me and said, "Mom, I skip brilliant."  I said, "Do you know what brilliant means?"  She responded, "It means really, really good." 

When going outside with her brothers to inspect the "creek" made by the recent rainstorm her shoes and socks got soaked.  She ran inside in tears that her feet were wet and said, "It's like a horror movie!"  

The boys are pretty much enamored with her and love this cute stage that she is in.  They regularly tell me how much they love the funny things she says and the cute things she does.  

For her birthday, they all chipped in to get her a gift of little ponies.  She got a bike and helmet from me and Mike, some clothes from Grandma and Grandpa Richards, a makeup kit from our friend Laurie, some nail polish from one of her little friends.  She spent almost every moment she was home riding her bike.  

We took her to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and to play with some friends and then when we got home her Sunbeam teacher took her to a bakery called Scrumps to get mini strawberry cupcakes.  They also walked around the pond looking at all the ducks and her teacher gave her a necklace to keep.  

She requested pizza for dinner and chocolate chip cookies and a small ice cream cake for dessert.  After dinner Grandma and Grandpa Clark called to sing her happy birthday.   

She went to bed feeling very happy after a full day of fun.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Uterine Irritablility

I am back from Colorado and it was a good trip.  I'll write more about that later.

The day after I got back from Colorado my face broke out in this crazy rash or acne.  I couldn't tell what it was.  I've never broken out like that in acne before but it also wasn't super itchy at first so I didn't know what it was.  I had my doctor's appointment the next day so I waited until I saw him to do much about it.  He couldn't tell either what it was but told me to take Benadryl and a steroid cream for acne to cover my bases.  I tried the Benadryl and didn't notice any change and so I switched to Zyrtec and continued the steroid.  It took a good week to go away and I'm still not sure what it was but my face is finally back to being clear.

I got back to Knoxville on Tuesday afternoon.  I was tired for a couple of days but felt fine as far as pregnancy stuff goes (and besides the weird face thing).  I saw the doctor on Thursday and it was a pretty quick appointment without too much to chat about.  He asked me how I was feeling and I told him I felt about like I should for 32 weeks.  Nothing really to complain about.  I had been having contractions but nothing that I wasn't used to for this far along so we didn't even talk about any of that.  My next appointment was supposed to be this coming Tuesday but since he is out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday all week, I set it up for the following week.  I went home and everything was fine.

I woke up Sunday morning to go to the bathroom while Mike showered at 5:30.  He left around 6:10 and I got up for good around 6:45 and showered.  I got myself and the kids ready, fed them breakfast, and we headed off to church.  I had actually had the thought as I got ready that I was feeling better this time around than I usually do this far along.  As I drove to church I noticed that I had a couple of contractions and the only reason that caught my attention was because it takes about 15 minutes to get to church so feeling a couple during that drive seemed a little close together but nothing more than just recognizing it.  After we got there and we were all settled in a pew though, I started feeling crampy and gross.  Mike asked me how I was doing and I told him I didn't feel very well all of the sudden.  The meeting started and things just kind of went downhill from there.  I started counting the contractions and they were coming about every 7-10 minutes but closer to the 7 minute mark.  I was worried I was going to have to leave and motion for Mike to come to the hallway.  He stayed on the stand and kept watching me wondering if I was in labor.  Thankfully, once second hour started, I felt like things were slowing down a bit.

Over the next few days I noticed that things were continuing in the same kind of way that they had on Sunday.  I'd have hours where they came close together and then they might slow down a bit for a few hours and then pick up again.  I have been in labor enough to know that I wasn't in labor but I was really confused about why they were coming so close together so soon.  I was also having a hard time telling when some were starting and ending.  Finally, after Mike, my sister, and my mom, told me I should go get checked out, I caved.

The nurse I called really wanted me to come in right away and get checked so I headed into the office.  They immediately hooked me up to a machine and started monitoring me.  It was a short non-stress test, which was nice, because the ones I had to take with Laila were always long.  As I sat there watching the monitor I realized I wasn't crazy and stuff really was going on.  I had two nice sized contractions that lasted longer and then two shorter contractions that were a sharp spike.  The rest of the time I kept thinking one was starting but then it never got really bad and then it would never really relax either so it was confusing.  Anyway, 4 contractions in 20 min is a lot for someone only 32 weeks.

The nurse practitioner came in and asked me how many babies I'd had and if I had any preterm.  I told her I had a baby at 36 weeks and she asked if it was my last baby that I had early.  I told her no.  She said that I definitely wasn't crazy and then said I had an irritable, angry uterus.  She said that I was having contractions about every five minutes and then the times when I felt one was coming but then never felt it relax was my uterus having spasms.  She was sure I was dilating already.  I told her that I generally have a lot of contractions but that I'm not usually dilating too fast.  She checked me and was surprised that I wasn't dilating already.  She also checked for infections to see if that was causing me to contract so much.  I didn't have any infection.  She told me that I needed to go home and rest as much as possible and take this oral medicine that would stop contractions.

To make a long story short, I didn't end up taking the medicine.  After a couple failed attempts of getting me medicine in at the pharmacy, doing some research online, and asking a pharmacist about the medication, I felt uneasy about taking it.  I contacted my sister-in-law who has an OB friend and Mike contacted our friend who delivered Laila and we asked both about the medication.  Both quickly responded that I should not take the medicine.  Instead, I've been trying to take it easy.

Mike left town for a few days and things got gradually better while he was gone.  Things were pretty much back to normal in my opinion so I've increased my activities the last two days (getting errands done and buying some things for when the baby comes) and found that they are coming back again.  I guess that means that the next few weeks I just need to relax and even when I feel like things are getting better, just take it easy.

Truthfully, after the doctor checked to see if I was dilating and I wasn't, I felt really calm about things.  I know that sometimes dilation doesn't really indicate when the baby will come, but at least I know that I've got some time.  I was barely dilated at all when my water broke with Isaac at 36 weeks and I was dilated to a 5 with Laila and having very regular contractions and they still had to break my water at 39 weeks for me to have her.  So, who knows?  It could just be that this is how things will be until her due date or maybe she will come early like the others.  I don't know.  Maybe this is just Heavenly Father's way of making me slow down and take it easy.  I'm not very good at that.  It's hard for me to sit and not do much.  I think I'll just really view this as a gift before life gets crazy.  I'm being handed a "take it easy" card for a few weeks and I don't have to feel guilty about it.  Though, I do feel weird about it.  In the meantime, Mike and the kids have been so good about helping me.  They run upstairs to grab things for me, help with the dishes, make breakfast, grab me drinks, etc.  I've been very thankful for them.

Anyway, I'm 34 weeks now so even if she goes until her due date, it's coming really fast.  It's hard for me to believe that she is coming so soon.  It seems like time has flown by.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Visiting the Grave

I'm heading to Colorado Springs today.  I'm excited to see friends and get away.  I haven't been on a trip by myself since I came out here to Knoxville to look for a house and that was three days of stressful house hunting.  Before that, the last time I'd been on a trip alone was for my sister's wedding and she has been married for almost eight years.  So, I'm not a big traveler.

Besides seeing my friends, which is a big plus, I am going to see Laila's grave.  I haven't been since the day before we moved.  Visiting her grave has been a big part of my grieving and healing.  At first we went once a week and then we started to go every few weeks.  We watched as the row went from just her spot to being almost filled.  We swatted gnats in the summer and decorated her grave for holidays.  We went for walks around the cemetery and even had a picnic in front of her grave.  For my family it has always been a peaceful experience.

I have friends who have lost their children and they have made the observation that for them it feels very empty and depressed.  I understand their feelings.  Our beliefs tell us that the spirit is no longer here on this earth with their body and that they exist still.  We believe that our loved ones have lives and purpose on the other side of the veil.  We know that they are aware of us and that while we can't see them, they are still near.  Some people have experienced spiritual experiences where they have seen their loved ones.  I personally have not had that experience but I know of friends who have.  Sometimes people have dreams with their loved ones in it where messages are communicated.  For me, it is usually just a feeling or a thought that comes to my mind that she is near.  So, with this knowledge, I do understand why someone would  not enjoy visiting the grave.  I understand how it can feel empty and perhaps even pointless in some ways if we are truly able to still communicate with our loved ones beyond the veil.

That said, it is very different for me.  There was a time when my brother advised me to stop visiting so often.  He was concerned that I was focusing more on the dead than the living.  He worried that I was not honoring her life but living in the past.  I appreciated his love and concern for me but he didn't understand.

The Plan of Happiness tells us that we shouted for joy to come to this earth to gain a body.  We fought a war in Heaven for the right and freedom to come to earth and experience life.  We had a lot to lose but we also had so much more to gain.  Gaining a body is an essential part of that plan.  The bible talks about spirits without bodies being willing to take the bodies of swine in order to have a body.  We want bodies.  Our bodies are amazing and incredible.  Through the Spirit, I know that Laila's purpose in coming to this earth was to gain her body.  I know that her body is precious to her and that she looks forward to the day when she gets to be reunited with her body.

I know that when it was time to choose her resting spot she had a part in letting us know where she should be.  When we found the spot we knew it was where her body should rest.  Her graveside service had a priesthood dedication of that spot.  It was dedicated to be protected from the elements and to be a sacred place.

For me, that spot has been a sacred spot.  I have felt peace and love when I visit.  I have felt close to her and even though I know she is near us often, when my family would go to visit, it became a physical way for me to feel us altogether at one time in one place.  I know she is busy.  I know she does not haunt her grave site.  I know she does not need me to visit.  I also know that she is aware of when I visit.  I know that she is near when I visit.  I believe that she cares about the spot where her body rests.  It matters to her that she was able to come to earth and receive her precious body and the fact that her spirit isn't still with her body, doesn't mean it suddenly means less to her.

I honor my daughter's life by doing service in her honor.  I honor her life by the celebrations we have on Christmas Eve and on Easter.  More importantly, I honor her life by living a devoted, faithful life.  I honor her life by teaching her siblings about God and about obedience to his Gospel.  I teach them about the Plan of Salvation.  Laila is waiting to be reunited with us on the other side.  She wants us each to live a life in harmony with the Gospel so that we can return to be with her forever.  I honor her life by striving to do that.

But, I honor her body by visiting her grave.

I have never visited her grave by myself.  I don't think I was far enough in my healing to visit alone.  I was always scared of the emotions that would come from going alone but I'm ready now.  I'm nervous about going.  I'm excited about going.  I'm not sure what I expect to feel or what I expect to have happen but I know I need to go.  I don't know where we will be moving next (maybe further away from her) or when the next time will be that I can go again.  I know that living so far away and having a little baby in tow will complicate things so it seems like now is the best time to go before the baby comes and we move.

I think this will be another step towards healing and I'm looking forward with interest to this visit.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Her first job

Piper has been getting increasingly more jealous of her brothers' ability to earn money.  She gets frustrated when they wake up with money from the tooth fairy and when they take their money to the store and choose out a treat.  She regularly tries to wiggle her teeth to make them loose and just thinks it's completely unfair that she has to wait so many more years before her teeth start to fall out.  

We came up with a way for Piper to earn her own money.  

Each time we burn a Love ornament in the laser we have extra wood that needs to be poked out (picture below) before we can sand and paint.  Mike found a little poker for Piper to use and told her he'd give her a penny for each ornament she finished.  She doesn't really have a concept of money so to her a penny was amazing.  

One morning the boys convinced her that her hard work was being taken advantage of and that she should demand more money.  I told her that if she had a good enough argument she could approach Dad and request a raise.  The conversation went like this:

Me:  Mike, Piper feels that she deserves a raise.
Mike:  Ok, how much do you think you are worth, Piper?
Piper:  A lot.
Mike:  How much money would you like?  
Piper:  A lot of money!  A lot!
Mike:  Ok.  How about $.10 for each one you finish?
Piper:  Yes!!

So, Piper got a raise.  She earned $.70 this morning and added that to the money she already had to make $1.25.  She is so excited to finally get to take her money to the store tonight when we go on our mommy/daughter date and buy herself a treat with her own money.  Finally, she can be like her brothers.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October Overload

October has been overloaded with activities.  I love October.  I love Halloween and the fall and pretty much everything about it.  I am getting more tired as this pregnancy goes on and I'm trying not to do too much and to let myself slow down.  I'm not sure if I've been successful at that or not.  I do have this thought that keeps poking at me though and it's that very, very soon I won't be venturing out with the kids very much and when I do it won't be easy but will be much more stressful for me so even though I know I should be settling down at home as this pregnancy progresses, I just want to live all the moments up with the kids while I can.  

My friend invited us to go to Boo at the Zoo.  The last time we did Boo at the Zoo was when Isaac was just a few months old.  The boys are a little old for the Boo at the Zoo but Piper isn't so I thought we would join our friends this year. 

The other thing that I wanted to do this fall was have a party for Piper.  She gets ignored a lot with homeschool going on.  She joins us in things and I try to give her attention but she often just doesn't get as much from me as I'd like.  One thing I've always enjoyed with the boys is having preschool parties with their friends when I was doing the preschool co-ops.  She isn't doing preschool and there are not as many opportunities for her to have play dates because of homeschool so I wanted to invite her friends over for a little party.  I had very simple plans but the boys hijacked the party and things got more elaborate.  Will wanted to have a Halloween story time so we went to the library and got some Halloween books.  Eli wanted to make a Pin the Spider on the Web game so he and his brothers taped a spider web made out of streamers on the door and I helped them print off some spiders and find a blind fold.  They also wanted an obstacle course.  Their course included a beam that walked over a "snake pit."  They had boxes wrapped like mummies that the kids had to jump over and a big spider web with spiders stuck on it that the kids had to climb under.  The finally part of their obstacle course was popping a balloon with a bat drawn on it.  We had a simple "Build your own Monster" craft and cookies to decorate.  Piper had fun and even though I had to reign the boys and their ideas in, I am glad they wanted to be involved and help throw a fun party for Piper.

This year I told the kids I was tired of paying for costumes, especially when they wanted a different costume every year.  We told them they could have $10 to put together a costume and what they didn't use they could keep.  Will decided to come up with a One Man Piggy Back Ride, Isaac wanted to be a Pea Shooter from Plants vs. Zombies and Eli settled on being a zombie again.  Piper wanted to be a kitty cat.  I bought her the tail and ears and my friend gave us a leotard and tutu that Piper could have.  I also helped Isaac find some clothes and helped him paper mache his pea shooter hat.  Will needed help pinning all the clothes together and Eli needed help painting his face.  So, that was my contribution to their Halloween costumes.  

Will loves to carve pumpkins.  He is very much our tradition keeper.  He likes traditions and he likes to hold us to doing them each year.  I disappointed him this year and told him we weren't carving pumpkins.  It was too much work and too much of a mess for me this year.  Instead, we found faces we would have carved into our pumpkins and cut them out of wood on the laser.  Then we spray painted the wood and nailed them into the pumpkins.  The wood pieces were too big for the pumpkins so they looked kind of funny but at least they got to get pumpkins and pretend to have jack-o-lanterns.  They were disappointed that they couldn't put candles in the them but oh well, another year.

The LDS Homeschool group here in East Tennessee had a field trip today.  It was to the Echo Valley Pumpkin patch.  We went last year and the kids had a great time.  I almost didn't have us go but the cost wasn't too bad and I knew they'd have fun so we went.  They had such a great time that I finally had to pull the pregnancy card and tell them I needed to go home.  We got there at 10 and we left at 2 and they would have stayed as long as I let them.  They enjoyed the huge slides, the animals, the corn maze, choosing pumpkins, and most especially the zip line.  They made some new friends too so that made me happy.  Our homeschool group was giving the entire place to ourselves today for our field trip so it was great.  

All we have left is Halloween!

Friday, October 14, 2016

My homeschool dilemma

I've been struggling with homeschool lately.  Everyone tells me that it ebbs and flows.  I know that I am in good company.  Being pregnant, I don't have as much energy as I normally would.  My productive hours have always been in the morning and those hours are taken up by homeschool.  The boys have more work to do this year.  I was waking up at 6:30 to exercise but I've found that as the pregnancy progresses that waking up that early gets harder and harder.  Instead, I find myself rolling out of bed around 7:30.  Kids are still showering, cleaning the bonus room and their bedroom, and we still have breakfast to finish.  So, our mornings are getting started later.  By 2, we are often still working at it and I am exhausted.  There are dishes to do, laundry, errands, etc.  

I have found myself becoming increasingly annoyed and frustrated.  My house is suffering, my visiting teaching is suffering.  Piper gets less of me.  I daily struggle to figure out when to exercise.  I feel like when homeschool is over I am so tired that the rest of the day is a waste.  I force myself to do something productive and I find myself feeling resentful.  

Last week Mike was gone and it made things a little more tricky for me.  One morning, after getting in the shower and having someone knock on my door three times, I finally lost my temper and called all the boys to me.  I stood there in my towel yelling at them to "Back off!  Give me some space.  What can I possibly do for you while I'm in the shower?  Surely you can give me 15 minutes of peace to shower?"  

I know that there is a time and a season for everything and I know that I can't do everything and I have to evaluate what things to let go of.  But I think this is a common theme on this blog, which means that I am not good at this.  I also realize that this isn't all my problem.  The boys are old enough that if they are needing my attention that frequently, I'm not teaching them how to be proactive enough and they need to learn more autonomy.  There are times when I need to make myself available for their questions but I need to help them realize that other times they need to take care of themselves so that I can do what I need to do.  

With all this said, I realized that I needed a recharge.  I packed a lunch and the boys packed their school bags and we drove North to Big Ridge Park where we did our work away from our electronics and other distractions.  We played at the park, did our work under the shade of a big tree, and the boys and Piper waded in the muddy water of Norris Lake.  I can't say that it completely recharged me but at least I took myself away from the things that stress me out at home.  

This week is Fall break for the public schools and friends have been out of school so I have backed off on homeschool.  We have still done most of our work but it's been a lazy week where we do work and play with friends and do some art.  It has helped me feel less stressed about things.  Next week is back to real school days and I hope I won't let myself get frustrated again but I think that is probably too much to expect from me right now.  :)