Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wishing you joy, love, happiness, prosperity, good humor, wisdom, great food and the peace of the Savior this season!  There is no better time of year to be reminded of what goodness, power and potential can come from a very simple and humble place in this world.  Whether 2012 brought kindness or challenges to you and your family, we hope very bright things for you in 2013!

Christmas Time

The other day Gigi was rummaging under the Christmas tree, looking through the beautifully wrapped presents.  Feeling her desire to peek I told her, "Gigi, if you can't wait until Christmas Day to open your presents, I am going to have to take them away".  She looked at me and said matter-of-factly, "Just like the Grinch did!"

Yes, the Grinch.  

I've definitely had some grinchy moments during the weeks before Christmas - the result of trying to do too much without taking the circumstances of my life into consideration - but I think that Christmas 2012 will have some real highlights that don't include my grinchiness.  

Here are a few things I hope to remember:

This year we chose a real tree for our home.  My mom offered to subsidize a real living breathing tree if we would retire our 3-foot artificial tree this season.  It was the perfect year to have the fragrant gorgeous tree in our home - Gigi is 2 and a half, and loved decorating and smelling the branches, and baby Orion is too small to cause mayhem.

We picked out our tree, and Gigi wanted to pay for it with her Chinese yuan bills that were remnants of my time living in China.  After Marcos paid with American currency the cashier humored Gigi and took her money.  It was a good first transaction.

Gigi also finished up her ballet class.  We were hoping to have her enrolled again in the spring, but Miss Camielle is expecting a baby and will sadly not be teaching dance anymore.  I need to look into options at our local Y and community rec center...

One of our new favorite activities in the weeks leading up to Christmas this year was making treats for our local Firefighters.  Gigi, Livy and Emerson loved unwrapping the candies.  One on the tray, one in the mouth, one on the tray, one in the mouth...

And then we packaged up our treats and took them over to the fire station.  The firefighters were endlessly kind, and took the kiddos for a tour of the station, and let them climb the engines.  

We've also hosted a number of get-togethers.  My feeling this year has been: whytheheck did I just put up all of these Christmas decorations if we're not going to have anyone over to enjoy them!  So we did a hot cocoa party with our home teachers and their families, and on Sunday we did a soup party with 15 people in our small house.  Just goes to show that people don't mind being a little close to each other, or even using paper and plasticware once our plates and cutlery run out.

The Grandmas had ample opportunity to love on Orion...

And on the beautiful days, we took advantage of the fine weather and took Gigi outside to play.  This day was particularly fun.  We took Gigi out for pizza and then went to the park.  Marcos scored some truly beautiful photos with the new camera.

And of course there was cookie-making.  We decided on Torie's Cherry Chocolate-Chunk cookies, and they did not disappoint.  One evening we went caroling to a few of our favorite neighbors and took them bags of our cookies.  It was a very nice way to interact with our neighbors, and Giovanna did not want to go home when we were finished.  She would have happily caroled all night.     

And that was just a snapshot of the weeks gearing up to Christmas Eve.  Next up: our Mary and Joseph Dinner and a great Christmas Day!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A New Camera at Christmas

A long time ago we decided that when baby number two came along, we would take the plunge and invest in a D-SLR (those big fancy cameras), just so that our second born would not grow up and realize that only five photos exist of his entire childhood.  We figured that if I had a nice camera to play with, I might actually take as many photos of the second child as I have of our first.  

So after almost a year of saving, and months of keeping our eyes open, Black Friday rolled around and Marcos found a ridiculously great deal for a Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera, backpack and lenses, and we took a deep breath and committed to what we hope will become years of successful ventures in the land of photography.  

We've pulled out the new camera as much as possible this holiday season, and it is already a beloved member of our family.  A few days ago we had very warm weather, and we took Gigi to the park where Marcos captured these few images above.

Aren't you excited for the quality of photography in this blog to bump up a few notches?  I sure am.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Six Weeks Old

I have always wondered how parents of colicky babies stay sane, and now it looks like we'll have an opportunity to find out.  I have always equated colic with the end of the world for a parent, but the shooting this past week in Newtown, CT has reminded me what the end of the world for a parent really looks like.  I have had to distance myself from the news to protect my tender heart, but I am grieving for these mothers and fathers.  I would much rather have a screaming baby with an upset tummy than silence where there should be voices.  

How so very heartbreaking.  I can't even imagine.

In happy news, Orion is starting to smile.  For the past week he has been making more eye contact and responding to our facial expressions.  I didn't think he could get any more beautiful, but his smile really is the icing on the cake.  We are so grateful for these two healthy children in our lives.

Monday, December 17, 2012

'Tis the Season

The Christmas season didn't wait an extra second this year before going big!  December had barely begun before our camera was filling up with holiday photos.

At the beginning of the month we spent an evening with our friends the Hills at the Raleigh Stake Community Christmas Celebration.  Each year they display nativity scenes from all over the world, and dress the cultural hall to the nines.  Their chapel is adjacent to the cultural hall, and throughout the evening different musical groups took turns treating us with their Christmas carols while we walked around and enjoyed the beautiful creches.  

Gigi's favorite part of the evening was the live nativity they had outside in the cold, which was open for anyone to join.  The sweet children were dressed in robes, and Gigi kept saying, "I want to wear what the girl is wearing, with the blue dress and holding the baby".  

On a Saturday morning I took Giovanna and Orion to the Emerson Waldorf School holiday faire.  Giovanna was very excited about riding in the horse-drawn wagon.  It was quite magical to ride through the forest with the jingle bells keeping pace with the horses' canter.

And that weekend I also joined a group of church friends at a local nursing home for caroling.  What we lacked in musicality we definitely made up for in enthusiasm!  Lots of kids = a good caroling experience.

Each year our holidays have been different, but sometimes we stumble across events and activities that we want to keep as traditions for coming years.  This year we definitely want to add the Fitch Lumber Christmas party to our list!  A locally owned lumber store in Carrboro hosts a great Christmas party for the kiddos, and it was perfect: Santa was there, free pizza dinner with drinks and cookies, popcorn bags for snacking, and a few fun crafts for the kiddos.  It was intimate and with just a few activities, it was not too overwhelming.  And how great is this Santa?  Gigi had no issues sitting on his lap.  She told him, "I want gummy bears to share with my friends and candy canes".  His red sack just happened to be full of candy canes, so in ten seconds 50% of her wishlist was granted.  She still reminds me that she wants gummy bears for Christmas.  Her total fixation with sweets is tempered by the fact that a) she only wants one easily-purchased item for Christmas, and b) she wants gummy bears so that she can share them with her friends.

 So stay tuned for more holiday happenings!  Next up: the Christmas tree arrives...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Welcoming Baby Orion

Since today Orion is 1-month old, I thought this might be a good day to write down his birth story. 

Orion was born on Monday the 5th of November.  The Thursday prior to his birth, I started to have contractions on and off throughout the day.  Since the contractions were neither strong, regular nor progressive, I decided not to tell very many people that I was having contractions, to avoid the every-ten-minutes request for an update.  The contractions felt like a mild back pain that ebbed and flowed, so I was fairly certain that I was in for another back labor.  

On Monday the 5th I woke up around 8:30am with contractions I could no longer sleep through, and I thought to myself, "Today is the day".  As I have attended births for friends of mine, it amazes me how women who have been through childbirth start to know their body better with each subsequent birth experience.  I definitely knew that morning that I was going to have a baby that same day.  I labored at home all morning, drank plenty of water, and Marcos coached me through relaxing through my contractions.  Gigi grew more and more concerned as my contractions intensified, and she often wanted to be by my side, "massaging" my shoulder and back.  During intense contractions the last thing I wanted was her in my face distracting me from my focusing, but her concern was sweet and genuine and so I bit my tongue from asking her to give me space.  We watched Rio as a family, and folded laundry, and tried to keep moving along in as normal a fashion as possible.

By early afternoon, my contractions were becoming intense.  They had been coming 5-1-1 for hours, but had not been strong enough that I felt like they were doing their essential work.  By early afternoon, however, I was having to stop for incredible back labor contractions and put my best energy into relaxing through them.  I found a fabulous position on our carpeted stairs, with my knees on one step, and my forehead resting on my hands a few steps up.  This allowed me to let my belly relax and my back sling down.  At some point I told Marcos I was ready to go to the hospital, but he said that we should wait longer, because he did not want to repeat what had happened last time with me going and getting sent home three times to keep laboring outside the hospital. I paged the midwife Stephanie at the hospital, and she said basically the same thing - to wait, to go and take a warm bath, and to come in when I felt like I could no longer make it through the contractions.  

At around 3pm I felt like I could no longer make it through my contractions, by 3:30pm we were in triage at the hospital, and by 4pm we were checked in and the anesthesiologist was on her way.  I had hoped to go without the epidural this time, but by the time we got to the hospital, I was 6 centimeters dilated, my body had done so much good work, and I was very ready for some relief.  The epidural took perfectly, and I was such an epidural junky - as the numb tingling coursed down my legs and the intensity of the contractions softened, I remember raving about epidurals to Marcos and my mom, who had come to support me.  It only takes one good intense back labor to be pretty in love with the relief that an epidural provides.

One hour later, Stephanie the midwife came in to check on me, and I asked her if she would increase the epidural dosage since I was starting to feel incredible pressure in my bottom when my body was contracting.  She and our nurse said that no, they would not, because I needed to use that pressure to guide my pushing when the time was right.  Stephanie checked my progress and I was at an 8.  She burst my bag of waters with her long crochet hook tool, and within another half hour or so I was completely dilated and ready to push.  It was all happening so quickly!  I told Stephanie that I was good at this part of labor, everyone grabbed one of my arms or legs, and in six minutes I pushed out our baby boy!  Those six minutes felt like hours because by that point the pressure in my nether regions was so intense that I thought I might not be able to do it, but it was such a thrill and so motivating to see everyone reacting to the baby boy coming.  I bore down, grunted through the contraction so that I would not tear, and with Stephanie's capable hands and guidance, baby boy was born quickly and safely.  Marcos and I were ecstatic that I had checked into the hospital right at 4pm, and by 6:01pm he was born.  The timing was absolutely perfect.

When baby boy was born he was entirely mellow.  He didn't so much as make a peep for the first day or so of his life.  I was concerned when he came out so silently, but he was alert, showed no signs of distress, and when they put him on my chest, he lifted his head to check out the world.  Even at birth he was such a strong boy!  

Immediately we called our family to share the good news, and Marcos' mother and sister Elizabeth brought Gigi to meet the baby.  She wanted to kiss him, and hug him, and give him high five, so gentle interactions have required some training, but we are just pleased that her feelings towards him were - and continue to be - so positive.  

After our experience taking Giovanna home after 24 hours and feeling wholly unprepared to be in charge of a newborn, we decided to take it slow this time, and stay at the hospital as long as we needed to.  We were there for two days, and enjoyed visits from our family and friends, ordering food off of the  very expansive hospital menu, and recuperating in a place where I had ample access to nurses and lactation consultants.  Marcos commuted back and forth between home and the hospital to make sure that he was at home for Giovanna's important night time routines, and he came back to stay with me overnight.  It was another very positive experience for us at the UNC hospitals and with the UNC midwives.  

And now, one month later, things are settling and we are more grateful than ever to have a healthy, sweet boy in our family.  Thanks for joining our family, little Orion!