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Just a Mom with a Camera bio picture

Welcome to my Blog!

Hello and welcome! This blog started back in 2007 when I was just beginning to homeschool my son for preschool. It was a fun way to journal what we were up to and a place to share pictures and news with family and friends. We are not currently homeschooling, and all the posts from that blog seem to be long gone. However, I've decided to bring the blog back!

A good friend described my blog like this: "A professional photographer who shifted her focus to her family and home...being the best mom she can be to two beautiful, healthy kids, one of whom happens to have Down syndrome. She has fabulous organizational and resource tips, and shares her heart and faith along her journey of life." I love that description! I'm working to update my bio and blog description, and maybe even the title and blog address, along with a new look at some point soon I hope!

An (updated) little more about me... I'm not a newlywed anymore (more than a year! lol) but I am more in love than ever with my wonderful husband. I am the mother of an amazing 8-year old boy who makes me smile every single day, and a nearly 1-year old girl who has added a lot of love and joy to our family. As I mentioned above, she happens to have Down syndrome, which we discovered while still pregnant. As such, I've been dragged (kicking and screaming initially) into the Special Needs community. I am not an advocate. I'm a momma bear. As such, my blog may ocassionally be advocate-y (is that even a word? ha).

I strive to lead a Christ-focused life; my faith is at the center of who I am. I am blessed with wonderful and supportive family and friends. I try to remind myself always to view the glass as half-full and fully blessed. I love my family and friends, photography, baking, seasons, scrapbooking (though I rarely/never make time for it), flowers, and the holidays. I am taking a break from my photography business, but I am a mom and I still love photography (hence the blog name). I'm a bit of an inspirational quotes addict so I'll end this post with one of my favorites:

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks for stopping by,

Michelle

Hello New Year, Goodbye Blog!

The new year is always a time of reflection for me. I am not big on “resolutions” per se, but I do think the new year provides an opportunity to reflect and to make a fresh start, to regroup and refocus. The two major areas that I’m focused on are time and money.

In the area of money, my husband and I are in the process of setting up a new budget. We also re-instituted personal spending cash. Those quick trips and little expenses can really add up, and so we’ve decided to work together to be more accountable for our spending. We both have a similar view on debt (bad), but don’t always see eye-to-eye on how exactly the money should be allocated or on how we perceive our financial situation.  I think our new budget will go a long way to solving that issue. However, that means that we need to take a closer look at miscellaneous expenses, like my blog for example. I have to pay the domain registration fee each year, along with a monthly fee for hosting. In the past, it’s been one of those miscellaneous expenses that gets overlooked, but adds up nonetheless. I was reminded of these fees a couple days ago when I got the “time to renew” notice in my email. There was a time when I thought I might *someday* use this blog as a way to contribute to our household income. This has never been the purpose of my blog. It was rather just a place to write and share. However, I can write privately, and I can share with friends and family (my main readership anyway, unless you count the hundreds and hundreds of spam bots that visit my blog LOL!) I’ve also considered that I might *someday* get back to designing templates for photographers (thus making it necessary to keep the blog up). In the very back of my mind I’ve also thought I might possibly *someday* go back to photography. However, those things require time.

With 3 kids, one with special needs, one schooling at home, and one newly mobile, I find that I just don’t have a lot of time, and *someday* seems very far away indeed. And, that’s a good thing! I love that right now my time is consumed with just being a mom, and I know without a doubt that I will miss this time with them being little, littler, and littlest. However, it also means that I must be extremely intentional with how I allocate my time.  And so, I have decided that it’s time to let go of this blog…I cannot justify the expense of time or money. And so, I wish you all a very Happy New Year! See ya later!

January 8, 2014 - 10:03 pm Leah - Oh! I will miss reading you!

January 12, 2014 - 12:25 am Jennifer - I enjoyed reading your posts and the updates on your family since you moved. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Take care- sounds like you have a very busy life with 2 little ones and 2 big guys. Perhaps we'll see you around in the near. Have a Happy New Year.

A Tale of Two Tests

A journal entry from the end of summer before last (2012)…

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It seems strange to compare an amnio that tested positive for Trisomy 21 to a positive result on a pregnancy test. But that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ve been reflecting a bit on that fateful day when I got the call from the genetic counselor. In the few days after the amnio I would say that I was nervous and restless, but I think deep down I believed everything would be ok. (And by ok, I mean MY definition of ok at the time!) The day I got the diagnosis is incredibly clear and yet very fuzzy at the same time. There are moments that are as a clear as a photograph, and yet the overall picture of the day is blurry. That morning I was home alone, but it wasn’t long after G had taken L to school and headed off to work himself. I was feeling tired and unable to focus on anything, so I went back to bed after they left. I was laying there and suddenly felt…panic. That’s the only way I can describe the feeling. I dropped to my knees on the floor beside my bed and prayed, begging, “Please no chromosomal abnormalities. Please no chromosomal abnormalities. Please no chromosomal abnormalities.” I got back into bed and my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail. It was the genetic counselor telling me she had results and needed me to call her back. I sometimes wonder if that moment the panic hit me was the same moment the counselor was reading the results of my test. Briefly the thought crossed my mind, “Oh good! Now I can get on with the rest of my day and stop worrying.” So you see, deep down, I really thought the news would be good.

When I called her back she said, “I have news and it’s not good. There’s no easy way to say this so I’m just going to say it.” And she said it. The results were consistent with Down syndrome. She said with amnio we should consider it conclusive and definitive. For a brief moment I was stunned. It didn’t compute. And then it did. Lily would have, no, already had, Down syndrome. At one point (after telling her termination was NOT an option) I remember mumbling “I can’t do this. I don’t think I can do this.” and she told me that adoption was a possibility. Obviously, we chose to keep our child, and we love her dearly. But I still can’t think of that day without some emotion. I remember so vividly the intense grief that settled over me. I called Glenn to come home, and I gave him the news. He held me while I sobbed. I could barely speak, but I called my mom, and cried some more. I lay on the floor, as low as I could get, and cried the first of many, many tears I would cry over the next several months. Seems incredibly shallow and silly now that I am here looking back, but the truth is I still feel sad about it at times. But the joy and love far outweigh any sadness and fear.

Another Test

You wouldn’t think that a positive pregnancy test would bring back those memories, but they did. That day and the one I’ll describe now have a lot of parallels actually, though this day was really a mere shadow of the first. It was the weekend we had G’s annual family pool party, August 18. We look forward to it all year (especially Logan!) and were excited and even managed to get out the door on time.  It was a little bit chilly, but everyone still had a great time. In the back of my mind all day though I was nervous because my period was late. On our way home that afternoon we stopped at the store to pick up a couple of things. Lily was asleep so I stayed in the car while G and L ran in. I mentioned to G that I was feeling a little nervous about my period not starting and said nonchalantly, “I’m tempted to buy a pregnancy test”. So, he picked one up. All that evening I just kept hoping it would start and I wouldn’t need to use the test. I would test in the morning if I had to.

Around 4am that morning I woke up feeling really nauseated and in a panic. Like before I prayed. This time I begged, “Please let my period start. Please let my period start. Please let my period start.” I could not sleep. I was so stressed and anxious. I went downstairs and prayed some more and read some scriptures. Finally around 5:30 I went back to bed and fell asleep. Logan came in after a while to snuggle, and Glenn got up to start getting ready for church. As soon as he came out of the bathroom and they went downstairs I realized I could not put it off any longer – it was time to take the test. Again I prayed.

I took the test and watched as the pink shading quickly ran up through the window and a vertical line appeared with a fainter horizontal line. I waited the full 4 minutes, hoping I wasn’t seeing what I knew I was seeing. I felt sick. But I was calm. I went downstairs to get Glenn. I asked him to come upstairs to help me with something, and I showed him the test. I said, “What does this look like to you?” hoping he would tell me it was an “Invalid” result or that somehow I misread it. It was clearly NOT negative, but I hoped somehow it wasn’t positive either. He confirmed my fear, said something about how he didn’t expect that, and he’d bought the test for me almost on a “whim”. Then he held me while I cried. Upon learning that we would be blessed with a third child to love, I cried.

For so many reasons I cried, but I think the biggest was fear. The next few days I felt depressed, scared, anxious, nervous, angry, and sad. Isn’t that a very maternal thing to admit? lol. I didn’t feel joy or excitement. I felt fear. Things seemed to finally be going really well. We had a good routine, had basically come to terms with Lily’s Down syndrome, were feeling comfortable. I even had a plan to finally lose the baby weight. Yet, instead I was heading into morning sickness, more weight gain, labor and delivery again (have I mentioned how much I dislike that part?), another adjustment to a new baby, and let’s just say it – our risk of another baby with Ds was high. 1 in 100 to be precise. I feel guilty saying that, our risk of having another baby like Lily. Meaning what? Another baby who is lovely and sweet and delightful? I love Lily. She is a joy. That doesn’t mean I want another baby with special needs. And, being a part of the special needs community online I see a lot of stories where lightning strikes more than once. Sometimes it’s Ds again, and sometimes something even worse.  And if this baby is boringly typical and perfectly healthy, well, that’s still two babies under the age of 2 years. Yikes! And if Lily falls within the average for kids with Ds, she won’t even be walking yet. (Though I will say that I maintain high expectations on that issue. Updated note: Lily began walking at 19 months, but even now, at 26 months, she will still drop into crawling often enough that you can’t, for example, walk into a grocery store holding her hand. You need both hands free to walk with her, just in case she tries to crawl across the parking lot and you have to pick her up – if you’ve ever tried to “force” a child to stand up when they don’t want to, you know what I’m talking about! So she has to be held or carried in a stroller…yay double stroller lol!)

As I mentioned before, the feelings I had the day I took the pregnancy test were a mere shadow, a faint whisper of the way I felt after the amnio with Lily. In addition to being less intense, they were briefer. This is not to say that I’m thrilled at the prospect of giving birth again, or that I’m enjoying the morning sickness, or that I’m any less apprehensive about caring for two babies. I am however, taking it a day at a time, reminding myself to follow God’s repeated instruction, “Do not be afraid.”  Like in Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Do not fear, I will help you.” or John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” I heard somewhere that instructing us not to fear is the  most often repeated theme in the Bible. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that it is mentioned a great many times, that we are told over and over not to fear or worry (If anyone can verify this for me, I’d love to hear it!). I am a little ashamed at how often I find myself ignoring God’s word on this matter. It is yet another reminder to me to have faith and rest in the peace that comes with knowing Christ.

With this latest unexpected surprise (gift?), I will be relying on my faith as well as the support of my wonderful husband and family. I debated on whether I wanted to share these feelings with the world, but because this blog is in part a journal, it may not always be pretty, but it will be honest. As always, we greatly appreciate your prayers and support as we enter this next chapter in our lives.

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I’ve already shared Lauren’s birth story, but I felt led to share this old journal entry as well. I’m a little nervous sharing it, for some reason. Maybe because moms are expected to feel a certain way, and some of what I’m admitting doesn’t quite fit with that expectation. Or maybe because I feel embarrassed when I think back to how I reacted to the news that I was expecting our third child. However, I think it’s important as moms not to put up a facade or hold back things that prove we are human. If all we see of other moms is the “pinterest version” of them – the bright, shiny, and “perfect” it leaves the rest of us feeling inadequate. Maybe I should try to dig down and find a little more pinterest-y perfect to share, just to balance out the imperfect side that I sometimes share here lol! I will say that though I may be far from perfect, I love my children with a fierceness that I can’t begin to put into words. Our third completes our family in a way that we didn’t know we needed. I thank God for my unexpected gifts and the grace He gives me every day. I am blessed beyond measure.

August 2013 – My 3 L’s

January 8, 2014 - 6:04 pm La- - M- I love your honesty. I love your candor... and I really needed to read those verses today. (Still wiping a few tears away.) Thank you for sharing!!! La-

Inexpensive Toys that Work on Fine Motor Skills

Just a quick post to share a couple of inexpensive toys that are great for fine motor skills! We are really focused right now on fine motor, self help skills (feeding, dressing, and other such skills that kids need to learn to do independently), and communication. Since beginning private speech and occupational therapy, we have received some wonderful toy and activity recommendations, and I thought I’d share a few with you. Note: the links are amazon affiliate links, and I will receive a small commission if you were to buy through my link :) These would be great stocking stuffers or party favors!

First, these pop tubes. BOTH her speech therapist and her occupational therapist actually recommended these! For speech, you can talk into one end with the other at the child’s ear. Similar to the telephone game. The other idea is to have the child imitate sounds into the tube, which is positioned at their own ear. Lily wasn’t really interested in using it this way. However, our OT also suggested it for the pre-skills to dressing herself. With it hooked together into a circle, she can put it over her head (like you would for pulling on and off a shirt), on her arms and feet too. The other way to use them is to collapse them down and have the child grasp both ends and pull them open. It helps with hand and shoulder strength. That’s all for now, but I hope to make some updates to my DIY therapy posts.

Pop Toobs are awesome for fine motor and speech!

Lily demonstrates some of the ways she is working on fine motor and self help skills!

The other great and inexpensive “therapy tools” we’ve been using lately are these Suction Cup Ball Favors. We stick them to the window and Lily has to use the strength of her hands (with thumb, which is important for her, as she likes to tuck it away and use a more immature grasp when possible). It also promotes balance as she has to steady herself while she pulls it off the window.

Lauren’s Birth Story

Introducing…

Lauren Clare, born on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 at 5:47 pm. She weighed 8 pounds, 15.4 ounces, and 20.5 inches long.

In the weeks leading up to Lauren’s birth I was telling friends that all I wanted was a healthy baby and an easy and BORING labor, delivery, and recovery. My birth with Logan was a very difficult induction. The labor and delivery were tough, and the recovery was difficult and painful as well. Lily’s birth was relatively easy in comparison. However, with the prenatal diagnosis, her birth was a very emotional one, and definitely not boring. We didn’t share the diagnosis with everyone until after she was born, so along with the emotional adjustment of meeting her, coming to terms with the reality of her having Down syndrome, there was an element of drama in the weeks following her birth as we shared the news with the world. I don’t like being the center of attention – despite the fact that I blog, which naturally lends itself to attention. I do like to write though, and it’s easier to be the center of attention when you’re behind a computer screen! Truly though, I am much happier behind the scenes, and I don’t really like any form of drama that puts me in the spotlight. So, what I really, really wanted was a boring birth experience with Lauren. I made that very clear to my friends, and one sent me a text the day before my induction with Lauren…

“Wishing you a super boring delivery tomorrow!”

Oh, how I had hoped to have a boring story to tell. I guess God had other plans though. Funny thing is I had just been reflecting on the lessons that the births of my first two children taught me, about love and sacrifice. I was hoping I wouldn’t have any more major lessons to learn. Since this is Lauren’s birth story I won’t go into detail about that. I’ll say instead that Lauren’s birth has taught me how truly precious life is, and how grateful I am simply to be alive, to be here for my family.

During my third trimester I suddenly started measuring ahead and we discovered that I had polyhydramnios (excessive amniotic fluid). A common cause is gestational diabetes, which I did not have. There are other (scary) causes as well, and in some cases you never know what causes it. At this point, we don’t know what caused it, which frankly is the best case scenario. However, because it brings a number of potential risks to me and baby, my doctor was monitoring my pregnancy more closely. During the last several weeks I was having ultrasounds and a BPP (biophysical profile) once a week to ensure baby was still doing well. We also discovered that she had a rather large ovarian cyst that the doctor said would have been large even for an adult. We still don’t know what caused that and will be following up with a pediatric surgeon in a couple of weeks for another ultrasound. Best case scenario is that it was caused by my pregnancy hormones and will resolve on its own. (Update: as of 6 months old, her last ultrasound showed that the cyst did in fact resolve on its own. Thanks be to God!)

I know I’ve mentioned before that I have the best OB in the world. I love my doctor. This pregnancy was no exception. He has a way of making me feel like his only patient. He is compassionate and caring, and seems to really invest himself personally in my life. He seems genuinely happy to hear the heartbeat for the first time, to get a clear ultrasound report, and to see things progress without complication. On the other hand, he is appropriately concerned, but careful not to alarm me when there are complications. Due to the excessive fluid and the risks associated, he scheduled me for induction at 39 weeks, on Tuesday 4/16. The baby was also moving between a transverse and breech position, occasionally getting into the correct head-down position. So, he said the day would start with an attempt at a version, to turn the baby into the necessary position. If that was successful, they’d bind my belly to keep her in position, and then he’d needle my bag of waters to allow the fluid to leak slowly. The big concern was that the fluid would gush out too quickly and could cause placental abruption or cord prolapse. There was a lot of talk about potential for c-section, both for an unsuccessful version or for complications due to the fluid issue.

The night before my induction, the hospital called to remind me of my “scheduled c-section”. That threw me off a bit, to put it mildly. My doctor had scheduled an operating room, just in case. I really, really did not want to have a c-section. After my experience with Logan I remember thinking c-section may have been easier. However, faced with the real possibility of one, it was a different story. I knew it would be a harder recovery, and I really did not want to go through a major surgery.

Induction Day

The night before my induction I did not sleep well. I was awake off and on most of the night. At about 4am I got up to use the restroom. When I opened the bathroom door afterward I was startled to see Logan standing there. He said “I don’t want you to go mom.”  So, I tucked him back into bed and snuggled with him for a bit before going back to my own bed. It wasn’t much later that he was back at my bedside. It was about 5am at that point, and I wasn’t sleeping anyway. So, we had some quiet time in his room, reading Where’s Waldo together, one of our longtime favorites. Later, we went and snuggled up to G, who was still sleeping. And then it was into my mom’s room (you might not be aware, but we were staying with my parents for a few months during the transition between selling our home and remodeling our new one). Shortly afterward Lily joined us. I called the hospital at about 6 to confirm that I was still supposed to arrive at 6:30am, as there had been some confusion with what time I was supposed to arrive. They said that no, I needed to be there at 7:30, which was what my doctor originally told me, but when the hospital called they said to be there at 6:30. G was a little annoyed because he could have slept longer. It didn’t make much difference to me since I wasn’t sleeping anyway!

My boys, oh how I love them!

The kids with grandma

L and me in my early morning no makeup glory!

After hugs all around, and promises that we would call and that grandma would pick Logan up early if baby arrived while he was in school, G and I headed off to the hospital. We arrived a few minutes early and got checked in. Once we got settled and I got changed into my hospital gown, they did an ultrasound to confirm that baby was still in a breech/transverse position. She was. Because of the higher risk of c-section, the anesthesiologist came in to go over my options, which were to get an epidural or a spinal. He went into a lot (probably too much) detail, and finally the conclusion was that we would wait and see what Dr. H wanted us to do. Dr. H came in a little before 8:30 and checked on ultrasound again. He was confident he’d be able to turn the baby because she was not fully breech and there was so much fluid. He pushed on her a little bit just to see how easy she would be to move, and he said he thought it would be a success. We talked more about what might happen. When he came back to do the version, he checked on ultrasound and just his moving her a little bit from before she was in almost the right position already.

The nurse called the OR to make sure it was open. Dr. H said he didn’t think it would be necessary, but she said that she always tries to be overly prepared (a little foreshadowing maybe?). The version was a success and they bound my tummy with a huge velcro belt. That was pretty uncomfortable, but I was totally on board and wanted to do whatever I could to help avoid c-section. I was almost afraid to move at all because I could feel baby trying to move, and I did not want her getting out of position! He then needled my bag of waters to allow the fluid to slowly leak out, as opposed to a huge gush. Once that was done they started me on the pitocin to get the contractions started. It took some time to kick in because the medicine they’d given me to calm my uterus for the version hadn’t worn off yet.

Labor is exhausting!

The next several hours were pretty uneventful. It was basically a waiting game. Fluid was leaking periodically and the contractions were slowly becoming stronger and more frequent. The nurse very gradually increased the pitocin until finally they were so painful that I was ready for my epidural. From this point on there are parts that are very clear and parts that are very blurry. The anesthesiologist came in around 5pm (the exact time is a bit of a blur, as I was a bit beyond ready for my epidural at that point). A few minutes after the epidural I felt another big gush. I had been instructed to let the nurse know during the day if I had any big gushes, so I did. When she checked me she said “Oh!!” and went on to say there was more blood than there should be. She seemed concerned, but not panicked. Her unease made me a bit nervous though, and she told me not to worry. She changed my pad and went out to get a doctor.  She came back with a woman dressed in running clothes, who smiled and explained she had just changed out of her surgery clothes or had just arrived for her shift – I’m not sure which. She looked and said it was probably fine. The nurse, however, was persistent. She directed her into the bathroom where she had disposed of the original pad. I’m not sure what conversation transpired after that, but a minute or two later the nurse had left and come back with another doctor, who had an ultrasound machine with him. They checked the baby on ultrasound, and she looked fine. Her stats were fine, and she didn’t seem to be in any distress. The doctor did an exam to check my cervix, and I felt a huge gush at that point.

Emergency

That gush marked the point when they went into what I would call “panic mode” except that they were very calm and controlled about it.  There was a flurry of activity then, as they explained there was far too much blood and they believed the placenta had detached. Placental abruption is very risky to both mother and baby. They removed my gown because it was covered in blood. They called Dr. H who was across the street in his office. Things were moving so fast. The nurse called the OR, and they told me that we would be doing a c-section. I was in tears and terrified. Earlier in the day we had asked for a priest to come in and pray with us. By coincidence (more likely divine providence) he had shown up at exactly this point. He came into the room as they were preparing to move me. He prayed over me, probably more rushed than usual, as they were preparing to wheel me out of the room. I was no longer hoping to avoid c-section, I was just praying to survive, to make it home to see my kids. They quickly wheeled me down the hall to the operating room. One of the nurses walking next to me told me not to worry, that my baby would be fine. It sounds unmaternal or selfish, but the truth is, I wasn’t very worried about the baby at that point. I knew that she had tolerated everything fine so far, and that they would get her out in time.  I could barely speak at that point, but I managed to choke out “I need to get back to my other kids.” She tried to reassure me as they rolled me into the room. They lifted me from my bed to the table and stretched my arms out. The room was full of doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists. Dr. H must have run from his office, because he was there almost immediately it seemed. I was again so glad that he was there. I think I asked him at one point if I was going to bleed to death and he reassured me that I was going to be fine. I couldn’t stop crying though. I didn’t know where Glenn was, but they kept telling me they would find him.

Glenn told me later that they threw some surgery clothes at him and told him to wait outside. He said when there is that much blood and doctors move that fast, you know it’s time to worry. At some point during the surgery they did bring him into the operating room because he was there when they pulled out the baby. Before that though, they had to make sure I was numb. I had literally just had the epidural before the placenta detached, and I wasn’t fully numb yet. One of the anesthesiologists kept poking me with something sharp and asking if I could feel it as pressure or sharp, and I’d say “Ouch, sharp” or in some places just pressure. I was thinking they might cut before I was numb because the doctor kept asking if he could go, were they going to put me out, he needed to start, could he start, etc. The anesthesiologist told me she would make sure I was not in pain, though it was still nerve-wracking because they started cutting right after a poke that was painful (in other words, I wasn’t numb yet)! But aside from a great deal of discomfort during the part where they pushed and pulled to get her out, I didn’t feel any sharp pain.

At some point during the actual procedure someone brought Glenn in. Honestly, it was all really a blur. He was there with me, which is what matters. After they pulled out the baby, they put her up to my face so I could look at her. They checked her over, and I remember asking if she looked ok. At that point they were doing the testing that they do, while my doctor worked to get me stitched back up. I remember it took what seemed a very long time, but it was all pretty blurry at that point. I remember hearing a lot of talk about my blood type, though I didn’t realize at the time just how much blood I had lost. I remember them putting Lauren on my chest, I remember tears and relief. Before leaving the operating room, a nurse gave me a patch behind my ear to help me avoid nausea. That actually was one of the most awful parts of the next few hours – not nausea, but weird effects from the patch! And trying to explain it to Glenn and the nurse was very frustrating. Finally, was it the next day? I’m not even sure! When I was able to talk to my doctor about it he told the nurse to take it off, and he knew other patients who had very adverse reactions to it. The effects lasted a couple of days, even after it was removed. But, enough about that.

Emotional after surgery

Proud daddy

I did not sleep well during my stay in the hospital, though we did take advantage of the nursery most nights for Lauren. The nurse would take her away around 11pm and then bring her back every few hours so that I could nurse. Because of the severe blood loss I wasn’t able to stand up without dizziness – my door had a sign that said “Fall Risk” – so I had to wear a catheter for almost the entirety of my stay. At one point it was removed and a bed pan was involved, and then it was put back in, but I’ll spare you those details. I desperately wanted to avoid a blood transfusion, but my body just wouldn’t cooperate. My doctor was encouraging me to get one, but said he wouldn’t force it. My brother came to see me in the hospital at some point, and he later said that I looked like a zombie. There were a few comments like that, and I almost wish someone had taken a picture of me so that I could have seen for myself.

My view of Lauren for most of my stay (when I wasn’t holding her), as I was stuck in bed

Visit from big brother

I think it was Friday when they checked and my blood levels had dropped again, and I was in really bad shape – really, really bad shape. So, I said I’d do the transfusion, but one bag, instead of the two they would have done. Yes, I am just a little bit stubborn. lol. Just to be clear – had I needed one while in the operating room (and I think they’d have given me one if whatever was supposed to be done with the lab had been done, as I recall a lot of talk about blood type and calling the lab or something) or at any point, to save my life, I’d not have thought twice. However, I was in that gray space where I was out of immediate danger and I kept thinking maybe my body could just make it happen, that sheer force of will could muster enough strength to carry through. At any rate, the transfusion itself was a much lengthier process than I’d imagined it would be. Just thinking about that entire day I almost feel nauseated. That was a bad day, both leading up to the transfusion, when my body sort of “crashed” (for lack of a better word), and during as well. I wouldn’t say that I immediately felt better, but it certainly marked the beginning of my recovery.

Headed home..she looks so little!

Snuggles with big brother

At home, meeting sister

I gave birth on Tuesday, and we weren’t released to go home until Sunday afternoon. The worst part of being in the hospital so long was how desperately I missed my bigger kiddos, who were, thankfully, being well cared for by my parents. We thought Lily would do best staying home with grandma and grandpa, but they brought Logan to see us a couple times, which was wonderful. But I can’t even describe how good it was to see both kids when we got home. I feel blessed beyond measure with the children God chose to give me. Each one has taught me new lessons and opened my heart to more joy and love than I’d ever have thought possible.

Welcome to the world, Lauren Clare!

November 8, 2013 - 6:21 pm Linda Herdina - Michelle, Thanks for sharing your eloquent story. You are a gifted writer. And mom. You amaze me at all you accomplish in life with your growing family. Your children and Glenn are so fortunate to have you. Blessings on you!

November 9, 2013 - 1:08 am mwac - Thank you so much Linda! Michelle :)

December 17, 2013 - 2:48 am Leah - Wow. What a scary and difficult time. I knew it had been a difficult birth, but didn't know just how scary. So happy that you both came through it all ok.

Happy Birthday Lily – Two Years Old!

I haven’t posted in ages, though I’ve got a few posts drafted (like Lauren’s birth story and introduction…giving birth twice in less than two years tends to make it tough to find time to blog!). However, I couldn’t let today go by without posting a happy birthday to Lily! It simultaneously seems like a million years ago and just yesterday that I shared with the world the news that she was extra special and her birth story. She was, physically, my easiest birth. Emotionally, my most difficult. (Though Lauren gave her a run for her money for different reasons!) My children have taught me so much about unconditional love, real sacrifice, heartbreak, and joy. Lily has taught me other lessons as well, but one in particular that I was just reflecting on in church yesterday.

As I sat there, both babies were quiet and Lily was being especially cute. I recalled a journal entry from when I was pregnant with her and worried about how difficult life would be. I realized that things were (mostly) not as difficult as I’d imagined they would be. Then I started thinking about the future. What about when she’s a teenager and it’s not “cute” to act like a toddler anymore. What about later, when she should be going off to college, moving out, becoming independent…what will she be like? Basically all of those old fears from pregnancy started to creep in. I no longer worry about Lily as a baby and toddler with Down syndrome, because it’s here, and we’re managing. So, all my worries about that were just wasted emotion, wasted energy. Worry, I think, is so emotionally draining because it is fraught with uncertainty. Worry tends to be this big unknown fear. Because you don’t know exactly what it looks like, you can’t take action or make plans. I was able to pull myself back to the present (lol, I swear my mind doesn’t usually wander in church!) I realized though that one thing Lily has taught me is the importance of living for eternity, but being in the present. While the uncertainty about Lily’s future may be more obvious, it is no less real than the uncertainty we all face. It can be difficult sometimes not to dwell on the past or worry about the future. But that’s energy that could be better spent on the present. This quote sums it up so well…

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift, that’s why we call it the present.” 

Happy 2nd Birthday Sweet Lily!

 

 

October 7, 2013 - 6:53 pm Laura @ House Of Joyful Noise - HAPPY BIRTHDAY LILY! I couldn't agree with you more, Michelle. That was some couch-time well spent, and the thoughts that came from those quiet moments were a gift as well.

Smart is NOT the New Beautiful

An article I skimmed today ended with the line “there is nothing more beautiful than being smart.” This hit a nerve for me and fits perfectly with what I’ve been reflecting on recently. Our society has long idolized physical beauty. And while I appreciate that we seem to be (at least in our words, though I would argue certainly not in our actions) moving away from this focus, I think our focus has shifted to something equally wrong – idolizing intelligence.

Many mothers (myself included, if I’m being honest) place a major emphasis on whether their children are “gifted” or how early they learned to read or how high they score on tests. As Christians, if we are more concerned with nurturing this intelligence than we are with nurturing their relationship with Christ, there’s a real problem. Which has a more long-lasting impact? Getting into a good college and being “successful” as an adult is pretty fleeting compared to eternity. But I digress a little.

When we learned during pregnancy that our daughter Lily would be born with Down syndrome, a major source of sadness for me was that she likely wouldn’t be “smart” or “beautiful” (at least by society’s standards). I know that I’m not alone in this feeling, and I don’t hold it against myself. However, it has caused me to re-evaluate what is truly important and what is “beautiful”. I do not accept this “smart is the new beautiful” idea. I reject it. Completely. I think idolizing intelligence is as dangerous and as negative as idolizing physical beauty. The real question is how does God define beauty?

Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. -Proverbs 31:30

Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. -1 Peter 3:3-4

But the LORD said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7

While there is certainly nothing wrong with admiring physical beauty or appreciating a person’s intelligence, I think we must be very, very careful to keep them in perspective. We must realize that these are given by God and not a reflection of our hearts. When we think with pride of our children or when we compliment them, we should be conscious of the fact that physical beauty and intelligence are not necessarily permanent parts of who we are, can be lost at any time, and are ultimately outside of our control. I would hate to inadvertently imply that these make a difference in how much I love my children or how much they are worth. Does a person’s IQ determine whether or not they are “beautiful”? I’m sure we can all think of highly intelligent people who are extremely “ugly” people. So, no, I do not believe that smart is the new beautiful. I believe working hard and doing our best is worthy of compliment. A naturally high IQ though, not really something to praise. I believe beauty is determined by internal character – patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness – these are the marks of TRUE beauty.

Smart is not the new beautiful. A beautiful character is the new beautiful.

Overnight Steel Cut Oats Recipe

Browsing around pinterest and some of my favorite recipe sites I kept running across various recipes for oatmeal made in a slow cooker overnight. I don’t typically use steel cut oats, but have wanted to try them for some time. This article gives a quick breakdown of the different types of oats as well as a comparison of the nutritional info. Based on this, I won’t give up my rolled oats any time soon. However, for a slow cooker breakfast I’m sure rolled oats would be nothing but mush by morning. True, I could just make the rolled oats on the stovetop, but then it wouldn’t have the wonderful cooked apples and raisins that I can get using the slow cooker overnight. And, it wouldn’t be ready to eat first thing in the morning! I’ve made it twice now, and both times was really pleased with the results. Even better were the muffins I made with the leftover oatmeal, but I’ll share that recipe another day!

It’s not all that pretty to look at, but it sure was tasty!

I made this using one of my favorite appliances, my 1-1/2-Quart Round Slow Cooker. I absolutely love this little workhorse of a crock pot. The only downside is that, unlike my larger crock pot, it’s not programmable. So, I have to either set my alarm to switch it to “keep warm” after 6 hours or just deal with oatmeal that is a little mushier. I’ll let you guess which one I chose ;) First I used almond milk and then dairy milk. Some recipes call for only water, others only milk. I think any combination of liquid would work fine. I tried omitting the butter (the almond milk day, to make it dairy-free for Lily) and it tasted fine. (That might be because I topped mine with a little bit of butter while hot from the cooker, haha.) It probably also helps keep it from sticking to the sides of the crock pot. You may want to adjust the spices according to your taste preferences. I also think it needs a bit more sugar, but I prefer to add it in the morning. The first day I topped it with a bit of butter and additional brown sugar, then used my spoon to make a little “moat” around the outside edge and poured in extra milk. I liked that way best because it’s how I remember my mom serving oatmeal when I was a kid. Today I topped it with plain yogurt, which also went nicely and gave me a boost of probiotics.

The ingredient lineup (minus the milk, which was feeling a little camera shy)

Looked like this first thing in the morning before stirring it up

Overnight Oats Recipe – Makes approximately 6 servings

Ingredients

  •  1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cup milk
  • 2 cup water
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • extra light tasting olive oil (to lightly coat slow cooker)

 Directions

Spray slow cooker with olive oil (I use extra light tasting olive oil, not extra virgin, but feel free to use vegetable oil or non-stick spray.) Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. (Slow cookers tend to cook differently, so you’ll need to know your slow cooker and/or experiment to get the right time for the consistency your family prefers.) Serve with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

January 25, 2013 - 12:26 am Laura @ House Of Joyful Noise - Thanks for the recipe, and the tips! Can't wait to try it. :)

Amazingly Delicious Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

I’m not a food blogger…not like the real food bloggers,  but sometimes I like to pretend LOL!  (If you’re a weirdo about grammar – like I tend to be – you might be thinking, hey – is the skillet delicious or is the cookie? Well, the cookie is delicious, but the skillet rocks!) I came across this recipe a while back. In fact, it inspired me to purchase my Lodge Cast Iron Skillet back in August.  I then proceeded to let it sit unopened for a month or two because my mom told me that even though it’s pre-seasoned I should still season it myself before using it. I was a little intimidated. And lazy. Finally I could stand it no longer. I googled instructions on how to prepare a cast iron skillet for first use. (It’s really simple, so don’t be intimidated like I was. Or lazy.) And between you and me, I’m still not convinced this step was necessary, as the instructions clearly state it is done for you already, but I did it anyway. Cause I’m good like that – and I listen to my mom. I pulled it out at Thanksgiving to make dinner rolls that were completely delicious. Wow. I was hooked on this skillet. It also puts a beautiful sear on steak (though you’ll definitely want to open a window or two!). I love that it goes right from stovetop to oven. I don’t know why I never owned a cast iron skillet prior to this. There are more expensive ones available (aren’t there always?!) but after a few uses I knew why this thing had over a thousand reviews and still a nearly 5 star rating!

Anyways, I digress. If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, go get one. Today. Or, order it from my amazon link and I’ll get a few cents and maybe one day I too can become a real food blogger, worthy of pinning on pinterest ;) Finally, I decided to give that chocolate chip cookie recipe a try. I thought it would be a really yummy after-school surprise for my son. And, let’s be honest – I’m 25 weeks pregnant (have I mentioned that? maybe not. Well, I am.) and sometimes a girl just wants chocolate. And when that girl happens to have a case of raging pregnancy-induced hormonal cravings, it’s best just to give in and get it over with. Enter the Amazingly Delicious Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie… super easy (you don’t even need an electric mixer!) and super delish, especially the next day, cold from the fridge. Mmmm….

First, the ingredient lineup. Note my masterful food photography skills. Give me a cell phone camera, and I’ll make magic happen. Haha!

Here’s how it looked before I smooshed it into the pan with my hands

Out of the oven and cooling

Amazingly Delicious Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

  • 3/4 cup melted butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 rounded teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine both sugars with melted butter and stir until there are no lumps.

Stir in the vanilla, egg and egg yolk until mixture is smooth.

Add in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir until just combined.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread evenly in a 10-12″ cast iron skillet. (I started with the wooden spoon, then used my hands to smoosh it into the skillet until it looked even.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges start to look golden. Don’t overcook. (I like mine to be gooey, but a little more set, so I went about 20 minutes) Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. You can scoop it into bowls or allow it to fully cool and cut into bars. Yum. Enjoy!

You can check out the source of the recipe here. She’s a real food blogger, as you’ll see by her pretty food pictures. I’m a photographer, as you can NOT see by my cell phone snapshots LOL! Enjoy!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Portraits!

Just a quick post since it’s been a while.  We had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and I hope all of you did too! I was going to ramble on about our various holiday celebrations, but I did promise to keep this quick, so I’ll get right to the portraits. We actually went and had a family portrait taken at a local chain studio. While I did use the family photo on the cover of our Christmas card (the design turned out super cute, if I do say so myself – lol) I wasn’t thrilled enough with to make it our new family wall portrait. I was completely unimpressed with the individual shots of just the kids, so I did my own portrait session with them and was quite happy with the results. So, here ya go. Enjoy!

Lily’s One Year Portraits

I finally got around to taking Lily’s one year portraits (only two months late LOL)! She’s not yet walking, so I guess I can’t call her a “toddler”, but I would still have to categorize her that way in terms of level of difficulty to photograph. Only slightly easier than chasing a walking and running toddler, the girl gave me a workout! However, I think the results were worth the effort. What do you think? Actually, as I was going through the photos to decide which ones to edit and keep, I realized this was one of “those sessions”…the kind where I have so many images that I love that it’s hard to decide which ones to show the client – in this case, myself! I kept my light up for an extra few days in order to get Christmas portraits of both kids, and I’ll share those in another post. (You can get a little glimpse of two of them in my newly updated header.) All in all, it was a great week of portraits! Enjoy :)

January 11, 2013 - 7:54 pm Missy - She is beautiful! What a little sweetheart!