Friday, March 25, 2011

A new kind of dating...

So, when you're young and single, you can meet people fairly easily -- especially if you go to college, where the organizations are set up so that you can meet people with like interests and create those "lifelong friendships" everybody talks about.

Then, you get married and have children... and things change.  Suddenly, the concept of meeting people and "compatibility" is based on completely different things.  Whether someone is a good match has to do with your children--their ages, your parenting philosophies, etc.

Now, I'll admit:  I am very fortunate to have friendships that are strong and super-meaningful to me.  Aren't my best friends gorgeous?

Vanessa, Me, & Christine

Unfortunately,... they live many miles away in different directions, and we don't get to see each other as much as I'd like.  So, that leads to this - this need to meet new people, and ya know -- keep me from going insane?

Believe it or not, making new mom friends is hard.  So, when I finally had the opportunity to make a friend and plan a "Mommy Date" not very long ago, I was actually a little nervous.  There's a teacher that my husband works with who has a baby a little less than a month older than Natalie.  In mommy-speak... that means compatibility.  So, we ran into her, with her baby (Bonus! Something to start the conversation.... ding, ding, ding!) at the grocery store.  Taylor introduced us, and I said one of my probably-not-that-funny quips about Mommyhood, and she laughed.  Woo hoo! Instant camaraderie over our babies and mommy-dom.  Yes!  But, then it was back to grocery shopping.  And it hit me!  Neither of us had exchanged information and we hadn't made plans to meet.  All that charm (okay, more like nervous-babbling-because-I-really-wanted-this-new-person-to-like-me) had been for nothing.  Blech!  I disgust myself.

But, I got a second chance in the parking lot, and I pulled up my big girl panties long enough to ask her if her family of three would want to get together sometime with the three of us.  And then, I felt like the nerdy guy getting the girl's phone number.  Even worse, I'm like the nerdy guy who doesn't even know what to do with them when he does get the digits.  What do you expect?  I'd never done this before! 

Then late last week, we met a mommy with twins about Natalie's age (she told us that they were conceived through in vitro, and we had an instant connection both because of our babies ages and because of infertility), and she was so suave asking for my phone number... it made me realize that I really was like the nerdy, inexperienced guy when I had asked for that other mommy's information.  Oh, to be suave and cool like this other mommy.  Oh great - it's like high school all over again.  But then again, this time, I'm a little less self-conscious about the extra fat packed onto my rolls around the middle, and I've got an adorable baby girl who thinks all of my dorky jokes and ridiculous sound effects are hilarious.

Thankfully, looking back on my whole "Mommy Date Pick-Up" encounter just makes me laugh, and now we have a plan for our families to meet and have dinner next weekend.  I'd call it a play date with our kids to make it seem less ridiculous... but I'm pretty sure a play date for babies less than 6 months old is ridiculous.  Just sayin'.

Natalie is 4 months old now!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Surprise Baby Shower


So, my best friend Vanessa probably never expected a party of the sort that we had on Sunday.  Especially when I remember back to that day she first called me with the news…   V:  “I have news.”  Me, joking: “You’re pregnant?”  Her:  “You weren’t supposed to guess!”  Or something like that.  Ha!

Anyway, when I started to plan the baby shower with our friend Christine, she suggested a surprise shower.  I was very nervous because I am terrible at keeping secrets (especially from my best friend!) but I am SO glad we did.  Great idea, Christine!!

So, here is a run-down of the hustle before the event.  Vanessa’s husband, Stephen, was in on it. He gave us the okay to have it at their house (woo hoo, no transporting gifts!).  We asked him to take her to church and out to lunch to keep her occupied.  But then, she asked me to come visit for my birthday.  Uh, seriously?   I couldn’t say no because then she would know something was up.  So, then the plan was for us to go to spend the night, get up and go to church with them, but one of us would suddenly “come down with an illness” right before church.  Stephen would still keep her away long enough to get the party underway.  THEN, Stephen actually got sick.  Bad sick.  Poor Stephen!  So, we didn’t know what to do.  He told us not to cancel.  (Such a sweet hubby!!)  So, we had to really work at it, but we finally got her mother-in-law in on it.  She was going to take V to church – same plan as before.  But then Vanessa wanted to do breakfast before!  Golly.  So, we ended up going to breakfast and then I said I needed to run back to the house for something, and then messaged her that I wouldn’t make it back to church.  Her mother-in-law did a fabulous job of keeping her away… and when she got home - boy, was she surprised to see all of us!!

Soooo --- The invitation…
A “Pack Party” is where you bring a six-pack and a package of diapers… Yeah, I made it up to keep all the men occupied. :)
The surprise….
She knows something's up... but still doesn't realize it's a baby shower.

Ooooh!  A baby shower!

The décor…
Diaper wreath with special center for Baby Tobin

Wall hanging with Tobin’s name as the entry table décor (I wish I got a better picture of it)

Paper onesies with guests' advice, well wishes, and congratulations strung up on a "clothes line".

Diaper Chair (made from diapers, a romper with matching hat, and baby wash cloths)
Diaper Cake and Stork bundles (made from homemade receiving blankets and diapers)

The corsages (made with baby wash cloths as backing)

The food…

We had all that food you can see on the table, plus a crock pot full of little smokies and about a million more cupcakes and cookies (Christine made them all, and they were delicious!).
You can see the diaper carriage I made in this picture.  (and you can kind of see the intricate detailing on the cookies Christine made – they were sheep for Vanessa with Camo for Stephen)

The guitar cake was meant for Stephen (who actually plays, for those of you who don't know him), but since he was sick – we just all enjoyed it a little extra for him!  My mom did a great job – it looked awesome and tasted great, too! 

Vanessa said her theme is "all things boy".  So, we had everything from lambs and camo to dots and puppies.  I think even though everything was mixed and matched with different colors and prints, it all came together to make a pretty cute shower.

The guests…

The gifts…

Diapers from the guys…

oh, right – the guys!
They enjoyed the backyard pack party, anyway.

Then, the keepsakes…

The center of the wreath.
This, the onesie papers on the clothesline shown way up above, and the onesies we used to record the gifts were all put together as a shower memory book.
An autograph plate
And we even played a game that had a prize…
Vanessa’s mother-in-law won it… and gave it to Baby Tobin!!

All-in-all… that was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  Fun with family and friends always makes me smile.

Oh, and Natalie matched some of Tobin’s presents from me… Love this dress I made with her initial on it and a matching flower bow, too!

I can't believe it, but she’ll be 4 months old on Saturday.  We can’t wait for her new friend’s arrival... due July 4, 2011 – Baby Tobin Ricky Stewart!

Friday, March 11, 2011

In Loving Memory of...

So, we've now been through two funerals in Natalie's short life.  Our baby before our baby girl... our Barkley... just died today.

God blessed us with Neo first.  He came to us the first time we were having a hard time having children.  Just before we became foster parents.  That time in our lives was almost as hard as when the fertility doctors told us that they didn't think we would ever get pregnant.  Talk about a blow to your heart!  And then, we had the opportunity to get Barkley, and he was able to help the pain in our hearts as we pushed onward with trying to have a child.  He was my baby.  He was my friend.  He was not merely a dog that we owned.  He was a member of our family.

Taylor and his B-Boy

I never understood the phrase, "you look like your dog just died."  I've never had a dog that was a friend or part of the family until our boys.  Now I get it, I can assure you of that.  Some people may not understand it but... we had a funeral.  He was buried with his sweater, his favorite toy, and wrapped in the fleece blanket that he and I never could agree on whether it was his or mine.  I can't believe it took this for me to finally give in,... but it's his.  His grave is marked with stones in the shape of a B.  And while it might sound silly to some, as the first bit of dirt started to cover him and the tears in my eyes started to spill, the beautiful words of Amazing Grace seemed the only thing that could do him justice. 

His registered name was Prince Romeo von Barkley.  If dogs do go to heaven, I know that the part of his name that was Romeo will live on as he chases females (though he wouldn't know what to do if he actually caught one)... And the hills that he'll stand atop will show that he is a prince.  He was our Barkley.  Our B-Boy.  Our baby...

So, I'll close with my goodbye:  Rest in Peace, Barkley "B-Boy" Norvell.  We loved you dearly and will forever miss you.  Though we do not understand what happened to you, we are thankful for having known you and being blessed to call you our friend and our baby.
Barkley, Born 3/10/09
Rest In Peace, 3/11/11

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Angel

We prayed and prayed for Natalie for 4 years. After many, many, many failed months of trying to conceive and many trips to the fertility doctor, God blessed us when we found out I was pregnant.  That moment of our greatest surprise has come up a lot lately; so, I thought I'd share that story:

We had done family planning.  We had done fertility pills.  We had even done shots.  What worked?  According to the doctors and nurses at our fertility clinic, none of them.  My eggs simply wouldn't mature.  What did that mean?  It meant that we couldn't even do in vitro fertilization.  You have to have a mature egg to be able to do in vitro.  My heart was broken.  I remember calling my mother, hundreds of miles away and sobbing because not only would we never conceive naturally -- we couldn't even do in vitro!  Of course, they had me on the next round of high end hormones and fertility treatment shots.  The next step was to see if they could harvest some of my immature eggs for a less-common procedure called IVM (in vitro maturation), where the eggs mature in the lab.  So, I go in for my visit.  And I can tell you this -- I was SO nervous.  The tech began doing the ultrasound of my ovaries, and then she suddenly stopped and had a weird look on her face.  She excused herself, left, and came back with another nurse.  They both studied the screen with a look of worry mixed with puzzlement on their faces.  They said nothing.  Finally, the two of them left and went and got my fertility nurse.  She came in and looked at the screen.  She nodded at the tech and the other nurse, who looked at me then the floor.  I was thinking they were going to tell me some sort of awful news!  Finally, she said that there's good news and bad news.  The bad news is that at my last visit, they were wrong.  The new infertility path was a mistake.  Then, she pointed at the screen and explained this little mass that I could barely make out... explained it in terms that were way above my head, and finally said "So, that's the good news.  You're ....(and with a giant pause of disbelief)... already pregnant."  I was astonished.  I was in complete shock.  Here we were in the first step of the next horribly long, expensive process... and I got to... skip it?  She followed it up with a smile and a shoulder touch as she explained that it might not "stick".  But, she said that all we could do is be thankful that I was pregnant, and pray for this little life to turn into a beautiful baby.  And I did... I had the most beautiful baby I've ever laid eyes on.

I had a hard pregnancy and about 8 weeks of contractions before labor, but it was all exciting. Exciting that our little Princess would be here for us to spoil and love. I have many friends who are still having a hard time trying to conceive.  I continue to pray for them daily.  And I will always remember that our Natalie is a blessing, our gift from God.  She is here to make me a better person, and to make us a stronger family. She is ours. The one we prayed for. The one we love.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Domestic Diva

I would like to start by saying the reason I didn’t post this yesterday was because we were getting our home insulated.  My amazing hubby is super sore today from crouching in the attic running the blow-in insulation hose (my fantastic daddy fed the insulation into the hopper, too - so, thanks!).  So, I guess our home is a little more energy-efficient, after all!  Woo hoo.  I am so excited for progress on our fixer-upper!

Oh, the fluff!
That said – here are my top 5 domestic mommy traits:

#1 – I breastfeed my baby.  Exclusively.  (I use a cover, but I do breastfeed in public and in mixed company, faux pas or not.  Would you rather a couple minutes of awkward or a screaming baby?  Honestly.)  Anyway, from the beginning I was determined beyond determination that Natalie would be breastfed.  I may have cracked, bled, and been miserable for a while… but I was not giving in!  Also, my baby lost more than the acceptable amount of weight at the hospital, and they told me to supplement.  I am SO thankful for my one lactation nurse that said we just needed a little more time for my milk to come in more.  She had me pump after every feeding (not much came out but she encouraged me that the baby could get more than the pump ever could), and she had me feed my baby supplementary bottles (still my milk, though).  Had I supplemented, my milk supply would’ve been even less and my baby that much less motivated to eat.  I thank God for that nurse!!

#2 – I use cloth diapers.  I think it may be an understatement when I say that I had very, very little support when I first told everyone that I would use cloth diapers with Natalie.  Little did they know that I had already used them at home on our foster son (we couldn’t use them all the time because his daycare wasn’t cloth-diaper-friendly).  I knew what I was getting myself into, and I really didn’t appreciate the looks of astonishment, nor the comments about how long that would last or how ridiculous I was being since the disposables are so much easier.  I found myself starting to explain how much cheaper they were, and I’ve even found myself telling people before they have a chance to comment that “whatever it takes for me to stay home with my baby.”  And it usually gets left alone then.  But, to be honest… it wasn’t just about money (although, considering that our bills-like water from using the washer-didn’t increase at all and we haven’t had to buy a single package of diapers since we started using cloth, we’ve already saved money even though I bought the more expensive cloth diapers).  The main thing was that I wanted to use them.  I have the one-size kind with Velcro closure.  They work just like disposables and will fit her until she’s potty trained.  I really love the concept of less diaper rash, and they told our grandmothers how good drying diapers in the sun was for our babies.  Why did they stop telling us?  Oh, and the sun’s ability to remove stains… BIG bonus!!  I now use that trick on her clothes.

Natalie's cloth dipes...
and our lovely view from the backyard, lol
 #3 – I’m a fan of home remedies.  Okay, this may sound weird but here it is.  Back story - disposable diapers did in fact break out my baby’s bottom.  And I’m talking BAD.  The minute we switched to cloth, it was almost instantly better!  Then, we thought we’d use ‘sposies for a trip we took to visit friends because we fell victim to the claim that they were more convenient… and our poor baby’s tush cracked open and bled – it was BAD!  We switched her back to the cloth, and instead of using a diaper cream (which would potentially ruin her diapers, anyway) I tried a trick that the nurses told me would work on me when I was hurt from breastfeeding – I put breastmilk on her bottom, and within one diaper change it was gone.  I later told my mother-in-law that I got the breastmilk home remedy idea from my grandmother, but considering that my grandmother only breastfed for 3 weeks with any one of her four girls… I don’t think that’s where it came from.  I think it was my awesome grandmotherly lactation nurse.  Thank you again, ma'am!!

#4 – Another reason I’m old fashioned is just my values.  Things have changed so much for me as an individual, especially since we've formed our family.  Growing up, I always had plans to have a career.   Going to school, becoming something great, enjoying whatever successes God would bless me with… those were my plans, my goals, my aspirations.  Things were hard for us when I was in college, what with my brain problems and all.  You know, a tumor or a blood malformation don’t seem all that bad until you put the word "brain" in front of it.  Brain tumor.  Brain Malformation.  See?  Because then, it’s like – the problem is where?  Well, that’s not really true, I don’t guess -- those things are bad no matter how you look at it.  But anyway, things were hard then.  But they were nothing compared to infertility.  Not being able to give my husband a child… well, it’s just a pain that somebody who’s never experienced infertility could truly understand.  My attempt to make it understandable is linked if you click here.  So anyway, the year before we got pregnant with Natalie, my husband and I were very fortunate to have fairly high-paying jobs as a teacher power couple (tee hee-I think I just used an oxymoron there).  But when God blessed us with the right infertility doctor, good timing, and luck to conceive our precious angel – well… my plans, goals, and aspirations changed.  Owning a home and a minivan replaced other goals and desires, and my resume now reads wife and mother.  And to be completely honest, I’m loving every minute of it.  I keep getting the looks and questions about when I’m going back to work or if I’ll ever be an Ag Teacher again.  I keep telling them that maybe someday.  But honestly, I think I would be content to stay home and raise babies.  If that’s God’s calling on my life, who am I to argue?  Plus, as long as there’s a 4-h club to be found, there’ll always be a place where I can help with contests, team training, and keep my love of agriculture awareness close to my heart.  Those are the things I loved most about teaching Ag, anyway.

Moving on...

#5 – I can cook.  I can sew.  I can make a pretty good hairbow.  I have goals like reinventing the ordinary and making it extraordinary -- while I don’t recycle plastic, I don’t usually throw containers away – I mix them up and repurpose them into something useful.  I guess I’m not a “recycler” – I’m an “up-cycler”!  I am on this mothers’ panel that does surveys.  My title on the board is “domestic diva”.  That makes me laugh.  I mean, I never thought I would be the wife and mother that stays home all day, cleans, does laundry, and has dinner on the table for her working husband every night.  That wasn’t me.  But now, there’s nothing that makes me happier!  Our fixer-upper is getting fixed up, and our bills are completely manageable, even with only one income.  I don’t have too many complaints.  Above all, I love being Natalie’s Mommy!!

Spirit bow I made for my baby sister

Outfit my mom and I sewed for Natalie...
with matching bow, of course!
My baby sister had completely ragged out her old skecher flip-flops.
So, now they're reincarnated as spirit "fluffy flops"!
Can you tell their school colors are orange and black?

The fact is – a lot of not-so-great stuff has happened in my last couple of posts (the fires, death, first shots, etc).  I’ve been able to use my blog as an outlet for those emotions and fears.  That way, when I'm spending time with my family, I can keep my sunny disposition (that may be stretching it just a little, ha!).  Seriously, though.  I want my daughter to see that obstacles may come your way, but you just get past them one step at a time.  It is my hope that I can teach her to have a high moral standard, good Christian values, and that life isn’t always easy.  But it’s worth living.