Friday, April 30, 2010

Spring Photos

As I've said many times, we are having an absolutely beautiful spring here in San Antonio.  70's almost everyday and while some days are rainy, they are a blessing because we get to see all of the wonderful spring colors around us in the form of many, many flowers.  I want to take my children out and plop them in the middle of them everytime I see a patch.  Unfortunately, my children don't feel the same way, and really, the one time I did do that didn't go very well and I really need to find a time to go when Chris is there with me to coral all of the kids and help to keep babies happy.

In the meantime, I took the kids one at a time into the backyard and got some cute shots of my sweet children.

I was bummed when I realized half way through that I hadn't changed my camera back to high resolution pictures from when I had it on low resolution to upload pics of the couches we sold on Craig's List.  :o(

I'm excited to take some more spring photos with my Mother's Day gift that should be delivered next week.  My children are already annoyed with me snapping so many pictures of them but they don't even know how it will get with my new camera!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kite Flying

We drove a half an hour to the Sebastapol House Historical Park today to make homemade kites.  The women who organize these montly activities there are very helpful and did a lot to help the boys so I could keep the girls somewhat entertained while trying to help the boys a little with their kites. 

I sit here and try to look back and see myself earlier today, juggling a tiny baby who wants to be held and walked around, a toddler who wants...well, everything, a four year old who is the most accident prone little guy I know and is constantly getting hurt, whose injuries may or may not have been caused by his brothers, and all the while trying to ignore or fulfill the constant pleas of snacks by my six year old with never ending hunger.  I have to laugh.  It keeps me from crying. 

Okay, it didn't seem quite that bad, but Leah was crying/whining for the last twenty minutes while I was carrying Anna and trying to get three boys' kites to fly in the one-minute-there, the-next-minute-gone wind.  And Gabriel and Christopher crashed into each other at one point which caused a lot of dramatic crying by Gabe and then Gabe tripped and fell another time, and again more tears.  Poor guy.  I'm just glad there was no blood to be found because if there is even one drop on Gabe, he loses it completely and there is no continuing whatever it is we are doing.  But I finally decided the stress had overtaken the fun and it was time to head to the closest McDonald's just so I could I could actually hear KLOVE coming through my radio.

But despite the busyness of trying to do hands-on activities with five kids, we did have fun and it was pretty neat to fly kites that the boys made themselves. 

The first one was made out of a 8 1/2 by 11 piece of normal computer paper staples and attached to string.

Then they decorated and assembled another kite.

Leah decided she wanted in on the coloring.  Anytime she can get ahold of a marker, she's all for it.

Flying high.

So we had a fun day and it was absolutely beautiful weather. 

By the way, I absolutely LOVE this song playing by Brandon Heath.  It makes me want to dance with my hubby, and we don't even dance.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Baibai (Goodbye) China

Ni hao (hello).

We spent the past two weeks studying China.  Chinese checkers was a hit, as well as trying our hands at Tangrams.  I've had a set for a while and this was our first time using it and it was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.  The younger boys enjoyed the games as well.  Christopher thought the math worksheet I made for him using Chinese numbers was fun, and we all made Chinese lanterns out of construction paper, which are still hanging in our dining room. 

We also made name initial stamps like were used to sign artwork with and we are going to the Sebastapol House State Historic Site tomorrow to make homemade kites, also popular in China. 

Our read-aloud book right now is about Gladys Aylward, a missionary from the 1930's in rural China.  I love how Christopher brings me the book all of the time to read another chapter.  I think this is my favorite missionary biography that we've read so far and I really reccomend it.  It's amazing to see what one woman did to spread Christianity in that part of China.  I've had to edit a few parts that have to do with violence, which is the case with most of the missionary biographies that we've read. 

The books we are reading are part of a bigger collection of biographies from the Christian Heroes: Now and Then series and Christopher has been making lists of all of the books in the series and wants to collect all 36 of them.  I told him that I'd pay for half of each book and he has already ordered his first set of five.  Unbeknownst to him, I actually ordered the whole set so I'll have them on hand whenever he's ready to purchase the next set.  Free shipping and less cost per book sold me on that, not to mention what a great series it is and how many years they will be enjoyed in our family.

We finished up our study of China with a lunch with Chris on Friday at a local Chinese restaurant, complete with an indoor bridge over a tiny pond filled with turtles that my children found fascinating. 

While I think Chinese food is absolutely delicious, it is not one of the favorites of our kids, but they do like eggrolls, sweet and sour chicken without the sweet and sour sauce (aka chicken nuggets), steamed rice, and fortune cookies.  They all even gave chopsticks a try.  To top off the experience, I asked the manager to speak to Christopher in Chinese, which was pretty neat to hear. 

Next stop...Japan.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We Have Some Milestones!

Anna laughed the most beautiful laugh a few days ago.  I haven't heard one since, but is was wonderful to hear.  I was changing her diaper and she does this thing where she pulls up her dress to suck on it and when I pulled it down and uncovered her face, she gave me this big giggle.  I can't wait to hear it again.  Here are some pictures of Anna and her new favorite thing to do...sucking on her dress.

And while Anna has been twisting her body and being a squirmy worm whenever I change her diaper for a while, she finally gave that extra oomph and rolled all the way over for the first time two days ago.  This time was from her tummy to her back, which seems the easier of the two to me, and really, she doesn't care that much to be on her tummy, so while she twists as far over to the side as she can, I don't think she really wants to roll all the way over to her tummy anyways. 

Three months old is the month for milestones and super cuteness.  I seriously take nibbles of her all the time.

Speaking of adorable little ones, this one is always full of cuteness as well.

Onto another not-so-fun topic...sleep training.  I know there are plenty of opinions on this and I completely believe that you have to find what works for you and your little one. 

For most of my kids, we started with a bassinet next to our bed and switch between sleeping with our baby and putting her/him in the bassinet.  And then around the time they get squirmy, they go into their crib in their own room.  However, the crib has always been available because the next oldest has been 2 1/2 by that point.  Leah is still in her crib, and I plan to keep it that way for many months to come, even until we move at the end of this year as long as she's not climbing out, which she has no interest in yet.

We have the bassinet in our room, which until about a month ago, went pretty much unused.  I started putting Anna in it for naps then so that she'd actually take some good naps.  But she spent nights in bed with Chris and me and I love sleeping with her.  I love snuggling with her at night, being able to slip my shirt up to nurse her and fall back asleep while she was still snacking.  I love waking up to her sweet blue eyes and hearing her cooing at me and sharing those coos with her for the first fifteen minutes every morning, just talking back and forth.  She sleeps in a sleep positioner and I never worried about her rolling over or under me.  And besides, I absolutely hate sleeping by myself and while I know that babies come out of the womb because they are ready to start living their lives a little bit separate from their mommas, I just think I'd want to be all cuddly with me if I were her.

However, for the past week, she has gone from waking once or twice for a middle of the night snack, to waking up four or five times for snacks.  Not good.  So last night when I came up to bed, I fed her and put her in the bassinet instead of in bed with me.  She stayed asleep but an hour later, she woke up to have a snack.  I'm glad it was only an hour later in a way, because I knew for certain that she was plenty fed and did not need a snack.  If it had been three or four hours later, I would have caved and fed her.  But I didn't.  I left in her in the bassinet and for the next almost hour, she lay there, sometimes crying hard, sometimes just fussing, but it was such a long hour for me.  I wanted to go sleep in our extra bed in the playroom, and I would have but I figured it was probably covered in toys and even walking to it across the playroom in the dark would likely result in stepping on and tripping over little toys that would cause me pain.  So I stayed in bed and covered my ears and felt terrible for my husband who gets up early for work and finally Anna fell back asleep.  When we awoke in the morning, it was 8:30 and she was as happy as a clam.  She has never gone that long without eating and has never slept that long either.  It was wonderful and good for her.  It was not fun for her at the time because she didn't know why I wasn't coming to get her, but I know that she needs good sleep to be healthy and happy.

A friend of mine is about to take a far more drastic step in teaching her child independance this weekend.  He is a young 20 something and pretty much won't leave home.  She and her husband are changing the locks this weekend and thinking about it makes me cry.  I've been praying for her and her son all week and I ask you to as well even though you may not know her.  I'm not sure I could be strong enough, but part of raising our children is making hard decisions that will benefit them.

We have our final day in China tomorrow and I'll be sure to give a recap about our travels there and our end of the study feast...yummy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Three Month Old Babies

I was just thinking about how Anna is now three months old and how she is starting to fade out of the newborn babyness and into the infant babyness and learning that she can do some pretty cool things...she has started to give out smiles that I can actually count on rather than just hope for, she can find her little fists and thumbs regularly to suck on them, she has started paying attention to toys around her more, she arches her back so much that she is this close to rolling over, she coos and goos and shows her love to her daddy and brothers and sister and me, and just all of these amazing, new little things that seem to be coming everyday.  It's so fun to be her mommy and I am so excited to watch her grow and interact, but at the same time, she is very, very probably our last baby and I just want to squeeze her and love her and slow time down.  It's times like this when I think about how I will never have a baby this little again doing the little newborn things, the little grunts and the smiles in her sleep, and it makes me want to out-procreate the Duggars. 

While she does smile a lot, she gets camera shy so I don't get many smiles on camera.  She gave me this one though.

Thinking about Anna being three months old aleady got me to thinking about when Leah was three months old.  I found the following that I wrote in December of 2008 about what Leah went through with her hips back then...

After a stressful pregnancy where ultrasounds found both Leah's kidney and brain to have too much fluid in them (a bad sign), where tests ruled out any findable problems, and both issues cleared up at the last ultrasound taken at 36 weeks pregnant, Leah Nichole Rill was born on May 20th, 2008.

That day, the pediatrician found her hips to be dislocatable, or 'loose' in their sockets. The next day we were discharged from the hospital and drove straight to Boys Town Hospital to see an orthopaedic pediatrician who said Leah needed a Pavlik Harness. After the initial crying over something being 'wrong' with my baby, I thought I was holding up pretty well until I actually saw the harness on her for the first time.  That was hard and I felt terrible for crying because of how she looked.

For three months we saw the orthopaedic doctor every two weeks. On July 23rd (two months old), Leah had to go under anesthesia and have an orthrogram and a closed reduction done. This is where they inject dye into her hips and then do a type of ultrasound to see where all the tissue and muscle is around her bones and to put Leah's hips into her sockets correctly without surgery. It showed improvement so she continued to be in the Pavlik Harness.  We had to stay overnight there because of her age.

We moved to Texas in early September and saw a new orthopaedic doctor at Wilford Hall at Lackland Air Force Base. We went in for an appointment right away and I was 100% expecting to hear that she was ready to be done with the harness since it works for babies 80% of the time.  The doctor did an ultrasound on her hips and determined that her hips were now both out of socket and she needed surgery in five days to correct the problem and she'd have to wear a Spica cast for three months and then a brace on her hips for another three months.

That was a huge shock to me and since she needed the surgery so soon, we (all four children and I) had to stay at the hospital for the rest of the day to get all of the pre-op paperwork done, all the while I was crying and devastated and trying to be strong at the same time.  Let me tell you that it took HOURS to sign about five papers at our military hospital, aka socialized healthcare.  Compared to less than five minutes at the private hospital up in Nebraska.  It was very frustrating, which made the day we spent there to sign about five pieces of paper even worse.

On September 7th, when Leah was 3 1/2 months old, we went to the hospital bright and early (actually it was still dark) and Leah went into surgery at about 7AM. Dr. Ritchie made incisions in both creases of her thighs along the 'bikini line' in front and scraped away all the tissue that had built up in her hip socket. Then he placed the hip bones back in place. I was able to go see her at noon and she woke up at about 1PM. She slept most of the day and had an MRI at 1AM (yes, one o'clock in the morning is when they could fit us in) that night which showed that her hips stayed where the doctor put them. She had to stay over night because of her age. It was a very long night with the monitors on her going off for minor reasons.  Such as her oxygen monitor getting loose or her heart rate going up everytime she woke up to eat when I couldn't easily get up to push the quiet button and I eventually got in trouble with the nurse for turning the darn thing off but seriously, I was tired and it's not like it was important enough for anyone to run in to see what was going on. We also had a terrible time when her IV came out and two high school looking residents or something tried to put it back into her arm.  A three months old arm.  I finally asked them to either not put it back in or to get someone else to do it.  Their superior decided it wasn't needed anymore.  We finally got to go home the next day at noon after three HOURS of finding a car seat bed she'd fit in.  Not a smooth experience.

This is when I walked in to see her.  I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but this was not it and the tears came streaming down again.  Leah was very swollen from her IV fluids and the cast was just huge and I just wondered how in the world I would take care of her.  Once I got over the initial shock of what the cast looked like, I calmed down and knew we would be okay.  I love when God does that for me.

Besides, the cast had some positives...what three month old baby can stand up on her own?

And her biggest brother could still hold her.

And all of her brothers give her plenty of love.

She stayed in this white cast for seven weeks and then went back under anesthesia to change casts so she had room to grow. She was old enough this time and didn't have to stay overnight so we were home by about 3PM. Her new cast was pink and was much more conveinant. She was more bent and could fit into her baby gear better. She even fit into her infant car seat which made things so much easier with three other kids to keep up with in public since I could set her down in her infant car seat. She seemed a lot more comfortable in it also, although she still woke up 4-5 times a night. And she didn't get thrush at all in the pink cast and she got it twice in the white cast, which was very uncomfortable for her.

You can see here how the diaper fit up inside of her cast.  I just sort of shoved it up there.

I was thrilled that she fit in her carseat/carrier again.

This is how she a bassinet, propped up on pillows.  She woke up several times a night because it just wasn't very comfortable.

While I did not do this often, her cast sure was strong!

Leah ended up getting her pink cast off on December 3rd, at six months old. The boys and Chris were able to come watch the cast come off, which was neat for them. The machine that worked the saw was loud (like a vacuum cleaner) and Leah screamed the whole time. The inside of the cast was disgusting with #2 all over it on the inside and her legs had small rashes on them from irritation. It looked terrible and I felt like I did a bad job keeping it clean, but really, it's not ideal for diapers.  Her legs were also brown from layers of dry skin.

It was so dirty inside the cast.  It was sort of embarrassing but I was assured that it wasn't as bad as a lot of babies' casts.

This picture does not do justice to show the difference in Leah's thighs, which are white and plump where they were exposed from the diaper hole of the cast, and the rest of her legs, which are brownish and super skinny with very little fat or muscle.  She was very top heavy.

This is the extra space in her car seat without her cast on.

The doctor did an x-ray and pushed on her hips (which made her scream again). He said that her hips looked GREAT and that she DID NOT need the brace that he thought she would at all! That news was just so wonderful to hear. God is great and faithful and healed her hips. The doctor wants to do x-rays in three months and then periodically after that to make sure her hips stay put.

Now Leah has been out of her cast for four days. At first her legs were pretty stiff and she didn't really want to move them and would cry when I moved them or touched them too hard. We gave her Motrin for two days and then she started to move her legs more and get more comfortable it seemed. And they are the skinniest baby legs you've ever seen!  After three days she rolled over from tummy to back. She can't sit up at all, not even really with support and she can't support much of her weight on her legs either. She does okay for small amounts of time with playing on her tummy and her back, something she couldn't do with her cast on. She even slept better last night, only waking twice! She does seem pretty insecure though and cries whenever anyone (besides immediate family) talks to her. She probably isn't too sure about what happened. But it's not like she was really social before her cast came off anyways.

It is so wonderful to hold Leah and cuddle with her without her cast on. I really feel like we missed out on that for the past three months. Each time I get her up from her nap, I feel so thankful that God has healed her and her cast is off.

...back to present day...

Since hip dysplasia runs in families, I am so thankful that Anna's hips are perfect.  In fact, whenever she has a well baby visit, I specifically ask the doctor if her hips feel at all loose in their sockets, even though they check all babies at those visits and would certainly let me know if there was a problem. 

Leah is still not in the clear with her hip problems and I realize that she could be facing another more invasive surgery in about a year, which I dread when I actually think about it, but I do have a peace about it and completely believe that saying, "If God brings me to it, he will bring me through it."  For now I'm just enjoying her 22 month old toddlerness and all of the fun that goes along with that.

And as I sit her next to my sweet sleeping newborn/infant, I think how beautful and perfect she is.  And I think of my four other children upstairs sleeping, beautiful and perfect, hip problems and all.