Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Wonderful Parents

These are my wonderful parents.  Even as I get older, I find I still need them every day!  I love you, Mom and Dad.  I am so blessed to have your presence and your positivism in my life!

Our Family Photos by Juliana Tomlinson Photography

In March 2017, we took the plunge and finally had a professional photo shoot done in the studio of Juliana Tomlinson, my beloved friend and our Vera's Godmother!  This was a dream come true for me, as it's something I've always wanted.  How pleased we were with the results!  Thank you, Juliana!  Click on any image below to see it larger!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vera Likes Football!

Our purse-carrying, pink-wearing, babydoll-loving daughter is more than just a girl enjoying frilly, girly things.  Check out this email below which I sent to my mother and aunt today.  So cute!


Mom and Tess,
Just a few things to share with you!

It's so beautiful and interesting our God makes each child so unique!  I still marvel at how Vera and Liam each approach water so differently.  Liam can't stand water anywhere near his face (like his mommy and grandmother!) and Vera can't get enough of water in her face and thinks it's hilarious!

I wanted to share with you that Vera and her Daddy have a new thing they bond over now!
Vera LOVES football.  Can you believe it?!  She LOVES watching it with Daddy.  She literally REQUESTS it, saying the word, "Football!" in this sweet baby way.
Most of the time she requests it when he's here, holding up her arms to be scooped up so that she can sit on his lap and watch football with him on his phone.
But more recently, she's even starting to ask for football when Daddy's not here.  Today, in fact, I brought up a clip on YouTube of some football games and she was thrilled.
Liam, on the other hand, has never enjoyed watching football...and neither have I!
I can see it now...Michael and Vera will be sporting their football jerseys and talking to the television when important games are on...and Liam and I will be in another room, snacking on chips or something!

A Day in My Life - Winter 2017 Version :)

I am LOVING this phase of childhood right now.  It is such a sweet spot!  Liam is 4 years and 4 months old while Vera is 23 months old.

The kids are becoming so independent; there is so much they can do!  And this affords me more time each day to complete tasks around the house and even occasionally spend time on developing myself.  :)

Since some of you have asked for it and since I would love to remember it for posterity, here's a sample day in my life!  Of course, this is the Winter Version, since we don't get outside much in this bitter cold January weather.  When the Spring is here, I will have to give you an updated version!  We usually get outside 2-3 times per day in the nice weather.  :)

On most mornings, we wake at 8:00 for a 9:15 departure for either preschool or gym class.  I serve the kids a warm bacon and egg quiche with a side of cut grapes just about every morning.  During this time, I let them watch cartoons while I will shower.

While Liam is in school, Vera and I will either attend story time at the library (where we literally bring home a rolling cart of new books), run errands (like grocery shopping), or temporarily separate for 2 hours so that I can attend a mom's group Bible study and she can enjoy socializing with her fellow under-two-year-olds in the nursery (which she loves).

At the conclusion of preschool, we head back home for lunch and our daily faith lesson.  I have been having immense fun planning a simple lesson each day for the kids which corresponds to the liturgical calendar.  On most days, we focus on an attribute of God or His Mother, and then we look for that attribute in the saint of the day.  At other times, we focus on a particular sacrament, miracle of Jesus, or parable that He told.  But we always connect the lesson to something on the liturgical calendar, even if it be one of the readings at daily mass.  After I teach the lesson, Liam summarizes the lesson and "teaches" it back to me so that I can check for his understanding of the most important points.  It is fun to discover what parts of the lesson stand out to him most!  And it is beautiful to see the development of his heart!  The practical application questions are probably my favorite.  :)  His ideas challenge me to be a better person!

Next is Liam's piano practice, unless the day calls for a new lesson from the piano teacher herself.  During this time, Vera will paint with brushes, color with crayons, design with sand art, or play with a sticker book.  Words cannot express how much I enjoy teaching piano to Liam, for I am learning just as he is!  Just before we start, I usually throw into the washing machine a load of laundry and bring up a basket of newly dried items.

After piano, it's bath time.  Often I will get into my bathing suit and jump into the tub with them!  Relaxing in the hot water while my children play around me is peace beyond comparison!  There's no rushing and no need to worry about getting clothes wet while washing the kids.  We're all just fully immersed, both in the water and in the moment.  :)

After fresh towels, fuzzy house coats, and getting in pajamas for the night (even though it's only 3 PM) it's time to nurse Vera and put her down for her nap, and thus begins Liam's Independent Time.  Depending on his choice, I will set up in his room the painting easel, a stereo with light classical music playing at low volume, or plop a nice pile of new library books on his bed.  The rules are simply that he cannot play with toys and he must remain quiet.  Often, I will challenge him to create something new that didn't exist before.  He does a great job with it!

This, then, gives me 45 minutes to an hour to myself!  First, I make the bed for Michael because this is usually the first time I've looked at our bed since I exited it.  Then I try to immerse myself in reading Scripture, and I open my prayer book of intentions.  The view out our bedroom window is of evergreen tree tops and endless blue sky, the perfect backdrop for a time of reflection.  Sometimes I will then blog about life or jot down inspirational notes for my hopeful Fall 2017 YouTube channel.  Or I might catch up on reading and replying to texts and emails.  This personal time is something I've truly waited 3.5 to 4 years for!  And I thank God for it!

Liam and I meet up again about an hour later for dinner preparation.  He has the heart to help but is usually too distracted, so he typically just keeps me company or plays in the living room while I make dinner.  Wafting aromas usually wake Vera, and before long, the kids are helping me to set the table and prepare for Daddy's arrival.

At dinner time, Liam then teaches the day's faith lesson to Daddy while we all eat.  A fun, intersting factoid about our family is that we are constantly sitting down in different places around the table.  The "assigned seats" that we used to have for 4 years disappeared completely somewhere in the last 4 months.  And I love it.  :)

After dinner, I try to pull myself away and force myself to do the dishes because, if I don't, they won't get done.  During this time, Michael will fold and put away all the baskets of laundry that I washed that day.  If, for some reason, the kids didn't have a bath or aren't in their jammies, Michael will do this with the kids at this time.  Then I brush their teeth, we all give our hugs and kisses goodnight, and then Michael and Liam retire to his room for books and night prayer, while Vera and I retire to hers for the same thing.

After the kids are asleep (which is typically at 9 PM), I'll spend the next hour or two finishing the dishes, packing Michael's lunch, starting another load of laundry, and planning tomorrow's faith lesson.  Meal planning (which includes making a grocery list) takes an incredible amount of my time, but I'm excited to unveil in a subsequent blog posting a new strategy I've just come up with (just yesterday!) to streamline the process and save me HOURS of time each week.  Stay tuned for that!

Meanwhile, Michael will head to his office, open mail, and pay bills.  My guilty pleasure before bed is watching YouTube videos on fashion and lifestyle.  But I'm working to limit those so that I can go to sleep when my husband does!  While laying in bed, we try to read some sort of faith-based book together, and right now we are renewing our consecration to Mary by reading Thirty-three Days to Morning Glory.

Thanks for listening!  This was a fun post to write and share with you.  :)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Packed Lunches and Good News

Today we all ate lunch at our local Ford dealership. 

We could have eaten at home, but Liam was much too excited for the little plastic table, toys, and books that reside in the corner of the waiting room.

So, after preschool pick-up and the unload into the house, I started feverishly packing four lunches.  Michael had the day off from work, and we had spent the morning choosing a new front door, storm door, and interior doors at the Home Depot.  We were hungry.

We spent a good hour there in the waiting room, chomping down and having fun, with the kids' antics entertaining the other customers slightly more than the flat-screen television and free snacks.

But upon hearing the good news that our oil change was complete, my day was made by some other news entirely.

"Do you guys own the black 2008 Ford Escape?" a mechanic asked from afar.  Michael was paying at the front desk, and I was helping the kids get their coats on.

After hearing our yes, the man said with a warm smile, "Well, I can tell that you are very attentive parents."

"What is it about our car that gave you that impression?" I said, laughing at the curious origin of this compliment.

"First off, your car seats are perfectly installed," he began.  "Most people do not have their children's car seats properly installed, and since I'm not permitted to tighten or fix them, I usually have to leave a little note."  Then he continued.

"And secondly, I liked the little note you had on the dash with questions that you ask your son about his school day."

Oh my goodness.  He had me figured out!

I must have turned beet red, but I was incredibly flattered and so thankful that this man took the time to be kind.

"You must get little insights into the owners of each vehicle you work on," I said.  But then I apologized with, "Please excuse the messiness of our car!"

He countered, "I don't see any mess.  I see you emotionally connecting with your children."

We both smiled and thanked him for his kindness.

God bless this man for making my day!

It makes me realize that one can never know how far a compliment can go in lifting someone up.  We should all strive to give out sincere and detailed compliments to one another more often!  Lord, please help me do this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Life-Giving Nature of Creativity

I have always said that writing is like breathing for me.

But I have since realized that it is really creativity that is breathing for me.  Whether I'm writing as a reflection, making a faith lesson for the kids, teaching Liam the piano, or brainstorming for my hopeful YouTube debut in the Fall of 2017, all of this is creativity -- and all of this is life-giving for me.  In other words, I need to create often in order to be happy.

If this desire to create is so deeply rooted into me, how can it not be in my children?  This I pondered last night and from it I realized that I needed to give my son the same opportunities for creativity as I have newly begun giving myself.

When Vera is napping and I go upstairs to blog, why shouldn't Liam be just as creative as I'm being?  And so, today I decided to nix the notion of "Quiet Time" and instead embrace it simply as "Liam's Time."

Today I charged him with the opportunity to "create something new that doesn't exist quite yet," and I armed him with several strips of masking tape, an empty tissue box, an empty paper towel roll, a paper plate, a pack of markers, and blank paper.  I also reminded him of the wealth of books on the shelf that he could read if he wished, and I said that he was either welcome to work at his desk or get comfy in bed.  Might he get bored?  Possibly.  But Boredom is the mother of Creativity.

Let's see what this next hour produces for each of us.  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Love It.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Celebrating Saint Nick's Feast Day 2016

We have a family tradition of exchanging gifts on the Feast of Saint Nicholas, each year on December 6th.  We put out our shoes the night before and then wake in the morning to find one gift for each person!  This year, Michael gifted me with a necklace that was power-packed with sentimentality.  On the front of the necklace is our initials and wedding year.  On the back is the initials of our children!  I was so surprised and delighted.  Thank you, Michael!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

That Man

We all know that man.

He could be sitting behind you, beside you, or in front of you.  He could be of large stature or slight.  He could be old or young.  There is absolutely nothing about his appearance that would give you any sort of indication or warning of what's to come.

But then it happens. 

At the Sign of Peace, his handshake is SO STRONG that your fingers smash together, your rings angrily pinch your skin, and--when your hand is finally released from his death grip--you're horrified to discover that your rings are now ovals instead of circles.

Maybe it only happens to me once or twice a year, but it takes about that long (6 months) for an oval ring to round out into somewhat of a circle again, so now I'm overly cautious when we select our pew and take our seats at mass.  The choice can have some lasting effects!

I find myself glancing around, noticing the people in my vicinity, wondering if That Man is here today.  Taking precautions, I begin to discreetly empty my right hand of its rings and pile them all onto my left, usually fumbling to do so just before my husband reaches out to hold my hand for the Lord's Prayer.

Or, if I haven't swapped them all over successfully, I'll cowardly oblige the wiggling Vera for a walk in the hallways if she starts to act up just about then, thus bypassing the handshaking hazard altogether.  It's so convenient!

Lord, help me to better focus during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!  And thank You for giving me the chance to write about silly things like this again.  Oh, how I have missed blogging.  :)

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Meeting My Godson Jack

I am so honored to have been asked by Steve and Britta Prinzivalli to be the Godmother to their third son, John "Jack" Brent Prinzivalli.  I met him for the first time recently, and I am in love!

Even though we technically just met, I feel like I have known him long before this because I met him so often in my prayers.  Britta's pregnancy with Jack seemed like the longest pregnancy ever to me because I was so eager for his birth!

From the moment I learned of his tiny existence, I have been ready to hold him!  My prayer is that I can be in my Godson's life often and frequently, watching him grow and thrive in the love of his family and in the love of the Lord!

Thank you, Britta and Steve, for giving me this incredible honor.  And it excites me, Britta, that this new and beautiful facet of our friendship just makes the path ahead all the more lifelong and beautiful!!

I can't wait till the big day gets here in February!  :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Squishy, Supple Leather

I am so thankful when God gives me a passionate interest in something.  :) 

In the last year-and-a-half, I've been crazy interested in leather handbags and understanding how leather functions in its environment on a molecular level.  I eat up everything I can read on the topic!  I even checked out an entire shelf of leather care books from our library (and requested that all additional books in our county's library system be sent to me).

If I have a moment to myself (think: bathroom), I quickly scan an online article about leather care.  When I do the dishes at night after everyone has gone to bed, I'm watching YouTube to learn about the tanning process!

And when there is debate among professionals about what constitutes best practices (and on this topic, there certainly is), I'm on it like white on rice!  It is like a puzzle for me that I can't resist trying to solve.  I want to become an expert because I feel like I might have a chance at it!  [Side Note:  Maybe that's why my love of hermit crabs blossomed into a life-long passion.  I was astounded by how much incorrect care information was out there, especially in published books!]

I am so grateful for the leather handbag collection that I have, and I've come to learn that each leather piece is vastly different from one another.  Whether the leather is fine grain or pebbled has no bearing on how soft it is.  And indeed looks are deceiving!  One of my bags that looks super distressed and dried out is actually rather new, incredibly hydrated, and has an interior suede nap that feels as soft as a lamb!  Whereas, another bag of the same age and similiar color conversely looks sleek and smooth yet is actually stiff with an interior nap that is so dry it painfully scrapes your skin when you reach into the bag.

So what has all this learning boiled down to?  Buying used is the best way to go.  I have a love/hate relationship with patina.  Always keep a trash bag with you in case you encounter a rain storm.  Waterproofing is not what I do.  Genuine leather is junk.  Leather Honey is the best conditioning product.  And if you stain your leather from an unfortunate encounter with a dripping mango smoothie, simply buy a second smoothie and douse both boots to create a new look that has no stains.  :)

Exhibit A:  On left, my boots with a stain from the mango smoothie.  On right, the result of my crazy idea of dousing both boots in mango smoothie to even things out, rendering my boots happily walking again after a 4-year hiatus.

Exhibit B:  Soft, squishy, supple leather is enjoyed when you buy a well-loved second-hand bag online.  This one collapses each time I place it down because the leather is so incredibly flexible.

Exhibit C:  Every good handbag should be well-trained.  How you set one down is how he will come to always look.  So if you want your bag to flop and squish, push him into position each time until he starts to flop naturally.  This guy is sitting a bit too tall for my liking, so we're learning gradually by starting to sit with our sides pushed in.  :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A Promise for the Year Ahead

I was hoping that our Pope Francis would declare another special liturgical year, following the Year of Mercy.

I had secretly hoped it would be a Year of Worship, for it seemed a fitting sequel and response to a year where God's mercy had been poured out so abundantly.

But, as we just began Advent two weeks ago, Pope Francis declared no special year at all.  I found myself surprised, disappointed, and a wee bit empty.

So I took a long hard look at myself, noticing that I repeatedly fall into the temptation to complain.  I will complain about several things every day, and giving voice to them only sullies my reality.  Indeed, to complain is to drink poison.  It only makes matters worse.  And while I can't control everything, I certainly can control my responses.

With your ardent prayers, dear reader, I hope to make this new year a Year of No Complaining.  Immediately with it should come a year of pure gratitude which will mean a year of true contentment.  And to be content is to feel peace!

Sure, I may still need to vent occasionally because I am human.  But I know that my words can find a way to vent without complaint.  I will choose to speak in a way that is redemptive.  And if you catch me falling and complaining, please remind me and lift me up!

May this reality begin right now.  :)

Monday, December 05, 2016

My Greatest Lesson from 2016

The year of 2016 has been an awesome year.  As it draws to a close, I'm reminded to reflect on what God's greatest lesson to me has been this year.

Without a doubt it is this:  The Peace of Christ is the greatest gift anyone can have. 

When one has it, one must safeguard it above all other things.  One must work to protect it, preserve it, maintain it, and nourish it.  One must allow it to grow, prosper, blossom, flourish, and spread.  Indeed, it is a living thing!  It is the very life--the eternal life--that God has given us!  We are fully alive when we have it.

It has taken me this long (my life of 37 years) to finally realize that the greatest inhibitors to my Peace of Christ are materialistic greed and the ridiculous mode of rushing.  Indeed, when I indulge too much in the pleasures of buying or when I fall into the notion that I must rush myself or the children, His Peace is disrupted within me (and perhaps equally so in the people that surround me).  And repeated disruptions begin to dissolve it until I find myself in the throws of what I can only describe as unrest, uneasiness, and needless anxiety.

And so I have charged myself with a new mission in this new liturgical year.  I desire to be an ambassador of the Peace of Christ, lowly as I am (but equally as eager) to bring His Peace to others I encounter.  This will be a task I cannot complete without your many prayers because I so often find myself browsing online, dreaming of my next purchase, or mismanaging my time which then results in a need to rush or the vanity of believing that I am too busy or important to slow down for the comfort of others.

I am listening intently to my heart these days, trying to notice immediately when the Peace of Christ feels disrupted and to immediately take different steps to put Him back in His sovereign place.

May the Peace of Christ reign supreme in your hearts!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

These Two.

Gosh, my heart melts.  Look at their little pajamas!  Tiny bodies, full of love, wonder, and awe.  It is an honor to be their mother, a privilege to spend every day with them, and the sweetest responsibility I have ever committed to in life.  Thank you, Jesus, for these two little toy box treasure hunters.  Allow me to savor and soak up every moment!

Monday, October 17, 2016

In the Springtime Weather of October

Yesterday was magnificent.

Michael let me sleep in till 11 AM! 

Then we leisurely got ourselves and the kids dressed before we jetted off in the Springtime weather of mid-October for an afternoon healing mass.  :)

Both Michael and I received the sacrament, and we got to meet up with our dear friend Chris.  This is actually the second time in our marriage where we've both received this anointing, and I believe it was the third time for each of us individually.  We praise God for His generosity through this opportunity!

On the way home, with the windows rolled down and the feeling of Spring in the air, Michael suggested that we forgo our at-home dinner plans and instead spontaneously eat at a wings place that caught his eye on the side of the road.

We ate outside in the bright sunshine, marveling that God had truly given us a perfect day.

4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4

I can't believe Bun is four!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mid-July 2015

Two ladies together, examining their pretty nails

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Before and After

Saturday, February 28, 2015

His Heart

I love my son's heart.

Every day, I get to know him a little better, and--since Vera's birth--I have seen an even more wonderful dimension of him.

I knew already that he has a caring, kind heart.  He is always very safety-conscious, warning everyone who leaves the house, "Don't fall on the ice!"  He'll even alert Michael and I to the knives on our dinner table, warning, "Sharp!" as he points at them with concern for us.  In front of the oven, he'll remind us, "Hot!"  And to each of these things, we thank him for his concern.

And I have delighted in seeing how his caring heart extends to his sister.  He has acted gentle and loving toward her from the very beginning.  He never forgets to kiss her good-bye or good-night.  And even before she was born, he was hugging my belly and would never forget to kiss my belly before bed.  All these things he initiated on his own, without prompting from us.  This is truly him, a reflection of who he is as a person, uniquely made in the image and likeness of God!

Recently, Liam did something that astounded me.  As we do every evening, all four of us had gathered in his room for Night Prayer.  During our praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, Vera began to cry, and Liam--who transitioned brilliantly from nursing the morning I went into labor to no longer nursing after that--suggested I nurse Vera and then suggested that he and Daddy get off of the rocker so that I could rock Vera on it!  I was amazed at his concern for her cries and his personal sacrifice to make her feel better.

That's another thing he says so often:  "Feel better!"  He says it all the time to anyone who is feeling less than perfect.  And he has a very natural and keen ability to sense if someone is in pain or isn't feeling well.  For example, he'll see the dry, broken skin on my winterized hands and say, "Mommy hurts?" to which I reply with affirmation and he'll say, "Aww!  Feel better, Mommy!"  And then he'll remember it the next day, examine my hands, and ask me if I feel better yet.  It's amazing!

Oh, Liam, thank you for your loving, caring heart.  Never, ever change who you are!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Birth Story of Baby Vera

Dear reader, I am delighted to share with you the birth story of our daughter, Vera Catherine!  She was born on February 12th, 2015 at 2:40 AM! 

Our little one's due date was the Feast of Saint Valentine; so, as the date approached, we prayed hard for no snow, ice-free roads, a safe delivery, and a healthy baby.

Earlier in the month, I had prayed that our child might be born on February 11th, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes.  And, somehow, I felt Our Lady tell me on February 9th that if I honored her Son in a special way on February 10th, she would make February 11th (her feast day!) very special for us.

So, on February 10th, in preparation for Our Lady's feast day, Liam and I went to daily mass, I went to confession, and later that night I went by myself to Eucharistic Adoration.  As I sat there quietly in the pew and rubbed my belly, I continued to sense that Our Lady was telling me that things would happen on her feast day.

On the morning of February 11th, my parents took Liam to his library story time class.  In the afternoon, a plumber came to the house for repairs.  And then, just as everybody left, my sister-in-law Cindy texted me to remind me that we were approaching 3 PM, the hour of Divine Mercy.  She, too, was praying for my little to be born on Mary's feast day.

No sooner did I receive her delightful reminder text and the clock struck three, I felt a strange sensation in my belly.  It was fleeting and gone within a few moments, so I thought I must have imagined it.

But, a few minutes later, I felt something weird again.  And then it was gone.  As time passed, I began to notice that when I had the feeling, I certainly believed it was something.  When I didn't have the feeling, it was completely absent.  And the feelings felt like mild menstrual cramps.

I wasn't sure what I was experiencing, so I chose to text Michael at work instead of disturb him with a phone call.  He responded immediately, telling me to keep him updated, and I promised that I would.  I texted my parents and promised to keep them updated as well.

As the hour passed, it dawned on me.  Contractions DO feel like menstrual cramps in the beginning!  I quickly downloaded an app to keep track of these sensations, and I was surprised to see that they were coming every 5 to 8 minutes and lasting almost exactly 30 seconds each.

I was so grateful for my son Liam's sweet understanding when I told him, "Mommy isn't feeling well and her belly hurts."

He seemed to instantly understand, his face looking sad as he asked, "Mommy hurts?"  And then, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he took himself out to the living room, turned on the TV, and started a DVD we had gotten from the library.

Around 4:30 PM, I felt pretty confident that this was the early stage of labor.  I had spent the last hour and half just laying on the bed feeling them every 5 minutes, and I couldn't believe our 2.5-year-old was allowing me to rest!  That's when I began to call Michael, only to see a text from him that said he was leaving work that moment.  We spoke as soon as he got to the car, and then I called my parents and told them to come over.

Incredibly, I had a crock pot meal ready to go, all warm and bubbly and ready to serve five people.   It surely must have been the Holy Spirit which had inspired me to assemble it that morning!  So, when Michael, Mom, and Dad walked in the door between 5 and 6 PM, only the table needed to be set.  I ate little and took a partial shower, but the contractions were getting stronger.  I dressed and prepared for the hospital.  Michael called his mother and told her to start heading here from New Jersey.

When I called the hospital to speak to a midwife, I later came to learn that my composed and calm voice is what caused her to tell me that "this might be false labor," and that I should take a 20-minute warm bath, lay on my left side, and drink a sugary drink to see if the contractions subside.  If not, I was to call her in an hour.

I did these things, but my body kept up the pace.  In the last 6 hours, I was averaging 11 or 12 contractions an hour, most of them 5 minutes apart, and nearly all of them still lasting 30 seconds.  Although the contraction length was short, the consistency of everything made my second call to the midwife be received with a recommendation to "come in and we'll check you out."

As I prepared to dress again, I noticed I had a "bloody show," the equivalent of a light period.  The time was 9:40 PM.  We departed for the hospital at 10 PM, my contractions so strong now that I preferred to stand and squat with my legs open, rocking myself back and forth.  I had to stop several times on the sidewalk and in the parking lot to experience a contraction.  The frigid air felt great to me, and I walked slowly.

As we checked in at the Women's Place front desk of Heart of Lancaster Hospital, I found myself hunched over and hanging on to the counter, trying to hold in groans.  And although they gave me a wristlet to wear that implied I was only going to be evaluated, the receptionist called for a wheelchair and the nurses that met me in the hallway immediately decided that this would be a full admission!  Into Room 401 we went, just 2 doors down from where I delivered Liam 2.5 years ago in Room 403.  Ah, a happy place of memories!

My eyes were spending more time closed now than they did open, a sure sign that my body was taking over and social interactions would become minimal.  They checked for dilation and effacement (the widening and thinning of my membranes), and were amazed to tell me that I was 9 centimeters dilated already!  The midwife (Terry McCormick) laughed and said, "You second-baby mothers!  You sound so calm on the phone, but here you are, 9 centimeters dilated!"  It was 10:42 PM.

After reviewing our birth plan and discussing a few things, I was told to let them know when I had the urge to push.  In the meantime, I would endure contractions with Michael rubbing my back and my mother squeezing my hand.  I groaned from the depths of my being and found that hanging myself over the back of the bed and squatting gave me the most relief.

As it neared Midnight, the staff suggested they break my water, assuring me that if they did, the baby would be here very quickly!  I hesitated, wanting to keep things progressing as naturally as possible.  Part of me realized that, if I had said yes, I might have this baby born on Our Lady of Lourdes Feast Day, but I chose to wait.  What was most important was God's perfect timing.

To finish off that last centimeter of dilation that I needed, at 12:15 AM Terry suggested I lay on my left side for 20 minutes and remain there, even when the contractions got intense.  They checked my cervix again, said I had a small anterior lip which would go away if I laid on my right side, and they said my bag of waters was bulging!

So, I then laid on my right side at 12:58 AM for 20 minutes, with a small break to use the restroom in between.  At 1:45 AM, they checked my cervix again and reported that I was "complete" or fully open with a bulging bag of waters!  The staff remarked that I was the quietest mama to be "complete" and yet only moaning and groaning and not screaming.

I continued to experience intense contractions but I still had no desire to push.  This was a good observation on my part because--with Liam's birth--I had misinterpreted their statement of, "Let us know when you want to push," as an optional thing which I readily accepted, not realizing that it would cause me to voluntarily push for 2 hours when I never had the "urge" to do so.

At 2:10 AM, I felt pretty sure that my body was going to start pushing soon, and no consent would be needed on my part.   Michael and Mom pressed the button for the midwife to return, and at 2:20 AM, they asked again if they could break my water, and Michael suggested we do it.  I said yes, and the process was done quickly, easily, and painlessly with a device that looked like a crochet hook.  Unlike my labor with Liam (where my water broke spontaneously at 2 in the morning and he was born 11 hours later), this would be quick.  Just as the midwife and nurses said, this baby was going to be here very soon.

My decision to wait to push until I had that urge was key.  I had waited so patiently that when the "urge" hit (at 2:24 AM, only 4 minutes after they broke my water), my body also took over the pushing in an intense and completely involuntary way.  I was bearing down and pushing with a ferocity that made my groans feel like a lioness' roar coming out from the depths of my very being!  This was a totally different experience than my labor with Liam.  This time it was like I was riding a wild bull.  I tried various birthing positions, unsure of what my body preferred.

My body pushed for only 16 minutes (which I'm guessing was a total of 4 intense times or so) before they recommended that I lay on my back, just as I felt the baby's head between my legs, its circumference stinging and tearing the opening of my skin.  On the next push, out baby came!  It was 2:40 AM.

Terry caught the child but let Michael examine our babe, to which he then announced, "It's Vera!" just as she made her way onto my chest.  I tell you, I knew it--from the moment we conceived her to the moment I saw her and before he even announced it--that THIS was our daughter!  The little girl I had hoped for my whole life (and had "named" back in 1985) was finally here!

Vera started playing with my Miraculous Medal and Brown Scapular right away!
Mom cried and kissed me, and Vera snuggled onto my skin, her eyes wide and bright, her countenance flushed with equal wonder and awe at seeing me as I had for seeing her.  She laid happily on my chest, and I was in Heaven!

At 2:46 AM, the midwife helped remove my placenta.  At 2:50 AM, obstetrician Dr. Blackmon began to stitch my third degree lacerations closed. When she was done, I called my dad to give him the great news!

At 3:05 AM, Vera began nursing on my right side.  At 3:32, she continued on my left side.  Together we enjoyed the entire Golden Hour we requested, and we even got an extra 30 minutes to boot! 

We praise God that Vera's Apgar scores were 9 and 9 again (5 minutes later), and her preliminary evaluations (done on a warming bed after our Golden Hour-and-a-Half) were great.  The gift of good health is not something any of us should take for granted, and we praise God for this privilege!

They then weighed her and said she was 7 pounds 8 ounces.  Then they took footprints and hand prints.  Her head circumference was 11.75 inches and her length was 20 inches.  Her temperature was a perfect 98.6, they said.

At 9:00 AM, she was given her first sponge bath by Daddy and a nurse.  At 9:12 AM, she made her first dirty diaper, with both poop and pee!  It's funny what you celebrate as a parent!

Later that day, our sweet son Liam came to the hospital with Michael's mother to meet Vera for the first time!  Our son has been right all along that I had a "girl baby" in my belly.  For this special moment, Liam wore blue hospital scrubs that said "Big Brother" on them.  I had found them on consignment for only $2!

His reaction to her was delightful.  "Baby!' he said, observing how my belly was now significantly smaller.  Then he pointed out all of her features, saying, "Tiny hands, tiny nose, tiny feet, tiny eyes!"  His affection for her has been awesome!

I was delighted to observe that the dizziness which plagued me immediately after Liam's birth (and which lasted 1.5 years) was completely absent in this pregnancy, perhaps because I was never put on Magnesium Sulfate because--praise God!!--I did not experience pre-eclampsia this time!

Later on, a nurse would confirm for me that Magnesium Sulfate is a "horrible" drug that is easy to accidentally overdose on and that the effects on the body can linger for months.

We are praising God for all the miracles He bestowed upon us!  I felt like myself during the entire labor, delivery, and even immediately afterward.  Although this birth felt more intense in its strength because of its quickness, it was a much better birth -- and my recovery this time has been quick and easy, totally unlike what I experienced in giving birth to Liam.  I thank You, Jesus!

Our little girl is a gift we are unwrapping more and more each day.  So far, we have been delighted to see her extremely easy-going nature, her swiftness in learning to breastfeed, and how the emotions of wonder and awe sweep over her beautiful countenance when she beholds us!  Even her sweet little jaw drops open at times like this.  I think she's just as enamored with us as we are of her!  Truly, my happiness feels so abundant that I don't think I can ever be quite as sad or angry as I have been in the past!

Thank You, God, for this gift of new life, and thank you, Mary (and all the angels and saints!) for your loving intercession!

Our special celebration dinner on the last day

My parents brought us a heart-shaped pizza, which we devoured!  A good caption for this photo would be, "Look!  I delivered a pizza!"  Haha.

We got a pink sign this time!

Michael called Father O'Blaney to tell him the great news, and he came to give Vera and I a blessing!

The tradition continues!  Even our daughter went home in Boston Red Sox gear!

Godmother Juliana and her husband Greg raced to the hospital to meet Baby Vera, as soon as their work days were over!  (Note the photo bomb by my attractive compression sock and bare toes!)
So where are the photos of the proud grandparents, you ask?  Don't worry; they will be forthcoming!  We took tons but they are sadly not on my phone presently, so hang tight!  Both sets of grandparents are thrilled with their new little granddaughter named Vera.  And did you know that Vera means "faith" in Russian and "truth" in Latin?   The name was most popular in 1950, but we are happy to bring it back into fashion 65 years later!  Haha!

Thank you for sharing in our joy!  More soon!