Welcome to our blog! In our home living life to the fullest often means we simply survive the day. We laugh, we learn, we cry, we play; we embrace chaos while pursuing sanity, and above all, we love fiercely.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday morning thoughts......

If I don't count the time I was off Facebook for 10 months, this is the first time I've not been on Facebook for Lent. I needed to take the break, and Lent is what it took for me to be able to follow through with that! It's been wonderful. I'm sure my blood pressure has been more stable, and I'm not angry at the world. ;) It's amazing how icky people can be on Facebook. I've certainly been that way myself. And all of the "issues" that have popped up this year that everyone and their brother feels the need to post about on FB, and then demonizing people who think differently....well, it just got to be too much.

This has been a lovely time of self-reflection, and of trying to re-direct all the energy that I give Facebook to more meaningful pursuits, such as my children. They are sweet, sweet souls! Dominic is 5 years old today, and Lillian turned 2 at the end of February. "The days are long but the years are short" has not always been true in this house, but today it is. I cannot believe how the time has moved. Dominic's birth was the only one where I had a totally natural labor....but it ended in a nightmarish c-section. What a scary, scary time. Thank God we have this sweet boy today, because we nearly didn't! He had a birthday party yesterday with his closest buddies, and had such a great time. It is so fun watching him grow, and see him growing in these relationships with these other sweet boys. I am so thankful for the friends in my life, and for their beautiful families - I am constantly inspired by my amazing mama friends - their examples encourage me to struggle through the difficulties in my own life so I can be a better mom and wife.

I haven't gotten to all the things I wanted to for this Lent, but just being off of Facebook has been such a gift! It's like all the windows for my heart, mind and soul have been opened, airing out all the yuckies! Lol. I have had to do some very deep reflecting about relationships I have with people - both friends and family. It's been made more and more apparent to me that, no matter the connection to a person, if they are toxic to me in any way, I just have to walk away. Sometimes it's hard to think that's okay - but I know that if I truly want the best for them, and pray for their peace and happiness, it's okay for me to not have a "relationship" with them. I am easily worked up and influenced by the attitude of others, and walking away is what's healthiest for me in these situations. On Facebook I posted a while ago that I'm not as warm and fuzzy as some people think I am. This is definitely true. If someone irritates me too much, I will not seek them out. I will never try and see them or even talk with them again. Many people think they can behave a certain way to others and it's okay because that's just how they are, and people need to accept it, or, it's okay to treat someone poorly because they'll always be there. Well, if that's how you are, bully for you - but I'm not sticking around! Lol. There are some people who have exasperated me beyond repair. By that, I mean that whenever I see or hear their name, or even just think of them, peaceful thoughts do not fill my mind. So, I'm moving on. It'll be better for all of us, in the end. Especially if I am the one who is a bad influence - sometimes just anything I say will cause people to lash out, argue just because they can, be rude, condescending, etc. I know and love many people who disagree with my opinions and values, but we continue to be respectful to each other, no matter how vast our differences. Often, argument for the sake of argument is just not helpful, or healthy, or necessary. And in fact, it can just be damaging. Facebook has, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), taught me that.

Many things have happened to us throughout our marriage, and I'm thankful we've had this Lent where I've not been cut open for some reason or other! ;) It's been a while since it's been such an uneventful spring. It's allowed me more time to focus on mending myself spiritually and mentally. I have a long way to go, but I'm on the road, now. After this Facebook hiatus, I'm hoping it will be easier to just use FB to share pictures of my children, and keep in contact with people I care about, and who truly *care* about me. It's certainly not the place to change minds...at least, that's what I've seen about the issues that are important to me. Even when I've toned it down and not been inflammatory - just tried to share information - it's gotten ugly. The best thing, then, is to just stop that. My husband is so good about not caring about things like that. He's un-phased, unemotional. He's amazing! Haha. I look up to him, especially in this area! ;) Unfortunately, I'm a pepper pot....so moderation is sometimes too much, even. :P Peace to you all - I hope you've been enjoying the spring weather, and having a fruitful Lent, too. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thinking About the MMR Vaccine - by my husband, Jared Ostermann

            There are a lot of people out there willing to become angry, attack my parenting, make unfair judgments, and call me silly nonsensical names (“anti-vaxxer!” “science denier!”) if I exercise my right as a parent not to vaccinate my child against a particular disease or set of diseases. I think this says a lot about them - and their lack of perspective, common courtesy, and respect for other human beings’ rights, beliefs, and privacy - and very little about me. So, I’d like to say a little about me and post it on the internet. I’m sure that even the sentences above are already marked “TLDR” in many peoples’ minds; but I’ll forge ahead anyway and try to keep things short.  I’m also sticking to Measles here because it’s the current fad disease we are told to worry about. And because my wife and I are not “pro” or “anti” vaccine - rather, we evaluate each disease or set of diseases separately when making vaccine decisions. Sometimes we say yes, sometimes no. Here is some perspective on why we don’t do the MMR vaccine:

I’ll set up some numbers first.

I have three children, ages 6, 4, and 2 years old.

How many children are there in that age bracket in the United states? According to the 2010 US Census, there were 20,301,262 under 5 and 20,348,657 from 5-9 years old. To keep things simple I’ll lump the ages together and say 40,649,919 between 0 and 9.

How many are vaccinated? According to the CDC’s 2013 National Immunization Survey, the national vaccination coverage rate for MMR is 91.9%.

What is 8.1 % of 40,649,919? Answer: 3, 292,643. OK so far? I think it is safe to say that there are about 3, 292,643 children ages 0-9 in the United States that have not had the MMR vaccine. The smaller this number the weaker my argument, so I’ll round down to 3,200,000

Next question: how many unvaccinated 0-9 year olds got Measles in the US last year? This is a bit harder to find out exactly, but for the purposes of this summary I’m ok with any rounding off and simplifying that weakens my argument.  According to the CDC there were a total of 644 cases in 2014. I will take the number 644 as a starting point, even though it is significantly higher than the average for the last decade. According to the CDC, “most” cases were unvaccinated, so for my purposes I can simplify by saying “all cases” were the unvaccinated. How many were 0-9? The closest I can find through the CDC is statistical summaries from January-August of 2013, and January-May of 2014. In the 2013 report, 72% were under 19 years old. In 2014, 48% were under 19 years old. Well, that’s kind of a big spread, and the 2014 report, being in May, analyzes less than half the cases from that year. I guess I will take the high end and say 70%, even though this is the 0-19 years old set rather than my smaller subset of 0-9. What is 70% of 644? We’ll round up to 451, really a silly number given all my rounding up and the doubly large age bracket, but it’s something to work with. So I’m guesstimating 451 unvaccinated children ages 0-9 with measles in 2014.

OK now some basic probability analysis. What is the chance of my unvaccinated 0-9 year old getting measles, based on these numbers? It is 451/3,200,000, or .0001409375 or, as a percent, .0141%. In other words, about 1.5 in 10,000 unvaccinated children will get measles. Pretty unlucky, but it is a chance.

Now another statistic - what is the mortality rate of Measles in the US? The CDC gives the answer 1 or 2 in 1000 children, so I’ll take the (2x) higher number of .2%. 

Remember elementary probability? To find the probability of two independent events BOTH happening you multiply their probabilities together. The probability of a perfectly fair coin coming up heads is .5. The probability of getting heads twice is .5 x .5, or .25. What is the probability of BOTH A (getting measles, .000141) and B (dying, .002) happening to my unvaccinated 0-9 year old? Answer: .000000282, or .000028%, or about 3 in 10 million. 

Next, I’ll make two assumptions that hurt my argument, in order to continue this discussion:
1 - I’ll assume the MMR vaccine is 100% effective
2 - I’ll assume that my breastfed, healthy, non immuno-compromised, non-daycare and non-public school children share this general .000028% chance of dying from measles.

I will also leave aside Measles complications for the moment, since the truly scary ones are actually less likely than death. According to the CDC Encephalitis is at .1% probability, and Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (the stuff of nightmares - this may actually be worse than death) is at .001% (5-10 out of ten million cases). It’s funny to me how often those two complications are mentioned by people trying to make the point that measles is serious, when they are less likely than death. Death is a scary enough complication - let’s stick with that!

So where does that leave me as a parent? Is there a risk of death from not vaccinating? Technically, yes. We have found an actual number that does exist, so there is a chance. As Jim Carrey put it:

He’s right, technically, and so are vaccine advocates when they try to scare me into vaccinating. But the question is, is a 3 in 10 million chance something that any rational person would fixate on? Am I actually frightened of a .00003% chance of death for my children? No, not really. In fact it doesn’t even make the list of fears that consciously register with me as a parent. What does scare me? Well, according to the National Institute of Health Statistics 2013 life table the probability of dying between age 1 and 5 is .1 % and the probability between age 5 and 10 is .05 %. Put another way, if I am worried that my child might be in the .1 % that dies (and what parent isn't), there must be many, many risk factors that are exponentially more important than measles. Such as basically any other disease or health complication you can imagine (especially the top killers of heart disease and cancer). But since my children have checked out fine so far from some of these actually scary possibilities, there is also the risk of accidents of various kinds - drowning, choking, SIDS, traffic accidents. If you go to the Health Statistics table above and scroll down to table 11, you can find the national death rate by cause and age for all kinds of interesting things. For example, the chance of my 1-4 year old dying by accidental drowning and submersion is 2.5 per 100,000 or .0025%. Actually, that’s not as high as I expected, but still 100 times more likely than my inflated odds of measles death above. The death rate for motor vehicle accident death is about the same for my 1-4 year old - 2.7 out of 100,000. One of the highest rates is simply titled “accidents” and is 8.3 per 100 thousand. Look, we could go on with this all day (that’s a very interesting table). But the bottom line is, there are countless things in the world more likely to cause my children’s death than even my absurdly pessimistic measles estimate above. Are there practical ways I can reduce the chances of death by drowning, choking, or accidents in everyday life? Definitely, and to be honest I’m a bit obsessive compulsive about patrolling the house for baby chokers, toys on the stairs, tripping hazards, open bathroom doors, being sure to cut food into tiny bites, and so forth. It seems rational to me to look for ways to reduce risk as a parent, especially from these kind of everyday hazards that are some of the leading causes of death. It does not seem rational to me to analyze every kind of risk I can possibly imagine, and obsess about things that have an almost nonexistent chance of harming my kids. Yes, risk is incurred by avoiding the vaccine - but only in the technical sense that we can guess at a tiny probability; not in the sense that avoidance is a dangerous activity, by any sane definition of the term.

But Wait! Why take even this tiny risk if it is avoidable through the MMR vaccine?

Well, if the vaccine were absolutely 100% safe beyond any doubt, then I suppose there would be no reason at all NOT to take it. Although, just as a matter of principal, I might still argue against obsessively chasing around after every .00003 % death probability we can think of. But the fact is, there are complications. I’m not talking about autism, I’m talking about the rare and generally not serious complications officially noted by the vaccine experts. It’s interesting that the CDC considers their rarity a good argument for ignoring them, while the tininess of risk from the disease is typically dismissed as an argument. This is where sleight of hand with basic probability comes into play. Official statements from the experts and CDC will typically discuss the probability of independent events. So for example, the probability of complications from measles is measured against the probability of complications from the vaccine. And of course, complications from the disease are far more likely than complications from the measles vaccine. I should hope so! Otherwise the vaccine would be a pretty silly idea. Or, the pamphlets will compare the possibility of getting measles with the possibility of vaccine complications. Again, this is a no-brainer. You’re exponentially more likely to get measles than to have a vaccine complication. Finally, they will point out that you’re much more likely to avoid the disease if you’re fully vaccinated. Again, I would hope so! But the difficulty is that to have a real problem I have to have two independent probabilities both line up: first, the probability of getting a rare disease, and second, the probability of getting a serious complication from it. That’s what I've looked at above. I have read dozens of statements and websites and pamphlets from the professionals, and not once have I found someone compare the chance of getting a severe complication from measles (again, a combination of two probabilities) with the chance of a severe vaccine complication (only one probability because vaccine reception is a given). Why would this be? Probably because both numbers are so tiny that neither really has compelling weight as a motivator for a regular person. I could go on at length about the rhetoric of the vaccine-advocate camp (by the way, I find “advocate” a more helpful label for others, since I am “pro-vaccine” in the sense that I am glad we have this technology and would use it for myself or my children in many cases, but I do not advocate for universal vaccine use in a political or philosophical sense). But I will just stop here and say that I find the use of probability in vaccine-advocate literature misleading. From looking at the numbers I conclude that there is a tiny chance of danger from not vaccinating, and also a tiny chance of danger from vaccinating. Thus, for me, this is a tempest in a teapot - and certainly nothing to provoke hateful, childish exchanges online. I would never judge another parent for subjecting their child to the tiny danger of vaccinating, and I expect a similar courtesy to be shown to me if I prefer the tiny danger of not vaccinating.

Before I leave the numbers behind, I’ll just respond to one other line of argument from the vaccine advocates. They often say “that’s all very well for your kid, but you have no right to subject other kids to the danger of measles.” I will leave aside the philosophical discussion about whether we have a moral imperative to band together as a species to rid the natural world of any organism that might possibly harm us, although it is such an interesting topic in many different ways. Mosquitoes, for example - but no, I’ll resist the temptation! I will also avoid a lengthy debate about utilitarianism, although that is interesting as well. Many vaccine advocates take utilitarianism (the most good for the most people) as an incontrovertible given, but in reality there is a great deal of human thought surrounding that term. Here I will just admit that yes, we can guess at a certain danger to others from my not vaccinating. It is difficult to conceive of the probabilities at play here, but I’d be interested to see the model. For people who do vaccinate, you would have to take the percentage who do not develop immunity (I believe around 3 %), then run the numbers again: the probability of my child getting measles, times the probability of him/her passing it to a non-immune vaccinated person, times the probability of serious complication or death from this particular case of measles. Alternately you could find the number of vaccinated people who get measles, divided by the total vaccinated population, blame 100 % of that on non-vaccinators (leaving aside international guests and those who transmit the disease because they were vaccinated), and multiply the probability by the death/complication rate of measles. There is an even smaller subset of people are not immune because they, for medical reasons, COULD NOT vaccinate but wanted to, and you could attempt to find out how many of them got measles, blame that 100 % on non-vaccinators, and try to find a number. Here is a preview of all of the above activity: the numbers will be even smaller than what I came up with for my own children. And involve a great deal of guesswork at that. The day someone can, with a straight face, compare these estimated numbers with the potential harm to others of a variety of everyday actions (such as, for example, allowing your 16-year old to drive), I suppose we can at least have a rational discussion about them.

But Wait! The numbers are only so tiny because 92 % of the population vaccinates! And we have all but eradicated the disease! If you don’t vaccinate, you will return us to a situation where many more people get the disease, thus completely changing your analysis. And killing innocent people in the process!

This is an interesting argument, and I have a couple of things to say about it. First, I make my decisions about my child’s health based on reality. And the numbers I’m talking about are the numbers right now, in the real world, where we have all but eradicated the disease and most choose to vaccinate. So in a way this argument is saying “you’re right, but only because your data is factual!” What this argument seems to imply is that I am obligated to make family health decisions based on a potential but as yet nonexistent set of data points. And in response, I make no apology for basing my decisions in reality. But for the sake of argument, it can be interesting to imagine potential future outcomes. For example, is it likely that vaccine rates will increase, decrease, or stay the same in the future? I don’t have a crystal ball handy, but given the hate, name-calling, and public shaming doled out to those who choose not to vaccinate, combined with our general cultural tendency to “go with the flow”, I don’t have any real expectation that rates will decrease significantly in the future. Most people don't want to deal with all of that societal pressure, let alone an argument with their family physician. And I have no problem with that, since I am not “anti-vaccine”. I simply view present reality and conclude that MMR is not a necessity for my kids.

But Wait! Your children are then unfairly benefiting from the vaccinations of others, without sharing the risk!

When this comes up, my snarky side wants to reply: “so now you are angry about the risk your children take when they get vaccinated? You have just been calling me names for even suggesting that vaccines could be dangerous!” But in a more reasonable vein, as long as nobody is forced to inject medical treatments into their or their children’s bodies, my conscience is clear. If the top 1 % in America could implement compulsory vaccination, but only for the children of the lower 99 %, I could see a legitimate problem. But in spite of the ad campaigns, media hysterics, peer pressure, and public shaming of non-vaccinators, the choice is (at the moment) still free in America. Thus, when viewing reality I see that we live in a society where most people freely choose (and will most likely continue to choose) to administer vaccines. I do not force anyone to inject anything into their children. But seeing that most people do, for a disease that is already largely eradicated, I conclude that the numbers discussed above hold true and will likely continue to do so. I then make what I consider a good decision for my child. Is this unfair to the vaccinated child? I don’t believe so, given that that child’s parents were free to make what they consider the best decision for their child. "Fair" to me means that everyone had an equal free choice in the matter. I think this would be an interesting point to pursue farther, with questions of “what is fairness?” “is life fair?” “should life be absolutely fair?” “do I have an obligation to do everything possible to ensure that my children have no advantages over other children?” Don’t all parents seek out unfairness with a passion, in the sense that they want good things for their children and there is often heavy competition for good things in life? At any rate, as interesting as the concept of “fairness” is, my quickie answer is above. 

But Wait! This is just for MMR.
Yes, that is what I limited myself to. Because, you see, different vaccines are for different diseases, which each have their own risk factors, mortality rates, occurrence in the population, and so forth. I never said I was “anti-vaccine”; only that I was not giving MMR vaccines to my kids. And that is why you should avoid a hermeneutic of simple-minded labeling when engaging with other viewpoints. If you want to know about another vaccine, you can ask me. 

To conclude:
All of this talk of numbers and probabilities is interesting, certainly, but there is a larger point I will end with. Life is more than the mere analysis and avoidance of risk. Much, much more, in fact. If we could find someone who lives purely via the principal of risk analysis, we would see a paranoid, highly dysfunctional, possibly insane person - whether an analyzer because of insanity, or driven insane by endless analysis. There are lots and lots of ways to die, and in fact we will all die at some point no matter what. Constant reflection on these possibilities is not healthy in a physical or mental sense. I think this is part of what Chesterton was getting at when he said: “Life is far too serious a thing to be taken seriously.”

Every decision we make, every moment of every day, has some inherent possibility of resulting in our own harm or the harm of others. The possibility may be remote - so remote, in fact, that for all practical purposes it exists only in the imagination. Barbara and I hope to take our kids west to Yellowstone National Park someday. What if when we are hiking a Grizzly Bear kills one of them? This is an actual possibility, and in some sense we would be responsible for making a choice with a tiny statistical chance of death. Not to mention the much more dangerous long road trip to get to Yellowstone! Is the trip worth the risk? Maybe I'll get a big anti-bear revolver and we'll hike with that to stay safe. But then I subject my family to a certain statistical risk of accidental firearm death by keeping it in the house. It's easy to see how you could go crazy from this kind of obsession about statistical risk. I often think of risk when buying a flight online. It does flash through my mind that, as small as the chances are, the button I click, selecting a particular flight, might be the choice that kills me. Now, to leave at 6:45 or 7:30 AM? 

The truth is, everything we do is dangerous in some way - even doing nothing, given the health risks of inactivity. But the mentally healthy person handles this daily series of choices with a sometimes intuitive, sometimes conscious prioritization filter. In other words, not every remote possibility needs to be worried about or addressed. What I have above is a conscious, analytic approach. But part of what is at work is simply my relationship with, and knowledge of, my children. I make decisions for them every day. There are people out there who think I am damaging our kids by homeschooling them, or by raising them religious, or Christian, or Catholic, or by not pushing certain subjects or activities on them. These choices, affecting the mental, emotional, spiritual and intellectual formation of my children, are vastly more important than the choice about the MMR vaccine. But speaking of just physical danger, do you let your teenagers drive? Send your kids to summer camps or on scout trips? Enroll them in contact sports? Let them ride a bike? Let them play at friends’ houses? Neighbors’ houses? When do you start them on solid food? Do you feed them a healthy diet? Always? Do you make sure they have plenty of exercise? And so on and so on. We make choices every day that carry a certain danger component for our kids - among them the ones listed above and countless others with much more statistical danger than opting out of the MMR vaccine - based on our relationship with them and our desire for their general quality of life. So all the numbers aside, part of the equation is simply my common-sense assessment that my kids should only be injected with foreign chemicals and biological materials if there is a compelling reason.  A .00003% chance of death is not even close in my mind, sorry. If you want to work yourself into hysterics about that, and call me a bunch of silly childish names, go for it! Just remember, stress increases your chances of an early death! 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Coping with change

I suppose that every year of life is full of changes, be they large or small. Especially when you're married and raising children, change happens - daily! As usual, this past year has been full of changes for us. Of course, our nearly seven years of marriage has been a roller coaster while Jared completed his Masters and then Doctorate, during which we were having babies and moving around. :) We have spent much of our married life dreaming of the 'next' thing. How great will life be once you (Jared) are finished with your Masters? How much better once your Doctorate is completed? How much better once you (Jared) have a real job with a living wage and we feel comfortable with me (Barbara) staying home? How much better when....? It never ends. We've had hard lessons in learning to embrace and accept the present. Endure! seems to have been my motto for ages, now.

After Lillian was born last year we were told we shouldn't have more children, it would be too dangerous. We were upset, obviously, as we'd always hoped to have many children. However, we had Lillian, and she was truly a miracle baby, considering what was going on inside my body. It was a time of great patience as we mastered NFP, a difficult thing to do when a pregnancy would be a matter of life and death. It was also a time of healing as we mourned the life we had planned. A few months after Lillian was born I had a huge chunk of my cervix removed because of high-grade pre-cancerous cells. My doctor took so much of my cervix that if the dysplasia returned I would have to have a hysterectomy. However, she said that once a LEEP procedure is done, it's rare for the dysplasia to appear again. In my case, however, it did.

When I had my check-up in January they found the high-grade dysplasia was still there, and after several biopsies and discussing my case with the oncologist, it was decided a hysterectomy (uterus and cervix only) had to be done, and very soon. I had surgery on April 8, and what felt like the longest recovery ensued.

We have had very dramatic labors and births with all of our children, and my pregnancy with Lillian was also quite dramatic. We had gotten to a point where it seemed that 'all of the bad things' would happen to me regarding my reproductive organs. Less than one percent of attempted VBACs (vaginal birth after c-section) will have a uterine rupture - that was me! *waves* Most LEEP procedures remove all the high-grade dysplasia - not me! *waves again* I even had a hemorrhage three weeks after my hysterectomy. I was at home and it was quite terrifying. I started bleeding, got light headed, and the next thing I know my mother is rolling me over as I'm vomiting, and my husband is on the phone with 911. The ambulance came, I passed out and threw up some more, and then they rushed me to the hospital where they discovered two hematomas at my surgical site. Scary times. We sent my two oldest kids off to Kansas for two weeks to be with family so I could lay low and heal. Luckily, all is well now.

Now, with all of this change has come sadness. Even though we had planned on having no more children after Lillian, there was still that small hope. That idea that if God wanted it to happen, it could, and he would take care of us. But now that my uterus is gone, there is no hope of birthing any more babies. And even though I don't have to worry about cancer anymore, or dealing with icky, painful periods, there is serious heartbreak in the fact that I am 31 years old and we will have no more children. I know, I know, adoption is an option. But the thought of adoption is so far off the radar. Right now there is only grieving. Grieving the loss of what we wanted, of what we hoped for, of what could have been. There is only fielding my oldest daughter's questions of "when can we have another baby?" "Wouldn't it be great to have a fourth baby, maybe a boy this time?" When will you be pregnant again, Mama?" And even though we finally told her why we can't have more, she doesn't quite get it, and she still questions. I'm sad when Lillian grows out of her clothes and instead of saving them, we're passing them on. The same goes for Dominic's clothes, now that we know there will not be another boy. I hate that when I hear of people talking about being "done" I get upset, thinking, "wow, if I could have more, I WOULD!" And I know that's not fair, because everyone is at a different place in their life, but that's just the truth. I guess that's what grief does.

This grieving has brought me closer to my husband, though. Together we have cried over the loss of future children, but we've marveled at what we do have. After the surgery this spring my doctor told us how bad things were inside of me. One of the things was that my uterus was covered in endometriosis. So, I guess we're incredibly blessed and lucky to have the three beautiful children we do have. On a different note, my husband is also a bit relieved to not deal with anymore drama! It seems that every time we have a baby I nearly die, so I can see how there's relief there for him. And of course, it is kind of nice to not have to worry about NFP for the next 15 years. :) It's almost like God said, "Hey, you trusted me last year and did NFP instead of birth control, even though it was terrifying. So thank you, and now I'll save you the trouble and take your uterus." It sounds weird, but there is that silver lining there.

It has been stressful in our house - stressful on our marriage, stressful for our children. The stress of dealing with this on top of having small children, one of which I was still nursing, was sometimes unbearable! Luckily, Lillian kept nursing through it all, and just recently quit. I am so thankful she didn't quit nursing during and right after my surgery. That would have been just awful. At least she nursed all the way until I was recovered. And she's still a snuggle bug, thankfully. Still, I was not ready for her to stop nursing - she just turned 16 months old today, but she was ready. That was another grief to deal with. My final nursling - I wish it was bitter-sweet, but I'm just bitter about it.

I feel that this year has been a hard lesson in learning that we cannot know what God has planned for us, and we simply cannot always understand it. How can this happen to us, a family who so desperately wants children, when all around the world there are women who don't want their babies, and go to terrible extremes to prevent or end pregnancy? We want children, why would that be taken away from us? I'm sure God has something great planned for us, but right now all I can do is be thankful for what we have, and trust that He will help me through. I am bitter, I'm angry....I'm angry with God. And that's okay. He's the only one who can really help me through this, and although He's always known that, now I know it, too.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On a sleepless night...

This year has been so full of change for us. This blog, unfortunately, has been been non-existent during it! It's funny how every time I post it's been nearly a year since the last time. *sigh* such is life. :) Right now it's 3:30am and I am AWAKE. Usually after I nurse Lillian in the night we all go right back to sleep, if not sleep during nursing, but lately she's been so grunty/unsettled while she nurses that I'm awake with her. Tonight she needed a new diaper, which never happens in the middle of the night anymore, and that has woken me up. So, on with a quick post, to get the blog running again, and to hopefully make me sleepy. :)

So, our major change of this year has been the birth of Lillian! :) She joined us on this side of the womb on February 28th, and she's an absolute joy. Of course we adore her, and Dominic and Sophia have been thrilled with her from the beginning - it warms my heart to see them with her, fawning all over her. :) Her birth went smoothly and as "naturally" as possible for a scheduled c-section. We had a great doctor and nursing/birthing staff in a great hospital. Although recovery was long and painful, the birth itself was everything we could have hoped for in that environment, with no complications during or after. I was able to hold Lillian within a minute of her being born - they delayed all testing and gave her to me after quickly checking her over. The nurse helped me with skin-to-skin contact, and then helped Lillian latch on and nurse while they were sewing me back up. It was lovely! She has been my best nurser yet, and I hope to nurse her much longer than my other two - Sophia weened herself at 14 months, after I'd been pregnant with Dominic for three months, and Dominic weened just after 12 months. Lillian's six months old already, and I'm hoping for at least another year, if not more, of nursing. Because of all my uterine/cervical health issues, she is most likely our last baby - so I'm hopeful to keep her close to me for a long time.

Jared completed his dissertation last November and defended in December, so we are COMPLETELY done with school forever (aside from homeschooling our children, anyhow). THAT is a wonderful thing - a very close second to Lillian's birth! Lol. Seriously, though, because more than five of the six years of our marriage has been handling Graduate school, Jared's doctoral completion is a major thing for us. That is one of the heaviest burdens we've carried, and it is a relief to be rid of it!

We have also just bought a house - three months ago, to be exact! First-time homeowners and LOVING it. Apartment living was horrendous, especially during this last heavy (and LONG!) South Dakota winter. It was pretty brutal. Add to that all the difficulties with my pregnancy and oh my, let's just say we are so glad to be in a house. :)

As always, I am hopeful to be back into full swing with this blog, and I intend to post regularly. :) Pictures are to come of the house and the kiddos, of course, and I'd like to get this blog up to speed on all the happenings in our life!

Here's to new beginnings (again!!).......

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Finding a Rhythm

So much for getting back into the swing of blogging as my earlier post suggested! Lol. Now that we've moved past university life and into a steady job and a new city, I think I'm ready for blogging. :)

We're in a tiny two-bedroom apartment in Sioux Falls, hoping to move into a house next summer if all goes as planned. I'm trying to find my rhythm here at home with the kids, especially as we adjust (or not) to apartment living - sandwiched between noisy neighbors upstairs and grumpy neighbors downstairs. That house sounds better and better every day, even more so with baby number three coming at the end of February.

Part of my "rhythm" quest is trying to be more "Nourishing Traditiony" in my kitchen and with meal planning. I've finally started brewing kombucha in the last couple of weeks. Had my second batch turn out last night, and it was quite tasty! Now I've got six quart jars brewing that should be ready next Wednesday. So exciting! The kids love it, Jared loves it, and baby #3 and I love it, too.

We're also back into soaking our oatmeal for breakfast, and today I've made bread with leftover oatmeal. I did this last week, too, and oh my goodness, it is delicious! I got the recipe from The Sisters Dish blog, and it was actually the first time I've made bread with yeast! Of course I've made banana bread, pumpkin bread, pizza dough, etc., but never "for real" yeast bread. I'm pretty proud of my newly discovered bread-making abilities, and so happy to be getting more natural in the kitchen!

The kids seem to be pretty comfortable with our new life and city. They talk about missing people back in Kansas but they never break down about it, and they adjusted quickly to everything. I'm pretty sure that having the stress of school off Jared helped the whole family dynamic. Our crazy last semester in Kansas was just about too much for all of us, so even with moving away from all things familiar, life feels better. They had a tea party with their dolls today while I made bread - until they came to help knead it, or rather to throw flour around.

All in all, life. is. good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


We are back online after our move over the Christmas/New Year break! The move was hectic, especially as it was over the holidays, and it was also challenging because we moved to a smaller place. We were, however, able to fit everything in. We left lots of books in boxes to be stored in closets, and stacked our closets to their limits with all our extra stuff. I've been amazed at the spaces I was able to come up with for storage. Our little two bedroom duplex is cozy, though, and has plenty of room for us. The kids and I are comfortable being here all day, and that's what matters the most. The kitchen has very little counter space, but it's large enough to hold our table and the hutch, which helps both with the lack of cabinet space, and the lack of counter top. It's a bit easier for me to get lots of cooking done because the kids can be right in the kitchen with me, doing their own things at the table while I work. All their drawing/painting/coloring things are kept in the hutch, so I can quickly pull things out for them to keep them occupied. We were fully adjusted to the new space by the time Jared had to start the semester - his FINAL semester (God willing). :)

Now that Jared's back to university, we have more of a routine going. Well, in theory we have a routine....we should be officially starting that tomorrow, at the very latest. :) One of my resolutions is more serious home cooking, and yesterday was a landmark for me. I made my first ever turkey, and my oh my, was it delicious! Jared and I both agreed it was one of the juiciest turkeys we've ever had, and the gravy was to die for, too.! I was so happy about it! And, now we have lots of meat left over for turkey pot pie, or enchiladas, or skillet turkey tettrazini -  whatever we want! Woohoo! What I also did, was make turkey broth. I picked all the meat off, then threw all the turkey bones (and carcass) into my slow cooker. I chopped up and tossed in carrots, celery, onions and garlic, and added some pepper and apple cider vinegar. I cooked it on low overnight, and oh my goodness, it's so yummy! It's taking a short stint in the freezer at the moment so I can easily take the fat off the top, and then I'll salt it and save it for soups and stews. I feel like quite the Susie Homemaker today! Lol. I wasn't really thinking last night as I was cleaning up, and I threw away all the left-over turkey bits I'd used to make the gravy. If I'd thrown that in the slow cooker as well, I can only imagine how much dreamier the broth would taste. *sigh* There's always a next time, I just gotta find some turkey on sale....

I know this is my first post in over a month, but I'm hoping to keep up several times a week now. I've just recently left facebook as a way to save my sanity, and also to cultivate my family time and be able to share it more fully here. As we enter this final stage of Jared's doctorate, I'm getting more and more excited about the adventures to come, as we really set sail with his career, our family and our life goals. So exciting!! In the mean time, I'll be writing about life on the home front, as we live it now.

St. John Bosco, pray for us!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

When can I do it all???

I have so many things I want to do right now....planning, organizing, sorting, reading, etc. I feel like I'm so behind! I'm certainly behind on keeping a blog. :)

Jared brought home prize money from Montreal, so I was finally able to make some book and Montessori purchases. I'm so excited about this, and so excited to get things sorted and organized so I can get the kids going on stuff, but I feel like I can never find the time right now! I tend to want to have it all perfectly planned out as far as organization, storage, and how, when and where I'll implement things. The trouble is, I never have the time to just sit down and figure that out, or at least when I do get to sit down, everything I "need" to get done seems like work, and all I want to do is sit. This just means that all the great things I've got stay put away! When I finally just got out the paints for Sophia one day, she had a blast, and I didn't have anything worked out about it. When she was done, I quickly organized it, and put it away. Ba-da-boom, done! I really just need to do that with everything else, but it seems like all the other things require so much more time....

Also, I feel like I'm never able to research more ideas for things to do with the kids, especially Montessori activities. I feel very limited in creative ability - I like to write, and I can do that creatively, but all things crafty are beyond my scope, unless every little thing is plotted out for me, with detailed descriptions. :) That is something I would like to spend more time on, just so I can be more of a "natural" (or learned natural, rather) at coming up with my own Montessori or crafting ideas.

I guess I'm mostly just feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the fabulous things that I'm just now discovering. I have so many books around (at least 30 from the library) that I want to devour this very moment. I find I keep renewing and renewing them because I'm never finding the time to read them. And yet, I do find time to do lots of reading sometimes. Probably I've overwhelmed myself by checking out or borrowing every single book I want to read, all at the same time! I also have so many things online I'd like to be reading - particularly blogs and articles full of wonderful ideas. And, I want to start doing more family traditions, especially following the liturgical year. There's also the marvelous book, Nourishing Traditions, that I'd like to dive into so I can get started on...well, nourishing food traditions.

To top it all off, we'll be moving into a much smaller (and cheaper!) place in the next week, so that really throws a wrench in the organizing and storage department. Patience is something I am ENDlessly working on. I want to do it, and I want to do it/have it all set NOW. *sigh*

Sophia's really coming into her own, and is at a great age where she can do so many things, and just devours anything we give her...I just want to offer her more! And, if I'm more organized about it, I could get a lot of my own things done, that I'm always wanting to do, while she's doing her own fun things.

At least tonight Jared took the kids to his parents' house, but I stayed home. I really needed the time to myself; it's been so crazy around here, and will continue to be crazy until January 1st. I feel like the craziness never ends. I need to sort through things, pack, and figure out what won't fit (because we're moving to a smaller place), so I can start getting rid of (or selling) things. I also need to start reading so I can get a bunch of these books back to the library....

AND, Christmas is next weekend!!! I feel like I haven't even enjoyed Advent!!

Oh, geez, when and how to fit it all in.....