Still Playing School: September 2013

A New Blog: The Beauty of The Bereaved

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
I'm honored to now be a community blogger writing about grief at WITF.  I'll continue to write about Violet here at Still Playing School while also examining our culture's views on death at The Beauty of the Bereaved. Please join in the discussion regarding A Crash Course in Grief.


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Violet's Story: September

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment
Written September 17, 2011 9:44am
31 weeks pregnant (tomorrow):

I had an OB appointment on Wednesday. We discussed scheduling our c-section. We will have Violet at 37 weeks unless she shows signs of distress via ultrasound prior to that. 37 weeks will be the week of October 31 - November 4th. We will get a definite date at our next appointment on October 5th.

This is so hard. I don't even know what else to say. Emotionally I am not doing as well as I was with the date coming closer and closer. It is difficult for me to do the every day things that I want to be doing like taking care of E and going out to see friends. Physically, I have to remind myself that I am 7 months pregnant, chasing a very stubborn and active toddler, not sleeping well, and also dealing with all the stress. Emotionally, I am hormonal and I never know how I'm going to react to any given situation one minute to the next. Both of these things combined are making me want to hide out at home more and more.

I am sad that because I miss myself. I am sad because I am watching myself not be able to do simple things (like call friends back or remember things) but I just can't seem to handle it better than I already am. Someone recently described grief as if you are handicapped. You still feel like you are somewhere in there, but you are really incapable of doing what you used to or truly being you.

I'm even sick of thinking about my emotions and trying to explain them. I'm so sorry in so many ways. I feel like I'm letting everyone down, myself included. And then I feel like I shouldn't even say these things because it is all so sad and depressing.

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Written September 21, 2011 8:24am

I found out yesterday that I have gestational diabetes. I have to meet with a dietitian and learn how to (hopefully) control it with diet and also see a nurse to learn to test my own blood sugar 4 times a day.

In the meantime, I did some research about what the diet will involve and it is basically eliminating sugar and cutting drastically back on carbs (since they turn into sugar). It will be a lot of protein and whole grains (no white bread, rice, pasta). You have to limit even fruit and milk (they have lots of carbs). We went grocery shopping last night and I bought a lot of things that I know I can have (green vegetables) and read a lot of labels to see what I had to limit. I am writing down everything I eat and totaling carbs and protein.

I have read that women usually lose weight on this diet (obviously) even when pregnant so I am a bit concerned about what this means for Violet since she is already supposed to be born small. In a typical pregnancy, gestational diabetes increases the risk of you having a large baby (which will not happen with Violet) and increases the risk of stillbirth (where Violet already has an increased risk).
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Written September 27, 2011 7:18am

My gestational diabetes is being managed well with diet. I have been taking my blood four times a day since Friday. I have made two trips to the grocery store in a week to read labels very carefully and see what I can have. Mr. SPS put it best (again) when he said that I'm not missing any certain food, but I am mourning the free will of eating, which is just so true. I was definitely using food to cope and I can't anymore, but this is also consuming a lot of mental energy with meal planning, watching the clock for when I can eat (or when I need to eat even if I don't want to), and when to test my blood.

At least it is something I can concentrate on. I am nesting so I am reorganizing E's closet and sorting through her summer clothes and putting her fall/winter wardrobe in. This is something I loved doing when I was pregnant with her and while I wish I was washing and sorting newborn clothing, I am still taking comfort in doing it for my other little girl.

She also wanted me to rock her last night after she went to bed. I definitely love those baby moments she still has as she turns into more of a little girl. I need to be needed like that right now. She is so independent during the day and I cherish the moments when she wants Momma.

We have an ultrasound with Maternal Fetal Medicine tomorrow. I am very nervous about it. I am terrified they are going to see something that makes them want to deliver Violet sooner than 37 weeks which already seems too soon. I just want to stay pregnant and keep her safe forever, which I know I can't do.

Monday is my next OB appointment. That is when we will schedule my c-section. It will be sometime between October 31 and November 4th. I just don't want to do this. At the beginning of this pregnancy we thought we would be picking our baby's birthday, but we are also picking when we start to lose her.

I am grateful for so many things that we've gotten already in this journey, but every day is harder. People ask how I'm doing and I can't honestly say, "Okay," anymore.

I just want my baby girl.

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Written September 29, 2011 7:15am

The ultrasound went well! We had Dr. B again who is always reassuring and calm.

Violet has still not stopped growing, which is great. He said that some babies with her diagnosis stop at 20some weeks. But she is measuring small as expected. She is 3 lbs. 11 oz. She has hair that we could see on the back of her sweet, little head. He joked that she might have more than him.

We talked a bit about her individual defects and what each one will mean at birth, but a lot of them (like her enlarged kidneys and possible bowel issues) won't really tell us much by ultrasound. We will have to wait until she is born to see if there is function to them, but he seems to think there is since she is using her kidneys now and there are no obvious places in the bowel that look like they will cause problems.

She isn't breech anymore. She had her face turned away from us so Dr. B used a noise maker that sounded like an air horn to see if she would startle and roll over. He said it doesn't work with most babies but it worked with Violet! She started moving all around! It was so funny! And I am so comforted to know that she can hear (there is a chance she will be deaf and/or at least partially blind) because that means she has been hearing her Momma, Dada, and sister all this time!

When she heard the noise maker she turned around a little so we got some partial shots of her face, but she was still pressed up and cuddled against me "as if her face was smashed into a screen door," Dr. B said. We saw her stick her thumb into her eye and smile! I was so happy to see her personality like this. It made all the ultrasounds and medical bills worth it to see that silly moment and get a picture of it.

We will have one more ultrasound in three weeks. Monday we have a regular OB appointment where we will schedule her c-section date and we will also tour the NICU and meet with Dr. L, Violet's NICU doctor.
read more " Violet's Story: September "

Violet's Story: Late August

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
Written August 17, 2011 7:03am

We got the call on Monday from our genetic counselor about our blood work.
WE ARE NOT CARRIERS!
So thankful and relieved and happy to get this great news!

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Written August 21, 2011 8:51am
27 weeks pregnant:

On Friday, we met with Dr. W, our OB. We weren't originally scheduled to see her until September 14th, but I had called her asking for something to help me sleep and so she wanted to meet before that face to face. She seems very caring and wonderful so far. We were supposed to see her at 7:15 but we didn't get to an exam room until 7:45 so we were a bit stressed about that.

From there we had to hurry over to the pediatric cardiologist. Luckily, even though we were running late, they told us when we arrived that Dr. R was also running late. Instead of seeing him at 8 like we had scheduled, we got back to see him around 8:45. It was the morning of late appointments! Just picture Mr. SPS and I being the only two people in the waiting room of a pediatric cardiologist for almost an hour, watching the Disney Channel since the whole office had a Disney theme and was geared towards kids. Don't we have to watch enough of that kind of television at home with E? It was kind of humorous.

Then we were taken back into a room with an ultrasound tech and Dr. R. It was like a regular ultrasound except there was no screen for us to watch and the doctor and the tech sat together in front of their screen using technical terms we couldn't understand. They had told us we would meet to discuss the findings after, so I just started to relax since the lights were down and I stared at the Disney decals on the wall. At times, the pressure on my stomach really hurt because they had to push hard to see her heart at the right angles.

After about 20 minutes, I looked over at Mr. SPS and he made a funny face at me. I started laughing and since the doctor had the ultrasound wand on my stomach, he turned away from the screen and said, "Are you alright?" Maybe he thought I was crying. Then when he looked at me he said, "Oh, is something funny?" I got a hold of myself and he put the wand back on my stomach. Then Mr. SPS said, "This is a really bad time to get the giggles." That made me start laughing all over again. The doctor sighed and took the wand off my stomach again to wait for me to stop. I wanted to say, "Oh, am I inconveniencing you? Because we had to wait 45 minutes for this appointment to start. And my emotions are all over the place the past 6 weeks so sorry if I lose myself for a minute laughing!"

After the ultrasound, Dr. R sat down with us and discussed the results. They are pretty much the same as what Dr. B suspected. There is a hole between the lower chambers of her heart, called a ventricular septal defect (VSD). While this isn't affecting her in utero, it will be a problem when her heart takes over when she is born. The hole will disrupt the pressure that should be there in a beating heart. He said that this means she will have heart failure within the first few months of her life, if she makes it that far. He said she would start breathing faster when this happens. It is so hard to imagine watching that. We told him we didn't want to have surgery and he agreed that he didn't recommend that and it would be "a heroic measure" because of her other issues as well. If it were an isolated defect this would be a totally different story, but it is caused by her diagnosis. We basically wanted to see him so that Dr. L knew what to expect when treating her and now we know some medications she can have that will ease her discomfort.

Lastly, we went to the non-medical ultrasound facility again so they could record her heartbeat and make a teddy bear for us. When we arrived, they said the didn't have any appointments booked at that time (they opened early for us) so not only could we get the heartbeat, but they would do another ultrasound for us, too! We weren't expecting this at all and since we didn't get to see her much at the echocardiogram, this was wonderful! She was hiding her face, all curled up like she was trying to sleep after all the poking at the cardiologist. We got to see her profile, her hand and her foot close up, and one time what looked like a smile. They gave us another DVD, CD with photos, and print outs. It was such a nice surprise!

Since everything ran late, we got home later than we expected. Mr. SPS decided to stay home for the rest of the day since a morning full of appointments really takes a lot out of us. He is working from home as I type this to make up the hours. It was really helpful to have him here with me Friday afternoon so I didn't sink into too much of a bad place like I sometimes do when I'm alone. Even when we aren't discussing Violet and her situation, it is so comforting to have him near me because I know he understands and we are in this together. And there are also times when I just need him to take over caring for E because I just can't manage to do much after the whole day with her by myself in addition to my emotions. I feel bad about that because taking care of her is my "job" and what I love to do, but since she is almost two she can really be challenging on top of everything else!

Wednesday we have an ultrasound with Dr. B and then we are meeting with the palliative care team. I am looking forward to this meeting because we are at a point now where we have lots of questions that only they can help us answer.


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Written August 25, 2011 8:08am

Yesterday we had an ultrasound at Maternal Fetal Medicine. We had the tech who did Violet's measurements and then since Dr. B was busy we saw Dr. O. This ended up being a very good thing! Since we received the call about Violet's diagnosis from Dr. O and were less than pleased with the way some things were worded, we didn't expect this appointment to go as well as it did. Before he came in, Mr. SPS and I were discussing how hard it is to just choose comfort care and the guilt that comes with it for me. The always wondering if you should do more.

When Dr. O came in I brought this up and he said some of the most comforting things that I just needed to hear. It is hard for me to remember all that he said and last night I asked Mr. SPS to remind me. He said that the best thing we can do for Violet is surround her with love and hold her for her WHOLE LIFE. He said that even if we are loved our whole lives, as we get older, there are times when we feel alone and doubt that love. Violet will never feel that. He said I am holding her now and will hold her and make her comfortable for as long as she is with us. He said he doesn't know what it is like to be in our shoes as a parent making these decisions, but as a doctor he would make the same ones. He feels that surgeries and intubation would prolong her dying and aren't worth the discomfort they will cause her even if they are "saving" her. Then we would also have to decide when to pull the supports and let her go anyway.

Everything he said was what I felt in my heart, what I know to be true and right for all of us, but I just needed to hear it from someone else. The fact that it was a doctor made it even better. It is so hard to doubt your choices when your instinct as a parent to protect and save your baby is so STRONG. But we have to remember that by letting her go with grace and dignity, in our arms we are protecting her and saving her.
We also discussed the many, many scenarios that her life may take and he reminded me to plan but to not get too overwhelmed about the choices until she is here. We discussed the parallels with making these choices for an elderly relative, but how unnatural and wrong it feels to be making them for your baby. It was just a good, therapeutic appointment in that way.

Medically there is nothing really new with Violet. She is a bit small and everything else looks the same for now. Our next ultrasound is in five weeks.

After that appointment we met with the chaplain. That meeting was comforting, as it always is to talk with her. We discussed some questions and concerns we had with her. I feel better knowing that we are on our way to completing our birth plan and making as many of the choices as we can now.

Dr. L was not available by the time we got out of our ultrasound so late. But he got the cardiologist's report and we will meet with him next time.

I have been emailing with the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer to plan some maternity photos as a family. It is very comforting to think about having those done.

As everything gets closer, I am more emotional and stressed, but I still feel like we're doing well, mostly. I know that I still feel optimistic at times that I will feel more like myself once in awhile and that there might be a long while where I don't but it will return. I have all the love and support I need in every way.
read more " Violet's Story: Late August "

Recycled Egg Carton Acorn Ornaments

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
We love to use recycled materials in our crafts.  For fall we wanted a seasonal ornament that we could hang up so we painted acorns from recycled egg cartons.


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Thriving Hearts Children's Clothing Review & Giveaway

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 8 Comments

I am excited to introduce you to a dear friend and fellow baby loss momma, Bettina.  While her handsome son Noah and my Violet brought us together, we both have amazing older children in E and her Lucas and now beautiful rainbow baby boys completing our grieving families.  

After sewing her entire life, Bettina created Thriving Hearts where she embroiders children's clothing and custom makes unique gifts, like a personalized Boppy cover.


In addition to the dapper bow tie onesie for D, she surprised us with a custom made shirt for E as well.  "An E in a pink heart because she loves me?" E asked.  It was so sweet of Bettina to include E in such a special way!


Both the kids enjoy their comfy shirts as adorable additions to their wardrobes.  I appreciate how well made they are because they held up well being washed normally with our regular laundry.  I plan to order future baby shower and first birthday gifts from Thriving Hearts!

Bettina is offering one lucky reader a $15 shop credit toward an already listed item or a custom made one. She will collaborate with you to create the perfect product specifically for your little one!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The kids received adorable clothing in exchange for completing this review, but as always, all opinions and enthusiasm are 100% our own!
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Violet's Story: Mid August

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
Written August 13, 2011 9:01am
26 weeks pregnant tomorrow:

Violet is moving and rolling over in my belly right now. She is sooooo active. I feel her a lot more than I ever felt E, which is such a blessing. I love my time with her.

We had our non-medical ultrasound from Sustaining Grace on Tuesday evening. It was relaxing and peaceful. Violet was yawning a lot and even smacked her lips after one yawn! I said maybe if she wasn't up all night kicking me and waking me up, she wouldn't be tired at 7 pm! The ultrasound technician said that there is a lot of blood flow to her scalp, which means she probably already has hair! Oh, I hope so! I hope she looks like her big sister, E, born with a full head of gorgeous, soft hair!

Yawn!
We need to go back, though, because Sustaining Grace also paid for us to get a teddy bear that plays a recording of Violet's heart beat. This is a complete surprise and I can't wait to have it! We will try to stop back when we are at one of our upcoming appointments.

We see the pediatric cardiologist next Friday for a fetal echocardiogram. It is performed like an ultrasound, but will focus on the heart, so we know what to expect when Violet is born.

The following Wednesday we have our next ultrasound at Maternal Fetal Medicine again.

I also need to meet with the social worker on the palliative care team, contact or find a new photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, type up our birth plan, and start shopping for clothing and items for Violet. We aren't going to buy much, but we want to have some special things picked out for her. This shopping is something that I very much want to do but I am struggling with it emotionally. When I posted about this on an online message board for families in our situation, I got an amazing response from mothers who have gone through this or are currently thinking about it. They had some good suggestions of where to buy preemie clothing. I love that I can post online about things that come up and talk to others about what they experienced. I'm thankful for technology helping me to cope!

Lots to do, lots to plan, but the best advice given to me from one of my best friends who lost her first son was what her husband told her during their struggles, "One day at a time." It is my motto on the good days and the bad.

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Written August 14, 2011 9:51am

This update is more about my grief and how I'm dealing with it than it is about Violet or appointments or plans. I'm hoping writing about this will be a catharsis for me.

Last night I was explaining it to Mr. SPS and I realized that a lot of my analogies involve water. Some days I feel like I am drowning, it is so heavy, and I'll never catch my breath. Some days I feel more like I'm just letting the waves come in and recede and I'm feeling the ebb and flow of the pain. And other times it's like a pool of water where I want to dive in, often times when E is napping, I will find myself picking that time to read about grief, make plans, and just cry. I just have to submerge myself in it. Then there are times and days when I can only dip my feet in.

I found this blog series where a woman who suffered a loss posts about how you can help a grieving friend. I am linking to it because a lot of people are saying, "Please let us know if there is anything we can do." I know they are saying that out of love and uncertainty about what, if anything, would help us. I want you to know that we are also at a loss for what you can say or do, but that doesn't mean that because nothing will "fix" this that nothing can help. Each and every guestbook message and card has sincerely comforted us. I never knew the power of sending a caring message to someone until I was the one receiving them!

Some of the points in this series really rang true for me, while others did not. I don't want someone to come clean my house. That's just a bit too intimate. But I'd like to quote and highlight some things that did seem particularly close to home.

Grieving takes it's toll on your sleep.

One of the biggest fears of mine is what is to come after our loss. What if I am still grieving for a year or more after we lose her? Will people still let me cry? Will they be tired of hearing me talk about her? Will there be a flood of support when she is born and we lose her that will disappear as people go on with their lives but I'm not the same old me?

Please don't be afraid to bring it up or make me cry. Molly said it best, "Something I’ve said jokingly, but mean with all sincerity is, 'My tears are just below the surface. If you make me cry right now, it’s no major accomplishment.'” As I explained to some friends already, crying is just my new normal. I have pretty much quit wearing eyeliner.

At the same time, there are some days where I am just not up to giving details about our situation and I might brush off your questions. That doesn't mean that I'm feeling great or that I don't want your support. I might just be numb that day.

But Violet is and always will be on my mind. I want to hear you say her name. I want to hear about what you are thinking, saying, and feeling about all this, too. I want to know we're not alone in our grief. I know it won't affect anyone the way it affects us, but it helps so much to know that Violet is real to you too and her loss if going to be shared by others.

I hope you didn't find this update too self indulgent. It was helpful for me to write and organize my thoughts and whether it helps one of you know how to support us or it helps with a person you know in the future who experiences this kind of loss, then it did more than just helped me this Sunday morning.

read more " Violet's Story: Mid August "

Sentence Building & Sight Words with The Little Red Hen

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!

I've been telling E classic stories at bedtime without a book to read.  She particularly loves The Little Red Hen although she despises the ending.  She wants the hen to share the bread so either the lesson is lost on her or she thinks everyone should share no matter the circumstances.


I found The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) at our library.  In this version, the hen shares the pizza at the end so the other characters offer to do the dishes!  E was much more satisfied with this story.  I loved the illustrations and the contents of the hen's pantry.


To practice the concept of word knowledge (knowing that one written word equals one spoken word) I made sight word cards for sentence building.  Manipulating the cards reinforced the one to one relationship. We read the story pausing when we got to a page where the characters protest, "Not I."  Together we built the sentences with our sight word cards.


When identifying an animal word (as a character name), E had to decode.  I thought it would be fun to add Cowie to the story, but E didn't agree.  Instead Cowie was a spectator with her name card beside her.


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This post contains Amazon Affiliate links which just means if you click over to Amazon from the links this page and purchase anything, we get a bit of money for sending you there!
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How to Gently Wash a Stuffed Animal

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments

Cowie has had many adventures and desperately needed a bath this weekend.  She's taken spins in the washing machine before, but due to E's anxiety over this and Cowie's limbs and neck becoming more fragile, we decided to hand wash her this time.  


First we submerged her in lukewarm water.  "Not too hot," insisted E.  We put a bit of dish soap on a wash cloth and lathered it up.


Gently, gently scrubbing, I concentrated on Cowie's dingiest body parts.  She wears clothing regularly, so her face was the particularly filthy part.  


After lots of scrubbing, we rinsed by submerging Cowie in clean water.  I also ran her under running cool water.  


Rinse until the water no longer shows any bubbles.


We took her outside to comb her fur.  


Mr. SPS had a traumatizing childhood experience when he came through his backyard to find his lovey hanging by its ears on the clothes line.  To avoid this, I told E that Cowie was going to do some gymnastics on our drying rack.  She thoroughly approved.





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Violet's Story: Early August

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
I realize that I am only walking through what happened in August in the middle of our current September. My only excuse is that this is work.  To choose to actively grieve is challenging, but much needed progress.  To reread my words from two years ago brings everything flooding back.

Here are excerpts from early August directly from our CaringBridge that I used during Violet's pregnancy to update family and friends privately.  The month was packed with appointments and preparations, so I will break August into a few posts due to length.

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Written August 4, 2011
24 weeks pregnant:

Last Thursday we had an ultrasound at Maternal Fetal Medicine. There is not much change. Violet is growing as she should for now. She's a bit small, but not her growth has not dropped off yet, and Dr. B said that can start around 20 weeks so we are lucky she is still growing. He said he still didn't expect her to be more than 4 or 5 lbs. even at term because babies with her condition are always quite small. That will be a big difference from E who was 8 lbs. 11 oz. and shocked us all!

He did a detailed scan head to toe to point out issues she may have. Her heart is still the biggest concern, but her brain is a concern too. It makes me cry just typing that out. Her kidneys are slightly enlarged still. Her face seems to be perfect and we got some good pictures that I need to upload. Dr. B said these babies often look angelic, peaceful, but geriatric. I think that makes sense because she is our angel but she is living her whole life so suddenly.

He wants us to see a pediatric cardiologist to get better details about her heart. We are waiting for that doctor to call us and schedule an appointment and then we will make our next ultrasound appointment for the same day. It should be in 3 - 5 weeks.

After that, we went to the lab to have our blood drawn, but there was a mix up about where they had to send it to and they said they couldn't do it that day. So we are having it done tomorrow.

Lastly, we met with part of our palliative care team. I cannot say enough about them. They let us tell our story and pointed out ways we were complimenting and supporting each other in our time of grief so that made me feel great about our strength as a couple. We talked a bit about a birth plan and different scenarios. We had our questions answered and they gave us a lot of information we've been looking over. I have been reading my copy of A Gift of Time that they gave us, which is a really helpful book about our situation and other parents' perspectives.

Tomorrow morning we have a regular OB appointment (my first since all this news) and we are also going to try again to have our blood taken and we are meeting with Dr. L who will be Violet's NICU doctor.

We also went to therapy together this week. I am getting little things from my therapy sessions, but honestly, meeting with the palliative team was much more therapeutic and meaningful! I am currently weighing the gains from therapy against the co-pay I owe each time I go. I go alone again next week and I think after that I will try to go once a month unless I think I need it more. I am also considering possibly finding a new therapist, but that sounds like more work than it may be worth, too.

We have our non-medical ultrasound scheduled next Tuesday in the evening. I am hoping that gives the Sustaining Grace foundation enough time to contact them and let them know about what the foundation provides. We are looking forward to seeing Violet in a non-medical setting and just enjoying time with her. And of course, we are hoping to get good pictures and videos from that time, too.

Violet has been kicking and jumping so much that she woke me up last night! We love her so much already!

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Written August 6, 2011 2:28pm
25 weeks pregnant tomorrow:


Yesterday we met with Dr. L, the neonatologist who will be treating Violet if she is born alive. He was wonderful, reassuring, and had a calming manner that put me at ease. We discussed the multiple possibilities and combinations of interventions we can use for her. We have a lot of decisions to make and things to think about.

We also had our blood drawn so we will get results in a week or two about whether one of us is a carrier. Mr. SPS and I had fun actually getting our blood drawn, joking with the nurse about how Mr. SPS had "great veins" and we each got a band aid with a cat skateboarding on it which E loved.

Lastly, we had our regular OB visit. This was the last time we'll have a midwife. From here on out our appointments will be with Dr. W, a highly recommended and regarded OB. I haven't gained any weight in a month and the midwife and I were concerned about that. I AM eating and she said it isn't related to the fact that Violet is small. So I guess I just need to be forcing myself to eat more frequently and stay hydrated. She said this could be why I was feeling those dizzy spells too (drops and spikes in blood sugar due to not eating/eating sweets). My next appointment is also the lovely one hour glucose test. I cried when we listened to Violet's heart beat on the doppler.

After all those appointments and waiting in the hospital lobby seeing laboring mothers and families coming to visit new babies, I was very drained. I shut down a bit on the drive home and was exhausted when we got back. It never ceases to amaze me how much our emotions are tied in with our physical well being and symptoms.

Despite being tired, I went out last night with some wonderful ladies and enjoyed visiting, music, good food and drinks, and a breezy night at The Hotel Hershey. Today my parents and Andy came for a visit and Violet kicked Andy and Nana.

Please don't hesitate if you are around me to tell me if you want to feel Violet if she is kicking. With both my pregnancies I was never bothered by hands on my belly and with Violet especially I want everyone who would like to feel her to be able to do so. She's a mover!

Scott from Sustaining Grace called me today and left a very comforting message about how our ultrasound is covered on Tuesday. It will definitely be a highlight to my week. I can't wait to get a DVD and photos of our little girl.
read more " Violet's Story: Early August "

Acorn Handprint Craft

We have been crafting for fall to have seasonal decorations to display in our home! This acorn hand print craft is festive and it's also a great memento for future years. Make a few extra for grandparents and scrapbooks! 

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Toilet Paper Roll Scarecrow

The calendar say September even if the weather today is hot, hot, hot!  It's time for some autumn crafting and wishful thinking about sweaters and pumpkins! We created a scarecrow to welcome fall with this toilet paper roll craft for kids.

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Baltic Amber Jewelry Review & Giveaway with Bouncy Baby Boutique

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 13 Comments
D seems to be following the exact same teething pattern as his sister (who had all of her baby teeth, including her two year molars, by sixteen months old).  They both got their bottom two teeth at six months.  E got six more at nine months, which is how old D is now.  He currently has the top two in, but I can see the other two starting to break through. It makes for a quick, but painful time when they get teeth in rapid succession.

Paired with the fact that his red hair supposedly makes him more sensitive to pain, I was anxious to try a Baltic Amber teething necklace from Bouncy Baby Boutique.

The theory is that the heat of the body releases the healing properties in the amber which helps to soothe the pain from teething.  Mr. SPS is very scientific and skeptical, but all my natural momma friends swear by it so we wanted to give it a shot.  If nothing else, the necklace looks super cute on him, don't you think?  (Those are beets on his face, not scratches.)


When trying to decide between a necklace and a bracelet, I read that the amber works best closer to the source of the pain.  D wears his necklace during the day, but at night I wrap it twice around his ankle since it's safely tucked into his pajamas.

My research also suggested amber in the color closest to the person's natural pigmentation, which wasn't hard to find for D through Bouncy Baby Boutique.  His jewelry shipped fast (which is important if you are in a hurry to relieve teething pain) and it was packaged with instructions for care.

We started wearing the amber on him after his first two teeth were already in.  I have noticed a huge difference in his next few teeth coming through.  I haven't had to give him as much ibuprofen this time and he is sleeping better.  He is calmer and less clingy during the day, too.  Is this a coincidence or the effect of the amber?  It certainly doesn't hurt to have him in his cute accessory just in case!


You can enter below to win your own Baltic Amber teething jewelry from Bouncy Baby Boutique!

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We received a baltic amber necklace in exchange for completing this review, but as always, all opinions and enthusiasm are 100% our own!  
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How to Dye Pasta for Play

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!

We use dyed pasta and rice in plenty of activities.  Here is our favorite way to color it!


1.  Put your pasta into separate containers.  We use bowls that won't stain.  If you use a plastic bag, try a strong freezer type.  


2.  Add a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol.  Less is better in the beginning since you can always add more.


3.  Stir in a bit of food coloring.  For this project, we used Betty Crocker's Classic Gel Food Coloring in primary colors.  Mix, mix, mix!  Or if you're using a bag, shake, shake, shake!

4.  Transfer the pasta to a baking sheet to dry.  You may choose to line the sheets with paper towels, but in our house we try to create with less trash.


5.  Set the pasta out to dry.  It will take a few hours, give or take, depending on the weather.  You can mix the pasta around occasionally to speed up the process.

The end result does not smell like alcohol, but if you prefer, you can use vinegar as Happy Hooligans did!

This pasta was used in our butterfly life cycle sensory bin initially, but we later strung necklaces and used the stars as sprinkles in our ice cream dough!  What is your favorite use for colored pasta or rice?
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I Was a Teacher Before I Was a Momma

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments
Dear Parents of my Former Students,

I'm so sorry.  You see, I was a teacher before I was a momma.  While I don't think that being a parent makes you a better teacher, it definitely helps you understand things that you couldn't possibly if you don't have kids.


Today E had her first day of traditional preschool, but it was set up to ease them into the transition.  Parents and a lovey (Cowie, of course) could attend.  The class was split in half so we only stayed for an hour.  Not only did this force me to scramble to find someone to watch D while I went, but it also clarified some other things.

On the way out the door today, I realized that I hadn't written out her tuition check.  I wrote it out in the car before we walked in, but then I realized that I'd forgotten the security key that we needed to scan at the door.  Once inside, I remembered that there was paperwork at home, not yet filled out, that was expected to be completed by today.  Sigh.  I didn't even have our littlest one with me, yet I was dropping this preschool ball left and right!  Did I mention that we completed the hand she is holding in that picture which she needed to bring with her today at 8 pm last night?

So, Parents of My Former Students, I do apologize.  I don't think I was too critical, but I get it now.  Meals, bedtimes, routines, and any time with your family is more important than making sure every paper is completed as soon as possible.  By the time they go to sleep, you're tired, too.  Folders sometimes don't get emptied or they do get emptied but the papers get lost, ripped by the baby, or milk spilled on them before you get a chance to read them.  Even with plenty of time to complete projects, sometimes they get pushed to the last minute.  I've learned that it doesn't mean they aren't completed with love and your full attention.  That attention is just hard to come by these days. 

Most of all, I understand who you were handing me that first day of Kindergarten.  Your baby.  Your baby at five years old was still very much a baby.  I turned to Mr. SPS last night as the kids were asleep and said, "How can we be sending her to preschool tomorrow?  We just brought her home from the hospital yesterday!"  Thank you for trusting me with your most precious (still-a-baby) big kid.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some paperwork to fill out.

Love,
Your Child's Former Kindergarten Teacher 
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A Letter to my 9 Month Old Son

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment
Dear D,

You are 9 months old!  For your oldest sister I wrote a letter like this every month of her first year.  I am sorry that I haven't kept up that tradition for you, but I hope that our life instead has been a testament that you are getting the same love and devotion in actions if not written words.


Things are changing so fast lately that I need to record it somewhere.  In the last month, you've learned to crawl, pull up to a stand, sit back down, and now you're starting to try to cruise around.  You are signing your own version of "more" and "all done."  You imitate back the sounds that we make.  I am so excited for you to be able to communicate more with us!

Sleep is still tricky, but with you, I am more relaxed.  I know that every change is two steps forward and one step back.  Sleep regressions are frustrating, but temporary.  With your sister, I worried about creating hard to break habits.  With you, I know that this time that you will need me for sleep is all too fleeting so I am soaking it up, sleepless nights and all.  I love when we can nap together and you are still lulled to sleep by the sound of my beating heart as I wear you.


This part isn't about you, but it's a reminder to my future self and other mommas: The baby weight takes nine months to put on and nine months to come off.  Without even trying, while breastfeeding something magical happens at this nine month mark.  It happened after E, too.  Suddenly one day I realize that I have my body back.  I still have that momma tummy (which I wouldn't trade for my kids) but I look like myself in pictures again.

Besides breast feeding which you still adore (and I do, too!) you love eating food.  You are quite good at "chewing" and you refuse bites until you're finished with the first one.  You love spices.  Curry is your favorite!


Your sister loves to chase you as you crawl pretending that she's a spider and you're a fly.  She tells you that she's "gonna get you!" and then once she does, she explains, "I'm not really a spider, D.  Don't be scared.  I'm a human!"  I love watching the two of you laughing in backseat of the car.  She may snatch toys away from you, but we're working on that.  She makes up for it by singing you songs.  The other day she woke Daddy up by telling him, "I just love having a brother!"


You are my "high needs" baby, but I need you just as much.  You are giving me a gift of time as you asking me to slow down, clear our calendar, and enjoy you as our baby.

Before you were born, I couldn't imagine having a son, but really what I couldn't picture was the joy you would bring me.  I knew a rainbow baby would help ease the ache in my arms to hold your sister Violet.  I needn't have worried about the overlap of the two of you.  You are truly your own person and she hers.  My love for you, as well as for E and V, is separate yet eternally molded together. 

Happy nine months, baby boy!

Love,
Momma


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E's Pencil Grasp

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!

After discussing W sitting with an Occupational Therapist, Becky, the next questions I had for her were regarding E's unique pencil grip.  I sent her this picture with my inquiries.



From my own research, I was hypothesizing this was an interdigital brace grasp.  It is also sometimes called an adapted fisted grip.  You can see here how she wrote with a fist grasp a year ago


I let Becky know that we work on fine motor skills daily and asked if I should correct the grasp.

She replied with, "The grasp is a more "controversial" topic." (Clearly the case based on the conflicting advice received in the comments when I asked about correcting it on SPS's Facebook page!)

"Based on the fact that she w-sits, my thoughts are that she is doing this as she feels she has better control of the writing utensil. Many believe that grasp will continue to develop naturally (unless there are significant fine motor concerns) and as long as you are increasing the strength of her hand through fine motor tasks, you do not have to specifically correct the grasp."

"My concern with that philosophy is that I have seen adults using the same grasp. Sometimes as we learn to write in a position that becomes comfortable to us, we continue using it long past the point of it being necessary."

Oh, this could very well be the case with my girl. As is evident from the pictures that I post of her writing on our Facebook page, she has a pencil or marker in her hand at least a third of the time that she's awake. This habit is going to be deeply engrained as a habit by the time her fine motor skills catch up to her passion for writing.

"I would encourage her to try writing holding the utensil with her fingertips and see how successful she is. I would focus fine motor activities to ones that will specifically strengthen her fingers (as you obviously continue working on activities for the hand, wrist, shoulder, etc.). There are many ways to do this but think of things that she can do to squeeze her finger tips together - making indentations in play-doh, using tweezers (depending on her ability) to transfer items, etc. The other idea I have quickly is to give her very small pieces of broken crayons or chalk that she can only hold in her fingertips (she would hold them at the top) to become more comfortable writing without the support of her whole palm. Start with simple designs and move to more difficult things like letters (I saw she is already writing her name!)"

These are all really great ideas from Becky. I've implemented most of them since reading her response! I've collected pencil grip recommendations from readers and friends that I'll try out with E. We're continuing on with Handwriting Without Tears during our home school preschool which should help. I plan to talk to her traditional non-homeschool preschool teachers about this ongoing struggle so I'll update you about her progress in a few months! I'll be writing a future post about all we've tried out to strengthen her hand muscles.


Until she develops the fine motor skills she needs, I've been trying to gently remind her to pinch the pencil point with little success. She will write that way for a minute, then revert back to her inefficient grasp. The other day after a reminder from me, E begged, "Please, Momma, can I just write my way?" It truly broke my heart as I don't want to stamp out her love for writing. Do you have any advice regarding correcting non-developmental pencil grasps that has worked for you or your children?
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