Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

A Hard Day

IMAG0150Nothing really major happened today with Agnes, and maybe that was the problem.

She’s back under the photo-therapy lights for more biliruben treatment, so she’s wearing her foamy black aviator goggles. So we can’t see her eyes. And even if we could, they would be closed because the nurses have been giving her morphine as needed to cope with the massive irritation of having a breathing tube, feeding tube, scalp-installed I.V., recovering from gut reorganization surgery, and having recently endured a camera snaking up and down her throat several times to get a real good look. Agnes has been super pissed off the past day and apparently narcotic pain killers are the only way to deal with it. So now she’s addicted to narcotics. I know this because when it’s been a while since the last dose, she starts jerking and flailing her arms around, crying, foaming at the lips, and she won’t tolerate anyone touching her, not even me or Jeremy. The nurse said she’s not addicted, but I’m pretty sure I heard one of the other nurses earlier this week say Agnes is touchy because of withdrawal. If you’re not addicted, you can’t suffer withdrawal. Amiright? So I’m definitely not crazy about the fact that she’s getting more doses, but what can they do? She freaks out so hard the monitors stop working, her oxygen saturations suffer, and her heart and respiration rates hit the roof. They have to do something to calm her, and soothing touch isn’t going to cut it with little miss Agnes the addict.

Not to mention I can’t stop dwelling on the fact that I’ve only held her in my arms for a total of three or four hours the whole twelve days she’s been born. So I can’t hold her, and I can’t even touch her, I can’t look into her eyes, and she’s not even really eating the breast milk I’m slaving away at pumping for her. Her guts are still sleepy from the surgery combined with spending more than a week doped up on narcotics. She is now receiving a measly 1 ml of milk per hour. The nurse said that’s 10 drops per hour. I guess she wasn’t digesting the full 3 ml they gave at one time, so they’re trying this slow drip approach. It’s going to take a long time to work through the collection of milk jars in the NICU freezer at this rate. What am I even supposed to do? All I can do is sit by the bed like a lump on a log. Maybe it helps. Agnes even seems to get mad when I talk to her, so I don’t even know about that.

Plus I talked to the lactation consultant today and apparently milk supply suffers when you’re tired. Or stressed. Or not getting enough to eat and drink. Great. So I have to pump every two hours to build up my supply, which means I have time for precious little besides the endless cycle of pumping, cleaning up my pump, using the little girls’ room, resting for 20 or 30 minutes, then repeat.

So at this point I’m feeling pretty useless as a parent to both my children, with no awesome news today to bolster my resolve to persevere. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, and on Monday Agnes will hopefully have the breathing tube removed. If we can both make it that long.


Agnes, Woman of Mystery

IMAG0148It’s been awhile since I posted because so much has happened so fast. Agnes went to surgery for her intestines, then she went to another surgery to install a long-term secure I.V. called a Broviac. This kind of I.V. goes in through the scalp and threads through a major artery in the neck and into the heart. It’s way more stable than an I.V. in a foot or arm vein because it uses a major vessel rather than a peripheral vessel. So, Agnes has been pretty much unconscious for almost a week, recovering from her various surgeries. The doctors decided to not remove her ventilator tube on Monday as originally planned because of the Broviac surgery. It was a bit of a surprise that she needed it, but the docs couldn’t use any of the other I.V. methods with Agnes for one reason or another.

Jeremy and I met with the geneticist on Monday. All of Agnes’ problems appear to be related because of an anomaly with her chromosomes. Sometimes there is an issue with the development of a fetus, or even as far back as the egg and sperm forming, and the genetic material gets funny. This can happen randomly to any baby, and Agnes is the lucky winner in this instance. In her case, she has some extra genetic material on one of her chromosomes. This is no big surprise to Jeremy and me; since we first found out about the ventriculomegaly, we’ve known that the most common cause of that condition is a chromosomal or genetic issue with the baby. We were even prepared back at 20 weeks to learn Agnes would have Downs Syndrome. Well, she will have something. The exact duplication of genetic material that Agnes has can’t be labeled by a specific syndrome or condition, which we learned from her nurse happens about 50 percent of the time. The geneticist was able to give us some predictions about Agnes’ future based on similar cases, but her specifics will only be revealed in time.

The doctors are concerned about Agnes’ long term outcome, but at the same time they can’t give us many solid  predictions because Agnes is a unique individual and her case is one-of-a-kind. Based on the similar cases the doctors have in their literature, they can tell us that Agnes will have multiple health problems, and she will have developmental delays. The geneticist can’t say how severe the problems and delays will be; that will only be revealed in time as Agnes grows older. He was able to say that Agnes’ outcome depends on the severity of internal issues that are discovered. She did have the mal-rotated bowels which were repaired, and the mild ventriculomegaly. So far her heart looks pretty darn good, and she has only shown a little trouble breathing on her own. Agnes has responded to physical therapy to help improve her poor muscle tone and contracted joints in fingers, wrists, and knees. We still don’t know if she will tolerate feeding by mouth because she has been given very little food the whole time she’s been born. And there is still lots of uncertainty about her airway and lung functions. But, a lot of the early signs do offer hope for a more positive long term outcome in Agnes’ case.

I know our situation has potential to be very grave. The neonatologist taking care of Agnes told me that a baby in the NICU several years ago with a similar diagnosis did fairly well, living to age 13. I don’t know if that is supposed to be encouraging or a “be realistic” bit of information, but I don’t fault the doctor for sharing it with me. Any amount of time Agnes can be with us is a great blessing. I’m realistic about her condition, and I’m prepared to accept it whether she lives 13 days, 13 years, 30 years, or longer. Of course, I hope she lives a long long time!

I do believe wholeheartedly that Agnes is a great grace in our lives, no matter how long she lives or what condition she is in long term. She is already an apostle, bringing many people closer to God in prayer. Because her condition is so mysterious, she is bringing us the opportunity to continually offer prayers and always trust in God’s will. Agnes is giving us the opportunity to be mindful of the Blessed Mother’s close presence at every moment.

Agnes is teaching us patience and acceptance. She is teaching us about the miracle of life and how every person has special gifts and a particular mission to accomplish on the earth.

It would be nice to know more about Agnes’ prospects for the future, but I almost prefer it to be unknown. This way we have more opportunity to be hopeful and trusting in God. There is more opportunity to recognize the small miracles. Like today: the doctor just decided to reduce Agnes’ ventilator rate and all but promised the vent tube would be removed before the weekend! This was a great surprise, and I have no doubt in my mind that it was the result of all the prayers that went up last night on Agnes’ behalf. This is proof that now is the best time for prayer, even more so than before!

So, this week has been really difficult and stressful on the family, but there is a mix of upsetting and hopeful news. Of course I’m very scared about my future with a special needs baby, but Agnes is giving me the opportunity to rely on Mary and the Lord for strength. I can continue to be hopeful because things will change from day to day, and I believe in the power of prayer.


4 Days Old…

Agnes has lots going on. I’m only doing a quick post tonight because it’s late; I will post a more complete story soon. She was suddenly transferred to Akron Children’s Hospital NICU yesterday evening where she was pretty much immediately wheeled into surgery to correct a mal-rotated bowel. What happens is, as a baby develops in the womb, the intestines form outside the baby’s body, then a miracle of Life: they fold themselves into the baby’s body in a very particular way. Some baby’s get willy-nilly intestines which causes kinks, which leads to obstructions, which can cause death. So they operated. She is recovering very well, all doped up on morphine and antibiotics. She will be in the NICU for the foreseeable future. Like I said, there is a lot going on with her that will come to be illuminated only with time.

We were able to have Fr. Sal baptize Agnes seconds before she went to surgery  last night.

Jeremy and I are holding together as best we can. We are visiting as much as possible, and my parents are really bearing the burden of Stephen’s care right now. Agnes’s godparents are coming to see her tomorrow.

The doctors expect Agnes to maintain her current condition all weekend while she recovers from the surgery. The next major step with her care plan will happen Monday when they attempt to remove the ventilator tube that is currently supporting all her respiration.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Saint Agnes, pray for us. Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.

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Agnes Makes Her Debut!

The labor and delivery part of this journey is over. Everyone’s favorite deets first: 4lbs 8oz, 18in long, born at 9:04pm on 6/17/13.

I arrived at the hospital yesterday morning at 8 a.m. where they gave me a teeny-tiny dose of Cytotec around 9:45 a.m. The Cytotec works to soften and dilate the cervix, making it more receptive to the onset of labor. The doctor told me it takes about 4 hours for the full effects of the drug to manifest and start to fade, so we would have to wait at least that long until the next step. I felt discouraged knowing the labor wouldn’t really get going until mid afternoon, but there was nothing to do about it.

When she came back to check my progress, the Cytotec had helped to dilate me to 3 cm, and I was having super frequent contractions. Not really painful ones, just back-to-back-to-back, and some of them were uncomfortable. The doc said they couldn’t begin Pitocin until the contractions calmed down, and I felt discouraged again, becoming convinced that I would be laboring well into the night. I was already exhausted and sick of the whole ordeal, so this news was very upsetting. The doctor did reassure me by saying my progress was extremely normal, in fact better than normal and she was very pleased with the way things were going.

I continued to have contractions through the afternoon and into the evening. Several attempts were made to artificially rupture my membranes to help labor truly get underway, but because there was so much amniotic fluid, Agnes kept floating away from engagement and the doctor was nervous to break my water when Agnes’s head wasn’t in place as a cork to prevent the umbilical cord from slipping through the cervix with the gush of water. At this point, she told me she had spoken to my regular OB, and he wanted to come take a look and do the next steps since we were potentially in a scary area. He would be arriving in about an hour.

So Jeremy left to get some dinner since there wouldn’t be time later, and about 10 minutes after he left, my OB showed up. Go figure. “What are we doing right now?” I asked. “I’m just going to check your progress,” my OB said. Next thing I knew he was fishing around for my cervix and asking the nurses if the pads on my bed were sufficiently absorbent for breaking my water. The nurse handed him the amnio hook, and he broke my water! The son of a gun.

Let me tell you, it was every bit as dramatic as I had anticipated, and more. Gush, gush, gush, gush. I just kept saying “Oh my God, Oh my God.” It was wild.

But baby’s cord didn’t prolapse, and after the doctors left, my contractions did settle into a more labor-like pattern. More spaced, more intense. Though I did still have series of multiple contractions in a row with a longer pause between series. This was probably still thanks to that teeny-tiny dose of Cytotec I had been given at 9:45 a.m. I had never received Pitocin or any other assistance to start labor.

It was around this point that I started to rethink my “no medication” plan. The contractions were starting to get pretty painful, and breathing alone wasn’t quite cutting it. Around 8:30pm I buzzed the nurse to ask about medicine and she wanted the doctor to check my progress first, since it’s not safe to do I.V. pain meds too close to delivery. The doc came in to check: 5cm. Grr. But still she said it wouldn’t be long since my cervix was super stretchy. I had a couple excruciating contractions while we discussed the possibility that I might accept an epidural. Then it happened. Pressure. “I feel pressure!” So the doc checked me again while nurses swarmed in to the room.

I was ready. That didn’t take long. They wheeled me at a brisk pace down to an Operating Room for delivery so the special care team could be in the next room. I kept asking “when can I push?” They told me my OB was on the way, but I think everyone knew he wouldn’t make it. When I was finally allowed to push, I screamed and accepted the assistance of nurses. During the first contraction I was allowed to push, I pushed a couple two or three times. On the second push, part of Agnes’s head was born and the doctor said, “Stop pushing Judy, stop pushing!” I guess what happened was Agnes wasn’t turned totally with her nose to my back and the doctor was trying to turn her. I needed to push again and they let me. On the second contraction, one push delivered the rest of Agnes at 9:04pm. She was little! And wrinkly and blueish. And she had hair!

They took her next door to the special care team where they suctioned out her airways and did a number of other immediately required procedures, at which point, my OB arrived! Better late than never. He did get to do the really fun part: stitching up the several tears I acquired during delivery. I did receive pain medication at this point. Why is it that it is bearable to deliver a baby, but when the doctors start poking around with fingers it suddenly becomes unbearable?

It took a while for me to be repaired, and Agnes was taking a really long time. I didn’t get to see her at all before they moved me to my overnight postpartem room. When I was up and around getting ready to go to the NICU, I made the mistake of passing out in the bathroom, which meant I had to wait even longer in bed before the docs were satisfied I could safely visit the NICU nursery. I didn’t get to see Agnes until 3:30am, and even then I couldn’t hold her because her respiration was too high to remove her from her incubator.

I was finally able to hold her on my chest around 8:30am this morning and it was wonderful! She suckled a tiny bit at the breast, but she wasn’t really into it. I’ll try again when I go see her in a little while.

She is off oxygen and her heart rate is good. It appears her esophagus connects to her stomach since a nasal feeding tube was easily and correctly installed. She has an I.V. for fluid, sugars, and antibiotics (for precaution). She has low muscle tone, which combined with a number of other clues such as the high amniotic fluid and the way her ears look, has the NICU pediatrician thinking there is a chromosomal issue. He has ordered a karyotype test of all the chromosomes to find out if his theory is correct. She did test negative for Downs, Trisomy 13 and 18, but there are loads of other issues she has not been tested for.

It looks like she will be in the NICU for at least a week, maybe more. I will most likely be discharged before she is ready.

We’re still praying for a favorable outcome.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Saint Agnes, pray for us. Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.




What I Wore Sunday: June 16 Baby Eve!

Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple as usual on a Sunday! Head over there to read the other linkers-up. Link-uppers. Linkers. Whatever.

100_1680Let’s talk about my clothes first, this week. This is the big billowy dress my mom bought for my birthday a couple weeks ago. It is really lightweight and comfortable. Today is also my last chance to wear a dress for awhile since I intend to nurse Agnes when she makes her debut tomorrow. My mom bought the dress from a catalogue, maybe Woman Within or Romans or something. I’m not really sure.

I’m also wearing my brand new authentic Spanish mantilla! My in-laws just returned from a whirlwind trip to Spain and Portugal, and they were kind enough to bring me a mantilla in black lace. I have the little white lace one that I made, and I wear woven scarves a lot too. I’m really excited to wear a real mantilla from Spain! The lace is super soft and drapes nicely around my face. I did pin it to my head with bobby pins to prevent slippage. I really like that it covers my shoulders and arms as well. The shape is not what I expected–it’s a long narrow rectangle rather than a square or semi-circle–but it is a really convenient shape for wearing on the head. Because it doesn’t hang down a lot in back, it slides off less easily than a wider piece of fabric would. It still slides a lot if I don’t pin it, but the shape does help in that department.

And I’m wearing my black Minnetonka Moccasins. I promise, I do own other pairs of shoes. But why mess with perfection?

Stephen was excited to stay outside for a few minutes when we got home from church. He adores blowing bubbles. He is wearing a thrift store shirt, thrift store pants, and his new sneakers with lights on the sides that flash when he walks. They’re size 9 toddler shoes. Holy moly.


Today Jeremy, Stephen and I were officially welcomed as new parishioners at Holy Ghost! Fr. Sal made an announcement at the end of the liturgy, and gave us our welcome present: a box of donation envelopes! It was cute. Then we all went downstairs for cake. No, the cake wasn’t for us; it was to celebrate Fathers’ Day, but everyone was allowed to enjoy it, even the mothers and the babies.

2013-05-21 19.56.46Today is also my last day without an infant. Tomorrow at 8 a.m. we go to the hospital for my induction. I’m really nervous about it, and I’m afraid that every decision I will want to make about my labor will be taken away from me for medical reasons I don’t know about, or because something comes up that makes what I want an impossible course of action. I’m nervous because the labor will be induced and my body will be forced to comply with the doctors’ wishes that labor begin at a specific time and progress at a certain rate, and nothing will be allowed to unfold naturally. I’m nervous because the neonatologist told me a team of specialists will descend as soon as Agnes pops out. I think he thought he was being reassuring, telling me a lot of doctors will be around to make sure Agnes thrives. But I’m not reassured. All I want to do is snuggle Agnes on my chest and let her try to nurse. I don’t want her to be whisked away to the NICU and stuck with an I.V. and tubes. I’m hoping and praying she defies all the expectations and arrives screaming and flailing her limbs and otherwise being a completely normal newborn. I’m also hoping and praying I can keep my head in the game and do what is necessary. I’m just scared that I will mentally “give up,” especially if the doctors take away all my choices and decision-making opportunities.

I’ll probably see y’all in a few days, after the excitement dies down. Unless labor goes really fast and Agnes debuts by lunchtime tomorrow! Then I might be able to post tomorrow, especially if the locust swarm specialists take her away for testing.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Saint Agnes, pray for us. Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.


Freshety Fresh

I know all y’all come to my blog for one reason, and one reason only: to look at blurry, poorly-lit photographs of my Farmers’ Market produce.

Homemade Kale Chips

Homemade Kale Chips

Carrots and their Abundant Greens.

Carrots and their Abundant Greens.

Delicious and Sweet Strawberries.

Delicious and Sweet Strawberries.

I made the pictures smaller to help disguise how awful they are. Thank you for your understanding.

Anyway, Jeremy and I have been hitting up the local Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, which has been really nice. We can use our EBT to buy tokens to use at the market, which is really awesome. I truly appreciate the state promoting healthy eating by allowing food assistance to be used for Farmers’ Markets. It can also be used to buy soft drinks and packaged snack cakes, but that’s another story. Plus the prices at the Farmers’ Market are quite high, which I’m not complaining about! Small time farmers need to be compensated for their effort and time and I’m willing to pay a premium for local, fresh, organic stuff. But being able to use EBT makes that a lot easier. If we were more on the edge and not qualifying for assistance, it would be really difficult for us to pay for the market stuff because of the prices. This post is about fresh foods, not about the wide segment of the population that are “in the gap” between solvency and poverty, but I do believe the folks in the middle have the roughest time. But that’s another another story.

Right now at the market, variety is just starting to pick up. For a while, the only things to buy there were kale, lettuce, beets, and radishes. Last week was the first week for strawberries, and this week we found carrots for the first time. We’ve been buying kale every week (it’s a super food!) and this time we decided to make chips. It’s pretty easy: just tear the leaves into smallish pieces, toss them with olive oil and salt, spread them on a baking sheet, and bake at 275 degrees for about 18 minutes or so. We used curly kale and the chips turned out great! Stephen at least stuck one in his mouth and pulled it out right away, but it’s progress with a green veg–he usually won’t even stand for the stuff to even just sit on his tray. He’s tried to remove it to the dining room table or even the floor on more than one occasion.

The carrots are also quite tasty, and the green tops that came attached are very impressive! We were walking out of the market wondering if you can eat the carrot greens. It seems like you should be able to, but we weren’t sure. Jeremy looked it up online and apparently you can. You can even make pesto with them! I think we should do that; we haven’t made pesto in ages.

The strawberries are the best treasure. We bought some last week, and my dad brought home a couple cartons in his CSA bag of produce he just started getting. We bought some again today because we can’t get enough. I will probably freeze most of these for later use, but I could just eat a bowl of them fresh. I’ve been feeding them to Stephen, putting them on cereal in the morning, we made smoothies the other day, we made sandwiches with roasted strawberries…

Oh, let me tell you about that! I saw a pin on Pinterest for a roasted strawberry sandwich with dark chocolate and brie cheese. What you do is slice the berries and lay them on a baking sheet, then drizzle them with olive oil and roast them in the oven for about 15 or 20 minutes at 375 degrees (I think, or maybe it’s 350). Then you do like a grilled cheese sandwich: layer on a slice of bread the cheese, chocolate, berries, more cheese, then the top of the bread and grill in a pan. We used goat cheese one time for this, and monterey jack. We never have brie around when we want this sandwich. Any mild cheese would work. The sandwich is to die for.

I love the creativity fresh produce inspires. When we get a bunch of something, I have to figure out how to use it. We eat better, and I feel satisfied in the kitchen. It’s a great thing about summer!


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7 Quick Takes: June 14

Linking up with Jen and all the other party people at Conversion Diary for the weekly quick takes. Go over there if you like to partay.

1. After spending the night in the hospital because my doctors take not the tiniest chance with the health of my unborn child, I am happy to be home for the weekend. Agnes was monitored constantly overnight, and she turned in a “reactive” performance on the heart rate. That was a good thing, too, because the follow-up BPP I did this morning only scored a 6 because Agnes refused to practice breathing during the 30 minute ultrasound. She still netted a score of 8 out of 10 with the reactive NST plus the BPP, so I was discharged with stern instructions to call immediately if anything worrisome happens over the weekend. As you can imagine, I was not a happy camper laying in that awful hospital bed with a sweaty, bedsheet-wrinkled backside, imagining myself beginning an induced labor on Monday morning after an entire weekend of laying in that awful hospital bed–paradoxically not being able to sleep–with a progressively more wrinkled and sweaty backside to keep me company. So I am very relieved to be home.

2. My hand is really sore where they inserted the XL size I.V. amidst great dramatics on my part. I asked, “do I really need to get the I.V.?” and the nurse said, “it’s in case you need an emergency c-section, but I guess you don’t have to have it in now.” And I said, “I’m confident Agnes will do great and nothing will happen, so I don’t think I’ll take the I.V.” And the nurse said she would let the attending resident physician know. Then the attending resident physician came into my room and told me all the patients get one and it’s not optional. Fine. Sheesh. And now my hand is really sore, right in the same place they will insert another XL size I.V. on Monday. Fun for me.

3. I made a lasagna for dinner tonight, which is what I had been planning to make last night. I really liked how it turned out; I followed the recipe on the side of the noodle box except I added a secret special ingredient: cauliflower! I had half a head in the fridge that I really wanted to use up, so I sliced off the florets only and cut them into teeny-tiny pieces. Then I mixed the cauliflower into the ricotta/egg/parmesan mixture thinking it would masquerade as cottage cheese curds. It worked out really well, though some of the vegetable pieces were a bit crunchy and tasted like cauliflower. I didn’t fool my mom, but she admitted that it “wasn’t too bad” which I choose to accept as positive feedback. If I do this again, I’ll cut the cauliflower even tinier so all the pieces soften and lose the crunch.

4. Two more days infant-free! Agnes will be born on Monday. I have a scheduled  appointment to start the labor induction at 8 a.m. How’s that for a start to the week? Actually I’m glad it’s an early start time. Hopefully I won’t be laboring into the night, and since drugs are assisting and this is my second childbirth, it could go fairly quickly. I think the doctors want a quick labor just so Agnes doesn’t have to cope with contractions over a long time frame. I would be cool with that, too!

5. Stephen is singing in his room. I put him down for the night about 30 minutes ago and he was quiet for a while, but he is clearly not asleep. It really sounds like singing. Or whimpering to a tune. Or something. Whatever, he’ll fall asleep eventually.

6. I bought off-brand oreo-type cookies at the grocery store on Tuesday because I was a pregnant lady craving oreos. I ate a few of them. Now the package is nearly empty! How did this happen? And I’m being serious here; I really did only eat a few of them–6 or 8 cookies, tops. What a world we live in, where a pregnant lady’s pregnancy-craving cookies just disappear…

7. I talked to one of my OB’s about Cytotec, and I guess I’ll trust the docs on this. She said they’ve been using it for years with no problems, and it works. Also that there are no methods that don’t have side effects. She told be about the alternatives to Cytotec, none of which sound as effective or easy or non-invasive. I have to trust the doctors to have my best interests and my baby’s best interests in mind. Maybe my cervix will have done enough effacing by then that Cytotec won’t be necessary, but if it is, I will use it.


Live! From the Perinatal Ward

Yep. I’m back in the slammer. That is, the doc at Maternal Fetal Medicine sent me to Akron General Hospital for another overnight session of fetal monitoring.

Here’s how it happened:

I went to MFM for my ultrasound and NST appointment, and things were looking fine. Agnes is up to 4 lbs 12 oz which is AWESOME! If she can make it to Monday, she should be nearly 5 lbs for her birth day. The cord dopplers were a little elevated; the S/D ratios were just the tiniest bit above 4. Her ventricles were measuring fairly consistent with previous measurements. My amniotic fluid was a tiny bit less than it was on Monday. She even breathed during the BPP so the ultrasound tech didn’t have to sit around waiting for her to breathe. But, she didn’t move very much during the ultrasound, so she was docked a couple points on her score for not moving.

See, what I just learned today is the BPP/NST is scored out of 10 points, 2 points each for breathing, movement, fluid, tone, and a reactive NST. Well, Agnes has been scoring 8 out of 10 which is technically normal, but today because she was napping during the ultrasound or something, she scored 6 out of 10 which is cause for concern.  The doc sent me to the hospital for overnight monitoring, and there will be a retest for the BPP in the morning. If Agnes does okay overnight, and scores 8 on the BPP in the morning, we can go home for the weekend.

If Agnes does poorly overnight and scores less than 8 on the BPP in the morning, I may have to stay at the hospital over the weekend and deliver as scheduled on Monday. Or, depending on how poorly Agnes appears to be doing, she may be delivered before Monday.

I’ve spoken with a few doctors since being admitted, and everyone has a different story to tell. The OB from my practice tells me to stay positive and not worry too much about the worst case scenario. She says the specialists think a lot about the possible worst case outcomes so that they are prepared and can then provide the best case outcomes. On the other hand, the neonatologist tells me there will be a crowd of specialists in the next room when I deliver, and the moment Agnes is born they will swoop in and whisk her away to the NICU immediately where they will install an I.V. and keep her “as long as possible.” He also tells me she may have an intestinal blockage or maybe her esophagus doesn’t connect to her stomach, and that accounts for all the extra fluid. And that would require an operation. Thanks, doc, for that news which totally and completely new to me and really very serious. Why is this the first time I am hearing this, and how dare you patronize me by asking “did you expect her to receive routine newborn care?”

At least he did try to backpeddle a little and tell me their goal is to do the smallest program of care that is possible for Agnes’s case. That is only mildly reassuring after the rest of what he told me, but I guess I’ll take it.

So, yeah, I’m trying to stay positive despite what the doctors insist on telling me.

At this point, I’m just really frustrated and angry to be in the hospital so soon before I’m scheduled to return for the real deal. I almost wish Agnes could just be born now. I used to be the most adamant against c-section, but now I kind of want the whole ordeal to be over. Just knock me out and take my baby already. It’s the waiting that is the most stressful.

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I Heart The Pioneer Woman

If you haven’t taken a gander at The Pioneer Woman’s blog, you should head over and check it out. She writes quite colorfully about her life on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma, her children, her cowboy husband, her menagerie of pets, and of course, her cooking. The Pioneer Woman has a series on The Food Network, and she’s written a couple cookbooks full of delicious and lovingly-photographed food. She got her start blogging, and gradually gained more and more readers, with the cookbooks and T.V. show following after years of plugging away. Her success story is inspiring to me as a fledgling blogger. 

Hands down, my favorite part of her blog is: the food.

Some people like to look at pictures of cats or watch videos of babies and dogs to kill time, but I like to look at Pioneer Woman recipes and fantasize about the possibility that I might make them in my own kitchen.

I have made a few of her recipes, and they were amazing.

 Blueberry Lemon Sweet Rolls.

 Crash Hot Potatoes.

 Patty Melts.

 Perfect Iced Coffee.

But I’ve looked at dozens more, and I can tell you, my docket for cooking projects is filling up quickly! It’s mostly her desserts that get me itchin’ for the kitchen’ (HAHA, I just made that up!) but everything from the burgers to tacos to monkey bread looks amazing. I strongly urge you hop over to the Pioneer Woman and take a peek. If you love to read recipes and look at gorgeous food, that is the place to go. But plan to fix yourself a snack when you’re finished, because it will make you hungry!


Shopping for Deals

I have a secret to confess: I adore shopping for groceries.

It’s kind of strange, I know. But I love everything about it. And I think I have a pretty good strategy for saving money on groceries, so I’ll share it with you.

First things first: I love getting the ads in the mail from the various stores with the weekly sales and specials. Second, I love comparing the sales from the stores and finding which place has the best price. Does Acme have cheaper sweet potatoes at regular price even though Giant Eagle is running a sale this week? Where am I going to get the cheapest milk gallons this week? I’m running out of coke products so where should I go to restock? Third, I love making a weekly menu based on the ads and any special sales and promotions. Fourth, I love finding the sale items in the store, and sometimes finding the neighboring off-brand that is even cheaper yet than the sale item. Score. I love walking the aisles and seeking out the items on my list (I never shop without a list, even if it only has a few things on it).

Fine. I also admit there are a couple things I don’t love about grocery shopping. First, when the product I’m looking for is nowhere to be found. It’s really annoying when the ad special runs out and the store has no intention of restocking. Second, I don’t like when I go looking for an ad special and the price at the store doesn’t match the ad. Annoying. Third, I don’t like when a store mysteriously organizes things in a way that makes no sense. Like today, why wasn’t the salsa at Aldi located with other cans and jars? Because they stocked it next to the chips, that’s why. It makes a little sense, I guess, but it’s not what I would expect.

My strategy for saving money on groceries is pretty simple. I’ve talked a bit about it here where I discussed stocking up  with a chest freezer. I use the stores’ weekly ads to find really good deals on items, and when there is a great price on something my family eats, I buy a ton of it and stock it in the pantry or freezer. That way, we are set on that item during the times prices are not so good. You can freeze a surprising variety of things. Milk (pour some off to allow for expansion), shredded cheese (only shredded), butter, any meat, bread, fruits and vegetables (some have to be blanched or otherwise prepped, some do not). Grains and flours keep longer in the freezer, too.

I also use the store ads to help plan weekly menus around what items are on sale. For example, if my store is having a Buy One Get One sale on roasts, we have roast or stew or shredded beef tacos that week. Or if lettuces are 99 cents per bunch, we eat a lot of salads on the side. If avocados are on sale, we make guacamole. You get the idea.

The final thing I really try to do is to be aware of what’s a good price for the items we buy the most. That way I can buy those items at the right store, or plan to stock up when they are on sale. For example, I’ve noticed my local stores sometimes run a 2 for $5.00 sale on butter in their weekly ad. So 2 for $5.00 is a pretty good price and I try to wait for that. But today we did most of our shopping at Aldi where the butter is priced at $2.39 regular price. Obviously I bought 4 pounds (freezer, baby!). Another example is Giant Eagle sells their sweet potatoes for $1.49 per pound regular price, but Acme sweet potatoes are only 99 cents regular price. I buy all our sweet potatoes at Acme.

The prices for everything keep going up every day, so it feels worth it to me to take a little extra time strategizing about grocery shopping. I get a great sense of accomplishment when I can stock the fridge and freezer for less money. Plus, then I have some moolah left over to buy fun stuff like Pop Tarts!


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