Saturday, May 24, 2008

Remodeling, what Joy!

I read once that remodeling (putting on an addition, building a house yourself, or just substantially changing your current living situation) is one of the most stressful things you can do to a marriage. And after these last weeks, I believe it!

Actually, John and I have been doing well during the process in terms of our relationship. But there certainly has been plenty of stress. Take last week, for example. We were in the midst of having the painting done, and John arrived at the new apartment one morning early to discover it "trashed" (in his words). The painters had done a lot of taping over the current woodwork but then if, in places, the tape and plastic came up, they completely ignored it and painted over everything. Large areas of the floor had paint spattered liberally across it. The woodwork around doors and windows was, in some areas, almost totally covered in paint.

After recovering from the initial shock, John got on the phone to the manager of the paint store and asked him to come over and look at the mess. The manager was nonplussed. "Don't worry, we will clean it all up when we are finished . . . it will all work out!" The walls still needed a second coat then so there was no point in starting the cleanup yet.

More misadventures followed. The workers doing the painting didn't bring their own tools and kept asking John to go out and buy things. They didn't have a paint stirrer, so didn't stir the paint and before John could stop them, large sections of the walls came out with darker or lighter colors because the paint wasn't mixed. John kept having to ask them to redo areas and they were soon rather irritated with him and his "high" standards. The workers made fun of John's attempts to speak the local language and began to have rather sour attitudes.

Finally, thankfully, a local friend came to help the situation. He also got the manager involved, and this time there was a real change. The manager brought in some skilled laborers (as it turns out, the other workers just got hired for the day and didn't actually know anything about painting) and they totally repainted the apartment. I then spent one day touching up some edging and some overspray on the ceiling, and then John and our helper, Lou, spent some more time cleaning off the paint on the woodwork, and now, happily, it looks great! Whew, what a road to get there, though!

I was happy with the way the colors turned out, which I'm glad for since it's really hard to choose from just a little paint chip! The main living room/dining room has two walls that are a dark red, with two walls that are a darker tan color. The entryway and hallway are also the tan color, and then Clara Anne and Chloe's room is a really happy purple. The baby's room is a happy green color, and our bedroom is a happy blue color. Taken all together, it looks like Easter eggs at the end of our hallway with the three bedrooms, all happily colorful. But I do like it--it will be impossible to be depressed at our house! Plus, once all the furniture gets in it will soften the colors up a bit. Right now they are all really . . . happy! (for lack of a better word!)

I have to admit it was fun to have a paintbrush in hand again. Some of you may know that I spent about 10 summers (give or take a few) doing exterior painting as a job. This job began way back when my dad, a schoolteacher, decided to use the summer months to paint and make some extra money. He had various partners over the years including, as we grew up, both of my brothers and myself. Then I recruited John after we met, and we spent some serious time on ladders together before we were married as well as when we were preparing to come to this country. We did some big barns together as well as houses and even a bunch of interior work at an apartment complex. The pay was good, I enjoyed the work, and once I had learned the skills, it kind of was like riding a bike--you just never forget how to paint. I loved painting with my dad--we had time to talk, could set our own hours (start at 7am and you can go home at 4!), out in the fresh air (ok, sometimes it was beastly hot/humid/bugs/etc), but we made tons of memories during that time. I feel like I learned a lot about life--doing a good job, working hard, pleasing the customer, learning a skill, etc--through painting! But I digress . . .

John has been working so hard to get things ready at the new place, and the past few days have really seen great progress. Some of our new items (a lovely, white, clean, new bathtub!!) have arrived and been installed. The old kitchen cupboards (a bright yellow metal, coated with grease) have been taken out and the kitchen guys have the design of the new kitchen all drawn up on their computer. They will be building the cabinets in the next week or two at a different location and then installing them.

So, the work continues. We may be able to move in as little as two weeks, but I think two to three weeks is a better estimate. John has to be gone Tuesday afternoon through Friday noon of this next week, so we won't be doing much remodeling then. And we still have some things to purchase--mattresses for the girls' big girl beds, lamps, things like that--so we'll see how quickly that all can happen. We're getting excited, though! Moving day is coming soon!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sister Care

It's been wonderful to see how both Clara Anne and Chloe have taken on the role of big sister. They have actually been a help to me at various times! Clara Anne especially takes seriously her responsibility to help Christin be happy and will sing little songs to Christin, bring her favorite blanket to put over Christin, and entertain her the best Clara Anne knows how.
The other night I had my first experience with Clara Anne and Chloe actually "watching" the baby at a time when I needed some help. I had fed Christin at 4:30pm and she was awake, but a little fussy. She would have preferred to be held rather than propped on the bed with a Lamaze toy to look at. But I needed to finish getting supper on the table, so I asked Clara Anne to go in and sing a song to Christin, with strict instructions not to touch her. I checked on her a minute or two later, and Chloe had joined her. They had gotten their stepstools from the bathroom, climbed up on the bed next to Christin, and were singing to her. I checked again a few minutes later (I could still hear Christin fussing) and both of them were sitting around her, with their hands folded sweetly in their laps, gazing down with adorable expressions at baby Christin.
About 5 minutes later, supper was ready, and so I told the girls they could get down and I would take care of Christin now. But Clara Anne said, "Mommy, Christin fell asleep!" And sure enough, the girls had put her to sleep! (Well, sort of, anyway--I guess we can't give them all the credit!) I transferred her to her crib and we all then had a peaceful supper.
It's been a blessing to me how I've seen them really love Christin and so far, there hasn't been a hint of jealousy. Clara Anne, particularly, is really protective of the new baby and I think will be even more of a help to me as Christin (and Clara Anne) gets older.
By the way, the adjustment to having three is going quite well. We seem to have found a pretty good rhythm of feedings/awake time/nap time that fit well into our pre-existing family life. Christin also seems to be (I say "seems to be" since she's still only 3 weeks old, and things could change!) my easiest baby yet, especially in the area of falling asleep by herself. With Clara Anne and Chloe, I remember quite a bit of crying in the early weeks as I would put them down for naps. I felt like every nap where they went to sleep on their own was a victory. But Christin hardly fusses at all--sometimes I lay her down and there isn't even a single peep of protest. Other times she cries a bit, but doesn't seem to have the perseverance in crying that Clara Anne and Chloe had. Thank the Lord! Her nighttime sleeping has also been very good--she is regularly going 4-5 hours straight and has had a couple of nights of 7 and 7.5 hour stretches. Last night she slept from 11pm until 6am this morning; a great help to me as well as good for her. We'll see if that continues consistently!

Princess Girls

My girls have really been into the idea of being princesses lately. They both have several summery, frou-frou dresses that they love to wear. Since our weekly gatherings are not very formal, and the dresses won't get worn very often, I let the girls play dress-up in their fancy dresses. They think it's great!
Talking about princesses has also led us to some good discussions about how if they believe in Jesus, they will also be princesses, because the Father, the King, adopts us as his children! We watched the Disney movie "Snow White" together recently and John and I were both struck by the spiritual analogies. For example, Snow White waits with faith that her prince will come back for her, and then he is the only one that can save her from her sleep of death because of his great love for her. He then takes her off to his castle in the sky, making everything right again, fulfilling his promise to her. It's a wonderful story and allowed us some good talks with the girls.
Enjoy the pictures of my princess girls!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where are they now?

I must apologize for the long delay away from my blog. Has it already been more than two weeks since Christin was born?! So many things have happened in that time, it's hard to believe she's still only 16 days old! So in case you were wondering, "Where are they now?" here's a brief update . . .

First, I wanted to let everyone know that we are fine, despite a recent terrible natural disaster in our area of the world. Actually John and I had traveled to the capital city on Monday, Christin in tow, to arrange for her passport at the American Embassy on Tuesday. We left our two older girls with our friends Brad and Amy (THANK YOU so much, friends!) to make the trip a little easier. While there, we made an important trip to Ikea to purchase some furniture, an important trip to the doctor for some immunizations, and of course an important trip to the import store for "necessities" like powdered sugar, chocolate chips, and taco seasoning. So we really packed our time full. We returned home on the early train this morning and it was good to get back. Christin has already been through our local train station three times in her 16 days! Now that's crazy!

The trip was surprisingly relaxing, though, with only a very portable newborn to take around. She was happy everywhere and even obligingly took naps during a couple of meals at nicer restaurants, allowing John and I to linger over meals and actually have uninterrupted conversations. So despite the usual stress of travel, it was very refreshing! We were very happy to return home safely today and be reunited with our sweet Clara Anne and Chloe. We missed them!

The last 10 days have been non-stop with the remodeling process at our new apartment, too. John has been out almost every day, shopping, arranging details, making plans, etc. He didn't forget Mother's Day, though! He had gone out that morning briefly and came home with a dozen peach roses for me, thoughtful husband that he is. But in all the busyness, we both almost forgot that today is his birthday! 34 years young, Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband and his beautiful twin, Sarah!

I have lots of great pictures to share but will have to leave that for another day when I have a bit more time. For now, Happy Birthday John! I love you!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Meet the Family

These pictures are from April 29, 2008, the morning after Christin was born (she and I were still at the hospital). This was the second time for the girls to meet their new little sister--they were so sweet with her and loved holding her little hands and kissing her. Enjoy the photos!

Family Reunion

Sisters are for kissing

Look at her tiny feet!
Clara Anne loves holding Christin.

There she is, almost one day old (and finally clean! They didn't give her a bath until the morning of the second day!).

"Don't worry Mom, I've got good hold of her, all by myself."
"Oops!" A little too much love here from Chloe.

Family of Five--our first family photo!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Forgot to say . . .

Ok, so in my writing of the birth story last night I forgot a few details to share with you . . . one amazing one was the cost of this entire process. John had to pay a deposit, and when we wanted to check out on Tuesday afternoon, they started counting back money to him! He was astonished upon receipt of that money to realize that the total cost for the birth and my stay (one night) in the hospital was only 970 local dollars, or less than $150 US! Wowza! That's amazing! I usually spend around 970 local dollars in about two weeks at the grocery store!

I also wanted to praise the Lord again for his timing and faithfulness. You may remember that I was praying for this baby to arrive early, and at night. Instead, she was five days late, and during the day! But His ways our not our ways, and though things didn't go as we planned (especially with my doctor not being there) they definitely went as HE planned, and that was for the best. I am now very glad that my doctor wasn't there. The midwives did a great job and Christin was born safely, that was the most important part. We rejoice in His provision and in her new little life!

Stay tuned for more pictures, coming soon!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Story of Christin's Birth

***Warning! Long and involved post! Proceed at risk of being bored!***

If you've been following the blog, you know that I had literally weeks of prelabor contractions. During that time we learned lots about what is called "prodromal" labor, where the contractions are more regular and pronounced than just Braxton Hicks contractions, but yet do not actually advance the progress of labor. We also learned lots about being patient, and I learned to not take my body cues very seriously!

All that being said, when Sunday night came I did feel like something different was happening. We had eaten a yummy Asianese lunch rather late and I didn't feel like eating dinner. I was having the strongest contractions yet and so after the girls were in bed we decided to time them for awhile. To lessen the boredom, we watched "Father of the Bride." (Just had to get that detail in there for posterity!) But, around midnight, the contractions spaced out a bit and weren't gaining in intensity, so we decided to try and get some sleep. John fell asleep immediately but I was awake for awhile feeling the contractions continue. Same story as so many nights of the last month!

At 3am-ish, though, I awoke with some rather strong contractions that seemed to be about 7-8 minutes apart and more intense than before. I woke up John and we timed for awhile, but the clincher was when I went to the bathroom and experienced some blood loss. That hadn't happened until I was 6-7 cm dilated with the other girls, so considering that and the more intense contractions, we decided it was time to call our friend Roby.

Roby lives nearby and had been waiting for this call for a month now, so she was happy to hear that it was us and that the time had come. She arrived about 4:45 and we were then on our way out the door to find a taxi. The sun was just coming up as we were leaving, and the air was fresh and cool with the promise of a beautiful day--the day of Christin's birth!

We arrived at the hospital at 5am only to find the halls and nurses' station completely deserted. No one was anywhere to be seen! I sat down and waited while John went hunting around. Finally he found a nurse who quickly got things going for us. My doctor's previous advice had been to get to the hospital, get checked by whoever was on duty to determine if I should stay or not, and then if necessary, check in and call her at that point. So this is what we did. The doctor on duty ushered me (and only me, not John) into the laboring area to do the check, and then upon examination announced that I was 1 cm dilated. I could hardly believe it! 1 teeny tiny cm after a whole month of work?!!! How could it be? What about the strong contractions and the blood and everything? Suddenly the day stretched out before me, long and arduous. If it hurt this much at 1 cm, what was it going to feel like later?

However, facts are facts. But this doctor thought it would go quickly since it was my third child. She thought I should be admitted, so began the process of asking me lots of detailed medical questions which my Asianese vocabulary wasn't quite prepared for. She wanted to draw blood to do some test (a very expensive test) because of my relatively rare blood type, and I protested, trying to understand what kind of test it was and why it was necessary. Finally I protested enough that she gave up and made me sign a disclaimer saying I wouldn't accept that treatment.

Then there were other issues. John had gone to the main building to register me and check me in, with the understanding that when he finished he would be allowed to join me in the labor room. However, when he got back they told me he could not come in. I had been trying to call my doctor all this time, and she wasn't answering her phone, and the nurses and doctor on duty refused to let him in, saying that it wasn't the policy of the hospital. I told them that my doctor had asked specially for permission and they replied very unhelpfully, "Well, she's not the boss, and we have rules to follow here." This discussion went on long enough, with me alternately trying to call my doctor and then talking with John via his cell phone, that finally I asked to be allowed to go back out in the hallway to be with him. They would not let me get off the bed. This was Dicey Moment #1: John out in the hallway, me inside, not together except through calling one another on our cell phones, me still having strong contractions and feeling emotionally tested there by myself. At this point, the percentage of the discussion in Asianese: 100%.

An hour and a half passed. During that time I further annoyed my doctor/nurses by refusing the "shave." My doctor had said it was standard, but if I really didn't want it I could refuse it, and I really didn't want it. When I realized what the nurse was doing, I told her immediately and in no certain terms to stop, and that my doctor had said I didn't have to have it. Well, that about did it for those nurses. They were pretty irritated with this foreigner who came in, refused treatment, wanted things her way, got upset when her husband got left outside, etc.

But all that changed with a 3 minute phone call. My 15 unanswered phone calls to my doctor were finally answered with a call to the nurse on duty. I never talked to my doctor, but suddenly the nurse was ushering me into a private labor room (previously promised to me), John was brought in to join me, it was fine that I didn't have the shave or the blood test they wanted to do, and I was free to move around as I wished, eat, drink, walk, or whatever during labor. There was even a birthing ball in that room! Even better, my doctor was coming on duty at 8am and so would come herself to check me when she came to work.

John proved himself to be a most invaluable coach for the third time. He rubbed my back, timed my contractions, encouraged me, helped me to walk a bit, reminded me to eat a few snacks (we had splurged on an imported bag of Craisins trail mix--cranberries, nuts, and chocolate chips!), and just generally took great care of me. My doctor didn't come in to see me until about 8:30, and then I happened to be in the bathroom, so the first time I actually saw her was about 9:45 when she came with the head of the department in tow.

They were both concerned because they thought the baby was too large, and so ordered another ultrasound, bringing the total number of ultrasounds for this pregnancy to an astonishing 8! So I went to have that done, then came back and the dept head examined me, and I was happy to find that I was already 5 cm! Hallelujah! They were also both concerned that the baby would come so quickly I wouldn't have time to make it the 15 feet over to the delivery area, so wanted me to get on the delivery bed as soon as I had reached 8 cm.

No problem there, but then my doctor and the department head started talking amongst themselves about John's presence. They began to say to me that maybe, after all, John couldn't accompany me into the delivery room. In classic Asianese fashion, they explained that "maybe" he would have to "wait a moment" while I did the actual work of birthing the baby, and then he could be with me again. I wasted no time in playing my "upset foreigner" card for the second time that day. Honestly, THE major reason we agreed to have the baby here was because my doctor reassured me repeatedly that John and I could be together for the ENTIRE process. When I asked my doctor with some emotion, "Why? You told me previously that you had gotten permission for this!" she replied by saying, well, just because this is [the country we live in]. If there ever was a bad excuse, that was it! This was Dicey Moment #2.

However, as I looked helplessly with tears at John while the doctors were discussing it, they relented and said, ok, if you really want him to be there, then that's ok. I reiterated that it was most important to me that he was with me, and so they grudgingly assented. Yikes! Glad we made it through that one! Percentage of conversation in Asianese at this point: 90%.

So time passed and I was anticipating rapid progress from 5-10, just like 1-5 had been. My mistake. It took F-O-R-E-V-E-R to get to 6. About 11:00 or so, the midwife came in and announced that I should move to the delivery table, though I had not progressed any further in terms of dilation. My contractions were gradually moving closer together, and gaining slowly in intensity, which by then was feeling really, really intense. I did get up on the delivery table, and though it was not so comfortable I didn't feel like moving much anyway. Almost without asking they broke my water at this point, after which the contractions only got more intense. From about that point on, I felt like 10 cm was never going to come, and I was in transition with very intense, painful contractions that got very difficult to relax through. By 12:15 I was still only at a six, but then had a long series of such intense contractions that I could not stop my body from bearing down. Thankfully, it was almost over--I went from 6 to 10 in about half an hour, and by 12:50 was ready to push.

My doctor had not come back to check on me. All of this time, it was a group of midwives/nurses that were attending me. I kept asking for my doctor, but they said she was doing an emergency C-section and would come as soon as she was able. I think she showed up after about 3 or 4 pushing contractions, just as I was getting started, really. And when she came, she started making some dire predictions and saying things like "your baby is stuck too far up the birth canal, and your contractions are not strong enough to push the baby out. . . maybe you need some medicine to make the contractions stronger . . . the baby is in distress, look, her heart rate is too high . . . your baby is too big, we have to consider other options . . . "

Needless to say, none of this made me very happy. I was ready to do the work of pushing, for a long time if necessary, but her alarmist mentality wasn't helping. The baby's heart rate was accelerating with the contractions, but not dangerously so; another midwife present said she didn't think it was a problem. My doctor did start me on oxygen, trying to help the baby, and gave me no choice about starting a IV drip with Vitamin C--how that was supposed to help in that moment, I have no idea. (A westerner who is a nurse told me later that is because they don't allow women who have just given birth to eat anything citrus for a month--so they need the IV.) Anyway, my doctor then announced that she had better get the head of the department to consult with about my case.

Well, this definitely constituted Dicey Moment #3. I certainly did not want to endanger the baby, but I had just started pushing and so of course she was still far up the birth canal. John and I began praying desperately for the Lord to act quickly so that we could prevent drastic measures. We prayed for strength, for the baby to descend quickly, and for my contractions to have great effect. And the Lord answered, in an unusual way!

The midwife that took over for my doctor immediately began to coach me in a very positive way as I was making progress with the pushing. As I could feel some progress happening, it encouraged me and I pushed even harder. Then, as a total surprise, another midwife climbed up on a stepstool next to the birthing bed, and with each contraction bore down on my belly with her full weight behind her fists, literally pushing the baby down from the outside. It hurt like crazy but made my contractions about twice as effective. So with her pushing, me pushing, and the contractions pushing, we made excellent progress. Soon there was no question--the baby was descending, and descending fast.

There was a bunch of other nurses/midwives present--I'm not even sure who was who, but I do know this, my doctor never showed up again! That seemed providential in hindsight, since the midwives weren't so concerned and just took things in stride. Needless to say, without my doctor there, the percentage of Asianese being spoken went right back up to 100%! After about 40-45 minutes, and some vigorous stretching/rubbing of me in places I don't care to mention by many hands, Christin made her entrance into this world! Wow! The midwives did a great job of coaching me so that I stretched slowly and only had a very small tear. So she was born at 1:38--alert, active, coated with vernix, and flailing and crying.

We think she looks a lot like Chloe's birth pictures, and interestingly enough, Christin was exactly Chloe's birth weight and height--4.45 kilos (that's 9 pounds, 13 oz) and 55 cm (about 21 3/4 inches). Her name, Christin Arielle, was chosen because we pray that her life will reflect the glorious truth "Christ in her, the hope of glory!" Arielle means "Lion of God" and is also referred to in Isaiah as a name for the city or dwelling place of God. And of course, the C's and the middle names match with Clara Anne Danielle (named for her grandmothers and her uncle Dan) and Chloe Rachelle (named after a woman in the Bible who had a group in her home, and her mother).

After she was born, the midwives did all the usual stuff, except bathe the baby. Apparently the custom here is to wait until the second day, it's better for their health or something. They stitched my few stitches (without anesthetic, I might add--that was NOT comfortable!) and let me hold the baby really quickly. We then returned to the laboring room so I could nurse Christin and rest a bit before going to our hospital room.

About 3:30 our friend Roby showed up with Clara Anne and Chloe, and they got to meet their sister. Clara Anne was so excited and curious, wanting to kiss and touch Christin, but Chloe seemed a little confused about everything that was going on. I have some great pictures from their first meeting to share with you soon. At one point later, though, Chloe looked up and pointed, saying "Baby!" So at least she caught on to that much! Clara Anne really has been a sweet big sister already--loves to talk to Christin and touch and kiss her, and both she and Chloe seem excited about their new sister.

So, to finally conclude this very long story, we are so thankful for the safe arrival of Christin Arielle! She is such a precious little bundle and is doing great with eating, and getting better with sleeping (last night went 5.5 hours at one stretch, woke up to eat, then slept another 3 hours before I woke her to eat breakfast!). She definitely has the Wind lips from her father and the Bruxvoort (my side of the family) nose. She is so sweet and cuddly, loves to be held and looks at me sometimes with that cross-eyed look peculiar to newborns. We are enjoying getting to know her! PTL for her precious life!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Home Again

Well, we're home, back to our familiar apartment in our city. Our packing up and moving locations has gone well. We had safe travels yesterday, made it to the train with plenty of time, and arrived back in our city to find that summer has arrived with all its heat and glory. Wow! The temperature difference was quite astonishing considering we only traveled a few hundred km. So sometime in the next few days I will have to find the time/energy to unpack our summer clothes! We're all feeling a bit warm right now!

It is hard to believe, with all the changes of this past week, that Christin was only born four days and several hours ago. It does feel so good to be back, and Lou has already been a great help, but admittedly the time has felt a bit rushed. One extenuating (unexpected) circumstance is that since these three days (May 1-3) are a national holiday, many big ticket items are significantly on sale, and our local business partner here thought it would be a great plan to try and buy some of the needed office furniture during these days. We then thought, well, we also need to purchase some larger items (a kitchen table and chairs, a bedroom set, etc) since when we move we will leave behind our current landlord's furniture. So today, John was out all day scoping out the huge furniture stores on the north side of our city, with the plan that tomorrow I (and Christin) will join him and hopefully make some purchases.

This admittedly was not my ideal picture of settling back in, but hopefully after tomorrow things should calm down a bit. I knew there was lots of transition coming up, and this is just part of it! I am so thankful that we were able to settle on this new apartment, that we will be moving soon, and that so many details have come together. And it should be fun, right, buying new furniture?! (For me, not a real "shopper" type, I'm trying to convince myself of this!)

Anyway, all of this is my disclaimer to tell why I haven't found time to put Christin's birth story into words yet! I do promise that it will be my next post. I have to write it down soon, anyway, so that I don't forget the details!

One funny anecdote--I've already had my first time of forgetting that I had another baby! On Thursday morning we were getting ready to go down to breakfast at the hotel. I had just showered and the girls were just about ready, we were (as usual) having to hurry a bit since we often came just at the end of breakfast. So as I was rushing about, I said to John, ok, I'm ready, let's go (mentally checking that the girls had socks and shoes, we had bibs and juice cups, etc). John said, aren't you forgetting something? Sure enough, there was Christin on the bed, sleeping peacefully. I had TOTALLY forgotten her! Poor girl! Thankfully he remembered and so we went down for breakfast, all five of us.

More later from us!