Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sister Photo Shoot

Last week I took Lana and Nora in for their first "sister photo shoot." They've each had their photos taken separately (Lana has many, many times) but this was a first for the two of them together. I figured as long as Nora had a full tummy and a clean diaper, she'd be happy. Lana happily becomes a trained model (or camera ham, your choice) once the camera comes out, so I figured she'd be fine too.

I don't know if my mom had the same thoughts nearly thirty (30! GASP!) years ago when she took me and my baby sister in for pictures. She scrubbed us up good, bribed us with lollipops to hold still for hair curling, and I'm sure employed every trick in the parenting handbook (speaking of which, I misplaced my copy, can I borrow yours?) to get us to look presentable and behave. Back in the days before digital photography, the Olan Mills photographer didn't have the luxury of snapping 200 shots to ensure he got a handful of usable pictures and instead used his own bag of tricks (puppets, silly faces, promises of candy, peek-a-boo, and bubbles) to get kids to do his bidding.

Despite all that, baby sister Jen and I did take some cute pictures, didn't we?

My little-girl she-mullet is, ah, interesting, but I would pay good money for those natural highlights and lowlights right now. Even though they're quite dated, I also still love those dresses. (In fact, if the navy blue one that Jen is wearing is still around anywhere, I'll take it and have Nora wear it in a year or so. If I recall correctly my corduroy jumper had to be tossed when it fell apart.)

And here we are, our faces glowing in the light of sisterly love and affection (or in the light of candy and bribery, I don't really remember).

My mom had us do individual pictures too. I was told to sit up straight, look over here, and smile. Easy peasy. Now, where's my lollipop?

The photographer's bag of tricks had to come out for this shot of baby sister Jen. He knew what all parents quickly learn - kids love bubbles. They crazy fierce love bubbles, and Jen was no exception. Plus it made for a very cute picture.

To be fair to sister Jen, she did sit for an adorable, bubble free picture as well. She just had the biggest blue eyes, didn't she? And don't you just want to squeeze those delicious cheeks?

And now thirty (30! GASP!) years later, my girls have their own photo shoot story to tell. (With fewer bubbles.)
(This photo was taken with my phone in between the pro working. We haven't gotten the official pictures back yet. Yes, all grandmas will be getting one in the mail shortly.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March: 12 on the 12th

Whew! Where did the last month go?

(Click on pictures for larger view.)
Sweet baby Pudgemuffin snuggles * The ridiculous number of items I pack out of the house in the mornings * T (for turtle) day at the library * Mount Saint Laundry * Chopping off of the locks, before and after (I don't know why the after looks so auburn. I promise, it's blonder in person.) * Cupcakes * Baby smiles and jazz hands * Sister loves * Fancy breakfast * Snow play * Daddy-Daughter snow plow

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Maternity Leave: By the Numbers

Tomorrow I head back to work full-time. The weeks and days just flew by, which is funny because some nights I thought lasted forever. Here's a by-the-numbers summary.

10: Number of weeks I took off work after having Nora

174: Times Lana belted out, "Let it go! Let it go!"
1,800,321: Times I thought this baby was the dearest, sweetest wee thing I had ever seen in my whole life.

9: Number of Pioneer Woman recipes made
10: Number of kale salads eaten (not enough to counteract the effects of above recipes)
9: Freezer meals waiting and ready for those days when making a from-scratch dinner just 'aint happening.

55: Episodes of Property Brothers and Love It or List It watched on HGTV.

489: Reasons why Lana is, and will continue to be, an absolutely terrific big sister.
2: Number of custom-made Seahawks beanies we had made for the girls to wear before the Superbowl.

3: Visits to the lactation nurse to get the whole feeding-the-baby thing down
90: Percentile category Nora is now in for weight
95: Percentile category Nora is now in for length
0: Percent I am now worried about her not eating and gaining enough : )

75: Number of times Lana asked to play outside in snowy/rainy/windy/crazy weather.
45: Times I gave in and let her.
0: Complaints Lana had about being cold.

15: Number of visitors we had. They came mostly to see Nora, but that didn't stop Lana from commandeering them for her own use.

0.5: Times I cleaned my house as thoroughly as I wanted to.

9: Trips to the Colfax Library for story time. (Rabbits on R day and turtles on T day. Pretty neat-o stuff.)

8: Weeks before Nora slept through the night.
10: Hours she slept last night
1: Sleepy 3 AM selfie I just had to take to record this fleeting time in our lives.

6: Times in snowed and accumulated.
8: Times Lana wanted to go out and plow with Daddy.
4: Times Dan actually did need to plow.

5: Days before Lana was completely and totally in love with her baby sister.
100: Times per day Lana tells Nora how cute and sweet she is.
1000: Times per day I am so grateful and feel so blessed to have these two daughters.

65: Episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Henry Hugglemonster, and Sheriff Callie's Wild West Lana watched while I fed Nora, cooked food, took a 22 minute nap, or cleaned a bathroom.
7: Grown-up movies I watched in 15-20 minute increments.

12: Inches I cut off my hair.
40: Hours per week I'll be working again starting tomorrow.
25: Percent confident I'll get the hang of working full-time, loving on my family, getting dinner on the table, and being on-time to anything in the near future. Hopefully this confidence percentage increases over time.
100: Percent sure everyone will get lots of extra hugs and snuggles from me this week!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday: FFA

(Opening side note: I've been accused of not blogging much since the baby was born. True story, although I did spend all last month catching up. If you want to see baby pictures, car crash pictures, etc, etc, just go back a few posts - it's all there. I'll try to do better moving forward, but well, I'm making no promises.)

It's National FFA Week, or so my FFA-involved friends on Facebook tell me. I like to think every week is FFA week because this is an organization that I very much appreciate and benefited greatly from.

FFA was a HUGE part of my high school years. Sure, I wore the blue jacket when I showed livestock at fairs and shows, but that was just the tip of the proverbial FFA iceberg for me.
(Respect the blue jacket. Every spring when the state FFA convention comes to campus, I get a bit crazy checking out how the kids are wearing their trademark blue corduroy jackets. I often want to scream "ZIP IT UP OR TAKE IT OFF" to complete strangers, but dang it, wear it right or don't wear it at all.)

Being a part of the National FFA Organization taught me many skills in high school that now, as a 34-year old adult, I still use.

Service to others was just a part of our chapter's core values and thus became one of my core values as well. Serving at banquets, cleaning up at camp, putting together and delivering Thanksgiving baskets, helping younger members with their animals, hauling hay, you name it, if someone needed help with it, there was usually an FFA member there. It was ingrained in us from freshman year that if something needs to be done, there is someone to do it, and there's rarely a reason to keep it from being me.
(In my defense, I don't know that anyone can make a white rubber apron and sweaty forehead look good.)

We also worked. Hard.
A lot of the service projects we took on got us sweaty and gross. Working outside was often hot and uncomfortable, but we did it anyway. As a group, we pretty much abhorred whining, so complainers learned to hide their discomfort quickly. It was usually nice to be surrounded by friends and to all do a job together, but it was still work. Individual projects were a lot of work too. Record books rarely balanced out correctly the first time through, putting together profit-and-loss statements for income-generating projects was tedious and tiresome, researching topics for the extemporaneous speaking contest took hours and hours, memorizing the creed, making banquet arrangements, halter-breaking a steer, nursing a calf back to health, building a fence, and repairing a grain bin all took time and lots of hard work. They were all jobs that needed to get done, and like it or not, complain about it or be content, you had to do them.
(A dark and grainy picture of me receiving my State FFA Degree. I stood on stage for maybe 2 minutes, but this represented a culmination of 4 years worth of work.)

Teamwork was also stressed. In high school there are so many cliques and groups. Girls are mean, boys are jerks. But when we put on our blue jackets, all of that crap had to go away if we wanted to be successful. I was on the officer team for two years, and I didn't always like the other kids I was serving with. Some probably didn't like me either, but we worked together and got along anyway. I learned that it's not being fake to set aside differences and work with someone you really don't like; it's being mature and acting like an adult to put the team's goals ahead of personal squabbles.
(Our officer team during a group speaking competition. (Yes, that is me doing my best Barker Beauty impersonation.) No, we didn't all like each other, but we wanted to compete well, so we momentarily got over our petty differences and worked together to win.)

Thank you National FFA Organization! I hope your week in the spotlight is grand and glorious. You gave me some great memories and skills that I rely on today. In a few short years, I'll be happy to introduce you to my daughters and will proudly help them into their blue jackets.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

12 on the 12th: February

Go Seahawks! Visits from Great-Grandma Carol and Uncle Kasey and Aunt Christina. Playing in the snow. Matching jammies. Sweet baby. Silly Big girl.

(click on photos to for larger view.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting Caught Up: Nora's first night home

Sweet Nora is now a month old. The time sure has been flying by. But the first night we brought her home after she was born was certainly one of the longest I can ever remember.

Dan and I were expecting a long night. Babies need to eat often, don't understand the difference between day and night, and are generally getting used to living outside the womb. We knew neither of us would be getting a lot of sleep for the next few weeks, beginning with that very first night.

Taking care of sweet Nora ended up being the easiest part of the night.

While were were still in the hospital, four-and-a-half year old Lana got sick. This wasn't a simple cold, it was a full-on craptastic stomach bug that had her throwing up pretty much every hour. Poor Lana couldn't even keep down the tiny sips of water we were allowing her to drink. She stayed in bed with the puke bucket close by, and when Dan or I would hear her heave, we'd go comfort her, wipe her face, and clean out the bucket. I also was the sole meal provider for newborn Nora, so sometimes I would go directly from feeding the baby to helping the big girl. We went through a lot of hand sanitizer that night as well as Lysol wipes. Whatever bug had gotten Lana could not be allowed to touch the baby.

At about 2:30 am, Lana's puke bucket contained traces of blood. That was it - I was done. Regular puke I can handle, bile-y puke I can handle, but bloody puke is completely and totally outside of my skill set. When Dan heard, he immediately put on his shoes and readied himself to take Lana to the emergency room. (The same ER we'd visited weeks earlier after the car wreck.) Dan encouraged me to finally get some sleep. Ha! The last thing I would be doing was sleeping. Between a new baby needing fed and my extreme worry about Lana, sleep would not be happening for me. Fervent prayers happened, constantly checking my phone for an update from Dan happened, crying happened, and taking care of Nora happened, but sleep most certainly did not happen. We started out that evening hoping the new baby would get some sleep, and as it turned out Nora was the only one in the house who indeed did any sleeping at all.

Updates from Dan did come in. Poor Lana was subjected to three different nurses poking her unsuccessfully to find a vein. She was still throwing up and they tried to give her anti-nausea medication. She couldn't make enough saliva to dissolve the tiny pill and they helped out by dripping small drops of water on her tongue. Eventually she was able to keep water down, and later still a popsicle. Five hours after their arrival, Dan and the ER docs felt confident enough in her recovery to let Lana come home.

Lana was weak and tired (she hadn't slept all night either) and was whisked away to bed for the next two days. Those two days were rough on us all. Lana wanted extra hugs, snuggles, and care from Mommy, and Mommy needed to be taking care of the new baby. There were times when Lana would walk by me nursing Nora and burst into tears. Even when Dan or I would engage her in play or conversation, Lana was melancholy and constantly near tears. Her ill body was healing, but we didn't know how to bring back her sparkling personality or happy, enthusiastic demeanor.

Slowly the Lana we know came back to us, and eventually she even decided to like her little sister.

(Lana is quite happy she and Nora have matching jammies and can make silly faces at each other - a far, far cry from how she felt a month ago.)

I joked with a friend right after Lana got back from the hospital that one day I'd look back on Nora's first night home and laugh about it. A month later and I'm not quite laughing yet, but give me a few more months and maybe I will be.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Getting Caught Up: Welcome Baby Nora!

I started going into labor on Christmas night. (I think my body knew I really wanted to get through Christmas before having the baby, and just breathed a giant, baby-sized sigh of relief.) I got out of bed and paced, then went back to bed and tried to get comfortable. Contractions were sporadic and not all that painful. The next morning, they seemed to have calmed down, so I went to work. I worked all day, with the contractions slowly getting closer together and increasing in pain and intensity. I knew this baby was coming soon, I just didn't know how soon. I was also really grateful that most of my co-workers took a vacation day on the day after Christmas and didn't see me cussing under my breath when a contraction was particularly painful.

After work I picked up Lana and we went home, my contractions getting closer together and more painful on the drive home. Dan wasn't home yet, and while I waited for him, I set a timer. Yep, contractions were now five minutes apart and some were don't-talk-or-I'll-punch-you-in-the-face painful. It was time to get to the hospital. We dropped Lana off at Dan's brother's house for cousin time (I think she was more excited for that than getting a new baby) and we (finally) made it to the hospital. I'd called ahead and the nurses had my room all set up and ready. It's a good thing they did, because things progressed quickly and baby was out in near-record time.

We were pleased and proud to welcome Nora Johanna Lenssen to the world!

Big sister Lana was excited too.

Lana even "helped" the pediatrician give Nora a check-up.

Dan and I have been getting used to having two daughters. So far, it means someone always needs something, usually RIGHT NOW.

Oh, but look at this sweet face! Those pouty lips make me swoon.

And those piercing eyes make me wonder about what she could possibly be thinking.

Welcome to our family Nora! We can be an odd bunch, but we love you and embrace you always. We do lots of hugs and kisses and lots of "I love yous" and lots of snuggles and tickles. We forgive, laugh, and keep on trying. We love you so much and are so glad you're here!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

12 on the 12th: January

(In 2013 I turned the focus of my posts away from the here-and-now. Because our family is growing and changing (Hello baby Nora!) I think it's important to remember what we're doing right now. So every month I'm going to post 12 pictures of what's going on with our family.)

So far, 2014 has been about the new baby, visiting with grandparents, snuggles, big sisters, and getting a new car. Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Getting Caught Up: Christmas

Usually in December Christmas is the highlight of the month. And for us it was definitely fun and meaningful, but got a bit looked over with everything else we had going on. All our busyness and my tiredness certainly didn't dull the excitement of a four-year-old Lana.

Lana is at the prime Santa Claus age right now, and she had a million questions about the man in red. How would he get into our house without a chimney? How can he go to every single house in one night? Will he know what I want? Between Dan and I, I think we answered her questions fully, but in a vague, non-committal way. She was also very clear on the fact that we celebrate Christmas because it's Jesus' birthday, and Santa Claus and presents are just a side bonus.

On Christmas Eve we had a big dinner with my parents. We traditionally eat a prime rib roast and I was nervous and scared I wouldn't make it perfectly. I breathed a sigh of relief when the meat was tasted and it was a delicious, flavorful, and tender as I'd hoped.

Our family was invited to light the Advent candles at our church's Christmas Eve service. Fortunately, we didn't burn anything down and all the congregation stayed safe and burn-free : )

Christmas morning arrived, and much to Lana's delight, Santa Claus indeed visited out home. Lana was showered with a bevy of princess-themed gifts, as well and clothes, and books.

We all enjoyed having my parents spend the holiday with us, and Lana loved the extra attention from Grandma Cindy and Grandpa Bear.

Lana has loved snuggling in bed every night with the new flower quilt my mom made for her. My mom worked for months to make quilts for all her grandkids. What a special thing to do for all 5 of the kids. I hope they treasure their quilts always.

I told everyone who asked that I just wanted to wait until after Christmas for the baby to arrive. Well, I got my wish and started having contractions on Christmas night.......

(I'll write about that next.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Getting Caught Up: I Crashed the Car

(Beginning side note: I haven't blogged for over two weeks. Wee Nora has been keeping me on my toes, as have entertaining Lana and keeping the house relatively sanitary enough for habitation. Oh, and sleep, definitely what little sleep I can get has taken priority over blogging. Sorry about that. Actually, when I don't write, I'm the one who suffers most, so I should apologize to myself really. Anyway, we've had a few major events happen in the last month, and even if no one else ever reads this, I need to chronicle it all as a part of our family's history. I also know my time and energy are limited, so I'll break it up into different parts.)

So, yeah. I guess the title says it all. I Crashed the Car.

We're all okay and fine, but it doesn't change the fact that I Crashed the Car. Once it was turned right ways and hauled to the auto yard, this is what was left:

Fortunately, Lana, new baby, and I came out of the accident looking a lot better than the car.

For as traumatizing and  scary as the accident was, it really is a simple story. Lana and I were headed to town for work and daycare, the same thing we do on most mornings. Our rural road was clear and I drove on it per usual. However, after coming down a big hill, the clear road turned very, very icy. The car went into a skid, and I couldn't get slowed down or correct the course. The car went off the road and we ended up in a ditch upside down. Our car didn't have many bells and whistles, but it did have really good seat belts, and for that I will always be grateful.

Lana's carseat also earned a hero's celebration as it held up perfectly and protected our sweet girl to the absolute best of its ability. Lana was scared and screaming, but she got calmed down fairly quickly, and me keeping her calm helped me to stay calm. We were both hanging upside down and I was able to unlatch my seat belt and Lana's seat. However, I could not manage to open a door. I was about to call for help on my cell phone when a man yelled that he was going to try to open a door. From the outside, this kind stranger opened the door and freed us. He carried Lana up out of the ditch and I crawled out on my own, not recalling that I was 37 weeks pregnant until I reached the level surface of the road. Lana was in the man's truck, wrapped in a blanket and eating a lollipop. She seemed okay, but her head was bleeding a bit and she was still scared. I felt fine and just wanted to get Lana and the baby checked out. The man happened to be a volunteer fireman and had already radioed for emergency services. They arrived quickly and I called Dan.

I can't imagine being Dan and getting my phone call. I was sure to begin the conversation with, "We're all fine." But I suppose even that does very little to make a man feel better when he's called with the news that his wife, daughter, and unborn daughter have been in an accident.

Paramedics determined that yes, I was fine, but couldn't make the same definitive diagnosis for Lana. Her head and neck hurt, so she was put in a neck collar and strapped in a stretcher to take an ambulance ride to the ER. I rode along with her and ended up laughing more that being worried. Lana talked that poor paramedic's ear off. She asked a zillion questions about the truck, the instruments, and all about Mr. Paramedic himself. (His name was Andrew, by the way, and his favorite number is 5.)

At the ER, Dan stayed with Lana through her examination, including a CT scan, and I was sent down the hall for fetal monitoring. Prayers were answered and thankful tears shed when tests for both girls came back just fine. Lana had no neck injury and baby girl's vitals were normal as well.

Again, the car took the blows, and the passengers were protected. Thank you little Cali the Cavalier. You served us well and held up when we needed it the most.

Lana's sweet forehead got a bit beat up when she was showered with glass from the broken rear window. She got a few stitches and we smother her in scar cream often.
Sis-in-law Angela snapped this picture of our girl when she volunteered for Aunt-of-the-Year duties and picked Lana up from the hospital, got her a bath and lunch, and let her run around her house while Dan and I stayed behind for continued fetal monitoring. For as scared and banged up as she got, Lana quickly returned to her normal, happy, smiling self. It makes my stomach ill to know she had this horrible experience, but so glad that she's bounced back.

A few weeks later, (after Christmas, baby being born, and another trip to the ER - there's a lot to get caught up on) we got a new car. I no longer drive what I jokingly called a "high school girl's car" and now sport a Subaru Outback, aka my "Mom Car." I've only driven it three days so far, but really do like it. I just hope it takes after the crashed car and will protect us if we ever need it to. Although I'd be more than fine with never, ever getting in a wreck again.