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Elias and Jude’s Birth Story

It’s so overwhelming to even begin writing this story; there are so many emotions that flood my heart! We had been expecting the boys for quite some time by that point, because we’d just been trying so hard to keep them in my tummy after around 20 weeks.

I woke up around 1 am on Monday, June 16, 2014, and went to the bathroom. When I went back to bed, my water broke, and I remember feeling a deep peace when I realized what had happened. I was ready to meet them, and I knew it. I so wanted to hold them each in my arms.

I woke up John, and since we’d been ready for the hospital for a few months, he got ready while I calmly sat on the bed and called Beth to come over, and then Grandma Kay (who would take over for Beth so she could go back home). When Beth got there a few minutes later, we went in to wake up Anna to tell her where we were going and that Grandma Kay would be there when she woke up; she was so excited, even in her sleepiness! We also went in to kiss Josie goodbye.

A few minutes later we were in the car and heading to United Hospital. My contractions weren’t strong, but getting more so as time went by. I remember during this time I still had such a strong feeling of peace and excitement – we were both SO excited!

In the parking ramp, I decided I didn’t need to be wheeled in, so we parked together and got out of our cars next to another couple who was going in to have their baby. In the elevator we asked them if this was their first, because they looked quite terrified. (It was.)

We had to wait a few minutes for our room (maybe 3 or 4 – it wasn’t long), and when we got there, the nurse apologized because their internet system had gone down a while before and it was throwing everything off. We, again, didn’t mind. We were just. so. excited.

By about 3 am my contractions were strong and regular, and I started to get “the shakes,” as I call them (I’ve heard other people call them tremors or shivers). They were continuous; I knew that with Josie’s (natural except for pitocin to induce labor) birth, they had been strong but not continuous through contractions until close to the end. At this point I was still only dilated to maybe a 4 or 5. They asked if I would like to have the epidural placed or the cerclage removed first, and I asked for the epidural. It went great with the exception of the shaking throughout (it’s hard to hold still when your body is involuntarily bouncing all over the place). But it worked, and although the shaking continued, the pain was diminished and I was ready for the next step.

About a half hour later, the doctor was ready to remove the cerclage, so they brought me to the operating room. And then came the only true pain I remember during the entire labor. About 20 minutes into the procedure (which normally takes place just in a doctor’s office), I was crying and I told John to ask if this was how long it normally takes. The doctor, who was very kind but whom I didn’t have nice feelings toward at this moment, said that it typically is done in just a couple minutes, but that the second stitch of my cerclage had moved up so far that she couldn’t get a good view of it and she didn’t want to cut blindly (with which I suppose I agree). Finally, another 10 minutes later, they were done, but I must have been cut or scraped somehow, because I could feel pain in that area every time I had a contraction.

They then asked if I’d like to go back to a room or stay in the OR. I knew I’d have to deliver here, so with an epidural, it meant I’d need to be moved to another bed and then back again before delivering, and I actually prefer just lying down during labor. So I opted to stay where we were, and I’m thankful they gave me that option. We sat/laid there for the next hour or two; I listened to my calming labor playlist and tried to rest, while John dozed off next to me off and on. At around 7 am, the nurses began their shift change – and I said I felt like I needed to push!2014 06 16_0090

The nurse had checked only about 5 minutes before this and I’d been at a 7, but I was sure I was ready now. So she checked me again and sure enough, I was dilated all the way. There were suddenly a lot more people in the room than just the few nurses changing shifts and giving their reports! They asked me not to try my best not to push until they got the doctor there. There were two NICU teams and a lot of nurses, and then in came Dr. Cappechi. There were many doctors who could have delivered me, but I’d had a bad experience with the doctor who delivered Anna at United, so I was a little nervous. But I had met Dr. Cappechi at St. Peter’s, and I felt a strong reassurance from God that this was his extra blessing for me this morning. The only question I had for him was whether or not he would try to deliver Jude (Baby B at the time) breech if he changed positions, and he said he would, which was what I was hoping for; no one wants to recover from both a vaginal birth and a c-section if they can help it.

Dr. Cappechi started by asking if the epidural was working, and he touched a few spots to ask if I could feel it. At one point I said yes, and he looked at me with surprise. “You can feel this?” he asked. “Yep!” I responded. “That, too!” He then wanted to know if I wanted some numbing medication for that area, and I told him to go right ahead! I assume that the epidural doesn’t or didn’t work in certain spots in my body, which is why the cerclage removal had been so painful. Either way, I was not in pain anymore and was excited to meet my babies!

By the time the shift change was over and I could go ahead and push, John said there were 17 people in the room (not including the babies). I was completely oblivious to everything else going on, with the exception of John, the two nurses, and the doctor all standing immediately around me.

I was ready, and after only one contraction, at 7:35 am, Elias James was born. He came out so easily and I remember seeing his sweet hands and little head pop up as they placed him on my lower abdomen and cut his cord. They quickly took him over to the warmer to make sure he was healthy and breathing ok.

At this point, I had always expected to think, “Oh no; now I have to push again!” But it was the complete opposite. All of my endorphins and adrenaline had me running on high, and I had just met one perfect baby boy and couldn’t wait to meet the other. I vividly remember thinking, “I get to do this again!” It was beyond words to describe how wonderful that felt, knowing another baby was coming soon.

As soon as Elias was in the warmer, the nurse began to push on my stomach to get Jude to move head down. His water broke sometime around here, although I don’t really remember it. He moved pretty easily, and they started monitoring his heart rate again right away, as it had dropped a few times earlier. I had asked that it be turned down during labor, but with all the people around, it was hard for anyone to look at it closely during the deliveries, so they had turned it up a bit. I would guess that about three minutes after Elias was born, the doctor asked to have the monitor turned up more; he had noticed (as had I) that Jude’s heart rate was still dropping repeatedly, with no relation to contractions, as I hadn’t had one since pushing out Elias. And then we started to lose his heartbeat all together. We would hear it slow down and stop for a few seconds, then speed back up a few seconds later. The first time it did this, the doctor asked if I was having a contraction yet, and I wasn’t. Then he told me to push as soon as I felt a contraction coming on. The next 30 seconds or so I remember being very still and quiet as we all listened to the heart beat and waited. I am thankful, looking back, that I still had the endorphins and happy feelings of having Elias born, or I think this would have been a lot scarier at the time. It felt like forever (but was really so short – a lot can happen in five minutes!), but I finally felt a contraction coming, and at 7:40 am, with only one push, Jude Robert was born.

I didn’t see Jude right away, but I remember listening for his cries. John said that they did something with his neck and thinks the cord was wrapped around him, but he stretched his skinny arm out and grabbed my finger. I was elated. They took him to the warmer right away and got him started on oxygen, while Elias was only requiring the nasal cannula for a little extra air at the moment. As they were checking both boys out, I asked how much Elias had weighed and when they said 4 lbs, 8 oz, I started laughing. He was the same size as Anna, and she had been born over three weeks later. And then Jude, being 4 lbs, 6 oz, surprised us because the last ultrasound had said that he might not be growing as much as Elias. But they apparently shared their resources quite well!2014 06 16_0095

The nurses brought each baby over to me one at a time before they were taken to the NICU. I kissed Elias’ sweet head and was sad to see him go, but was also still a little nervous about Jude. They brought him to me and I got to kiss him quickly. Everyone reassured me that he was doing great now (his original Apgar score had been a little low), and then I sent John to go with the boys.2014 06 16_01082014 06 16_0111

The doctor cleaned me up and said I didn’t tear at all; no stitches or anything. I was thankful for that! They returned me to my original delivery room, where I had to stay for one or two hours (I can’t remember) while the epidural started to wear off and they checked my vital signs. The tremors/shaking I’d had before pushing came back full force, and the nurse struggled to take my blood pressure with the cuff and eventually did it the “normal” way. I made a few calls from the room and had breakfast, then got the ok to get in a wheelchair and go see my babies.

I held each boy for as long as I could, and I remember feeling elated that they were here and sad that I couldn’t hold them both at the same time. But they were doing so well! They were both on just extra air through a nasal cannula by the next morning, and I was discharged from my maternity ward that afternoon.

I spent that second night in the NICU with the babies and the pump. Early in the morning, I went out to use the restroom and when I got back to the room, I felt like my water had broken, but when I looked down I realized I was bleeding. Everywhere. It had soaked through everything in about 10 seconds, and I called for the nurse, who brought a wheelchair and they brought me down to the Emergency Room.

I called John and he came over to be with me, because I was a wreck. I was scared something was wrong and also missing all of my children. The doctors checked my hemoglobin and also did an ultrasound, but everything looked fine, so I was able to go back to the NICU and rest there.

The boys were born at 33 weeks and 3 days, only six and a half weeks early, and were beautifully healthy. They also were right around the 40th percentile for weight, which was great – twins are typically smaller than other babies born at the same time, but these little ones grew really well.2014 06 18_0072

Anna got to see her little brothers the afternoon they were born. She was able to go from isolette to isolette and she sang them an equal number of songs. It was just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. She didn’t care about the wires or any of the machines; she got to touch the babies’ hands and was just so excited that they were here. Unfortunately, Josie had a pretty bad cold and had to stay out of the NICU.

About a week after they were born, Children’s NICU was almost at capacity and they needed to take on more babies who were in much worse positions than our boys were. They requested that we transfer to Regions Hospital, which we accepted, although it wasn’t easy to make that choice. John went with the babies as they transferred them in their little pods. As he was leaving, one of the nurses watching happened to mention to another coworker that she was so happy we were making more room for other babies; I think her exact words at one point were, “Yippee!” John was not thrilled with this, as even though we knew it was for a good reason that we were being moved, it was still not an easy thing to do (you always worry about your babies, and now we also had to learn another new set of protocols for visitors, pumping, parking, etc.). He ended up mentioning the interaction with a nurse supervisor and just said that maybe staff shouldn’t talk about things like this in front of parents who are under a little bit of stress. The nurse apologized, and we made the transition pretty smoothly.

Brothers- edit copyThere were a lot of great things about being at Regions. It was a lot quieter, for one, and the boys were also able to be in one large room – TOGETHER! Jessica Shurts came to visit the first night we were there and the nurses let me hold both of my boys in my lap while Jess took a few photos. I hadn’t realized that they would let me hold them both, so to have them in my lap together, and to see their faces at the same time, right next to each other – it was just incredible. These are still some of my favorite photos of Elias and Jude, and I’m so thankful Jess was able to be there to capture such great shots of a really meaningful moment for me. (Thank you again, Jess!)

On Thursday, June 26, Josie got to meet her brothers. Our whole family was finally together, if only for a few minutes. Josie held each of them and gave them lots of kisses, while Anna continued to sing to them. So sweet to see the love they had for their brothers right from the start!

Also on that day, the doctors informed us that it was likely they could go home in 7 to 10 days, as they were starting to eat well from a bottle and had been keeping their temperatures up on their own. They had a few breathing and heart rate spells throughout the past week and a half, but nothing too alarming. Typically once you noticed it, they got themselves out of it, but Elias had one heart rate spell that took a lot of work to get it back up (nurses rubbing his legs, moving him, etc.). Because of that, he had to be monitored one full night at Regions before being allowed to go home. That Sunday, going home became much more real; they said they could probably go home the next day if Elias passed his heart rate test. So John went off to buy some diapers, because we didn’t have any at home!

Elias passed his test beautifully and on Monday, June 30, after only two short weeks in the NICU, the boys were given the green light to go home. We packed them up in the minivan and the girls welcomed us home with lots of gusto. And we began our life as a family of six (with four under four!).

I can’t finish this story without thinking of all of the help, support, and prayers we received over the course of the boys’ pregnancy and newborn stages. A huge number of meals were brought, our girls were always well taken care of, our house was cleaned and laundry done, money and gifts were received, babies were fed so parents could sleep. I am so grateful for all of the many people who supported us through their immense generosity; it made the time considerably easier than it could have been. If you helped us in any way, THANK YOU. You were Christ to us, and we hope we are able to do the same for you some day.2014 06 30_0016


Photo Shoot

A few weeks ago, just before the boys’ due date (August 1), our friend Jessica came to our home and took some photos for us. The boys weren’t super cooperative, but she did get some good shots.

As you might be able to tell, Elias and Jude are quickly putting on some baby fat. They had their two month check up this week and are over 9 and a half pounds, and still only one ounce apart. They apparently grew over three pounds in just four and a half weeks. Yikes! We’re so thankful for our healthy, growing baby boys.

Our favorite photos are below (click on one to be able to see larger, more complete versions of the photos). Thank you again, Jess!


A Twins Shower

To help us prepare for the next two members of our family, my sister-in-law and sisters offered to host a baby shower for us. There are a surprising number of items that are needed (or at least very convenient to have on hand) with two little boys on the way, not least of all a whole new double wardrobe of boy clothes.

Even though I was on bed rest, the shower went really well and was so much fun! It was, of course, MN Twins-themed, which worked out especially well when we learned that the babies were boys. (But no, they will not be named Justin and Joe… sorry, all you other Twins fans!) A couch was pulled out for me to lie on as we all enjoyed the stadium eats (brats and hot dogs: some of this pregnant woman’s favorite foods), the gifts, and the conversation with a lot of friends and family. I couldn’t resist sharing all of these photos that my mom took, because the decorations at this shower were amazing!

Thank you to everyone who helped plan this fun night, and to all of you who were able to attend. We are so grateful that you are all a part of our lives!

 


Rockets!

John and Anna have taken to flying rockets lately. Filled with just water and pressurized air (from a bike pump), the rocket (pop bottle) flies surprisingly fast and well off John’s homemade PVC launch pad.

These photos are from our first official launching (we don’t count our back yard trials), when our friends Paul and Taryn met us at a park near the Mississippi with their three kids. We had a lot of fun and have since launched a few more times. They have been having so much fun, I expect there to be parachutes and boosters by the end of next summer!

Audrey and Josie enjoy the excitement (and maybe the snacks had something to do with it, too).

Audrey and Josie enjoyed the excitement (and maybe the snacks had something to do with it, too).

 

John and Paul fill the rocket with some water.

John and Paul fill the rocket with some water.

 

It's Max's turn to pull the (neon pink) string to launch the rocket!

It’s Max’s turn to pull the (neon pink) string to launch the rocket!

 

The three older kids would sprint off every time the rocket was launched, just to go pick it up and bring it back. (I'm pretty sure Max always won.)

The three older kids would sprint off every time the rocket was launched, just to go pick it up and bring it back. (I’m pretty sure Max always won.)

 

Anna watches the boys start to pick up. Time to go home!

Anna watches as the boys start to pick up. Time to go home!


Our 2012 Christmas Letter to You

 

We hope our Christmas letter finds you both happy and healthy. It has been another busy year in our family, one of many blessings.

 

Perhaps no blessing has been greater than the birth of our second child, Josephine Immaculata, born on 4/4 and weighing in at an even 4 pounds. After a brief stay in the special care nursery as she learned how to eat, Josie came home with us, packed on the pounds, and began crawling around Thanksgiving. She is a happy-go-lucky baby and gets along very well with her sister. Her interests include trying new foods, grabbing Anna’s hair, and exploring everything on the floor that intrigues her (think cords, fireplace grates, and Anna’s beloved Pooh Bear; pretty much anything but her own toys).

 

Anna turned two at the end of August and is as rambunctious as ever. Her favorite activities include reading, exploring with her best buddy Pooh Bear, hanging out with her sister “Gosie,” and learning about music and astronomy. This past summer she took swimming lessons at the local pool, and is very excited about the first snowfall of the season! Currently her favorite book is The Adventures of Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman. It’s a lot of fun watching her grow up and navigate the world; she may be the big sister, but she’s still our Sweetest Pea.

 

Sara is still working as the community life coordinator at the Church of Saint Peter in Mendota, the oldest church in MN. She’s a part time employee, full time mom, and helps to keep her women’s book club running (almost six years and counting!). In addition, she continues to teach the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning and transcribe for Marketing Roundtables occasionally.

 

I’ve made the move from English to theology teacher, though I’m still at Saint Thomas Academy. In addition, I coach the mock trial team and moderate the yearbook. In my little spare time, I still do a bit of blogging, brewing, and board gaming. This update is brought you by the letter “B.”

 

With two little girls in tow, we didn’t do as much traveling as last year, but still made it to the North Shore in October and made several trips to Rochester to visit Sara’s parents. Anna and Josie are both very good travelers, and we’re looking forward to taking them camping in the coming summer.

 

As we draw nearer to Christmas, please know that you are in our prayers this season. May God abundantly bless you and draw you closer to Himself in the coming year!

 

With love,

 

John, Sara, Anna, and Josephine

Looking Back

In mid-October we went on our (final?!) annual trip to the North Shore over MEA weekend. The tradition started when Terry, a friend of the family, invited us to go along with his family one fall. My family has been going ever since. I was in elementary school when we started going, and it’s sincerely been the highlight of the year for us; I think it occasionally even beats our Christmas time together. The last five years we have also had the Cahills join us to add to the fun. And you can bet that over the past ten years, between the “kids” getting older and bringing more people, the level of alcohol consumption (and food, for that matter) has increased exponentially.

We are really heartbroken to see this tradition end, but we still greatly enjoyed this year’s trip and hope to start new traditions as time goes on. Still, it was hard to leave that Sunday!

Grandma Sherry and Anna watch the waves roll softly in to the shore…

 

…or maybe not quite so softly! (Notice Grandma’s pants… both she and Anna got sprayed by a larger wave.)

 

Anna smiles as she throws some rocks into a little pond.

 

Anna and her friend Torin explore the landscape at Gooseberry Falls.

 

Do you see it? (Do you get it? We’ve now brought Anna in on our “Lewis & Clark” fun photos! How lucky is she to be born to such cool parents?!) 😉

 

Josie poses for the camera while on a walk with Mommy. This will be on our Christmas card but it’s just so cute I can’t help but share it now!

 

The Rogers and Cahill clans in 2008, just for comparison… (You’re welcome, everybody!)

 

The Rogers and Cahill clans in 2012

 

The Nigons and Rogers clans in 2008, for comparison, minus my sister Traci, who I tried unsuccessfully to Photoshop into the picture. 🙂 (Do you see that shaggy-haired guy on the left? He ended up marrying my sister after meeting my family like that! 🙂 We love you, Jerrery!)

 

And finally… the Nigon, Cargill, and Rogers clans in 2012.


Anna Turns Two

Our Sweetest Pea is now past two years old. She did really, really well at the doctor’s office last week, which I suppose is encouraged by the fact that there are no more shots for a few years! She is definitely a growing girl; her height and weight are both at right about the 50th percentile (34 inches and 26.4 lbs, respectively), and if you do the “times two” method (see #2 in this link), she will be approximately 5 feet, 8 inches when she’s grown up. (I was curious!)

Her head remains in the 70th percentile. She has come a long way since the tiny 4 lb., 8 oz baby I delivered two years ago! She now can sing a few songs, count to 10 (if you make her do it “for real” – and sometimes to 13), knows most of the basic colors, and pretty much doesn’t stop talking. She is such a ham and is turning into a very sweet little girl who likes to give hugs and kisses; we really enjoy her antics!

We celebrated her birthday with immediate family and some close friends who live nearby. It was a beautiful evening, and although she had a few meltdowns during the afternoon before the party, she was the perfect party hostess that night in her cute pigtails and pretty dress. She didn’t even bat an eye when her friend Lucian blew out her candles for her! We did relight them and she “helped” me blow them out again. She really enjoyed the balloons, the family, the friends, the brats, the puppy cake, the candles, the presents… pretty much everything! We couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate her birthday. Thank you so much to all of you who came – we love you all and were so glad to have everyone there!

(Click on a picture to view a larger image and to go through the gallery.)

 


Summer Gallery

We had a beautiful summer and are sad to see it end, even if the new school year has brought some fun and exciting changes: a new niece is about to be born, and John started teaching theology classes this fall, which I’m sure will lead to some great dinnertime conversations as he reveals what 17 year old boys think about Christ and His Church. We realized that although we did manage to post a few times this summer, we just couldn’t catch everything.  Here are a few things we missed that we’d like to share with you.


Our Awesome Autumnal Journy

In the autumn of 2005 I was tired, stressed out, and swamped with work. It was my first year of teaching, and I was quickly learning how stressful the profession it can be. However, a four-day weekend was quickly approaching, and I could at least look forward to catching up on grading quizzes and planning lessons.

All that changed when Sara called and invited me to head up north with her family for four days of watching Lake Superior waves crash on the strand, drinking beer, playing games, and hiking. Despite how wonderful it all sounded, I still needed convincing that leaving all my grading behind was okay. Seven years later, I’m glad I decided to go, and we’ve gone back every year since.

Each year we’ve rented out the same cabins at the Gooseberry Park, though the sleeping arrangements have changed a bit over the years. Since 2009 Sara’s parents and sisters have used one cabin, while we have stayed in another with our friends Luke and Angela. This year saw a few more changes to the usual cast of characters. Our crew included Sara’s mom and dad, middle sister, youngest sister and husband, our friend Angela and her two boys, and family friends the Ottjes family. We occupied two cabins and a hotel suite in all.

Anna did a great job on the three-hour car ride up to the cabin, and she enjoyed watching Lake Superior. The weather was uniformly beautiful—50 degrees and sunny, which we all appreciated. We played a lot of games including cribbage, 7 Wonders, Carcassonne, and Bowls, and spent most of our time drinking beer and eating delicious food. Every night one family hosted dinner, so we got to sample everyone’s cooking at least once (it was all excellent!). On Friday several of us piled into two cars for a worthwhile trip to the tiny Castle Danger Brewery; it’s here that I fell in love with their Nestor Grade amber ale. However, it was not a hit with the rest of the group, and that night we had a beer tasting back at the cabin during which, surprise of surprises, my homebrew took first prize in a blind taste test! Saturday we took our usual trip to Gooseberry Falls in the afternoon, attended mass in Two Harbors, and returned to play games and watch the World Series.

All in all, it was another relaxing weekend, and we’ve already booked our cabins for next year!

That’s what we call an “active” lake.
I spotted a creepy anthropomorphic bear-baby shuffling along the shore. We kept our distance.
One! Happy! Family!
Torin, Lachlan, and Anna. This is photo #457, and the one in which the most children (zero) were looking at the camera.
The Cahill, Cargill, Nigon, and Rogers familes all happy at the end of the weekend. Success!
Our big girl!
Hey there, blue eyes!
Channelling great-grandma Dolores.

Walking and Talking

No, Anna is not walking yet (nor is she anywhere close to doing so). But we have been going on quite a few walks lately, trying to hold on to the last few remaining strands of summer. I love walking with Anna, who sits so happily in her stroller, arms straight out “airplane-style” as she looks at everything around us. I think she mainly is waiting for puppies to walk by, but even without them, she seems to really enjoy our walks.

Finally, I love going on walks with friends. I’ve managed to get a few in lately, which has been wonderful; like I said in my post about Beth’s bachelorette party, there is just something special about spending time with other women, especially those you share foundational beliefs and morals with; you always feel free to talk about anything (and I do).

I was able to enjoy a walk with Angela and her two boys about a week ago, and it meant some much-needed discussion as well as some playtime for the kids. (By the way, if you or your kid loves to watch airplanes, boy, do I have the picnic place for you!)  I also went on a walk with Taryn and her two boys, where we got to play at a park I didn’t even know existed; there are some pictures below. The time I was able to spend with these ladies was priceless. Thank you, and hopefully we can do it again soon! (Anyone else who wants to go for a walk? Call me up!!)

Finally, and probably most of all, I love going on walks with my husband. John and I just read “The 5 Love Languages” and we discovered that we both have the same top language: Quality Time. In other words, we feel the most loved by each other when we spend time together, discussing our days or our troubles or our future. Although I am a true Minnesotan and I love the fall and the winter seasons, I definitely will miss these times together… at least until next spring!

 

Louie (Taryn’s youngest) crawls in the tube and the static gets to his hair.

 

Taryn and Anna: Two cute girls in pink striped shirts!

The Old Ball Game

My wonderful father had two tickets to a MN Twins’ game last Thursday and couldn’t go. Poor Dad… lucky us! He offered the tickets to me, and since I had the afternoon free and Anna had yet to be to Target Field, we jumped at the chance. John had to work, so I asked my friend Karen to go with us because she’s one of the biggest Twins’ fans I know.

After Karen found us a great parking spot, we walked to the stadium (signal chorus of angels to start singing) and got to our padded Legends’ Club seats just in time to see my favorite player, Michael Cuddyer, up at bat. Anna sure is a good luck charm for her parents’ favorite team, because the first pitch she saw just happened to be a home run!

Karen and Anna enjoying the game.

"I'm so happy to be at a game with Mommy and Miss Karen!"

The day was gorgeous, the seats were amazing, and the game was perfect (not literally, but it was an entertaining and short 2 hours and 8 minutes). Anna did really well and happily waved at anyone around us who would pay attention and cheered the team on to a 1-0 win against the White Sox. Apparently going to a Twins’ game suits her fancy, which is just fine with me. She even had her first taste of Cherry Coke, which was probably a bad idea on my part; she only wanted more!

"Yummy!"

The great afternoon was made complete by picking up a “first game” certificate for Anna’s baby book, taking a walk around the beautiful stadium, and of course enjoying some tasty stadium food.

Thank you, Dad/Grandpa Jim, for the tickets – we had a blast and I have no doubts Anna will grow up a Twins’ fan.

Karen: Thank you for going with us to the game and helping me with a 9 month old. We are SO glad you were able to join us!!!

GO TWINS!


Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My! (Well, almost…)

On Monday a bunch of friends, their kids, and Anna and I went to the Minnesota Zoo. It. Was. AWESOME.

I love the zoo, so I was 100% okay with using my child as an excuse to go see a bunch of fun animals and exhibits, not to mention spend a Monday morning with some of my closest friends. And yes, Anna was an excuse; 7 month olds are not exactly jumping up and down to see birdies and monkeys, although she did seem to enjoy herself, which of course made it all the more enjoyable for me. And… surprise! She stayed awake for the vast majority of our time there! So of course I needed to capture that fact on camera.

Here is Anna on her first trip to the zoo, much more interested in the camera than the animals everyone else is looking at.

And here she is again, much more interested in her toys…

…and here she is much more interested in her bottle (yes, she can hold it pretty well on her own now)…

…and finally, here are Addy and Luci, much more interested in the baby in the stroller!

Here is my favorite picture. Anna loved sitting in front of the glass (6 inches thick!) and watching the fishies and sharkies swim by.

 

Both Torin and Anna were trying to touch the glass to see if they could reach the colorful animals swimming around in front of them. Apparently I need to take her to an aquarium next!

I said I went with a few friends; 4, to be exact. So 5 adults and 10 children. I was the only one without a double stroller! Here we are having lunch, which we somehow managed to do crammed around two small tables.

And finally… I wasn’t even going to try to get Anna in one of these for a picture, but I did catch Lucia and Addy, who are cute as can be.

Even though I didn’t see any lions or tigers (although I did see a few bears), we had a great day at the zoo. Anna was most impressed by the fish, and she also watched some otters chase each other for a bit, but most animals move too slowly to keep her attention. I got some fresh air and a free trip to the zoo (thanks, Emily!) with my friends, and I am ready to do it again. Feel free to give me a call whenever you want to go!


Fort Myers: Days 5-8

The final installment of our time in sunny southern Florida begins with the Twins’ slugger, Jim Thome. We love you, Jimmers! Such a nice guy. Even though he wouldn’t sign our stuff, he did sign for a bunch of kids.

On Thursday we got to the beach on Sanibel Island nice and early, with good parking spots and plenty of sandy square footage for our large group of 13 adults and two babies. Most of us went swimming in the gulf and enjoyed the cool water and waves.

Anna was actually awake most of the day, but unfortunately her cold was getting a little worse and she wasn’t too happy. Here are a few pictures of her “playing” in the sand. She was happy for a few minutes, but of course we didn’t have the camera on her at that point. After she got sand in her mouth she had had it with beach time.

We just had to post this happy picture of Tim, who scraped his nose up on the bottom of our pool earlier in the week. He and Laurie were the snorkeling and shelling king and queen of the week.

We ate lunch that day at the Island Cow, which was delicious. We had a pitcher or two of green beer for St. Patty’s Day, and as you can see, also enjoyed fried pickles and (my family’s favorite) hushpuppies. Yuuuuummmy.  (John had a very large pot of steamed clams, oysters, mussels, and shrimp swimming in broth. I will pretend to forget about that!)

Anna in the Island Cow.

The next morning a few people went back to the stadium for a few more shots at autographs and to try to get in another game. Unfortunately the scalpers bumped prices up quite a bit: one guy was asking $80 a ticket! The group said no thanks and went back to the house for some more swimming and eating and drinking, but not before getting a few more items signed. Anna now has a onesie with Scott Baker and Jason Kubel’s autographs on it!

A rare picture: all Minnesota players, major and minor leaguers.

My sister is marrying a kleptomaniac. Yep, that banner is going up in his house. Awesome!

Mauer and (sigh) Nishioka. It may be awhile before we see him again, unfortunately. His translator is on the far right of the picture.

The last morning, my family decided to play some mini golf before heading to the airport. We had a good time, and Anna slept through the whole thing. Why break the habit?

There are many things that happened that are not documented here, whether on purpose or not. One thing I’d like to mention to give you an idea of how much these two families can drink: we went through 89 beers, 2 liters of vodka, 1 liter of Kahlua, 1.75 liters of margaritas, 750ml of whiskey and… 6.5 liters of rum! Not to mention that this is just what was purchased for drinking at home… who knows how much we really had if you add in the Twins game and eating out. We had a good time!

The mid-March get-away was money very well spent. Thank you to our whole family, including those we’re not related to by blood; we had such a fantastic time spending the week with you! Thank you to everyone who helped out with Anna and made the trip much more relaxing than it could have been. Most especially, a BIG thank you to my parents, because we wouldn’t have been able to go if it weren’t for them. We love you all and wish we could go to Fort Myers every year!


Fruits of Our Labor

This was a big baby-making year for our women’s book club.  This group includes most of my closest friends, and we gather every other week to discuss a book.  Yes, we do read the books, and yes, we discuss them; however it must be admitted that our conversations do stray quite a bit.  Some husbands of the group members jokingly call it the “Wine and Chocolate Club.”  And it may not be THAT far from the truth…

Of the 10 to 12 book club “regulars,” 7 had babies born in 2010.  Lucian Paul was born in January, Augustine John Paul was born in April, and Peter James was the most recent addition in November.  The other four were born this summer, including Anna – and yes, she was the only girl.  We took a picture of the four summer baby mamas in early May, and were finally able to take an updated picture in early November of the four of us again, this time with our babies in our arms.

I so thankful for this beautiful group of women who have become like family to me over the past four years since the group began.  I am lucky to be able to share the bond of motherhood with some of them.  And I am blessed to have such a sweet and supportive group of women around me to help me grow in my faith, all while enjoying good books, good wine, and good chocolate!

BEFORE: Early May 2010. From L to R: Me (due late Sept.), Angela (due early Sept.), Jess (due mid-July), and Sara (due mid-June).

AFTER: Early November Update! From L to R, same as above pictures, but with (respectively) Anna, Torin, Will, and Weston.

The four summer babies, with eyes open and everything! From left, counterclockwise (in birth order): Weston Thomas (born June 10), William Garrick (born July 9), Anna Kateri (born Aug. 29), and Torin Jerome (born Sept. 4).

I just had to put this up because I love how Will is trying to eat Anna's shirt!


Giving Thanks

I want to take a moment to express how thankful we are at this point in our lives, and also to explain our journey over the past few years.  Thanksgiving has never had a more profound meaning for us than it does this year, although every year there are more reasons to thank our Creator.

When John and I got married three years ago, we had no idea what God had in store for us.  We were believing Catholics, had a fun group of friends we saw consistently, and enjoyed spending time with both of our wonderful families.  For some reason, we were also fairly naive in thinking that because we were generally “good” people, good things would happen to us.  In fact, a lot of circumstances came together perfectly around our wedding, including both of us finding and starting new jobs, and finding a cheap apartment almost exactly halfway between those jobs.  We felt so blessed and grateful.  We never really thought there might be any trouble when we’d want to start growing our family.

About a year after we were married, John and I began to grow our family.  Using the natural method of family planning (which I teach) we managed to get pregnant right away and did not have to deal with the heartache of infertility.  My heart truly goes out to those people who have that cross to bear.  I teach many couples who have struggled with infertility, and it is a long and hard road to travel.

Although we conceived right away, the happiness was short-lived; after visiting the doctor I began to miscarry almost immediately, only a few days after confirming we were pregnant.  Our hearts were broken.  For those of you who have gone through this horrible ordeal, you know the emptiness that it can cause; it can consume you.  John was my stronghold; he kept me talking so that I didn’t close off myself.  I still believed that God was there, that He had a plan, but I was so angry at Him!

A few months later we conceived again.  Although there were many scary moments (once you have miscarried, you are absolutely terrified that it will happen during any consecutive pregnancies), we began telling people and believing that this would be the first of our children to make it out to the world.  But that was also not to be.  I will never forget the bleeding, and the ER trip that landed us in front of an ultrasound monitor showing no heartbeat.  The funny thing is, although I remember everything that happened that night, my clearest memory is of the ultrasound technician giving me a hug when we realized what everything meant; it was so incredibly sweet of her, and I thank God that she was there and willing to be so kind.

Of course, this was still not the end of our second child’s story.  Three weeks later, my doctor called (you know something is wrong when the doctor calls you out of the blue!).  We had had a partial molar pregnancy.  Because of this, we were told we needed to wait one year before trying to conceive again.

This was a hard blow.  I was almost in shock.  I trusted that God had a plan, but this was my darkest hour; I just could not understand why this should happen.  I had felt called to be a mother, and yet my babies were being taken from me!

Again, God worked through my husband to reach me.  He made me talk, made me go to Mass, to Adoration, and to reconciliation.  We both began to see how something so sad could also be beautiful; God had given us these two lives, and although we wanted them, they were truly gifts that were not “ours” to keep.  The most beautiful thing about it all is that our two children are WITH GOD!  They are engulfed in so much more joy than they ever would have experienced here.

As Christians, we believe that these children deserved recognition as complete human beings, and after hearing of the idea from a friend, we decided to name them both.  We also had a memorial mass said for them at our home, which really helped bring some closure for us, and we plan to continue going to a mass (or having a mass said) for them every year.

Anyway, one year later, we were able to conceive our third child.  Only a few weeks later we were told we would lose this one as well.  We were devastated, but a bit more prepared emotionally this time around.  However, God had a HUGE surprise in store for us; five weeks later, on March 3rd, we had an ultrasound which showed our little Anna Kateri to be healthy and right on her dates! We were ECSTATIC, to say the least, and cried for joy multiple times.  (In fact, I still do!)  On August 29th, we welcomed her into the world, and she is filling our lives with smiles.

We are thankful for so many things; for our health, our friends, our family, and so much more.  For our parents who raised us, and especially my mom today, who gave birth to me 27 years ago. And although we have had to deal with a lot of heartache, we are SO thankful that God has blessed us with three children: Anthony John, Julia Dolores, and Anna Kateri.  They have each taught us so much about our faith and have helped us grow closer to each other and closer to God.  I am so incredibly thankful for my husband, the sweetest, most caring, and selfless person I have ever met – John, I love you! And finally, I am thankful for the faith and the LIFE God has given us.  May we be humble and faithful enough to finally enter His Kingdom one day.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


The North Shore

Since I was in 3rd grade my family has taken a yearly trip up to Lake Superior’s North Shore, where we rent a cabin for the long MEA weekend every October.  (Yes, I still call it “MEA”, although I’m pretty sure it’s called something different, and John is now the only member of the family who actually gets the extra two days off!)  I look forward to this weekend all year long, as it is always fun, refreshing and relaxing!

This year was Anna’s first trip; our friends’ younger son’s first trip (he was born 6 days after Anna); and Traci’s first trip in three years – finally, the whole family was together again!  Our friends Angela and Luke and we were a little apprehensive about sharing the cabin we have this year, as there would be three kids under the age of 2, and we didn’t know how it would go, but it ended up working out really well – only a few screams during the night!  Anna did have some screaming fits (2 1/2 hours of inconsolable crying) due to her new acid reflux medicine (which we have now stopped), but she tired herself out so much that she ended up sleeping really well at night.

Other than that, it was the usual relaxing fun.  We took a trip to Gooseberry Falls, where Beth and Jeff took some beautiful engagement pictures, thanks to Mom and Angela.  John and Luke walked around with the babies in their front carriers, since Anna was finally over the “minimum 8 lbs.” weight limit. We also all enjoyed walking down to the shore from our cabins (it’s about 20 feet away), looking out at the sun and moon shining on the lake, and viewing the passing ships through Dad’s scope.

There were a lot of cribbage games played, as well as two games of Bowls.  Everyone there will dread being my partner next year: I got last place both times! Late Saturday night brought a competitive and cutting game of Spoons (in which I also placed last!), leaving Luke the champion, although there has been some talk that Jeff was also worthy of that title, and Angela also came close.

Family photo at Gooseberry Falls.

John and Anna.

Sara and Anna.

The newly engaged.

Moms and friends!

And last but oh-so-definitely not least, there was the food and drink.  The dinners were all delicious as usual, and the Halloween sugar cookies were the typical hit, but the snacks are always the highlight.  We all had (quite a bit more than) our share of caramel corn and puppy chow (mmmmmm…… puppy chow…), and to top it off, Saturday afternoon was spent on a new tradition: beer tasting! We each had brought 3 bottles of a brew, and although An and I couldn’t drink as much as we’d like (we’re both breastfeeding and/or pumping), we all had a great time trying and rating 9 different beers.  (The “winner” of the beers was Magic Hat #9, in case you’re curious.)  We also had some pretty sleepy – and tipsy – people at Mass that evening!

The beer we tasted.

Beer tasting!

More beer tasting!

We had a fantastic time up on the shore again this year, and already are looking forward to next year!

Car seat buddies!

Blanket buddies (it was a little chilly the morning we left).

Sara's family.


Hailey Rose′s Baptism

A few months ago John and I were honored to be asked to be godparents to our good friends Brian and Briana’s daughter.  Hailey was born two and a half weeks before Anna – we are so excited to have another baby girl in the “family” so close to her age.

On October 10 we participated in (and celebrated!) Hailey’s baptism with her parents and their families.  We had a great time and are so happy for her. Welcome to the Catholic Church, little one!


Baby shower and Baptism

The first weekend in October was a big (and busy) weekend for us.  Saturday afternoon was the last baby shower for me and Anna, and it was wonderful, thanks to hosts Kay and Hallie. We had a great time seeing friends and family, ate some delicious food (well… Anna had milk), and were given many beautiful gifts.

Anna at her baby shower.

Traci & Beth smelling baby food for a shower game.

Grandma Kay gave Anna a beautiful cross-stitched blanket she made.

That evening was spent with both sides of our families eating pizza and relaxing with each other, while of course fawning over the baby.  It’s always nice to spend time with both sides of our family; we love them all!

Any free time I had that weekend was all spent preparing for the baptism celebration on Sunday afternoon, and there was no way I could have possibly pulled it off without our family helping out – they were all lifesavers (especially Traci, who helped all three days and never complained!).  After a late Saturday night and an early Sunday morning, everything was finally ready, and we were off to the church for mass (where Anna was passed from family member to family member all hour long) and, finally, the baptism itself.

The ceremony was beautiful; she was awake for most of it but didn’t cry (lucky us!), and it was officiated by a priest who is a friend of the John’s family and had been praying for Anna throughout the pregnancy.  We were so happy he got to be the one to baptize her!  Anna’s Godparents are Mike and Hallie, and we have no doubt that they will be excellent examples and leaders in the faith for their niece.  Thank you for agreeing to be her sponsors!

Finally, our daughter was freed from Original Sin!  As John likes to say, “Now she can only commit unoriginal sins.” 🙂

John holding Anna before the baptism. Anna was wearing the dress I wore at my baptism, the bonnet that Grandma Sherry made out of her own wedding dress, and a wrap made from a baptismal gown that has been passed down through many generations of John's family.

After the baptism we had a gathering at our house for lunch, cake, and a celebration of Anna’s life (both spiritual and physical) with family and friends.  It was also intended to be a thanksgiving of sorts for our loved ones.  We are so lucky to have our “miracle” baby and feel so blessed to have all of these wonderful people in our lives who took the time to support us and pray for us over the past few years.  You have all helped us reach this happy point in our lives and we will be forever thankful for you all.  God is so good!

Anna with her godfather.

Anna and her BFF Hailey (who came all the way from Alexandria to help us celebrate!)


Anna’s Travels

In only 11 short days, Anna has managed to travel quite a few places! There have been two trips to the hospital (one for a lab test and the other to see a lactation consultant) and two trips to see her doctor in White Bear Lake. Those aren’t as exciting to talk about, though.

Everywhere we go, people (mainly women and children) seem to adore her (as most newborns everywhere are adored), always asking how old she is and commenting on how tiny she looks. Our first “big” trip was to Target last week when Anna was only 4 days old. Mommy and Daddy enjoyed taking her out in public and managed to fit the car seat in the shopping cart on the first try. Mommy especially enjoyed the trip, as she hasn’t been to Target (or any store) for over 2 months!

Saturday was Anna’s first camping “trip”. Mommy’s family goes to Lake Elmo every Labor Day weekend, and our little family was able to join Mommy’s family for a good part of the day. Anna was held by everybody and enjoyed the little bit of sunshine she got. We were even able to spend some time with Great Uncle Joe & Great Aunt Kari and their three girls, who drove up from Eyota to meet their new tiny relation. It was so good to see everyone! Thank you so much for the cute clothes Anna got!

Sunday morning we made our way to church, where everyone around us asked us questions and made comments about our little Anna Kateri. She even had an adoring crowd of three young girls afterward who wanted to see her. Anna also got to meet Fr. Creagan, who has followed our “miscarriage” story and been praying for us throughout the pregnancy.

The most recent fun outing was last night (Wednesday), when Mommy took Anna to her book club, which was meeting for drinks at Dixie’s in St. Paul. There were quite a few people there, so hopefully everyone got a chance to hold her if they wanted to; it was baby mania! (For those of you who don’t know, in Mommy’s book club there have been 6 babies born this year!) Anna got to meet Torin Cahill, born just 6 days after her, and tried to impress him with her cute pink sleeper. Of course, both babies were sleeping pretty much the entire time. 🙂

Mommy, Daddy, and Anna also went for a short walk last night to try out the stroller. It was a beautiful evening and we are hoping to get some good use out of the stroller before the winter comes!

Grandma Sherry with Anna (and Auntie Traci) at the campground.

Auntie Beth holding Anna (while soon-to-be-Uncle Jeff blocks the sun)

Cousin Kaylee holding Anna.

Cousin Jayda holding Anna.