Saturday, March 31, 2012

What Not to Say, Part 7: "I Would Just..." Preface

If you ever get pregnant again, I would just...

...get a different doctor.
...exercise less.
...not do martial arts.
...go on bed rest.


Note: This What Not to Say will probably be a little disjointed and two or three posts long. But it'll all boil down to this: I highly recommend not using the phrase "I would just" because it not only does it devalue your friend's experience, but the phrase also carries some implication of blame. Unintentional? Perhaps. But still real. And believe me, our doctors, our families, our closest friends, and Mike and I have all questioned and second guessed ourselves enough. I promise.

It's funny, I got some lab work back last week. Every doctor I've ever seen has made some comment about how my "thyroid looks full." Which is a nice way to say I have a goiter, ha. I begin to suspect I just have a fat neck because I've had labs done and they are always correct. I was also tested for some thyroid related genetic disorders when the doctors did the "what caused this" testing last summer. Negative, again. This doctor is having me get a scan, though, so who knows. It may be fine.

But first I had to get labs. They checked cholesterol, fats, blood count, all the normal tests. Every single thing came back as excellent or very good. Isn't that strange? I was so very sick not so long ago. The body is such an amazing thing. I still struggle with some of the physical aftermath--from reduced energy levels to not being able to take certain falls in aikido--but, overall? If I weren't crazy and a martial artist, I'd be near perfect.

***

As an adult I've been blessed with good health after being kind of rickety pre-high school graduation. Some of it is because I work for it. My family has a number of genetic inclinations like diabetes, osteoporosis and high cholesterol and I want to do my part to prevent those diseases. Right before I had Autumn, I was in the best shape of my life.


By the time I got pregnant with Garrett, I was back to 100% on my training schedule and feeling great. No big problems. I was optimistic about making it through a pregnancy without all the problems we had with Autumn.


***

On top of the pregnancy being terrible with debilitating morning sickness and swelling like you wouldn't believe, Autumn was a few weeks premature. She had a two vessel umbilical cord which causes intrauterine growth restriction, among other problems that she ended up not having, so we knew that she was most likely going to be early. I went to twice a week appointments, had ultrasounds every 2 weeks and then every week because of it. She didn't have to stay in the NICU very long although they took her at about 35 weeks when her growth had come to a stop--that's the best guess since no one knows how far along we really were exactly--because I got a steroid shot to get her lungs developing when I was about 27 weeks along. The outfit in this picture? That's a preemie size. It was so big, the pants fell off her. I think she was under 4.5 pounds when we took her home.


Interestingly, the high risk doctor thinks there's a possibility that I might have had undiagnosed pre-ecclampsia with Autumn, too. I inexplicably bled a lot during and after the c-section and had 2 units of blood transfused. The bruising on my arm up there is from the transfusion. I had the terrible swelling right before and after but everyone chalked it up to either normal pregnancy swelling (swelling is not a symptom of anything unless accompanied by other symptoms and my blood pressure was well within normal) or bloating from all the blood and fluids. Of course, no one will ever truly know. They will very likely never know what happened with Garret and are only guessing about Autumn. But here's the thing: that two vessel cord that worried us so much? It might have saved her life. Had I gone full term, who knows what would have happened.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finally!

Oh, man, what a day. It always seems like everything piles on at once. I'm very much trying to live in the moment rather than buckling under all the to-dos. I finished up my first really huge Etsy order (70 note cards! And return address labels!) which is always extra scary because I spend the whole time worried I've missed something or royally messed something up!

Tomorrow, Nanny is coming over to help me get the front bed fixed up. Fun times. It'll be good to get it done, though. Once that's finished, I just have some trimming to do in the back yard and I can take a short break from yard work. After that I'll catch up on the house and get started on our adoption scrap book. Ok, when I write it all out like that, it's not so bad! I'm just...not going to think about Easter and the aikido seminar in Atlanta the week after...

On a happy note, I did get one item listed on Etsy! It's one of the drafts from my attempts at making Autumn's birthday party invitations.

I'm really happy with it. When I list the invitation for Autumn's party, I'll have to take a picture of Autumn in the outfit that inspired me. I started working on something else, too.

The more I look at that one, though, the less I like it. So, it's not going to be listed yet although I am going to work on the banner as well as some more printables.

This is the next thing I'm going to list. It's a word art canvas I made for my mom. I had my siblings and a couple of her friends send me some words to describe her. I used greens because that's her favorite color.

Actually, if you might be interested in something like this, let me know, even if I haven't listed it yet. I don't know how I'm going to list the color options so I can do pretty much whatever color scheme you might like. It's a 14"x14" canvas and turn around time is about 2 weeks. I'm charging $125 for folks not local to Memphis, free shipping in the US. We can talk if you are local.

I better get to bed before Mike wakes up and fusses at me. :) He worries when I don't get enough sleep. I've been doing well lately but tonight everything seemed to go wrong so I was all awake in panic mode (it ended up being fine) so I figured I might as well do productive things! Anyway, I have a blog to-do list, too, haha. I'm going to do my best to get through it!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cosmetic Changes, All Around

My new hair cut!! I really like it because I can wear it a lot of different ways. This is one way. Another is slicked back and yet another is all shaggy and flippy. The latter is not Mike's favorite, haha, but I like it because it's funky. My mom's trying to talk me into dying my hair and I'm thinking about it...


I've also been doing THIS:


I've mentioned before how crazy our house has been since we bought it. The yard is just as bad. I've been trimming bushes for the last 2 or 3 weeks and I was back at it again this week, working on hedges and the way, way overgrown bush above. I have kind of tamed the front yard so I'm about to start working on the wilderness in the back yard.


Don't get me wrong, our yard is incredible and is part of the reason we wanted this house. I think we just didn't realize how much work it would be. But, it's worth it because of some of the gems we have around. For example, I always wanted a Japanese maple and we have three. I love this gorgeous red one. Mike's favorite is a big green one in the back.


And even though the azaleas are in dire need of pruning (which I'll do once they are done flowering), they are just ridiculously beautiful. So I'm really thankful for the yard to work in.


However, I still spent a good chunk of this week muttering to myself about how we let things get so bad UNTIL I REALIZED...the reason not much got done is I was either pregnant and not really able to help much (during the spring) or sick and not able to do much (during the summer). Mike was busy doing the house work I couldn't do so...he didn't get to do anything other than mow. I stopped muttering and spent the rest of the time being thankful that I'm able to do stuff like wield yard power tools. Seriously, to put into perspective how much healthier I am, look at this:


April 2011--the azaleas bloomed really early this year. But, really, how uncomfortable do I look? The acne, the greasy hair, the swelling. Man. And...oh my gosh, so funny...I was proofing this post when Mike came into the playroom and I told him to come look at the picture of me from a year ago. Autumn had to look, too, and goes:
"Who is that holding me?"
"Um, that's me, baby girl."
"Oh. Your face looks different."
ANYWAY, here we are today.


She's in pajamas, by the way, because she wasn't feeling well. I think she's developed a milk intolerance because she's been a little tummy sick lately. We're going to make a doctor trip to check it out and make sure.

All that to say, I'm just super thankful to be able to do mundane chores and generally help out around the house. Thank you all so much for praying for me and for us all this time.

Oh, and yard work isn't all I've been doing! I've got a sneak peek of some things I'll be putting in the shop this week!


And...


Until then!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sweet stories and not so perky decor


(photo by lauren breeden)

Today I started putting out the spring/Easter stuff. I don't do a lot of seasonal decor but I try to do the dining room table and the small table in the living room. Last year was an EXPLOSION of PINK mainly because Cheri (I've mentioned her here before) did the decorating since we were hosting a shower for a friend right at the beginning of the season.

I started to set everything up exactly like she had it because, why not? But I just wasn't feeling it. I didn't expect Easter to be a holiday I felt particularly glum about but apparently it's going to be. So, I went all white in the dining room. I got out a tablecloth my mom crocheted, some white flowers in a clear bowl, and my lanterns. I'm not displeased with how it turned out. The hall table needs some work but I'm hoping my mom will give me some ideas tomorrow. I told Mike I wished I was a Cheri who could just toss something together and make it beautiful. :) I can't even crumple a runner like she does!!

Another reason I might be a little down is I overheard Autumn telling her little friend the sweetest, saddest story ever. I'm not sure what made her think of it, but as we were leaving the playground, Autumn chattered perkily:

Hey, me and mama and papa are gonna dopt a baby and I'm gonna be a big SISTER cause baby Garrett went to Heaven. He was in mama's tummy and her tummy was SO BIG but then he had to go to Heaven with Jesus.

And then she moved on. SHE IS SO SWEET. Sometimes I just want to squish her. In a good way. Last night we had another one of our "how did baby Garrett get to Heaven?" conversations. The new theory is that Jesus came down on a giant bird and flew him there. Seriously, I'm going to write that book someday.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Seriousness and Silliness


Today we went to the Children's Museum (well, yesterday since it's after midnight as I'm writing) and Autumn spent a good hour and a half climbing this skyscraper thing that looks like an elaborate cat tree to me. She's never gotten in there before but today, wow, she rocked at climbing like a little monkey.


The funny thing is that ever since she was born, we would call Autumn "the little monkey" because, well, she looked like a monkey. It tickles us when she does monkey-esque things and, when we found out that we were expecting Garrett, we talked a lot about what kind of animal he would be. Or animals because, really, Autumn might also be part cat, haha. Did you know her first word was meow? Only a Colley...


Everyone already knows Mike and I are huge nerds so it shouldn't come as a shock that we like anime. One of our favorites is called Fruits Basket and there's an adorable little boy named Momiji in it and when a girl hugs him, he turns into a rabbit (I know, I know, but I promise...it's a great show and even better manga!). I used to always joke that if we had a little boy, I wanted him to be my little Momiji.

And then I found out: Garrett's birth year was going to be the year of the rabbit. It was on. He was totally going to be our little bunny. We had bunny bedding picked out. Lainey and Lindsay got a us a bunny lovey. We even had a little bunny hospital outfit.


Of course, none of that got to happen. We buried Garrett in his bunny outfit with his bunny lovey and I have the little bunny cloth that came with it, although Autumn carries it around sometimes which is sweet. I got a duplicate bunny for Garrett's shadow box. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that we could put a bunny on his stone, though. I can't remember how it came up but the people we ordered it from actually sent Mike several images that weren't on their site--they were just above and beyond.

So Monday, we officially turned in all of our paperwork for the adoption. The above photo is from Monday--I think there must have been a funeral because the flowers lainey left were gone and that huge arrangement was there. :( I prayed for those parents. Anyway, I went there with Christy before dropping off the folder at the adoption agency because she didn't get to come to the funeral and wanted to see the spot. It's strange because many years ago after a storm, we were at the cemetery for some reason. Maybe we were scoping out the place for my and Mike's engagement pictures? We spent some time cleaning up the baby area. I asked her if she ever dreamed we'd be back here, visiting one of our babies. Life, it's crazy.

There's still a lot to do--parent training, book reading, interviews, making the scrap book. But I'm getting cautiously excited. We're talking about what animal our new little one might be. Maybe a roly poly bear? A sad panda like Mike is sometimes? I don't know. But I look forward to finding out!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls Not as Big As Your Head



/eyebrow waggle...now that I have your attention...take a look at the sidebar or click here to take a peek at the new items in my Etsy shop! I added a couple of different note cards as well as the last of the birth announcements. I've got two or three other items in the works. The one I want to list next isn't cooperating so I'll be working on that this week.

Back to the cinnamon roll photo above, I have to confess that every time I reread Sunshine by Robin McKinley (all Twilight fans should read that book if you want a fantastic, unique vampire story), I make cinnamon rolls. I admit it's an odd association but Sunshine, the main character, is a baker and she makes Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head throughout the whole book. Oddly enough, by the way, if you Google Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head, a lot of bloggers appear to read Sunshine and then bake cinnamon rolls!

I've had a variety of results over the years (yes. years. I reread Robin McKinley books alllll the time) but I think I found the magic recipe. Several friends have asked for it based on the photo above which I posted on Facebook and the times I've taken them to gatherings so I'm just going to put it here and refer people. :) I cobbled this together from three different Cook's Illustrated recipes and made a couple of changes. I'll note what Cook's calls for and what I changed. And I took some pictures since sometimes instructions don't help me a whole lot when it comes to yeast bread. Not that I *really* know what I'm doing but this is what works for me plus some of the shortcuts might be helpful.


This is a terrible photo but I thought it was hilarious. Autumn doesn't care for loud noises or bright lights. I used the flash and she was all "oh, noes!" Now, the first thing you're supposed to do is melt the butter into the milk. The directions say to use a saucepan, I did it in a liquid measuring cup in the microwave with no trouble. Just as a heads up, it takes a while for the mixture to cool down and if you don't have an instant read thermometer, I highly recommend it. The one I have is a Cook's Illustrated Best Buy. I don't like to use hot water from the tap when I cook so I heat up the 1/2 cup warm water in the microwave, also. It only took like 45 seconds or so. I let the yeast do its proofing thing while I was doing all this.


I ended up having to use all the flour which I think can depend on the humidity and all that fun stuff. The dough stayed pretty sticky at the bottom of the mixing bowl but I think the right amount of flour is when it isn't sticking to the sides.


Kind of like this!


When I emptied the dough onto my work surface, I was a little worried about how sticky it was but don't be tempted to knead too much extra flour in. I've done this three times and the times I floured the board well and then added juuuuust enough to smooth it out some were the two best batches. It was a little floppy when I cut the dough up in the next step but the finished product is worth the trouble.


Unfortunately, my pictures are from the day I over floured. This is too much flour mixed in but you get the idea of what it should look like. I spray my proofing bowl with butter flavored Pam. I know some people might be horrified but, really, I'm too lazy to do real bowl buttering or oiling.


This is after rising! Our house is always cold so I tend to proof bread in our oven. I turn the oven to 100 degrees and then before I put in the dough, I turn off the oven. Sometimes I put a bowl of water in the bottom if I need some humidity. I start checking my dough at one hour because it usually doesn't take a full 2 hours for it to double.


If you've never been to Penzey's Spices and live near one, I highly recommend stopping by! I looooove going in there. I use one of their cinnamons and having high quality spices makes a huge difference. I've also found that their spices are often comparable or less expensive than grocery store spices. I use more cinnamon and sugar than the original recipe calls for because I really like the powder to be bursting from the seams. I also had better luck rolling out the dough on a slightly floured board, although I believe the recipe says to use an unfloured one.


Rolling it up is kind of fun. If the dough is the right amount of sticky, it'll be kind of ugly but I promise it'll be okay once everything has gone through the second rise. I use a bench scraper but dental floss or a serrated knife will cut the dough just fine. Cut the roll in half, then those pieces in half. And then cut each quarter roll into three pieces.


Like this! Again, butter flavored Pam, proofed in the oven until...


Mmmmmmm. It already looks so good. I took the rolls out when they were pretty much done rising and let them finish up on top of the stove while I preheated the oven. I thought using the thermometer to judge whether or not the rolls are done was a clever idea. One tip: don't be crazy like me and accidentally set your thermometer to Celsius instead of Fahrenheit unless, of course, you regularly use Celsius to measure temperature.

I didn't get a photo of the icing process but mixing the cream cheese and milk was weird. It looked like cottage cheese for a bit so don't worry if it doesn't come together immediately. I really like this particular recipe because it doesn't taste like I'M ALL POWDERED SUGAR RAWR. I miiiiight even double it next time. :D


I had to use that one again. I seriously took photos with my regular camera and not one turned out as well as this phone one, haha. Ok, now I will wrap up THE LONGEST POST IN THE WORRRRRLD with the actual recipe. I hope my prattle hasn't confused or bored anyone.

Cinnamon Rolls
makes 12 rolls

Bread Dough
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 package dry active yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3 1/4 - 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Filling (original recipe in parenthesis)
1/2 cup sugar (1/3 cup)
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon (2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons milk (1 tablespoon)
(1/2 cup raisins , golden or dark - optional)
(1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice - optional)

Icing (original recipe in parenthesis)
2 ounces cream cheese, softened (2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons milk (2 tablespoons buttermilk)
1 cup (or 4 ounces) confectioners' sugar

1. For the dough: Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts or do it in the microwave. Cool to lukewarm (about 110 degrees).

2. Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast over warm water in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle. Beat in sugar and eggs and mix at low speed to blend. Add salt, lukewarm milk mixture, 2 cups of flour; mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Switch to dough hook attachment. Add 1 1/4 cups flour, and knead at medium-low speed, adding additional flour sparingly if dough sticks to sides of bowl, until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes.

3. Turn dough onto work surface. Squeeze dough with a clean dry hand. If dough is sticky, knead in up to 1/2 additional cup flour to form a smooth, soft, elastic dough. Transfer dough to a very lightly oiled large plastic container or bowl. Cover top of container with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (Ideal rising temperature is 75 degrees.) After rise, punch down center of dough once (can be refrigerated, covered, up to 18 hours). Making sure not to fold or misshape dough, turn it onto unfloured work surface; let dough rest, to relax, about 10 minutes.

3. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.

4. Roll dough with rolling pin into an evenly shaped 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Brush dough liberally with milk and sprinkle an even layer of cinnamon-sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2 -inch border along one of the long sides. Sprinkle 1/2 cup raisins and/or 1/2 cup chopped nuts over cinnamon mixture, if using. Roll, beginning with the long side of the rectangle. Use both hands to pinch dough with fingertips as you go, sealing edges firmly to form a seam. (Do not seal ends.)

5. Cut into 12 even pieces using dental floss (or serrated knife with cutting board) and arrange in prepared pan. (Cut formed roll in half, cut each half in half again, and then cut each piece into 3 rolls for a total of 12 rolls.)

6. Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise until double in size (rolls will touch), about one hour. When rolls are almost fully risen, adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

7. Bake until golden brown and thermometer inserted in center roll registers 185 to 190 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Invert rolls onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes.

8. For the icing: While buns are cooling, line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy cleanup); set rack with buns over baking sheet. Whisk cream cheese and milk in large nonreactive bowl until thick and smooth (mixture will look like cottage cheese at first). Sift confectioners' sugar over; whisk until smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds. Spoon glaze evenly over buns.

(edit: I put in the wrong icing instructions so I corrected it)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When the World is a Little Grey

Picture of at Listal

I think it might be time to start the discussion about why Mike and I are choosing to adopt rather than attempt to have another biological child. I've talked in person with a number of people about it which has been good. I've also spoken to a somewhat disconcerting number of people who seem to think my healthy, exercise-filled lifestyle is what caused Garrett's stillbirth and all I have to do is go on bedrest the whole nine months and everything will magically be okay. That will be a "what not to say" post because there's a way to ask questions without blaming or shaming. I love answering questions which is why I'm even going to talk about it here but, as we've talked about before, there are ways to ask that don't come off as accusatory.

Anyway, one thing people outside our inner circle may not be aware of is that I've always had a number of reproductive system issues so Mike and I have always known we might not have many (if any) biological children--we were surprised when Autumn came along so quickly. I've had ovarian cysts, along with some of the complications they come with, as well as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. The latter causes me the most trouble these days. Because of it, I had to do a fertility regimen--both eastern and western--to have Garrett so it's very likely that I'd have to do fertility treatments if we wanted to have another baby. I can't think of a doctor who'd touch me after what happened with Garrett and I'll talk more about that later on.

There's been a lot of discussion lately about birth control. I'm sure you've heard about Rush Limbaugh and his awful words as well as the insurance coverage debates. Although I really dislike discussing anything overly inflammatory, mainly because I just can't with the crazy people who only see in stark black and white, the whole birth control thing resonates with me. Personally, I've always put it on the same level as seat belts and diet and exercise. Yes, God could give me a baby any time He wanted. He could also take me out anytime he wanted via car accident, heart attack, or whatever. But, I choose to mindfully live in the manner I believe God's called me to in terms of bodily stewardship. And, at some point, everyone has to make a choice about what that looks like for them and it's just not going to look the same for everybody all over the world.

One thing I feel like gets lost in this whole debate, is birth control as a medical treatment or necessary preventative. People like Rush Limbaugh only think about promiscuity in regards to birth control or abortion. But, like a blogger I recently began following put it better than I ever could, things aren't always so simple. I'm someone who takes orthocyclen to control the PCOS in addition to family planning. Take a look at the symptoms and complications. I have a couple of the complications already and I am at risk for more because of my family history of cancer of the reproductive organs, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can be a tough call to make. But when people are freaking out over this, think about me and all the other women who have to make hard choices about their families and their bodies.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Adoption Update: Home Study Time



Yesterday Mike and I went to the intake meeting at Bethany where we got all of our paperwork for the home study portion of our adoption. There's a lot of it. I think we'll be able to get through it pretty quickly, though, so that's good.

We shared the meeting time with two other couples which made it a bit more awkward to ask questions than I expected. Like how to list credit cards on the assets sheet when we pay them off every month. It wasn't a huge deal because, as you can tell, I'm not a super private person so I don't really care but it was still a little weird.

The most awkward moment came when the social worker asked us if we only had one copy of the sheet Autumn's doctor has to fill out about her health. Mike said yes and then she made a big production about getting a second sheet from another couple (who didn't have any children) to give to us because she thought we needed two. Mike told her we only needed one and she said, in the midst of handing Mike the new sheet, that she thought we had two kids.

Sigh.

I said quietly, "We did but he passed away."

She felt terrible, I could tell. And we did put on the paperwork that we had a second child who was stillborn because while he didn't have a certificate of live birth or a social security number, there are many records that he was born and I thought it'd be better to be up front about it.

To quote Autumn's face up there: so, that happened.