Monday, August 22, 2016

School lunches

Well today was my first full day with 4 out of 5 kids at school!  I miss them but I have to admit it was a little awesome :)  I got so much done and all the stuff I did stayed done for more than 5 minutes!  Woohoo!

One thing I did today, that I've wanted to do every year, is make school lunch bins.  The kind where I prepackaged produce, sorted out sweet and salty snacks, and got ready for lunches ahead of time. Now that I'm sending four lunches to school each day I decided I needed to be better prepared.  My kids love to take leftovers for lunch and they are pretty good about eating different sandwiches too so I'm usually set on the main course/protein part of the meal but my kids are also supposed to have two snacks for morning and afternoon snack time which can sometimes leave me scrambling to fill in the gaps of their lunch. So I finally decided it was time to prep! I decided to make one fruit/veggie bin, a dairy bin, a savory snack bin, and a sweet treat bin. It didn't take very long and I'm not going to lie, it was pretty fun too!  (Which tells me that I probably need to get out more!) So if you've ever thought about giving it a try here are some tips/ideas that I had while doing it.

 First, here are some benefits of sorting out lunch items ahead of time:

1) It saves money! The pre-portioned snacks are so much more expensive than buying in bulk but they are so much more convenient.  I usually buy the small applesauce packs and go-gurts for lunches and buy a big jar of applesauce or container of yogurt for home.  By putting them in lunch bins it makes the snacks last longer because my kids know what is off limits after school! To save even more money you can pre-portion your own snacks.  Bag your own pretzels, gold fish, etc. or buy a big thing of yogurt and put it in little containers yourself.

2) It's easier to keep the pantry and fridge stocked!  No more thinking the pantry is full when in fact half the boxes are secretly empty.  This makes it so much easier to see what I have and what I'm running low on.  It also helps keep things rotated.  And helps me make sure that the produce all gets used up in time.

3) It helps give the kids a chance to pack there own lunches.  I can just tell the kids to pick one thing out of each bin and then I know they have one fruit or veggie, one dairy, one carb and one sweet treat.  Plus when my kids feel like they are picking their own lunch there is a lot better chance they are actually going to eat it when they get to school!

4) It saves time. Instead of having to open a ton of packaging, washing produce, etc every morning it's already done ahead of time when you aren't frantically trying to catch a bus.

5) It just looks cool! Seriously, it makes the pantry look so much nicer.  I feel happy every time I look in there.  Instead of 100 boxes crammed on top of each other and ripped open by kids I just have a few bins with lids on.  It makes me feel like one of those  organized people I hear about on pinterest :)

Next, I want to share some of the things my kids like to put in their lunches:

Fruit/Veggie ideas:
mini carrots
mini sweet peppers
cut up melon

Dip ideas (to go with produce):
ranch dressing
peanut butter

Dairy ideas:
cheese sticks
baby bell cheese

Savory snacks:
gold fish
beef jerky
cheese crackers
peanut butter crackers

Sweet treats:
jello w/fruit cups
fruit cocktail cups
fruit snacks
granola bars

Lastly, I'm always looking for new ideas of what to put in my kids lunches so let me know what you like to pack in lunches in the comments! It's always fun to think of new things or learn about new products that are out there :) Happy lunch making!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Emeline- A Birth Story

Maybe it's because I can't believe I have a ten year old or maybe it's because we have a 1 week old newborn but I've been reflecting on my kids' birth stories a lot this week. I realized that while I've written their stories down privately I've never really written them down for others. So for their birthdays this year I'm going to try and record them here.

I feel like I've told Emeline's birth story millions of times but then I'm always surprised by close friends and family who have never heard it. So I've decided after a decade I'm finally ready to write it all down :)

It's not that I don't like telling it but there are a few reasons that make me pause.  1) It was a very stressful night but also one of my most sacred. I regard a lot of the story a miracle but I know not everyone believes in those. 2) I hate when people tell newly pregnant ladies their "horror" stories and 3) because I know I have some friends who have not had happy endings to their stories like these and I love them and don't want to cause them pain.

Sometimes I feel like Emmy's story has become a kind of urban legend in my small town. People will often ask me to tell it in groups. Medical staff that were present use it to freak out new nurses when we go in for Emmy's annual check ups.  I will still to this day have firefighters, paramedics, and nurses that I don't recognize come up to me and say that they were there the morning Emmy was born and that they still remember everything.  Every time we have to see a new specialist and they read her medical records they always say "this has to be a typo". But it isn't! So here it is...

We moved to our little town when I was about 7 months pregnant with Emmy.   Since I was switching obstetricians so late in the game my new doctor decided to do a new set of ultrasounds.  In those ultrasounds Emmy was not moving, had a low heart rate and hadn't grown as much as she should have by then.  At that point I was labeled high risk and had to start weekly non-stress tests where they have you drink some cold water and track the baby's movements. After a few weeks of failing the NSTs and Emmy not moving or growing they decided there was a problem with Emeline's umbilical cord and it would be best to induce labor and get her here.

So on Aug. 2nd I went to the hospital to have our first little girl.  After about 19 hours and a couple rounds of pitocin I was stalled out at about a 7.  I finally decided to go ahead and get an epidural at about 2:00am on Aug 3rd.  By 2:30 I was ready to push and Emeline was born at 3:03.

Emeline was pretty purple and the doctor could not get her to breathe. After two minutes of trying to get her to breathe the doctor tried to use an oxygen bag on her but there was something blocking the air from getting to Emmy's lungs.  At this point she lost her heartbeat also and a code blue was called.  We were lucky to live in a small town because no patients were in the E.R. that night so they sent up two doctors from there to help us.  Our pediatrician was also called and made a 12 minute drive to the hospital in about 4 min. (Something he is very proud of!).  By the time everyone was assembled Emmy had been without oxygen for 15 minutes and had lost her heartbeat once. The E.R. doctor that came to assist started working on placing a chest tube but her little lungs still wouldn't inflate.

The first time I remember looking at the clock was at 3:23.  It had been exactly 20 min. since Emmy was born with still no cry, sound or breath and I remember thinking this was it.  In moments like that your brain goes through a lot of different thoughts at once.  Terror, wishing for miracles, complete blank.  At one point I remember thinking, we'll just get pregnant again and have another baby.  And then you snap to and think "No, I want THIS baby!!!".  I remember wanting to pray for Emeline but I couldn't get words out or remember how to put a prayer together. The hymn "The Lord is my Shepard" popped into my head and I started singing it out loud.  One of the doctor's told the nurse to get me out of the room because I was losing it and so I told them I'd be quiet if they let me stay.  Then suddenly the chest tube worked and they got oxygen into the lungs.

 Unfortunately the pressure blew a hole through the bottom of her right lung but they were able to start doing some breathing for her.  Once this happened they needed to wheel her to another room for more space and I think also because they didn't want Alex and I in the same room if they lost her.  5 minutes later my doctor came in and said that they had lost a heartbeat a second time and that they had tried everything but Emeline wasn't going to make it.  This was when I finally started crying and we quickly called my parents to tell them to come to the hospital so that they could at least meet Emmy.

At 3:33, 30 minutes after Emeline was born my doctor came back in the room and told us that after Emeline's heart failed for the third time they had decided that nothing else could be done and stepped back from Emmy.  She then told us that she wasn't a religious person but that once the doctors stepped back "an unseen presence entered the room and put life into Emeline".  Her heart started beating, she took her first unaided breath and turned pink.

While Emeline was now stable the next question was what the lack of oxygen had done to her body.  The three things they worry most about are the brain, eyes and kidneys at this point. The doctors told us that even though Emmy would probably survive there was a chance that she might be brain dead. In order to stop the brain from receiving further damage they decided to basically put her into a coma using medication.  Before doing that they allowed Alex, me and my parents to see her.

I was still being put back together so to speak so I was the last one to be wheeled into the small closet of a NICU that they have at our little medical center. While I was on my way she peed for the first time which was a hopeful sign for her kidney functions.  When I got to the room there was only one little hand that didn't have something attached to it.  I held it and gave it a little kiss and said that I was her mom and I loved her and then she turned her little head and opened her eyes for the first time!  The nurses got very excited because her eyes opening was another hopeful sign that she could respond to things.

Emeline needed to be transported to a bigger hospital about an hour and a half away but she needed too much equipment to fit into the usual helicopter.  So we had to wait until a small airplane could come up from the other hospital to get her.  We are LDS, so during this wait time Alex called our bishop (which is the ecclesiastical leader for our church group) and he came and helped Alex give me and Emeline priesthood blessings of health and peace.  Our pediatrician, then realizing we were LDS, talked about how one of his sons friends had given them a Book of Mormon and that he'd read part of it before.  He then told us about how he'd been in the room when Emeline started breathing and that he knew it was a miracle. He still tells this story as often as he can.  Pretty much any time we are at the doctor's office for Emmy he'll pull a nurse into the room and say "see this girl, she was born dead and look at her now!"  Each of the other nurses and doctors who had been part of helping Emmy also told us about the experience and how it was the biggest miracle they had witnessed.  With many adding "and I'm not a religious person" :)

The airplane couldn't land at the hospital so Emmy needed to be taken to the airport via ambulance first.  When the airplane was ready about half of the fire department came to the hospital to pick up Emeline and get her to the airport.  There wasn't room for Alex and I to fly with her so Alex and my dad started the drive down to the new hospital. My doctor decided that I had lost a lot of blood and needed to stay one more night in the hospital before I could drive down.

By the time I finally made it down to see Emeline again she was about to be taken off of her ventilator.  Finally, about 48 hours after she was born, I got to hold her for the first time! Over the next two weeks in the NICU she continued to get better and stronger.  She passed test after test and was allowed to come home.  She was still on an oxygen tank and some prescriptions that kept her pretty sleepy but we were out of the hospital at last!

From that point it was just a waiting game to see what parts of the brain would be affected.  But she kept meeting many of her benchmarks.  She was eating well, smiling, responding to sound, etc.  As we continued to meet with an occupational therapist we did start to notice that in gross motor she began to fall behind.  She started to sit up at about 1 year and was almost two when she took her first steps (during a game of charades by the way!).  She had a hard time swallowing and drooled a lot.  This made eating and talking difficult for her too. Around 18 months she started working with a physical therapist and speech therapist.  At 3 years old she started at the developmental preschool in our district so she could have even more access to speech, OT and PT services.

Today Emmy is doing wonderfully!  She has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She wears braces (AFO's) on both legs to help with her gait.  She's graduated out of speech but will probably continue with OT and PT the rest of her life.  She is such a hard worker and is always competing against herself to do things better, faster, etc.  Once when she was around 4 years old this little boy at the park kept telling her how slow she was.  So she came over to me and asked me to time her on the ladder to the slide.  She kept doing it over and over until she thought her time was fast enough.  That story always sticks with me because it really illustrates Emmy's approach to life!

I've sometimes been asked by other special needs mamas why I don't talk about it more.  I just want Emmy to be able to tell her own story in the way she wants it told.  I step in when she asks me to and we've talked with friends, or family, or classmates about what cerebral palsy is.  But I don't want Emmy to be defined only by cerebral palsy.  It's a part of who she is but it's not everything.  Just like I'm not just a special needs mom, it's a part of who I am.  And honestly, now that I have 5 kiddos I can see that all of us have special needs.  Some of our needs are easier to see than others but all of us have strengths and weaknesses that we are working on all of the time.  

I am so grateful for all of the things I've learned by being a mom to each of my kids.  Emmy teaches me new lessons daily.  (I have a lot to learn!) Even though I wish I could take away her struggles and I still grapple with feelings of guilt from her birth experience I do have peace that this is the way things are and the way they were supposed to be.  I know that our family has grown and changed so much because of it.  I think sometimes we look back and play the what if game.  And we always assume that had we done things differently maybe it would have turned out better.  But I think we have also acknowledge that maybe they would have turned out worse.  Even though so many things went wrong with Emeline's birth, so many other things went right.  There were ER doctors to spare, our pediatrician could get there quickly because it was the middle of the night, etc.

I'm so grateful for all of the people who were involved in saving Emeline's life.  I can't even count all of the people who have been involved in her healing and growth and learning since then.  We've been blessed with amazing doctors, specialists, nurses, therapists, and teachers who love Emeline and do so much good in her world!  I sometimes read stories about people mistreating others with special needs or articles about "what not to say to mom's of special needs kiddos" etc. And while there have been hard moments where family or friends have not understood Emmy's disability or said something thoughtless there are mostly really happy moments where people just go out of their way to love Emmy or help our family.  I love watching how kind other kids can be. I love getting to meet other parents or people that just give so much time to serve my little girl.

I can't believe it's been 10 years since she was born.  When I think back to that first day, there was no way I could have ever predicted what life would have looked like today!  -For one thing, I thought Emmy was going to be an only child :) I'm so lucky to have such a great kid! She's an amazing big sister for her siblings and she's got a giant spirit!  I hope she has a great birthday. I love you Emeline!

Thanks for reading!