Joseph, Gabriella, Julianna, James, and Elora

Joseph, Gabriella, Julianna, James, and Elora

Friday, December 19, 2014

"This Realm, this England": Day 2

"This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands ---
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."
Richard II, Act 2, Scene 1

You know me - if we're talking about England, the first person who comes to mind is Shakespeare!

Sorry yesterday was so boring - all travel related. Today gets much more exciting because we're finally in England!

We landed at about 11:30 local time, which is eight hours ahead of Albuquerque. A few minutes before the plane landed, Jules woke up from her amazing sleep and we were both getting pretty antsy to get off the plane! The real problem was that I had been sitting for 8 hours, which meant no standing, which meant no bathroom breaks...I was really starting to get desperate by the time we made it to our gate. Of course, they have this brilliant system for loading people onto airplanes in small groups so it isn't chaos, but deplaning is a ridiculous free-for-all! EVERYONE stands up the second the plane ride is over - and I don't blame them - but it just causes a massive traffic jam for about 20 minutes. I don't understand why they don't announce "now rows 1-10 may disembark" and so on down the plane. Anyway, I was at the back of the plane AND in the window seat, so I just sat and sat until every other person had left, and then I begged the airline staff to let me use the restroom before getting off the plane so I wouldn't have to wait until after customs, because I was pretty sure I was gonna die! They were super nice about  it and one of them even offered to hold Jules for me. 

Finally off the plane and on English soil (hooray!) for the first time in my life, I now got to wait in the huge enormous customs line. I figured it was going to be hours but after only a few minutes a lady told me to follow her, and gather up a few more people with babies/small children, and led us to the front of the line! (I'm telling you - you should TOTALLY travel with a baby. It makes some things inconvenient but you get to move to the front of every single line. It's terrific. ;-) Got our passports stamped and tried not to grin ridiculously at the passport official simply because he had a British accent. Everyone had a British accent. I was surrounded by them. It was heavenly!

Went to collect my luggage and had a bit of trouble collecting my buggy (that's stroller for you Americans), since it came out in a different place, but I finally found it and there I was, loaded down with an enormous backpack, a rolling suitcase, a baby, a sling, and a stroller, and sadly, still only 2 hands. This would be the most challenging part of my trip, as I had to navigate myself, Jules, and all our stuff alone onto the Heathrow Express, a train that goes from Heathrow Airport in London to Paddington Station, where I was then supposed to get a taxi to take me to Dad's hotel. I bought my ticket and got on board the train all right, with some ridiculous maneuvering of all my luggage, and sat for a few minutes. I was chatting with the lady next to me, who was from Japan, and then she and all the other passengers got off the train. I stayed because I knew I was supposed to go all the way to Paddington and we were still in the airport. After just a moment, she came back onto the train and told me I had to get off because this was the end of the line for THIS train and switch to another to take me to Paddington. Yikes! I don't know what I would have done without her help; she not only came back for me, but helped me with my luggage and showed me where to go to switch trains. I was so blessed by her kindess! 

FINALLY on board the correct train, I stared eagerly out the window, but couldn't see much of the countryside; it was mostly industrial-type buildings and nothing terribly exciting yet. At last we pulled into Paddington, and I managed once again to maneuver all my luggage OFF the train onto the platform (sadly, not 9 3/4, but that comes later), get it all adjusted, and set off on the final stage of my journey: to find a taxi. I had never ridden in a taxi before, so that was exciting in and of itself, but to have it be one of the London "hackneys" was even cooler.

Okay, so this not the exact cab I rode in. My hands we too full to take a picture at that moment!

I have to confess something a little embarrassing here - ever since watching Season 1 of BBC's Sherlock I have been kind of terrified that the cab driver was going to murder me. Stupid, I know. Still true. So I was a bit nervous about climbing into a taxi in London, but I'm writing this, so everything was obviously fine. Unfortunately I happened to pick the only taxi driver in the entire city who was returning from a 6 month leave of absence and really had no idea where my hotel was - and I, of course, wasn't prepared enough and just had a hotel name, not an address or cross streets or anything. But eventually he figured out where he was going, and meanwhile I got to see London whizzing past in all its glory out the window! This was the first moment of my trip when it truly hit me that I was actually in London and despite being quite exhausted from being up all night, I got a rush of adrenaline and became extremely excited. Whoosh! And there went the Tower of London. Whoosh! There's Big Ben! Whoosh! The Eye of London. Not to mention the red double-decker busses and the taxis everywhere and all the little back and side streets with buildings that I knew nothing of, but radiated centuries of was all overwhelming and wonderful and fantastic. (I know, I'm running out of adjectives. Sorry.) After a little mix-up with another hotel of a very similar name, the cabbie finally found my hotel and I tipped him (way too much, I found out later) gratefully, made my way to my room, and was finally hidden from strangers' eyes for the first time in over 24 hours. Whew! 

Dad was still at his conference, and I had to will myself not to just collapse onto the bed and take a nap, but I knew that the best way to survive jet lag is to get on a "normal" schedule with your country as quickly as possible. So instead I took a shower while Jules had a nap (her schedule was totally messed up and she spent a LOT of time sleeping, I think in protest of the whole strange phenomenon, but that was good for me!) and then I had a cup of tea. One thing that was really interesting about English hotel rooms is that each one had an electric hot water kettle, two teacups, and a basket containing a selection of teas, sugar, creams, and a few little biscuits or cookies. That way each guest could observe four o-clock tea everyday! I quite enjoyed it - it made me feel even more "British" than ever, and their tea is much better than ours! Their tea baskets did have instant coffee, but it was terrible; Dad drank it, but I stuck with tea. ;-) About this time, Dad came back to the hotel room - this was a relief since the biggest flaw in our plan was how to communicate once I finally arrived! After he changed, we set out for our first evening exploring the city! 

Our hotel was in an interesting part of the London - the Docklands, an area in east and southeast London that once made up the Port of London. Goods were shipped via the Thames, so the Docklands was an important center of trade, although now its mostly residential and commercial district since transportation is less dependent on the river. But in order to get to the main part of London from our hotel, we had to cross the Thames via ferry. The hotel had its own small ferry to take guests back and forth across the river. Something I didn't know about the the Thames before my trip was the it is an outlet to the sea, so it is actually affected by the tides. The first night I was there, we crossed at the really high tide and the whole ferry was rocking back and forth violently. It was pretty exciting!

A view of our hotel from the ferry. It is literally ON the Thames.

Grandpa with Jules. That's our hotel in the background, on the opposite side of the river

Some old warehouse buildings in the Docklands area, a strange contrast to the tall modern buildings in the background

Once on the opposite bank of the Thames, we boarded a "water taxi" like the one below, which took us down the river and past many of the major landmarks in London. It was one of my favorite ways to travel. Not only was it the easiest to get on/off of with a baby and a buggy, but also a great way to see everything and a pretty quick way to travel.

The water taxi

It took us under the Tower Bridge

Past the Tower of London

Past the Globe Theater (I'll be seeing you again soon, good friend!)

Past the Eye of London, the only modern piece of London architecture I actually like

We disembarked near Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and took a walk along the bank of the Thames, stopping to look at anything that interested us. I was pretty much giddy with excitement (and possibly a lack of sleep), so that was nearly everything! 

I believe this was a WWII memorial 

And this was from WWI

I was so excited to see the traditional red phone booth!

Even their benches are beautiful!

Finally we went up a flight of stairs and there it was, right in front of us: Big Ben! Probably one of the most iconic symbols of Britain, right before my very eyes! 

Side note - Big Ben is actually the name of the clock inside the tower, not the tower itself. The tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. I felt sure you all needed to know that fact, in case you ever find yourself on Jeopardy...;-) 

Right next to - and I do mean right next to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament is Westminster Abbey, one of the places I was most excited about seeing. It was closed for sightseeing by the time we arrived, but I most definitely planned to come back another day! Just seeing from the outside was an amazing experience. I confess I may have cried looking up at it for the first time.

Dad and Jules in front of the "little side entrance" of Westminster 

Jules and I with both Westminster and Big Ben in the background

Here I am in front of the main entrance. Yes, I'm the tiny pink and black dot at the bottom. It is truly immense!

After walking around admiring Westminster, we sort of wandered down Whitehall Street, looking around and searching for a place to eat dinner.

Statue of Churchill

We passed Number 10 Downing street, where the Prime Minister lives. 

I'm fairly certain this is the entrance to #10 Downing

We ate dinner in the upper floor of a little pub along Whitehall. Babies seemed to be kind of discouraged, if not absolutely forbidden, in the bottom level of the pubs, where most of the "just stepped in for a pint" people were, but were allowed in the second level where more people were eating. I had a ploughman's lunch, which is basically just a sandwich, and it was okay but not great. Then we walked past Charing Cross, through Trafalgar Square, and then on to Piccadilly Circus. I must confess, Piccadilly was the only part of the London I truly didn't enjoy. I had always read about it, but didn't entirely know what it was until I got there, and frankly I'm still not sure what the allure is. But apparently it is THE place to be on a Saturday night in London! Everybody in the whole city seemed to have congregated there, to just talk and "hang out" on the steps on buildings and memorials. There were street performers and loud music and giant billboards covering the beautiful old buildings, which offended me greatly. :-) It was kind of like Times Square in NYC, from what I've heard, although I've never been there myself. Anyway, it just wasn't really my "scene," if you know what I mean.

Trafalgar Square

Cool horse fountain in Piccadilly

Atrocious billboards covering beautiful old buildings in Piccadilly
But we left there and wandered through Chinatown and finally made our way down to the Piccadilly line of the London "tube" or subway. Dad and I had both bought Oyster cards, which enabled us to travel the tube, the buses, and the DLR (that's Docklands Light Railway, an above-ground train), as well as a discounted rate on water taxis, for free. Well, not free, but you know what I mean. One price for all public transportation. The tube was really crowded, especially at Piccadilly, on a Saturday night, and it was tough to navigate with the baby and buggy as it involved flight after flight of stairs. Then once we got to the right stop, we caught the #10 bus, which stopped right outside out hotel. Whew! Transportation in London is complicated, and that's not even taking into account the whole driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road thing, which we didn't do until after we left London. But we finally made it back to our hotel and I absolutely crashed into bed in contented exhaustion.

Sorry this post was SO ridiculously long. I'll try to speed things up tomorrow!   

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"This Realm, this England": Day 1

I found this post that I started writing back in June and it made me ashamed:

"I've decided I need to give up looking at Facebook for a while. Why, you ask? Because it's June, and everywhere I look I see pictures or posts about all my friends' amazing vacations - to Europe, to Disneyland, to the mountains or the lake or the seashore. My own family members are at the top of that list. One sister just got back from New York City and is now in Colorado hanging out with our other sister. My parents and youngest sister are in New York for a different musical event. My brother and sister-in-law are on a cruise in Europe. And me? Want to know where I'm going this summer? Yep, that's right. Nowhere."

 I didn't finish it because I couldn't figure out how to say what I wanted without sounding extremely self-centered and whiny and pathetic, which is exactly what I was at that moment, and I was ashamed of it. I had no idea at the time but my Heavenly and my earthly father had both been planning something amazing for me that made me even more ashamed of my self-pity. My dad had a business trip to London coming up, and he invited me (and Jules, of course) to come with him and spend a week there! I was completely floored.

I write this as much for my own benefit as anyone else's - so I can remember every second of that wonderful trip! Apologies if it is entirely too detailed.

Friday morning was spent trying to cram half my wardrobe, all of Julianna's clothing, a mountain of diapers, wipes, jackets, umbrellas, guidebooks, two extra pairs of shoes, and a myriad of other miscellaneous accouterments (most of which I didn't end up using) into a medium-size suitcase and enormous backpack. I was trying to keep my luggage to a minimum because I would be flying out by myself and had to navigate airplanes, airports, trains, taxis, and every other form of transportation alone. Dad had to be in London a few days before me, so I had to get myself, Jules, and all our stuff from the airplane to the hotel. Having never traveled alone in my life, I was a bit nervous. (Okay, truthfully, I was terrified!)

Saying goodbye to the kids was one of the hardest things I have ever done. They all drove off cheerily, smiling and waving and excited about getting a WHOLE WEEK of "sleepovers" at Grammie's house! I held it together and did NOT cry when they left, so it wouldn't worry them and they would be happy and not miss me too much. I was fine all the way up until Robert and I got to the airport, and then I realized I forgot something minor, and the tears started to come! BUT I managed to push them down and recover my calm, and even be excited for my trip! There was a brief moment of panic when I started to check in and they told me Jules was supposed to have a ticket, even though she was a "lap baby" for the trip, and they had theoretically mailed it to me, but I had never gotten such a thing. I saw my whole trip slipping away before my eyes and boy, would the tears have ever flowed then! But fortunately they were able to reprint her ticket there at the counter and then I was set! Robert and I hung out for a bit, had a coffee (a TERRIBLE coffee - possibly the worst coffee I've ever had! Don't ever drink the coffee at the Albuquerque Sunport!), and tried to evade for a few more moments the inevitable goodbye. A kiss, a smile, a few tears, and then I was facing my second great obstacle: Security. I am one of those people who, although I have always been a responsible law-abiding citizen, suddenly find my knees knocking together when faced with uniformed authority figures. Seriously. Every siren I ever hear has me convinced they're coming for me....although I'm not exactly sure why. Combined with the horror stories I've read about TSA searches....well, let's just say I dread those checkpoints for more than just the long line. But fortunately it was very painless. Then it was simply a matter of waiting for the plane to board. Unfortunately Jules took umbrage with the long wait and got extremely cranky and tired. I tried to calm her, but by the time we boarded, she was one big fuss. I boarded amid a few sympathetic looks from fellow passengers (and probably a few annoyed ones as well), and found my seat - a window seat, which was good from a privacy/nursing standpoint. And then anxiously waited to see who my fellow passenger would turn out to be. This may sound strange, but I had been praying ever since learning about my trip that I would be seated next to someone who liked babies; someone like an older grandma or a fellow mom, someone who would be kind and understanding and not get annoyed if Jules fussed the whole trip. So when it turned out to be a young, collage-age boy, I was quite disappointed. "Oh dear," I thought, "he's going to be the one who is annoyed most by us."

The next two hours I spent trying to get super tired, cranky Jules to go to sleep without kicking the poor boy next to us. I failed on both counts. He was pretty nice about it, though. He put in headphones and watched movies during the flight and responded with "no problem" to each apology for her kicking. And the silly baby just wouldn't sleep. We finally landed...and then a long long taxi to the gate and a wait. The landing part was interesting, though, because I had never been to Minnesota before and as we circled down, I could see setting sun reflecting off the "thousand lakes" below us. It was beautiful! Someday I would like to go back to Minnesota and see more than the airport for a four hour layover.

It was a long four hours. The airport was enormous - the biggest one I've ever seen, or at least navigated all by myself - so after finding my correct gate, I stuck to my own concourse. Got some dinner, bought some water and snacks for the plane, and then mostly just followed Jules around as she crawled around all the seats in the waiting area. I figured she should get as much "floor time" as possible before the flight, since she would be stuck on my lap for the next eight hours. There was a another mom with a little girl, about three years old, in the waiting area too, and she and Jules really hit it off. They were from England, returning on the same flight as us, so the little girl had the CUTEST British accent. She kept taking photos of Jules with her tablet and they chased each other all over the waiting area.
Jules "cruising" the seats in the waiting area. Sorry, it's the only picture I have from the first day

Finally, shortly before boarding, Jules got sleepy and went to sleep in my arms. It made boarding a little tough, but with some help from a kind gentleman, I was able to get my backpack stowed and settled myself and my sleeping baby into our seat - window seat again - and went through the same anxiety about my seat-mate, especially since this was a MUCH longer flight! Turned out to be a young woman, probably a few years younger than me, who hardly spoke a word to me the whole flight, but she wasn't unkind or anything. She just didn't really invite conversation. I had kind of been hoping that I would be seated next to someone from England and we could chat about our respective countries throughout the trip, Instead that was the person behind me, and he and the girl he was sitting next to had an interesting conversation (upon which I eavesdropped shamelessly) throughout the flight. So there we were - settled in and finally on our way! And then the most amazing thing happened. Jules slept for the ENTIRE flight. I couldn't believe it. I thought I would just let her sleep as long as possible, because she was sure to wake up and then I'd have to entertain her...but she just slept. And slept. And there I sat, for 8 hours, unwilling to get up or even move too much because I was afraid of waking her. I tried to sleep, but unfortunately the only part of me that was able to sleep was my lower extremities. It certainly wasn't a very comfortable flight but it was much better than I had expected or even dared to hope. I know it was God's grace that enabled her to sleep and give me such a (relatively) easy time; it was only the first of many such times I saw His grace demonstrated to me throughout the trip.

I will say this - transcontinental flight has gotten much nicer/more comfortable since my last trip overseas, which was about 12 years ago. The seats have more legroom than domestic flights, and each seat has its own entertainment system built into the back of the seat in front, with a selection of movies and music and tv shows and games...all kinds of stuff to pass the time. The stewardesses/flight attendants (not sure which they prefer to be called these days!) serve a seemingly constant stream of food and drink, it was all pretty good (the coffee was 10x better than that airport swill, surprisingly enough!), and they pass out hot towels to wipe one's hands. It is always a strange feeling to stay awake all night, without falling asleep at all, because one is never quite sure when one day has finished and the next began. But after that long, strange, quiet night of waiting and watching and trying not to wake Jules and failing to sleep....the sun finally rose and there, out the window, I could see it: "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England!" (Richard II)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Exercise with "Helpers"

I have been dealing with some pretty bad back pain over the last month, and it has left me frustrated and uncertain as to a cause/remedy. It's possible that Julianna has just gotten quite heavy and lifting her is harder and more of a strain; it could also be that I am just that out of shape...:-( I have been to my chiropractor four times in the past two weeks, and he has been able to help re-align my spine and manage my pain, but my back keeps going out. Finally, after going to the chiropractor on Friday and then having my shoulder start wrenching/spasming on Saturday for no apparent reason, I'd had enough. I decided I had to start stretching/exercising again, and determined that first thing Monday I was going to bite the bullet and start doing yoga first thing every morning.

Things started off auspiciously enough. I managed to go to bed on the early side, set my alarm for 7, and awoke after a (rare) decent night's rest. Jules half-woke and decided she was hungry, so after she finished nursing back to sleep it was 7:30, and I was ready to get started. Gabriella came in as I was putting on my exercise clothes and ran off to put on HER "exercise clothes." She returned wearing a pink leotard that's way too small for her, striped red and white tights, a pink tutu, and her beloved red cowboy boots. It was hard to enough to keep my composure at THAT ensemble, but then she proceeded to start her "exercises." She put her legs together, turned out her toes, lifted her arms above her head, and began bending and straightening her knees, saying "cliché....cliché..." each time. I stared at her in utter bewilderment before I finally realized what she was doing: "plié....plié..." Well, I lost it at that - burst into laughter at her sheer cuteness. (She was quite offended. Sorry, Gabs.)

Um, yeah...I SO do not look like this! I think it's more like this:

I finally composed myself enough to find a yoga video that I thought I could handle and started attempting to do the stretches. Attracted by the sounds of the tv, the other kids all came in the room. Joseph immediately started his own version of "exercise," which involved running through the house at his fastest possible speed to prove just how "in shape" he already was. Gabs was still "cliché-ing" and James and Elora, stark naked (they had been in the bath), sat on the couch to watch me do yoga. Well, I was giving it my best shot despite all the distractions when my "audience" decided to chime in. They began critiquing my form:
"No, Mom, the lady on the video has her arms bent more. Bend your arms MORE, Mom!"
"No, Mom, she said to turn your feet parallel to the mat. PARALLEL, Mom! Come on!"
"Focus on your breathing, Mom. The lady SAID to focus on your breathing. FOCUS! How's your breathing, Mom?"

Mom's breathing at this point was practically nonexistent because she was laughing so hard. It is SO easy to relax and breathe and do yoga when naked people are shouting at you from the couch and your son is racing top speed through the entire house and your daughter is "cliché-ing" in cowboy boots and the baby just woke up. I decided at this point that yoga was futile and turned off my video. But I had made it through about 15 minutes and I actually found myself feeling a lot better throughout the day, so I determined to keep up with it. Today was much harder, not because of the distractions, but because I didn't get any sleep, so I was a lot tireder and less desirous of actually doing anything...but I persevered and did it, and once again physically feel better. This is quite encouraging! Hopefully I will not be spending so much time with my chiropractor in the near future!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Happy Six Months, Julianna!

Sweet little Julianna is six months old today! It's hard to believe the time has gone so fast. I guess it's true what they say about motherhood - the days feel long, but the weeks and months and years fly by!   


I know one should never have favorites among their children - and I don't - but I do have to admit to liking certain children better at various "stages." (For example, Joseph was my first baby and I was absolutely crazy about him...but the child would not SLEEP as an infant!! He would stay awake until 3 or 4 in the morning and just fuss and fuss and cry...I didn't really know what "colic" was at the time and I thought that was just what all babies were like. Oh, my, was I relieved was James was born and he was not like that! ;-) So far, it is hard not to be incredibly prejudiced in Julianna's favor because she is SUCH a sweet baby! She has been a great sleeper from the very beginning, hardly cries, and is sooo snuggly! She's just a happy, happy baby most of the time and so much fun to be around.

It's also quite interesting that she is the first of our babies to really show a marked preference for her Daddy! She has been "Daddy's girl" from the very beginning. I mean, she loves Mommy and wants me plenty, but she will sit with her Daddy for a very long time, perfectly content, and her little face just lights up whenever he's around! It's so very precious to watch, and I think Robert gets a huge kick of it because I'm sure it can be hard to always play second fiddle to Mommy! She's also the first baby he's been able to put to sleep on a regular basis.


About a month before she was born, we took the kids to see Frozen and they became absolutely obsessed with it. (Still are, in fact. If I have to hear one more rendition of "Let It Go" at the top of their lungs...) So when I asked Elora what she wanted to name the baby if it was a girl, she immediately said "Anna!" We had been talking about Julianna anyway, so I thought "oh, how cute - we can nickname her Anna!" (When asked what we should name the baby if it was a boy, Elora's suggestion was "T-Rex!" It's a good thing she was a girl.) However, somehow the nickname "Anna" never managed to stick. Sometimes we call her Julie, but everyone's favorite nickname for her is Jules or Jule. I love it because I think of her as our family's precious "jewel" - she is so loved and cared for and adored by her big brothers and sisters! They squabble over who gets to play with her, hold her, pick out her clothes, and even change her diaper! And she loves all the attention and just basks in the adoration (most of the time...unless it's all a little overwhelming.) 

She is a blessing to our whole family and none of us can remember what we did without her. Happy Six Month "Birthday," Sweet Jules! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Birth Story: Our Not-Quite Christmas Baby

So, six months later, I am finally getting around to finishing the birth story for my 5th baby, Julianna Evelyn Voss. I realize I haven't blogged since before she was born! Frankly, with 5 kids, I just haven't had the time! I started this post about a month after she was born and I have just kept working on it but never quite managed to finish it until now. I realize it's kind of ridiculously late at this point. But I will go ahead and post it anyway, just because each one is unique and interesting. At least it is to the mom! And since having a baby is quite a difficult feat and proud accomplishment, the rest of you have to listen and pretend to be interested!!

My sweet baby girl. She's been a great sleeper from Day 1.

I think the theme of Julianna's birth is that everything you think you know is wrong! Having my 5th baby, I thought I pretty much knew exactly what I was doing and what to expect, and boy did she prove me wrong! Things started off strangely when about three weeks before my due date (which was December 12), I started having on-and-off contractions. For the first day and a half, they were pretty mild, but on Sunday night they started getting stronger. As this was exactly what had happened with James, I was sure the baby was going to come. Of course, my mom was out of town at the time - which was exactly what I was afraid was going to happened when I heard she was leaving. I called Daniella and told her I was in labor - and she, like the dear, sweet sister she is, hopped on a plane and came down to be there for me and help out since Mom was gone. I laid everything out, and Robert inflated and filled the birth pool (which was just a large kiddie swimming pool). Isaac and Melissa came over, and we all chatted as I walked around the living room. For the next couple hours things seemed to be progressing...and then, suddenly, it stopped. I finally gave up and went to bed, thinking maybe labor had just slowed down and I would be awakened in the night with contractions again. Woke up the next morning and still nothing. The baby seemed to have changed her mind and decided not to come after all. I felt disheartened and a bit stupid. After 4 kids, how could I have mistaken false labor for labor? It felt so real at the time...and with Elora coming so quickly, I was all geared up for another fast labor.
Here she is on Christmas Day - sucking her thumb and holding her ear. She learned than trick from Grandpa Larry.

The next few weeks were quite frustrating. I would have on-and-off labor in the late evening several times a week, sometimes every day! Several times it was strong enough for me to convince Robert that the baby "really was coming this time!" and he would fill the pool again, and then it would just stop. I felt SO bad for all I kept putting him, and the rest of my family, through, getting everyone's hope up for no reason. I know that it was all technically "labor" and my body was preparing for her to come...but it was still frustrating and draining, both emotionally and physically. Everyone was very sweet and supportive and helpful, taking the kids and bringing me food and doing fun activities to help take my mind off the fact that baby hadn't appeared yet!

This is me "ridiculously pregnant" two days before she was born

My due date, December 12, arrived, and still no baby. I started to get seriously annoyed with this baby, especially since I'd only had one other baby go past her due date (Gabriella). Mom jokingly called her "Carlotta" after the opera star from Phantom of the Opera who is such a diva. Monday I had a midwife appointment, and they started talking about ways to help jump-start my labor. I decline most of them since I wasn't even a week overdue yet, but consented to drink a kind of tea that was supposed to help "move things along." Still nothing happened for two more days.

Thursday, December 19, my cousin Tiana came over. She lives in Nashville and I don't get to see her nearly as often as I'd like, but she was in town for Christmas. We had lunch and made fudge, and I felt a bit funny all day but didn't think much of it since I'd had so many false alarms. Tiana left and I started making dinner for the kids...and then I started having contractions in earnest. They got stronger and stronger, and when I started timing them they were finally both strong and consistent - something they hadn't really been up until now. I was afraid to call anyone, though, because I really didn't want to give another false alarm! By 6:30 or so, I finally had to call Robert because I could no longer handle making dinner and dealing with the kids in between contractions. It was about another hour before he finally made it home, and by then I was no longer able to talk during each contraction. This finally convinced both of us I might actually be in labor at last! My parents came, and Lydia took the kids home with her. Mom and Dad stayed, and my brother Isaac showed up a bit later. (Since he got married last year and I know he and his wife are looking forward to becoming parents in God's timing, we thought it might be helpful for him to get to see what "natural childbirth" looks like - especially when the father is the labor coach!)

She's been a Daddy's girl from the start - the only baby he can put to sleep on a regular basis.

Contractions got steadily stronger over the next two hours or so, and by about 10:15 pm I was "in transition." I remember thinking in between contractions "Wait - why was I so eager for labor to start?? I forgot how HARD it is!" ;-) An interesting thing that happened this time that had never happened with any of my other babies was that during the intense contractions, I could actually feel where baby's head was inside me and feel it moving down. It's hard to explain...but it was pretty cool. Right about this point, we finally called the midwives - I think we kept holding off because we really really didn't want to have them come just for a false alarm! But in this case we waited a bit too long. I knew it was time to push, so I got into the poor, tattered, duct-taped-together-after-many-blow-ups swimming pool, and suddenly everything stopped. I felt tons better...but I was afraid my body had tricked me once again and I had slowed/stopped labor by getting in the water. Sigh. I took a couple of deep breaths, felt my body relax...and then suddenly had to push! Two pushes and she was out - our 5th baby, another sweet little girl! Robert caught her, scooped her up, wrapped her in a towel, and put her in my arms. "I'm so glad you're finally here!" I whispered to her as I snuggled her and instantly forgave her for all the trouble she had given me.


The midwives arrived a few minutes later. This seems to be our MO - call them too late and have them arrive after the baby's already here! I think it's because Robert just loves to deliver his own babies! ;-) And may I add that he's great at it! They checked me and baby out, declared everything great, helped deliver the placenta (which, frankly, was more trouble to push out than the baby had been) and got me settled into bed. My sister-in-law Melissa, who had been hoping to be here for the birth, arrived a few minutes too late and didn't actually get to see her birth but at least got to see the new baby. I remember that back when Joseph was born, I insisted that the ONLY people who were ever going to be there for the baby's birth were Robert and my mom because it was too embarrassing to have anyone else witness it! Needless to say, 5 kids later, my threshold for embarrassment is nearly non-existent. Plus I feel so strongly about natural birth  that if it can help anyone to be less, well, "freaked out" by witnessing a homebirth, that's really important to me. Not that I'm going to invite the neighbors to come watch or anything.

Proud big brothers

So there you have it (finally!) - Miss Julianna Evelyn Voss, 8 lb, 6 oz, 20 inches long, born December 19 at 10:25 pm. And may I add that in spite of all her dramatic false alarms beforehand, she was/is the sweetest, easiest baby we've ever had. She was sleeping 6+ hours a night by the time she was about 2 weeks old and gave us less trouble than any of the others, which has been a HUGE blessing! I'll post some more recent pictures of her soon. (And yes, I realize this post took 6 months, so "soon" might mean any time in the next year or so.... Thank you for your patience.)

I just love this silly

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Longing for snow

Mid-November has arrived and I'm longing for snow!

Snow is beautiful and magical and mysterious and familiar. I cannot wait for that glorious white blanket to cover over all of November's brown naked drabness.

Here's hoping we get the first snow of the year on Thanksgiving! Only a little more than a week to go.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sometimes I miss sugar

I know it's been a while since I posted, and technically this post should be Part IV of "The Cruise that Wasn't," but I really just wasn't in the mood to talk about it. Although I will try to get to it eventually. Anyway, I've been pretty busy and there has been a lot of stuff going on with me and my pregnancy (34 1/2 weeks now!) and having to suddenly switch midwives, but I won't go into all of that. The short version is that I am fine, and Baby is fine, and I am still planning a homebirth with the same midwife who was there for Elora's birth. (Actually, she wasn't there for the birth - but she got there right after! Frankly, I'm kind of hoping for a repeat, not because I don't want her to be there, but just because super fast births are wonderful!). However, because of a few issues that have arisen, I'm trying really hard not to eat refined sugar or processed food/carbs, and to combine my foods in ways that are low-glycemic and won't spike my blood sugar.

I admit it was pretty hard the first week or so. I have a pretty big sweet tooth, and saying goodbye to sugar was painful - especially because I have always thought of pregnancy as the time where, as long as I was eating a really healthy, high protein diet otherwise, I could get away with all kinds of treats without worrying about my waistline since it was non-existent anyway! Knowing myself, if I COMPLETELY cut out all forms of dessert, it would probably be setting myself up for failure, as in one day I would snap and consume an entire chocolate cake in one sitting and drop into a diabetic coma sort of thing! So I have been trying to find healthy alternatives that are very low sugar, use raw/natural sugars, and are low glycemic so they will be easy on my system. So I have embraced things like berries and homemade whipped cream, cheesecake with no crust sweetened with small amounts of raw honey, and dark chocolate. It's been good but...with all the leaves changing colors and falling off the trees and that crisp cold delicious smell of Fall in the air, I really really miss my pumpkin fix! Unfortunately, pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin cream cheese muffins from Starbucks were definitely out.

My mom came to my rescue in the form of pumpkin cream cheese! She found some at Trader Joe's that was delicious, and then came up with a recipe for a homemade version that had even less sugar. It's delicious spread onto apples, celery, or whole grain sprouted toasted (or just eaten with a spoon, if you're desperate!) I ate up all she gave me and had to make myself another batch today.

Here is the recipe. (I didn't measure my ingredients, so I kind of guessed on a lot of them. I'd say just add/taste until you like it!)

1 package cream cheese, softened
About 1/2 of a 15 oz can of pumpkin (more or less, depending on how "pumpkiny" you want it...I did more)
3-4 T brown sugar or raw honey (again, start out with less and add until you think it's sweet enough)
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 - 1 t cinnamon (to taste)
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
(OR just use a heaping teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice)

With an electric mixer, cream all ingredients together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate. Spread on just about anything for a mouthful of pumpkin-filled deliciousness.

I like this pumpkin spread on the cinnamon-raisin Ezekial 4:9 bread, which is delicious but sadly not cheap, or my homemade sprouted spelt flour bread, which sounds complicated but is SUPER easy to make. I'll try to post the recipe for it tomorrow.

Give this pumpkin spread a try and I promise, you will hardly miss sugar!