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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

{Luke} One Month

 Luke is one month old! ONE MONTH! The first four weeks absolutely flew by but I loved them oh so much. His newborn days may be the least documented out of all three kids but they were the most cherished!

After being released from the hospital, Luke came home and ate, slept, and snuggled the week away. The girls never let us hold them while they slept but Luke was perfectly content to eat and then drift off to dreamland in our arms.

At his one week appointment the doctor sent us straight to the lab to check his jaundice levels, and, when they came back extremely high, sent us to a different branch of the hospital to be admitted. It was a very traumatic time for us. When we got to the other hospital, we had our packed bags with us, prepared to spend a night or two in an uncomfortable hospital room while Luke slept under the lights. Instead, they admitted him to the NICU and there was no place for us to even sit, nonetheless sleep.

The doctor said that I could nurse him 1-2 times in 24 hours but that they wanted him under the most intense lights for as long as possible and to be undisturbed. I was heartbroken. We had to drive the 45 minutes back to our house that night without Luke and I think I cried the whole drive home. We returned first thing in the morning, sat in the hallway of the hospital for over 12 hours, and I was able to nurse him several times throughout the day.

As the end of the day approached we were expecting him to be discharged but found out his levels still weren't low enough. Though his time in the intense bed drastically lowered his levels, the lower level bed went at a much slower rate. We returned the next morning and he was ready to come home.

Right after he turned two weeks old, my mom returned to the States and we had newborn pictures taken. The day his photos were being taken was the hardest day with him! We pulled up at the photographer's house at noon and he started crying. He did not stop crying, nor did he really nap for twelve hours. TWELVE HOURS!

A day or two later I realized that he was showing all the same symptoms of silent reflux as Sophia had. We debated it for a couple of days but finally started him on the same medicine and saw instant relief wash over his whole body. Sweet baby boy.

Honestly, week three and four are a bit of a blur. The girls were in school, Ian was at work, and I was on my own with Luke. I tried to find a bit of a groove with him and do some loose scheduling. Most days he fed every 2.5 hours from 5 am until 9 pm. He was sleeping in our room because my mom had been in the guest room/nursery and we had guests coming at the end of week four so we just kept him in the pack n play. We were ready for him to be in his own room though! The reflux makes him really sniffly/congested sounding and he makes choking sounds (though not actually choking,) or gags all night.

Around week four he started to put on weight! He started being a little more regular in his sleep patterns this week.
Luke, Your first month has been such an adventure. I have LOVED all of the snuggling and sleeping on our arms. You love to be held until you are done being held. You love to nurse and your sisters, especially Grace, love you! It breaks my heart that you are struggling with reflux but I am so glad we were able to catch it early and get you some relief. Love you sweet boy!
Love you Momma.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Luke's Birth Story- Fast and Furious

I am so excited to announce that our son is here!

Luke James Galloway 
Born February 25th, 2015
9:30 pm
7 lbs 8 oz
21.25 cm

The 39 week mark came and went and I was STILL pregnant. I have to admit, I was shocked. I thought for sure he would be coming earlier than the girls did (went into labor with both on 38 weeks and 5 days and had them on 39 weeks and 0 days.) And, in addition to that, I thought the due date of March 1st was later by 4-5 days then it should have been because my cycle was short when we got pregnant.  

On Saturday, February 21st, I had timeable contractions at four minutes apart for sixty seconds for more than two hours. I thought it was the real deal but Ian convinced me to try and get some rest if they weren't painful yet. I got up off of the couch and the contractions immediately stopped. Boo. 

So, my mom arrived on Monday, February 23rd, and there was still no baby. 

We stayed home all day on Tuesday, February 24th, and still no baby. 

Wednesday, February 25th, the girls had school and my mom and I headed to a mall for breakfast and to get some walking in to try and walk him out! I had more irregular contractions all morning and was fairly uncomfortable but didn't think anything of it. 

We picked up the girls from school and got to hear from all the teachers "You are STILL pregnant?!" We came home, got the girls lunch and down for naptime and I laid in the guest bed/my mom's bed for a nap since Grace was napping in mine. Immediately contractions began. I timed them for the entire two hours but wasn't hopeful as they weren't at all painful. 

At 3:30 I got up, called Ian just to give him an update, and told him I would let him know if they continued after I walked around. They faltered briefly but carried on. My mom and I both set about cleaning and getting things done, just in case. By 4:30 I knew they were real as they were getting pinchy and were still regular. I let Ian know he should come home early. 

Ian walked in the door at 5:30 and by then the contractions were needing to be breathed through. They still weren't "painful," though and I don't know if that is because I was doing better with belly breathing this time or what. Ian asked if it was really labor and I think the look I gave him could have melted metal. Yes, this was the real thing. I stopped cooking dinner and let Ian take over.

 I took a long shower and got out and dressed just in time to see the girls being picked up by our good friends.  They were so excited about a sleepover!

I told Ian and my mom that I wanted to stay at home at least another hour or two. I turned on Friends and leaned on the tv cabinet through contractions while Ian showered. I decided to lay down and time them at 7 because I had no clue how quick they were coming. 

Laying down HURT and I just wanted to be on my feet. I got up at 7:30 and my contractions immediately changed. I started shaking and shivering and knew this was transitional labor. I said "It's time to go!" And we were in the car by 7:50. 

Sitting was the worst. I can't believe I chose to sit or lay back for the other two births because it made the contractions so much more unbearable and intense!

We arrived at the hospital ER at 8:15 and I had been having a contraction every minute and a half for close to sixty seconds each time. I knew I would be further along then I had been with the girls. It took about 15 minutes to get out of the ER ( where I was just sitting in an open triage room and a man with a broken/bloody nose was standing feet away,) and when I was taken up to the labor and delivery ward at about 8:30. 

I got up on a triage table to be checked and my mom and Ian sat right outside of the curtained area. Two nurses came in checked me and said I was at 7-8 cm! When they walked out of the curtain I leaned over and held up 7 fingers to tell Ian. I though his jaw would touch the ground!

I also told the nurses that I was GBS positive and that I was allergic to a medicine and they ran off to get my antibiotics ready. I knew this could be a problem: come in as early in labor as possible to get started on the antibiotics for group b strep but end up sitting for a long time in a bed or wait until later in labor and labor more comfortably at home and risk not getting on it fast enough. Only, when I finally realized I was in real labor it was only an hour and a half earlier!

They brought the wheelchair back in and wheeled me straight to a delivery room. I got changed into a gown and up on the bed while Ian got my mom set up in the waiting room (only one visitor per person at this hospital.) In that short minute he was gone the on call doctor came in to check me and she confirmed 7-8 cm. 

The nurse asked me if I wanted gas for the pain and I realized my plan for a third attempt at an epidural was out the window (boo.) I requested gas to be ready (happy gas, nitrous oxide, which you can breathe during a contraction to take the edge off,) but reminded Ian to not let me breathe it straight through like I did with Sophia's labor. 

I was given a skin test for the antibiotic to see if I was allergic and as told it would be twenty minutes until we could start the antibiotics. No big deal, I thought. My labors have not moved super quickly with either of the girls. 

About thirty minutes had passed since leaving the ER and so much had happened! The on call doctor took a phone call from my doctor, who was enroute. He asked for an update so she rechecked me. I was SHOCKED when she said "she's at a 9/10!" My doctor told the on call doctor that he wouldn't make it in time so she was to deliver the baby!

Right about then the gas tank was wheeled in and I was so happy to have a little relief! They got the room prepped and Ian ran out to give my mom an update. By the time he got back it was time to start pushing! My allergy test for the GBS medicine came back negative and they were able to start the antibiotics just seconds before it was time to push.

My doctor said something about the baby being out in just a few pushes and we got down to business. She told me to take the gas off so that I could focus and push and I reluctantly agreed. Then she checked me and (sorry if this is too much information, but I want to remember this part!) kept one hand inside doing a sweeping motion. I was miserable through each push! I begged her to stop and I didn't understand what she was doing and why. At the same time, a nurse was standing beside me and she would leverage herself up on the table and push on my belly with each contraction and push. It hurt!!

(What we figured out later was that the doctor was probably guiding Luke out and had realized the cord was around his neck and she was trying to get it off of his head before he came out?? We aren't really sure. But on my discharge papers it had "cord around neck at delivery," and we were never told that! Talk about a surprise!)

Luckily, only 6-8 pushes later and Luke was born! We were so relieved that it was a faster delivery than the girls' but were in a bit of shock that he was here so fast, all at the same time!

He was placed right on my chest for a few minutes then taken over to be cleaned up. Ian snapped a few pictures the room started emptying out. The NICU doctor came by to do an exam of him and we were told that the antibiotics for the Group B Strep weren't administered in time for him to be considered safe so we would have a minimum of 48 hour stay so they could observe him and then do some blood work.

Ian went to go get my mom and then I was able to nurse Luke right away. He wanted to feed for close to an hour! So special! And I am so grateful that we had those sweet moments!

(and because I've had alot of people ask about it- the bandaid on my forehead was covering up a site where the dermatologist had treated a Pyogenic Granuloma, or "pregnancy tumor." I was pretty bummed that all of my birth photos and Luke's early weeks had that in it but I'm glad I could get it treated!)

More to come on the girls meeting him, his first couple of weeks, and some medical complications he faced.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Day in the Life Of

I'm 38.5 weeks pregnant and have a 2 year old and a 3.5 year old daughter, so things are bound to change day by day. This is what a typical stay at home day looks like for us though, or as typical as it can get!

6:30 I wake up on my own and try not to move do that the rest of the house doesn't wake up. I play Candy Crush on my phone and try not to flip around. 

6:50 the girls, who are sharing a room now, erupt in a bout of yelling "no" and "yes" at each other. I remind them that this is not how we wake up and that I will come get them up when they are quiet. 

7:00 I take the girls downstairs and Ian gets up and gets showered. The girls watch an episode of The Hive and drink milk. 

7:30 I get the girls cereal after they pick out their bowls and I get them set up at their kid table with another episode of The Hive. Then I get in the shower while Ian eats breakfast and irons his clothes. 

7:50 I'm out of the shower, much to my chagrin and Ian and Sophia come upstairs. I put Sophia on the potty (again) and change her out of her pull up into panties. I put my pjs back on and pull my hair up into a bun. It's going to be one of those days. 

(As a side note, Thursday's are the only day of the week where we stay home. Three days a week we are out the door by 7:50 for the girls' school and I run errands or sit in a coffee shop and study and on Tuesdays I help lead a ladies' Bible Study so we are on the road by 9.)

8:00 Ian's done getting dressed and we chat for a minute about what his day is going to look like. Sophia has to go potty again. Ian kisses us all goodbye and hits the road. He has a meeting at another city, 2 hours away.

I build blocks with the girls until Sophia melts down over wanting all the blocks for herself. 

I read to Sophia while Grace builds and then re direct the girls to play with something else. 

8:30 I slip out of their room and come downstairs to eat breakfast. 15 minutes of semi peace ensues. Grace bosses Sophia around and I remind her from downstairs that she is not showing a "happy heart," towards her sister. 

8:45 Peace time is over, and just as my coffee was cool enough to drink. Grace gets a time out on the stairs while I talk to her about self control and how her reactions to Sophia's actions are just as important. I try to claim five more minutes of coffee time before returning upstairs. 

9:00 I dash downstairs to start a load of hand towels and bathroom rugs. I start a stock pot of water to boil, wash dishes, and fight against the never ending onslaught of ants on our counters. I find their entry spot and treat it with ant killer. I add five pounds of chicken to the stock pot and peruse my pantry for all of the ingredients to make five batches of freezer enchiladas. I'd usually make the chicken in the crock pot but mine isn't big enough for this much chicken and with our utilities being raised 30 percent this year, the gas stove top is much quicker and cost effective even if it won't turn out as tasty. 

9:15 The girls are still playing well (a totally new skill for them!) so I come upstairs to set up the pack n play in our room, clean the mattress pad for it, move the changing table into our room, and move a bookcase into the nursery/guest room so my mom will have a place to put her things when she comes next week. 

In hindsight, moving all of that furniture on my own was not a good idea!

9:45 I give everything a final dusting and run back downstairs to turn off the stove. I put away the contents of Luke's closet and spend three minutes locked in the bathroom trying to come up with a plan to entertain the girls while I do some freezer cooking. 

10:00 I finally allow the girls to come downstairs, get them a snack of rice crackers, almonds, and raisins, (much healthier than normal, trust me, but I am cleaning out our pantry!) I fill my water bottle, realize that the washing machine door hadn't sealed so water was all over the floor, move the towels to the dryer, then collapse on the couch to enjoy 22 minutes of octonauts with the girls. How is it only 10 am? Still 8 more hours until Ian gets home. 

10:25 Octonauts is over but there is no way I am getting off the couch. Fatigue washes over me and I flip the Apple TV over to iTunes Radio. Dora and her music entertains the girls as they play chase and puppy dog in the family room. I pin various things to boards on Pinterest on my phone. 

11:00 I notice the time. I find some energy to get up. Mainly a piece of bread with Nutella is calling my name from the kitchen. I make a piece for all three of us then get the girls set up with Legos. I start rough chopping the chicken for the enchiladas. 

11:20 I take a pause to grab another piece of Nutella bread and pray that the girls don't see me. I take Sophia to the bathroom. I get back to cooking and the girls play on. 

11:30 I move my computer into the kitchen so I can watch an episode of The Bachelor. It's not great television but it amuses me. I like the Bachelorette better. I'm on to garlic mincing and opening cans of chilli peppers. 

12:00 I pause to get the girls lunch around: diced chicken, a tortilla with Peanut butter, orange, and apple slices. I turn on Daniel Tigers neighborhood then watch some more of the show while I scarf down my chicken and cheese quesadilla. 

12:30 I'm so close to being finished with the enchiladas! I start another episode to buy me time and try to power through. 

1:00 The girls join me in the kitchen as I assemble six pans of chicken enchiladas. Five will go into the freezer and one will be dinner tonight. Grace hands me each tortilla as I fill and roll it and Sophia stands on the stool peering into the pots on the stove. As I am finishing up I send them to the family room to clean up Legos. Several fights ensue. I get Sophia to stop bothering Grace and when they are done cleaning up I send them upstairs to pick out three books each. 

1:35 I join them on my bed and we read six books through all of yawning. Potty breaks, pick out books for their beds, then off to nap by 2. 

2:00 I collapse into bed and type up the day up to this point. I fall asleep around 2:30 

3:25 I wake up disappointed that I didn't sleep for very long. The cold I woke up with in the morning had settled into my face over the last hour or two. I did not feel good but just willed myself to lie still until the girls' wake up time. 

4:00 I go to wake up Grace but she won't stir. Sweet girl also was coming down with a cold. She had her blanket pulled over her face and it had made her really sweaty. 

4:10 I leave her side to get Sophia. She is up as soon as I open the door to her (old) room. Happy and cuddly, as normal. I take her back to their shared room and Grace finally wakes up. I change them out of their pj bottoms into play shorts then we go downstairs to get snack (birthday cake,) and take it outside to eat and play. 

4:20 I settle into a patio chair, enjoy my cake, and check emails on my phone. The girls eat their cake then play with the soil that is in their water table. We eventually water the potted plants in the backyard. It is 99 degrees outside. Phew. Summer is going to be a doozy this year, considering it's only February. My feet start to swell and the girls get listless. 

5:00 we head inside. I refill their water bottles and take them straight upstairs to the bath. While they bathe I work on reorganizing their room. Their bookshelf had gotten all crazy and all of their baby dolls were naked. I took out a box of their "treasures," that are trash. 

5:40 I wash the girls and pull them out of the tub and get them in their pjs. I dash downstairs to turn on the oven and unchain the front door for Ian then return upstairs to help Sophia with a puzzle. Grace helps me find the right clothes for the right baby dolls. 

6:05 I notice the time and tell the girls that Ian will be home any minute. We come downstairs and they pick up the family room while I get played around for dinner. Enchiladas and baby spinach salad. 

6:10 Ian walks in the door, gives us all bugs and kisses, then takes the girls upstairs while he changes out of his work clothes. The girls like helping him take off his dress shoes and tie. They come back downstairs and play Simon says while I finish washing some dishes. 

6:20. We sit down for dinner. Ian tells me about his day but I don't have a lot to say about mine. I'm pretty worn out by this point.

6:45 Ian takes the girls upstairs to go potty, brush teeth, and read stories on our bed. I finish up dinner dishes and clean the counter before joining them upstairs for prayers and songs. 

7:05 the girls are in their beds and Ian and I lay next to Grace and sing her a song (in Arabic,) pray over her, then Ian leaves. I sing two songs with Grace (old Rugged Cross and Jesus Loves Me,) while Sophia joins in from the other side of the room in her crib. It's pretty cute. I ask Grace to tell me three things: what made her happy today (playing in the dirt,) what made her sad (when she hurt her leg on a Lego,) and what did she learn (boys spray their mommies when their diaper is being changed. Ha! She had asked me what a Peepee Teepee was for this morning.)

7:25 I walk out of their room and go downstairs to the couch. There I shall remain until I think it's time for sleep! Ian is wanting to get a new video game for the PS4 and I will probably finish watching The Bachelor on my computer before getting caught up on Castle. He will probably rub my feet before bed (he's a real keeper!) I expect to be asleep before ten, which is my new normal!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Grace and Sophia: 3.5 and 2

I'm nearly five months late with this little update on the girls, but better late than never, right?


Grace turned 3.5 and on October 2nd and it's been so fun to see what changes have come.

Grace's sleep has improved drastically in the last several months. Because of a medicine that she was on, she was suffering from some big vitamin deficiencies which was causing insomnia. In a 3 year old. It was just awful, mainly because it took us so long to realize it was a medical issue and not a discipline issue. She would lie in bed crying because she couldn't sleep and there was nothing we could do for her. She's back to sleeping for two hours for a nap and close to 12 hours for night time sleep.

She's become a (little) better eater- has willingly said she likes asparagus, tacos, and steak, and knows that when we sit down to eat she is expected to eat what is in front of her.

Grace loves to play but I haven't pegged it down to any particular favorites. She doesn't have one special toy that she loves or one game or activity that the migrates to. She is such a people person that she usually likes doing anything that someone else will do with her. So if it is not Ian or myself, then she will rope her little sister into playing. Lately there is alot of pretending they are sneaky foxes, crawling babies, or stacking and sorting games.

 Grace loves being outside, loves going to school, and loves crafting of any sort. She can easily complete 12 piece puzzles and is ready for 24 pieces. She can almost write her name and she can count to 20. Grace loves Octonauts and Letter Factory shows. She thinks her favorite princess is Snow White, but she's never seen it. I'd guess it's actually Rapunzel or Elsa.

She loves running and is very fast. She can do a somersault all by herself and loves walking on a balance beam (or curb.) She's recently figured out pedaling a bike and I suspect a bike will be her next birthday present. One of her favorite games is to run in the house, leap in the air, and land on her knees on the tile (ouch!) and slide- as long as she's wearing long pants. She gets some good speed and loves doing this, but it drives me crazy.

Grace can put on all of her clothes herself now, but sometimes needs help with her shirt. She loves to cook and we are getting close to being able to do some independent food prep, such as pouring cereal or milk. Grace can empty the silverware and kids dishes all by herself from the dishwasher and helps me move clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. She also wipes down the kids' table after moving the dishes to the sink.

She wears size 3T but I've moved her up to 4T since her sister is fast on her heels. She wears size 8 shoes. She is long and skinny.

She is still my Gracie girl and I love to cuddle her post nap time and tell her she is my first baby!


Oh, Sophia. My little nugget. She is so gosh darn cute. She has a great little voice and talks all the time. She's my cuddly girl and loves to be in my lap, even if it has all but disappeared in these last few months of pregnancy.

Sophia turned two on September 29th and is approaching her half birthday.

She goes to preschool three, half days a week. She is one of the oldest in her class. She can recognize her name and loves to talk about her friend Jumaa, (who I have never seen her interacting with.)

She doesn't have time for eating. She'd rather be playing. She loves playing with our pretend kitchen, Legos, or picnic set. She plays for really long stretches by herself but she loves playing with her sister as well.

She has just figured out how to complete a 12 piece puzzle, with alot of assistance!

Sophia wears size 2T but will move into 3T as soon as we are done with our "winter" clothes. She is in mostly size 6 shoes but I just had to put away 3 pairs that were to tight on her, so size 7 is in our very near future!

Sophia was potty trained in about 3 days after Christmas. She has only had a handful of accidents outside of the home and loves wearing big girl panties like her big sister.

 Sophia naps in her old room but sleeps at night in our second crib in Grace's room. She says to me "no laughing, no singing," when we tuck her in, because she knows she is supposed to be quiet. We sing her the Doxology and Silent Night at her requests.

Sophia has much more of a temper than Grace has ever had. She gets angry and frustrated when she doesn't get her way. She shows alot more attitude, will cross her arms and pout, or say "I don't want to/I don't like it."

 Sophia loves milk. We finally had to cut her off at 2-3 cups a day because it was causing all sorts of attitutde problems if we didn't  get it for her when she wanted it.

She hates getting her hair brushed and loves putting on makeup with Mommy. She loves eating bananas, toast, eggs, and cereal. She is learning how to sort the silverware and likes loading and starting the dishwasher or dryer. Carrying in any grocery bag is immediately met with an "it's too heavy!"

Sophia loves Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and Caillou. She tolerates Grace's choice as well.

I'm so thankful for Sophia and how she is my cuddly girl

Monday, February 2, 2015

Well, That's New!

Last week, a friend invited me to go watch a tennis tournament final. 

Now, I'm not really a tennis watching kind of person. My (not so) vast knowledge of the game mainly stems from my childhood days of playing Tennis on our Super Nintendo and my college days of going to the court with my friends and pretending to know what we were doing. 

Ian and I played together at our first apartment when we were first married, but played is a really loose term. We didn't know the rules and pretty much just treated it as a gigantic ping pong match, let's be honest. 

So, when my friend invited me my first thought was one of reluctance. Then, when she told me it was at the palace and put on by one of the Sheikhas (princesses,) the decision was a pretty clear one for me. After all, it's not every day you get to go to a palace, right?

I mean, for a princess that is, but not for me! 
So off we went, nervously giggling as we passed through the front gate and drove around the palace grounds to a parking spot. We were directed to the tennis court and the grand stands that had been set up there. Ball girls dressed in sparkly hot pants escorted us to our seats and national flags and noise makers were distributed. 

The match started out with a laser light show (duh,) a helicopter fly over, and several patriotic clips. Nothing says Abu Dhabi like flashy and over done. I secretly love it. 

The players were introduced and the Sheikha who was playing came onto the court. She was modest and seemed humble. The match started and the ball girls brought out continuous stream of hot chocolate, cappuccinos, fries, popcorn, and donuts. 

I was really into catching up with my friend so I had to keep reminding myself to focus on the court! Ha. And who to cheer for? The choice seemed pretty straight forward. 

The princess, of course! 

She had put on this whole thing anyways. 

After three games (matches? I'm still not sure on the terms. But almost two hours later,) the princess and her doubles partner won the tie breaker and there was an awards ceremony. 

Afterwards, we were all invited down, out of the grand stands to a high tea served by a famous British tea house. At 10 pm. Why not? 

My friend and I came down off the stairs and a hostess happened to see me and my enormous belly and offered us one of the few seats. We munched on fresh scones, jams, macaroons, and a plethora of appetizers and sipped on fresh lemonade and Moroccan mint tea.  

All of this eating was going on while beautiful models in ball gowns were circling our tables, pausing to show off the diamond necklaces and earrings they were displaying for a famous British jeweler. 

Nothing like a nine month pregnant lady stuffing her face with scones and lemon curd while a rail thin, six foot tall model pauses next to you for admiration to make you feel like a whale. 

*crumbs fall out of open mouth*

Also, where are you supposed to look? I felt like I had to make and lock eye contact with them just so they know someone wasn't looking at just their jewelry or their dress. Like it was up to me to affirm each and every one of them as a human being. 

We toured the Sheikhas clubhouse then my friend ran back into the grandstand to grab five sets of clappers/noise makers for our kids. (Because we are classy like that.) She then shoved them all into my arms so she could go up the princess and thank her in person for hosting the event. All while I nervously giggled in the corner. 

It was a great night and I am so thankful for the experience of seeing another side of life and culture here! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Grace and School

Grace. There is so much to say about my sweet, spunky, three and a half year old. She's inquisitive, dramatic, extremely verbal, and loves books. She loves her friends and she is one hundred percent an extravert. She is happiest when we are on the go and around other people. She is emotionally and socially intelligent. She loves to be played with but hasn't quite yet discovered her imagination.

Most of all, Grace loves school.

Adores it.

And it looks like Grace and schooling will always be an adventure for us.

At four months old she had to attend a little local day care that had horrible health and safety conditions and I never felt a peace about taking her there. I had to though. I had one year left of my Arabic language program and, at the time, there weren't any other available options.

When we finished our studies and moved away, I was so glad to have her home with me and I loved (almost) every minute of it.

During that year, from the time she was 18 months to just shy of being 2 and a half, her personality really developed and I knew that she would love school and the classroom setting. She hated being home and she wanted to be around people (people, PEOPLE!) every minute of every day. And I wasn't quite cutting it. She didn't (and still doesn't,) have the best imagination and the ability to just play well with what's in front of her. She wants direction and guidance. Constantly.

When we went to the States, our church in Tennessee let Grace attend the half day preschool program there for free while we were in town. She was head over heels within days of starting. She talked about her teacher and her friends and even though they weren't really learning anything academic, her social and emotional skills really took off.

When we returned overseas in January of 2014, just shy of her third birthday, our lives were so upside down for so many months that there was no way we were starting her in school, or so I thought. But, through the grace of God, a spot opened up at a preschool that was most in line with what we would expect from a US preschool and we had many friends who recommended it. Grace went for the final term, April through the end of June, and was in class with her very best friend, three half days a week.

I loved it. Grace loved it. The break from each other was so good for both of us and gave me time to get things done with just one little one under foot. But I was heartbroken. There was no way we could afford it for another semester, not to mention another year. Plus, her preschool said that the next year Grace would only be eligible for their full week program, which we did not want to do.

The system here is so different. Grace would be eligible to start in KG1 (Pre K in the US, but here it is part 1 of kindergarten,) as a brand new 3 year old. She would be in full day class and her going to school would save her a spot in a reputable school. If I can be honest here, there was NO WAY we could afford sending her to private school (private schools are the only option here,) for two extra years before she even turned five and started what we consider kindergarten. Nor do I feel that full day schooling is best for little 3 and 4 year olds. The opportunity to play and rest when needed is very important for these little souls.

So the summer of 2014 I wrestled with what to do with Grace. How was she going to continue growing and thriving when I knew that a classroom situation is the best thing for her? I had no answer and felt no peace. I was a wreck. It really is a horrible feeling to know that there is a best thing for your child but that you can't provide that for them. It made me feel like I was back in language school and having to place her in a situation where I knew she would not thrive.

Then, two weeks before the school year started the preschool secretary emailed me and told me that they changed their policy. Grace could still go to a three day a week, half day program. And they had a spot for her. And they had a spot for Sophia on the same three days. Would I be interested?

Yes! Of course I was!

But how would we ever afford it?

Through providence alone, we received an equivalent to a language study grant so that I could continue in my Arabic studies for the semester. The money covered any childcare expenses so that I could study and talk with a local speaker in peace.

 I thought it would only be for the Fall semester and was torn because it would mean Grace would be home for a year and a half before eligible for US equivalent of Kindergarten here. How could I nurture and grow her in the way that she needed without running all over town to play dates?

Again, we were surprised when the grant came through again and we were given one more term of school. The girls both started at their preschool earlier this month for, what I considered would be, their last and final term that runs through March. We are praying for a miracle, that a grant would come through and that I could continue my language studies very soon after Luke is born, so that the girls could finish the school year out. Or we are praying for a large sum to somehow appear in our bank accounts, haha.

I would like to clarify that there is always the option to "Homeschool," Grace and Sophia.

At this time, homeschooling does not seem like the best choice for Grace. She needs the classroom structure and environment and she does better with someone else as a teacher. We are trying to reevaluate very often though, as I know this can change from one school year to the next, or even more frequently. We don't have the great co-op situations or classes that churches can offer in the States, and I do think that would make homeschooling more doable for Grace.

Sophia is still a big question mark. I think she could do well with homeschooling. And though she loves her teacher and classroom, her behavior is not as adversely affected when she is home all day with me. She is only two though, so we will see!

I also want to clarify something else: this was never, ever, EVER how I thought I would feel about schooling. I was infatuated with the idea of homeschooling before Grace came along. I loved it, researched it, and learned about it as much as possible. I knew all of the different curriculum and their pros and cons. I knew the different learning philosophies and models and I followed many people on their quest to homeschool. AND I was a certified Elementary educator with classroom experience. And I still loved the idea of homeschooling.

As an aside, I don't believe what us moms do at home (most of the time,) with our preschoolers, should be called homeschooling, but that just may be a game of semantics. I think that a mom, at home with her kids, teaching them things, creating with them, and playing with them, is just being a great mom! My mom taught me to read at home before kindergarten and it was never considered "homeschool." There are always those cases where the planning and time going into it would be equivalent to a K-12 grade homeschool day so I am not discrediting anyone who feels that is what they are doing. Like I said though, just semantics and just my opinion.

That being said, I DO supplement with an at home reading curriculum and we LOVE it. We use All About Learning's Pre-Reading program with Grace (and Sophia is often in the room,) and she does so well with it. The lessons are quick, easy, and foundational. I love seeing Grace progress through some important pre reading skills in a fun and engaging lesson with ME as her teacher!

Whenever we finish and look forward to the next school year, 2015-2016, when there are no more preschool options, we will move onto their reading curriculum.

Was that confusing enough? Did I lose some of you when I said it shouldn't be called "homeschooling," before kindergarten? In the end, it's all about doing what is best for each and every one of your own children. Grace's situation has been back and forth, with having to come to a crossroads every 3-4 months, but we are so thankful that the opportunities that have been placed in front of us! We will take any changes in our own plans and ideas with as much grace, humility, and patience as possible. If there is anything I've learned over the last 6 plus years it is that my own plans for things never turn out the way I want them to!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Life Lately

It's a Saturday night here. The girls have been in bed since before 7, thanks to a long day at the waterpark. Ian and I skipped the laborious process of cooking dinner and washing dishes to instead have a snacking dinner while watching Parks and Rec. My favorite meal of late has been oatmeal, apples, cinnamon, and frozen (thawed,) blueberries. I can eat it several times a day if necessary.
Life lately has been...busy, full, and tiring.

Busy because our normal routine has extra doctor appointments thrown into the loop as the pregnancy progresses and Ian's work load means that any "honey do's" are slipped in on weekends or evening after the girls are down. His to-do list lately has looked like this:

  • Get rid of the pigeons that are plagueing my life (I HATE pigeons. Birds in general, but pigeons especially.)
  • Fix everything that is falling apart.
  • Pressure wash the outside before the heat sets in (it's coming, it's coming!)
  • Build a fence so that our back garden is enclosed and so that we don't have another stranger walking into my house and standing in the kitchen with me while I'm cooking dinner. Good times.
The girls get to go to preschool three half days a week and I find myself cramming in as much as possible during those three precious hours. Can I go to the grocery store, meet with my accountability partner, and study Arabic all while fighting my way through crazy Abu Dhabi traffic? Or should I drop the girls off and sit in the car in the parking lot for the next three hours trying to get some decent studying in? Or should I commute home and get in an undisturbed 2 hours of cleaning before commuting back to their school? Decisions, decisions!

Full because we are over committed to many different things. I study Arabic, partially homeschool the girls (though I hate that term for preschool,) lead a women's Bible study, host a small group/house church, teach Sunday School for 4-5 year olds,  and maintain some sanity to our household on my own (a rare thing over here, where most people have hired help with cleaning or childcare.) All on top of other expectations and responsibilities. It's very full but also very fulfilling. We are constantly having to sort out the good things from the best things.

Tiring because I am in the homestretch of this pregnancy! I struggle with insomnia with my pregnancies and I am ready for this phase to be over. Though I am totally aware that I will just be rolling right into the newborn, no sleep phase, from my pregnancy, insomnia no sleep phase. Ironic as my relief and hope might be, I cling to that change that might mean I will at least get to cuddle a precious baby during those long night hours instead of sit silently in bed and hope that sleep will come.

Despite it all, this is looking to be a really great year for us. It will be the first year in almost FOUR years where we haven't had a major move or transition, except for the arrival of Luke next month. We don't have much planned into the year and plan on being here, mentally and physically, as much as possible, instead of always looking forward to a big, upcoming event.

That's life lately for us. It might not paint a very detailed picture but it's at least an overview of life. Busy, full, tiring, and HOPEFUL!