Sunday, April 6, 2014

31 Weeks

First and foremost, a very happy birthday to my beloved Mother!  She is my role model of a selfless, committed and dedicated parent and daily showers me with unconditional, relentless love.  I could not be more blessed to have her presence in my everyday life.

31 Weeks:
This week marks 31 weeks, just over 2 months to go.  Baby girl is 16 inches long, weighs about 
3.3 pounds and the size of a coconut.  She is apparently heading towards a growth spurt in the coming weeks; all her vital organs are developed and now all she has to do is plump up a bit before delivery.
Baby girl is moving like crazy, often keeping me up at night and reminding me of her presence all throughout the day.  Here is a comparison of me with Kip at 31 weeks:
 How am I Feeling?
I'm feeling just okay.  My legs look battered and bruised, they swell and are painful.  My iron stores bottomed out a few weeks ago, providing an answer for my endless fatigue and constant sleep.  But I've learned to rely on God's strength and power to get me through each day.  And He has been faithful, giving me grace and power everyday.

I'm sleeping great, other than the pesky heartburn that comes about each morning around 2am. I still think nap time should be a requirement for all pregnant mamas.

Maternity Clothes?
Of course.  I'm trying to make some of my normal sweaters and shirts work with my growing belly but maternity clothes fit so much better.  Not to mention Braydon's old tshirts and sweatshirts make great maternity wear.
Food Favorites or Aversions?
I'm not a fan of most meat except chicken and tuna fish, still grossed out by pasta sauce, chili and any sort of casserole.  Loving protein smoothies, yogurt, bananas, orange juice and I'm obsessed with cottage cheese and edamame beans (not mixed together).

We've narrowed down to a few names and likely won't choose one until we see our baby girl's little face; however, we do have one name that stands out.  But for now our lips are sealed.

Miss Anything?
 Going for walks and having energy during the day.  Eating all the tuna fish and sushi that I crave.  Being able to hold Kip and still be comfortable.  Oh and a Blue Moon sounds pretty good as the weather is warming up and the grill is going strong.
Best Moments of the Week?
Kip would say swinging outside in the sunshine, laughing with Great Grandpa Hy, exploring the yard and tool bench with dad, eating popcorn and peanut butter pancakes for every meal, building forts and learning to carry Tiger all on his own.
I'd say quality time with Braydon over the past few weeks.  We are involved in a parenting small group, a Christian finance program and have found more time to simply enjoy one another's company and blend lives before our second little one makes an appearance.
 Looking Forward to?
Hopefully a couple more months of resting and relaxing as much as possible.  And spending some sweet and intentional time with Mr Kip; soon he will no longer be my one and only child.  And of course, we can't wait to meet our little girl and have her complete our family.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A day in the park

 The Andrews household faced its fair share of ailments this winter.  From fevers, fifth disease and colds to back pain, anemia, blood clots and leg pain, all three of us have come down with at least a few conditions that tucker us out and bring us down.
We've done our best to stay positive, enjoy our time together and support one another in times of need but last week we decided we needed to do something about it all.
So just like any sane person, we dropped everything, took a day off from work and from daycare and headed to the Mall of America.  
In no way did our expedition to Nickelodeon Universe and Chick-Fil-A treat our colds, heal our bodies or give us much needed rest but it brought some light hearted joy and happiness to an otherwise dreary few months.
Kip got an all day pass to the amusement park and couldn't get enough of the rides.  Hot air balloons, a rotating bus, crazy cars, a mini roller coaster, flying blues clues, the carousal, a cho cho train, and semi-trucks....Kip didn't do them just once but two or three times each.  He ran from ride to ride, laughed so hard and kept a dimply smile from ear to ear the entire time.
Not to mention, we were super healthy too....first some frozen yogurt, second a hand-picked cookie and third a final stop to chick-fil-a.

Kip was asleep by the time we left the parking lot and we were all snoozing shortly after returning home.  Sometimes you need a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a day to regroup as a family, bond over silly things and get back to laughing no matter the circumstance.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Paul's Story

Paul's Story
Please click here to watch Paul's 5 minute Faith Story.

"God will determine how long I am going to live and the day I will die.  And I'm okay with that.  I am dying of cancer, I don't know when the end will be or how it will present itself, but I'm at peace with it, in fact I'd have to say I'm actually looking forward to it.  Because I know Jesus has died for my sins, that he's washed them away and I have a relationship with God, and that's what its really all about."

Braydon and I first met Paul while we were house hunting.  People encouraged us to meet the neighbors of a prospective house and get a feel for the neighborhood and the people that may surround you.  We met Paul while he washed his car, his disposition was sweet, mild and humble.  He answered our questions, addressed our concerns and gave us a peace about what would become our future home.

Over the next few months, we immediately found common ground with Paul and his wife Nancy.  Both were strong Christians, attended a similar church to our own and Nancy was a fellow nurse, animal lover, crafter and athlete.  We immediately had a connection with this couple and were both blessed by our budding relationship (not to mention their relentless generosity).

Within weeks of our move-in Paul mentioned a suspicious, concerning abdominal pain.  Upon scans and further investigation Paul was diagnosed with a liposarcoma tumor and ultimately had a grapefruit sized tumor removed from his abdomen.
In an abbreviated version, Paul went on to have drains placed, IV nutrition, intestines blocked, more surgery, a kidney removed, daily radiation, unknown fevers/infections, more surgery, intra-operative radiation, all with his 18 year history of multiple sclerosis.  (To see Paul's full story, visit his wonderful caring bridge website, here).

God has a way of specifically intertwining lives, molding situations and being present amidst the most difficult circumstances.  Within weeks of Paul's diagnosis, he was assigned as my patient on the hospital's oncology floor. Nancy and I frequently conferred on his medical situation and with God's help he was assigned to an oncologist I entirely recommend, respect and admire.
Throughout his journey Paul remained faithful to God, he trusted God's ultimate plan and desire for his life. 
Two and a half years after Paul's initial diagnosis, the cancer returned, it was deemed inoperable and untreatable.  

One Sunday evening last winter I walked over to Paul's home and explained hospice.  It was a calming experience with an uncanny peace.  Paul was encouraged by hospice the services and quickly enrolled in the program.
Over the past 6 months Paul has remained in our hospice.  From time to time he is my hospice patient and blesses me with the opportunity to care for him.  He is peaceful, accepting and entrusts God with his all life.  Despite his mild demeanor, Paul is loud in his faith.  He is constantly sharing his faith, leading others to their own and listening to God's ultimate plan for his life.  We do not know how or when Paul's life will end, we do not know what it will look like or how it will feel, but Paul is at peace, he trusts the Lord and is looking forward to the day he dies and enters Heaven.

"Learn from my experiences, don't wait, get out there today.  Spread God's word, spread the gospel. Spread God's love for you and every one that you meet, look for those opportunities to share with people. And trust in the holy spirit to give you the words to say.  But don't wait, do it now."
-Paul Schmidt

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

26 Weeks

 This week marks 26 weeks, the last week of the second trimester.  Baby girl is about 14 inches long and 1.75 pounds, about the size of a rutabaga.  She's developed senses to hear and is inhaling and exhaling small amounts of amniotic fluid.
Baby girl is moving all the time, she's kicking, turning and keeping me well aware of her existence.  I'm sleeping great but am getting pretty tired during the day.  The pain in my legs returned full force and the bruising and veins are looking like something scary out of a medical text book; my midwife continues to say they are the worst she's seen.  The pain culminated into a trip to emergency room with a scare of a blood clot in my calf, fortunately everything came back negative.
But baby is growing great and looking as healthy and beautiful as ever.  We love dreaming about her name, what she will look like and the days ahead of being a family of four.  Big brother is more fun, energetic and hilarious than ever.  We've dived into parenting full force and are learning valuable lessons everyday.
 The past few weeks our family experienced some medical hardships, my grandfather (Kip's great grandfather) who lives independently and otherwise is quite healthy sustained a significant heart attack.  He had a number of stents place and is now home recovering.  
We celebrated a low key birthday for Grandpa Bruce (my dad) at our house.  Kip loves his Grandpa Bruce and it was the perfect, quiet evening to celebrate a special man in all of our lives.  Grandpa Bruce had two major heart attacks 15 years ago so the timing of Great Grandpa's heart attacks and Grandpa's birthday made us all especially grateful for our health and days together.
The snow and cold continue in Minnesota, Kip is tolerating the wicked winter weather in true Minnesotan fashion.  He loves putting on his snow pants, shoveling the snow and exploring the outdoors. Then he comes inside has hot cocoa with whip cream in his sippy cup and falls asleep cozied up by the fire.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What I've Learned as a Hospice Nurse

 I'm a firm believer that your work shapes your values, your character and your foundation in life.  Whether you are a business man, a student, an athlete, a CEO, a stay at home mom or a retired professional, your day to day work is central in molding who you are and who you become.
The past five years of nursing have encouraged me, challenged me and humbled me more than I ever fathomed possible.  There are so many lessons I've learned and values I've inherited from my patients and at the end of the day, these values shape my mothering, my role as a wife, a friend and a follower of Christ.
1. Acceptance
Accepting people where they are at.  It sounds so simple but is so difficult.  Hospice nursing teaches me  not to default to my own opinions.  Everyone's idea of progress, hope, life and living looks and feels so different.  One person may choose to pass away receiving CPR another may die peacefully in their home, some want no one present and others want every family member, and its all okay.  
2. Humility
I've learned to sit back and be quiet.  To listen and speak carefully.  Not to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind but instead find intention in my words and my actions.  I've learned that saying less is saying more and often just listening is enough.  This doesn't always come naturally, but as I humble myself there is more time and energy for others.  Often its when I'm quiet that others are loudest in their emotions and feelings.
3.  Balance
Laughter and tears often come in tandem.  We have moments where we break down and cry, next to moments with uncontrollable laughter.  We are made with a wide spectrum of feelings and emotions.  The dying process often exposes us to all of them.  We must balance our thoughts of disparity with feelings of pleasure.  Its why we encourage music and massage therapy in addition to grief support and Chaplin visits. Hospice teaches us to feel at all levels and to find that balance between the laughter and tears.
4. Honesty
It's easy to say, "it's okay" and "you'll be alright," but what do you say when that isn't the truth?
How do you tell someone they are dying but still maintain a sense of hope?
I've learned honesty is necessary but it requires preface and follow up.  Honesty requires commitment.  We must say the truth but also be ready to provide a shoulder to lean on.
5. Ask for help
We tell our families no one care for a loved one alone, you need a support system, you need a break.  In order to care for someone else, you must care for yourself.  Whether its holding a hand, preparing a meal or running errands, we cannot do it all alone.  We were given other people in our lives for a reason, we must learn to rely on them and ask for help.
Why share these values?
Because we spend so much of our lives working.  And even in the most routine tasks, our job molds us into who we are, what we feel, how we act and who we become.  The same honesty, acceptance and humility from my work transcends into my life as a Christian, mother and a wife.  
When we take time to notice how the work and people in our lives shape us, we learn about ourselves.  We learn why we struggle in certain areas and excel in others.  We grasp how we are influenced each day and why we act and feel the way we do.
We gain a broader awareness when we examine our surroundings, we learn what has shaped us in the past and what will mold us into the future.
"I don't like work, but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself.  Your own reality--what no other man will ever know.  They can see the mere show but can never tell what it really means."
-Joseph Conrad

Monday, January 27, 2014

22 Weeks

 How Far Along?
This week marks the start of baby's 23rd week.  The photo on the top left is baby at 18 weeks and the right is at 22 weeks.  She is 11 inches and almost 1 pound, about the size of a spaghetti squash (that photo looks a little large to me...).

How Am I Feeling?
So much better!  A huge thank you goes to all the people praying for this baby and I!  We had a little scare a month ago with another blood clot in my leg but since then I've had an amazing turn around.  Thanks to some creative suggestions by my midwives and a lot of prayers, I've really been feeling great.  The combination of  holistic medicine, excercise, compression stockings, witch hazel and arnica cream have made me feel like a new person.

I had a feeling this little babe might be a little lady...more nausea, carrying differently, having baby girl dreams,  and everyone saying it was a girl...but Braydon and I wanted to find out for sure.
I will never forget laying at our last ultrasound and pointing out to the tech that indeed I was having a girl.  I can't wait to add a little lady to our family, and Braydon will admittedly say he's excited but a bit nervous....dolls, dresses, boyfriends, teenage emotions, weddings....are just a few thoughts running through his mind.

Cravings or Aversions?
 I'm absolutely obssessed with one of our local restaurants and have loved it ever since it opened in Linden Hills (now located at 50th and France in Edina).  But this pregnancy has brought my love for 'Rice Paper' to a whole new level.  I honestly crave their spring roles, amazing salads and flavorful main dishes everyday. I would go there for every single meal if I could.  
I'm also loving smoothies, yogurt, grapefruit, bananas, trail mix and chocolate milk.
 I'm not feeling fish, chili, anything with tomato sauce, and anything with a lot of meat.

What Am I Reading?
 I've recently read 'Final Gifts' by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley and 'Redeeming Love' by Francine Rivers.  Final Gifts is a book full of testimonies written by families and hospice nurses encountering loved ones at the end of life.  The true stories emphasize the critical need to listen to those who are dying.  Even in the midst of a cloudy haze or a state of confusion, the dying have powerful and meaningful words.  Those who are dying often possess a final gift to their loved ones, whether in words, actions or metaphors, we must listen attentively and act accordingly in order to honor their final wishes.
Redeeming Love is a widely popular Christian fiction novel based on the biblical story of Hosea.  Its a powerful testimony of God's everlasting, constant love for those who believe in Him.

Best Moments?
 Playing outside with Kip is awesome.  He is loving the snow and sledding all over the yard.
  Kip's daycare coincidentally had 'beach day' on our last -20 degree day.  They donned their swimsuits with the heat turned up to 80 degrees in their classroom.  He had a blast building sandcastles, laying on beach towels and going fishing in a baby pool.

Looking Forward To?

 The weather warming up enough to go skating, make a snow fort and enjoy all the snow we've accumulated.
Kip is getting ear tubes placed tomorrow and we're all looking forward to no more ear infections and full nights of sleep (knock on wood!).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

18 Months

 Our 18 Month Boy
Kip Carlson Andrews
26 pounds, 55th percentile for weight
95th percentile for height
60th percentile for head circumference
Bubble, ball, mom, da (dad), quack, woof, roar,  yes, no, hi, bye
First word: Bubble

Favorite Foods:
Honey yogurt, popcorn, fruit/veggie pouches, granola bars, ice cream sandwiches, almond/peanut butter (by the spoonful), pancakes, ritz crackers, cookies of any sort.
Kip is quite the picky eater and has a repertoire of about 10 foods he'll eat, anything else gets fed to the dogs. 
 Kip is a great sleeper at night, he usually goes to bed around 6:30pm and wakes around 6am.  We are usually out of the house by 7am so his schedule works well.  Naps typically  in the car or on the go, he doesn't love napping in his warm, cozy, crib.
 Security Item:
Kip loves his blue truck blanket and will drag it all around the house.  As always, he hoards his pacifiers and must go to sleep with one in his mouth and at least one in both hands.  
 Favorite toys:
Doctor's kit/stethoscope, magnetic board on the easel, touch and feel books, anything with a hammer, push a long duck.
 Favorite Activities:
I always thought all boys were obssessed with trucks and tractors, not the case with our little boy. While Kip's taste may change its been fun watching him develop and grow.
Kip loves playing with the dogs, coloring, running around, playing hide and seek, dancing to music and reading any books with animals and sounds.

Kip attends a Christian daycare three days a week and thrives in the routine and social setting.  He runs into his classroom each morning and squeals with delight to see his little friends.  His teachers describe him as social, sweet, sensitive, and notoriously known for dumping out all the toys once they've been put away.  
Braydon and I have started to build a community at his daycare.  We have dinner each Wednesday night at the church and have built relationships with many of the families. 
 The Low:
 For the past 4 months Kip has recurrent ear infections.  The little guy has gotten pretty sick and miserable, we go in soon to an ear specialist to see if he's a candidate for ear tubes.  Unfortunately Kip has become quite famous at our local clinic.

 The High:
So much.  Everyday is an incredible blessing with this little man.  Watching him laugh, smile, learn and grow has melted and molded our hearts.  
Some of our favorite recent memories are surprising Kip on Christmas morning with a bounce house in our basement, a spontaneous visit to Nickelodeon Universe, sledding in the backyard, and being on the receiving end of his great hugs and kisses.