Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lewis Family Third Annual Art Party

We hosted our Third Annual Art Party on June 25th, the Saturday smack between Girls' Camp and our flight back to the States. This year it was all watercolor themed. I had purchased some liquid watercolors and wanted to try them out (btw-they are awesome, but probably easier to use in smaller groups).

First, we dyed white large table napkins. They kids had lots of fun choosing colors, though I wish we had pre-folded and rubberbanded all the napkins.


Then we did "Watercolor Science." We gave the kids crayons, salt, and liquid glue to use to manipulate their watercolor painting. It was really interesting to see the effects...and the spills!




And last of all we decorated cupcakes! And promptly consumed them. This was probably their favorite part.









Monday, July 18, 2016

Caleb's Birth Story


This is the longest I've taken to write a child's birth story. Sweet, chubby Caleb is now four months old, so I'd better do it before I forget too much more.

The "birth plan" I had discussed with the midwives and OBs at Yokosuka Naval Hospital was to try for a VBAC, but have a C-section schedule for March 14th (Pi Day!) should labor not start on it's own before then. My due date was March 12th, but, this being my third baby, I knew that meant very little. Still, I was past uncomfortably pregnant and I just wanted to be done. I had an appointment with Dr. Iannitto on Friday, March 11. I had been have some pretty regular contractions, but nothing nearly painful enough to start considering labor. She did a pelvic exam and stated that I was about 3-4 cm dilated, and I retorted that since it was my fourth baby I'd probably been 3 cm since conception. But she also said my bag of waters was bulging so much she was tempted to break it, but didn't want to have to make the corpsman clean it up, which we both laughed about. Instead she did a fantastic (read painful) job of stripping my membranes and said she'd let Labor and Delivery know that I'd probably be in that night. 

I had a lot of errands to run after my appointment, mostly buying food so that there would be plenty in the house for whether the baby was born that weekend or by the scheduled c-section. I was pretty optimistic though as my contractions strengthened during all my walking. I went home where my mom was watching Wesley and Clara  and told her about the visit and we were both hopeful. I think I may have napped, I don't remember. I also think I picked up Ellie from school. I kept track of when contractions started on my phone. I do know that  I called Ben after school was done and told him to come home in a timely fashion as I thought we'd be taking a very romantic trip to the hospital that night. I finished packing a hospital bag and made dinner. 

Ben came home and we ate and chatted and my contractions were slowly, but steadily getting stronger. We put the kids to bed and headed to the hospital. At the hospital the doctor on duty was the only one in the office I hadn't yet met-but of course. But Dr. Cheng was professional and kind. But he checked me and said I hadn't really progressed, and told us to go walk around and come back in a few hours. So we walked over to the theater and fixed some training wheels for Ellie. Then we walked to the NEX and purchased a few things, mostly some snacks for Ben since he knew it was going to be a long night. Then we drove over to the gym because it was just really cold outside. We walked around in there, then out by the softball and baseball fields where some games were taking place. We chatted with Brandon Casperson, who was watching his daughter play softball. Ben chatted with some other teachers he saw. We waved hello to Sierra Williams and Maddie Battle, two awesome drama students on the softball team. We walked back inside and continued doing laps round the gym. We measured how tall we were on a thing in the hallway (Ben is just shy of 6'2" and I'm just shy of 5'9"). During all the walking we'd pause every few minutes as I would work through a contraction. At one paint I was leaning against a wall and swaying through one as a student approached Ben and said hello and asked if I was okay. Ben said, "She's fine. She's just working through a contraction." I think that really startled the boy and he he took off. I guess you don't expect someone to be so nonchalant about labor!

About 9 pm I decided I was done and that I was checking into the hospital to have this baby or so help me! We went back and the doctor agreed I was truly in labor. I think he was possibly more antsy to have the baby than I was, or at least he wanted it done by the end of his shift at 8 am. I knew I wanted an epidural since it was possible I'd need a c-section, so they also put me on a very low dosage of pitocin to speed things up (I told you the doctor was antsy). I must have been dehydrated from all of my walking because the nurses had a devilish time getting a IV line in. I've got great, huge veins, but apparently they are also full of valves. The third site finally took, and I had amazing bruises to prove how difficult it was the next day. 

I labored and rested for the next several hours. I honestly don't remember much of it. I know the doctor broke my water to speed things along at some point, and it was quite bulging. I was finally ready to push sometime  around 4 am. I pushed, but I could tell I just didn't have the same energy. I was worried I wasn't strong enough to push him out., but mostly I was worried he'd have his head turned to the side like all of my other babies and I literally wouldn't be able to push him out due to size and positioning. We tried lots of different positions, and finally found one that was a good fit. I loved my nurse, by the way, even though I can't remember her name. But as I passed the two hour mark of pushing I began to lose hope. The doctor came in and suggested we try the vacuum, as both he and the nurse thought there was something funky happening since the baby's pulse started dropping when I would contract and push. Nothing serious, but something that definitely need watching. The nurse thought perhaps the cord was around his neck, but I just knew that his head was to the side. All of my other kids were the same. I'm convinced I have something funky happening physiologically that makes all of my kids asynclitic

So on went the vacuum and I pushed, and off it popped with the doctor tried to pull. And it did so rather dramatically. I was so swollen from over two hours of pushing that when it popped off it tore some of tissue and cause blood to spatter everywhere, on me, on the nurse on the doctor, on the floor, on Ben, and most dramatically, on the ceiling. It was pretty impressive. After that we all agreed that this baby would be born by c-section. The doctor tried to stitch up the tear, but it just kept ripping because it was so swollen that he finally just packed me with gauze for now. Papers were signed and my epidural was turned up and Ben prepped for surgery and off we went. And I was at complete ease with all of it. I knew that I had truly done my best and that this was okay, and that was really important to me. I had wanted a vaginal birth, because I didn't fancy the idea of recovering from a c-section again, but I just knew that this was right.

It's a strange sensation to feel your numbed body be dissected and tugged at until the small, perfect, wriggly little human emerges from you. I heard him cry first, a cry that both soothed my soul and enlivened it with instant love. But seeing Caleb in all of his chubby, crying glory was another small moment of perfection and triumph, despite my strange bodily sensations. Thankfully, there was no cord wrapped around his neck. He was just asynclitic and not happy about being pushed down my birth canal in such an uncomfortable position.

Ben watched Caleb while the doctor stitched me up, both my stomach and my vaginal tear. My epidural was wearing off and I was feeling more than I really wanted to, but I was thankful that I didn't have to puke like I did after Wesley's birth. I also didn't have the shakes as bad.



Caleb was born at 7:35 am, on his due date, March 12, 2016. He weighed in at 9 lbs 12 oz, and was 21 inches long. He had a surprising amount of hair and it was pretty dark, even redder than any of our other kids. He was loud, just like our other kids!

After I was settled in the recovery room I held and nursed him to my heart's content. Just like his brother, he was a champion nurser from the get go. I also had one of the quickest recoveries that the nurses there had ever seen. I give absolute credit to the exercising I had done during my third trimester to help control my gestational diabetes. It became clear to me pretty quickly that my physical recovery from this cesarean would go much more smoothly that my previous one.

Ben brought my mom and the kids to visit their new brother that afternoon. They did the birthday dance for him. It was so sweet to see each of my babies love on their new brother.


We spent two days in the hospital and took Caleb home on Pi Day, complete with all of us wearing our Pi Day shirts.

The next few weeks were spent sleeping, eating, and taking pictures of sweet Caleb. At his two week appointment Caleb was weighing in at over 11 lbs, so clearly all of this relaxing was paying off for him.

Ben's Dad flew in the weekend of April 3, on which Sunday we blessed Caleb in church. I was so grateful that both my Mom and Don were able to be with us on that special Sunday. They both flew back home early Tuesday morning.


And just like that we were a family of six.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thoughts on Home

I've been thinking a bit about our time here in Japan. We've been here about four and half years now, longer than most people associated with the naval base here where Ben words. We came here pretty naive about what we were getting into. But it has turned out to be far more wonderful than we could have imagined. We've made many friends, seen many move in and move out. We've experienced a massive earthquake, and ensuing nuclear threats. We've added two kids to our family and a whole lot of chaos. We've become expert video chatters with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. And we are seasoned airport security navigators.

 When we first moved here we thought it would be for just a few years to save up money and then we'd head back to the States and settle down somewhere. But it quickly became clear to us that we would stay in the DoDEA school system until Ben retires. There are many things that we love about it. The hardest is being away from family, but we have technology to thank for keeping us connected.
Sakura 2012-We missed 2011 because Ellie and I left after the Tohoku Earthquake on Mar. 11, 2011

When we go back to the States to visit someone invariably asks us when we are moving back "home." The truth is, we already live at home. Right now for us Yokosuka, Japan is home. We are together as a family, and we know that we are where the Lord wants us to be, so that is home.
Sakura 2013

Something my wonderful mother taught me at a young age was that it was my choice to be happy where I was in life. We love our choice to live here. We love the people we know that are here as expats like us. We love the Japanese people. We love driving on the left. We love taking trainsWe love sorting our trash in to 5 different bins. We love being associated with the military. We love working with the high school kids. We love our church family. We love the torii gates and shrines and the ocean and the green hills and the proliferation of hydrangeas and cherry trees. We tolerate the humidity ;).

Sakura 2014
There are times when we have ached to be with family, mostly on the happiest and the saddest days. But I've found that when we actively cultivate our own Christ centered home we find that our joy is amplified and our sorrows our soothed through the love we share for one another.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Eleanor's Biggest Owie to Date

Yesterday, Sunday morning was going along just fine (minus Clara waking everyone at 5:30 AM, but whatever). Ben had already left early for his meetings before church, and I had gotten the kids and myself dressed and fed and now we were just brushing our teeth before putting on shoes and getting into the car. Ellie turned to talk into her room and slipped in her little tights-clad feet and bonked her face (with toothbrush in the mouth) into her door frame. She started crying and it didn't seem like a big deal until we realized her mouth was bleeding. I figured she had bit her tongue and told her not to touch anything while I ran to get a wet rag (I didn't want blood on her favorite Sunday dress). I cleaned her up and then asked her to open her mouth so I could see where she had been bleeding from. She opened her mouth and I gasped. There was a big hole in the back of her mouth on her right side, right by where her jaw hinges together. I think I scared her with my reaction and she started crying again, holding the wet rag to her mouth. I said she's going to be okay, but we needed to go to the ER. She was devastated, and kept asking if she would still get to go to church; clearly she didn't want to miss Primary!
I tried calling Ben, but he was in ward council and didn't pick up. So I called the next person in my phone book that I knew would be there, and she did pick up. She passed the phone to Ben and I briefly explained what happened and asked him to meet me at the ER. Before stepping out the door I asked Ellie if she would like for us to say a prayer. She said yes, so I prayed asking for her to get better and be comforted and strengthened. Afterwards I took her sweet face in my hands and asked, "Do you believe that Jesus and Heavenly Father can help you?" And she replied, "Yes!" I told her that I did, too. And with that we got buckled into the car and drove down the ER on base.
It must be said that the bleeding had stopped pretty quickly, which was a huge blessing, and Ellie was so calm and brave the whole time!
So once at the ER, Ben took her in and I took Wesley and Clara to church, because heaven knows we didn't need the whole Lewis circus in the busy ER and I knew that Ben was more than capable.
Ben says everyone who looked at her mouth was surprised at how big the wound was, especially that a toothbrush could do it. It was pretty close to the jugular vein, so they did a CT scan to make sure there was no injury to it. Obviously, she need stitches but it was going to require knocking her out to do it. So they had to wait until 5 pm since she had eaten at 10:30.
After church, I came over with Wes and Clara, and when I walked in the room and asked her how she was i thought she was going to burst into to tears. So I came over and put my arm around her and told her how brave she had been and how proud I was of her. A brother from our ward (who also happens to be an anesthesiologist) came by and he and Ben gave her a blessing. We chatted a bit more, then I took the younger two home.

I think having unlimited access to the iPad helped ;)
She ended up needing 6 stitches, and stayed at the hospital overnight (mostly because she wouldn't take pain meds orally, so she was on an IV). I videochatted with Ben and Ellie after her "surgery." She did have to be knocked out and intubated, and her throat hurt really bad so it was hard for her to swallow and breathe.
Bless Ben, he spent the night in the hospital, brought her home just before 7 AM. He showered, dressed, ate and turned around and left for school. He's a champion!
So Ellie has never liked taking medicine, even the stuff now tastes way better than it did when I was a kid it seems like. And she still doesn't want to take any painkillers, which is fine. But I am making her take the antiobiotics because I refuse to deal with an infection. Bless her heart, she's asleep on my bed right now. She's been such a brave little trooper, I'm so proud of her and her sweet faith. And I'm sure she'll tell this story to her kids when they ask to hear "big owie" stories just like she asks me.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Remember When I Blogged?

Right...
That was before this happened
And that was SEVEN months ago. WHAT!?

Wesley has been determined to outpace his sisters in all his endeavors. He started by being bigger (much, much bigger, so big...). He cut his two bottom teeth at 4 months, and then the top two front teeth broke through at 6 months. He first rolled over (at his first modeling job for Combi Mini) at 2 months, but thankfully was not consistent at that until 4 months. But then he started scooching and army crawling at 5 months and now is a full fledged crawler. And a champion smiler.
He loves to get into his sisters legos and chew on them, to find paper and chew on it, to find clothes and chew on them.
Not to be outdone, the girls are also getting bigger and cleverer and funnier and lovelier everyday. Here's proof:
 It has been so fun to watch Clara blossom as she has learned to play more imaginatively. The other day while both Ellie and Wesley were napping, I was working on her quilt and she was "making me lunch." She narrarated the whole process for me and prompted me with my lines, which were generally saying "Wonderful, wonderful!" everytime she did something. Then we sat down together and had a lovely plastic and felt lunch. She loves her brother, but sometimes terrifies and terrorizes him with the intensity of her love. Most recently she loves to pretend that she is Ana, and Ellie is Elsa, and Wesley is Olaf from "Frozen." And she'll knock on the door and sing "Do you want to build a snowman?" It would melt my heart everytime, except when she does it during Wesley's naps and sings so loud in the genkan (entry) that sometime she wakes him up.
Ellie's getting so big! Literally, the little skinny-minny's legs are too long for the pants that fit her waist. Thankfully my wonderful mother taught me to sew, so I can cinch in her leggings so they aren't saggy (because nothing says fashion backward like saggy leggings). She continues to love to draw and dance and sing. She's nearly memorized "Let it Go" from Frozen and within the next few days she wants to record a video of herself singing it to share with her family and friends, so be on the look out for that (it's a sweet, hysterical thing to watch). She loves to make pictures to give to her friends and always wants to take cookies to our neighbors (whom we can't even communicate with!). She's taught herself to write all the letters and numbers and loves to have me spell out words for her to write down to make stories. The other day while I showered she had me spell out an entire story about herself as the fairy princess of Candyland who defeated the dragon that smashed her castle and the people's houses by cutting off his head, and afterwards she put the roofs back on the houses since she could fly. She also illustrated the book. I should scan it in...
But long story short, she's a clever cookie!
And then there's Ben, wonderful, hardworking Ben. Thankfully he's only doing one master's class this semester, but we are doing Drama Club. He continues to be the executive secretary in our ward and is an invaluable resource for the new bishopric (and me). I'm still the Relief Society president and I feel like it's all I can do to keep my head above water right now.
But we did get a babysitter for our anniversary and went to dinner (delicious tonkatsu) and saw "Saving  Mr. Banks" which was awesome.
Sadly, I cannot find a recent picture of us together...so here's one from our family photo shoot by our wonderful friend Rebekah Peterson:

6 years and three kids and 0 fights. I'd say we're doing pretty good.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Welcome Wesley!

We've added a prince to our princesses over here in Japan!
Wesley Brown Lewis joined our family at 11:14 pm on June 18, 2013. He weighed a whooping 11 lbs 5 oz and was 21.7 inches long. Like our other children, Wesley had to put a big show to come into the world, so if you want to know more about that, then read on.
 

 So this is me the day before my induction at 40 weeks 6 days pregnant.
 I definitely felt bigger (and was bigger) than I ever was with my girls, even though Clara was no small baby at 9 lbs even. They say that moms are the best judge of how big their babies are. I am clearly the exception. I thought Clara would be about the same as Ellie, maybe a little bigger at 8 lbs. But she was much bigger. So then I thought that this baby was definitely bigger than Clara, somewhere between 10 and 10.5 lbs. Obviously I was way off again.

I think my doctors would have induced me earlier because I was measuring so large, but I didn't ask for it because I wasn't keen on being induced and I was so convinced that because he was so big I'd go into labor early on my own. I had my membranes stripped three times without lasting effect, and I was getting increasingly frustrated because I would have regular contractions, but never strong enough, that would die out after several hours. Or I would have strong contractions that were irregular. Wesley was apparently facing posterior, so the midwife had me doing things to try and get him to face the right way. And my cervix was very posterior so his head wasn't putting pressure down on top of it. It was all so frustrating for me. I tried all kinds of things to make him turn and to increase the effectiveness, strength, and frequency of my contractions.

But most importantly I had Ben give me a priesthood blessing about a week before my due date. I felt a lot of peace in the Lord's counsel to be patient and know that I would have the strength to do what was necessary. It was also nice to hear that He was pleased with the way I had born my "afflictions" with cheerfulness (because sometimes I didn't feel very cheerful about how incredibly uncomfortable I had become by this point).

So my due date came and went and I had an appointment that Friday in which my wonderful midwife was shocked to still see me pregnant, as was everyone else in the OB/GYN clinic. She scheduled an induction for Tuesday. We went to the beach on Monday and it was wonderful to spend some time just having fun and being together as a family and not stressing about if I was going to go into labor or not.

Tuesday morning we arrived at the Labor and Delivery Ward at 8 am and waited for our consultation with the doctor on duty. (*quick note about how the hospital here works: you can have your maternity appointments with any of the doctors or midwives in the system-there are 5 or so I think, but when it comes time to deliver, you get whoever is on duty). Our bishop, who is a labor and delivery nurse though he wasn't on duty that day, came by after a meeting he had and assisted Ben in giving me a blessing. I was again reminded to be patient and that I would be given strength according to my faith in Christ.

Dr. Sischy (the only doctor I hadn't met yet, ironically enough), came in and checked everything out and advised cytotec first to get my cervix more into place. So we did that and waited 4 hours. I sat and rocked on the birthing ball to help get everything in place. I did squats. I When he came back we started pitocin, and the relatively regular contractions I was experiencing started to solidify and get stronger. I was excited. I labored on the birthing ball. I labored reading Harry Potter 4, and playing Candy Crush. I labored on my hands on knees on the bed. I started trickling amniotic fluid, so Dr. Sischy came back in and checked me. I was at a 5 and as he went to check Wesley's head, my water really broke. Then he stated that now I was a 6! Everything seemed to be going right on track. And dang, did my water break. As I sat up from the cervical check fluid just kept gushing. It was pretty impressive. Contractions definitely got a lot stronger at this point. A lot.

I had originally wanted to do this without an epidural because I had felt that with my previous two that the epidural combined with my lack of advocacy for myself and slowed down my labor before. But I felt that I needed to get one this time around. It just felt like the right choice. So in came the anesthesiologist. He said he was impressed with how I was handling labor, and that made me feel good. It was about an hour after the epidural was in that the new doctor on duty, Dr. Mullin, came in and checked me and said that Wesley's head was still a little high, but that I could start pushing. So push I did. And push and push. And after an hour she checked me again. He had descended, but his head was still turned and a little acynclitic (meaning that like Clara, his head was tilted to his shoulder). She felt that I could keep pushing and perhaps get him to descend far enough to use forceps or vacuum to turn his head and then he would deliver. So then we pushed on hands and knees (by the way, it is incredibly difficult to be on your knees when they are essentially numb). we pushed lying on one side, and then on the other. I really felt like we tried everything to help him turn and descend. I prayed everytime I pushed, telling the Lord I was doing everything I could and to please help me if this was the right option for Wesley's birth but that as far as I was concerned this was all in His hands.

When Dr. Mullin came back in she said he had moved down some, but not enough for an assisted delivery and that they were now concerned about shoulder dystocia because clearly this was a bigger baby than we thought. All things considered, we decided that a c-section was the best choice for a safe delivery for both me and baby Wesley.

I cried. I so did not want to recover from a c-section. But again, I remembered my blessing and I really felt at peace with it all. I knew I had tried everything, but that this was, quite literally, bigger than me.

 So began all the prepping for the c-section. Here is Ben in his "bunny suit" as they called it waiting to come into the OR. They get me all prepped for surgery, and upped my epidural and then Ben came in and sat by me, camera ready to capture our son's birth. Ben says it was really fascinating to watch Dr. Mullin cut me open, and I think it would have been cool to see, but probably not on myself. It was interesting enough to feel things being tugged around, but not having any pain. Then I listened intently as Dr. Mullin called for a stool, and apparently got up on the bed as well, trying to push Wesley's had back up into my uterus she could pull him out. She told me later that she thought she sprained her wrist trying to get him out. It was never frantic or scary, just that he was big. She said there was no way his head was getting through my pelvis. So out he came and after some coughs and suctioning he began to cry quite loud. I heard them announce that he weighed 5.125 kilos, and I knew immediately that he was over 11 lbs (we'd done the math earlier). We later found out that he currently holds the record for biggest baby born at this hospital in a very long time. I could look over and see him and as soon as he was breathing fine they brought him over for me to kiss while Dr. Mullin stitched me up (she did a fabulous job, btw).
 
 He was perfect
 
Bless Ben, I think he was almost as exhausted as I was.

 I had the shakes really bad coming down off the anesthesia. That was the worst. I vomited what little was in my stomach. But as soon as I was in the recovery room and the shaking had gone down, I was able to nurse sweet Wesley right away. And he took to it like a pro. He nursed for an hour and I was so content to just hold him. Everything after that was smooth sailing. Neither of us had any additional complications sometimes associated with c-sections and/or large babies.

Wednesday morning Ben went and got my mom and the girls. Ellie was so excited to see baby Wesley that she rushed into the room, right past him in his bassinet looking for him.



And so though it wasn't the birth I had imagined, and the time I had hoped for, it didn't matter in the end. Our sweet Wesley had arrived safe and healthy. And while recovery from the c-section has been no picnic, I'm so grateful for a body that heals quickly and properly and for the endless help and support I get from Ben.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sakura 2013

The cherry blossoms, or sakura, bloomed a bit early this year. So we headed out on a Saturday afternoon to have a picnic and take pictures before they all blew away and covered the ground in pinkish hued "blossom snow" as Ellie likes to call it.






  It was pretty chilly that day, but there were sticks to be collected so the girls didn't seem to mind.




And here's our cute family!

And our silly girls!


And a parting shot of this great daddy!

Oh, one more picture. It's not as pretty as it was in real life, especially since the day was very overcast, but here is the road we drive to go home.
We are so excited to bring in spring in such a beautiful way!