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Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Language Diaries- One and a half years

It's been a long time since I updated on my progress in learning Arabic. Mainly because when I am on the computer, the last thing I want to think about is the language. The last official update I gave was after the first three months and alot has changed since then.

In my second semester of Arabic, Ian and I were in a different class together. The institute split up the students into a class with prior experience and a class without. I fell into the latter and Ian fell into he prior category. But, since I was big ol pregnant and an emotional wreck, I asked for Ian to come with me into my class, mainly for emotional support.

Being the awesome husband that he is, he complied and was wonderful for me during those first 8 weeks before Grace was born. After her birth, I had 4 weeks of maternity before I started back to private lessons for the rest of the semester. The goal was to get me caught back up with my class so I could rejoin them in the Fall 2011 semester.

Just 4 weeks after starting back, I took the end of semester exams with my class, even though I had missed so much and hadn't even made up half of it. I didn't do well and barely showed any progress. But I pressed on and that summer I saw a great improvement in my understanding of the grammar and my willingness to try to speak, even if it meant failure.

Fall semester began our third term studying full time Arabic. Ian and I were in separate classes and I (shockingly) didn't mind and really enjoyed myself. I was in a class where I wasn't necessarily the slowest or the least informed, and, as the semester wore on, that became more and more apparent.

Nearing the end of the semester, the gap between the two halves of the class were rather wide. But luckily, several of the students left for private classes and several said that this would be their last term.

During this last semester, I really saw growth in my vocabulary base and my use of past, present, and future tense verbs. I still have these huge gaps in those areas, that would help my fluency tremendously, but I was happy with the progress I was seeing.

I also had alot of success with my cultural adaption. I just became alot more comfortable in my own skin in my new environment. It made me more relaxed when I was out in public, which, in turn, made me more at ease when using the language.

This past week we took our exams again, but this time, when I came out of my interview portion, I wasn't really kicking myself for any one thing (except using the verb "to dance," instead of "to run." my bad.) My results showed a HUGE leap in progress and I am on track with where I should be with my class. My written portion wasn't the best, but I think I just had a case of test anxiety/end of semester jitters, since the day before I had answered alot of those same questions with ease on our review. The written portion doesn't really bother me though, since the teacher still gave me good marks on my overall semester evaluation.

Ian, of course, did amazing, seeing as he is neck and neck with getting the best possible score you could ever get. It is very possible that at the end of neck semester, he literally gets a 100% on his spoken, pretty much meaning he is fluent.

It is hard to believe we only have one more semester of full time language study! I am so ready for this phase of life to be over and to get on with the real living like adults part of our life.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This Week

Where We've Been? Just here, in our house most of the time. Exciting, huh?

What have we been doing? Being entirely too wrapped up in final exams for our third semester of studying Arabic full time. That, and I can officially say, "Spring Cleaning, Check!"

Obviously, there hasn't been alot of blogging going on around here. That's because both Ian's and my laptop batteries died within the last month, making my computer time alot shorter than before.

Grace has been her adorably charming self. She's been teething and working on a yeast infection for he last 3-4 weeks (it's just awful, but hopefully we have her on the right medicine now,) but she is just infectiously fun (and infectious in other manners as well. Did you know yeast infections are contagious? Yeah. Now I know.)

Who are we with? As of right now? Just our little family. Alot of our friends are out of town or traveling during our between semester break right now. But, in just 24 hours, my parents arrive! I can't wait to give them both a huge hug and let them see their granddaughter for the first time ever!

When does life get back to normal? I suppose it depends on what you mean by "normal." We start back to school in two weeks, and will be beginning our fourth and final semester of language school. After that we'll be moving to a BIG CITY! We're pretty sure it is one city but it could possibly be a different one, so I'll wait to announce that until later.

Why do two weeks of vacation go by so much quicker than two weeks of work/study? And for that, I have no answer.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

For This Child I Prayed

What now seems like "long ago," was really just 2 years ago. We had been trying to get pregnant for six months with no progress. I was praying every day that God would bless us with a baby, and bought a baby shirt to hold as I prayed for a child. Something tangible to help me focus on what I was asking for.

2 years later and we have a 9 month old who finally fit into that shirt. As I looked back on my journal entries from those long months of waiting, it is so surreal to hold this precious bundle in my arms...

"I long to be a mother and hold my child in my arms."

"I desire to start our family, a family together."


"My whisper of a prayer to God is that He will bless us with a baby in His timing, instead of ours."


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Caught in the Act

Grace isn't quite to the age where she can get into actual "mischief," but the other day, when she started fussing in the family room, I came out to find this:

Poor baby girl! She had backed herself up under the couch and the flap came down leaving her in darkness. It actually took me a second to figure out where she was, ha! Only the good moms leave their babies there to get a camera and snap a picture, for their blog of course.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Accidental Breastfeeder

Early on in my pregnancy with Grace, I only had one dilemma. What to do about feeding a new baby?

Although I knew the benefits of breastfeeding, I wasn't one who was sold on the fact that it was the only way to get those benefits. I was bottle fed and I turned out alright!

All of the children that I babysat and and nannied for were bottle fed, and they were in good health and of average to high intelligence. I loved that I, as the babysitter, got to take part in their feeding routine, and, as a soon to be mom, I was hung up on the fact that Ian would have little to no part in the feedings if I decided to breastfeed.

I weighed the pros and cons, read alot, and talked to alot of breastfeeding advocating mommas. I still felt uneasy about it. It didn't seem natural. And every time I told someone that I thought it didn't seem natural, they would laugh and say "But it's the most natural thing you could do!"

All the same, it didn't feel right to me.

About 3/4 of the way through the pregnancy I realized one of my hangups was that I could somewhat picture nursing a baby boy, but nursing a baby girl (for whatever reason,) seemed really foreign to me.

As the pregnancy drew to a close, I decided that we would breastfeed.

I'm going to be honest, the winning point for nursing? Free baby food.

Grace was taken to the NICU right after she was born but, at my request, was not given any sugar water or formula. About 12 hours after she was born I got to nurse her for the first time and she latched on pretty well. The hospital didn't have any lactation specialists, but they did have tons of nurses who are moms themselves, so I had a constant stream of well meaning nurses checking Grace's latch and checking to see how much and how often she was nursing.

We went home and settled into a routine. I had to have a friend go over the border and buy some nursing bras, and Ian went over to border to buy the pump one day, but other than that, nursing was such a routine for us.

And you know what?

I loved it.

It was quiet and peaceful. It was convenient. It was a time of bonding. It was, well, free!

Through the next couple of months we had next to zero breastfeeding issues. The only two that came up repeatedly in my mind was how I was going to store up enough milk for when Grace started daycare, and how to be as modest as possible.

I'm going to step on a few toes with this, but I don't think breastfeeding in public is modest. I think that I want to teach my daughter that certain parts of our body are not meant to be seen by the general public, and that what we wear and how we act, even if we don't mean to, can make people think on and dwell on things that make them stumble.

Does that mean it shouldn't be done? No. I have nursed in public. Covered and as discrete as possible, but still in public. We traveled all over France that summer and it was necessary, but I never felt 100% okay with it. For me, the struggle was a good thing. It reminded me of why and how I want to display modesty for my daughter in the future. I want to always remember this realization I had about what modesty is and how we are called to look out for others thought and possible stumbling blocks.

After our whirlwind summer trip to France, we came back home, started Grace on solid food, got her to sleep through the night, dropped her night feed, my cycle returned to normal, and we started back to school, all within several days of each other.

From then on, my milk supply dwindled.

I could no longer pump and get even a half of an ounce.

Grace started nursing for shorter periods of times and was always hungry right afterwards.

She started eating a TON of solid food.

Then, just 4 weeks later, at her 6 months check up, her growth percentiles dropped from the 25th percentile to the 10th percentile. She had actually lost weight.

Poor baby was hungry and wasn't getting enough.

My doctor encouraged me to try to reestablish my milk supply and to keep nursing. He told me to keep my eyes on her growth and if I still felt things weren't going well, to start supplementing with formula.

So, for two months I increased my water intake. I took my prenatal vitamins. I slept more. I nursed more (or tried.) I pumped every night. I stopped sending pumped milk to Grace's school and instead used my lunch break to walk next door to her school and nurse her.

Still, it wasn't enough.

As we reached her 8th month mark, she was so tiny. She was so thin. She was SO hungry.

I reluctantly bought our first can of formula after being on the fence about it for several weeks. I sent her first formula bottle with her to school. Soon after, we added in her late afternoon bottle. Just days after, we switched her completely to formula. I would try to get her to nurse before and after a bottle, but she would only eat for 15-30 seconds, and that's not really eating.

On December 19th, 2011, we came home from school, changed out of our work clothes, and I pulled Grace close, one last time. The sun was streaming in through the window and she was being cuddly. I told Ian to snap a few pictures. Because, they say you always remember the firsts, but it is the lasts that slip by without notice.

I'll always love those pictures, because that was the last time she nursed. That afternoon when the sun was bright and the house was quiet. The hum of the AC's lulled us into relaxation and shortly afterwards, Grace slipped into a long nap. That afternoon was the last time this accidental breast feeder nursed her first born.

Just one month later, at her check up, Grace had put on nearly 2 and a half pounds. I am so happy with her growth and adjustment. Now, Ian and I can share in her feedings and snuggle together as a family. I can go out at night and Ian can put her down with out me there. The formula and bottles are so good but also such a mess. I dread bottle washing and dread even more the purchasing of the formula.

Would I have loved it if we could have nursed until her first birthday? Yes. Absolutely. That's how much I loved nursing.

Will she be the worse for the wear? No. She's brilliant. She's beautiful. She's just who God wanted her to be, so I'm really not worried about it.

Whenever baby number 2 comes around, we'll definitely breast feed, but this experience has reassured me that if there are any nursing issues, that the switch to bottles will be alright.

If I could give any piece of encouragement it would be this: try breastfeeding. Just relax and try it. If it is not for you, no problem. But, even if you couldn't before, or chose not to before, or this is your first time, give it a try. I have loved our experience with it and am so grateful for those still and quiet moments with my baby.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Nine Months, Grace!


Weight: 16 pounds no ounces
Height: 26.5 inches
Head: 16.5 inches

She's in the 10th percentile all around. My tiny baby girl may be small, but she IS growing, praise the Lord! She probably put on 2 of those 16 pounds, just in the last 3 weeks, since putting her on formula.

Clothes: Grace is STILL in 3-6 months clothes. I almost switched her up to 6-9 month clothes but didn't because 1.) my reason for doing so was because I was bored with her 3-6 months clothes and 2.) she doesn't actually fit in 6-9 yet. Poor small, petite baby!

Food: During her eighth month, I completely weaned Grace from nursing and started her on formula. It was a very easy process and she has adjusted well to the bottle and formula. Before the switch, Grace had dropped from the 25th percentile to the 10th and had actually lost weight. For the two months following that weigh in, Grace did not put on more than a pound or two. Grace was getting the majority of her calories from solid food, and only 1-2 oz per nursing session. She could put a way HUGE amounts of solid food, but when we switched to formula, she was suddenly getting the appropriate amount of calories from milk and stopped eating solids almost altogether!

She finally started eating some small amounts of food near the end of the month. I've been so happy with her weight gain though!

Sleep: Grace sleeps from 7pm until 7am, but the change to formula has also brought about a change in her sleep schedule. She started waking up around 3 very hungry. We give her a bottle and then she goes right back to sleep. She naps for 2-3 hours in the afternoon when we get home from school.

Activity: Grace has become so active this month! It's been interesting to see, when compared to other babies her age, how active she really is! She is constantly moving, constantly making noise. There is no snuggle and cuddle moments or fall asleep together. It is go, go, GO, until she falls into bed asleep.

She rolls all over the floor now and she has learned how to scoot on her belly, but only backwards. She learned how to pull her legs up underneath her and she rocks back and forth.

She learned how to splash in the tub, say ma-ma, ba-ba, and da-da.

She lifts her arms up to be held and she holds things out to you in an offer of sharing.

Personality: Grace has become very clingy during this month. She doesn't want us to be in any other room than the one she is in, when she is awake. She's also become quite the ham, loving to make people smile and laugh- I love this about her!

Likes: Grace loves it when we pretend to eat her play food.

*Her Pacifiers, *food, *naps, *bath time, *her feet.*

Dislikes:

*diaper changes, * being left alone, *being dropped off at daycare.*

Book of the Month: "The Very First Christmas," by Suzanne Berry (audio recorded my my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin!) and "Winnie the Pooh's Plan Bee," (audio recorded by Grace's Gammie and PaPaw, my parents!)

Song of the Month: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." This was Grace's lullabye during those long sleepless nights of her first couple of weeks. We say He's Got....Grace Madeline, Gammie and PaPaw, MiMi and Grandpa, the Mammas and the Papas, all the ______ fill in the blank with a nationality.....In His Hands! It's alot of fun to see what you can come up with.

Miscellaneous:

*Grace had her first "case of food poisoning on December 8th. Poor baby got sick in her crib, but after that she felt all better!

*Grace pulled up onto all fours on December 26th (I think.)

*Grace loves to have Ian run his finger up and down on her lips while she makes sounds (what is this called?)

*Grace said Ma-ma, Da-da very loudly!

Grace, my sweet baby girl. You are nine months old and so much is changing. You are on the brink of SO many new changes. I have a feeling teeth and hair are on the horizon and crawling is right around the corner (and then, that is where YOU will be!) I'm so excited to see how you change but I also want you to stay just as you are. I'm trying to cherish every smile and laugh you have to give to us.

Love,
Your Momma

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas 2011

Last year, Christmas of 2010, was our first Christmas all by ourselves. It was also our first Christmas on this side of the world. It wasn't bad, but it kind of felt just like any other day.

This year, although I wasn't as "festive in spirit," as I would prefer to be, we worked really hard to make Christmas Eve and Christmas day as festive as possible.

Christmas Eve we went out to the desert for our (now) annual Christmas Eve S'Mores with a bunch of friends. We made s'mores, sang carols, and drank wassail (another new Galloway tradition, since homemade eggnog does not taste as good and as smooth as store bought, and since we can't buy store bought here, wassail it is!)

We left around 6:30 to come home to talk with Ian's family via Skype. The whole crew was at their house and it felt like we were right there with them!

Grace went down by 8, and although we did not get to read the Christmas story like usual, she wore her cute peppermint/reindeer pajamas and we watched Elf after she went to sleep.

Christmas morning, we woke up and put Grace in front of the tree...
We usually do pajamas on Christmas Eve and stockings followed by presents on Christmas morning. This year, I bargained shopped over 6 months to find clearance gifts for Grace, and Ian and I only did stockings for each other, instead of presents also.
We listened to Christmas music, opened our stockings, and warmed up some of the 8 pans of PW's Cinnamon Rolls (another Christmas tradition!)
Then we skyped with my family! My sister and brother in law were with my parents in Tennessee and we got to watch them open their gifts we had ordered for them and they watched us open two packages they had sent.
Grace had a blow out diaper so we had to switch to Christmas outfit #2, which was in one of the packages from my sister. It says "For Santa, Not Daddy," ha!

The rest of the day was filled with Grace's naps while we ate, watched Nativity story, and played games. We opened Grace's 4 gifts from us throughout the day, but it was definitely a slow and relaxing day. Grace loved to tear the paper and chew on it. We had roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and green beans for our Christmas dinner.
Merry {belated} Christmas!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

33, 34, 35, 36

Grace baby is plowing her way through weeks. Here are her 33-36 week portraits!

Smiley baby! She loves it when the sun shines right into her eyes. Cracks her up. Strange baby!

Ha! For some reason, she wouldn't relax her face and she kept her eyebrows raised the entire time the hat was on!

First experience with spaghetti. I'd say this was relatively clean, wouldn't you?

This might be one of my all time favorites!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful time of family, fun, and food this weekend.

We ended our week long break from school by having our friends over for the evening. We ate delicious homemade southwestern egg rolls, salsa, queso, and twice baked potatoes (healthy, I know,) watched a football game that someone mailed them on dvd, played The Office board game, and enjoyed each others company.

They went home around 10:30 and Ian and I were in bed, asleep, an hour later. We didn't even bother staying up the extra half hour so we could celebrate the changing of the year.

I am officially old.

I spent the first day of 2012 with a cold (it keeps coming back!) and have been sleeping and laying around since we got home from school.

I looked at my End of Year Resolutions and realized I did not meet them all. A little disappointed in myself but at least three out of five isn't too shabby.

*Memorize 5 pieces of Scripture-Done. I have them posted by my desk and have read them to myself anytime I sat down to check blogs or email. It was amazing how quickly they stuck in my mind.

*Complete Grace's baby blanket (that I started last year!)- Incomplete. Boo. It was just SO hot here for so long, the last thing I wanted to do was snuggle up with a crocheted blanket and work on it. It's finally cold(ish) here and I've made progress, but I probably still have another 50 rows to go. Will finish before we move!

*Be one credit card out of two, out of debt- Complete! I was most excited about this one, because I hate being in debt! We've made some progress on the other one, but since we're paying off Ian's student loans as well, it's slow progress.

*Figure out the perfect brownie recipe- Incomplete. My kitchen and stove here are very unsuitable to baking. It makes me sad that I have such a hard time regulating the temperature of the oven and don't have my pans and other gear, but I thought I could push through that anyways. I decided not to complete this one, shortly after I set it, and instead will do this in 2012, when I have a nicer oven and all of my kitchen wares arrive!

*Order a photo book from our France vacation- Complete! This one was relatively easy and is already shipped and delivered to my parents. They will bring it over when they come at the end of the month!

So, as I am sure most of America is doing today, here are my goals for 2012:
*Complete Grace's baby blanket.
*Figure out the perfect brownie recipe
*Be completely out of credit card debt
*Order a 2010 and 2011 photo book and Grace's baby book
*Complete Couch to 5k- my friend and I started this a week or so ago and I want to finish!
*Read 20 Books, two of which should be Pride and Prejudice and 1984 (from my bucket list)
*Read the entire Bible (also from my bucket list. I started in Psalms last year and am in John. Now to finish the New Testament and go straight through the beginning of the Old Testament.)

I have a couple more bucket list goals that I am eying but since the list is supposed to be for my whole life, I don't want to bite off more than I can chew. If they happen, that would be amazing. If they don't, no big deal!

There aren't any travel goals this year, since we are saving for our new home and furnishings, but I would love to have a weekend away with just Ian and I this year sometime. Let's call that a tentative goal.

What are your goals for the year? Happy New Year and happy goal setting!