Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Ellingsons!
This year has been a busy year for the whole family, but what year isn't with four kids? Busy is usually good, so we're not complaining, but it is always nice to slow down over the holidays and enjoy the season together. I think this is the closest we've ever gotten to actually doing all the things we wanted to do together over the holidays! Not everything, but we'll take it. :-)
Early this year Craig was offered and accepted a new job with the Montrose Recreation District in Montrose, CO. We were thrilled to be moving back to our Rocky Mountain home. As evidence in our picture, the mountains, trees, and places to visit around us are beautiful and Montrose has been the perfect family friendly community for our family. We have taken hiking trips, fall tree excursions (autumn was everything we could have hoped for and more from a family who hadn't had a real one for two years!) We bought a new house which we have continued to work on each moment we can to make it our home. Hopefully this year we can get some grass in our backyard, but other than that it has been our perfect sanctuary.
Starting from the youngest up, our littles Wren has had a very growing year! She turned one days before we moved from Kingman and has since erupted into a little ball of personality and spunk over the ensuing months. She learned to walk FINALLY before she turned 18 months old, and is now working on running, climbing on everything, and learning as many words as she possibly can. She loves saying names of family members over and over again and loves making speaking sounds generally as much as she can, whether they are intelligible or not. Some of her favorite pass times include eating, particularly eating with a fork, pushing buttons on whatever electronic device she can get her hands on, emptying things that don't need emptying in the kitchen, and making everyone laugh. That happens a lot.
Odell turned 5 in August and that clearly makes her a big girl now. She was old enough to start kindergarten, but just barely and Craig and I felt she could use another year at home before starting school. However a few moms in the area put together a preschool co-op that has been wonderful for her. It's twice a week for 2.5 hours and it has been a lot of fun for everyone. She knows all her letters/most of the sounds, numbers, colors and shapes and we've been working on reading sight words during scripture study and counting past 20. She is an avid My Little Pony fan and spends a lot of time creating imaginative dramas with her pony dolls around the house. She is my little helper at home during the day and I'm trying to soak up as much of it as I can before I send her off to full day kindergarten in the fall.
Linus is 7 this year and getting smarter much faster than we can keep up with. Second grade has been a blast for him and he excels in most areas but especially math. He has smashed through the math facts he needed to master this year and will soon be starting multiplication. He learned how to ride his two wheeler bike in Kingman, but during the hot summer months did not spend much time outside on it and never mastered it enough not to crash more often than not. After spending the summer riding around with the other kids in the neighborhood he quickly got it down and enjoys now flying down the street with no hands, much to the chagrin of her mother's poor nerves. He just received a skateboard from Santa which he has been requesting for a while, we'll see how that goes this summer. In general he is a giant goofball (when he's not upset about something not going his way- he is making big strides in gaining more self control in this area, still getting there) and absorbing as much boy hood as he possibly can, which is okay with me.
Chloe is making that slow transition into preteen-hood that is both exciting at terrifying for her parents. There seems to be a big difference between 8 and 9. The good parts include her love of "talking" with mom, strengthening her friendship with us that wasn't really possible before, taking on more responsibility in stride with things like keeping her room cleaner and taking on more chores around the house, and being a help with her younger siblings. The bad parts include the irrational mood swings and tantrums that end in wailing/screaming/stomping/door slamming/ and endless pouting. But they don't happen THAT often so I'm just enjoying what time I have left before the actual teenage years set in. She LOVES drawing and writing (yes she is my daughter) and recently won a writing award at her last quarter assembly for using humor and good voice in her writing. She enjoys being a playground champion at school, which entails helping younger children out during their recess once a week, and is the 3rd grade class representative for student council, which she enjoys as well. We couldn't be prouder of the young lady she is becoming.
I have enjoyed many of the new opportunities we've had in Montrose. We spent a lot of time this summer with endless days at the pool, exploring parks and hikes suitable for the kids, roaming the park down by the river and all it's surrounding trails, and entertaining lots of friend and family visitors. Starting a photography business over in a new place is always a challenge, but the extra time not used by clients allows me to have some photography adventures that help me explore my style and voice a little more which I enjoy. I also volunteer my time with the Academic Booster Club in the district where I get to go take pictures of all the nominees each school receives every two months for their poster award, which I really enjoy. I also really enjoyed visiting Ouray, my new favorite mountain town, hiking to the waterfall with the kids and enjoying the local cuisine. We actually spent Craig an my ten year anniversary doing just that and it was magical.
Craig loves his new job here in Montrose. He is slowly working his way through all of the sport programs throughout the year getting a feel for things, and this summer he took the opportunity to help lead youth hikes and senior four wheeling trips in the mountains. Chloe went with him on many of the hikes and the two of them enjoyed the gorgeous hills, waterfalls, lakes, and rocky terrain that the surrounding areas have to offer. He's helped me paint and organize almost every corner of our house, although I seem to have an endless list of projects I have for him to do. With help from my mom, we got him some good tickets to an Avalanche hockey game in October for his birthday. We brought some of his younger brothers and enjoyed the winning game against the Dallas Stars (his brother got on the JumboTron several times because of a poster Craig helped him make celebrating his "broken jaw cheer", and injury he got from a previous soccer game that season, they were all pretty tickled about that). Although work is busy, it is good and provides a lot of opportunities for our kids to tag along with him and get a lot out of the recreation programs here in town.
I am writing this on Christmas Day with a heart full of gratitude for all that we have and every blessing we've received this year and in years past. We are eternally grateful especially for the gift of our Savior Jesus Christ, who was born a child to a poor mother and father on a starlit night. His gift to us was his sacrifice, his love, and his example. In our times of turmoil, hate, and anger, we need more thoughts and examples of peace, healing, and understanding. Christ not only shows us how to live, but because of his atonement, all of the pain from those trials we experience can heal and we CAN be happy again after our pain.
Love to all of you this Christmas season and God's blessings on you.
The Ellingsons

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Montrose!

It's been a looooooong long time since I last posted. I don't even know if people still blog anymore. Is it still a thing? Do people still read family blogs anymore or has facebook taken over everything?
While packing up our house, I found our old family books with printouts from the year of our adventures on our blog. And I read through stories and shed a tear or two on how much we've grown and how much I'm already missing my kids when they were little and they aren't even big yet. So I'm going to try to blog more often so I can print out these books again and keep them.

And yes, I was packing up our house because we MOVED!!

We spent a short almost 2 years in Kingman and after moving there quickly determined it wasn't our forever spot. This was a waiting room. I won't sugar coat it, it was a very hard two years for our family for different reasons, but I also won't lie and say that I don't miss parts of it now that we are out. Kingman is beautiful in ways that other parts of Arizona don't have all in one spot- the desert, the mountains, the flowers, the sunsets. I loved taking pictures out there immensely. And I made some lifelong friends there that I am sad to be away from (thanks facebook for making me feel not quite so far away!!). It's also where we had our beautiful baby girl Wren, and for that and all these reasons Kingman will always be a part of me. I know Craig would probably be content to never visit again, but I can't say that's the same for me. I'll be back again someday.

After a year of living there we started applying for jobs again. We were eager to get back to our Colorado home. We didn't really tell anyone for a while, we were at the temple one day and just felt like it was time to start looking, and we wanted to see how things played out. It took a lot of no's before we got a yes. That was also difficult to spend half of our time there playing the waiting game- it's a cruel game to play. Getting your hopes up and moving your family mentally to place after place wears on you. But in the end, it paid off- Craig was offered a job for the Rec District in Montrose, CO. We almost didn't apply for it. We'd been looking for jobs on the front range closer to our families and Montrose is a good 5 house from there, so we didn't go for it right off the bat, but decided we might as well try and see what happens, we could always say no.
I'm so SO glad we did. In fact despite the fact that I wanted to be back along the front range again and be nearer to family, I had my reservations about finding a job that would pay enough to find affordable housing out there (it ain't cheap and houses go quick!)- that was a serious worry for me. We were able to go to the temple after he got the job offer before we gave them an answer (thanks to some wonderful friends in Kingman who took all 4 of our kids so we could head to Vegas for the morning!!) and the answer was pretty clear for both of us. I remember discussing it afterwards with Craig and feeling so good that after so many nos we were finally able to say yes- but again that same worry crept up in my mind- where will we live? The house we had in Kingman was nice, but Kingman has very affordable housing- Colorado? Not so much. Immediately I was reminded of the Lord's promise that he houses the sparrows, we will find a home to live in.
I'm so grateful I had that assurance- it got me through a lot of stressful moments while selling our home in Kingman and attempting to purchase one in Montrose. We had TWO WEEKS before Craig had to be in Kingman, which meant another grueling period of separation while Craig started the job in Colorado and I stayed behind to sell the house and pack up. When we moved to Kingman it was 4 weeks, and all we had to do was buy a house as we were renting from Craig's parents in Windsor, we didn't have to sell that one. This time it was 6 weeks- plus we had another kid and a house to sell. Craig's mom Barbara, who has been our savior on countless occasions, once again volunteered to come out and help. She watched our kids in Kingman for a week while I went with Craig to get him settled in Montrose and try to look at housing. We went through and packed up everything we didn't need for day to day functioning while leaving anything that would help the house show. I worked my butt off rearranging furniture, finishing small decorative projects I never got around to in our time there to make the house look nice. I'm glad we did that- within two weeks of putting it on the market we had an offer. Let me just tell you how BIG of a tender mercy that was. That was my biggest fear- that I'd have to stay much longer than 6 weeks because we couldn't sell the house- and we weren't in a great financial position to take much of a hit on the house, so we would just have to wait until we could sell it at the price we needed. But the Lord blessed us with a quick offer, thank goodness...
We found out the news when we were in Montrose, which was a huge relief- I could start looking at houses a little more seriously- however that was a bit of a challenge as we really needed a 4th bedroom and there wasn't a whole lot in our price range that had a 4th bedroom. People just really don't want more than 2 or 3 rooms in a house it seems like, which baffles me. Other priorities were having a decent sized yard for 4 kids and a dog to frolic in, and we really wanted a basement or a second floor if we could find one. I looked at probably a dozen 3 bedroom houses on one floor that had maybe 1500 square feet that were falling apart in many instances. It was discouraging to say the least. Finally we found a house that we thought would work and I fell IN LOVE. It had 4 bedrooms plus an office (BONUS) and a basement, plus a gorgeous giant backyard that was well kept and watered by an irrigation canal that ran along the back of the property. It had a giant driveway- it was  older, but in excellent shape and it was just perfect in every way. We bid the night we saw it and she accepted our offer!! I was extatic. I was beyond extatic. Like crying tears of joy we found something extatic. Downsides included a small kitchen and small bedrooms, but I was so in love with that yard I knew it would be fine. So I went back to Kingman hopeful for our future in Montrose. Closing date was set for the day after we closed on our house in Kingman and things seemed like they were clicking along on both ends...
...that is until we hit appraisal time. Can I just say that I hate appraisals with a passion?? I understand why they are necessary for the banks, but they just kill me. KILL ME. The waiting, the hoping, the knowing that you have absolutely NO control over the outcome...it's torture. The appraisal on our house in AZ came in low by about $3000. I was halfway expecting this, we barely lived in the house for two years so I was surprised it increased in value even by that much (it increased by about $7000 in that time, but the rest of that went to realtor fees). We tried to negotiate with the buyer a bit, but prepared to pay it in full, which we ended up doing. Better to take a $3000 hit than not sell the house. On April 1st (April Fools Day) Craig called me and said he had bad news- the appraisal came in and it was low. How low? He said by $25K. I panicked. I was speechless. My perfect house was slipping away from my fingers...
Wait a minute- it's April Fools Day!
"Craig...seriously, please don't play games, just tell me how much the house appraised for."
"I'm not playing games."
"Okay okay, April Fools ha ha, tell me how much it appraised for."
"Chelsea, I know it's April Fools Day, that's how much the house appraised for!!"
He wasn't kidding.
And just like that the house was gone. For a brief hopeful moment we thought maybe the seller would come down in price and we'd get it for way cheaper than we offered, but she decided not to budge. She offered to pay for another appraisal on the house, but we talked with our realtor and we didn't think it was wise to wait. Even if it did appraise for more, there was little chance it would appraise for THAT much more.
So the search continued, this time Craig had to look at the houses without me. Currently on the market there was very very little in our price range for what we wanted, but there were two houses that looked like they might have a little promise. One was more than we could but a bid on, but we thought we might have a chance of bringing it down a bit, and the other looked like it would work, was in our price range, but was in a small cookie cutter type neighborhood and I was less than thrilled about it. Craig looked at both places and gave his input. The first house, we'll call it house A, had 4 bedrooms and two bathrooms, had a front living room, a decent kitchen, and then a bonus sort of finished patio that was carpeted and large that could work as another living area. There was a second floor and it was on a corner-ish lot, so the yard was a good size as well. Downsides included the 4 ft. fence that our super-jumping dog would easily scale and he's very aggressive with other dogs, so we wouldn't be able to let him out back alone, plus there was no master bathroom, so we would have to share one with the house. Also it was more than we could afford, and we weren't sure if the seller would accept a low offer. The second house, house B, was in a small subdivision on the north side of town. We drove through there when we were looking around the town and honestly though the houses would be priced higher there than they are, it was built in 2006. It also had 4 bedrooms and two floors plus a bonus room upstairs with no closet that was fairly large. But the living room downstairs was tiny and the yard was full of weeds. Literally. No grass, full of ALL weeds, only weeds, nothing but weeds.
In the end we decided we had to put a bit on the lower priced house, there was no point in bidding on the higher priced one if they both would work reasonably well. Turns out there were 3 other bids on the house that day, but they accepted ours. Yay!! ....I think....Honestly part of me was hoping the offer would be rejected and we'd have to keep looking, I was still bitter about losing the other house. But the silver lining was that now we had a house cleared to sell in Kingman and after a smooth appraisal and inspection (finally!), a house under contract in Montrose and we were okay to move.
Sorta. The closing date was set for about two weeks after we would need to be out of the house in Kingman, but we were assured that once the appraisal and inspection went through we should be good to bump the date up to our orignal close date on the previous house. We "should" be able to close was the prevailing message, right up until the day we left. We were en route to Montrose still not 100% sure whether we would get in our house or not. Halfway there, with a truck, Barb and her van, and me and the Pilot, we pulled over so Craig could have a conversation with our broker and lender letting us know that we wouldn't be able to get into the house until....??? Who knows. Sometime. I know everyone was doing the best they could, but I was just MAD. I was mad at the system. Who the heck designs a process that requires paperwork to pass through 50 different hands before everything can be cleared and good to go when families have to put their whole lives in the air waiting for it all to go through? Not to mention all the hoops you have to jump through in order to know if it's even possible...I mean I know I live in a fast-food world and you can't just walk into Wal-Mart and buy a house, but I was beyond stressed, I was falling apart at the seams. At least on the inside.
So we rented a hotel for the night. Well, it ended up being a cabin- the lady gave us keys to someone else's room by accident (!!!) and so they let us have the cabin at a discount for their mistake. It could have been a lot worse than it was- I was already on edge and I got Chloe and Wren out of the car and into the room. Wren was beside herself from being in the car for so long, so I asked Chloe if she could hold her for a minute while I took Tuff out to go potty. I threw my purse on the bed and walked out of the room and Chloe sat on the bed with Wren to try to make her happy. I came back in the room when Tuff had done his business and suddenly noticed stuff in the room that seemed out of place. A man's pair of shoes. Keys. A pile of loose change. Shirts hanging in the open closet. Someone else was in this room. I quickly took the girls out of the room and told Craig with alarm that someone else's stuff was in our room. He ran off to take care of it- SO glad the person wasn't there. What if I had walked out of the room and some guy came out of the bathroom while I was out with the girls sitting in there by themselves?? Thankfully the mistake went unnoticed by the tenant and they gave us a 3 bedroom cabin with a kitchen and living room for their blunder. This ended up being a god-send as we stayed there several nights before we had a definite date on when we'd be able to get into the house. It wasn't going to be until the following week. Barb ended up taking Tuff and Odell back to Windsor with her and Craig and I and the kids stayed with a family he worked with who had some extra room in their house they offered to us- bless their hearts! The kids started school that week and so it was nice not to have to live in (and pay for) a hotel for a week until we could get into our house.
After all was said and done, the stress ended and we were finally able to get into our home!
And I have to admit that I think the Lord knew what He was doing all along. I also have to give Craig props for pushing me to bid on this house. I was resistant. I was hanging onto that other house still. But it has ended up being I think MUCH better than the other home we had a bid on. Some major things I ignored because of the nice yard were a) the TEENY kitchen that place had. I would have gone nuts very quickly, probably immediately when I realized that none of our stuff would fit in there, plus there was no pantry either. It would have been rough. b) the TEENY bedrooms. Yes there were four of them plus an office that could have been a bedroom, but they were really small, including the master bedroom, leaving us to fit the rest of our stuff in the living areas, which would have been awkward. c) No master bathroom and only two bathrooms in the house and d) no garage. Our new house has all of these and more. Two sheds in the back (pretty sure one of them was for growing weed from the previous owner, judging from the tables in the shed, the electrical hookup so it could be insulated and have an AC unit in there, weird empty pots and bags of fertilizer for.....?? A yard full of weeds??), big garage, big master bedroom with bathroom and walk in closet, decent sized rooms plus the extra bonus room, and even though I didn't want a cookie cutter house, it's in a nice neighborhood with a small park just down the street from us that the kids can walk to and I don't have to worry about where they're at. It's grown on me. A lot. Particularly because we got to repaint before we started and so now the house is really ours. And I like how it looks on the inside and out.
I really really want to post pictures of the house, but I want to wait until everything is "finished", or at least finished enough, so I can do before and after shots. Then I'll blog about everything we did and all the projects we put together.
And also WE LOVE IT HERE. SOO so much. Big parks. Mountains. Trees. River and creeks everywhere. Running trails. Paved sidewalks. Street lamps. Hiking. Mountain Biking. Swimming. There's so much outside to enjoy here it's ridiculous.
And also they have a Target. 'Nuff said.
That was a long drawn out post, but if you made it to the end, here's the house!
More to follow. :-)


Monday, August 11, 2014

Odellio

Oops, last time I posted was Linus' birthday...that means it's been 3 months since I last posted! I don't know what it is about moving to AZ, but it killed my blogging drive...
Oh well. We're still living life, guess that's all that matters.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our CRAZY little four year old Odell!
I seriously crack up at this girl every day. She dances. She giggles. She talks way to fast for her own good: Kingman has a lot of old folks, and they all love to stop in the store and try to get a giggle or a grin out of Odell because that's what old folks around here do, but they usually end up walking away with a sort of confused smile on their face when Odell ends up talking a mile a minute to them and they can't understand a word she says. She loves food. She hates food. She is in heaven from all the Frozen/My Little Pony stuff she got for her birthday (I know, I used to hate giving my kids media-branded toys, but it turns out wooden puzzles and blocks only go so far with three girls in this house, I'm official THAT mom...). She is currently happily playing with a couple of said dolls imagining a scenario where they are calling to each other from a big chasm, so everything she says she repeats 2 or 3 times for the echo effect. She loves to talk back to me and attempt to say some of the things she hears her siblings say to each other when they're mad to me- that never flies too well for her. She makes friends really quickly, especially any cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, or visitors ages 15-25 who clearly have nothing better to do than be her personal jungle gym and pretend to be Anna to her Elsa. She really likes the song "Come with me now" by KONGOS, and it's hilarious to hear her sing it. When she pretends, she often exclaims and yells something absurd about every 3 minutes during her play and really REALLY reminds me of Agnes from Despicable me. Watch this and you'll understand...

I'm not exaggerating when I say she is capable of doing any one of these things.
We love her to pieces. She's a great little sister and a great older sister now too, and now that she's old enough to make her voice heard, she's making it heard. I hope she keeps that quality throughout her life, even if she's a little loud now. A little.
We went on a route 66 adventure for her pics this year. She tried to talk to everyone at the Hackberry General Store (and not many of them were actually American, so they would just smile at her and talk to their friends in whatever language they spoke in an adoring way). She went on a scavenger hunt for the donkey we heard braying somewhere at the back of the property (never found it). She wanted to stand on every car, I only let her stand on one. She also gave me a heart attack when she nonchalantly pointed out a 4 ft. bull snake between her and I on our way up to another building on the property. Thankfully I was able to keep it together to get her away from it, but I'm sure if I hadn't noticed she'd be calling it fluffy and using it as a jump rope or something.
And I present to you, ODELL ANN!













Love you baby.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Linus turns SIX!

Hey all!
I was just about to write something about how I am going to attempt to be a better blogger this year when it occurred to me that the year is already half over. 2014 IS HALF GONE. WHOOSH! That was a little intense to think about, but I feel like I'm finally alive now that I'm not pregnant anymore, so somehow I suppose that validates me not doing anything for pretty much the past year...

Last month Linus turned the big 6! Sometimes I forget that he's only 6 though because...well, I won't say he acts more mature than a 6 year old yet, but he's a smart kid and he blows me away with the things that come out of his mouth sometimes.
He is always aware of everyone and everything basically in this house. And he's totally on top of it when someone breaks the rules. Craig and I call him our little mother hen, always making sure everyone is doing what they're supposed to and that things are going the way they're supposed to. I'm happy to say that he has for the most part broken out of a lot of his more violent and hard to deal with tantrums. He's still Linus, he still has a square box that the world is supposed to fit in, he still falls apart sometimes, but mostly we meet those moments with him storming out of the room on his own- nothing breaks or gets trashed as he stomps to his room (major improvement), door only sometimes gets slammed (also major improvement), he flies face down onto his bed and a minute later comes out feeling better. No follow up discipline required unless 6 year old expletives shoot out of his mouth, as they do on occasion (you know...the "S" word....*stupid*....or an "I never want to play with you again!!!" or two...), he comes back out after he's chilled a minute just fine. I didn't think that day would come, I was worried I'd be hauling him kicking and screaming to his bed forever.

We just got back from a two and a half week vacation to Colorado. I am very impressed to note that this is also one of his first vacations where despite the fact that he was up late most nights laughing and talking with cousins on Grandma's basement floor the whole time, we only had a few meltdowns, and none that included him injuring property or people. Hooray!! I know that paints an ugly picture of life with Linus, but it really wasn't all bad, we are just thrilled that he's made such progress and love seeing the wonderful things that have replaced his frustration.
Like all the endless questions and stories...all the time...

Funny story about Linus on the drive to CO. Grandma got him a watch for his birthday. The week previous he had gotten on "pink" two days in a row in K class and was able to pick out a toy from a toy box. He picked out a really cheap watch that did not work. In fact, it didn't even have the right shaped teeny weeny nails to be able to stick anything into it to open it to replace batteries. Linus was obsessed with trying to find a way to make it work, we finally had to take it away after he kept sneaking sharp objects out of my drawers so he could try and jam them in there to unscrew the back and open it. It was suggested to Grandma to get him a watch to replace the cheap one. He loved it. The first 30 minutes of our road trip was a minute by minute update of the time. We had also given the kids dramamine before we left as they will randomly get car sick on some trips and I thought we could just save ourselves the hassle of buckets or pulling over. After the first 30 minute by minute updates, it was clear the dramamine was kicking in because every little thing was triggering some kind of crying fit in someone in the car (crankiness and exhaustion were setting in). At one point Linus grabbed his ears and couldn't take it anymore and yelled, "EVERYONE IS CRYING SO LOUD IT HURTS MY EARS!!!", which made Odell cry even louder and Chloe get even more upset. It was a good time. We had told Linus that at 1:30 he could watch a movie in the car, and to keep an eye on his watch for when it said 1:30- but we silently congratulated ourselves as we watched each of the kids drone out of their irritation and start to drift off to sleep. I jokingly looked back at Linus, who was using his seat belt as a head support, snoring softly, and laughed to Craig, "Watch, right at 1:30 he is going to snap awake and ask to watch a movie". We chuckled and turned up our music a little louder.
Guess what happened at 1:30?
Bleary eyed and in a panic, he jolts up and blurts out "DADIT'S1:30CANIWATCHAMOVIENOW???"
 He couldn't understand why Craig and I were laughing so hard.
We love our Linus dearly. Happy Birthday little man, we're glad you are here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Welcome to the world, Wren Olivia!

Obviously it's been a while since I last updated our blog. I am going to attempt to remedy that, but in the meantime, we have a big announcement to make!
This little sweet one made her entrance into the world on Friday, April 18th, 2014 at 3:54 p.m. She was 8lbs 4 oz. and 21.5 inches long, pretty average for Ellingson babies. We are so thrilled to have her in our home!

I wanted to write her official birth story before I forget most of it, which I'm sure I already have, actually (yay for the blur of the first few weeks of welcoming home a newborn!). I shall attempt to retrieve those memories, however, so I can look back at this and show it to Craig when we argue about the details in ten years *we argued about the details of almost everything to do with our previous births as we were going through this one- weights of each of the previous kids, length of labor, time spent pushing...way to pass the time...*
So I was over a week late. Torture. I know that due dates are just an estimate and every body is different and every baby is different and it's normal to go late or early and nothing is absolute when it comes to timing in pregnancy, but I spent every day after my due date mentally willing myself to go into labor and pouting around the house when it wasn't happening. Part of the difficulty in that came because the rest of my kids came early, I'd never made it to my due date before, and not only that, I had started dilating and effacing about 3 weeks before my due date, I'd been contracting pretty much throughout the pregnancy, but more and more each week leading up to then, and I had also lost my mucus plug (when that happened with my others, it was a matter of days before I was cradling a little bundle). So really I was waiting for a baby for about 4 weeks. Thankfully my mother in law had come out during Spring Break at the end of March and stayed until Wren was born and helped keep me sane and helped play Mommy for me so our house was functional during that time. I would have been way more of a wreck without her! Anyway- so the week Wren came I was doing just about everything I could think of to get this baby coming. Except castor oil. Almost everyone had to mention it, but ew. No castor oil. When we had the blood full moon in April, I was so sure it was going to come that night- I stayed up with my mother in law timing contractions- every four minutes apart for about three hours. They were uncomfortable, but not unbearable. Finally at around 1 am I went to bed thinking I would try to sleep between contractions, except the contractions went away and I woke up still pregnant. I had an appointment that Friday with Dr. Tedesco, who was not my regular OB (Dr. Lamanski)- when I scheduled the appt. they told me Dr. L was going to be out that day, but I said it was fine because I'd probably go into labor before then anyway. Well I didn't, so I called on Thursday and asked the nurse if there was anything I should let Dr. T know on Friday, and she told me I should come in that afternoon and get checked with Dr. L instead of going in the next day with Dr. T. So I did. Craig came with me and Dr. L said that he wanted to schedule an induction for the next morning since I was over 41 weeks. If you had asked me earlier, I would have said no, I'd like to wait longer, I'm not in a rush, I didn't want to push anything in the labor process, but I was tired. And achy. And my mother in law was leaving the next Thursday (after staying for 3 weeks waiting for the baby). And I was okay with it, so I didn't fight it. 6 a.m. the next morning was the scheduled time.
I turned to Craig as we were walking out of the office and said, "Do you want to go on a date right now?" And he said yes. It was officially the last date we would get for a while, plus Grandma was watching the kids already, and we both needed the time together. So we drove to Chili's and then we went to see Captain America. I contracted through the whole movie, uncomfortably so. I didn't even bother staying up to time them when we got home, I knew they would keep me up if they were real.
But, even though they were strong and even though they were frequent, 5 am rolled around and I groggily got out of bed and took a shower and got in the car to go to the hospital.
Dr. T came in to check me and broke my waters as soon as we came in. I love how with all of my pregnancies, the doctor is always sure that I am pregnant enough that once they break my water, surely the contractions will come immediately, I just needed a little push. I know better now. An hour later after nothing, they started me on a pitocin drip. They increased it one increment per hour and it took a little while to get the contractions going. I labored until about 12 p.m. and the contractions were fairly strong and consistent at this point. Meaning they hurt. I was getting through them pretty well, but I also know that I tend to labor slowly. I shouldn't have been watching the contractions on the monitor, but I was, and I knew how much further I had to go, they weren't strong enough yet. I would have liked to try another labor without an epidural, but I didn't know how much longer it was going to be. Craig and I talked about it, he is always very supportive of whatever I want, and helped me logically work through what it was that was most important to me. With Chloe, things were really intense and hard and crazy right at the end. When she came out, after getting stuck and needing a vacuum and lots of external pushing to get out, I didn't get to really experience the birth part because everything was so chaotic and I was caught up in all of that with the pushing and contracting. I'm not saying it was bad, I've loved all of my birth experiences, but with Linus and Odell with the epidurals, everything was so quiet and peaceful and I got to look down and watch the babies come out and really be there in their first moments. However, the recovery was always a lot slower afterwards with the epidural and I remember telling myself after both births how I wanted to try it again without an epidural because I hated the way my legs felt and my body was so sluggish afterwards. Anyway, I decided that I would get checked and see how far along I was before I made a decision.
Dr. T came in to check me soon afterwards and I was at about 4 cm (was about 3 when I came in) and still 80% effaced. Ugh. I still had a ways to go, and I then found myself asking for the epidural before I had even really felt like I made up my mind about it. Dr. T is also an anesthesiologist and administered the epidural right away. And a few contractions later I was almost asleep. I was laboring on my side and I needed to keep flipping sides because my contractions were couplet-ing a bit, which meant that the baby was sunny side up. Flipping sides helped her get where she needed to be. At about 3:25 or so the nurse came in and checked me again. She happily said that I had progressed to 6 cm. I remember thinking "oh thank goodness I got the epidural, I'll be in labor for a few more hours yet". I went back to resting when about 20 minutes later I suddenly felt a lot of pressure on my hips. Like a lot. I brushed it off at first and told myself that it was probably nothing, but the next couple of contractions had a lot of strong pressure and I found myself flinching and telling Craig that I think the baby was coming, despite the fact that it had only been 20 minutes since I was at 6 cm. We got the nurse (Emma, sweetest lady ever, actually grew up in Broomfield and was born in Boulder, weird) and she checked me. Yep, I was at 10 cm. I told her I wouldn't push because with my others it only took a couple of pushes to get the baby out. She kind of laughed in a "we'll see about that" kind of way. She told me she was going to check me again and wanted me to push before she went to get Dr. T just to see if she really needed to get him that quickly. I barely bore down at all before she told me to stop and then said, "Yep, I'll go get the doctor." He was in a minute later, they got everything ready, and then he gave me the green light. I bore down and she came right out. I also remember pushing as long as I could on the first one, and looking down and seeing her head- I asked if I should keep pushing and they were like, "yeah go ahead!" and so I bore down again and she was out!





For those of you who knew, we've waited to find out the gender until birth on all of our kids, so this was sort of the moment. I was so sure it was a boy. Convinced, actually, there was little doubt in my mind. I was sick during the first trimester, but I didn't throw up so much (although now looking back on that, I think I've just gotten really good at clenching my teeth and gritting my way through it while I might not have been so good at that with my other girls, and I equated that with "not as sick as with my girl pregnancies", therefore it must have been a boy). My hair got really curly, which it also did with Linus' pregnancy. I just convinced myself that logically, we would just have two girls and two boys. I was excited for a boy, but I think if you had really pressed me about it, I would have admitted that I've really enjoyed raising my girls. Not that Linus hasn't stolen my heart, but I just have a soft heart for baby girls. The nurse pulled the baby right on my chest and announced, "It's a girl!". Honestly I thought she was joking at first because I had announced earlier that I thought it was a boy. But I didn't hear anyone laughing or contradicting her, and I exclaimed, "A girl?!" Then I looked down at her while they were rubbing her down with a towel on my stomach and just started bawling. I didn't cry when my other kids were born, but I couldn't help myself. She was beautiful and I just wept as I watched her little red mouth cry a healthy cry and saw her fingers clench and unclench and her blinking eyes try to process the world around her.
They wrapped her up and gave her to me so I could try to start feeding her whenever I was ready. Craig and I just watched her and laughed with each other as we really hadn't picked out many girls names. We went through the ones I had, he didn't seem to think any really fit her, and he looked up some other ones but couldn't find anything that he really liked. While conversing about this, I started to feel a little dizzy. It came on rapidly and I soon found myself telling Craig to come hold the baby because I didn't feel so good. I told him to call the nurse and he couldn't find the button on my bed, and at that point I barely had the energy to lift up my hand and push the button next to my head. My vision was blacking out but I was still conscious as the nurse came in. At that point I announced I thought I was going to be sick, and the nurse came just in time to get me a container as I threw up. She checked me and immediately began pushing on my stomach. I was vaguely aware that I could feel a lot of clots coming out of me (not the first time I've had that experience) and I remember hearing Craig, who rarely gets shook up by anything, exclaim "Whoa!" and then asked if that was normal. The nurse seemed a little concerned, but not alarmed, as she removed the pads underneath me and cleaned up what had gotten on the floor (yes, it was that much)- we didn't worry about it, but she announced that my uterus was not behaving and she'd have to come back to keep pushing on my stomach. Which she did frequently, loads of fun.
After I got sick and she kept pushing my stomach, I was feeling better and Craig gave his mom the okay to bring the kids by to meet the baby. While we waited for them to get here, we decided on a name. Wren was my favorite on my list, and since he couldn't come up with anything he liked, we decided that Wren would be her first name. We then went through every family name or other names we had liked as middle names and nothing seemed to be working. Craig suggested we not give her a middle name as we kept vetoing each other, but I wanted her to have one. After a few other ones Craig was reading down a list he said "Wren Olivia" and it was the first combination that I thought was pretty. I used to like the name Olivia as a first name, but it started getting really popular and so it fell off my list- but as a middle name I fell in love. Craig consented, so we had a name to announce to the kids when they got there. Before they came in, the nurse came to check on me again and told me that she didn't feel comfortable with how much I was bleeding, so she had called Dr. T to come check me and said we'd like have to have the kids leave  when Dr. T came in so he could check me, I said that was fine. Luckily we had just enough time to have each of the kids hold Wren and get some pictures and converse a bit with Craig's mom about how things went before Dr. T came in. We said goodbye to the kids and then Dr. T then proceeded to torture me, basically.








He could tell by his first couple of pushes on my stomach that I was bleeding too much. He then started pushing harder (like literally to my backbone hard) and said that we were going to need to give me some medicine to stop the bleeding and then he was going to have to push everything out of my uterus to clean it out. The medicine was going to make me sick and the pushing was going to hurt. He started to work on me, opening up my cervix manually and getting everything out that he could. I sat there and gripped my bed like it was my lifeline and bit my lip to keep from yelling. It sucked. They gave me a shot in my leg and then announced they'd be coming back to keep pushing and making sure my uterus was firm enough. A few minutes later I started feeling queasy again and this time I held my own container as a new nurse came in to introduce herself to me. I must have looked awful. Internally I felt like if I could just eat something I would feel better, I hadn't eaten all day and was tired- we had had some food trays brought in earlier, but I hadn't been able to eat anything yet and was still feeling sick. The nurse suggested some anti-nausea medicine and I agreed. I'm really glad I did that because within the half hour I was able to slowly pick at my tray until I felt stronger and soon was able to finish most of a meal. And I felt a lot better. Well enough to move to a recovery room and hold Wren again and continue to get her latched on and feeding.
The last few weeks have been going pretty well, I feel like, all things considering. Wren has had a hard time getting back to birth weight- I started getting my milk supply up as much as I could and waking her up for feedings- part of the problem is that she sleeps a LOT. There was a few nights to begin with where I fell asleep expecting her to wake me up and 7 hours later I would wake up uncomfortable and ready to feed and she'd be sleeping away. I was concerned about dehydration and her lethargy, but I made some adjustments to our schedule and started pumping a lot more and things got better- she's gaining weight and poops and pees tons, and her doctor gave her the okay yesterday at her weigh in, which meant that she didn't mention anything about formula supplementation, which I was so relieved for. I always go through a huge guilt complex when a doctor or nurse recommends something that I don't want to do, especially when it comes to my kids. Wren is such a sweet baby and such a sweet spirit. She looks a lot like Linus did when he was born in some ways, except for her mouth and ears. She smiles a lot as she's falling asleep and is growing out of her newborn clothes already. I am head over heels in love with her and am so glad she's in our family.
Welcome to the Ellingsons, little Wren!







Sunday, November 3, 2013

What makes you happy?

Forgive my detour to a personal matter here, but this question has been on my mind a lot lately and I want to share some of the experiences I've had with it. I hope my kids will read this someday and that it will mean something to them when they need it.
Since moving to Arizona, my entire world has been turned upside down. I've been in denial about that for a while, but talking about it and coming out about it a little more has helped me cope with it and I've learned a lot of really surprising things about myself. I've always considered myself a strong person, with faults yes, but generally accepting, generally adaptable, generally able to cope with a lot of things. I sincerely saw coming out here as an exciting adventure and I was determined to make it so whether I actually felt that way about it or not once moving here. I felt like things would surely get easier in Arizona. Once being here, however, I quickly started realizing that I don't know squat about myself.
Firstly, I realized that yes, things have certainly slowed down since moving out here, but that did not automatically make things easier as I was so sure they would become. I've looked at work and keeping busy as getting in the way of my "real" life, whatever the heck that is, and it took moving out here to realize that sometimes work and busy-ness IS real life, and without it we lose a bit of our grounding. I did, and it has taken until now to admit that it really knocked the wind out of me.
Secondly, I did not realize that my supposed assumption of my "strength" may have had more pride associated with it than I was willing to acknowledge. I was very comfortable with life in Colorado, and I somehow associated that with my earning stability through trials or hardships (supposed, as they be). I was sure we would come out here and just jump in and save a bunch of souls and help so many people and if I looked closely enough in that image, I saw the concourses thanking me and praising me and I'm ashamed to realize that I think I actually thought that was going to happen, and not only that, I was expecting it, subconsciously, and that was actually sustaining me a little. Thank goodness those legs have been knocked clear off of me now, because clearly that has not been the case for our family since moving here. Maybe someday we will help some people here, and we will make a difference, but heaven help me if I do it because I want to be remembered. More likely it will happen by a fluke when I'm focused on the things that SHOULD really make me happy...
Here's what I have come to accept about my "new" self in Arizona (or uncovered what's always really been there but never opened myself up to...). I depended on a lot of things that I no longer have here. There's no Target within reasonable driving distance when I "need" something only Target can offer on a day I'm feeling down and go peruse their clean, red and white isles of pleasure. There's no Panera Bread when I want to sneak a bread-bowl of soup on a cold day. There are no giant trees in my backyard to sit under and watch the yellow leaves drift off of in the chilly fall air (can ya tell I'm missing fall here??). A lot of the things that I took for granted in CO were really monetary, superficial, and did not help me a lick in our transition to AZ. At all. And it really got me asking the question: well what makes me really happy?
If I knew myself as well as I thought I did, there should have been no reason for me to be unhappy here, and yet here I was day after day, not changing into real clothes, not leaving the house, but not cleaning it either (I may point out that actually quite a bit of this may have to do with the fact that I am pregnant and the tumult of hormones and nausea didn't help anything a whole lot...), suddenly realizing Craig would be home soon each evening and I had nothing to show for the day. I tried to find comfort in prayer, church, and scriptures, but even that was getting more and more difficult to sustain any more than a fleeting moment here and there (although I think those moments kept me swinging one day to the next and hanging on anyway). Here I KNEW that I had had so many wonderful experiences in the church that brought me times of great joy and peace and comfort and happiness, but I just wasn't getting it here. Maybe God's radio signal didn't reach us out in Kingman. And yet I refused to believe in the back of my head that coming out here wasn't what we were supposed to do, I still felt like there was a reason for us to be here and refused to think that we made the wrong choice. Still refusing. And I'm starting to think it's working.
Tonight I went to check on my girls in their room. The last few months have been really rough on all of us, not just me or Craig, the kids too. For some strange reason we have been sick almost every weekend for the last 6-8 weeks I'm sure (not exaggerating THAT much, it's been around that many weeks!). Someone pukes. Someone gets a weird rash. Someone has a fever from 102-104 again. Someone has snot pouring out of their nose and a hacking cough. Most of these have been combined through various members of our family, and most of it experienced by me as well through each wave since I am the hub of central command station here. Today Craig woke up very early in the morning and I heard him wretching in the bathroom, and he's been frequenting it the rest of the day and tonight as well. Then right as we were headed out the door to church I made the call to stay home because Chloe was crying over an ear ache in both ears and had a temp of 102.5 again. She got worse throughout the day, and I'm glad I stayed home so Craig could rest as well. But it really sucked because I missed church again, and this time I didn't even have time to call someone to sub for me, I just had to text a friend to take care of it for me, bless her, and I felt awful about it. Anyway, it's just happened a lo recently and it really weighed on me today. I shouldn't worry about this, but here I was so sure I was going to jump in and rescue all of Kingman in one fell swoop at our mere presence here, and in actuality I spent most Sundays worrying that people were going to think we were inactive (because truth be told, that's what I would think if I saw a new family move in and be there as inconsistently as we've been...which has been yet another lesson in not judging a book by its cover) As I went into the girls room, I peeked into Chloe's bunk bed and listened to her snoring peacefully away. I sat down on Odell's bedside and watched her little porcelain face in the dim hallway light as she breathed and slept. Without realizing it, I reached out my hand and held hers and tears started pouring out of my eyes. Would my kids ever grow up and know that I would sit and watch them sleep and be overflowing with love for them? Would they ever feel what I felt for them so clearly? Would they know that I loved and accepted them no matter what and would ALWAYS feel that way for them? As they slept on in their own worlds, it seemed too distant to think about, but then a thought read across my mind in that moment.
How I feel for them is how God feels for me, only so much more.
When my kids grow up and move away, even to other states, will I still love them? Of course! When they feel sad and lonely, will I still love them? Of course! When they don't clean their houses and stay in their pajamas all day and get absolutely nothing accomplished, will I still love them? OF COURSE! So why would I for a moment feel so distant from my Heavenly Father? I needed that reminder and that feeling in that moment, and I realized:
THAT is what makes me happy.
To have unconditional love from my Heavenly Father, whether I am under my giant cottonwoods in the backyard or in the litter box of Arizona (and for the record, I actually don't think Kingman is a litter box so much anymore, and have found myself wondering why the heck this down doesn't move forward and why more people don't live here, it's actually quite pleasant at times!). I don't need Colorado to be happy. It's nice to live there and be close to family, but that can't be my core, it won't last. It didn't last, obviously, and now I know why we are here.
I needed a new foundation. And thank goodness I have someone who loves me unconditionally to help me build it. I am not where I want to be yet, but I have hope and faith again, and I'm just going to wait until it comes, because I know it will.
PS- due April 9th, 2014!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Up and Up

Thank you for all of you who have asked after dear little Chloe, she is doing much better. Not every day is perfect, for instance, yesterday Chloe came home and her cheeks had dried dirty tear streaks down the sides ever so noticeable probably only to her mother, but not because she was sad. She shakily told me that during P.E. that day she had run into another boy when she wasn't looking and hit her front teeth really hard. She bared her front ones at me and her left one was dark and bloody at the root and was jutting down a quarter inch lower than it was when she left the house that morning. It's a baby tooth, and was already starting to get a little loose, but we are going to the dentist today just to make sure she didn't do any further damage. Most days, however, she leaves the house with no tears and a big hug and a kiss and comes home a starving jabbermouth and generally seems to be enjoying school more than she was.

Last week we were able to go visit Craig's sister and brother in law and girlies in Buckeye, who graciously watched our kids for us on Friday evening so Craig and I could go to the Mesa temple for a much needed visit. Firstly we haven't been for ages, and secondly, we were able to take my grandfather's name finally through to finish his temple work (almost). AMAZING. I wish I would have taken a picture of Craig and I by the temple, it is gorgeous, and the sunset when we walked out made it just stunning. It was a really refreshing experience that both Craig and I were glad to be a part of. We spent the weekend hanging out with the kiddos, catching up, and watching movies. :-) Glad we have some family nearby to hang out with. 
Linus is getting smarter I'm pretty sure exponentially by the minute. I was nervous about going to his parent/teacher conference a couple of weeks ago, just because I was so worried about him succeeding behaviorally. I neglected to really focus on the benefits of how he'd do academically. Let me preface this by saying that when I did at home pre-school with Chloe, I was pretty diligent with her helping her learn all her letters and sounds, capitals and lower case, some sight words as much as we thought she could, and she still had to relearn a lot of it when she started Kindergarten. Linus I was less diligent, mostly because I was so busy last year, between photography, seminary, daycare, soccer, blah blah, I just didn't sit down with him one on one as often as I should have. We went over a few more things before school started, but in the short time since then he's mastered about 60% of what he needs to know before he goes to 1st grade and he's well on his way to learning the rest. I asked his teacher how he's been doing with his frustration control in class and she laughed and said he's had a  couple of outbursts. She then explained a couple of occasions when someone didn't understand the instructions and apparently he's exasperatedly exclaimed such things like, "She JUST told us that!" and usually is on top of his group making sure they are doing what they are supposed to be. What a kook. Although we are working on him helping people with kindness instead of frustration. 
Odell is getting bored I think judging on the amount of things she's been getting into that she knows she's not supposed to. She talks. All. The. Time. Mostly it's comforting to me to have conversations with her and answer all her nonsense questions and giggle with her when she finds something funny so it's not so quiet around here. She LOVES watching Tinkerbell when I let her. She gets out all her princess castles and then grabs Linus' batman doll and jumps from castle top to castle top with him. She loves any kind of sandwich with peanut butter on it. Thankfully she still loves to cuddle with me in the mornings, and sometimes I need that more than I think I do. 
Keeping up with life. As much as we can. :-)