Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fall '16

We are enjoying a pretty peaceful fall in these parts. The highlights these past few weeks have mainly been school, soccer, and sisters, with a first birthday party thrown in the mix.

Asher is an adorable, albeit large, first grader these days. We are now to the point that when Andrew puts away laundry, my jeans are regularly placed in Asher's drawer, and vice versa. I'm guessing he'll be my height by about age 11. He is a fun-loving boy who sometimes talks and plays too much (genetics happen), but is doing very well academically. He has taken to self-encouragement on his school papers, lately - saving his teacher a step. 

The irony of this being a spelling paper was not lost on us. :)

Preston's fall soccer season was filled with highs, lows, and flat on the grounds. 

Sometimes it's a perfect sunny day, and you're kickin' it with your best friend.

Sometimes it's drizzly and cold, your best friend is out of town, and you're just not feelin' it. Your limbs lose all strength and you go overcooked-noodle-limp.

Sometimes you repeatedly storm off-field, cross your arms and act unresponsive to your extremely nice coach. Maintaining pill status takes commitment, and you're no quitter, after all. 

Except when it comes to soccer.

 But sometimes the sun breaks through the clouds as well as your resolve. Strength surges back into your limbs and you triumphantly kick a goal in the final game.

Your paparazzi parents force you to face the blinding sun, but you don't care. You've got your best friends, your very first medal and a Rice Krispy Treat. 

It was a roller coaster, but we'll probably be back to ride next year.

On October 1st, sweet little Rhett became a yearling. We had a "Time Flies"  party theme with little airplanes, and invited family over to celebrate with us. 

I always thought Rhett favored Andrew until I saw this picture. 

Aunts a plenty

After making Rhett's airplane cookies, I used the extra dough and icing to make desserts that looked like other desserts. 

The royal icing technique takes a lot of time, but I love getting better at something new! You don't mind messing up as much when your mistakes are delicious.

Hannah came in from Canada and suddenly there were 4 White sisters all together. Spending time with them is always like heaven to me. 

This is what a "good" family picture has been reduced to these days. 

Hannah didn't quite get to stay a week, but we loved getting to have her. She and I are probably the most alike out of any two in our family, and I will keep crossing my fingers that someday she and Spencer will live close someday!

These sunny fall days continue to come and we'll sure miss them when they're gone. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Everyday Snapshot

What we're...

Watching: The boys have been on an old school Alvin and the Chipmunks kick. Not a bit educational, but there is something gratifying about seeing them enjoy something we did as kids. Andrew and I recently finished Stranger Things and have been watching BBC's Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on Netflix. It is set in Britain in the late 1700's and revolves around English magic. Kind of out there and a little dark at times, but well made. We are at that point where we're just about as sad as we are excited to watch the last couple episodes...#impendingshowhole.

Listening to: Guster's album Easy Wonderful. So many great songs we all like. I should mention here that the entire month of August was dedicated to the Hamilton soundtrack. The songs stayed in our heads CONSTANTLY. I started to shy away from it because even the "clean" version took a lot of editing around the kids. Plus curse words set to catchy music just have extra staying power in my little mind. Anyway, it was really fun to get caught up in that historical period. The musical made me so fascinated with the American Revolution and I learned so much! 

Reading: The kids have discovered The Friend magazine (okay, so we finally subscribed). Andrew is on the final Harry Potter book (this is actually his first time through - he is listening to the audio during his commute), and I just started Dan Brown's Inferno (also on MP3 audio - thank you library!) Listening while getting ready, doing kitchen prep, cooking, cleaning, etc. is almost the only way I can read without guilt these days. One of my long-held dreams is sitting up comfortably in bed, enjoying a book with no one else needing me, and no chores being neglected. Someday. 

Eating: Made our favorite fall dish for dinner tonight: Slow Cooker Corn and Potato Chowder. I use Hormel Real Crumbled Bacon, which is much faster, less fat and less mess. This is really yummy served with shredded sharp cheddar and honey cornbread.

Working on: Andrew: Finding balance between work/church/home.
Sarah: Staying positive and others-focused while staying on top of kids/house/church calling, etc. 
Asher: Geography, maintaining good behavior at school and asking "How Can I Help?" at home.
Preston: Reading, counting to 100, soccer skills, resisting the urge to ride baby Rhett like a pony.
Rhett: Cutting new teeth and taking steps.

Life feels so full right now in both happy and hard ways. We are trying to keep life centered on the Savior to help us manage whatever crops up. No matter how overwhelmed we feel, we are always stunned by how blessed we've been and how the hand of the Lord is so manifest in our lives. 

And now random, low-quality cell phone pics:

Our family's first foray into soccer has been thoroughly enjoyed by all so far.

 I was trying to take a makeupless "before" pic on the day I began using Rodan and Fields (I just bought the consultant kit and have high hopes) and soon had company.

 If he survives all the sibling love, Rhett will someday be the toughest boy we've got.

 Merry go round break at our last Bats game of the season.

First grade or bust!

 So thankful Preston has wonderful little friends here!

 Rhett's morning nap has been holding us hostage lately. This is the morning we attempted to defy it and get out anyway. :)

A Saturday morning together in our dream neighborhood - Norton Commons

 Trying to capture those little teeth!

Two-thirds of the rare 3-child nap

Rhett. RHEEETT!!! 
He just needs to stop being so cute before my heart explodes and his dad has to settle on some cheap step-mom to help raise him.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Working the Dream

         Life has been shaken up for us a bit lately! Last month Bluegrass Eye Centers (where Andrew has practiced since graduating last year) merged with another ophthalmic practice - Bennett and Bloom. Turns out what sounds like a children's boutique is actually a very large, successful eye care group featuring some of the premier doctors in Louisville. They really are all exceptional. And while Andrew certainly is too, he's very lucky to have joined them, given he's pretty new to the game. He's completing an ocular disease residency there, and we're so proud of him. He'll no longer do vision exams, only medical...which is a little sad, but really what he loves doing most anyway. 

          He'll make more, but work more. In fact, we'll have about 15 fewer hours together as a family most weeks, which feels like a lot. I won't lie, the first week I teared up a couple times. Our kids are little and these years are precious. Also, doing after school madness (that storm of homework, dinner, and children that combine forces to test your weekday sanity) and then bedtime on my own several nights in a row gave me so much respect for single parents. I know I can never complain...we're not dealing with death, divorce or deployment. But it was still hard.

         It's been a few weeks now, and I honestly feel fairly adjusted. I'm getting better at managing things, and love feeling my capacity increase. Instead of waiting for Daddy to get home, we go and do things on our own. Tuesday night I realized I had put kids in and out of car seats alone a total of 12 times that day. Quite an accomplishment for a scatterbrained co-dependent. :) 

         I still get frazzled, but even in the midst of the craziness feel blessed to have a fantastic husband who has an incredible job doing exactly what he loves. We live in a safe neighborhood and all our needs are more than met. There is chocolate waiting to greet me when the kids are finally down. Life is really good.

        And I'm learning that sometimes, even our blessings can be hard. Living the dream takes work.

We'll miss you, Bluegrass Eye!

You too, daddio! ;)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

An Explanation

So this blog has been hanging over my head big time. BIG TIME! Since the beginning of the year, I have written and nearly completed a lovely recap post FIVE times, only to have it DELETED each time. I swear I hit "save"...I think I need to update my browser or something. But please, take a moment to understand the gravity here. I have spent a dozen or more hours of highly precious kids-are-down time selecting and importing low-quality pictures, writing thoughtful commentary, editing, etc. only to have them thrown in, nay - FLUSHED DOWN the toilet. This last time when I logged on to complete the post and saw all my work had once again been deleted, I actually cried and considered the possibility that the heavens did not want me to recap the last 6 months of family life. Is my work not good enough for you, universe?!?

But no matter. I know not the reason for this maddening and heartbreaking turn of events, but for now, I must let this explanation suffice. We live in an age of online sharing, but for the past year or so, I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with social media. While I love keeping up and interacting with friends, my feeds began to overwhelm me. So many voices screaming, “Look at me!” “Buy this!” “My kid is doing something cute!!” All fine in the right amounts, but I have friends that post 5 or 10 times a day, and keeping up with it all began to feel like work. So I stepped back and made peace with the idea of missing things.

And while I am not an especially private person, the idea of artificially inserting my life into another’s consciousness seems distasteful at times. Which is why I value this out-of-fashion family blog. Should anyone want to know what we are about, it is here and open.

There are always a million “unbloggy” things that need doing, but I have not given up on this baby! Unless this post gets deleted. Then I’ll slit my wrists and start a Twitter account.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Day Rhett Came

The following is an overly detailed account of the day Rhett was born. I wrote most of it the week following his birth, but then school and Christmas demanded most of my child-free computer time. The little guy is a smiling 11-week-old chub now, but better late than never!

After a week of contractions that subsided when I stopped moving, we settled for an induction scheduled on Thursday, October 1st. I felt a little guilty to be forcing this baby into the world, but in light of our doctor's schedule, Andrew's patient schedule, and the fact my in-laws could only come help with the boys that weekend before leaving town, our time frame won out. Sorry baby.

I called the hospital at 5:00 AM as instructed, only to hear they had no beds available, and to call back at 8:30. I grabbed an extra hour of sleep (which made 4 and a half total - too many nerves. I wanted to have the baby, just not HAVE the baby, ya know?), got up with Andrew and curled my hair (am I the only one who tries to look pretty when they go to the hospital? You know it will be a very documented day, so go looking like the induction you are, by golly. Not someone who loved their baby enough to let it come naturally). Oddly, or not at all - both boys slept in for the first and last school morning ever, and had to be awoken. The ONE time we were already up. Still shaking my head.

I got Asher ready for school, then called the hospital back. "No room in the inn." Popular time to have a baby...what was happening 9 months ago? They said if I hadn't heard from them by 12:30, to call back then. Oi. 4 hours? My in-laws had come in the night before and our bags were packed, so in order to make use of our time, Andrew and I went to run errands. I wanted to start walking, since that was the only thing that seemed to move affairs along, and I had intentionally taken it easy to help ensure things were kept on hold until this day. But since the day had come, I headed to TJMaxx to make a return and shop around to stay moving while Andrew got a haircut next door.

Quick snap to document the final hours of pregnancy

Andrew bought me a dress and a couple pairs of shoes from Payless for $34 total. He lovingly told me I was "milking it" and I told him he was lucky I was so cheap. We headed home to regroup, then went to lunch at Chipolte with Joey, Kim and Preston. Andrew and I didn't have much of an appetite (way out of the ordinary for us), so just nibbled on some chips and guac. I force fed myself a few bites of chicken quesadilla, remembering the hospital's militant no-snacking rule. We finished up, and as we were walking out at 12:23, I got the call. Woohoo!! We kissed Preston goodbye, gave Joey and Kim parking lot hugs and headed to the hospital.

We got in and rolling around 1:00. A little paper work, a geometric print "gown" to put on, and an IV placed with a needle the size of a smoothie straw. Our nurse's name was Becky...she had 3 boys as well. She asked us about names and we started writing options out on the white board. Becky mentioned her grandson's name was "Atlas" and my jaw dropped. This was the very name I'd been trying to sell Andrew on for the last few weeks! This was the sign from heaven we'd been awaiting!!! Andrew chuckled at the coincidence and still said no. 

Pitocin started, waiting for contractions to ramp up. Lots of texts and calls to curious friends and family. Andrew got some work done on his new iPad the practice had just given him. I sent him to get ice chips and popsicles and begged to be snuck mini vanilla wafers I'd packed. That rule-keeping man was pretty withholding, a fact I slightly resented at the time, but was grateful for later. 

Sometime around 5:00, Dr. Graves (who had 6 deliveries happening that day) came in and broke my water. Lots of towels, lots of waiting. Epidural came next. I sure love those things. The whiskey and leather strap of yesteryear would be so proud at how far we've come. 

And then more waiting. My progression seemed slow. The next shift of nurses came in and I started to wonder if the baby would actually be born the next day. My step mom came to hang out with us, and my in-laws popped in before leaving to take the boys home at 8:30. Around 9:25 my nurse told me I was almost a 7 and then said she'd be back to check me again in an hour or so. This seemed like a long time to wait, but we sat there patiently watching my contractions on the monitor. I started feeling them and wondered if the epidural needed a boost. 

When my nurse came back just after 10, she started setting up the room for delivery. Dr. Graves came back in and we learned I was her very last mama to deliver. Things were really casual at this point - since the doctor was there, contractions were close, we decided to do a practice push to see if the baby's head would descend any. There were two nurses and the doctor there. I gave a half push and the doctor yelled, "WAIT!" I looked at a surprised but excited Andrew who told me he could see the baby's head. What? Okay!  

Dr. Graves scrambled to put on her delivery garb. A crowd of staff came rushing into the room. Our baby was crowning and I'd been instructed to "wait"...easier shouted than done. I mustered a stale smile in an attempt to mask the tremendous pressure I was feeling. In what was probably only 30 seconds, we were able to give another push and our beautiful baby boy was here. It took him a minute to cry, but he looked perfect. 7 pounds, 11 ounces, 19.5 inches - the dark haired baby I'd always dreamed we'd have! offense to my previously born, lighter haired children.

Someone asked what his name was and Andrew and I looked at each other - we both seemed to know what we'd agreed on most, and Andrew let me say it - "Rhett Davis Steele." 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Ole' Thesis

         So here's a little more background info on my thesis. The working title is "The Silent Dimension of a Health Care Narrative: Patient Perceptions of Practitioners' Nonverbal Cues," and I'm really thankful to have settled on a topic that both fascinates me and feels important. Andrew has a true interest as well, which has been great - always nice to live with a vested sounding board. Anyway, here's a little overview taken from my proposal:

         The quality of our health care hinges on the abilities of those providing it. While medical professionals are trained in the instrumental aspects of their field, they overwhelmingly lack communication training, particularly in the nonverbal realm (Roter et al., 2002, Monlineuvo et al., 2011). Yet, chances are, if a patient expresses a strong opinion of their practitioner, that professional is either a very skilled or very unskilled communicator. Beyond patient trust and satisfaction, conventional wisdom would tell us practitioners who put patients at ease have a greater chance of gaining more comprehensive and accurate patient histories, in turn yielding more accurate diagnoses. Satisfied patients are more likely to comply with treatment regimens, more likely to remain with one practitioner, refer other patients, and less likely to initiate malpractice suits (DiMatteo et al., 1980; Montague et al. 2013).

         An estimated 65% of the meaning in a social encounter is communicated non-verbally. Our nonverbal communication (posture, proximity, tone of voice, gestures, eye contact, etc.) often anticipates, substitutes, modifies, emphasizes, or, interestingly - as in the case of the physician who tells a patient she is happy to answer any questions they might have while avoiding their gaze and keeping a hand on the door knob - contradicts verbal communication. Nonverbal cues may be less susceptible to an individual’s censorship than verbal cues and therefore may more reliably indicate what is being communicated (Griffith, Wilson, Langer, & Haist, 2003).

         Patients are often hesitant to verbally express their feelings to their provider, and so the provider’s accurate perception of nonverbal cues may be the only way for him or her to identify patient dissatisfaction or distress and then exhibit the appropriate response (DiMatteo et al., 1980). Also, since the verbal expression of caring and concern is many times uncomfortable or inefficient for the clinician in his or her role, the ability to express emotion through nonverbal cues would be an important aspect of patient trust and rapport as well (Friedman, 1979).

         Modern health care providers are often overbooked and pressed for time. Additionally, the recent electronic health care records mandate is changing the nature and quality of American medical visits, with many patients feeling negatively impacted by physicians who seem preoccupied and use less eye contact. Ultimately, practitioners need to know that positive patient relationships can be established without necessarily compromising efficiency, and may be best achieved through effective nonverbal communication.

         SO. I'm gathering data through focus groups as well as a survey instrument. I'm posting the link to the latter below - the more responses the better!! If you've recently been to see a doctor, dentist, optometrist, nurse practitioner, etc. (really anyone licensed to diagnose and treat), please feel free to fill it out. Or keep it in mind if you have an upcoming appointment! The survey will be up and accepting anonymous responses until the beginning of November. Many of the questions seem redundant, but are taken from two established, validated measures. Anyway, thanks so much for your time!

P.S. On an unrelated, but significant note - the contractions that were just annoying when I started this post are now getting downright uncomfortable. Wondering if this could be the start of a long night...wish us luck!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pre-Baby Game

       We're getting close, you guys. At almost 38 weeks, I'm a house, but with no curb appeal. Being this close to the end makes me equal parts anxious, excited, and terrified. The fear and anxiety result from my desperate desire to complete every single project/task/outing prior to the baby raining down sweetness, sleep deprivation and stringent milk demands on our parade. I just like my joy served a la carte, without a lumpy side of stress lurking on the plate.

       As an insane person, this requires me to clean every baseboard, wall and window, stock up on anything I think we may need in the next 4 months, and drive Andrew batty with odd job requests. Maybe that's normal nesting. But aside from standard baby prep, there is also the "labor" of researching and writing my master's thesis, which I defend early December, and reassure myself daily is not that big of a deal and totally doable with the new baby. I don't know if I'm lying or not.

       Also, we obviously haven't picked out a name for this child yet. Not that we haven't diligently considered every boy name on the planet - we just only like and agree on none of them.

Asher has aided us in the quest. Since coming around to the fact the little sister he'd prayed constantly for would, in fact, be a boy, he's been very vocal about what we should name our new brother. His suggestions became so original and consistent, I started recording them. He gives us a fresh option each day. Sometimes they're surprisingly good; sometimes he misses the mark a bit (see: "Ooeymucho"). 

Here is the lively list of Asher's name suggestions thus far:

George Robin
Ezra Rhett
The Claw
Spy Chase

         Can you believe we've had all this naming help and still don't have anything nailed down?! Pahahaha... so Ash man has a liiittle more flare than taste. It's a crime of heredity.

         Another pre-baby development is our new vehicle! When the rattling Nissan Quest with 220,000 miles on it was going to require another repair last week, we finally bit the bullet and something more reliable. Andrew wanted a SUV so badly, but logic (and the realization we won't be cool no matter what we drive) won out and we now have a sweet Honda Odyssey. It was funny to be at the very same dealership where as an excited 17-year-old, I selected a sparkly new Civic coupe to drive to college. Rolling up pregnant with our third child to van shop was a nice little reality check. Time keeps marching, man. 11 years later, that (now impractical) little Civic takes Andrew to work everyday, and makes him afraid of being towed from the hospital doctors lot.  

       Anyway. I never thought a used mini-van would make me feel like a princess, but it's the nicest vehicle we've ever owned and I'm thinking of selling the house and living out of it. Features I love: automatic doors, a DVD player with wireless headphones, heated leather seats (?!), custom weather-tech floor mats, sun roof, blue tooth syncing with our phones, and the list goes on. I am so happy the kids can all sit in the same row, and am excited to look up into that center surveillance mirror (this is a car for parents, people) and see an infant carrier between our two big boys. Heart.

       Last weekend I made a quick trip to Columbus to stay with and see some friends while I could still get around hands free. It was nice to catch up with a lot of people at once (thanks to Super Saturday), and I just kept feeling so grateful to know so many truly good, fun people. I didn't take a lot of pictures, but there was this:

At least one of us knows how to work it. 

I have such a love and admiration for this amazing woman! Melissa is expecting her third girl just as we're expecting our third boy, so obviously there are arranged marriages in the works.

        Then there are my sweet Friel twins. I LOVED getting to work with the youth at church, and can't believe these two are seniors! It makes me feel like a senior too. The kind that qualifies for discounts.

       After a speedy but wonderful Columbus visit, we hit up IKEA in Cincinnati. Let me tell you something - I love that place, but on a Saturday afternoon, it is the pits of hell. We were there for 4 hours getting the last of the furniture and accessories we needed for the house. The boys behaved really well though, and my sweet in-laws came to Louisville and helped us finish off assembly and decor in the basement living area and play room. It is all so functional, homey and cute! One more giant thing crossed off our pre-baby list!

And finally, a note to our new little man:

          We have an ultrasound scheduled at the doctor in a couple days, and I am SO excited to see you. You are by far the most active baby I've ever carried, and I am in constant disbelief at how feisty and strong you are! Your little dance parties last for hours sometimes (ahem, midnight to 3 AM Friday?? You're grounded.), and I am nervous that rather than the low-key third boy I envisioned, you may be our wildest man yet. But be who you are - we'll take you. Your big brothers are anxious to meet and hold you, and I can't wait to see that incredibly special look on your dad's face he only makes as he sees his children for the first time. We'll stay busy so we can be ready whenever you are! Love you so much already.

- Mom