When Bronwyn was about two months old, we took her on a road trip south to see my family. Before this, Gabriel and I liked taking road trips together. Chatting, listening to audio books or music, he teaching me how to drive a standard transmission–it was all good fun.

Enter a newborn who didn’t like her car seat. So much to pack. Driving on little sleep. Trying not to wake anyone else in the house when she cried at night. Stopping for an hour to feed her (we soon abandoned that practice in favour of getting to our destination within the same decade.) Our entire trip revolved around this baby and her myriad, constant needs. These new parents were stressed out by the time they got home. I told someone that while I used to like travelling, doing it with a baby is a whole different ballgame. That trip scratched my travelling itch for a long time.

Last month, Gabriel and I again took a road trip south. We were going to sing at our friend’s wedding in Pennsylvania, and because it would be a quick trip, we left the two oldest kids at home and took two-month-old Nicholas.

Let me tell you: it was SO MUCH FUN. No tantrums, potty accidents, or whining. So little to pack. Uninterrupted adult conversation while the angelic baby slept in his car seat. Listening to books by P. G. Wodehouse instead of Thornton W. Burgess. Only one kid to keep track of at the wedding. We felt so free!

And that is what a change in perspective can do.

The Free Parents

The Free Parents

Our baby boy arrived on July 2. Yes, this announcement is little late, but I’ve been busy this summer. Like Gregory says, just deal with it. ;)

Meet Nicholas Clark Jantzi.

 

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I didn’t imagine this is how his newborn photos would look, or that his siblings would meet him in the incubator, or that Gabriel wouldn’t get to hold him until he was four days old.

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One of the nurses offered to take some pictures of him for me.

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Nicholas was born on a Wednesday evening, after a fast and uneventful labour. Almost right away, he started with tachypnea, which basically means fast breathing. He was breathing so fast when he was born that he couldn’t nurse or do anything but…breathe. They said his respiration rate was the same as his heart rate! About 140-160 respirations per minute. Normal for an infant is 40-60. They took him to Special Care Nursery when he was about an hour and a half old, and put him on the CPAP–a machine that helped regulate his breathing. Gabriel went down to the nursery when they were admitting him, and after a while came back and sank into a chair looking a little sick. “I can’t watch anymore,” he said. “They’ve had to try four times to get a vein. He’s not even crying anymore.”  When I heard he wasn’t fighting anymore, I got worried.Our midwife said later it was so pitiful to watch. At first he cried and fought, but as it went on, he suddenly gave up and went limp and quiet. I was so glad later for the skin-to-skin contact we were able to have over the next few days.

The next morning they put him on a five-day course of antibiotics since his white blood cell counts were elevated.

Around midnight on Thursday they took him off the CPAP, and I fed him for the first time. But after that things were still up and down. He didn’t like being moved or messed with, so they didn’t give him a bath or take him out of the incubator except to feed, but even that seemed to distress him. His resp rate would go up and stay up, which was worrisome.

Friday night I couldn’t sleep. It was one of the more frustrating scenarios I could imagine–my newborn baby was in perfectly capable hands, I was unable to do anything for him, yet I could. not. sleep. Finally I got up to pump, and when I took the milk down to the nursery, the nurse said she’d gotten an order from the doctor to put in an NG tube. That didn’t help my insomnia. This did not seem like a step in the right direction. But after I saw how easily he took milk that way, I relaxed. The nursing feeds were simply too stressful for him yet. The NG tube was just a tube going from his nose straight to his stomach, into which we could put his milk.  It was a relief to have a way to get nutrition into him without the stress of wondering when his resp rates would go through the ceiling again.

After Saturday, things kind of leveled out. He pulled out the NG tube Sunday morning, and we went back to standard feeds. Then he got jaundiced and had to go under phototherapy lights Sunday morning. That was kind of a bummer, but I was so glad it happened while we were in special care anyway. At least we didn’t have to come back to the hospital for it.

My sister and her husband surprised me by coming up for the day on Sunday, all the way from Pennsylvania! It was so special.

And on Tuesday at almost a week old, we took Nicholas home!

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Ten days old.

 

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One of our amazing midwives, Catherine. Home visits for the win, y’all.

 

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Early morning brother love.

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A bath from Grandma.

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And this is what he looks like now, more or less. Definitely our darkest, hairiest baby yet. And currently the cutest baby in the house, too. :)

It’s been quiet here this winter and spring. I think part of the reason is that we created this blog to document our adventures in Ireland, and now we aren’t there anymore. Gabriel finished vet school last November (we still can’t believe it sometimes, or express how grateful we are to the Lord for that). Since then, our lives have been blessedly ordinary. We’re thankful for this season, but somehow I’ve had trouble writing about it, or haven’t bothered. 

Another reason I’ve been slow to post is that I don’t know the future of this blog yet, since the church we belong to has Firm Rules about the purposes and uses of the internet, and blogging isn’t one of them. :) But until we come to a decision about that, I’ve decided to write here and there about our lives. I’ve missed that, and missed the interaction with you, the reader.

Did you know we’re expecting a baby in less than three weeks? It’s what’s uppermost in my mind right now. Because of moving across the ocean, we didn’t bring a lot of baby items back with us. So it’s been fun to hunt for used baby furniture and accessories. It lulls me into feeling prepared to be the mom of a newborn and two preschoolers before all the craziness descends. :)

What’s been happening in your life recently?  Any plans for the summer? I’d love to hear.

Bronwyn to Gregory: “Now lie down so  I can check you. Hmm….there’s nothing to be seen in your blood…”

Later that day, at lunch (whining): “No, I can’t eat my lunch, because my blood pressure is up.”

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 Bronwyn: “Mom, does Dennis have a wife?”

Me: “No.”

B: “Why not?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

B: “But he NEEDS a wife!”

Me: “Why?”

B: “So he can sleep with her . . . and eat with her.”

I’ll be honest, one of the things I was happiest to leave behind when we moved to Ireland was my vegetable garden. It was also the thing I was dreading about moving back to southern Ontario. I mean, I love the fresh vegetables, but preserving (canning, freezing, etc.) them looked big to me.

(I know how pathetic that could sound to someone who has multiple gardens and many children and who makes a year’s worth of butter at a time. Let’s just say I didn’t learn as much about housekeeping as I could have while growing up because duh, I had better things to do! Like reading The Babysitter’s Club and looking at my ankles and wondering when they’d become slender like the big girls’. And also because I was lazy and had no interest in learning things like Useful Life Skills.)

Last Friday both proved my fears and made me kick their butts, too. 

My neighbor had lots of fresh sweet corn, so at 9:00 I hauled the kids over there and we picked about three bushel. I processed corn all day, and at 9:00 that evening, I finished cleaning up the kitchen.

In those twelve hours:

-Gabriel’s car broke down on the way to work, and I had to pick him up. 

-The children got a bottle of body wash and drizzled it over the living room carpet and the couch.

-Bronwyn did number 2 in her panties.

-Gregory did number 1 on the floor.

-I had to run back into town to get more freezer bags, plus do other daily duties like cooking, which I would love to forgo but somehow we still, always, need to eat.

Seriously, just typing this almost makes me cry. Sometimes the combination of motherhood and housekeeping makes me feel like, if I were in a book, the author would be having an evil belly laugh right now. I hope someday I’ll feel like laughing about it, too.

In the meantime, I admit it’s good to know I can tackle big jobs like that and get them done, even if it literally takes me all day. 

In case the last post made anyone feel sorry for us, you should know that the children and I are at my parents’ place in SC for a few weeks. We’re having a wonderful summer. I DO feel sorry for Gabriel who has to be far away from his family and spend every day for a month in a place he’d rather not see again.

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Yesterday someone asked Bronwyn where her dad is. “He fwew away to Dubwin . . . but we don’t mind.” (She did NOT hear that from me.)

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She’s been learning about thunderstorms since we’re here, since Ireland doesn’t have them and SC has had a storm every day for the last week. She also first heard about hurricanes on a story CD since we’re here. Yesterday we were watching the storm when she worriedly asked, “Mom, do you think it’s a hurry-up-cane?”

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My mom was helping her go potty. When Bronwyn was done, she said, “Grandma, I am not shy. I don’t mind if you wipe me.”

This update has been hanging over my head for a month, waiting to be written. I know a lot of you already know this turn of events, but I wanted to update those who hadn’t heard. Unfortunately, Gabriel failed two of his final exams this spring. This means he did not graduate as a vet and will not be able to work as a vet until he passes those exams.

This felt like a major glitch in his professional life when it happened in May. He’d worked so hard for so long only to be told he couldn’t finish yet. We decided to carry on as planned to move back to Ontario in June, since we had already bought plane tickets, living expenses are so much less there, and we were really, really sick of Dublin and UCD. (The former doesn’t deserve our feelings. The latter could go somewhere dark and smelly forever and we wouldn’t cry, as long as it’s after Gabriel graduates.)

He’s currently back in Dublin for the month of July, redoing rotations in the modules that he failed. He’ll then return to Ontario and work as a vet tech at the clinic where he had signed on this past winter. In November, he’ll retake the exams.

A lot of people have asked how he could fail finals when he passed everything up until now. We aren’t really sure. Several things play into it. His studies suffered on account of his family, we know that. He expected to be able to bluff khis way through any knowledge gaps he might have had, and that didn’t work on the oral exams he failed.  He felt he was well prepared going into it, but obviously he missed some things. Of course we’d like to say the oral exams were subjective (he knows he wasn’t in the bottom of the class academically), but we know there’s no use pointing fingers now. He’s bending over backwards to please these people and learn what he needs to know to pass in November.

Another frequent question has been why retake the exams in November? Why not take them while he’s there in July? That would be the logical thing to do, and any other year he would have, but this year the school changed its policy to allow retakes only in November and May. It sucks, but there’s no changing it. He went to the dean of the vet college and literally begged (Do you realize what this means for me financially to lose a vet’s pay for another three months and pay for another airline ticket across the ocean? As a husband and father to be gone another two-three weeks?). But she couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything to change it, although she assured him how sorry she was.

His first day of remediation was yesterday. He said he did a lot of running around doing other people’s dirty work, and nothing related to the subject he failed (small animal clinical exams). Wouldn’t that be disheartening? You can pray for him when you think of us. Also, you can pray for the five other students who failed final exams. Some of them also had jobs lined up, and not all of them have the immense support system Gabriel does (God, family, solid friends to lean on).

It’s a bitter disappointment, yes it is. I don’t recall the last time I prayed so fervently for something to change and God so directly said, “No.” This summer it looks like the only thing to do is to keep my hand in God’s and watch to see how he redeems this situation.

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I made him pose on his way out the door this morning. (The exam today was a mock consultation of a small animal, which requires formal dress.) That’s a relieved, ecstatic, over-the-moon grin. Two more exams tomorrow, and then he’s done, Lord willing.

Then it’ll be the weekend with no exams, no studying, no school. Maybe we’ll get pizza delivered and play the Farming Game. I mean anything could happen!

Hi! I haven’t let you know what’s happening in our lives for a long time, so here’s a post to fill you in.

We went to Ontario for part of the winter. Gabriel had a big chunk of time off rotations at school which he was supposed to use for externships (following vets around and learning from them), so he did those in Canada. He was able to land a job starting in July in his hometown with the local vet clinic. That is a HUGE blessing. He’ll be a large animal vet, spending most of his time on farms. It’s pretty much his dream job in every way. Now the last hurdle is to pass all of his exams so he can qualify for that veterinary license. (It feels surreal that we’re even talking about these things.)

He finished rotations last week and is now studying for exams. They end in the middle of May, and after that we’ll spend about a month around here packing, tying up loose ends, selling off our things, etc. I admit to a great deal of reluctance about all of that. I’m going to miss our house, our neighborhood, and our church very much.

I joined a writer’s group this winter. It’s good fun, but it’s highlighting  my procrastinating habits. I’ve also done quite a bit of manuscript editing since the first of the year.

Bronwyn is almost three (how? did that happen?). Her imagination is off the charts most days. Give her a pair of fancy shoes, a stick, and a snack, and she’ll spend a happy half hour in the back garden, humming to herself and talking to her friend Baza (who is also turning three on May 18, or sometimes May 16, and is usually her friend but sometimes her sister or her daughter).

Gregory, at one and a half years old, is a joy. He loves his daddy and will take him over me anytime. He’s starting to repeat words a lot. He has four upper teeth and three lower teeth, and the other day I noticed that two upper molars are starting to come in. His favorite activity is turning light switches on and off and breaking my glasses.

Speaking of glasses, Gabriel and I both had laser eye surgery done in the last month or two. Due to snagging price discounts, we decided to do it now instead of waiting until he was out of school like we had planned.  Neither of us are seeing totally clearly yet; we’re told that it can take a few months to clear up. Even so, we can hardly believe that we don’t need glasses or contacts to drive or do everyday tasks.

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This was diaper cream and toilet paper, and yes, the oldest one undoubtedly knew better.

Speaking of messes, a few days later Greg shattered a glass bottle of maple syrup onto the floor.

A day or two later, Gabriel wondered why Gregory “smells like a young man.” Earlier, I had heard Bronwyn upstairs saying, “There, now you’re all clean.” When I came upstairs, the smell hit me like a wall. She’d found a bottle of Axe shower gel and was “cleaning” her brother by loading his hair with it. (Maybe it helped get the diaper cream out of his hair.)

DSC_0002Gregory crushed his thumb about two weeks ago. A little kid at Bible study playfully picked up a rock about the size of a football and dropped it on Greg’s hand. He cried and cried–it was pitiful. The nail dropped off today, but the thumb is still swollen and misshapen. I’m a little worried that it’ll never look normal. I guess worse things have happened to toddlers.

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Bronwyn has discovered the joy of hanging up laundry. She can also fold washcloths and handkerchiefs, and she does a decent job too.

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Up on Ticknock Hill one evening at sunset. You can see all across the city on a clear day, and at dusk the white tailed deer come out.

 

OK, here’s what you need to know.

1) Exam periods, like May and December, are sacred to exams. To studying. To freaking out about exams. When he’s not studying for exams, he will need either food or sleep or clean laundry. Pretend that, instead of a husband, you have a room-and-boarder for a month; it’ll be a relief to both of you.

2) When your husband gets to grad school, you will be proud of him and will enjoy telling new acquaintances that “my husband is in so-and-so college studying such-and-such.” Dear sister, instead of boasting you should begin praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

3) When he gets to rotations or clinicals or anything similar, you will be excited because you will see this as the beginning of the end. It is, in the sense that it’s like the time you were in labor (sorry) (it’s the most relevant example I can think of) and they said, “It’s time to push,” and you were relieved because you thought it was the beginning of the end. And then you pushed for three ever-loving hours that later made you think, Never again. So help me. That is how excited you should be about rotations.

4) Which brings me to the next thing you should know: Children. If you have kids while your husband is in school, plan them so that they aren’t born during exams. Because if you have a new baby or go into labor during exams, even the peace of Jerusalem isn’t going to give your husband time to study. (Kind friends and family members will help out, though, enabling your husband to stay in school and both of you to stay happily married to each other.)

5) You can raise kids while your husband is in rotations. Just know that rotations are like exam periods times two, and they last a lot longer than one month. You will be responsible for most of the diaper changes, mealtimes, snotty noses, bedtimes, baths, spankings, stories, snacks, potty breaks and questions a toddler and a baby can generate or require. They will be all yours. For WEEKS and WEEKS.

6) Someday your husband will graduate from school (this bit of advice is given in faith at this point). Both of you will be happy–and a tiny bit sad–when that day comes. Make him go to the graduation ceremony if for no other reason than that you stayed married to him through school and you are! going! to watch him walk across that stage in his cap and gown while you cry because you are so relieved but mostly just so proud of him.

There. NOW do you still want to marry a student?

:D

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