Hello World, I’m Charlie!

A much more detailed post is forthcoming, I promise, but as this is already wayyyy overdue…

Meet our newest addition, Charles Arthur Fox! Charlie is a perfect, tiny little bean — he was born on 8/13 at 6 lbs, 2 oz (smaller than Penny was!), 18.5″ long, and a head of dark hair. His big sister is (mostly) smitten with him, and I’m pretty exhausted but all things considered, we’re doing pretty good!

Life with two tiny humans is certainly an adjustment, but he’s been making it as easy as we could expect so far. I’m sure that won’t last long, but this sleepy newborn phase has been great as we’ve been trying to get unpacked and somewhat settled into our new place, at least!

As always, more frequent updates and loooots more photos and videos happen on the reg over on Instagram, so if you want more Charlie Bean in your life, make sure you’re following me there. And I’ll be back with more baby, more Penny, and more house stuff soon!

Almost Time! (Foxlet 2: 36.75 Weeks)

DUUUUUUUUUUUDE.

This. Life. Is. Crazy.

Here is just a, er, light summary of all the craziness that has been going on lately:

We listed our house last week, have had showings every day since (super fun to keep a home impeccably clean with a toddler, btw), and had a successful open house this past Sunday. No offers yet, but a few folks who seem seriously interested, so fingers are crossed!

We helped my parents move into their new place, and had their house (which we are buying from them) fully painted, floors refinished, new lighting installed, and put in a new stove & range. We are finishing some final work today, tomorrow, and Friday, and then the movers go to work on Saturday! Eep!!

I was sent to the hospital at my 35 week checkup for my blood pressure spiking again, sigh. Luckily, the labs they ran still came back negative for preeclampsia, so they just increased my blood pressure medication dosage, placed me on activity restriction, and are sticking with my scheduled induction date of next Tuesday. However, I have another checkup today (I’m 36 weeks and 5 days now) and I’m not taking anything for granted these days, so we’ll just have to see what happens…!

We celebrated my beautiful niece Marnie’s 1st birthday at the end of July, along with my sister’s birthday from afar (they have the same birthday — and it’s my nephew Alex’s 2nd birthday today!)

And I hosted my largest (and last) Yelp event of the year, a 900+ person banger at the hot new renovated (and locally-focused!) Quarter Market in Ballston Quarter (which was formerly Ballston Common Mall.) The event was awesome, if suuuuper exhausting, and now I’m just trying to tie up loose ends and plan out things for while I’ll be off work, since my maternity leave starts as soon as baby comes!

Soooooooooo yeah. It’s kind of been… a lot. And this honestly doesn’t even cover all of the various lists and items bouncing around in my head that I’m trying to keep track of — where I put all baby stuff I’ll need, which house we’ll actually be living/sleeping in when baby comes home next week (lol), helping Penny deal with all this change and transition (spoiler alert: it’s resulted in a 4-day nap strike and I am exhausted enough already)… and I mean, forget about me actually dedicating time and thought energy to the fact that we are gaining a new member of our family in less than a week’s time!

I was actually doing pretty well with charging ahead through everything just because there were so, so, so many items to tick off on my to-do list, but as things have been getting completed I’ve actually started to feel more overwhelmed. Which is kind of ironic, right? Because you’d think that as I’m able to check things off, I should be feeling better! But, I think it’s more like, I was SO busy and able to stay SO distracted that I didn’t even really realize how quickly time was counting down. And yesterday, when I hit the T-one week countdown, it really just kind of all hit me.

On the one hand, I think it’ll be good once Baby Foxlet is finally here, because it will force me to stop, to let go, to let others handle things (I’m not very good at relinquishing that kind of control.) On the other hand, I feel utterly unprepared for having a newborn again because I’ve basically spent this entire pregnancy trying to do everything OTHER than actually prepare for another child. Also, you know things must be bad when I’m treating the idea of pushing a football through my vagina as me finally getting a break, hahahahaha.

But, as always, I’m trying to keep my chin up and remind myself that this is all just a temporary season, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and in another three or six months this will all feel like a distant, ludicrous dream. After all, no matter what ends up happening with all the other stuff, I’m getting a new baby at the end of all this, and the first one turned out kinda great, so that’s pretty cool.

The Best Boy

It’s taken me a bit of time to muster up the ability to write this post, though if you follow me on social you are probably already aware that this past Friday we said goodbye to my darling boy, Harry.

Harry was my first baby. We got him when I was 16 and he was just a 10 week old puppy — he was so little he fit length-wise across my stomach with his legs fully splayed out, and right from the beginning he was the most people-loving, energetic, lovable little thing.

Harry was my boy through the end of high school and through college, he saw our family grow from just me, my siblings, and my parents to include all of our partners, five babies, and four other doggos.

Seeing our family through all of that means that he was with us for over 15 years, and, as you may know, 15 is a very long time for a pup. Even though he maintained some of his spunk and spirit right until the end, throughout the past couple of years we had been seeing a steady decline in his mobility, he started having to deal with various ailments, and was just showing his age.

First came the days when he stopped being able to go up and down the stairs with reliability. Then times when he had difficulty even just standing up from his bed on his own. He would slip and wobble when walking, falling down and not being able to get back up. This also meant he was having lots of accidents, which made it even harder for him to regain his footing, and more than once I found him splayed out in a pool of his own mess. We also had to entice him to eat his food half the time, and he had lost a lot of weight.

We took him to the vet a few times, and they confirmed what we already knew: there would come a point where he would start having more bad days than good days, and that is when we would have to start thinking about his quality of life and whether it would be time to say goodbye.

A few months ago, we thought we were at the end, and I started to heartbreakingly mentally prepare myself. But, he bounced back, and we got a little more time with our very best boy. He gained some weight back with the help of a high-calorie nutritional supplement, some joint vitamins, and even got a bit of his spirit back with the help of painkillers and arthritis medication.

We knew the clock was still running though, and it was only a matter of time before things took a turn for the worse again. Six weeks or so later, he fell back into a bad period, and we thought it might be the end, again. But one more time, he bounced back! He seemed content enough, he would mostly sleep but he seemed happy as far as I could tell — he even had a few spurts of playing with Daxter! And so, we got a few more weeks with him.

But… it couldn’t last forever. And last week, it just seemed like he was finally done. He stopped eating, was shaking and shivering, didn’t have the energy to get up anymore… he just seemed so tired. And so, finally, I knew I couldn’t put off what I’d been dreading any longer.

I have never had to put a pet to sleep before, so it was a particularly heart-wrenching decision but I finally gathered myself enough to call Lap of Love, an at-home veterinary hospice service, and set his final appointment. We spent his last day, the Fourth of July, cuddling, eating bacon, and just being together as a family. And then, early Friday morning, the doctor came over and we said goodbye.

It was a heartbreaking experience, and up until the very last second I was second-guessing myself, but I know now that it was the right choice. Harry was able to go so gently, so peacefully, so comfortably — in his favorite bed, me right by his side.

My brother Ben came over that morning to say farewell, and after Penny gave Harry a kiss goodbye (the very last photo I ever took of him, below), he took her out for a bit so that we could move forward. I was already bawling at this point, and she voluntarily came over to give me a huge hug and patted my back as they were leaving. I hate that she’s the one who had to comfort me during this time, but I really needed it.

Dr. Kimberly, the vet, was so kind and calming during the entire experience, too. She reassured me that I was making the right call, that Harry looked so tired and worn down, that this would be a release for him and he would soon be free of pain and at peace. I fed him a final piece of bacon while she gave him a shot that put him into a deep, relaxed sleep, and then when I was ready, she gave him the shot that stopped his heart. It was very dignified and gentle. Even after it was over, he still just looked like he was sleeping.

Daxter had been hiding downstairs for most of this time, but came up after it was done, gave Harry a little sniff, and walked away. Dr. Kimberly said that some pets just know… and I think that was the case with him. The doctor then took a pawprint impression in some clay for me, and clipped a lock of his fur as a keepsake. Together, we laid him in a basket and she tucked him in with a soft blanket, then carried him away to be cremated.

I really do believe it was the best possible exit from this world I could have given him, but it still hurt (and hurts) like hell. I just miss him. Even though he pretty much just slept all day at the end, the loss of his presence feels so vast. He was my constant companion for 15 years — pretty much half of my entire life. He went from being the most excitable, energetic, bounding little thing to a crotchety old man (the literal doggie equivalent of the guy yelling “get off my porch!”) but never lost his deep love and affection for people. He was just… a really, really good dog.

One of the hardest parts, other than the actual act of saying goodbye, came the next morning when Penny asked where Harry was. I tried to explain without breaking down that he had died (I read that we shouldn’t use euphemisms, as they can be confusing to young children), and reminded her that she said goodbye yesterday. She seemed to accept it, but has called out for him a few times since and it’s just really hard to hear.

We brought Pixel (my brother’s dog) over to keep Daxter company, since he’s seemed a bit rudderless since Harry’s passing, and I think it’s helping him a lot. But Penny also sometimes calls Pixel by Harry’s name, which is hard for me, too. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing fine, and sometimes I find myself instinctively looking for him and having to remind myself that he’s not here anymore. Or I think about how this new baby won’t ever get to know him, and it brings me back to tears.

I know it will get easier with time, and I also know some people might not understand why I’m feeling this loss so deeply, grieving like this when it’s “just a dog,” and that’s okay. They don’t have to understand. Harry was a beloved, treasured member of our family, he really was my first baby, and he’ll be in my heart forever.

Playing Outside

With my dog harry!More info: http://blog.ben-powell.net/2009/02/16/outdoor-jag-test/

Posted by Ben Powell on Monday, February 16, 2009

I’ll love you forever, bud.

Still Kickin’ — Literally (Foxlet 2: 31 Weeks)

Why, hello there! In what has now become sadly unsurprising, I’m back in spectacularly late fashion, I’m back with another pregnancy/life/Gretchen update. There’s been a lot going on in these parts lately, so much so that it sometimes feels I’ve barely been able to keep my head above water, let alone come back to document it all on the blog, but I’m gonna try my best to catch up (for those who may still be interested — goodness knows why, lol — and also just for posterity’s sake, heh.)

As of tomorrow I will be 31 weeks pregnant — which means I’ve got a mere 6 weeks to go ’til we get to meet Foxlet 2! (In case you aren’t aware/need a refresher, I have gestational hypertension — high blood pressure that surfaces only when I’m pregnant, so I’m being induced at around 37 weeks.) This pregnancy feels like it has FLOWN by — there really is such a marked difference between going through this all for the first time, and going through it all with a sassy, spunky, never-gonna-let-you-rest toddler along for the ride, lol.

Things were holding very steady with my blood pressure for a while there, and thus I haven’t really had too much to update on the pregnancy front (thankfully!). Unfortunately, it seems like that honeymoon period might be ending, as my BP had clocked in high again at my checkup last week (womp womp.) This may just have been a fluke (I get stressed out just getting my BP checked these days!), but it’s more likely that I’ll need to increase my blood pressure medication dosage in the coming weeks. Which, of course, isn’t a big deal, I just hope that the medication continues to keep it under control until we get to 37 weeks! With everything else that’s going on right now, an earlier delivery, or even bedrest, is not really something I think I can handle.

In the spirit of total honesty, given how early my hypertension condition surfaced (at 20 weeks), my anxiety over early delivery, potentially developing preeclampsia again, or other possible things going wrong with this pregnancy and baby had really been starting to get to me. I began to experience pretty intense anxiety attacks with physical symptoms (heart palpitations, shortness of breath, etc), so under the guidance of both my therapist and my OB, I started taking Zoloft and it’s really been helping me feel more level / less doomsday-y about everything. I definitely still have my moments, but in general I think it’s helping keep my tendency to immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion at least a little under control, so that’s good.

She was unimpressed.

Aaaaaaanyway, I had a growth ultrasound a few weeks ago to make sure that Baby F is still growing as it should be and everything looks good in there (it does!). I have also progressed to going into the OB for weekly blood pressure checks (in addition to checking at home) and NSTs (non-stress tests) where they monitor the baby’s movement, heartrate, etc. In fact, I have another appointment this afternoon!

My other symptoms have mainly just been your typical third-trimester pregnancy pains and issues — pelvic pain, heartburn, needing to pee all the time (lol), and being super-dee-duper exhausted, etc. I’m still feeling very grateful that despite my complication, this pregnancy has been a lot less severe symptom-wise than my pregnancy with Penny was, which probably has been helping me maintain a bit more of a que sera sera attitude about things lately. So hopefully that will continue to be the case even if my BP is up again today. Cross your fingers for me!

In other news, Sean, Penny, and I took a quick little mini-babymoon trip down to VA Beach a couple of weeks ago which was really nice. The weather wasn’t terribly cooperative for a beach trip (overcast and a bit rainy), but it was still just great to get out of town for a little bit and spend some quality time together.

Plus, in what should come as a surprise to no one, my little mermaid water baby absolutely loved the ocean! We, on the other hand, did not love how totally unphased and fearless she was about it — our little daredevil girl kept trying to charge riiiiiight into the tide, lol. So in reality, we actually ended up spending more time at the hotel pool than on the actual beach, but hey, at least we can check that experience off for her, lol.

We also celebrated Father’s Day last weekend with a lovely trip to the National Zoo! It was Penny’s first time at the zoo, and both of our first trip in a looooong while, and was so much fun! Penny really was into seeing the animals, and we even got to meet up with some friends who were visiting from out of town, whose daughter is just a few months younger than Penny.

Bear!

Also on the Penny front, we have unexpectedly began potty training!

I was totally not even thinking about attempting to potty train for a while still (honestly, dealing with two kids in diapers sounds so much easier than dealing with a newborn and having to deal with accidents + rushing my toddler to the bathroom every few hours), but we’re really just following Penny’s lead here. She started out telling us right after she pooped in her diaper, then progressed to telling us right before she had to poop, and now is telling us when she has peed/is peeing as well, constantly pulling on her diaper and yelling “POTTY!” at the top of her lungs.

So we’re just kinda rolling with it!

We’ve had a handful of successes, and while I’m definitely not trying to pressure her, I am trying to be as encouraging as possible. I mean, if she’s ready, she’s ready, right? We have a couple of little pottys placed around the house as well as a potty seat in the bathroom, and we’ll see how it continues to go!

Things have been going well on the work-front as well, not a whole lot new to report there since I think I already mentioned my promotion at the beginning of this quarter in a previous post. I’m just mainly trying to keep afloat with a calendar of fun and exciting events, keeping the Yelp Northern VA community engaged, and getting my ducks in a row before going out on maternity leave in August!

And then finally, we have the last piece of the insanity puzzle: our house move. Things have taken a lot longer than we initially planned to come to a head, but it looks like we are finally moving for reals next month! Because, you know, it’s not enough to be extremely pregnant and have a toddler and be planning out maternity leave and have a senior citizen dog and just, you know, deal with life in general. Nah, let’s throw a move and selling our current home in there as well! 😉

No, in all seriousness, I’m incredibly excited for the chance to move back inside the beltway and bring Penny and this new little one up in the same city I spent so much of my own childhood and youth. Plus, Falls Church just keeps getting better and better! There are lots of new developments in the works and cool new businesses constantly moving in — totally worth the traffic jam that all the construction causes, hehe.

I do think that Penny is starting to become a little bit more aware of all the change and upheaval brewing though, though whether it’s because of me being so noticeably pregnant, or because of the move, or just her toddler sixth-sense, who knows. She’s been clingy AF lately (as has Daxter, as you can see in the pic above, lol), and is definitely going through a very severe “MY MOMMY” phase. Hopefully by the time this baby actually arrives, she’ll remember how much she loves babies in general, because I don’t think her little sibling will be as tolerant of being shoved out of my lap as the dogs are, hahahaha.

And I think that pretty well catches us up! Let me know if you think I missed out on anything, or if there’s anything you’re curious about — I know this was already a lot of post to slog through, so I’m sure I skipped something. And, as always, if you’re craving more insight into my oh-so-interesting (lol) life, feel free to follow me on Instagram where I update much more frequently. See you next time!

To Viability and Beyond! (Foxlet 2: 23.5 Weeks)

Howdy neighbors! Hope everyone is having a great… day? Week? Month? Season? Whichever you choose, I hope things are going well for you! My own isn’t shaping up to be too terrible, though it certainly does keep throwing a few curveballs my way to keep things fresh.

Penny is 20 months old and has firmly entered her bull in a china shop phase — she is a full-blown clumsy toddler, complete with spills and tumbles and our little family’s first real kid accident. As we were walking home from the playground the weekend before last, Penny tripped over her own two feet and landed literally face-first on the sidewalk. Pregnant or not, I don’t think I’ve ever moved so quickly before in my life. I scooped her up and ran her back inside, cleaned up her scratches, and continued to bawl for like 15 minutes (me, not her, of course. My tough girl stopped crying after like, 45 seconds, lol.)

She bumped her forehead in addition to scratching up her right cheek, but thankfully it was nothing worse than that. She didn’t really even mess with it as it was healing. It’s been a little over a week since then, and her face is almost totally healed up. And alas, I’m sure it’s just the first of many injuries for my wild girl — she is absolutely a march-to-her-own-beat kinda lady, always charging off on her own and wanting (well, demanding, really) to do everything herself. And she already got herself a brand new skinned knee (very lightly — phew!) yesterday, lol, sob, cry.

We also celebrated our Harry’s FIFTEENTH birthday a week or so ago! He definitely has been showing his age lately (::tear::), but also still has his moments where you see he’s still got some of that puppy-like spirit. They say that mini schnauzers retain some of their youthfulness right until the very end, and given how our ailing, arthritic old man still has his random bursts of energy, I believe it. We love you, old man!

On the work front, things have been great. As I mentioned in my last post, I was promoted at the beginning of April, and my coworkers & I got to film something for a fun national campaign Yelp is coming out with later this year!

Filming in the city was really fun, but super exhausting — I am totally already at that point in my pregnancy where I’m slowing wayyyy down. I’ll be 24 weeks on Friday, which is kinda exciting because that gestational age is often when the baby is considered officially “viable.” Which I think essentially means that if I were to go into premature labor or need to delivery crazy early due to my gestational hypertension (or if it were to progress into severe preeclampsia — knock on wood!), there’s a reasonable chance that the baby would survive.

Obviously I am hoping, praying, and taking every precaution to ensure that DOESN’T happen and this little bean continues to bake as long as it needs, but I did have a little bit of a scare last weekend with an all-day headache (one of the signs they told me to keep my eye on with regard to preeclampsia), feeling “off,” and even further elevated blood pressure, so I can’t take anything for granted.

Thankfully, everything is fine. My results are still negative for pre-e, baby looks great, and my blood pressure came back down after a couple hours in the hospital. I know it’s way better to be safe than sorry, but it probably goes without saying that I did not miss being sent to the hospital for this kinda thing. -_-

My next OB checkup is next week, and I’m hoping things remain stable and that I’ll get the go-ahead to be able to travel out to the Oregon Coast with my family next month, as my dad’s been planning a little family reunion with my relatives in Oregon for a while, and right now my ability to join is a bit up in the air.

Aside from all of that, things seem to be progressing pretty normally with my pregnancy. I’ve got some pretty bad tailbone pain and every time I sneeze or cough too hard there’s like an 75% chance I either pee a little or throw up in my mouth (PREGNANCY IS A BEAUTIFUL AND GLORIOUS TIME), but I really can’t complain too much because at this point with my first pregnancy I’m pretty sure I still felt like total crap. I have been experiencing some anxiety over all of the “unknown” stuff in my life right now — how my pregnancy will progress, our moving situation, work changes, etc — but I’ve been continuing to see my therapist throughout all of these big transitions and it’s been really helpful just to have that additional outlet to talk through everything.

Anyway, that’s where everything is at right now! Cheers!