Max - Keeping Us on our Toes

Like Zoe, Max apparently likes to keep us on our toes when it comes to his health. At three months old, Zoe was diagnosed with urinary reflux. Max decided to scare his parents a few days after birth. Okay buddy, you win. While we were at our first doctor appointment with Max, our nurse practitioner, who is fantastic, noticed that he had what is called a sacral dimple. The sacral dimple can indicate a problem with the spinal cord. She ordered an ultrasound for Max at St. Louis Children's Hospital. I don't know about you, but when people mention different issues with the spinal cord and my child in the same sentence, it's a bit worrisome. By a bit worrisome, I mean cry for a half hour and get a big comfort Diet Coke.

A couple of weeks ago Max had his ultrasound. During the ultrasound they found a "cystic area" at the base of his spine. A not so tactful radiologist told us about the "cystic area" and then left the room. I understand now why most radiologists are in a dark room in the basement. Her bedside manner left much to be desired. She gave us just enough information to scare us to the core. I reached out to our doctor's office to make an appointment and fill them in on how the ultrasound went. Our nurse practitioner called us on her day off because she knew this mama needed some peace in the situation, to tell us that Max does have a tethered spinal cord. She informed me that he would need to see a neurologist and would probably need an MRI but that tethered cords can be fixed. I did feel much better about the news once I found out that it was something that could be fixed. However, over the course of the two weeks we waited for the MRI and appointment I grew a bit worried that they would find something else on the MRI. At this point I was only 2 weeks post partum, I was full of hormones and lacking sleep. When you're up at night feeding a baby, you have a lot of time to think about the worst case scenario. 

Today Max had his MRI and appointment. We got to Children's at 7am for the MRI. They swaddled Max in what seemed like 15 blankets. Let me tell you, that MRI technician could probably make a lot of money swaddling babies if he offered his services to knew moms who can't get their babies to sleep. They put some pads around Max's head to keep him still and make sure he couldn't hear the noise from the MRI. They had my little baby wrapped and wedged and put into a tube. I usually don't get nervous when my kids get scans but I was nervous that he would be scared. For the record, he was a champ and ended up falling asleep. I learned that MRIs are LOUD. Holy Cow, you'd think that in this day and age with all the technology we have, they could make the noise a little bit softer in those things. It sounds like someone put a baseball bat in a dryer and then put the dryer on high speed. 

After the scan, we met with the neurologist. Dr. Strahle took a good deal of time with us. She brought out a model of the spine and explained what was going on. She confirmed that he does in fact have a tethered spinal cord. Thankfully, he falls on the side of the tethered cord spectrum that is not as serious. If left untreated he would most likely develop urinary issues, back pain and weakness in his feet. Thankfully it was caught early and the cord can be untethered. Depending on the radiologist's full report, he will have corrective surgery anywhere from 6 months of age to 2 years old. At the end of her explanation and after she had answered our questions, the doctor said, "We'll take care of him; he's going to be okay." This statement put my worried mama heart at great ease.

We are so thankful to our nurse practitioner, to our doctor's office, and to all the medical professionals at Children's Hospital who helped us with this diagnostic process. We are beyond thankful that his condition can be corrected and that he will be okay. This news was quite welcome after two plus weeks of worry. We will keep everyone posted as to when the surgery will be.

That's all for now. God is good.

Introducing Max Peter Wollenberg

We have a new member of our family! This handsome new man is Max Peter Wollenberg. He was born September 24th, 2019 at 12:03pm. He weighed in at a whopping 9lbs 9oz and 22 inches long. We are already so in love with him. Here's a quick rundown on Mr. Max so far.

His Name
We have always had a hard time picking out boy names. Zach was named Zach because it was the only boy name that Nate and I really liked. For Max, Nate brought up the name one day and we thought it fit nicely with Zoe and Zach so we kept it. Peter, his middle name, comes from a dear friend of ours, Peter Kelm, who passed away two years ago after a battle with cancer. Peter was my pastor when I lived in Cincinnati and then his family stayed close family friends with us. Nate got to know the Kelms because they lived in Mequon while we were dating and attending Concordia. My friend Angie (Peter's wife) and their kids (Jacob, Caleb, and Chloe) are going to be Max's godparents.

His Arrival
Toward the end of my pregnancy with Max, I was having growth ultrasounds to track Max's weight. Max was measuring about a week or so ahead so they decided to go ahead and induce on my due date, September 24th. We went in to the hospital at 6am that morning. By the time everything was hooked up and ready to go, it was about 6:45am. Every thing was moving along at a slow but steady pace. Around 8am they broke my water, not my favorite pastime. Then I got the epidural, that is when things always make a turn for the better. The nurse was making fun of me because I wasn't having painful contractions yet. Here's the deal though, I was not waiting until things got painful to take away the pain. I like to be proactive. Haha. Also, with both Zoe and Zach, once my body was free of the painful contractions, it relaxed and my labor progressed quickly. Max's labor was no exception. As soon as that epidural started working well, we were in business. I had about a 5.5 hour labor and maybe pushed for 6 minutes. Now, the pushing was not pleasant. Max's heart rate had dropped more than what the doctor was comfortable with so she asked to use a vacuum to get him out quickly. She did a fabulous job of keeping calm during a stressful situation and delivered Max safely. He came out a bit purple so the doctor cut the cord and they took him over to get some oxygen. This worried me because they didn't just hand him to me like they handed Zach to me. I kept asking if he was okay. Nate assured me that he was fine. I didn't really believe him because there were like three medical professionals around him and I could see a mask on his face. I wanted to hear it from the people in the scrubs that he was okay. He was just fine and I should have trusted Nate, however, hormones during labor don't really help you think straight.

Meeting My New Guy

Daddy Getting Some Snuggles


Proof of His Weight 

I can't handle this cuteness.

Hi Everyone!

Big Sister and Big Brother
Zoe was exctied about him from the moment she saw him. Because we live in small-town Hoyleton, we were worried that the news would travel fast and get to Zoe before we had a chance to tell her that she had a baby brother and that his name was Max. So her teacher, Francee, agreed to let us FaceTime her during the school day to tell Zoe about her new baby brother. It's one of the sweet perks of a little Lutheran school and your daughter's teacher being a friend from college that you've known for almost 15 years. It was super sweet. Zoe, Francee and I all got emotional during the call. It was very special. Zach was a little stand-offish at first when it came to the new baby. At first. I think it was because Mommy was holding a new baby. It turns out that he was fine with the baby when Daddy was holding him. The next day when Zach came to the hospital I got out of the hospital bed and sat on the couch. I think that he was just a little nervous that Mommy was in a hospital bed. Ever since we have brought Max home, Zach always wants to know where the baby is and gets upset if we take Max somewhere without him. I foresee them getting into a lot of trouble in the future.

Zoe Meeting Max on FaceTime

Here they come!

Happy Kids!

Zoe got to him first.

Zoe giving Max the bear they built him.

She's so happy! 

...and smitten.

They make out okay for getting a new brother.

Opening her Barbies from Max

Happy Girl!

Happy Guy!

My three!

He loves him.

She's so in love.

Heading home to Hoyleton

See ya hospital!

We have been very blessed with meals, cards, and gifts! Thanks everyone for your support while we continue to welcome this guy into the world.

That's all for now! God is good!

Lutheran Schools: My Family

Every year when Zoe starts school I get a bit emotional. This is not really because she is starting another year of school. This year she is going full days which is fantastic news because of the baby on the way. I am elated that she will be having fun all day at school, I'm not the greatest entertainer at 8-9 months pregnant or with a newborn. The reason I get emotional is because she is attending Lutheran school. Lutheran schools have shaped my life probably more than anything else. I know I have written about this in the past but it never hurts to tell the story.

My parents decided to send me to a Lutheran school from an advertisement they saw in the paper. They were not regular church goers, not Lutheran, they just needed a preschool. Thanks to my preschool teacher, they started attending church and became VERY involved. My mom ended up working in the school as a before and after school childcare employee. This put me at school ALL the time. I was at school from 6:00AM to 5:00PM. St. John's Lutheran School in Arnold, MO was my home. I spent all of my time there. My parents were friends with the teachers. I would help the teachers in their rooms because I got bored from being in childcare all the time. There was even a summer where my mom helped work a summer childcare program there. I was ALWAYS there. I was putting up bulletin boards, helping sweep and clean chalkboards (back when we used those). This was my safe place. We moved to Cincinnati, OH and had a similar experience at our church and school there.

It didn't stop with my mom just working there. Both of my parents volunteered. When the chicken dinner, sausage dinner and church picnic rolled around, my family was there with other families. The kids played and the adults worked. I saw my parents have all kinds of fun with the other parents. It was not just friends, it was family.

I attended a Catholic high school in Cincinnati, OH because there were no Lutheran High Schools in the area. I went on to attend Concordia University Wisconsin which is an LCMS college just north of Milwaukee, WI. I went to become a Lutheran school teacher, after all Lutheran school was my life and Lutheran school was how I knew Jesus. Of course I am going to continue that life. The choice to go to CUW was one of the best I had in my life. My professors were some of the most caring, loving and hilarious people I've ever met. I still keep in touch with a handful of them 10 years later and they still care, or at give me their time to update them on my life. Yes, it was expensive and I had loans, but I would not in my life say that I wasted a penny on that education.

When Nate and I started dating, I mentioned  to him that I wanted (needed) our kids to attend Lutheran grade school and if the opportunity arose, also Lutheran high school. I don't send my kids to Lutheran school because I am the pastor's wife. I send my kids to Lutheran schools because they made me who I am.

Because of Lutheran schools:

  • I love and know Jesus
  • My manners are top-notch.
  • I was well prepared academically for high school or college.
  • I know what it means to work hard in your profession, I watched my teachers every day.
  • I attended Lutheran college and married my husband.
  • I ended up in the wonderful town of Hoyleton.
  • I have a built in family for myself and my children.
  • I don't have to worry about my kids at school because I know their teachers care deeply.
  • I have a network of friends (family) all over the country.
  • I keep in touch with my teachers from years ago. My second grade teacher attended my wedding. 
  • I attended Lutheran camp which was one of the best experiences for my faith.
I could go on forever because Lutheran schools shaped my entire life.

The thing that kills me these days are the ways our Lutheran schools are struggling. They struggle financially because education costs a lot. They struggle financially because they want to provide healthcare for their teachers and it is an astronomical cost. They struggle because people love to gossip. They struggle because making the sacrifice to pay tuition is not an easy choice to make and sometimes not possible without financial aid. They struggle because the devil likes to attack the work of the Lord. 

Despite the struggles, they are still a place that teaches the word of the Lord and prepares students for their long term academic career. They still produce smiles on students and teachers. They still produce quality students who become leaders in our communities and churches. They have wonderful, caring and qualified teachers. These schools are doing an excellent job.

So why do I love Lutheran schools? They are my family.

That's all for now. God is good.

The Women Go to Mobile

If you are part of the Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod church body you most likely know what the LWML is. LWML stands for Lutheran Women's Missionary League. LWML has been around since 1942 and has raised over $100 million for missions around the world. When Nate was at seminary, I worked as the receptionist at the LWML national office in St. Louis. Since then, I've had a soft spot for the LWML.

When we moved to Hoyleton, the LWML/Ladies' Aid wanted to throw me a baby shower. Since I knew they were planning on doing this, I thought it would be nice to attend their meetings. Turns out, they have a social time with desserts at the end of every meeting. I'm there. I love hanging out with our mature in age women and I love food. They had me hooked.

Fast forward to last year sometime, my buddy Norma mentioned to me that the LWML convention would be in Mobile, AL. As a Midwesterner, I love the Gulf Coast. After all, that's where all the St. Louisans go on vacation. I told Norma we should go on a road trip! A little while later, Norma mentioned to me that our district would send me as a Young Women Representative. So this road trip became a real thing. We also enlisted our buddy Gerri to go along with us. I told them that since the both of them had surgery this year and I am pregnant, we were all prone to blood clots and would need to take some walking breaks. Needless to say, we had a hilarious time in the car.

Now, I love a good church convention because it always turns into a reunion. Because many of my friends are church workers, they are all over the country and I don't get to see them a lot. I got to spend time and catch up with some great friends when I was in Mobile. I also was able to make new friends.

Terry Keischnick and I. I love Terry so much. We got to know each other when I lived in Texas. She is a phenomenal woman and such a great support to pastor's wives.

My friends Lauren and Brianne. I worked with Lauren at Camp Wartburg in Southern Illinois and then I worked with Brianne at Camp Lakeview in Southern Indiana. Brianne and Lauren went to college together. You're only one LCMS Lutheran away from knowing them all.

These two young ladies were Young Women's Representatives with me. One is currently attending Concordia University Wisconsin and the other just graduated. We had to get a CUW ladies picture together. They made me feel old because I am at least 10 years older than they are.

Another picture of Lauren and I. 

I also was able to again see and better understand how the LWML serves the world. Most people know that the LWML's color is purple, is made up of older women and they make sure the church gets fed. The LWML is so much more. Every 2 years they have a convention to get some business done, but to most importantly, decide what mission projects they will be supporting for the next two years. These mission projects are foreign and domestic. Some of the projects selected were: a clean water project for rural schools in Kenya, a program for teaching preschoolers with special needs, outreach for at-risk women in Africa, a program that is restoring homes and living conditions for families in Detroit and the list goes on. The projects added up to a total of $2.1 Million. Then women all over the country collect funds to support these mission projects. The LWML has supported missions in 74 countries. My eyes were opened about how much our offerings from our meeting of 15-20 women in little Hoyleton, IL can support people all over the world. These women of our church body raise so much funding for so many people in need. It's incredible. Even though I worked in the national office for a year, it never really hit me how much the LWML does. This convention was very eye opening.

I am so very glad I went. I did get a break from the kids but I was very busy while I was there. I am very thankful to Nate and his parents holding down the fort while I was gone. I had a great time!

I think this guy was happy to have his mama home. He sat next to me all morning on Monday. Mama missed him too. I missed my bug but she went off to VBS on Monday so we had our snuggles the night I got home.

I introduced Norma and Gerri to Whataburger on the drive back. They, of course, loved it. I was over the moon because I LOVE Whataburger. 

That's all for now. God is good.

Riding the Summertime Mama Struggle Bus

As many of you are aware, it is summer break from school. Zoe has been out of school for two weeks already and we're feeling some adjustment pains. I think mostly Mommy is feeling those pains. I preface this post with the fact that I love my babies and am very blessed to stay at home with them. When it comes to blogging and social media I usually keep it up beat with happy pictures and stories. One day last week was was not a happy picture and story day. Nothing in particular went wrong, it was just one of those days. So I'm here to share with those of you that need to know you're not alone riding the struggle bus sometimes.

The day started out fine. The kids got up and we walked with my walking group. Zach made a mess out of some brochures in the school building so that was mildly annoying because of all the bending over my 23 week pregnant self had to do, but easily cleaned up. We then took a trip to a nearby town to get Zoe a new t-ball helmet, that is in my opinion, a pretty sweet helmet. During our time in the store Zoe kept questioning why she wasn't getting a bat and Zach wore the helmet because when he wasn't wearing it, he was screaming. (Side note: 5 year olds in the summer ask about 100 questions an hour. It is maddening.) This, however, is pretty normal for a trip to the store. We then walked to the hardware store, I came out empty handed but the kids came out with suckers. We then drove home.

Zach in Zoe's new helmet.

When we got home, we played outside for a while. Because there were no other kids to play with, my kids had to fight with each other, not play, fight. Zoe didn't want Zach using her bubbles. THEY'RE THE SAME BUBBLES!!! Zach is blowing his bubble gun in my face. Zoe is upset because her bubble gun doesn't work. Zach spills his bubble tray roughly 5 times. Zach gives up on this nonsense and wants to go inside and play with his vrooms (cars). All of this was happening while I was on the phone with my mom.

Bubble Gun Boy

We get inside and Zach eventually climbs up on my lap. He is kicking his legs around and knocks over an old cup of Diet Coke. This is when I start crying the first time. For some reason, my hormones had enough and this was the breaking point. Both kids are watching me cry. I feel dumb for crying over spilled Diet Coke (although not the first time) and a failure as a mom that I can't keep my cool over what was a seemingly normal morning. I texted a couple of friends about how I felt. One of them who has four girls, sweetly called me to talk me off the ledge. I come back from talking on the phone and my poor husband is encountering a crying wife and a two year old saying, "Diet Coke, Mommy sad." After a chat and some lunch, things were a bit better.

The afternoon was fine. Zach went down for a nap, I did some craft work on my computer and Zoe had some quiet time. After her quiet time, Zoe came and laid on my bed next to me while I took a half hour nap and she had some iPad time. I got up and around 4:30 got dinner started. Then because I forgot Nate wasn't going to be home for dinner I needed a different plan. I wasn't going to make a big dinner for my kids to pick at. So the stress is coming back. I looked in the freezer and found some chicken nuggets and tator tots. Okay, perfect, the oven was already preheating and I love tator tots. Zoe comes into the kitchen to inform me that she doesn't like tator tots and will not be eating them. This is why I think that the dinner menu should be a secret until it is on the table. So I finish browning the meat that was supposed to be for dinner and set it aside. Meanwhile I hear Zach's head hit the floor and an "owwww". Ugh, now what is going on? I peak around the wall to see that the kids are using their foam chairs as gymnastics mats and climbing all over them in a not so safe way. That's when I yelled, I yelled at Zoe because she knows that she isn't supposed to use the chairs for that and took the chairs away. Then I see her playing and smiling and get upset because I feel like nothing phases her. I made both kids sit down. And here it comes, the breaking point is hit again and I go into the kitchen and cry some more because I feel bad for yelling at Zoe. I get up and put the nuggets and tots on plates. I am reminded by Zoe that she will not be eating any tator tots and I tell her that I love them and she should really try them with some ketchup. She tried them and liked them. *insert sarcastic facial expression here* I eat my tator tots and the kids finish up.

I realize that it is probably not a good idea for us to stay inside until bedtime so we venture to the park and invite some friends along. They did really well playing in the park and I got some adult interaction with another mom. Fresh air and conversation can help many things. I realize that Zach needs a diaper change and he has informed me that he has a little cut on his finger, so I get ready to go. Of course, Zoe needs to get her shoes on before we can roll out. Zach feeling the need to get home immediately, bolts out of the park and for the road. AHHHHH I can't really run after him in flip flops so I walk as fast as I can trying not to fall in the grass and get him. He got a nice little swat on his bottom for not listening to Mommy when she asked him to come back. Running toward the road is an offense that Mommy doesn't take lightly. An employee from the Children's Home in town pulls up and tells me to keep the kids close because one of their girls with schizophrenia has escaped and they don't know if she will harm herself or others. I then worry about if I left the garage door open or not. THIS PERSON COULD BE IN MY HOUSE.

We get home and head straight for the bath. Zach, who usually loves the bath, was not having it. He just wanted a band-aid for his cut and I told him we had to wash before he could get a band-aid. This led to a full on bath time meltdown and Zach doesn't melt down often. Zoe realizing I need her to cooperate is very good at this point and gets washed fast. We get out of the bath, Zach is still unhappy until we get the band-aid on his finger. He was then just fine. I come out to the living room and Zoe is standing stark naked in front of the open window. Oh Zoe. I finally get her dressed and put on a show for them to watch for about 15 minutes while I take the towels back to the bathroom and empty the tub. I sit down and Zach crawls up for a snuggle. He reminds me of earlier and said, "Diet Coke, Mommy sad." I assure him that I'm not sad anymore and he shows me his ouchie. I get him in bed and then do Zoe's bedtime routine and get her to bed. Snuggles with Zoe at the end of the day are exhausting, but man sometimes they are just what I need as a mama. She still wants me to snuggle even though I was a grouchy mom all day long.

Nursing his finger

At 9:30pm I put some taquitos in the oven because I'm hungry and open up a stress Diet Coke. I turned on some Downton Abbey and relaxed the rest of the evening knowing that I should work on laundry, but guess what? Mama needed Diet Coke and TV. Nate got home around 10:30 and then I called it a day. A long day.

Now, was this the worst day? Not by any means. Was it unbearable? Not really. Was it a lot of work, tiring and at times frustrating? You bet. It doesn't have to be a horrible day to feel like one or to get overwhelmed. That's okay. There are a million other things swimming around in our heads besides what is actually happening, like bills, summer plans, cleaning the house, planning the meals, our jobs inside or out of the home, friendships, family. All of those things are active in the back of our minds while we are taking care of our kids. As many of my friends said to me yesterday, sometimes you just need to cry it out. It was true. I needed a good cry and boy did it help. So hang in there summer mamas. You got this.

That's all for now. God is good.