Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Chapter 4)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.    I am posting a chapter each Wednesday during Lent and will post the conclusion on Good Friday.  Maybe it can give someone a little hope.   If you missed Chapters 1,2 and 3, you can read them herehere and here.

Before I conceived Francis, I thought I had been through the darkest part of my life, but those days after the loss of Francis proved me wrong.   I found myself facing all the stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.   But it was the anger that really lasted.   I was angry at my body for not working the way it was supposed to work, angry at my family for treating my 6 week pregnancy as just a blip on their radar, angry at my doctor for referring to my baby as “pregnancy tissue” and not being more pro-active in trying to help me figure out my infertility, and I was angry at God because I hadn’t received the miracle we’d prayed for.  I hadn’t received the baby that I thought I deserved.

If one good thing came out of the loss of Francis, however, it was that the desire in me to be a mother was made even stronger.   From the moment I found out that I was pregnant, I had wanted Francis more than anything.   No longer did I see motherhood as something that I wanted to “balance” with my career.   No longer was “have a baby” just something on my lifetime “bucket list”.  Now, motherhood was all I really wanted and I knew it was a calling all its own.  Now, I truly realized how every moment of my child’s life, beginning with that moment of conception and the first heartbeats, was precious and a gift that I could lose at anytime.  

While I had been pregnant with Francis, I had been a bit taken aback by the fact that my OB/GYN had never referred to Francis as anything more than “pregnancy tissue.” When we viewed the ultrasound, what we saw was simply referred to as a “gestational sac” but there was no reference made to what (or who) was inside it.    This really upset me, especially after I lost my baby, because too many people around me already were treating the miscarriage as if it had not been a real baby.   I didn’t want an OB/GYN who treated me the same way.   No longer was just having a “good doctor” with great credentials important…I realized I needed to find a good doctor who also recognized the unborn baby as just that, a baby…no matter how far along in gestational age the baby may be. 

I also was determined to learn more about what my cause of infertility could be.   I was still having terrible cramping with every period and still suspected endometriosis.  Tom and I also weren’t entirely sure we were following our NFP method properly, since we had no guidance at the time from an NFP instructor and were mostly self-taught.   So, I searched online for more NFP resources and found the website for the Pope Paul VI Institute.   I read about the Creighton Model and how it was being used with Naprotechnology to help couples treat infertility and achieve pregnancy.   Tom and I had always insisted that we would not do anything that was not accepted by the Church and so I was excited to find that there were other options available to us as Catholics.  And the more I learned, the more I realized that these other options actually gave us more hope for achieving a successful pregnancy because they looked at treating infertility as a disease.

Tom and I now felt extremely blessed to be living in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.   Not only did we have access to multiple Creighton Model instructors, but we also had access to OB/GYNs who practiced Naprotechnology and were unashamedly pro-life doctors.   We started instructions with a Fertility Care Practitioner (FCP) and she referred us to a Naprotechnology doctor who became my new OB/GYN.    In just a few months after starting to practice the Creighton Model of NFP, I knew more about my fertility and body than I’d ever known.   Working with my FCP and new OB/GYN, it was determined that I had stage 3 endometriosis, low progesterone, and limited mucus during my fertile days.  All of these were likely major contributors to my infertility.    Still, my OB/GYN was extremely encouraging and optimistic and told me there were treatments available for all of these issues.  I underwent surgery to treat the endometriosis, and started taking medications to enhance my mucous cycle, boost ovulation, and balance my progesterone levels.   

Tom and I were once again filled with hope.  We were convinced that we’d found the answers we’d needed and would be holding a baby within a year.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Chapter 3)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.    I am posting a chapter each Wednesday during Lent and will post the conclusion on Good Friday.  Maybe it can give someone a little hope.   If you missed Chapters 1 & 2, you can read them here and here.

Another summer was coming to an end and a hint of autumn was in the morning air.  The leaves were already starting to turn gold and yellow; winter would be coming early that year.  It was September 2006 and in one more month, Tom and I would be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary, but I didn’t feel like we had much to show for it.

I can’t say that I had reached the point of complete acceptance of our infertility by this time, but I tried to convince myself that I had.   However, I hadn’t really accepted anything.  Instead, I was consumed by anxiety and restlessness.   I put all my energy into my career and hid any outward signs that I longed to be a mother.  Tom and I still tried with every cycle to maximize our chances at becoming parents by using NFP, but we had long lost all optimism.

And then that September, my period never came.   I felt a wellspring of long-buried hope building with each day.  I asked Tom to make a trip to the drugstore for an EPT (early pregnancy test).   I no longer kept any in our house…they had only served as painful reminders.   He said he knew before he saw the results that it would be positive, in spite of the fact that I’d taken many before and they’d all been negative.   And his intuition was right.  It was positive.  After years of trying to conceive, we were finally pregnant!  This was going to be the best anniversary ever!  

But our elation was short-lived.  My blood work indicated that the pregnancy wasn’t progressing.   An ultrasound at 5.5 weeks failed to reveal anything more than a “possible pregnancy” and an empty gestational sac.   The doctor, trying to be encouraging, said we’d do another ultrasound in two weeks.  But we never made it that far.  Instead, follow-up blood work one week later confirmed our worst fears… we were going to lose our baby.   A few days later, the bleeding began.   Our baby, the one we’d prayed for, tried for, waited for and longed for was gone within two weeks of our learning that I was pregnant.

We named him Francis Gabriel.  I had chosen to miscarry at home and gave birth to little Francis on our anniversary, which made the emotional pain even greater.  We had initially been planning to spend our anniversary in Kentucky, which would’ve given us the opportunity to tell my parents our great news in person.  Instead, we had to stay home so that I could miscarry our baby, and we had to call our parents with the sad news.   

On that anniversary, we weren’t celebrating our marriage and the blessing of children; we were discussing where to bury our first child.   It all felt like a very cruel and heartless joke.  We decided on a peaceful spot under the oaks at the edge of our property and over the next few months, instead of watching my belly grow, we watched as autumn leaves and snow fell and covered the grave.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

7 Quick Takes - A Trip, Spirit-Led Conversations & a Prayer Request

I have been traveling this week, a much needed break and my first out-of-state trip (not counting trips to Kentucky) since John was born.   Also my first time on an airplane since 2009, and I can say that I don't miss flying at all.   But, flying aside,  I had a great time.   Tom did a wonderful job taking care of the boys and his parents came to visit for back-up.   I was only gone 4 days but it felt like a month and I couldn't wait to see my boys again.  Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, and I think they needed a break from me as much as I them.  Now we all love being with each other again!

So, related to the trip, I got to go to Denver, compliments of my former employer who sent me out there for an award for a project I did while I worked for them.   I have been a SAHM for two years now, so it felt very odd to be socializing and networking again with folks from the agency.  It also made for some interesting conversations, as you might imagine.    However, when it was all said and done, I left the event feeling honored but also incredibly glad to be out of the "rat race".    As many (women) there told me, I am very blessed to be able to be a SAHM, and believe me, I know it.

The trip out there also resulted in some very memorable conversations that I had with folks who are in the "mainstream" and not really in the "bubble" that I tend to be in.    It is amazing how some people will open up when you share with them a bit about your own struggles.  I found myself having conversations about how we were led to adoption,  how we were faced with infertility, how it feels to become a parent at a late age, how I decided to leave a career to become as SAHM, etc.     I have some interesting tidbits from these converstations that I think will make it into some of my future blog posts.    For now, all I can say is that when I expected "small talk", I got a whole lot more, and I'm convinced the Holy Spirit was trying to lead me in some of these conversations.    I really came away with the realization that we are all surrounded by a lot of  deeply hurting people.

So, I just got home yesterday and tomorrow our social worker comes to do a home visit so that we can renew our adoption home study.  Tom and I were really on the fence about this because of our age and our plans to re-locate, but until we sell our home in Missouri, we can still adopt in that state.  So, we are going to keep the possible adoption door open as long as we can.   I just can't give up yet.  Of course, if our home sells before we get chosen for an adoption, I will just have to accept that as part of God's will.     It's hard, but how long do you wait for something that may never happen?   We've already postponed this move a year hoping we'd get to adopt again and we can't just keep waiting.  I'm sure if it doesn't work out, God will have something else in store for us.

Soooo, in 18 days and counting, we will be packing everything up and transplanting ourselves 500 miles east of here in Kentucky.   I am really looking forward to getting this move over with.  We've been in the process of moving since last summer and it has dominated most of my "spare" time.   Leaving Missouri will be bittersweet, but in the long run, I think this move will be good for us.

But, because nothing is ever simple, we have to get Joah's tonsils removed first.   So we will be going through that ordeal this Tuesday.   If you don't mind, could you say a prayer for the little guy?   They say he will be in a lot of pain the first week after it is done.   This is the first major health issue I've had to deal with for one of my children and I've felt like backing out about a dozen times.  But I know it has to be done and he'll be better in the long run.  

That's about it from here.   I probably won't be posting much for the next few weeks due to Joah's surgery and the pending move, other than the infertility story that I am sharing during Lent.    Tom and I continue with the 54-day novena and I am now so addicted to the daily rosary for my mental well-being that I may just have to keep it up after the novena is over.   That, plus, after all the interactions I had this week with people outside of my "bubble" , I am convinced that we just can't say enough rosaries for our broken world right now.

Thanks for reading and thanks to Jen for hosting!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Chapter 2)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.    I am posting a chapter each Wednesday during Lent and will post the conclusion on Good Friday.  Maybe it can give someone a little hope.   If you missed Chapter 1, you can read it here.

It was the summer of 2003, and Tom and I were anxiously planning when we would have our first baby.  I wanted to get pregnant in the fall, so that morning sickness and fatigue wouldn't interfere with my “field season” since I was working as a wildlife biologist at the time.   We talked about how we would manage child care, what the names would be (our first girl was going to be Rachel in honor of Rachel Carson and we liked Samuel Thomas for the boy, after the grandfathers) and all the things we were going to do with our little ones.   We were excited, anxious, a little scared, and extremely optimistic.  

Summer gave way to fall and we couldn't wait for that first cycle.   Thanks to NFP, we knew how to take advantage of my most fertile days, and so we did.  And then we waited anxiously for what we just knew would be our first BFP (big fat positive).   We were on our way to being parents, or so we thought.

But it didn't happen.   And the month after that, it didn’t happen.  And every month after that, for the next two years.   We didn't know why we couldn't get pregnant.  Now 36 years old, I knew age could be a factor.   I also suspected endometriosis but my OB/GYN at the time, based upon my description of symptoms, wasn't convinced that I had endometriosis.  Of course, she did no diagnostic tests to determine this.   She suggested I consider IVF (in-vitro fertilization) if I was “serious about getting pregnant” and I explained why that was not an option for us.   And that was it.   I was left with no other options other than to just hope it would happen naturally.     I went home, and another year passed.

During those three years of trying, with each cycle, we felt greater and greater disappointment.  And this disappointment soon turned into envy and anger as I watched others have the babies that I couldn't seem to have.   Gradually, my anger began to affect my closest relationships.  Whereas previously, all the conversations with my mother-in-law had usually included the phrase “when we have kids”, over the years, as it became more apparent that the kids weren't coming, we found that we had very little to talk about.  The conversations with my sister, who gave birth to two babies during this time, one of whom she decided to name Rachel, became painful.   The visits with my parents became strained as Tom and I listened to story after story about their grandchildren (my sister’s children).   Everyone had stopped asking us "so, when are you going to have kids?" and were starting to assume we never would.   Gradually, Tom and I found ourselves feeling more and more isolated as we suffered alone and in silence.

It was only a matter of time before this started to take a terrible toll on our marriage.      Feeling abandoned by our family and God, we turned on each other.   I couldn't rationalize a marriage without children.   Tom couldn't understand the anger I was directing towards him.  The roller coaster of hope followed by disappointment that cycled month after month, year after year, put us both in dark places.   Feeling desperate, we attended Retrouvaille and for a while, that gave us a better way to communicate what each of us was feeling.  However, everything positive in our life seemed to be overshadowed by the ever-growing despair that came back month after month.   What we had been so complacent about in the first years of our marriage had now become our greatest desire.   We wanted to be parents.   We wanted to hold our baby. We wanted it more than anything.  

And then came Francis.

Friday, March 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Suspenders, Lent, A Divine Cake, Blue Butterflies & Hello Mud

Sitting on the front porch at the moment, watching the boys peddle their little legs off on their trikes.  For the first time in months, they aren't forced to turn their trikes into snow plows and they are totally loving the freedom that being unencumbered by snow has given them.   I'm pretty sure Joah just hit 32 mph on his.

This past Sunday was another freeze-the-nose-hairs kinda day, so the current 50 degrees feels downright tropical.  Even though last Sunday was another day to forget weather-wise, I really did enjoy having a "down day" at home.   Tom did 95% of the kid-watching, and 98% of the cooking, and 100% of the dish-washing so I was left with only 7%  responsibility which means I got about 1% of anything accomplished.  I did make some sticky cinnamon buns for the guys, mostly to relieve myself of any guilt I was feeling from being 94% useless that day.  

Anyhow, that's my first quick take, which I now realize was about a whole bunch of nothin' .  

Moving on.  Tom made it back from his Utah trip without drama which is always noteworthy when flying any of the major airlines these days.    While gone, he spent a little of his down time shopping for something for the boys and me and came home with these super cute suspender pants for John.   They go perfectly with his haircut that also matches what all the Amish boys are  sporting these days.    Now we just need to find a hat.   And horse.

Fat Tuesday around here was also the day after our little Isaac Anne's birth day one year ago.   I combined the two and made a chocolate cake that was a favored recipe of Tom's grandmother. Then I put a very fudgey icing on it which made it appropriate for Fat Tuesday because between the cake and the frosting, there were not one, not two, but three sticks of butter involved!   Paula Deen would be proud.  And so would Grandma June, I think.   We popped a candle on top and sang happy birthday to Isaac Anne while the boys blew it out.    
The next day,we took flowers to Isaac Anne's grave and did it all again (the happy birthday song, that is).   I'm pretty sure that Grandma June and Isaac Anne were smiling as they watched us from their side of heaven.

Of course, the next day was Ash Wednesday.   Giving up meat around here is no big deal for us since we do meatless Fridays year-round and usually one other day meatless each week (however, I don't know how Joah will survive once he is no longer excused by age because he can't seem to get off go each morning unless he has his Jimmy Dean fix).   But not snacking between meals?  That is a whole other ball game for this Mamma who survives by grazing all day.     So, I made a deliberate effort to cluster my raisins, toast, egg, Cheez-its, avocado and kiwi into two 10-minute sessions.   And then Tom came home and returned us to a balanced diet by making salmon and broccoli for dinner.

The boys helped me pick "forn" (thorn) branches for home decor and we placed them on the mantle and replaced the flowers around the statue of the Blessed Mother with them as we talked about "Went" (Lent).   John gets it, sorta.   When he is refused a piece of chocolate cake, he'll say "because it's Went!"  Anyway, it's a start.

Lent for me personally is always difficult because it brings back so many reminders of the when we lost our two babies, Karol and Isaac.   One was lost in Lent 2012 and the other during Lent 2013.   This year, Lent 2014 looks like it will be the year we realize our dream of adopting again will not be fulfilled, as our home study expires at the end of March and then we will be re-locating to another state where the process, if we choose to do it, must be started all over again.   So, in a way, it feels like we are losing another baby.    It is amazing to me how cyclic and circular my life seems to be from year to year.   So, this Lent, I will be offering special intentions for anyone going through the struggle of infertility or failed adoptions or miscarriage.   As I will be posting each week during this Lent, we all go through personal periods of "Lent" in our own lives and this decade of infertility/subfertility has been mine.

On a lighter note, John has been asking almost daily if we could go to the "Bufferfly House"...this is his all time favorite place to go.   I first took him and Joah when they were only a year-old and they were immediately mesmerized by all the butterflies floating around them.   I kept telling John we would go when the snow melted and he has been anxiously watching the gradual receding snow line in our front yard.   He finally got his wish (and mine) and we all made a trip yesterday. It was a great time and they currently have thousands of Blue Morphos in the butterfly house which made it even more dramatic.   If you have kids and ever get chance to visit, I would definitely encourage it.   Especially in the winter, because there's nothing like walking into an 85-degree atrium filled with orchids and tropical flowers and floating Blue Morphos to make you forget the forty-shades of brown outside.  Plus, there is an indoor carousel right next door, and an outdoor playground too.   So, if you can go, just do it.

Because we are down to the wire with the expiration of our adoption home study, Tom and I started a 54-Day Novena and are now on Day 34.   I have to admit, I'm feeling really discouraged, and yesterday didn't help.  While out, we stopped to visit the lawyer who had helped us with Joah's adoption finalization.   He commented that from what he has seen lately, almost all adoptions now are being handled privately and not through adoption agencies, thanks to social media.   Since Tom and I are doing it the "old fashioned" way by working with an agency, it makes it less likely that we will be placed with a baby.   Still, I am trying to hold onto a glimmer of hope while also emotionally preparing to accept whatever may come of this latest adoption journey, which I have a feeling is not going to end the way I wanted it to.  Definitely something I will be working on and praying about during this "Went".

And lastly, I couldn't finish a Quick Take without one more mention of our little woodcock.   You might be able to tell by now that I'm a bit infatuated by these little guys.   Seriously, you won't find a bird with much more personality!   Well, he was here puttin' on the ritz for the gals until our most recent bout of polar vortex and now we haven't seen feather nor flock of the little guy.   I'm really concerned that he might've been done in by the vile vortex.   Or maybe he got smarter than the rest of us are, and headed back south.   We'll be listening for him again tonight so say a prayer for a "peent".

That's about it.   Looks like while I've been typing, the boys have decided to convert their trikes from snow plows to ATVs and are ushering in the Mud Season...ah, joy.

So...have a great weekend and for those of you still in the Snow Belt, may all your snow also soon turn to mud!

Thank you to Jen for hosting.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Lent of My Life - My Infertility Story (Chapter 1)

Tom and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in our marriage but probably nothing has challenged our relationship with each other, with our families, and with God more than our struggle with infertility and miscarriages.   So, I wanted to share our story with others who may be facing this same struggle.    I will be posting a chapter each Wednesday during Lent.  Maybe it can give someone a little hope.  

Before we married, we knew we wanted kids “eventually” but not right away.  I was working at the time and Tom was looking for work.  We knew that we would likely be re-locating to another state once Tom found employment, and I wanted to get settled somewhere before trying to have a baby.   There was admittedly also a part of us that wanted to “enjoy being married” for a while before becoming parents.  We’d had a very long-distant relationship during our period of courtship and after getting married, we wanted to have “fun” for a while and do things as a couple that we hadn’t been able to do while we’d lived so far apart.   We also had no shortage of people telling us to wait to have children because, as they would say, “once you have a kid, the fun’s over.”  So, we decided that we’d wait a year before trying to have a baby.  At the time, it all seemed very prudent and unselfish.  However, in hindsight, we regret that decision to wait before trying for a baby and as time went on, we began to wish we could have those first months of marriage back.

After being married about eight months, Tom found employment and we moved to Missouri, where I also had a new job.  Soon after that, I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (IC).   My doctor recommended I spend a year on medication to manage the IC and this medication was not something to be taken while pregnant.  So, we decided to postpone pregnancy one more year while I was on the IC medication.  

I also had reservations about getting pregnant because I had just started a new job and “wanted to make a good impression” in my new workplace; another decision that, in hindsight, I regret.   And truthfully, my desire to please my employer and co-workers had more to do with deciding to avoid pregnancy than being on the IC medication.   My doctor had told me I could stop the medication anytime and that my IC may even go into remission or improve if I became pregnant (hormones played a big part in my IC).     However, I let my fear of not being able to please my employer overshadow my desire to be a mother.  I was afraid that if I became pregnant soon after starting a new job, it would appear that I didn’t take the job seriously, or worse, wouldn't be able to perform the job (there was a lot of physical activity involved).  I felt like I needed to “prove” myself first.

Time passed quickly.  Tom and I put all our energy into our careers and spent our spare time traveling and fixing up our new home.   Before we knew it, we’d already been married for almost 3 years.   Things were going well, my IC was improving, we were happy in our new home, and we were getting established in our jobs.   We finally felt like it was a good time to have a baby. 

We always had used Natural Family Planning (NFP) during our entire marriage, first to avoid pregnancy, and now we were ready to use it to achieve pregnancy.   We were both in our early thirties and knew lots of people in their thirties who were having babies with no problem.  We were finally ready to join them and we got excited as we talked about what month would be best for having our first baby, how far apart we wanted to space our babies, what we would name our babies, and how many children we would likely have in the coming decade (we assumed we’d have four, maybe five).   In our minds, we had it all planned out and were in control of everything.  Little did we realize just how out-of-control things were about to become.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Planes, Trains & Automobiles - A Birthday Recap

As I mentioned in a previous post, we celebrated Joah's birthday a few weeks ago.   And I had every intention of posting about the grand event within a few days of its occurrence because, even tho I'm a novice at this blogging stuff, I am under the impression that "timeliness" might be a key factor to success?   Something else I am obviously going to need to work on considering the fact that the birthday event went down almost 3 weeks ago.  So, timeliness.   I will add that to my Blogging Skills to Master to-do list, which currently looks like this:

1) be less "wordy"
2) use more pictures
3) figure out how to link to Facebook [I actually tried to tackle Facebook again this past weekend, and is it just me, or is there absolutely nothing intuitive about it?   Anyhow, I think dealing with Facebook will be one of my penances during Lent.]

First, let me just say that the birthday fell on what might've been one of the coldest days of one of the coldest winters on record in St. Louis.   So, what did we plan?   A day outside, of course.  But that is not because we don't know how to interpret a basic 5-day forecast.  After all, they do use pictures in those forecasts and I distinctly remembered seeing a picture of rain coming out of a cloud with sunshine peeking around it.  No, it was because the all-knowing weather forecasters completely missed the forecast. Again.  Completely. What was supposed to be a day of temperatures in the 40s with scattered showers, turned into temperatures in the upper 20s, with wind chills around zero and spitting snow.   Great.

Of course, we didn't realize this would be the case until we'd already arrived at this museum.   We (read: Tom) picked this as a great place to take Joah because he (read: Tom) loves loves loves trains. John and Joah love them too.   Mom?  Hmm, I think this might be why some mothers want daughters.

Upon walking in, the first question I asked the receptionist was "Do you give discounts on bad weather days?"  Seemed like a fair question, considering the fact that it was freezing cold, raining/sleeting, windy, and over half of the museum was an outdoor exhibit.   She gave me her best St. Louis Smile and stated that not only did we have to pay full admission, but for a small additional fee, our boys could also participate in the "Creation Station".   And yes, parents had to pay to enter that, too.   I considered not paying the parent fee, figuring that if we let the boys go in alone, in about 40 seconds, they would be offering to pay us to come supervise them.  But as I was entertaining this thought, Tom handed her the dough and she handed us 4 tickets to all museum amenities.  She then gave us that smile again and indicated that Creation Station would start in approximately 45 minutes and no, they did not have a coat rack.   Enjoy.

That left us with 45 minutes to kill with two three-year-olds in a large open space filled with tables, chairs and glass enclosed exhibits.   Nothing could go wrong.

Killing time by taking a (timed) family photo.  Joah accommodating as usual. 

So after making our contribution to their museum fund, it took us all of 10 minutes to look at the glass-enclosed displays, play with the water fountain, re-arrange the chairs, go potty, and look at the glass-enclosed displays one more time.  Just as I was about to launch into a "this was a total waste of time, money, time and money" tirade, John ran off into a side room and came back saying he'd found a train.  So we followed, and there was a large-scale model train going that kept the boys occupied for almost an entire 30 minutes while I read placards about the history of circus trains (fascinating stuff, actually).  And then we were finally allowed to enter the Creation Station.

 Now, up to this point, I was seriously considering asking to see the manager, or superintendent, or whatever you call people who are in charge of train museums, and asking for a partial-refund.  Or at least a raincheck. But upon entering Creation Station, I had a complete change of heart.   For a kid like Joah (or Tom), this room was HEAVEN.   It was filled with dozens of train tables of all sorts, a play kitchen, a small jungle gym, a play house, and even had a very kind-hearted lady overseeing everything and offering to make crafts with the kids.  

Joah loved it!   For almost an hour, he went from train table to train table and the look on his face was one of complete peace as he became absorbed in the toy trains.  He hooked the trains together, turned the signals off and on, moved the train cars from place to place, and then did it all over again.    Seeing him so calm and content made the trip (and the cost) totally worth it.

The grandparents (Tom's parents) were at our home waiting for us after our return from the museum and had a little surprise party all ready and waiting when we walked in.    Joah beamed, and John was super excited to see "bawooms" (balloons) hanging from the ceiling fan.

I had asked Joah what kind of birthday cake he wanted a few times and every time I'd asked, he'd said "ice-cream".  I suppose that was his way of trying to tell me he wanted "ice-cream" and not cake, but I decided to take him literally (mostly because it made less work for me) and got him a DQ ice-cream cake.   Needless to say, I didn't have to worry about it melting nor did I have to worry about having extra freezer space because I was able to just put the leftovers on the back porch.   So, if you're like me and and always wanted to buy an ice-cream cake but also like me and are always fighting an overflowing freezer, there's a helpful hint for you...buy your ice-cream cakes when it is freezing outside. Plus, they usually give coupons during the winter. Win. Win.

We did have real cake, too.   I made these little ice-cream cone cupcakes to go with the ice-cream cake.   I thought the novelty of having "ice-cream for cake" and "cake for ice-cream" was pretty imaginative, but I'm not sure anyone else was that impressed.    Tom and his folks both commented that they had never seen ice-cream cone cupcakes, and I commented on how much Tom had missed out on by never being in Girl Scouts.
Showing off those gigantic tonsils while he still can.

Anyhow, moving on, because I'm trying to avoid the whole "too wordy" trap again....after cake and ice-cream, we opened gifts and played with the bawooms and called it a birthday.  And then Joah completely melted down because long days combined with no naps and lots of sugar end that way.   But the good news is that the ice-cream cake didn't.

And in case you may be wondering, no, the dog didn't eat the ice-cream cake while it was sitting on the back porch.  Best dog ever.
The End.