Friday, November 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Madeline!

(This should have been posted last Saturday, November 10th, but I had no time. Maybe I get a by this year?)

Dear Madeline,

Today is your fourth birthday!! Your daddy and I were just talking last night about how we can't believe it has been four years since we became a family. I think you might have been the most anticipated little girl ever born at Durham Hospital - everyone was so anxious to hear about you and welcome you to this world. All of your grandparents, aunts and uncles couldn't wait to see pictures of your sweet little face.

Our first family picture. (10 November 2008)
Look how young Mommy and Daddy look!

I will never forget the first time I looked in your eyes. They were still blue then and from the moment you were born you loved to look around at everything going on. You have always been so inquisitive and interested in what is happening around you. I pray that you never lose your curiosity and your need to ask questions. I remember the first time I held you in my arms and how overwhelmed with love I felt in that moment. I remember watching your daddy rock you in his arms and how you captured his heart in a single breath. He loves you so much.

Your first birthday. You were so excited about your new doll!

Your second birthday portraits. I love the mischievous look on your face.  

Four years later and you are my greatest joy. I love to watch you explore and work through problems in your mind. You often see and think about things in a completely different way than I do and for that I am very grateful. You teach me things every day. Your unconditional love and quick ability to forgive remind me daily of what I can do better. Seeing you learn about God and His love for you with a childlike faith has shown me how quick I am to complicate His love and acceptance of me.

Christmas after your third birthday.
One of your favorite things to do...
you (sweetly!) demand that we swing you all the time!

The first picture of you and William together. You are already a wonderful big sister.
You are gently and kind and oh so patient. William is so blessed to have you to teach him so many things.

My dear Maddie, I am so proud of what a wonderful little girl you are. I pray that you grow to fully know the love of God and allow Him to lead you through life. I am so excited to see what your life will become as you grow.

You changed my life the day you were born and I am so grateful to be your mommy.

I love you,

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Welcome William Baxter!

I am choosing to simply ignore the fact that it has been over a year since I wrote anything on this blog! Instead of writing a long update covering the past year here are the important bullet points:

  • In August 2011 I started working part-time at the University in academic administration. My initial contract was for 12 months and this past August it was extended for an additional 3 years (although I don't plan to still be here in 3 years!). 
  • Chris just began his third and potentially final year of the DPhil (PhD for American readers). There is a possibility that he will submit over the summer and be working in August/September. There are about a hundred things that have to come together in order for that to happen and there is a very real chance that we will opt to spend a fourth year at Oxford.
  • We found out I was pregnant in January and were absolutely thrilled. Although I was very sick the first 12 weeks or so (much more than with Madeline) the pregnancy was nearly perfect and overall very easy. I am extremely blessed with easy pregnancies! 
  • In July we moved into a new house just outside of Oxford in a town called Kidlington. It was a hard decision to leave Summertown and being so close to Oxford city centre but we found that we could afford a small house with a garden if we went outside the ring road (the I-285 of Oxford!). We love our little house and Madeline loves spending time in the garden. Although still very small it feels like a palace to us!
  • In September my parents came for a two week visit. We had a wonderful time!! It was the first time either had been to Oxford and the first time my dad had been able to visit us in the UK. Since I was 37 weeks pregnant I am afraid we didn't do as much as we could have but we did make it to London for a day trip and to many of the local sights around Oxford. We can't wait until their next visit and as I have no plans to have another baby in the next 18 months I don't plan on being pregnant when they come!

Now onto the real reason for this post! This little man joined our family on 9 October 2012 at 6:30am and weighed 9lbs 5oz.

William Baxter Ferebee
I had a c-section with Madeline since she was footling breech and stuck but this time around I was really hoping to not have another c-section given the amount of recovery time normally associated with one. If I had known William was over 9lbs I am not sure I would have stuck to my VBAC plans! After almost 30 hours the midwife felt that something was not quite right and asked for a doctor to come examine how things were progressing. She told us that she felt confident that his head was turned sideways which was why his progress had stalled. The doctor agreed and our only option at that point was for a forceps delivery. This was terrifying to both Chris and I although I think I am the only one who dared say so at the time. I am so grateful for our amazing midwife and doctors who all went about things calmly and reassured us that everything was going to be fine. 

I will spare everyone the unsettling details of a forceps assisted birth and move on to how wonderful it was when he was finally born! Everyone in the room gasped at the size of him! I don't think anyone expected that he would be as big as he was. Thankfully, outside of a few bruises and a swollen eye from where he was stuck, he was in perfect health and able to be with us immediately. I had a few more issues which almost led to a blood transfusion but again the doctors and midwives were amazing and I am doing great.

So much of William's birth is a bit of a haze and even now I feel like it was an out of body experience. I keep asking Chris questions about the day or having to really think about the details in order to remember them. It was certainly not the labor and birth that I had dreamed of and hoped for in my quest to have a VBAC but it doesn't matter. He is perfect and lovely and I would do it all again (but not any time soon and maybe never if you ask Chris).

We spent one night in the hospital and came home after lunch the next day. I don't think I have ever seen Madeline so excited. She ran out to the car and kept saying, "He's here! He's here!". She is settling in really well as a big sister and the transition seems to have been fairly easy. We'll see what the next few months hold!

Life is busy but wonderful! We are so grateful to God that William is healthy and that there are no lasting effects from his birth (for either of us).

Our first family outing - 10 days old

"For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him." 1 Samuel 1:27

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A traveling we will go

These people just left our house after 10 days of trains, gardens, tea, palaces and road trips.

Front gates of Buckingham Palace

Jim and Debbie are Chris' dad and step-mom. This was their third visit to England but first to the south of the UK. We loved every moment of having them here with us. Madeline loved having grandparents to spoil her! There was no lack of hugs, cuddles and special treats from Granna and Grandaddy.

Along with enjoying the many exciting things Oxford itself has to offer, we traveled to London for the day and took a tour of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace. The tour included an exhibit of the wedding dress and other items from the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this past April. It was splendid!!

Back garden terrace of Buckingham Palace 
Big Ben and Parliament

We also went to Blenheim Palace, home of Winston Churchill's family and where he was born. This was seriously one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. To think it is only 20 minutes from our flat. The palace is situated right outside of a village called Woodstock - we are thinking we might need to move there soon!

Yea, that is just the front gate!

We road the train to the gardens/playground.


Front of Blenheim Palace
The next day we drove up into the Cotswolds and attempted to cover some serious territory in just a few hours. It was quite an adventure. First, we went to Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare is from; second, to Stow-on-the-wold where nothing exciting has happened but there are some great pubs; finally, we stopped in Bourton-on-the-water which is quite possibly the most beautiful village I have ever seen. It took all four of us to keep Madeline from going swimming off of one of the bridges.

Church in Stratford-upon-Avon

William Shakespeare's grave in the church above.

Maddie having a cup of milk.


On our last day of traveling outside of Oxford we ventured to Bath. It took a little extra time to get there (couldn't possibly have been the navigator's fault!) but once we did it was well worth it. Bath is an amazing city. It is such a wonderful combination of modern shopping and restaurants with architecture from Roman times and since. I think I could live there!


Bath Abbey

Roman Baths

The Royal Crescent (people live here!)
Our travels around were wonderful! We also did some great things in Oxford, so part two to come soon...

Monday, August 22, 2011

My world

Never-ending Energy

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I have to be out by 8:30AM?

Two weeks into my new part-time job and I have had the following revelations:

- 6:00AM is really early, especially when your two-year old is having separation issues and insists you (only you!) lay in her bed from 2:00AM to 3:00AM. Thankfully, this only lasted for three nights but it was exhausting.

- My husband is much more fun than I am. Oh the things that the two of them have come up with to keep themselves entertained. I have heard about tree-top houses in the woods, pillow forts in the living room and some crazy chase game that doesn't seem to have any point outside of making a certain little someone very tired. She is loving every minute!

- How often does a person really need to dust? It is not like it is a hygiene issue like, say the bathrooms...oh, I better go clean the bathrooms!

- Even when you get up at 6:00AM you will spend the last 6 minutes before running out the door looking for your keys, your phone and quite possibly one of your shoes.

- Speaking of shoes. One half of my favorite pair of shoes has gone missing. We have turned the flat upside down looking for it with no luck. I am little bit concerned that Maddie keeps insisting that it jumped out the window and is now outside in the grass. While there seems to be no evidence that my pretty red shoe is outside our windows, it is quite possible that a very fashion-conscious badger is sporting a nice addition to her nest.

- Skinny heels work really well in Oxford. It will be all about my boots this fall.

- My love for all things Microsoft Outlook and Excel has not diminished at all. They make my heart go pitter-patter every morning! My new boss asked if I could fix some old spreadsheets to make them more user friendly and I couldn't say yes fast enough.

- A lot of people ride the buses into Oxford city centre. I mean, A LOT of people. I had to wait for four buses to go by before I could squeeze myself onto one. Even then I was practically sitting in the driver's lap. This could be why all the buses stop for me now. I might have a reputation.

- After five years I still love to see the Mrs. in front of my name. Sadly, there aren't many occasions for this outside of work so when emails to Mrs Ferebee come through I get a little smile. :)

- I have no idea what I am doing but we are figuring it out!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Ever get stuck in a dinner rut? Yea, I do all of the time. Somedays we have grilled cheese and fruit. Or macaroni and cheese and fruit. Or quesadillas and fruit. Hmm... there seems to be a pattern. Anyway, I recently came across these two recipes and after a few tweaks I think they are nearly perfect. I have single-handedly saved your boring dinners for the next two nights. You didn't know my love language is words of affirmation? Well, it is and I am not above begging. :)

Chicken Florentine
adapted from this recipe

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tbls. butter
1/4 cup butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbls. lemon juice
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 cup half-and-half (or single cream in the UK)
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese 
3-4 handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves (real scientific measurement, huh?!)
6 mushrooms, sliced (whatever variety you have on hand)
4-6 bacon slices
1-1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Saute the mushrooms, 1 minced garlic clove and spinach in the 1 tbls. of butter until the spinach is wilted. Spread on the bottom of a glass baking dish (I used a 8 inch round dish). Place raw chicken on top. Salt and pepper the chicken to your taste. 

Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, Stirring constantly mix in the rest of the garlic, lemon juice, cream of mushroom soup, dried herbs, cream and Parmesan cheese. Pour over chicken. Arrange bacon slices on top of the chicken.

Bake 25 minutes uncovered. Take out and sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with rice. I like to put my chicken directly on top of the rice along with the spinach and mushrooms. Cover with the sauce.

Beef with Peppers
adapted from this recipe

1-1 1/2 pound Flank Steak, sliced very thin against the grain (if you are like me and can't find flank steak, any cut that can be sliced thinly should do the trick)
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tbls. sherry
2 tbls. packed brown sugar
2 tbls. cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. red chili paste (or a few dashes of red chili oil)
2 tbls. canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced

Mix together soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, garlic, and chili paste (or chili oil.) Place sliced beef in the mixture and toss to coat. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high to high heat. When it is very hot, throw in the onions and cook for less than a minute. Remove to a separate plate. Return skillet to flame, allow to reheat, and add bell peppers. Cook for a minute, tossing, until peppers have brown/black bits but are still firm. Remove to a plate.
Return skillet to heat and allow to get hot. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add 1/3 of the meat mixture, evenly distributing over the surface of the skillet. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 seconds, then turn with tongs. Cook for another 30 seconds, then remove to a separate plate. Repeat with remaining meat until all brown.
Reduce heat to low. Add all meat, onions, and peppers to the skillet and toss to combine. Pour in remaining sauce and stir. Allow to simmer on low for a few minutes. Sauce will slowly thicken. Turn off heat. Serve with rice or rice noodles if you can find them. We also had steamed purple cabbage with this and it was a great compliment.
Bon appetite! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thank you

I wanted to take just a moment to say thank you to everyone who has written or called after I posted below about the miscarriage. The responses have made me smile and cry at the same time! I hate that others have experienced similar losses. At the same time, it is encouraging to hear how you have walked through the process and are continuing to heal and grow.

Last week I attended a baby shower for a friend. I would be lying if I said there weren't a few moments of hurt and at times I wondered if going had been the right decision. I came home a little sad and a little discouraged. That night I read an email from a friend who after years of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant recently adopted a beautiful little girl. I thought about how she had been so present and encouraging when I was pregnant with Madeline. She came to my baby shower and smiled and bought beautiful presents. She followed every post and bump picture. She was the first to say congratulations when Madeline was born. In short, she put aside her own feelings of hurt and disappointment to be my friend and celebrate with me. I never heard her complain or say that she needed space.

That is the example of a friend who loves through her own pain. That is the example that I wish to emulate.  That is the kind of friend God has called me to be.

I wrote my friend and apologized because, at the time, I didn't understand what she was going through. I was not as sensitive as I should have been. I was naive and although at some level I knew she was going through a hard time I had no idea of the hurt she was experiencing.

I am a better person and friend today because of her example. I hope that I can be the same in someone else's life.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Small steps forward

I think I am finally ready to talk about the last 3 months in our lives. I have sat down to write these words so many times and yet, the words wouldn't come. It is weird because I have no problem talking with friends or family about our recent struggles. I don't cry when I talk about it with friends or mention it in passing as our lives move forward. For me, writing is so personal and putting my thoughts and feelings down on paper (screen!) makes everything feel more real. Writing gives me time to sit and dwell on my experiences and feelings which often leads to true transparency. With that in mind, please forgive me if this post gets long and wordy and quite possibly very untidy.

On 23 March we went to the hospital for the 12 week ultrasound of our unexpected but very welcome newest addition (Announcement) set to arrive at the beginning of October. I had been feeling all the normal 1st trimester sickness but at 12.5 weeks things were starting to improve. We were beyond excited to finally see this little one! We decided to take Madeline with us and looking back I will always regret that decision. The moment the technician started the ultrasound I knew something was wrong. I have seen plenty of ultrasounds and knew that everything looked too small and that there was clearly not a heartbeat. The technician quickly confirmed that the pregnancy was not progressing and that there was no heartbeat. I remember feeling like the air had been sucked from my lungs. I couldn't breathe. All I could see was my little girl excitedly watching the monitor hoping to see a baby and just past her head the screen was empty. What do you say? How do you explain what is happening through your own tears? How do you take in what the nurses and doctors are communicating when all you can think is that you must be dreaming? Of course, we then have to leave and walk out in front of all of the people waiting to see their healthy babies. The nurses and doctors were all amazing and sympathetic but there is nothing that anyone can say in that moment.

So much of that day is a blur. I do very distinctly remember sitting on the bus headed home. We had taken the same bus to the hospital just a few hours earlier. What a difference those few hours had made. The ride there had been full of laughter and joy while the ride home was quiet and tearful. So many things raced through my head - how were we going to tell people, should I have the surgery or not, what would we do with Madeline if I did have the surgery, why did this happen, did I do something wrong? The questions wouldn't stop.

We did decide to go ahead with the out-patient surgery. Not an easy decision but once it was made I knew it was the right thing to do. I am so thankful for my dear friend Betsy who offered to keep Madeline in her home all day while we were at the hospital. She has two little girls of her own and her husband was out of the country at the time. That is a true friend and was a huge blessing to us.

I could go on and on but the basics of the last few months can be summed up pretty easily - I recovered great, have a clean bill of health and we are moving forward. What can't be summed up is the emotional healing that comes in stages. I know that there is no perfect prescription for getting through a miscarriage. There are no immediate answers and no 5 step plans that can make it all better. No one can tell you when you will stop thinking about it or how you will feel every time someone announces a pregnancy. It is different for every person.

Initially, I dealt with all of the normal and probably expected emotions. Sadness, hurt, disappointment, anger all within a few short hours. I was surprised that after the first few days life seemed to settle back to normal. I didn't think about the pregnancy every minute of the day. Being a wife and mom took up my  time and I was able continue with every day tasks without breaking down. Then one day it hit me. We were at a function with friends and someone who I had only met that day excitedly shared that she and her husband were expecting their second child. Of course, in the moment, I smiled and said congratulations but inside I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. She had no idea of what we had been through just a few short weeks before. I couldn't be mad at her - it wasn't her fault. I knew what it was like to have such exciting news and to be about to burst to tell people. For the first time that afternoon (since the initial news and surgery), I completely broke down sobbing. It was what I needed. I needed to get it all out and say the things that you're not supposed to say. I was angry that I was the one who was supposed to be pregnant, I was the one who was supposed to find out the gender of our baby in a matter of weeks, I was supposed to be looking for summer maternity clothes and double strollers.

Since that day there have been plenty of opportunities to break down - pregnant women at the park, newborns in my moms weekly Bible study, when someone innocently asks if Madeline is our only child or if we are thinking about having another. Thankfully, the breakdowns have been few and far between and every day gets easier. I know that it is common and at this point there is no reason to think we won't go on to have more children. I know that I didn't do or eat anything wrong. I know that God has a bigger plan and for some reason that I don't understand this is the path that we are walking. I sent an email to a dear friend a few days after the ultrasound and said this:

"I keep remembering that God's ways are perfect and he is sovereign in all things. It is times like this when you go back to the basics - God loves me, God only wants the best for me, God is not surprised by anything."

I have held onto those truths through the past 3 months. I have seen God's mercies throughout the whole time. I couldn't ask for a better partner than Chris who has provided such strength and love. Madeline is as always the light in my life. Although I never thought I could love her more than I already did, I am so much more aware of how grateful I am to have her. Our families and friends have prayed for us and sent encouraging words from afar just when we needed them. I have a dear friend here who has stepped into my life and loved me exactly as I needed without pretense or judgment. 

We are taking small steps forward. We are very excited to be almost done with our first year in Oxford. Hopefully only 2 more to go! I have recently accepted a part-time administrative position at the university that starts in August. Chris has been able to work his schedule to stay home with Madeline for 2 days and she will go to a friend's house for another half day. It means some adjustments to our family but we are confident that this is what God has for us right now. I am excited about a new adventure. 

As always, we would appreciate your thoughts and prayers for our family. We are stronger today than we were 6 months ago but that doesn't mean that there aren't hard days as we make these changes.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A Few Small Improvements

We have been in our white cinderblock circa 1973 apartment for a little over 7 months. It has taken time to adjust to the new space (or lack thereof) and decide what we want to do to make it feel like home. There are always certain limitations when you live in rented accommodation especially when it is university owned accommodation. No nails, no permanent changes, no paint and no removing furniture - you get the idea. Not exactly the easiest place to decorate! 

To start, I added a collage wall of family pictures in the living room (living room/dining room/office). The picture quality is pretty horrible but you get the idea. I plan to find new mats for the 4 pictures that are currently stuck to white copy paper but other than that I am pretty happy with it. 

We don't have a lot of bookshelf space but I did manage to find room for a few more pictures.

There is so much left to do and it can be very overwhelming. I have been working on a list of items/projects big and small to work through over the next few months. 

- frame and hang our two prints of Durham city centre in the living room;
- hang my 4 cream plates (maybe buy some colored ones to include) above the table;
- throw pillows for the sofa and chair (3 white ones and 1-2 printed ones);
- curtains for the living room and both bedrooms;
- runner for the table;
- hallway rug;
- rugs for our bedroom;
- small mirror for above my dresser;
- 3 framed botanical prints for our bedroom;
- new shower curtain;
- fabric bulletin board for Maddie's room;
- 4 clip frames for Maddie's art display;

I am sure there is more! Writing out all of my ideas has always helped me to organize things in my head and hopefully accomplish them. We shall see! 

It is easy to become discouraged in an environment like this. I have to remember that it is only temporary. We are extremely blessed to have a roof, warm beds and a working kitchen. Amidst thinking through the the big projects, I received two small gifts that made me smile.

My mom sent me a yummy new candle! It not only makes the whole apartment smell wonderful but it also coordinates with the rug in the living room. I love it!

I found this cooking scale in a charity shop for...get ready for won't believe it...


I had a small scale that I bought in Durham but it broke a few weeks ago. I used it almost every day and desperately wanted to replace it. New ones this size cost more than I am willing to pay. I love to go into the charity shops here (you never know what you will find) and this little baby was just waiting for me to take it home. 

Sometimes it is the small things that help make the big things not seem quite so overwhelming!

Since a blog post would not be any fun without a Maddie update, I have to post this picture of her new obsession. She loves to set the table for dinner. I think she does a pretty good job for a 2.5 year old. :)


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ 

Luke 24:1-7