Welcome Baby

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Just when I have the opportunity to write, the words don’t want to come. I’m almost a day out from Julia’s arrival; at this time yesterday I was trying my darndest to get an epidural, not knowing that she would be born in only forty more minutes. That is the rough side of many hard experiences in life- we know not when they are to end, we want to give up… when the answer, the reward, is just around the corner. I didn’t mean to go all devotional on us, but it is true.

This had to be the shortest labor of any I have had. They didn’t even start the pit until 7:30, and she was born at 11:55. I think this is what I expected Elijah’s induction to be like, and when it instead became an all day affair, I decided I wouldn’t get my hopes up for Julia. I packed the Mitford book I was reading, my phone with Spanish app for practice, my iPod with music, trying to provide plenty to fill the hours (I thought). This did turn out to be a good tactic- I read for the majority of the time, then did my Spanish. In other labors I have avoided time-fillers, and I am not sure why. It definitely helped me keep distracted from the mounting pain.

She’s a sweetie. There are no words to describe how undeserving I am and how grateful I am of this gift from God. May He find me faithful.

 

Bella’s Last Day, Maybe

Luke came outside last week to find the corner of our shed torn up. Apparently Bella had been on the hunt for a rodent and followed it under there as far as she could go. That was definitely as far as Luke could go with this dog, and the thought of paying for any more of her shenanigans was too much. He navigated Craigslist that afternoon, and we had an interested buyer that evening. Wow. I didn’t realize anyone would be in the market for a dog like ours. But, she could make a good hunting dog, and would love a more farm-y property with lots of acreage to run. And she still has the ability to have puppies, which could be really cute if she was wed to another pointer.

This week ended up being a series of ups and downs with her, though, with yeses, then noes, from the potential buyers. She’d scratch at the window screen yet again and I would think, well, that might be the last time she does that, or maybe the next to last time. But today has promise. As soon as Luke gets home from work he is taking her to meet a family in Fredericktown. This could be the one. I hope so.

Goodbye, Bella. It’s been real.

Shower Thoughts and a Lovey Contest

 

This past Saturday, the girls and Carol threw me a surprise baby shower. I will not disclose how surprised I actually was, but I was impressed with the magnitude and extent of their planning. As I approached the church, I passed a man who looked a lot like my dad, driving what looked a lot like his Jeep. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “This is bigger than I realized.” And it was. Aspects like these I was grateful to have surprise me, and people there I had not seen in a while (I don’t get to see my parents all that often these days, either).

It was humbling to see these ladies want to come out and support my family like this. And the gifts were over the top. Julia will be well dressed! Best of all was feeling the love of my daughters and Carol for me. I didn’t deserve a word of the praises spoken of me that day, but it meant so much that they are with me in this life, that we are not on opposite poles, just trying to get along. So many parent/child relationships are that way, and stay that way into adulthood. Here I was trying to find more ways to show love to my older children, and my girls beat me to it on many levels. Oh, you guys! as Dory would put it.

So, a fun contest for us. Pictured above are all of the blankets or taggies Julia received at the shower. Whew! As she grows, she will narrow down and weed them out to reveal her one true soft lovey, and I want you to have a chance at guessing which one it will be. Click on the picture for a better view. The wait will be long; Elijah has only latched onto his blanky in the past few months. (I was horrified to see that a replacement Amy Coe cable blanket would be $40 on eBay, but Luke reminded me that we don’t have to go the replacement route, we simply offer him a different blanket if this one is reduced to tatters. Oh, yeah. That is much more cost effective. Thank you to my Lovey for pointing that out.) My money is on the red and green beauty made by a dear lady at church. I love the colors, and the back is a white plush like you would find on a stuffed lamb or bear. Love. My second choice would be the pink plush with the cow head. The horns are too much.

It is finally March, the time I can allow myself to nest and plan to my heart’s content. Feel free to join me.

Photo taken by Aliyah

New Year’s Blogging Eve

I’m sure others are having a more exciting and memorable last day of the year, but no one is celebrating it exactly like us. Let me set the scene…

Elijah and I are in our bedroom. He has successfully gone down for bed awake and unrocked for about two weeks now. Like Kenan before him, he was a ‘rock me to sleep and put me down real gentle’ baby for um, 17 months. I really don’t mind; obviously I allowed the habit to continue because it worked, but also because I will never get those nights back. An Elisabeth Eliot memoir I read told of how her mother was very strict about children, even babies going to bed when the parent dictated. One reason for this was to train the child to adjust to the parents’ schedule, not the other way around. “His parents may want an hour or two to themselves of an evening,” her mother said. That sounds good, and may be the right course, especially those late nights I wish I had trained these little boys. But I keep coming back to the thought of how short this time is, and how long and quiet my ’empty nest’ period will likely be. I’ll have plenty of evenings to myself then, Lord willing.

I am sitting in bed with the covers over my legs, typing at my portable keyboard that I plug into my phone. Being a pretty good typist isn’t good enough in the dark that E needs, so I’ve got my iPod light wedged between my chin and chest. A picture would be worth a thousand words in this case. Happy new year with a neck ache!

The older six are out playing games at the table with Luke. His mom got us a few decks of Dutch Blitz for Christmas, a ‘vonderful goot game’ of numbering cards that has become addictive for these volk. Luke deserves the time to unwind- he spent the dinner hour putting down grout on the master bathroom floor. Yay! The hope is that he can get the master bath functional, then get us three (L, E, and me)  out of the master bedroom, then get Carol moved in. Yay!

The younger four are playing mostly nicely together back between the kids’ rooms. I’ve only heard angry cries and a stampede out to the table once so far. We tried putting them to bed, but it didn’t really work; it is obvious there is a special celebration drawing near that they are being kept out of. So they have been allowed the extra play time, if they can keep it to a dull roar and not wake E.

A nursing home Luke’s grandma was at would have their party early on NYE, letting the ball drop at 9. Every year that goes by, I like that arrangement more and more. It is like turning your clocks back before you go to bed. You know it is going to happen; you don’t need to stay up and watch.

Easter Weekend

I wish I had a picture of Kenan picking up eggs at this morning’s hunt. As it is, I will have to fix the images in my mind of him pointing, then hopping like a bunny and bending over to pick it up, then doing it all again. Kinda like the Beast character from the movie when he has a snowball fight with Beauty. They are growing up so fast, changing so fast. Thank God for pictures, and for Aliyah who is always taking some.

Last night we had our annual foot washing. We started with a few hymns (we are just not singing these enough at church; anyone else notice this?), then read the passages about the Last Supper. Later we went around and shared what Easter means to us. I was pleased that even the younger ones had some great things to say.

Tomorrow is full, from Sonrise Breakfast to a family supper. I am looking forward to it. I didn’t get anything new to wear, thinking I would wear my purple dress I wore last year. It would have looked totally different, as last year I was sporting a pretty big belly in April. But this afternoon I was downstairs and found a sweater and skirt I think will look pretty good, handmedowns from my sister. The outfit should coordinate with others in the family, as I want to try to get some good pictures of us all.

Of course, nothing I have mentioned so far has anything to do with the true meaning of Easter. Thank You, Jesus, for giving Your LIFE for me. We started watching The Passion of the Christ last night and I noticed how even before Your trials, You likely were led away from Gethsemane tied up in such a way that it made it hard to walk upright. You were bowed low, even then, for me. Help me to die to my pride like You did.

 

We’ve prayed the prayer with no reply
Words float off into the night
Couldn’t cut our doubt with the sharpest knife
Oh, oh God forgive us

Silence isn’t comfortable
We want drive through peace and instant hope
Our shallow faith it has left us broke

[Chorus:]
Oh, oh God forgive us
Oh, oh God forgive us
Enslaved to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
Oh God forgive us

Young and old, black and white
We’re rich and poor, there’s no divide
Hear the mighty, hear the powerless, singing

[Chorus]

With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide

Oh, oh God forgive us
Enslaved to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
Oh God forgive us
-For King and Country

Merry Christmas!

Every year it seems one Christmas carol stands out to me; instead of its words running over the floor of my brain, some actually dribble down through the cracks. Here is this year’s gem. “O hush the noise ye men of strife” has, ironically, become my new battle cry.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

-Edmund Sears, Richard S. Willis

Christmas Vacation

Sweats and socks aren’t pretty, but they sure feel good at day’s end. Besides, with Luke gone for the evening, there is no one to impress. He took the girls to Zoo Lights with the youth group, and I don’t expect them back until late. Time enough to think over the events of the day. This morning’s Bible reading was in John. A few weeks ago, our pastor listed a ‘top ten blessings in Christ’, and as I copied them down, I noticed how many of the Scripture references were in John. The next evening at BSF, a lady shared how she was stuck in the airport and decided to read the book of John, and ended up reading the whole book while she waited for her flight. These two ‘coincidental’ mentions caused me to think I should read it, too. Right now in BSF’ Moses study we are going through Leviticus, and I am far enough along to take a break (I am needing one, to be honest). John seems like just the book to dive into. Yesterday’s verse that stuck out to me was John 1:7- He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. I got to thinking about that being a little h- meaning it was John the Baptist through whom those will believe, and what a privilege he had. But then I saw the ‘all’ there, too- God never does anything halfway or halfhearted. His intention was for John to use all his God-given abilities to perform the tasks given to him, with the goal that all might believe in Christ through him. Wow. How little of my day do I spend doing, even thinking about doing, everything to His glory and that my actions might lead others to Christ. I need to be constantly reminded of my awesome privilege and responsibility to be a witness, first to my family, then to any others God puts in my path. So I was excited to sit down this morning and see what more there was to see in John chapter one. I didn’t have to look far- verse 16 is so rich. For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. Again, there is that thought of God being a superabundant God. My computer didn’t give me a spelling warning for that word, of which I am surprised, since it seems like a word you’d make up. But I am glad it is a word, because that is what He is like- He gives, and gives, and gives some more. Other verses that talk of fullness, and, incidentally, most use the word ‘all’, too, are: Ephesians 1:23; 3:19; 4:13; Colossians 1:19; 2:9. So good. I didn’t mean this to be a Bible study post, but it has been neat to see these things in His word. I have started looking for the word ‘all’ in John- found three times so far, just in the first part of chapter one. I started my Christmas puzzle today- it is one we got last year and I put together then. But three or four pieces were missing, and I collected it all in its bag and put it away, only to find some puzzle pieces in Adon’s bed later on. I put these with the puzzle, vowing to reassemble it this year, to see if they really do go with this puzzle and I do (miraculously) have all the pieces to it now. Maybe I will post a picture of the result. Last night we did something for the first time: went out to town and left Aliyah and Sarah in charge! A is 14, S is 12, soon to be 13 in February, and both are very mature and responsible. Still, I have dragged my feet at leaving so many at home with them just because sheer numbers bring such wild cards to the game. We did take Elijah, since he is nursing and probably the highest maintenance kid. The kids kept the phone, then we would stop at hot spots and email them to check up. It ended up being really fun and I didn’t get as nervous as I thought I would. The kids just sat and watched a movie, and the evening went really well for them. We’ll probably do it again soon. We were able to get some more Christmas gifts last night, and only have a few more things we want to get for the kids. Luke does the bulk of the Christmas shopping; when I realize how big a job this is, I am grateful all over again. But he says he loves doing it: thinking about what each child would like, and trying to make it happen. The gifts are all under a tarp in the basement. Older kids have been down to do laundry, but the gifts are in the dark part of the basement and Luke has given them all the lecture of how bad they’ll feel if they peek; then it won’t be a surprise on Christmas morning. I don’t know if they have or not. I used to peek as a kid- there was a weird closet that went under the stairs of our split level in the Plains, and my parents would hide gifts there. Other years I remember touching the presents all over to discern where the cardboard was and where the lumps/plastic wrap was, and after a year or two knew exactly what a Cabbage Patch Kid box felt like. I regret that, now, but at the time I remember still being pretty ecstatic at Christmas. Plans are to have my parents up to breakfast, then open presents. We have a Christmas Eve service at church, then a lasagna dinner, but other than this there are no other set plans.

Party’s On

Day’s end.
A calming piano cd plays…the kids are in their bedrooms but still chatting…the 3 year old heartthrob to be just came and gave me a hug…such a nice Saturday night.
Luke’s brother and his family came for the weekend, and we had them up to dinner this evening. Preparations for this event began about midweek, when I started thinking about when the cleaning and shopping and bathing and laundering was going to happen to ready ourselves for the party. I was pretty stressed out about it all:
1. Our dryer has been broken for a week. This was ‘fun’ for the first few loads, and while it was still nice enough outside to hang up the clothes. Until it got cold, until Luke’s work stuff was getting a day behind, until a bird pooped on Luke’s work stuff. Then I got really nasty to be around. A couple of weeks ago, while reading about Ebola and the desperate need they have in West Africa for medical aid and aid of any kind, I thought to myself, if I were single right now, I think I might consider flying over there. Seriously. I know where I am going when I die, here would be a chance to go out with a bang, helping people. Fast forward to this week, where the lack of a dryer makes me go to pieces. Um, maybe I would not be a help to those stricken with this illness right now until I had a bit of an attitude adjustment.
2. The days were loaded leading up to the event, so I had to be creative about when I went grocery shopping and cleaned the house. Friday morning we had a presentation on reptiles at the nearby state park. I grumbled about possibly losing half a day to do that, but it ended up being really neat, and the kids all came home with a brand new desire -a pet snake. (Really- they are clean, only eat/ poop once a month or longer!) Grandma said tonight that if we followed through with this that it was goodbye for her, so we’ll have to think long and hard which we want in our home more. Ha ha. Friday afternoon when Luke got home from work, Aliyah, Elijah, and I struck out for the grocery stores. It makes a big difference to not have all the kids along on a grocery trip, obviously, so I appreciated his willingness to let me go at dinnertime. I wasn’t really clear about not being home for dinner, so they did wait for me, a bit. Sarah is doing great at helping me with many of our meals, and she made cornbread to go with the chili in the crockpot. So once they noticed how late it was getting, they dug in. Even though I had to grab some fast food and drive home in the dark, it felt so good to come home with everything, and know I had all day Saturday to get the house in order.
3. Usually when Luke’s brother comes home, it correlates with an Ohio State game or someone’s birthday or some other reason. This time it was Luke’s mom’s birthday. I just learned that she shares a birthday with Billy Graham, who is now 96! Notice I did not share my mother in law’s age. Another reason for the visit was an awards banquet for Trail Life Ohio, the first of its kind. Luke, Sam, Noah, and Caleb; Keith, Anders, and Jack; and Paul and Carter all attended it this afternoon. They left around 11, so I thought of what the boys should accomplish in the way of cleaning and laundry before they left. Luke had found some red polo shirts for $2.50 last weekend, so I got those all washed up and air dried this week, but it was hard for the boys to think ahead enough on their pants. Luke suggested we get a couple box fans to help the drying clothes along, then have them for the kids to take to camp next summer, so those new fans were trained on three pairs of jeans all last night. The boys did make it to the banquet fully dressed, and left behind a clean bedroom and bathroom.

So, the stressing, as always, was a waste of time. No point in worrying about the future when every day will come just the way the Lord ordained it…*. I got to thinking how nice it is to have a clean house, and look forward to showing others hospitality, and, as a guest, the joy of doing special things with the ones you love. It made me think about Heaven- that place He is busy preparing for me. Everything is in order, the House has never looked better, every thought was put into making this a wonderful time, and the guests are washed and dressed so fine, so excited and beyond blessed to be there. Maybe this is one reason we are encouraged to practice hospitality- getting in that mode of ‘how can I serve that one I love best during their stay’ often enough so that it becomes second nature. Or, being on the receiving end, rejoicing in anticipation of fellowship and basking in the reality of being loved, being chosen, being invited.

Hallelujah!
Give praise, servants of Yahweh;
praise the name of Yahweh.
Let the name of Yahweh be praised
both now and forever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
let the name of Yahweh be praised.
Yahweh is exalted above all the nations,
His glory above the heavens.
Who is like Yahweh our God
—the One enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the garbage pile
in order to seat them with nobles
—with the nobles of His people.
He gives the childless woman a household,
making her the joyful mother of children.
Hallelujah!
~Psalm 113

*thank you Chris Rice (click on this link!)

A Vacation From Labor, Part One

I’m here in the hospital, waiting for Elijah to come back from his fateful visit with the pediatrician (the big C), and figure I should put some thoughts down here while they are fresh in mah mahnd.

Every birth is different, with circumstances all their own, but I can honestly say I was dreading this one even happening. Sure, I wasn’t wild about the idea of staying pregnant, either- long about month nine Baby had found his niche and was weighing heavily on my pelvis. Maybe it was the discomfort, maybe it was the waiting the extra two weeks, maybe I am finally going crazy. But something, in the words of Miss Clavelle, was not right.

Thursday I went in to the OB to have a non-stress test done. Can I describe how silly these tests seem? I will admit that I do not know what the non-stress test is intended to test, but from the looks of it, it is hard to see that anything conclusive about Baby’s health and wellbeing can be assessed from it. I get these baby monitors strapped to my belly, and I hold a push button on a cord that I am to press every time I sense the baby move. OK. So I sit there and watch the base of the one monitor, figuring every time it goes up, Baby is moving and I can hit the button. Sooner or later, though, Baby hits a lull in action (because he is really just trying to get a nap here, do you mind?), and the nurse brings out these baby versions of Defibrillation paddles and proceeds to ‘shock’ Baby back to life. What?! Later, during another slow time, the nurse rubs the top of my belly to try to wake Baby. It is apparent to me that if one has to jar Baby into moving enough to pass a non-stress test, one might be cheating at said test. I took one with Anna when she was overdue, but that time was left alone in a room, strapped to monitors, with a cup of ice water in my hand. I realized early on that the desired result was plenty of movement, so every few minutes I would poke or rub her to get her to comply. I knew full well that I was cheating then, but it surprised me to see this nurse cheating now.

Next on the docket was an ultrasound to check Baby’s fluid and weight. The tech waxed eloquently about his large, beautiful abdomen as she put her measuring circle around it, and commented that he looked very big. I already suspected this, being so far overdue, but it was a little ominous hearing it from her. She did also say there was plenty of fluid.

Next I waited forever to see my OB. I even had some pretty strong contractions during that wait, causing me to imagine what it would be like to go into labor there. Would they let me drive over to the hospital myself, or would I have a fancy ambulatory escort? There were many other ladies in the waiting room with me, talking about this labor and that, this size baby and that, this present partner and that ex husband, to keep me quite informed against my will of all the possible things that could go wrong. “She had her baby without hardly knowing she was in labor- she’d only been having some back pain…” All I need to think about being this late. I really think that this was the issue I could not wrap my mind around this time- I could go into labor at any minute, and had no idea how many minutes (or worse, how few) I had before I needed to be at the hospital once I did know for sure. Which seems so silly on the surface, being my eleventh experience with labor. But for some reason this fear, let us call it by its real name, I could not shake. It haunted my days, but especially my nights. I did not want to wake in the middle of the night in pain and have that knowledge there was no turning back now. So every morning I would awaken with such joy, such thankfulness that that previous night, labor did not happen. This fear fueled much of my thought life, so as I waited for the doctor this was my mindset.

When I went in for my exam, he said he didn’t want me going past 42 weeks, that there was concern about the baby’s size, and that his fluid was a little low. I wondered at this last statement, since the ultrasound tech said there was plenty, but like I have said, I was already in a state of mind to want this induction, to have this event be planned and not sprung on me like previous labors. For some reason I didn’t feel like I could handle the not knowing anymore. We agreed I would come to the hospital the following morning, bright and early.

The Weekend Begins

Luke and Sam left for a backpacking overnight tonight. I had a tough time getting it through my head that they wouldn’t be building any campfires. It’s, ahem, backpacking. Not camping. When Luke was thinking about what he would bring for food, he briefly considered the hot dogs in the fridge. This was the fateful meal before we got the stomach flu, and I have only fixed smoked turkey sausage, their distant cousin, since. But I mentioned how good hot dogs tasted over a fire and Luke just looked at me. Oh, yeah. No fires. It is supposed to rain early tomorrow morning, but they still wanted to go and do this, packing rain gear for the inevitable. “Besides,” I said, “you’ll be able to stay a little bit more comfortable by the fire!” Another look worth a thousand words from Luke. Okay, okay. No fires.

Whenever he is away like that, it is as if the rest of us are on vacation, too. Meals are a bit more relaxed, nutrition wise, and the house gets little more than a lick and a promise. It isn’t that he is a fierce overlord or anything; he’s pretty great about every piece of furniture being sticky all the time. But when he is gone, things are different. Makes us miss him and rejoice at his return.

Tomorrow is our monthly book club meeting- we read Homer Price and really enjoyed it. After that I will probably have to go to Walmart for odds and ends to keep us in business until I do my big shopping trip. It has been at least 3 weeks since I have been able to do a trip like that; we were sick, then had an Easter Egg Hunt last Saturday…Here’s hoping I can get out this Saturday morning. The whole next week runs better when I have been able to get everything. We haven’t had vanilla or cinnamon for a month. I might even forget what cinnamon tastes like.

Saturday night will be a birthday dinner for Micah, our twin, who turns 4. I have been thinking about how grateful I am that even though she does not have her twin sister, Micaiah, she does have two bookends, Anna and Adon. If she wants to play a little more rough, Adon’s her man. If she’s in the mood for her princess skirt and doll house, Anna’s always available. This morning I caught them together; Anna was ‘doing’ Micah’s hair, putting it up on the side with a bobby pin. Later on, Micah came down the hall moaning and sobbing that now Anna wouldn’t allow Micah to put up her hair. “What did you want to do to it?” I asked her. “Put it up in a ponytail,” she cried. “But Anna’s hair is already in a ponytail,” I replied.

“Yeah, but it doesn’t look good. It’s all tangly!” She was certain she could have done a better job.