Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Amelia's Birth-Part 1

I know, I know!  Poor Amelia is a year old, and I'm just now sharing the birth story.  Somewhere in my mind, I've been hesitant to write it because it was quite traumatic and I haven't been all too eager to relive it.  But it's time now, and I want to share the joy of her coming into our lives.

I was so excited to be having my second home birth.  Though I have had seven positive hospital births, there's just no place like home! 

That's quite a belly!

My mom had flown in about two weeks before my due date.  She had a limited time frame in which she could come, so we opted for her to come earlier rather than later, potentially missing the birth.  After all, this was my ninth baby, so it was reasonable to believe that I would deliver before my due date of March 15th.  I've never gone past my due date.  Don't hate me!

Upon my mom's arrival, we had some time to just hang out and do fun things with the kids.  But as the days went by, I was getting antsy to get things going.  Not only did I want Mom to be present for the birth, I also wanted her to be able to spend time with the new baby. 

I was so torn.  On one hand, I wanted baby to come when she was ready.  On the other hand, I was determined to have her before my mom left.

Tuesday, March 8th, I had an appointment with my midwife and discussed the situation with her.  She agreed that if I hadn't gone into labor by the next day, she would get me started on herbs.  I didn't,  so Janet came by and gave me herbs to help get things going. 

The herbs got contractions going, but they would eventually fizzle out.  I tried this for two days with no real success.  I knew baby just wasn't ready to come. 

Thursday, I wanted to take a break and just do something fun with the family.  So we decided to take the kids to meet Daddy for lunch, and then take them to the park.  We had a great time and I continued to contract regularly, but with no increase in intensity.

When we returned home, I rested a while, and then started up the herbs again.  This time, the contractions really picked up.  They were getting closer together, but not fully relaxing in between.  This concerned me because if my uterus wasn't fully relaxing between contractions, then the baby wasn't getting a chance to recover in between either. 

At this point I stopped the herbs and decided to get into the tub in hopes of slowing them down, allowing my uterus to fully relax.  I called Janet to ask her thoughts, and she agreed that I should stop the herbs and get into the tub.  As much as I didn't want to slow things down, my first priority was to protect my baby.  Janet also said that she was on her way. 

Janet and Robin, the assisting midwife, arrived about 6:30 pm.  The bath helped and my uterus was completely relaxing between contractions.  I was checked and dilated to seven.  So even though the contractions weren't very strong, they were making progress.  I knew baby was on her way.  YAY!

It was a party in the house.  Mom had set out a buffet of food for everyone, coffee was on, and I was drinking high doses of Vitamin C in between contractions.  The anticipation was building and we were making final preparations. 


Final preparations

But then...

Contractions. Fizzled. OUT!

What?  Seven cm and my body quits?

Janet checked me again, and despite another couple hours of contractions, I was still a seven.  By this time, we had put the children to bed and we were all getting tired.  Janet asked me what I wanted to do.  I could either call it a night and go to bed, have her break my water, or keep doing what we were doing...meaning, continue on with herbs. 

I didn't like any of the choices!  I didn't want to go to bed and start all over, I didn't want my water broken, and I definitely didn't want any more herbs!  I was ready to have this baby, but couldn't make a decision.  And no one could make it for me.  I sat on the edge of my bed for about 30 minutes, exhausted and unsure, trying to decide what to do. 

Janet came back in to check on me.  It was about 1:30 am.  Since I couldn't decide, Janet suggested that she check me again, and depending on any change, possibly breaking my water.  I was still a seven, but very stretchy.  The baby's head was in a twisted posterior position, which is why I was making slow progress.  She just needed to tilt her head to drop comfortably into position, putting better pressure on my cervix.  As Janet was checking me, she was trying to manipulate baby's head into position.  She was able to move her head a bit.  Fun times!

Fortunately, the manipulation put me at an eight.  So Janet said, "Let's go ahead and break your water!"  As much as I wanted to get this show on the road, I was scared.  Remember, my contractions had fizzled out, which meant I was in no pain, which meant there was no mental working up to the intense pain of transition.  What this meant was that as soon as she broke my water, I would begin labor IN TRANSITION!  Moms, are you feelin' my pain here?  I was tired, and afraid that I wouldn't be able to handle going straight to transition. 

But, it was time to get the show on the road.  I prayed for strength, endurance, and mental ability.  With my loving and supportive husband by my side, Janet broke my water at about 2:10am.


As soon as I stood up, the first contraction hit with a vengeance.  I stood, leaning into my husband as he coached me through.  After the fourth contraction, I requested to get into the tub.  I needed the warm water to ease some of the intense pain.  Plus, I knew it wouldn't be long until baby arrived and I wanted to give birth in the water again

I got into the tub and had a very intense contraction.  I knew at that point I was close to pushing.  I had a second contraction in the tub and was on the edge of losing control.  It was hard, and I felt that the next contraction would produce the urge to push.  The third one came, and sure enough, I began to grunt and push. 

Typically, once I begin pushing, it's a release of the pain.  It's very controlled and I know mentally that I am almost done!  This time was different.  It was very difficult to maintain control.  I was able to ease her head out, which usually offers slight relief.  But the baby never did quite get into a good position, so the pain was different.  I couldn't maintain my focus.  I lost it.  I yelled to get the baby out!

I'm usually a quiet laborer, even during transition and pushing.  But when her head came out, I couldn't handle the pain.  Janet wanted to pause for a moment to check for a cord, but I couldn't.  I reached down and pulled my baby girl out at 2:22am!  It was finally over!  I was exhausted!  But she was here, our precious Amelia June!

Come on back to find out what happened after the birth in Part 2....and why my husband had to call 911.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Managing All These Socks


One of the best perks about spring and summer is.....NO socks!  I love that time of year when we can rely on sandals and crocs most of the time.  It just makes life easier!

Yet, we do have to manage all the socks in this house, and this is the method I came up with years ago.  I figured out that the Hanes socks came in different colored toes for the varying sizes.  So, I chose a color for each kid....or for my some of my girls, bought the same color/size because they share a room and wear close sizes. 

The little girls wear pink or purple.  The boys wear gray or solid white.  My older girls have different socks, but they take care of their laundry, so their socks don't matter in terms of managing them.

The best part of this system is that the kids pull their own colored socks out of the whites pile and throw them in the drawer.  They don't even have to fold them together.  They're all the same, so they just grab two and go.

How do you manage socks in your home?  Please share!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Change of Heart

(L to R: Ethan 5, Chloe 7, Sophia 9, Jonathan 2, Seth 10, Cheyenne 19, Amelia 1, Celeste 16, and Genevieve 4)

I originally published this years ago.  But since I get asked about our story often, I thought it would be fun to update it and republish.  Please keep in mind that this is our story and we know that God does not lead all families to the same conviction.  Here is our story....

Our Journey to Many Children

I am no stranger to large families. My mother is the sixth of fourteen children, my dad is the oldest of five, and I am the second of four children. Even in the generations before, there were many children in our family line. I grew up surrounded by lots of family and LOVED the chaos of family gatherings and reunions. My husband, however, is an only child, and so is his mother. You'd think that I was already signed up to have many children and that my husband would lean toward just one or two. But, that wasn't the case....

When Greg and I were engaged, I don't think we necessarily talked about a specific number of children.  Despite loving my large extended family, I had always said that I didn't want children.  Thankfully, just loving Greg changed that, but I probably didn't think we'd have more than two.  My husband, however, was in the "I want 20" camp right from the start.  I would just laugh and think "yeah right"!

Three months after we were married, we found out that we were expecting our first child. We were thrilled. But when I began experiencing death-like morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), I wasn't so sure I would ever do this again! I was so sick for seven months. Continuous vomiting, dehydration, etc. We lived in England at the time, so we had no family to help out.  After this, I knew I would not be in a hurry to do it again. Our daughter was born and we were very happy first-time parents.

Yet, the memories of how sick I was haunted me. About two years later, I began feeling suspiciously queasy and took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Although I welcomed the "idea" of another baby, I was terrified of going through such agony again. And how would I do it now with a toddler? And to make matters worse, we were moving back to the states from England in just a few months.  How would I handle a major move, plane rides, a toddler, all while feeling terrible?

The morning sickness intensified and I just took it one day at a time. Our little two year old spent most of her days watching children's videos and I cringed each time she said she was hungry. It was difficult to get up and prepare food. Greg was working 24 hour shifts, so when he was at work, he was gone all day and night!  It was tough.

It came time to move. I left England a month before Greg so that I could spend more time with my family before heading to our next base. I was four months pregnant, still sick, and was now going to travel back to the states with our 2 year old daughter, by myself.  Sixteen hours and three plane changes later, I made it home. Barely! That night, my dad offered to go get me something to eat and food actually sounded good. The next morning, I woke up and felt great! God was good and faithful and allowed morning sickness to last only four months instead of seven! Our second daughter was born and we were the honored parents of two little girls. I was content.

I think I immediately felt like two was enough for us, although I knew my husband wanted more. He never pressured or asked, but I knew his heart welcomed more children. As time went on and the girls got bigger, I began to enjoy the independence and the freedoms of having children out of baby stage. I also began planning my future which included finishing school and possibly a career in the future. I had all kinds of ambitions, goals, and aspirations. And now that the girls were getting older, I could finally work toward these goals.

When our second daughter was three, I did become pregnant.  We were excited, though again, I was fearful.  But around nine weeks, I miscarried.  We were devastated!  And though I learned just how fragile life was, I was also in no hurry to get pregnant again.

Just a few months later, we were moving again. Greg was getting out of the Air Force and we were moving back home to CA. As soon as we were settled, I enrolled in school. Oddly enough, it was during this period of life that I began to question all of my reasons for only wanting two children. This was strange to me! I loved school, I loved the girls being older, and I was set on being able to afford to send these girls to college. How would we afford more children? And, do I want to go through morning sickness again?

Nonetheless, my heart was being pulled in another direction. I questioned why I only wanted to have two children when I had a wonderful husband who wanted more? Was God not faithful in getting me through morning sickness? Will He not provide for more children? Is pursuing a career what I really want to do? And is it God's plan for all of our children to even attend college? All these questions ate at my core until finally it was clear! My heart had been opened to more children! 

We were living in CA at the time and getting ready to move back to Texas for a new job. We agreed that as soon as we got back to Texas we would try for another baby. Upon a friend's recommendation of a fertility book, we began charting and trying. ;-) To our amazement, two months later we were pregnant with our third child.

Yep, sick again. This time for 20 weeks.  I survived and we welcomed our third child, our first son, six years after our second daughter! Seven months later, to our SHOCK, we were pregnant again! Sick again, still nursing baby #3, survived again and welcomed our fourth child, another girl.

Okay, at this point, I'm not sure what our "plan" was now. We still hadn't come to the point of welcoming "any and all" children, but we weren't saying we were done either. So we continued to chart. I would chart until I felt "ready" to be pregnant again. By now, I knew that God would get me through morning sickness, we knew He would continue to provide, and we were thankful for our four children. 

Our fourth child was about 13 months old when we "put the charts away". Soon after, we were pregnant again. Sick again and now living in a tiny rental home. Five kids, three very small bedrooms, no problem. Our fifth, another girl, was born and we were thrilled!

God continued to do a work in both of us concerning our view of children and what scripture says about them. Over and over, scripture calls children a blessing, a heritage (Psalm 127: 3-5)! Although I think most people would have agreed that our quiver was certainly full and probably overflowing, we weren't content with that. Don't get me wrong, we were content with our five children, just not content with deciding five was "it".

During this time, I was at a home school meeting, when a friend shared with us her journey to having nine children. As a matter of fact, it looked and sounded a lot like ours. She shared of how Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed fervently for a child. She went on to say that she realized there were only examples of women in the Bible praying for children! There is not one example that God gives us of a woman (or man) praying not to have children. Yet, we see in the Bible that there were many varied sizes of families! And being that we know modern forms of birth control did not exist, we can rest assure that God was in control of family sizes!  Additionally, I have several friends who have always trusted God with their family size, yet only have 1, 2, or 3 children.

This, in conjunction with God's Word referring to children as blessings, arrows, and a heritage, was huge for me. God used my sweet friend's own story to continue writing ours! Thankfully, my husband shared the same conviction and we went on to have two more children. No charting, no worrying, just freedom.

You see, for us it really is freedom. Since we welcome any child God is willing to entrust us with, there are no worries about getting pregnant. We just enjoy our love for one another and welcome "the fruits of our passion", as my husband so sweetly puts it! ;-)  And this is coming from a woman who begins ovulating again 2-6 month after each baby, despite nursing around the clock.  Only God could make me this crazy!  (I mean this in a good way!) : )

Since then, we've had babies six, seven, eight, and nine, with morning sickness lasting from four to six months.  We've had some scares along the way, and moments of questioning our view.  We're human and raising nine children is hard sometimes.  But once we step back and remember where God has brought us, our spirit is renewed and we're reminded of His faithfulness.

If you know me, you know that I am NO supermom. I struggle daily just like every other mom does. I have days when I want to string these little blessings up by their toes or run away to a tropical island. But this I know....God is faithful, God has provided for our every need and then some, God has helped me not to fear morning sickness....too much, and God has freed me from the worldview ideals I held all those years ago. There's nothing I'd rather be doing than raising and growing our heritage.

I understand that this is not every one's conviction or desire.  This is simply our story, which we hope will encourage anyone who may be on the fence in this area.  If you've adopted a worldview of limiting children for reasons contrary to Scripture, I challenge you (and your spouse) to pray about it and ask God what He would have you do in this area of your life, trusting He will lead you. 


Sunday, March 18, 2012

FREE Brownie eBook

FREE brownie eBook!  Click image to get yours.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, Avocado, Cilantro and Lime

This is an incredible salad, packed with robust flavor and a powerhouse of nutrients.  I am a huge fan of avocado and black beans, so this was right up my alley. 

I found the recipe on Pinterest via Jennifer at Once Upon a Chef.  While I was there, I browsed her recipe index and pinned several more of her recipes.

Serve it as a side dish or all by itself.  It's da bomb!

Serving Size: 6-8*
  • 2 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 ears fresh corn, cooked, cooled and kernels cut off the cob (I used frozen, thawed, for ease)
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots (you’ll need one medium shallot)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I chose not to add this...didn't need it in my opinion)
  • 9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest (be sure to zest limes before juicing them)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro, plus more to garnish
  • 2 Hass avocados, diced
  1. Combine all ingredients except avocados in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight. Right before serving, add avocados and mix gently, being careful not to mash avocados. Garnish with a few sprigs of freshly chopped cilantro if desired. Serve at room temperature.

*This recipe could easily be halved.  It makes a lot!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Friends Back From Rwanda

You may remember when I posted this Thankful Thursday post about our friends going to Africa on a mission trip.  They're back, and hopefully adjusting to US time.
I'm looking forward to hearing from them all of what God is doing there.  Here is a short, but moving video of their trip.  David is a doctor and Hollie is dental hygienist (she's a home schooling, SAHM, but keeps her license current).  What a joy to see how God used their knowledge and talents to minister to the people of Rwanda.  And their little girls are just glowing with love in this video!

You may not be able to make this kind of trip, but perhaps you would consider sponsoring a child


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Keeping the Little Ones Busy During School

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One of the biggest challenges for a home schooling mom is keeping the little ones busy so that you can focus on schooling the older children.

Since I have a variety of school aged children, as well as many littles, I get asked this question often.

The important thing to remember is that schooling is a part of home life, so don't be discouraged if you feel like your day doesn't flow according to your schedule.  With preschoolers, toddlers, and babies in the home, continuity is usually not a part of the package...and that's okay!  It still works, and God is faithful!

Here are my tips for keeping little ones busy while schooling.

Make play time something to look forward to.  My biggest and most successful tip is to have toys/activities that are ONLY brought out during school time.  I keep bins full of fun toys put away during non-schooling hours.  This creates excitement for the toys and keeps the kids from getting bored of them.

Location, location.  Choosing the right place in your home to school makes a big difference when keeping little ones busy.  We want to be able to keep an eye on them, but still have space for them to play.  In our two story home, we school downstairs in the front room.  Our rule is that little ones may not go upstairs during school.  They usually stay in the room with me playing with whatever we've taken out, but because of our open floor plan, they're free to roam the bottom floor.  I realize that some homes are limited in options for schooling, and others choose to spread out and school all over the house (we do that too sometimes), so just pick the best location for your needs, keeping your little ones in mind.

Have a variety of things for them to do.  I love toys that encourage imagination and creativity.  Things like Tinker Toys, Legos (the larger ones), Potato Head (and the Mrs.), Fuzzoodles, wood blocks, Lincoln Logs, dominoes (setting up and knocking down), etc. are the toys I rotate out one or two at a time.  If I have little ones at the school table with me, I give them coloring books and crayons, scissors and paper (you'll be amazed at how long a three year old can sit still just cutting paper into a thousand pieces), Dry Erase Activity boards, Magnetic Dolls (boys and girls), puzzles, etc. 

Schedule sibling time.  In between subjects, I will occasionally enlist an older child to play with a younger one.  It helps to change things up a bit and encourages relational building.  Encourage an older one to read to a younger one. 

Educational videos.  Our general rule is to keep the TV off, but on occasion, I will put in something educational or character building for the little ones.  They love Leap Frog's Letter Factory, Kingsley's Meadow, and The Book of Virtues.

Take breaks. Don't forget to take breaks when possible, even just a few minutes, to read to the little ones, snuggle with them, or give them a snack.  Mine often do a lot better when I take the time to love on them than if I were to only focus on the schooling children for several hours.

Routine vs. Schedule.  I remember the days when I had a wonderfully neat and tidy school schedule.  My personality is one of structure, so a schedule worked best for us.  Even if we strayed slightly, we knew exactly what must be done each day....and for the most part, stuck to it....even through morning (all day) sickness!  But somewhere around my sixth or seventh baby, I began to relax a little.  In fact, I was forced to.  With so many little ones to tend to (nursings, diapers, whining, correcting behavior, kissing boo boos, etc), it was impossible to allot specific time frames to each subject.  Having a routine, as opposed to a rigid schedule, affords structure, but allows for those unforeseen forks in the road.  We still know what we need to do for the day, but how we get there looks much different.  Play around a bit and find out what works for you, but be flexible and EXPECT interruptions.  Those interruptions are no surprise to God, so go with them and allow Him to direct your day!

But what about babies.  Ohhh sweet babies!  I pretty much always school with a baby in my lap, either nursing or just cuddling.  When my babies get old enough to sit up, I may put them in a high chair so that they can see what we're doing....or I use the walker/exersaucer.  I also take advantage of nap times!  I can get a lot accomplished when the baby is asleep.  Setting up a port-a-crib, with a few soft toys, in your schooling area can also help with mobile babies so that you're not chasing a crawler constantly.  Some of my friends "blanket train" their babies, but I have never tried that. 

Computer time.  If you have a computer in your school area...or a laptop, you can begin your 3-5 year olds in their computer skills.  There are many educational games that little ones love that will stimulate their brains and build their basic computer skills.  Fact Monster and Starfall are our favorites.  Both have lots of fun learning games for little ones.

Enjoy this time.  I know that these days....when the kids are little....seem so hard, and you look forward to them being older so that you can school without so many interruptions.  Since I've graduated my oldest child...and she is now married...and another one soon to graduate, I'm realizing more than ever that this time, when they are little, is short!  In a blink of an eye there will be no more babies crying, or toddlers to chase, or toys to pick up, or little ones to keep busy.  These are some of the sweetest try to relax and enjoy these days with littles.  My husband and I often joke that this is the reason we keep having babies....because we'll miss these little years too much, as hard as they may be sometimes! 

Do you have tips to add?  What are your favorite ways to occupy little ones? 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Even The Fleas


Last night at Bible study, our pastor shared a brief portion from Corrie ten Boom's story, The Hiding Place.  If you haven't read the book, there is a particular passage when Corrie and her sister were giving thanks for all things after reading 1 Thess 5:18.  At one point, Corrie's sister begins giving thanks for the fleas that infested their barrack.  Corrie didn't understand why in the world her sister was giving thanks for even the fleas.  You see, they had an incredible amount of freedom in their barrack.  They held worship services and were free to read their Bibles in the midst of an unimaginable situation.  The Nazis would patrol every other barrack, except theirs.  Because of the fleas the guards would not step foot in there. 

Our pastor used this illustration to remind us to be thankful in ALL circumstances.  He shared that his desire was to be thankful for even the fleas, no matter what his "fleas" might be....and encouraged us to do the same.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

I want to be thankful for the fleas.  I don't have fleas in my home (I'm so thankful!), but as a mom, I have lots of things to be thankful for.  It's easy to give thanks for my children, and good home schooling days, well behaved children, and food on our table.  But what about those other things....those fleas.  Though my fleas pale in comparison to imprisonment, and watching those around you die, these are the things for which I give thanks today....

I am thankful for this messy house because it means that a family lives here and I have a roof over my head.

I am thankful for fussy babies and whiny children because they remind me that I am the blessed mommy to nine of them.

I am thankful for sleepless nights because they are often my most heart felt times of prayer with the Lord.

I am thankful for terrible home schooling days because they remind me that I cannot do anything apart from Jesus.  They teach me a little more patience, and a little more grace.

I am thankful for the trail of toilet paper that runs through my school room (right now!) because...well I don't know yet, so I'll just be thankful.

I am thankful for morning sickness (no, I'm not pregnant) because it reminds me of the life growing inside. 

I am thankful for my children's disobedience because it reminds me of the responsibility I have to correct and shepherd them in the ways of the Lord.

I am thankful for my special needs son, Jonathan, because he reminds me that we are all created in God's image, and that I would gladly welcome a thousand more Jonathans into my arms.

I am thankful for stomach bugs and colds because they show us the body's incredible ability to heal, by God's design.  Through vomit and snotty tissues we learn compassion, servanthood, and empathy.

I am thankful for hard days, difficult circumstances, and fatigue beyond measure because they all remind me to cling to my Savior and draw me to Him in ways that only difficulties can.  We learn to trust more because we see His faithfulness as he leads us through it, and He is glorified!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. James 1:2

I acknowledge that it's so easy to give thanks for even these things when we are not in the midst of experiencing them at the moment.  And at times, we just don't feel very thankful.   Like Corrie, we wonder why in the world we should be thankful for our circumstances.  But the Bible does not command us to feel thankful.  It commands us to give thanks!  This is my desire!  And I'm thankful for the reminder and encouragement. thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:20

What difficult circumstances are you thankful for today? 

*This post is linked with The Marathon Mom.
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