Sunday, December 27, 2009

Where, oh where, have my ornaments gone?

I am pretty sure that next Christmas, I will pull out all of the Christmas bins (we have A LOT of them!), and upon opening the one labeled, "Christmas ornaments", become confused.

We put our tree away today but left up the other decorations. Yes, already...
There were two reasons for this.

First of all, we needed to make room for a new sectional that we found at a deal impossible to pass up.

Second of all, the poor tree looked terrible. It was nearly bare on the bottom half.

Every Christmas tree, for a toddler, is a learning experience.
From what I remember, with my other kids, it was pretty easy. A few, "DON'T TOUCH!" warnings and gentle hand slaps were all it took to keep them away from the tree.

Levi has been a different story.

At 20 months, my little Bam-Bam loves to throw things. The same goes for my Christmas ornaments. Every day I have to clean up an ornament that has been thrown, and smashed, onto the hearth of our fireplace.

So next year, if I blog about how frustrated I am about how all of my ornaments are missing and I can't recall why, please send a note reminding me that Levi thought we needed new ones!


PS: We had a great Christmas...and a blast with family in NY...more to come on that soon!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Christmas Miracle

I am making light with this title. I wrote it in excitement over a great deal for nursing moms that I wanted to share, but I need to give THANKS for two real miracles first:

Number one, Emily's tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery (2.5 weeks ago) went very well. The recovery was extremely tough for her, but she is better and her sleep apnea seems to have vanished.

And the biggest news in our family this week was that my Uncle Russ, the man who has always been like another dad to me, had a heart attack last weekend. He needed to undergo open heart surgery two days ago, receiving a triple bypass. The surgery went well and he is healing faster than they expected. Thank you, God, for keeping Your hand on our loved ones!


Now for my shopping miracle:
Not sure how long this crazy promo is going on, but if anyone is still nursing, here's a deal on really cool nursing covers:
go to uddercovers.com
click on "Shop Now"
pick the one you want,
enter promo code "Thankyou"
it takes $32 off, so you get a free cover, only paying $8.95 for shipping!

I did it, it works!
Spread the news!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

a few faves...

If you know me or keep up with my blog, you know that I am a meal-planning Nazi. I do it in such a way that it is freeing, not restricting. It's become quite a hobby as well as a necessity. It's what gets me going.

I love trying new recipes. I'm not one of those people that are always making the same things. My family may prefer that I did, but I need a little more excitement than that.

However, this week is different. I'm a bit busier than usual, which means that I DO have to stick to a couple of go-to meals. This week's menu includes two of my most favoritest recipes.

Here they are:


Thai Shrimp Curry with Chopped Lettuce and Basil Lime Couscous (courtesy of Rachael Ray)

*this recipe may be slightly time consuming the first time you make it (especially if you're not used to cooking Thai food), but after once or twice, you'll be able to whip it up quickly. I can have it on the table in 20 minutes.
*if you use cooked shrimp (I do), add it when you add the peas.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable or other light oil, eyeball it
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails removed
6 ounces, about 1/3 pound, shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1-inch ginger root, peeled and grated or finely chopped
4 scallions, chopped into 1-inch pieces, whites and greens
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons mild or hot red curry paste
2 roasted red peppers, sliced
1 cup "light" or unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
2 cups chopped iceberg lettuce, 1/2 small head
1/2 cup chopped peanuts, for garnish

Directions
Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil over high heat. Add shrimp and toss 2 minutes then add the mushrooms, garlic, ginger, scallions, salt and pepper and cook 3 to 4 minutes more tossing constantly. Stir in curry paste, roasted red pepper and coconut milk and reduce heat to low. Simmer a few minutes then stir in peas to heat through.

In a sauce pot bring chicken stock, butter and the lime zest to a boil. Add couscous and stir. Turn off heat, cover pot and let stand. Add basil and the lime juice to the pot and fluff with a fork.

Serve couscous topped with a layer of chopped lettuce then a few ladles of red curry shrimp. Garnish with chopped peanuts.


Butternut Squash-White Bean Soup (courtesy of Cooking Light)

Ingredients
3 bacon slices
1 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons unsalted pumpkinseed kernels, toasted

Preparation
Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons of drippings in pan; crumble the bacon, and set aside.

Add onion, celery, and garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add squash; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in broth, cumin, red pepper, cinnamon, and cloves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until squash is tender. Stir in cream, oregano, salt, black pepper, and beans; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Sprinkle each serving with bacon and pumpkinseeds.


And just for fun, I've included this recipe that I like to make with the above soup. My family doesn't think it's the same without it. And it's perfect...while the soup is simmering and cooling, you have time to whip up a batch.


Cornmeal Scones:

Ingredients
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and egg to cornmeal mixture; stir just until moist.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 4 times with floured hands. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper; coat with cooking spray. Pat dough into a 7-inch circle on prepared baking sheet. Cut dough into 8 wedges, cutting into but not through dough.
Bake at 375° for 22 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Busy-ness and babies!


Wow, it has been forever since my last post!
We have been quite busy.

We did Halloween with my sister and her husband, who came into town. Days of kids and costumes and nights laughing by the fire were priceless,

We celebrated Avery's 3rd birthday with 50 or 60 people...that was exciting!

We had eight trees cut down. It's all part of the plan to have an eventual backyard, not a forest.

School and all of its functions are in full swing.

And we welcomed the newest Dunets, baby Angelo Jeremiah, born November 15, to my brother and his wife. We can't wait to meet him!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Defining moments, part 2

Okay, this one's going to be a bit cheesy...

But today is the 12th anniversary of defining moment #2 (see #1 in an earlier post).

On October 26, 2007, I was in church, home from college for fall break.
There was a new "most eligible bachelor" at the church, and several people were waiting for me to meet him. I was a nervous wreck. My mom had already approached him to let him know that she had a 19-year-old daughter, and that she would like for him to "be her son-in-law." (no joke...) I had seen him over the summer with his parents and thought he was an acquaintance's husband. Thought he was really cute, but taken. When I found out he wasn't, and that he knew I was available, I was intrigued, to say the least.
I sang that Sunday. Just about wet my pants with anxiety, knowing he was out there, watching. Knowing that after service, our appointed meeting was inevitable.
There we were, in the center aisle of the church, a small crowd to the rear of the sanctuary, observing. We shook hands, our eyes locked, our faces couldn't stop smiling.

I knew it.
This was it.
This was the last boyfriend I'd ever meet.

He asked if I could go out after the evening service.
My response: "Definitely!"

Friendly's for milkshakes. Me in a plane the next morning, back to school.
Three weeks and several letters and emails later, I was driving back home for good.

And the rest is history.

I will never forget that first moment. I will never forget exactly what was going through my mind as I looked into his face for the first time. Wow, his eyes are SO blue!
Now I look into those same beautiful blue eyes each day, both on his face and on the faces of my sons, and my heart skips, thinking about that first time I saw them...

Success

A follow up to the "Indecisive" post about Greg's birthday.
It was great. We went to a great little mediterranean place that just opened up around here. Aside from our waitress messing up our order, it was spectacular. My flounder, topped with mouth-watering crab, roasted red peppers, capers, and lemon butter sauce, served with fennel and potatoes, was to DIE for! I could blog about it for hours...
Poor Greg ordered a filet and ended up with a salad...I won't even go there...not all "mature" fine dining waitresses actually know what they're doing.
His gift, a wedding ring, was too big and too "diamondy", but we exchanged it for a really cool band.
And a night out together,
...............ahhh....................

Friday, October 23, 2009

These are the days...














A big reason for my blog is to journal these special, child-rearing years so that I will remember them.








However, the deeper I go into mothering five children, the more I understand that I will PROBABLY look back on these "little kid" years and just THANK GOD that I survived them.








Saturday, October 17, 2009

Defining moments, part 1

I know it's completely cliche, but it's true that there are certain moments that are so special, so incredible, that they mark your soul forever.
I hope to dig deep, realize exactly which moments were the most defining in my life, and post them. (They will not be in chronological or in order of significance.)

Number one: (Well, really 1-5, but let's say number one)




The 30 seconds after each of my kids were born. It's so unbelievable how many emotions rush through your heart during that first moment you hear them cry, see their face, feel their soft, silk-covered down comforter skin. Tears, every time. I don't think I could hold back crying even if I'd given birth 20 times.
It's like your body goes through this painful, mind-wrenching journey, and at the end of it you are thrown into the most emotional seconds you'll ever know. Like a crazy, twisting waterslide that shoots you into ice cold water. Amazing.

Indecisive

I guess it's always been this way. I'm a people pleaser. And I suppose a bit discontented. Rarely just content to live in the moment, always looking forward to something. So I'm always afraid I'll make a bad decision and wish I had chosen differently.
I'm realizing this again today. Greg's birthday is Tuesday, and I'm taking him out tonight. He doesn't know. Sitter and everything. Date night doesn't happen all that often around here, so I want it to be good. Do we stay around here? Go downtown?
I just wish I could hire someone to be my secretary. "Make reservations somewhere, get his gift..."
(Speaking of his gift, it's a big one, but I nearly hyperventilated due to indecision shopping for it!)

I'll let you know how it goes...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If I only knew...

If you've followed my blog at all, you know that Avery keeps life...well, interesting. Here's an old video I found (shot in the summer of 2008). Notice that 18-month old Avery's biggest concern when she sees the camera is to shout, "Cheese!"
(Go to the bottom of this page and pause my playlist so that you can hear the video)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Priorities flying all over the place

With the little time that I have in between diaper changes and dinner-making (and yes, sometimes they happen simultaneously but yes, I wash my hands in between the two), I need to set some serious priorities. I don't have time to do it all, so I'm trying to figure out what is really important.

There are a couple of things that are obvious (but that I'm still not always very good at):
I need to spend more time in prayer and meditating on all things True.
I need to spend as much time as possible molding and loving my little ones.
I need to spend time showing the people I love what they mean to me.

Okay. So that's the top of the list. But with the other 35 seconds left in the day, what is the most important thing to me?
Kidding, of course. Well, sort of.

I'm not pregnant. That's kind of an oddity around here. But that means that I feel good physically. I want to feel better.

I need to keep going to the gym and eating better.
I'm going to get something off of my chest here: I've been dieting...
I've been afraid to blog about it or talk about it too much because I'm afraid to jinx myself. (I know it's silly...)
With three pregnancies in three years, I have work to do. Serious work. But now that we are DONE, I am motivated to change my body so that I feel well permanently. (I need to in order to keep up with these little ones!)
I've been on the South Beach diet for almost a month, and (as of last Thursday), I'm down 9 lbs. A few more to go...

I need to tap in to my creativity.
I've also been trying to complete decorating around the house. I am a Martha Stewart junkie. (Can't stand her but love her organization/homekeeping/crafty ideas)
I'll embellish on this further one of these days. My head is spinning with ideas. I haven't been inspired in a while (again, because pregnancy=survival) and now ideas are flying at me...exciting but overwhelming.

And then there's always the fact that
I'd love to spend more time calling friends and family.
I'd love to arrange and attend more playdates, both for my kids and myself.
I'd love to have more date nights. (...sigh...)
I'd love to spend more time on yardwork.
I'd love to help Greg prepare for worship service more.

I'd love to remember the rest of the list...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sweet and Scary moments

All mornings are crazy around here. You can imagine. But this morning was especially interesting.


Around 8:30, I was changing Nadia's diaper. She was being so cute and smiley, so I started getting silly with her.
And she belted out a huge LAUGH! Her first. It was so precious.

There are so many times during the day when I get anxious for when these little ones are just a bit bigger. This was NOT one of those times. I just wanted to freeze the moment and hold onto it forever. The last first laugh for my babies. Priceless.


Moments later, I placed Nadia into her carseat to put the finishing touches on the process of getting out the door. I went into the kitchen, and heard a couple of thuds and Nadia screaming. Levi had thrown a big heavy candle sconce right at her head. She was screaming and a mark was already appearing. Oh DEAR! I was immediately on the phone with my pediatrician friend, checking to see what should be done.

All is fine. I did all I needed to be sure of it. She has slept and awoke smiling. But Lord have mercy, it was scary.
It's crazy how a moment of sweet bliss can turn into a moment of utter fear!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MUSH

I used to think of myself as a pretty intelligent person.

With little effort, I managed all A's growing up. My studies came easily in college. Amidst marriage and children, I DID graduate.

I am aware now that my days are primarily spent conversing with children under the age of ten. I don't mind that at all. And yes, occasionally, when I'm alone with adults, I accidentally say that I have to go potty vs. use the lavatory. No big deal...I'm a mommy and it's to be expected.

However, every once in a while I am slapped with the reality that my brains have truly turned to MUSH.


That happened this afternoon.


You see, in my little world of cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and raising babies, I am in a bubble. Greg comes home and I talk to him about what color I'd like to stain the deck or how much money I spent on groceries or what kind of socks I bought for so-and-so...
...this is my world. This is what I have to offer when it comes to conversation.

But this afternoon, I had a few minutes to spare, and, feeling a bit disconnected from my husband (we've been extremely busy lately), I decided to go onto HIS blog.
He is the Math Specialist for a local county (what is THAT job? He is basically the resource for all teachers in the county when it comes to math. They go to him for help regarding anything math. He also decides on the county's curriculum, strategy, etc.) And he is required to keep a blog in his techno-savvy county.

So I read a few posts. And, man oh man...let's just say my perception of my intellegence dropped a few levels. A portion of the first sentence I read said, "teaching algorithms in the absence of concept-building-exploratory-type lessons"...HUH?????
THIS is what he spends HIS days thinking and talking about? Oh, Lord...

Yeah, it's just all mush up there...nothing but mush...

Monday, September 14, 2009

We made it!


The first week of school has come and gone. I am happy to say that we survived...quite well, actually. Aside from the clinic aid calling me on two separate days to bring a change of pants for Kaleb (we won't go there...), the first week was a success. I am pleased with their teachers. They are making friends. They are loving it!
And I feel good about our decision not to homeschool this year. Sure, I miss them, but I am embracing the opportunity to spend some extra time with the three little ones, and, of course, to get some extra housework done!
Here they are on the first day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ready or not...




It's official...




My two oldest babies will be attending school as of Tuesday.

Real school.


We went to orientation this morning.

Little desks everywhere. New teachers. Computer labs. A big media center. Art classroom. So fun for them. A little scary for me.


It has been such a challenge to homeschool them these past few years. There have been days when I absolutely dreaded starting. There were even days when I got away with putting it off until the afternoon. (You can do that when you work one-on-one with a kid.) I cried several times to Greg about how hard it was. Of the past four years homeschooling Emily (K-3rd grade), I was pregnant for at least a portion of EVERY SINGLE school year.

Man, it was tough!


But it was one of the greatest blessings I've ever known. I got to be the one that experienced their learning. I got to be the one that decided the pace at which they needed to learn. And best of all, I got to be the one that spent all day with them.


They are growing up so fast. I am grateful for every moment I got to spend homeschooling.


And even though a HUGE load is off of my shoulders, I'm really going to miss having them around.

the above pics: top, fall of '07. bottom, June '09.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Not nearly enough time


This Wednesday is Nadia's 8-week birthday. She still seems so new. And yet, at the same time, it's sort of hard to believe our family ever felt complete without her.

My sister's baby Johnathan was 8 weeks old when he passed away. I've been thinking about this a lot the past couple of days. There is so much more to discover about little Nadia. Eight weeks goes by in a flash. My heart hurts for my sister, and for the rest of us, that only had those eight short weeks to get to know him.

Say a prayer for her. Eight weeks is not nearly enough.

(the picture above is of me holding baby Johnathan at 2 1/2 weeks)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No cavities!


I always have six months to prepare myself for the big day and I still fear it just a bit when it gets here. Today, all kids (except baby Nadia, of course) had their dental cleanings. Aside from Avery freaking out and demanding that the hygenist hold her while the doctor checked her teeth, all went well.
I will definitely take advantage of rest time today.

Showers optional



A couple of weekends ago, we braved camping with a newborn. We went with good friends to a nearby lake. It was a quick, one night stay, but it was great. Not nearly as scary as I thought it might be. Nadia slept most of the time, the kids got along great, and Levi only wandered to another family's campsite once. (Okay, that was a little scary!) So great to grow closer to the kids and spend time with friends we love. Good times.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No idea


Okay, so let's review...
I have been married for 10.5 years. Greg and I had every intention of being child-free for the first 4-5 years. During our first year of marriage, we found out that we were pregnant with Emily. Two years later, we had Kaleb. You wouldn't believe how many people said, "Oh, you have a girl and a boy...you're all set!"
But we were pretty sure we wanted another one. It took eight months of trying to get pregnant with Avery. (Weird, when you consider how easily I've gotten pregnant with the other four...but it was definitely God's timing...we wouldn't have moved to Richmond if I got pregnant when I wanted to...)
...Anyway, we figured we'd eventually, not right away, have another baby that could be close in age to Avery (she and Kaleb are over four years apart). However, when she was nine months old, I found out I was pregnant with Levi. I had major anxiety before I gave birth to him. How was I going to manage two children that were 17 months apart? He was definitely to be my last baby.
It was just as scary as I thought it would be. Homeschooling still happened, but barely. Then, when he was five months old, SURPRISE! Another baby...a good surprise, but still, HOLY COW!

So here we are, Nadia is six weeks old (as of tomorrow), Levi is fifteen months old, Avery will be three in a few months, and we've got Kaleb (almost 7) and Emily (9).

Life is an absolute whirlwind...probably exactly what you'd imagine it is.
I have had several moms of 1-2 kids ask, "How do you do it?"

My answer..."I have no idea..."

It's definitely the grace of God. It is a miracle that I get any sleep at all, that my floors have been mopped in the past week, and that my kids are all fed. But thankfully, that's all (sort of) happening.

I never even liked babysitting as a teenager.

But can you imagine the transfer of love that I get to experience on a daily basis?
From the peace of nursing a newborn and her brand-new smiles, to my "big kids" hugging me and thanking me for some surprise, I am blessed. And, at the end of a crazy day, I also get to share life with an amazing husband.

We are in survival mode. It will fly by for that reason. And even though it's nuts and I have no idea how we're doing it, I hope I can embrace as many moments as I can.

I love my babies. ALL of them.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

EEEEK!!!!!

Oh, my sweet Avery...
She's keeping me on my toes.
Today, Nadia was fast asleep in her bassinet and I was in the kitchen doing dishes. I heard Nadia fussing and didn't think much of it. Hmmm...where's Avery?
Panic set in and I flew up the stairs. There was Avery. There was Nadia. Avery had her arms wrapped around Nadia's shoulders, with Nadia's arms down at her sides. Avery was tripping over her own feet, next to the wooden bedframe. I can only imagine my face and my voice as I moved in what seemed like slow motion to the other side of the bed, yelling, "Hold on to her, hold on to her!" I grabbed Nadia, held her close for a moment, and then held onto Avery, who was in tears by now.

Am I going to survive having three under 3?
Will they????

Thursday, July 30, 2009

By the way...


I am aware that I haven't given any birth details, and that it's odd for me. I promise to post the long version soon.
But for now, I'll sum it up to say that labor was in full swing at 11pm, but manageable. Contractions were coming every 6-7 minutes. At 2am, I got up to see if I could move things along. Hopped in the shower and contractions got much closer together (2 minutes apart!) Greg and I got things situated with kids and got to the hospital at 3am. Four hours later, she arrived. Epidural free, but not as peaceful as Levi's birth. Thank goodness there wasn't a video camera in the room.
Hmmm, but maybe I could've won some money for the scene that would have been captured!

I can't believe it...




But I actually miss it...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Farewell, sleep...

Here we are again...a couple of hours before bedtime, and I am wondering how much sleep I will actually get tonight.

I can't complain about Nadia's nightly sleep patterns. At eleven days old, she is up once or twice a night, leaving me with a couple of 3-4 hour opportunities to sleep. And the hourly potty trips that come with late pregnancy are gone, thank goodness!

However, there are other children that are waking up at night. Why this happens when I'm already waking with a newborn is a mystery. The other night I was up with four children, all at separate times. Oh dear Lord...

All I can think is about how quickly I am aging...

And that I'll probably never sleep through the night, ever again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Welcome Nadia Claire Jastrzemski


She's here!
Nadia arrived Wednesday,
July 8, 2009
(07-08-09, pretty cool, huh?)
at 6:59 am
8 lbs., 14 oz.
21 inches long
Absolute sweetness

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I take it back...

My last post was titled, "Won't be long now,"and I was wrong. I thought I'd have a baby by now, for sure. But here I am, two days before my due date, still pregnant. I have never gone within a week of my due date. It's a bummer because it's made me feel like my due date was actually a week ago. Never been this pregnant. Probably never had such a big baby in there...
It's very frustrating. I'm extremely restless. I can't think about anything other than getting this baby out. I know I should be treasuring these last days of pregnancy I'll ever have, but I'm not. I'm ready to get this party started, to meet this little one.
My sister is here. Everything is ready. Now we just need a baby. Please, God...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Won't be long now...


Slowly, surely, everything's coming together.

After a day of irregular contractions yesterday, I finally got myself in gear and took care of a few things: bags are packed and kids' stuff is ready to be transported in the middle of the night.

And, over the course of the past few weeks, the obsession has begun.
I've read my favorite books on midwifery and birth stories. My favorite is written by a midwife who works with amish women in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The stories of those women inspired and strengthened me as I went drug-free for my last birth.
I've chosen my "labor music" (don't worry...no tribal chants or african drums, just some of my favorite slow songs).
I've watched the tear-jerking birth videos set to music on youtube.

I need to do these things. I don't want to forget that labor is a part of the birth process. And that every contraction is a step toward meeting our new baby. I need to wrap my mind around my obsession over birth in order to be ready, to be "in the zone" when labor comes. And I think I am. We'll find out!

Now...we just need to hope this baby is a girl. (Remember, we are going on a hunch and really have no clue...yikes!) Because if it is a boy, he doesn't have a name. Oh boy...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Raining, inside and out...

It's fitting that it would be pouring rain today for the first time here in weeks. While I'm glad for the sake of my newly planted tomatoes and flowers, it's just a reminder of how I really feel inside every June 15th.

Eleven years ago, today, my dad passed away. He was 44.

It wasn't sudden. He'd been fighting cancer since he was 35. 35! Greg is older than that. Dear Lord.

The scariest moment I experienced having a sick dad was on the last day of my freshman year of college. He had driven halfway across the country to pick me up for the summer. My mom had warned me that his health had deteriorated quite a bit over the months prior. But I was 18. I was lost in my own little world. I didn't give it much thought.
I'll never forget when he got out of the car. He looked like he was 75. My daddy. My young, sweet dad looked like he was 75.
He was horribly sick for the next day or two, but he tried to enjoy the time we had in my college town. I was supposed to sing in the school's choir for the commencement ceremony, but he warned me that he was probably too sick to attend. We had a long drive ahead of us. He needed to rest.

I remember sitting on stage, watching him walk through the door. He stayed just long enough to hear us sing before he left to return to his hotel room.

The next year, he was in the hospital more than he was home. I met Greg that year and they got to know each other. My dad knew just as well as I did that Greg was "the one" and told Greg to take care of me.
I was still oblivious that my dad was mortal, that his sickness would actually take him away.

I was still in my own little world and spent very little time in the hospital. My dad couldn't really die, could he?

We were told that his insides were like cobwebs due to all of the radiation done on his abdomen. He was down to 89 lbs. Still, he was my dad. He was going to make it. Off I went to do whatever it was I did back then.

I shouldn't have been surprised that morning. Just after 6 am, I was working my home healthcare job, a 45 minute drive from home. My mom called.
No...

I remember walking outside and realizing that I wasn't on my way to see anything other than my dad's body. Confused, I looked up, and out loud, said, "Dad?"
I somehow managed that drive to where my family was gathered at the hospital.


It wasn't until life started happening that I realized how much losing my dad meant. A month later, I was engaged. Six months later, my brother walked me down the aisle to marry Greg. Another year or so later, I had my first baby. My dad wasn't there.

I wish I could go back. I wish I could change my mindset back then. I would have spent so much more time telling my dad what he meant to me. I would have asked him so many questions. I would have been there to tell him I loved him as he took his last breath.

There's a sappy country song that was out a few years back that explains why the rain is significant,
"there's holes in the floor of Heaven
and her tears are pourin' down
that's how you know she's watchin'
wishin' she could be here now.
And sometimes if you're lonely
just remember she can see
there's holes in the floor of Heaven
and she's watchin' over you and me"


I certainly don't think that my dad would trade the glories of heaven to come back here, and I don't know if he ever gets glimpses of his grandkids. But today, it's raining.
And I'm kind of glad...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

so that's it???

Last Friday, June 5, 2009, we had our last official day of homeschooling.

Emily and Kaleb took their end of year testing (passed with flying colors), and that was that.

The four year homeschool journey that began with Emily's kindergarten lessons, she and I sitting at the kitchen table, inspiration and fear battling for my brain, is over.
It hasn't really hit me, I guess. I don't feel relief or sadness. Not like I thought I would, anyway.
I'm trying to reflect on those first months, when I'd drop Kaleb off at preschool in 2005 and Emily and I would settle in at home or a coffee shop. Just us. Wow, she was a smart cookie. Absorbed everything I threw at her. She taught herself to read. No lie.
Many days, I sat with my three and five year old and did art projects that taught bible verses. Emily completed her lessons with ease. We had soft classical music playing in the backround. We went to gym/swim class. We took picnics and bikerides, talking and learning about trees and leaves. I remember thinking it was a lot of work. Ha. I had no idea how life was going to change!

This past year, especially in the fall, our days went a little more like this: Exhausted from nursing and being pregnant at the same time, I try to choke down a cup of coffee in the morning. I throw up. We sit at the homeschool table while Avery begs me to turn on Dora. Poopy diaper. I remind the kids to stay seated and finish their work while I clean stinkypants. We make it through one subject. I throw up. Someone else has a poopy diaper. I throw up. I try to go over phonics with Kaleb. I can't keep my eyes open because I have zero nourishment in my system. I nurse a baby. We do Emily's math lesson. Avery pees on the rug. I try to get lunch ready. I throw up. And it's not even noon yet...

So I guess the fond memories and the scary moments are balancing themselves out right now. I am sure I will have my moments of mourning. (I always, even in the crazy moments, considered myself VERY blessed to have all of my kids home with me.) And I'm sure I'll have my moments of relief. Right now, I guess I'm just too freaked out about everything else in life to give it too much thought.

Oh, and I do hope to do it again. The youngest three will begin kindergarten for three consecutive years! (Avery in 2012, Levi in 2013, new baby in 2014!)

panic

The semi-annual boys' campout whisked away my husband and 6-year-old this weekend. Emily's ninth birthday is next Friday, so I promised her she could have a couple of girlfriends here for a sleepover last night. Oh boy...
It went very well, for the record.

The only problem was that yesterday and the day before were full of the signs of labor. I will spare the details (be glad!), but it was enough to put me into panic mode. My bag isn't packed. The house is not ready. (Who doesn't want to go into labor knowing they've really cleaned the best they can?) I have no definite plan for the other kids while I'm in the hospital. Baby clothes are in the attic still. No new outfit for baby's homecoming.
And, perhaps most important, my sister can't be here until the 26th! She and Greg are my official labor partners this time around.
Today is better. I think that the anticipation and worry over the weekend is what brought on all of those other signs. That and exhaustion/dehydration.

Anyway, this week, I'm on a mission. It's time. I need to check all of those things off of my list.

Then I just need to hope this baby will stay put until the 26th.
Or at least until Greg gets home, tomorrow!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

3.5 weeks...WHAT????

Okay, here it is...
I'm freaking out!
I am officially 36.5 weeks pregnant. That means that within a couple of weeks...oh my goodness...a couple of weeks...I am having this baby. Totally not ready...
And, scarier still, all of my babies have been early.
Emily was 6 days early.
Kaleb was 3 weeks early.
Avery was 11 days early.
Levi was 6 days early.
My due date is in 3.5 weeks...
YIKES!
I just had to have this moment...oh dear...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A couple more funny Avery stories

This child...
Oh my goodness...

I had to jot these moments down!

A few days ago, Avery was in the tub, and all of a sudden, she looked down and spotted her nipples. She exclaimed, "MOMMY! I have eyeballs on my tummy!!!"

Later on, she was laying down in bed, ready to sleep, and I said, "Okay, Avery, now close your eyes...I love you!"
She closed her eyes, opened them, and said, "Jesus said I can suck my thumb."
And in went the thumb.

She's going to keep herself known, nomatter how many kids are running around here!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Falling slowly...

It's crazy what happens when you carry a baby.

Now, I know I am a sucker when it comes to love. I always have been. I love easily and deeply.
I remember being in the hospital after having Kaleb, #2, just crying and crying while holding him. I remember that I could literally feel my heart growing in love. I loved Greg so much. Loved Emily so much. And to fall so quickly in love with this new little guy, it actually made my chest hurt.

But this pregnancy has had a beauty all its own because it was a complete surprise. We thought we were done having babies. It was tough to accept that another was on the way. But the process has been like slowly falling in love. I have realized that I am so glad to have another chance at this. That I'll still have time to experience pregnancy, birth, and a newborn.
Little one, you've already smitten me, just like your siblings. And I have yet to see your sweet face.
You're making my heart grow...again!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just an update

Just wanted to post that we are doing well.
We have two weeks of school left; we're trying to bust out all that we need to learn before we do our end of year testing. The kids are little learning machines! Emily is going to be NINE next month! She is trying to master her multiplication tables and has started division. She's a little smartie, as always. Kaleb is reading well, but would still rather look at pictures. He always grasps math concepts with ease that I think will be difficult to teach. Just like Daddy.
Avery is also a little learner. It's hard to believe she just "turned" 2 1/2. She knows almost all of her letters and can look at, for example, three apples and say, "there are three apples." She's going to be a fast learner, I think.
And last week Levi started taking his FIRST STEPS! My baby is starting to WALK! He gets in two, five, sometimes ten steps before he gets excited and knocks himself onto his bottom. But he still feels like a baby to me. I know that will change when he isn't THE baby, so I'm holding on to this time when he's the littlest.
I am feeling well. Feeling like I'm carrying a girl (no, we still don't know what we're having), which means that I'm feeling more miserable than my boy pregnancies. Must be the overload of girl hormones. While I'm feeling healthy, I'm more irritable and weepy than normal. My last midwife appointment was Friday. I'm not quite 34 weeks. The appointment went well. The weight gain is taking its toll on how I feel. I lost ten at the beginning then gained thirty, bringing my total so far to twenty. That's one of my bigger pregnancy gains, at this point anyway. I'm hoping to gain no more than five between now and the delivery. It's just too exhausting to carry all of that extra around!
The baby is extremely active. You can see the "alien" moving around in there! Head was down on Friday (yes!) so I have a little bottom protruding just above my belly button and limbs that feel like they are wrapping around my torso! Maybe this little one will be tall!
Okay, that was just a quick update.
Lots going on, as always!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Eating away...

Despite the fact that I am insatiably ravenous at this point in my pregnancy, this post is not about my appetite. It's about something far more serious...

I need a maid! It's not that the housework is impossible to keep up. I could do it. It's my energy level and the fact that I'm so spread out among the needs of so many people.

So at this point, I'm surrendering to the fact that at any given moment there are usually at least two chores eating away at me in the back of my mind. I got Greg off to work this morning, made breakfast for the kids and got everyone dressed, then I spent an hour cleaning the upstairs bedrooms and decided to take a 15 minute break. Here I am. School starts as soon as the break's over. And the two things eating away at me are the load of towels in the dryer and the stack of papers here on the desk.

And eat away they shall.
8:40...time for school...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Levi Turns ONE!



You're always told when you have kids to "enjoy them...they grow up so fast." I really have tried to keep that in mind these 8+ years of being a mommy. This past year was no exception.
Sunday was Levi's, my baby's, first birthday. All of their first birthdays have crept up on me, but this time was crazy. It felt like four, maybe five months had gone by since the day we welcomed him into our family.
We spent the afternoon at the botanical gardens' water play area. It was the hottest day so far this year. Levi didn't want to hit the fountains too much, but he had a blast watching his siblings run through the area.
Oh, and he loved his first taste of birthday cake!
Sweet baby, I'm so glad you're a part of our bunch!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bliss...


I have the best husband in the world. It's not a matter of opinion, it's a fact. If you knew him the way I do, you'd agree. I seriously hit the jackpot on that chilly day in October 1997 when that first handshake started it all.
We knew about the conference months ago. Greg would need to go to Washington, DC for a week to attend sessions upon sessions set up for math teachers and their supervisors. (He's so smart...can you imagine? A convention center full of math nerds?) He had the idea for me to join him for a night or two. I was nervous to leave all of the kids, something we haven't done in...well, too long. He left Sunday afternoon with his colleagues. I was to join him the next day.
Monday morning came along. I had four little backpacks all ready to go. My suitcase was packed. I dropped off Levi first, the hardest one to leave. I bawled when I got back in the car with the other kids. Half an hour later, I was on the interstate, alone in the rain, wondering if I was making the right choice leaving them for two full days.
I DID! Greg and I spent 41 hours together without anyone calling us Mommy or Daddy. With the exception of a couple of hours that first evening, the weather was beautiful. The hotel was INCREDIBLE. We ate and ate at places we could never bring the kids to. We walked hand in hand through the National Mall and a couple of Smithsonians. All by ourselves. We were able to enjoy each other all day long on a level that's just not possible when you're pushing strollers, breaking up fights, explaining your surroundings, and feeding four other people while trying to enjoy your own food.
Wednesday morning, it was nearly impossible for me to leave the hotel. I had to force myself to get in the car and drive away.
Thank goodness I have such great kids to come home to.

He gets home on Saturday. It can't come fast enough...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Do Not Attempt

Sometimes I think I forget that I have as many children as I do. Maybe it's not that. Sometimes I forget that I have a couple that are as young as they are.
For so long, I had just Emily and Kaleb, and life was simple. I had a 5 and 3 year old. We could try to do quite a bit. Sometimes I think I still can.
Like yesterday...
Emily and Greg are gone on their semi-annual father/daughter Indian Princess campout. Usually on these weekends, I am in survival mode. Recent inspiration (I'll share...maybe next post...) encouraged me to really enjoy the other kids and spoil them a bit this time around. I may have also been driven by the fact that tomorrow I leave to spend two days alone with Greg in Washington, DC...alone...alone...alone...something we haven't done in the year since Levi was born.
Anyway, I spent the evening taking a beaming six-year old Kaleb all over town, watching him light up at each surprise stop. He made me promise not to tell what we were doing; he wanted to be surprised. It was SO cute! We started at the gym. Mommy needed a little cardio and they just love the Kidzone, for whatever reason. We went to Cici's pizza. What is it about that place that kids love so much? Avery and Levi were as good as I could ever expect them to be...the place was mobbed and even I felt overstimulated. Kaleb was allowed 3 desserts.
We went to the grocery store to buy a car he's had his eye on. Doesn't sound all that excited but he was overjoyed.
Then we went to the new Regal Theater that opened up this week, just down the road from our house. They had men in tuxedos and cheerleaders welcoming people at the door. Balloons everywhere. Free popcorn and soda. Kaleb didn't know what to do with himself. We stood in our place in the concessions line, ten people from the register. This is where the fun began. Levi was in the umbrella stroller, and started to lose his patience. It was his bedtime when we got there and he wanted everyone to know it. Avery started trying to push him around. This is about when I started getting the pity looks. I was oblivious to the fact that this task may seem impossible for a bulging-bellied woman, her six year old, two year old, and almost one year old.
We finally made our way into the theater. Monsters vs. Aliens, here we come...Oh, and by the way, Avery has these weird phobias, like little jumping dogs, bugs, and...loud noises. They must have had the volume to the max. She started freaking out. The theater was small. It seemed like we were three feet from the giant screen and blasting speakers. Oh boy.
I spent the first hour of the film consoling Avery, whose screams eventually subsided to every two to three minutes. She was on one leg, insisting that I keep one arm tightly around her. My other leg and arm was busy with Levi, who decided he loved the movie and loved climbing all over me during it. We all went to the bathroom halfway through. One glace in the mirror showed me that I looked how I felt. My ponytail was just about on the side of my head.
We reentered the theater. Avery sat in the stroller and sucked her thumb. Levi fell asleep on my lap. Ten minutes of peace and the movie was over.
I can't believe it didn't send me into labor.

Kaleb said it was the best night ever.
Thank God...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eleven more weeks...really?

So today marks 29 weeks pregnant. I still haven't posted preggo pics; they're coming...
I know I've spent the majority of the past three years pregnant (25 of the past 37 months!) but I don't remember this setting in this early...
I'm beat!
I just feel like I'm counting down the seconds until I can once again leap into bed and rest my big-bellied self.
I still have a long way to go!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Timeless

A sick baby and the shock of being thrown back into reality have prevented me from a long needed post until now.
I spent four sweet days in the dry flatlands of West Texas last weekend.
Now...I need to confess that I was a bit nervous as the time grew closer. It had been YEARS since I really spent time with the girl who, in high school, was growing out of my hip (and we went to different schools!) Our communication, for the most part, has been limited to email over the past three or four years. While she has kept the same sacred place in my heart, I had to admit that a lot has changed over time.
The changing started when I left for college and she still had two years left in high school. I began a new life with all new people, halfway across the country.
Two years later, she started at that same school. Problem was, by then, I was back home. I had met my husband and life was changing. By the time I was married, she was in the throws of single college life. She had her single girls and her cute apartment full of roomates. When she graduated, I was pregnant with my second baby. The year she was married, I was considering schools for my oldest. And before I knew it, she was pregnant and off to Texas. It has seemed like we were moving along, passing each other with a quick HI here and there.
As last weekend approached, I started to wonder...do we even have anything to talk about other than old times? Could we really spend four days together and have it not seem a little weird?
My fears were put to rest the second I saw her. Everything and nothing has changed. She was exactly what I needed and hopefully my attempts to help her out were successful.
Nothing can change true friendship. I am sure of that now.

I told Greg, "It's like we're the same old friends but we have a new fresh friendship, more grown up."
After hearing our conversations in her living room, I'll bet her husband is convinced otherwise...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I feel an ulcer coming on...

The combination of pregnancy heartburn and the excitement of the week have got me wondering if my stomach is eating away at itself...and yet here I sit with a glass of lemonade.

Today is my last day in Richmond. Tomorrow I take my trip with Levi to Texas to visit my Tina. So excited.

As I type, someone is sawing the wall out between my kitchen and dining room. I just signed for our granite slab. I will come home to a slightly more modern kitchen, and a mess, I'm quite sure.

Greg had a job interview today. Not sure if we even want it...God knows...

Holy moly...for a girl who's a bit addicted to routine, this is throwing me for a loop!
Oh, I feel the burn...ouch...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dragging...

I'm not sure if it's the extra weight, the extra blood volume, the fact that had an extra workout this week, or what...
But I'm dragging...
I would love nothing more than to head into my dimly lit bedroom with a book and a big glass of water and be alone for a day or two...
PLEASE don't let me be getting sick!
PLEASE don't let the rest of my pregnancy be this way!
Whatever it is, it needs to pass...
phew...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The countdown begins!

Seven more days...that's it...
In one week, little Levi and I will be driving to Norfolk and hopping on a plane to Texas.
I realized a little over a month ago that one of my closest friends' kids was turning three and I hadn't really spent time with her since he was weeks old.
I'm very guilty of taking advantage of "easy" friendships, using the excuse that "we are always able to just pick up where we left off...isn't that sweet?"
NO MORE!
It's time for a break from all of the "Mommy...mommy...mommy"'s that I hear daily. Instead, I will relax, enjoy some much needed girl time, and actually nurture one of the most important relationships in my life.
Woo hoo! I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Going up...

I had another midwife appointment this morning. It was actually quite enjoyable to get up, shower, dress, leave the kids with Greg and head out into the chilly sunshine all by myself. I am 26 weeks this week, with only another 1.5 weeks left until my last trimester. Holy smokes...
I stepped onto the scale to find that the inevitable had happened. I gained five pounds this month. Yikes! My midwife, who steers clear of discussing weight during pregnancy, did give some advice for me to "make better choices", something I rarely think about during pregnancy. I've never gained more than 20-25 pounds, and never cared too much. It's afterward that's tricky.
I'm writing this next bit for myself and for anyone else that sees me heading into an ice cream shop (Stop me!):
The breakdown:
Month 2: -5 lbs. (I was SO SICK!)
Month 3: -3 lbs. (Still sick)
Month 4: +3 lbs. (Feeling a bit better)
Month 5: +5 lbs. (Feeling a little too good)
Month 6: +5 lbs. (Still feeling good and eating everything in sight)
That puts me at +13 lbs, at only six months...okay, Heather...easy now...
Let's hope I can report a measly one or two pounds next month so I don't have to buy all new pants after this baby's born...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Learning

It's a busy day so this post is going to be quick and to the point.
Yesterday's message was one I needed to hear.
We've been studying Colossians at church on Sundays. The past two weeks have been on Colossians 3:18-19, the familiar, "Wives, submit...Husbands, love..."
While spouses have been abusing these verses for centuries, we took a look at the context of the gospel when you consider what leads up to those verses. It revealed something I've never realized before. I won't get too deep into it, but you can hear the messages in their entirety here: http://redemptionhillva.blogspot.com/ The messages were from 3/15 and 3/22.
Ironically, I was out last Sunday, when the wives were addressed, and Greg was out yesterday, during the message for the husbands. Normally I may be a little upset about that, but not this time. Turns out I needed to hear the message for the husbands. I know...weird, right?
I needed a good slap in the face to show me what my husband's been working so hard at lately.
The husbands were given much encouragement and many challenges. The basic idea is that husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loves the church. What does that really look like? Sacrifice. Servanthood. Nourishment. Grace. It is not a love based on performance or what is deserved.
Over the past couple of months, Christ has shown me what His grace really looks like. How has He done it? Through my husband. More and more, I'm seeing examples of how my husband puts me first. It makes me want to put him first. How he forgives me and loves me, not what I do for him. It makes me want to do more. How he loves me unconditionally. It makes me want to drop my conditions.
And that's what God's love can do for us when we realize its magnitude. It makes us want to love Jesus in a more authentic, more passionate way. If we stop looking at ourselves and our own ideas of love, and focus on His love, it is clear how our opinions of love are skewed.
As Christ loves the church...not as I love. Thank goodness!

Friday, March 20, 2009

I miss you, my friend...


Yesterday was a sad day. While rinsing out the glass carafe to my coffee maker, I accidentally smacked it against the sink.
This morning I dragged myself down the stairs, a baby in my arms, a toddler holding my hand, and a protruding belly full of baby...to find my poor coffee maker, void of its most important component. I nearly cried.
Within the hour, I had all four kids out in the cold car and took a little drive to Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee. If only our Starbucks had a drive-thru. I'm officially an addict. And a pregnant one at that.
As I sit here enjoying its warmth, there's a part of me that misses Western New York, just a little bit. What do I miss? Timmy Ho's...we need you here! Nothing is the same!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


We did it. We rented the movie that all Christian couples are either raving about or critiquing. Last night, Greg and I watched Fireproof. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical before watching it. I mean, a Christian movie about marriage? Just didn't really sound like an edge-of-your-seat-can't-miss-it blockbuster. Even during the first five minutes, I had to let go of the "the acting isn't that great, this is going to be cheesy!" attitude. Doing so allowed me to receive an amazing message.
I actually loved it. I think it has a lot more to do with what God has been doing in my own heart and marriage than anything else.
I have spent ten years married to a guy that I always knew was a good guy. I have always admired his zeal for God and ministry. I have also been jealous of it. I have appreciated his dedication and determination to accomplish anything he sets his mind to. Sometimes. Other times I get just plain frustrated over it. Not sure why.
So for ten years, I looked at HIM for everything from affirmation to security to provision. Always critical, always frustrated. I wanted a robot, someone who wouldn't fail me. Someone who would always say the right thing and put me above EVERYTHING else. Sheesh...
Unfortunately, it took ten years for me to see what I was really doing. And even then, it's been somewhat gradual.
The simplest way to put it is this: I have always seen myself as the victim of all that's around me. Greg is supposed to rescue me from it all. If he doesn't, it's because he "doesn't get it".
WHAT? How about realizing how blessed I am and being thankful to the point of tears that I have such a great guy to share it with?
That's been the big change. Instead of fighting all that I wish he was, all that I wish I had, I'm seeing more and more of how lucky I am. Goodness, I could've ended up with anyone. Thank you Jesus for giving me EXACTLY who I've got. And thank you for keeping him here when what I really deserved was for him to run out the door.
Watching the movie last night was very emotional for me. It was like God was saying, "You see? This is what I have been trying to tell you!"
When I got married I was 20. I was oblivious. I had crazy expectations, which led to serious disappointment. Poor Greg!
Finally, at 30, I'm realizing a bit more of what this marriage thing is all about. And boy, it's far from what I thought! Less romantic, sure, but also so much more amazing than I ever thought it would be.
While watching the renewal of vows scene during last night's movie, I thought back to my wedding. I thought back to the person I was at that time. I wish I could go back. I wish I could have been the wife that Greg really deserves. I wish I could have given him so much more over the past ten years. I am thankful for the opportunity to change. And, hopefully, to give him fifty more years with a wife that sees him for who he really is.
God has been good. I am incredibly lucky.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Praying for my babies...

Last night, I spent 2 1/2 hours in the middle of the night cleaning up after a sick two year old. Poor sweet Avery threw up five times. Thankfully, it wasn't much each time. She has only thrown up once before, about 3-4 months ago. We were in the car one morning, about to run errands, and this time, it was a terrible mess. She still talks about it ALL THE TIME, definitely traumatized.

As I lay in bed just a few hours ago, half asleep, between her little episodes, I thought about how little of our children's lives are really in our hands. I had no way of stopping her from getting sick (and scared) other than praying that God would soothe her.

We have come to a major decision-making phase in our parenting lately. We need to decide things we've never had to consider so deeply. Emily is officially in her "tweens" (seriously?), and is into things like High School Musical and the Jonas Brothers. We've had to carefully guide her in fondness of these things.

And, here it is, I am going to say it: We are trying to figure out what to do for their schooling next year. This fall, I will have three little ones under three years old. Dear Lord! Homeschooling is just not going to happen. We have enough distractions as it is.
This has been hard on me. Four years ago, I wanted nothing to do with homeschooling Emily. I thought, like most people do, that I could never possibly give her what she needs, or have the patience to do so!
I was wrong. Homeschooling my kids has been the hardest but most rewarding thing I've ever done. I don't always do the best job, I'm sure, but I have had the honor of being with them every single day. I have been there for the aha! moments when they just "get it" with reading or with a math concept. They have grown in their love for each other by learning together. We are a closer-knit family than we would be if we didn't spend so much time together. And I have been able to protect them from more than I'll ever know.

Now, here we are, about to send them out "into the world" for school for the first time. My Emily, the socialite, will love it. But will we love the fact that she's hearing and seeing things that she'd never experience here in our home? And my Kaleb, he's so sweet and innocent still...will it all end when he's "out there"?

Just as I did last night, hoping and praying that Avery wouldn't be sick or afraid, I am learning daily to trust my little ones in God's hands. It's a cliche that has never been so real before. I know that he cares for them on a level that I can't even begin to grasp, why wouldn't I trust that? Still, it's so hard!

It's so much easier when they're in the womb...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ups and Downs

We've found ourselves in a bit of a roller coaster ride this past week. Not in a dramatic, live or die sort of way. Just in a twilight zone sort of way. The past twelve hours have pretty much summed up the whole week. Let me explain:
A couple of weeks ago, Greg declared it officially spring, and therefore, time for spring cleanup in the yard. We spent two Saturdays attacking our heavily-treed half acre lot (it often seems like several acres), and it was well worth it. After a couple of months of winter (although VERY mild winter compared to what we had each year in Buffalo), the kids spent ALL day outside both weekends, worked their little hearts out helping, and loved it. Ahhh, spring in Virginia...and it wasn't even March.
That's what we thought...
..until last Sunday.
Jack Frost hit our area hard. We hit the grocery store Sunday afternoon, along with every other person in the Richmond area, and fought off crowds for the last gallon of milk. It was insane. We sort of laughed, not knowing what to expect after spending our third winter here and not witnessing more than an inch snowfall.
That night, into the next morning, our house got about eight inches!
The kids spent 48 hours sledding in our backyard, at the sledding hill, cross country skiing, you name it--winter sports galore. The schools were closed Monday through Wednesday, with a two hour delay on Thursday. Holy cow. When it rains, it pours. (Or maybe, when it snows, it...whatever...)

How funny that we had 50 and 60 degree weather on Thursday and Friday.
How crazy that it was in the 80s today. Sweating and dehydrated at the playground, just a few days after our arctic blizzard. Total twilight zone.

I say that the last twelve hours have summed up the roller coaster week because it was an example of our ups and downs smashed into one day:
We spent the night as a family at the home of good friends along with another family. It was great and I may blog about it soon. Anyway, this morning, all of the kids went for a walk up and down the street, the big kids pushing the little ones in strollers (...don't get all worried, if you saw the area you'd understand that I use the term "street" loosely. More like giant driveway...) and all three couples had some quiet time over coffee and banana bread. It was a blissful time that comes along far too rarely. We went to the playground and took the kids out for ICE CREAM instead of lunch (first time ever...definitely not the last).
We got home, dropped everything, Greg worked peacefully outside, and the rest of us took a nap. Then the roller coaster hit its freefall.
We had someone show up to look over our house to give us an estimate on some work, unannounced. It would normally be fine but my house has probably never been messier. I met him in my pj's and messy hair, and then scrambled around trying to straighten up. I threw dinner together, our family ate, Greg took the older two to a basketball game and I cleaned up what appeared to be an entire taco salad and pot of rice from under the dining room table. I took the littlest two upstairs, cleaned out the tub, started running their bath, and Avery appeared next to me. She was holding a wipe and a hunk of poop. Not hers--Levi's. She removed his diaper, tried to wipe him off, and he crawled around, leaving a trail. This all happened in 30 seconds, right behind me! I got that cleaned up, set Levi on the bathroom floor next to the tub, and he peed all over the floor.
Yep, back to reality.
Sadly, the morning of bliss was the true twilight zone time for today, not the crazy few hours I had this evening.

Time for an hour or two for Mommy. I think I'll eat watch a chick flick and wait for the other monsters to arrive so it can all start over again before I hit the sack.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ode to midwives

Let me start by saying that some may think this whole idea is a bit fanatical and unnecessary. Fine. To me, it's a huge deal. Say I'm crazy...
In the past three years, my comprehension of childbirth and all of its possibilities has expanded greatly. Somewhere around this week in 2006, Avery was conceived after quite a few unsuccessful months. I started seeing a naturopath doctor after learning that my thyroid hormones could be off, and that a hormone imbalance could certainly be related to infertility. I had also started spending time with a homebirth midwife, something unheard of at the time in my social circle in Western New York.
When I found out I was pregnant with Avery, I was determined that her pregnancy and delivery would be different than my first two. One of these days I will sit down and write out each of my birth stories (I promise myself!), but it would suffice to say that the first two were very medically managed. Some prefer it that way. That's totally fine! But for me, I knew I wanted to fully experience the birth of my third child in a different way than my others.
The plan was to try and have baby #3 at home. The kink in the plan was that we had just moved in with my mom so that we could sell our house and "prepare for whatever was next" (we didn't realize it was Richmond). I spoke with my friend, the homebirth midwife, and was excited but also VERY afraid.
To make a long story short, when I was six months pregnant, we moved to Richmond. (Gosh, I have a great story about God's providence...next posting, I promise...)
I ended up going with a midwife that worked in a brand new hospital where they allowed labor in tubs and everything. My husband, my unborn baby and I all fell in love the moment we met her. She delivered Avery. The birth still wasn't what I "dreamed" it could be, but it was getting closer to the idea.
Then came baby number four...
Levi's pregnancy was pretty easy. I was extremely busy with homeschooling the oldest two and having an infant/toddler underfoot (Avery was 17 1/2 months old when I had him), and I found solice in books about midwifery. Weird, I know, but I connected with him in a deeper way while he was still on the inside through the experience. Magically, I "got it" while reading these books. I understood what is "supposed" to happen to our bodies in childbirth and how these women in remote countries survive birth after birth, far from the nearest epidural. I felt in my spirit that I had the instincts that I needed to deliver.
On April 26, 2008, my opportunity to put all that was in my heart to practice arose.
I labored all night long the night before at home. I slept a little, I walked around, I showered and checked my hospital bag, Greg and I even walked around the neighborhood at 4 am. No big deal. Uncomfortable at most. By mid-morning on the 26th, I knew I was going to the hospital that day. Around noon I needed to stop what I was doing to concentrate through the contractions. Still not to the point where I was screaming in pain or anything. I trusted my body. I trusted the process.
By the time I got to the hospital (I think it was around 2:30?) I had to stop three times between the car and Labor & Delivery for some pretty strong, but not dreadful, contractions.
The contractions got REALLY bad, like to the point of needing SOMETHING, a little after 5:00. Fifteen minutes later I started pushing him out. Badabing, badaboom. No medicine. Just a trust that babies are SUPPOSED to come out and that my body could figure out how to GET him out. That was that.

Okay, I wasn't planning on posting all of this...
But this morning, when I dressed all of my little ones, piled them all into a cold car an pulled them into the hospital, took them by the vending machine for some special pretzels and crackers that would keep them entertained throughout my appointment, lugged them all up to the office on the 6th floor, sat them down on the floor with their goodies and awaited the doctor (not the midwife today, just this once...) to have him come in and say, "Any questions? Nope? Okay, well, take care."
...I remembered how lucky I am to have discovered the gift of midwives. They are passionate about pregnancy. They love to hear and help with minor and major discomforts. They get you excited about the littlest details related to pregnancy. They spend more than 90 seconds in the exam room with you...

They have given me a greater respect for how God created me as a woman. I was born to be a mom. My body was created specifically to conceive, house, and deliver a baby.

I still can't believe I'm doing this all over again...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Amazed...

We did it. We resisted the temptation. Yesterday morning was my 20-week sonogram, the one where we could've found out if we were having another girl or another boy; and we said no.
If you didn't know, there were some minor (but scary) complications at the beginning of this pregnancy. Around week 8, I started bleeding a bit and it didn't stop until week 10 or so. I went in for an ultrasound to see if things were okay, and the perinatologist was not as optimistic as I thought he'd be. I expected to go in and have him look at me like I'm just a paranoid pregnant woman, and tell me to go home and stop worrying; everything looked fine. Instead, he told me that my placenta had been tearing away and reattaching itself, and that oftentimes this means that there is something "wrong" with the baby and this is the body's way of "taking care of things on its own." He said I had a 50/50 chance of miscarrying. Not exactly what I had hoped I'd hear.
Thankfully, right around the same time I started getting miserably nauseous, I stopped bleeding. It seemed as though my body's hormones kicked into high gear to protect the pregnancy, causing the baby to be well but mommy to feel like death. That's okay. It was worth it.
Since that first sonogram, to my delight, I have heard a strong heartbeat at prenatal appointments and have felt lots of action in there.
But yesterday, when the sonogram tech as well as the other perinatologist continually smiled at the screen and said, "What a beautiful, perfect baby..." I still couldn't help but get choked up. All of the fear, all of the anxiety...disappeared. I saw my sweet baby...my sweet surprise baby...and felt myself beaming.
Life truly is amazing...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

on a lighter, shallower note...

I think that this stage of pregnancy is getting to me. I'm in the middle of the phase where I have a little belly, but a stranger wouldn't be able to tell if it's because of the infant in my arms, a few too many Oreos, or if I was pregnant again. I laughed the other day, trying to figure out what people must be thinking when they look at me. Let's suppose someone saw me in a grocery store with all four of my kids. The littlest two are sometimes mistaken for twins when seated. (I'm not sure how anyone could think that a two year old and a nine month old are twins, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt since Avery is still challenged in the hair department.) So here I am in a grocery store with lots of kids, two being pretty small, and a slight tummy. Does a stranger think, "That girl just didn't get into shape after those kids...her belly is still big!" Or does a stranger think, "Dear Lord, is she pregnant AGAIN???" (And really, which is worse?)
Not that I really care what strangers think (at least I'm trying not to...see my last post), but I am getting quite bored with my white, pasty, plain-hairstyled, blah self. I need to do something...
I need to start with my hair, and I need suggestions. I'm thinking of going lighter (yes I know I'm not supposed to dye my hair when pregnant, but I figure I'm enough of a freak about organic, all natural stuff anyway...the baby will be okay if I take an hour in a well-ventilated place to make myself prettier) and of doing something fun as far as a cut goes. I'm having a hard time finding ideas.
So what I need are a couple of ideas on color (lighten all over? highlights? will this look weird in the middle of winter/spring on my white self?) and a cut (I currently have awful bangs and need to lift the shoulder length, maybe just layer it up in the back?) Be a friend...Help!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Perpetual People Pleaser

If you know me at all, you know that what I'm about to say is true:
I have an addiction to trying to please people.
It is why I work my tail off around the house. It is why I am always afraid to ask for help. It is why I have a hard time making a decision myself.
The part of this addiction that is bothering me most recently is that I have a tendency to hurt the ones I love the most in my attempts to please someone else. How many times have I neglected my kids' desire to do something fun, because I want the house to look nice when Greg gets home? How many times have I said something hurtful or embarrassing at my husband's expense when in a crowd of friends? How many times have I sabotaged one of my closest relationships in order to gain the approval of someone whose opinion of me really doesn't matter?
A recent event has slapped me in the face with this reality. I have found myself thinking, "How could I have been so stupid?" The next breath found me asking God, "What can I learn from my stupidity?" The answer I felt? Own up to it, and, obviously, don't do it anymore!
So this is something that I need to own and conquer: I need to beat my people pleasing addiction.
So...if you catch me at it, call me out on it. Remind me that it's dangerous. And if I apologize incessantly, slap me...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

not doing so well...

It's been a week since I spilled my guts out about all that I want to accomplish these next few months. Well...

This last week has knocked us all for a loop. We have received scary news (don't worry, everyone is well) and have found ourselves in need of some serious faith. The stress level has gone up as a result.

We've also all come down with some nasty cold. Not fun.

Let's put it this way: I've failed in every goal since I put in writing.

On to another week; let's hope this one is better.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

(VERY) Late Resolutions

Okay, so maybe since Greg's been gone these past few days, I've had more time to think...maybe certain things are just starting to drive me crazy so I know I need to change them.
Yesterday, as I gritted my teeth and tapped my toes to the music blasting in the Bodypump class I took at the gym, I got through a killer set by making a little list of the things I wanted to accomplish by the summer. I felt the need to put it in writing. Somehow it makes it official and makes me accountable...here's hoping!
1. Greg and I have been reading "The Love Dare" together. While I have found most couples' devotionals rather cheesy, we've enjoyed this one. It has challenged us in realistic, tangible ways, just enough to make us feel like we're making a difference. The timing of this devotional was perfect; it's been just what we need. Our time together lately is very limited and it's good to know that we can do something productive and enjoyable together. I want desperately to keep it up, and I hope that we can grow closer together.
2. I want to enjoy my kids more. I spend a great deal of my day teaching them things, whether it be during our schooltime or how to load the dishwasher or how to get the back of their teeth with the toothbrush or how to talk sweetly to each other. I want to spend more time just letting them know that I love them and that they have changed my life more than they'll ever know. I want to play games with them and tell them stories more.
3. I want to complete a couple of decorating projects here in my house. The prospect of a remodel (and, let's face it, a couple of pregnancies!) have put a halt on my decorating aspirations, but the empty walls are driving me crazy.
4. I really want to continue my workouts and achieve my most comfortable pregnancy yet. Having muscle tone makes such a big difference when carrying a baby. I know this and slacked for the last two pregnancies. I had a lot more little pains and felt like a blob after they were born. I want to feel a little less that way.
5. I want to stop eating late at night. My diet standards are lowered quite a bit when I'm pregnant. I let myself eat what I want (I trust myself that I won't go absolutely crazy like eat a whole dozen donuts or anything, but I'll let myself eat one if I want to), I give into cravings, I eat lots of meat. I'm not a crazy person when it comes to cutting out caffeine...I drink a cup of regular coffee a day. I even indulge (on rare occasions) in a half of a glass of wine. But the eating at 10 pm thing has got to stop...I have to draw the line somewhere or all of these Pump classes will get me nowhere...
6. I will finish a task when I start it. I usually have so much going on at once that I have at least one or two projects that I don't complete. This drives my husband crazy and it's got to stop. I vow not to start something unless I can do it to completion.

Okay, I said it...let's see how it goes...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thai Chicken Wrap recipe

Okay, so I'm not really one to post recipes on my blog (that just feels too MOM-ISH!)
but I had some requests for this one...it's so good. Make one now!

Thai Chicken Wraps

Ingredients
1 lb. chicken breasts
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grill seasoning (any kind)
Salad:
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and sliced
2 cups fresh bean sprouts (or canned)
1 cup shredded carrots
2 scallions, sliced on an angle
1-2 tablespoons of chopped mint, basil, or no herbs if you're picky
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
Salt
Peanut sauce:
1/4 cup room temperature chunky peanut butter2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
Dash paprika
1 tsp. sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Flour tortilla wraps

Directions
Heat a grill pan over high heat. Toss chicken with soy and oil and grill 6 minutes on each side.
Combine cucumber, sprouts, carrots, scallions, basil, mint and sesame with a generous sprinkle of sugar and vinegar. Season salad with salt, to taste.
Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and cayenne together. Stream in vegetable oil.
Slice cooked chicken on an angle. Toss with veggies and herbs.
In a very hot nonstick skillet or over a gas burner heat tortillas 15 seconds on each side.
Pile chicken and veggies in wraps and drizzle liberally with spicy peanut sauce before wrapping and rolling.

Once you get the ingredients (you may need to get a couple things to keep in your pantry, like rice wine vinegar and sesame seeds) and have made it once or twice, these come together so quickly and are delicious!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I think I can, I think I can...

Here it is...the weekend I've been (dreading, fearing, hoping to God wouldn't arrive?) ahem...looking forward to.
Every year, there are five weekends in which Greg takes off for a few days and has "guy time": two campouts with the daughters for the semi-annual YMCA Indian Princess weekends, two boys' campouts with the fathers and sons (slightly more dangerous...there are weapons involved, and a total lack of personal hygiene), and one ski/snowboard weekend in WV, where 8-10 guys go and do "man things"...oddly enough, Greg brought all of his toiletries...I don't think he uses them at all though.
I have to admit: I'm slightly jealous. Not only because he gets to escape all of life's duties as a father/husband/employee, but also because he and his friends get to choose all of their favorite things to do, and they all get together and enjoy each others' company while partaking in snowboarding, eating meat, poker, etc., etc, etc...
I think I need some girl time. Tina, I'll be there next weekend (I wish...)

But for now, I need to go and don my Supermom cape...it's going to be a long couple of days...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Over the hump

I am writing this because I always want to remember this time in my life...for two reasons. The first is obvious: my kids are each at a stage that I want to hold onto forever.
Emily is grown up enough that I can sit with a cup of coffee and have a real conversation with her like I would with one of my girlfriends. Yet, at 8 years old, she's still innocent and genuinely loves to help and love on her family.
Kaleb, 6, is still my little guy. He still loves to give me hugs and kisses, and he's discovering the athletic abilities and engineering gifts he's been blessed with.
Avery, at 2, has developed a PERSONALITY like I haven't seen in my other kids. (Read my "Where'd this kid come from?" post from a month or two ago.) She's so cute. And my little Levi...what a honey! He's the most content little baby, and I love where he's at right now. 9 months old, he's not really saying any real words, but he is very vocal and full of life. And this next little one, still five months away from making his/her appearance, gets to be a part of it all. Our little surprise bonus, he or she is allowing me to experience all that I love (maybe most of all) about being a mom: pregnancy and childbirth.

There is no other time in my family's life like what we are experiencing right now.

That being said, let me tell you the second reason why I always want to remember this time: I want to remember that we SURVIVED it! Even now, as I type, I hear some sort of loud rolling (I don't think we have a bowling ball upstairs!) in the hallway and someone yelling at someone else.

Our weeks looks something like this: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesdays, Greg is off to work at 7:30 or earlier, comes home for an hour for dinner, and is off to tutor or teach a college math class for the evening. Those are the toughest days. I teach Emily and Kaleb during the schooldays, trying to begin before 9 am. (It's 8:59 right now!) We get through school with a two year old terrorizing the house and a baby getting up and down from naps. Until recently, I was running to the bathroom getting sick (from pregnancy) every half hour, and wanted to take five naps a day. Greg and I are particular about toys being picked up and the house being, well, at least decent, so that takes a lot of energy with four kids around all the time. And then we try and fit in trips to the library, botanical gardens, and gym. By Wednesday night, I am SPENT!
This new schedule is only a few weeks old, but I'm realizing what Thursdays mean. They are like the new Saturdays. (or at least a step in that direction!) Thursdays and Fridays are the days when ALL I have to do is teach, clean, cook, change 6-8 diapers, give baths, run errands, go to the gym, and anticipate Greg's arrival at 3:30 pm. Ahhh...
By the way, it is Thursday morning. We made it over the Wednesday hump.

I'm not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me. There are people that have it a lot worse off than I do. I get to be home with my favorite people in the world, and for that I'm very grateful. I'm writing this so that I can look back on it one day and think, "I made it. That was a crazy time, and I'm glad I was young when it happened. We did it."

Or maybe that's all an illusion and life will only get crazier from this point forward. I don't know. But I'm going to pat myself on the back and tell myself that I made it to Thursday for one more week...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The first decade



Ten years have come and gone. On Friday, Greg and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. Ten years ago, I walked down the aisle of a candlelit church to Billy Joel's "She's got a way" (Greg's selection). That blustery, snowy Buffalo Saturday evening, this (at that time) twenty year old girl gave my hand to a man I'd known for 14 months. And I hadn't a doubt in my mind that it was the right thing.

Just now, I spent ten minutes expressing what the past decade has consisted of in our marriage in this posting, and have now deleted it all. It suffices to say, without going into detail, that our marriage, like all marriages, has had moments of bliss, moments that are dull, moments when I've wondered how we'd make it through. But the point is this: we have made it through.

We've fought and cried and kissed and made up at least a hundred times. We've survived financial struggles. (There was at least one semester where we both were in school full time and had a baby. What did we live on?) We've survived my hormones for five pregnancies. (Trust me, I get a little crazy sometimes...) We've mourned the loss of people that we love and comforted each other as we questioned life. We've experienced the miracle of childbirth four times (and cried our eyes out every time).

And we've learned what it is to be a team. That's been the hardest of all for me. But I'm (slowly!) getting it. And I'm happy to be the other half of his team.

We are blessed. We have all we'll ever need and then some. We have beautiful, happy, children. (And because of that, we are NEVER bored!) We've been given much these past ten years. So many blessings...


But, the GREATEST of these...is love...