Sunday, November 8, 2015

Levi & Ben

Our second set of twins arrived much differently than our first set! At 33 weeks my doctor transferred me to a high risk practice after he was concerned that one of the babies wasn't growing properly. This new group of doctors validated his concern, and so began the roller-coaster of intensive ultrasounds and doctor appointments. The doctors believed there to be some sort of twin-twin transfusion syndrome or at least intrauterine growth discordance. The presenting baby was unusually large for his gestational age while his twin brother was unusually small for his gestational age. The big baby had too much fluid, while the little one barely had enough. The fear was that if this would continue, either baby could die before birth- the bigger baby from toxicity and the little one from not getting enough nutrients and blood flow. In the midst of those stressful few days, the Lord flooded us with His presence. 

Although I was extremely uncomfortable due to the excess fluid I was carrying, I was comforted by the fact that the babies continued to be very active inside of me. We had our bags packed and ready with each hospital visit, not knowing if I would be admitted. 

We had some hard decisions to make in regards to the birthing method, but after much discussion and prayer, we felt that a c-section would be the best for both babies. The day before my scheduled delivery, I went in for my pre-op blood work. When I got there late morning, my blood pressure had sky-rocketed and I was showing signs of pre-eclampsia. It was decided that our babies would be delivered that day. I was 34 weeks and 5 days. I walked into the OR a few minutes after 6:00 pm. At 6:39, Levi was born weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces. At 6:40, little Benjamin was born, weighing 3 pounds, 2 ounces. Levi was whisked into an adjoining room with separate attendees, while a group of nurses and doctors attended to Benjamin just a few feet away. They were both quickly taken to the NICU, and besides a quick glance at each bundled up baby, that was the last I saw of them for the next 28 hours. 

I didn't do so well with the spinal anesthesia. A few minutes after they administered it, I got the migraine of a lifetime and felt extremely nauseous during the surgery, vomiting almost the entire time. Not how I had imagined the whole thing to go! I developed severe pre-eclampsia during the surgery, and the next 24 hours I was monitored for seizures and put on Mag- Sulfate.I will spare you the details, but it was the sickest I had ever been.

Even though Levi was a good size at birth, he was unable to breathe on his own. He was on CPAP for over a week, along with a feeding tube.He was under a giraffe warmer to maintain his body temp.

Baby Ben was always able to breathe room air, even though he was so small! He also had an IV, monitors and a feeding tube. Because of his birth weight, he was confined to an isolette to maintain his body temp.

Here I am meeting Benjamin for the first time. All the tubes and wires were a little overwhelming. And bonding with these babies was so different than with my others. I never had to change their meconium, nor did I see their cords fall off. I wasn't the one giving them their first baths. I missed those first few days of cuddling skin to skin. Everyday I received a report from a stranger that knew more about my sons than I did! The turning point for me was when Levi first latched on- it flooded me with a love for my sweet boys. Everything was going to be okay. God is good, even when things go differently than we had anticipated.


We had to maneuver lots of wires and tubes to get the babies in a picture together. This was the first picture of them together...

Baby Ben

Levi means "joined together in harmony." Although there was a lot of 'disharmony' in-utero, our prayer is that these brothers will share a harmony as they grow old together, most importantly, a bond in Christ. Benjamin means "son of my right hand." Our prayer is that Benjamin will be a faithful son even into our old age. Levi's middle name is Leendert, a Dutch variation of Leonard. Leendert was the name of Abe's paternal grandfather who had 11 children, and Levi is our # 11.Benjamin's middle name is Jacob. Jacob was my maternal grandfather's name. He was the father of 12 children, and Ben is our #12. We both come from large Christian Dutch families- what a rich heritage to pass on!

Baby Levi

Both babies were fed through a NG tube. I am grateful that they were able to receive donated breast milk until my milk came in. Kudos to ladies who donate milk to help these sweet babies get the best start in life- what a blessing!! It took over a week for my milk to come in with round-the-clock pumping. Then they were given my milk through the NG tube while I tried to nurse them as well. Levi took right to breastfeeding, but it took Ben a bit longer to latch on. I was able to nurse them for 3 feedings in the hospital during the day and they were given bottles for the remaining feedings. I didn't know it at the time, but they also were adding formula to my breast-milk to give them more calories. The upside- they were gaining each day and meeting the milestones necessary to come home.

After I was discharged, I developed excruciating pain in my lower back and legs, to the point that I could barely walk. I believe it was from the spinal I received as it was just below the region where the needle was inserted. It was hard to sit long days in the same position in the NICU and I became exhausted. The sweet nurses in the NICU warmed up rice socks and made me ice-packs to help relieve some of the pain, but they finally encouraged me to stay home and rest for a few days. It was hard to leave my babies for a few days (and I shed plenty of tears during that time), but I knew I needed to heal. I am SO thankful for my amazing husband who daily went to care for our babies. He tirelessly held them, fed them their bottles, changed them and loved on them. He also prayed daily over each baby while he held each one. On one occasion he had Luke with him. Luke was holding little Benjamin and when he heard his dad pray over Levi, he started praying in a loud clear voice over his little brother as well. So sweet! And I know God heard that earnest prayer of a 10 year old boy for his little brother.

We had some kids with colds back home, but our older twins were well, so Abe took them along for a few days to help hold the babies. They were amazing- spending entire days in one position holding their brothers quietly. Never complaining. That's not easy for boys who normally have LOTS of energy. They were totally smitten with their little brothers. We called it the twin-to-twin infusion.

After 13 days, the babies were well enough to come home. They had maintained their body temp and hadn't had any decelerations in over 48 hours. Ben was 1 ounce away from being 4 pounds, the weight he needed to be to legally ride in a car seat! Levi was back to his birth weight. And we were so excited for them to officially meet their siblings. Life was about to get a whole lot noisier for these little guys!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Essential Oils for Pregnancy, Labor & Delivery

Our family has been using essential oils for 3 years and I have loved using them during pregnancy. There is no better time to use essential oils as there are no medications or drugs that are safe for our unborn babies. I realize there are many conflicting views regarding essential oils on the internet. It is not my purpose in this post to try to "prove" that they are safe. I also do not endorse any other oils except Young Living oils. These are the only oils on the market that have been rigorously tested for safety and purity and are the oils that are recommended below. I believe it is a true joy to take responsibility for our own health and to experience the wonderful benefits. In the beginning you may just want to start by smelling the oils or using them well diluted. And that's okay- as you use them, your confidence will grow!

After lots of research and reading, these are the oils I feel very comfortable recommending for your pregnancy, labor, delivery and beyond. *But, of course, please always consult with your health care provider before using any essential oils {I have to say that, right?}

To Halt Early Labor: rub generous amount of Lavender on the belly, can also be added to a warm bath. Peace & Calming can also be applied to the feet and/or diffused. I have found that Lavender is wonderful for soothing Braxton Hicks contractions and also helps alleviate round ligament pain.

Pre-Labor Perineum Spray: softens and thins the membranes to prepare for birth (place in glass spray bottle)

3 weeks before delivery
  Geranium- 8 drops
  Lavender- 5 drops
  1 oz. carrier oil

1 week before delivery
  Geranium- 8 drops
  Lavender- 5 drops
  Fennel- 5 drops
  1 oz. carrier oil

To Encourage Labor:
Jasmine, applied topically or inhaled (do not ingest). I added this essence to my baths during my last few days of pregnancy- just a drop or 2 in some Epsom salt.

Clary Sage- massage a few drops on the inside of ankles or ingest 1 drop every 15 minutes until contractions/dilation progresses. Clary Sage also relieves anxiety. This is also a good oil to combine with Myrrh to help move labor along.

Frankincense for pain; this is also calming. Rub directly on back and/or belly. Also good to diffuse in labor room. This is probably my favorite oil and one that I highly recommend. If you can only get a few oils, invest in this one.

Many women use Peppermint, Pan Away or Wintergreen for pain (remember Wintergreen is a natural form of aspirin, so should be used cautiously during pregnancy; Pan Away contains Wintergreen as well)

Basil is a great oil to use when contractions become hard to manage (close to transition). Rub with a little carrier oil on lower back.

Black pepper is also good for pain management and is especially helpful with back labor.

Labor blend (from Gentle Babies by Debra Raybern) Mix the following in ½ oz carrier oil AFTER labor starts. Massage several drops on inside of ankles, little toes, little fingers, lower belly and back…
                Helichrysum- 4 drops
                Fennel- 4 drops
                Peppermint- 2 drops
                Ylang Ylang- 6 drops
                Clary Sage- 3 drops

For fatigue during labor: En-R-Gee, applied on the spine, behind ears and/or feet

Oils to help you focus: equal parts of Peppermint and Orange

Oils for relaxing/grounding during labor: Peace & Calming or Valor (With the shortage of these oils there are new formulas with similar benefits called Peace & Calming II and Valor II that are just becoming available)

Perineal massage once labor is well established: Myrrh applied to the perineum, diluted in carrier oil. This helps numb the “sting.”

Crowning oil blend:
Mix 20 drops each of Helichrysum and Frankincense with 1 oz. fractionated coconut oil. Gently massage this blend while baby is crowning on both the perineum and the baby’s head. Helichrysum is the oil of choice to help reduce swelling, bruising and bleeding

For hemorrhaging: mix a few drops of Gentle Baby with a few drops Helichrysum and rub on lower back, belly and on inside of ankles. If you have a history of bleeding postpartum, you can use these oils for the week prior to giving birth.

For nausea during labor: inhale Peppermint (on a washcloth) or place one drop on tongue

Afterbirth Blend:
This helps expel the placenta and tone the uterus. Mix the following with carrier oil
                Geranium- 10 drops
                Lavender- 10 drops
                Jasmine- 15 drops

Thieves can be diffused in the labor room after the birth to kill germs and freshen the room

Trouble urinating post-partum: add a drop of Peppermint to the toilet. I learned this trick from my midwife and it really works!

Post-partum Spray:
Add 40 drops of Frankincense and 40 drops of Lavender to a 2 oz. glass spray bottle. Fill up to almost the top with distilled water and shake well. Use this spray to help soothe and heal the perineum. This same spray can be used for boys who are circumcised.

Afterbirth pains:
Basil- can be applied topically or taken internally (a few drops in a capsule)

Other oils that are helpful (and safe for baby if he/she were to touch your belly) are Lavender and/or White Fir

Oils for newborn:
  • Baby can be anointed with Frankincense & Myrrh. Frankincense offers protection and helps with bonding
  • Clara Derm spray can also be used for a few days after birth (contains Lavender & Frankincense)
  • Valor can be applied on baby’s spine and feet for proper alignment following birth.
  • Peace & Calming can be applied to baby (and mama’s) feet for relaxation
  • Melissa can be applied to bottoms of the feet to repair DNA, and to help with trauma and negative emotions that baby may have experienced in the womb. This oil helps bring harmony and is also very beneficial for mom as well.

A few drops of Fennel sublingually or in a glass of water or tea every 2 hours. Can also be applied to breasts after nursing.

Basil is another great oil to increase breast milk- add a few drop to a capsule and swallow.

(Peppermint oil is known to decrease milk supply in some women, so use cautiously)

Post-partum Depression:
Frankincense- apply topically or diffuse (lifts the spirit and is healing at the same time)
Ylang Ylang, Rose, or Joy- add a few drops to bath water (can add Epsom salt or sea salt and some carrier oil as well) or rub on wrists, or diffuse
White Angelica- place a drop on each shoulder; protects against negative energy, lifts spirits

UTI’s while pregnant:
2 – 10 drops of Idaho Balsam Fir in a capsule twice a day
Can also apply Idaho Balsam Fir, Frankincense and Lemon (a few drops of each) over the bladder area and massage in- this is a powerful combo. Although I haven't had to use this personally while pregnant, I have used this with great success on one of my children. Purification and Idaho Balsam Fir can also be used together to fight a UTI- again, massage a few drops of each over the bladder area. You can add a carrier oil if you like- especially if using this combo with children.

Yeast Infections:
For Baby (if mom has yeast)- apply Melrose (diluted or neat) to lower abdomen
For Mom- Apply Melrose neat to lower abdomen
Mountain Savory- take 3-5 drops orally, twice a day (this is highly effective against yeast and candida)
Vaginal suppository: in a base of coconut oil, combine Mountain Savory (2 drops), Frankincense (2 drops) and Myrtle (2 drops). Use nightly for 2 weeks

Hemorrhoid ointment:
Combine the following oils with a few drops of carrier oil and apply to the area…
   Peppermint (1 drop)
   Helichrysum (2 drops)
   Cypress (2 drops)
   Geranium (2 drops)

Varicose Veins:
Massage legs every day with Cypress, Helichrysum and Tangerine and/or Lemon- a couple of drops each with a carrier oil of your choice. This formula has been a life saver for me. I combine these oils in a small glass spray bottle with fractionated coconut oil for easier use. I also add some peppermint oil which is great for throbbing and "hot" feeling veins. {At first I didn't use the Helichrysum because it was so expensive, but adding this oil made all the difference. Since using this blend I don't have any pain, nor have I gotten any more veins}

Drink Ningxia Red- at least 1 oz., twice a day

Gestational Diabetes:
Ningxia Red (available through Young Living)- drink 3 oz. throughout the day
(This supplement, although expensive, is highly effective at regulating blood sugar levels)

Ocotea- take 2 drops orally, 3 times a day (can be added to Ningxia Red if desired) This oil is powerful in lowering blood sugar levels

   Aroma Life- 10 drops
   Cypress- 10 drops
   Lavender- 5 drops
   Ginger- 5 drops
   Lemon- 5 drops
   Mix these oils with 2 oz. of fractionated coconut oil or carrier oil, and apply to legs, ankles
   and feet.  These oils can also be added to a warm salt bath.

Peppermint and/or Digize- add to water or make into a tea. Can also be rubbed on the belly, just below the diaphragm

I drank Peppermint ice water liberally throughout my first 14 weeks when my nausea was severe. It helped a lot. I also carried a bottle of Peppermint in my purse and would place a drop on my tongue (neat) to combat nausea. This helped me to be able to get food shopping and errands done without getting sick!

For overall well-being while pregnant (Mary Young’s protocol- wife of Gary Young, founder of YL)
Mary applied Valor to her belly, back and hips every morning and every night. She would follow this with other oils she was drawn to- Joy, White Angelica, Peace & Calming, or Gentle Baby… to name a few. These are both great for your skin as well as for your developing baby.

Turning babies that are in the wrong position:
Myrrh is known to turn babies- apply liberally to belly
Peppermint- apply to area you want the baby to turn from (if baby is breach, place a drop of Peppermint at the top of the belly)

Feeling sick/fighting illness while pregnant:
If you feel like you're coming down with something or fighting a cold or flu, make an oil "tea" with the following- 1 drop Thieves, 1 drop Lemon, 1 drop Frankincense and 1 drop Peppermint. Add a little raw honey and cream, if desired. I have never had to drink this more than twice to fight off anything. Best used when symptoms first start...This is a family favorite at our house and is very effective.

Spray bottles and roller filaments are super handy during labor- they make oils easier to apply and keep hands clean

I only recommend using Young Living therapeutic grade essential oils. These are the highest quality oils available today (and I have used and studied many others!). They are the only company that has the SEED to SEAL promise of purity- they grow, cultivate, distill, test and seal all of their own oils. No other company can claim that- most are merely bottling companies, and most oils on the market today are adulterated and made for the perfume industry.

Oils generally avoided during pregnancy: Basil, Birch, Calamus, Cassia, Cinnamon bark, Hyssop, Idaho Tansy, Rosemary, Sage and Tarragon

Oil blends must be stored in glass bottles or containers. Essential oils will break down plastics.

To purchase oils or become a wholesale member (saving 24% of retail price), visit my website here

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Having Twins {Again!}

The day of my ultrasound- surprised by my second set of twins!

Some days I still don't believe it's happening again- but we are expecting our second set of twins- twin boys to boot! I found out around the same time 11 years ago, at my 18+ week ultrasound. The ultrasound technician began the ultrasound and immediately we saw the top of 2 heads! And honestly, I don't remember much after that as my crazy brain tried to process that this was really happening! I think I only know 2 other families that have 2 sets of twins, but both of them have fraternal twins. There is a likelihood that our babies are identical again- and the likelihood of that happening twice is 1 in 70,000. Isn't God amazing??

Did I know? Yes, and no. I was suspicious, but I always quickly dismissed my feelings and my midwife didn't seem to think so either. Here are some of the reasons I had a hunch...

  1. Horrible morning (all day) sickness- way more than usual
  2. Gaining a lot of weight in my first trimester (like 20 pounds!) even though I was eating healthy
  3. Varicose veins- I usually have just one that bothers me a little, this time my legs were throbbing (all that extra blood!)
  4. Incredible nesting- I felt like I had to clean the whole house before I was 20 weeks, and I pretty much did. I re-arranged rooms and painted and redecorated a bathroom. I instinctively knew that I would have to rest the second half of my pregnancy...
  5. Dreams. With my first set I had 2 vivid twin dreams and so I asked the Lord if He would give me another twin dream if I was having twins again. The next morning one of my younger girls woke up and said she dreamed I had twins. I found that interesting, but it wasn't my dream. Then over the next few weeks I had various friends (some I didn't even know very well) tell me they had dreams that I had twins! That didn't seem coincidental...
  6. Feeling way too pregnant for how many weeks I was. The night before my ultrasound I was in tears complaining to my husband that I felt 38 weeks pregnant, instead of 18. Yes, when you're pregnant with multiples, all of your pregnancy symptoms are multiplied...
Although I was planning my 5th home-birth (I love my home-births), I didn't feel comfortable pursuing this route with twins, although I did seriously consider it. I am thankful to have found a doctor who is willing to let me try for a natural birth and doesn't automatically insist on a C-section. It will be my first time using a doctor- all of my other babies have been born with a midwife.

However, our second ultrasound did reveal that one of our little guys may not be growing properly. I will have more follow-up testing and ultrasounds to monitor this more closely. I've had a few people scare me and try to put me in panic mode, but I know that God already knows the outcome and we are choosing to trust Him. But prayers are so appreciated, and are very much felt during this time of watching and waiting. 

I am 27 weeks pregnant, and although I feel ready to give birth (ha ha), I am praying that these little guys will make it for another 8 weeks until I am 35 weeks along, or later. I am following the Brewer's Diet (roughly) of 150 grams of protein a day for twins. This is a LOT of food. And with my shrinking stomach it takes a lot of effort to get that much in. I also find that exercising daily with prenatal DVD's really helps me feel better- especially in my hips and back.

Life has definitely slowed down- a lot. Instead of all of the summer projects and activities I had planned, I am spending most of my summer on the sofa with little ones tearing through the house. Although I wasn't placed on bed rest, I still feel best taking lots of rest periods throughout the day. Somehow laying in a horizontal position makes me feel the "least pregnant" and the most comfortable. I decided to tackle our next school year, or at least a few subjects, so we can get ahead and take some time off when the babies are born. Unlike 11 years ago, I am so blessed to have some older girls (15 and 12) to help with housework and cooking- they are amazing! And even my husband came home for good from his work away- God is so good and His timing is perfect. 

And so our incredible journey continues...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Decade with Twins

Our twin boys recently turned 10! It's so hard to believe how quickly those years have flown by. I had so many apprehensions before they were born- two babies to nurse, burp, diaper and put to sleep. Two babies cutting teeth and fighting colds simultaneously. Two babies to potty-train and teach how to read. But looking back, it was often easier- they learned a lot from each other, and still do.

I was 19 weeks pregnant when I found out I was having twins. And it was kind of by accident. I had been complaining to my midwives all along that I felt so much bigger than with my first four and I was also extremely sick, while with the others I had never experienced sickness. This particular midwife had a set of twins herself and so she nonchalantly suggested that we do a quick ultrasound. She wasn't super familiar with the machine, but thought she could figure out if there was more than one baby in there. And wouldn't you know, she quickly found 2 little bodies in there! Shock- that happens to other people, but certainly not me!

We had to wait an agonizing 8 days before we found out that we were carrying 2 little boys. Of course, we were thrilled, especially Cort, who really wanted some boys in the house. The second half of my pregnancy was much different. I guess that sometimes ignorance is bliss, for now all of the worrying and interventions began. I was now all of the sudden "high risk" as the statistics are high for not being able to carry twins full-term. I had to have monthly ultra sounds, and bi-weekly ones after week 30. I was placed on limited activity since too much activity seemed to bring on contractions. For a while the doctor watched baby B (Edmond) for a heart defect which led to much prayer. God was good in allowing the hole in his heart to close up before birth.

a few days before the twins arrived...

At 38 weeks I was still pregnant. I know that was a good thing, but being pregnant with twins was the hardest thing I have gone through physically. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat due to severe heartburn, I felt like I couldn't breathe as those little boys pressed up against my diaphragm... At 38 weeks I was having some contractions and beginning to dilate. Because we lived an hour away from civilization (in a small town in Montana), the midwife decided to induce me. It was 4 pm and I agreed to the lowest dose of pitocin and my contractions quickly became regular. I was used to natural labor as I had all of my previous babies in a hospital or birth center with a midwife. I was expecting this to be the same. But I was wrong! Lots of monitors- one for each baby and one for contractions. {I never could figure out why we need a computer to tell us when we are going to have a contraction! Um, I will promise to let you know!} I hated that I couldn't move around or take a shower. I knew that all of that confinement was not helping my labor move along. But shortly before midnight I was ready to bring these little guys into the world. To the OR we went (another surprise!), just in-case I needed a C-section. Here I met my back-up doctor for my midwife who was all too eager to section me. My recollection of this woman was her screaming on the phone for an anesthesiologist to come to the room asap to get my babies out. She did not want a natural birth whatsoever. I am so thankful for my amazing husband, who put into practice all of the husband coached childbirth classes I had taught (I was a Bradley Instructor). He continued to help me sit up, despite the oxygen mask and all of the monitors and coached me to relax and breathe easy, even with all of the chaos in the room all around us. (Did I mention that there were at least 20 people in the room by now? Each baby had his own pulmonary specialist, pediatrician, nurse etc. as well as all of the people ready to do surgery if needed). It was all very disconcerting! But looking back, God was so good in allowing our little boys to be born naturally and without any intervention or drugs beside pitocin to jump-start my labor. And that anesthesiologist never did show up! God is so good!

I was ecstatic to be on the other end of pregnancy. Everyone in the hospital seemed overwhelmed for me to have 2 babies to care for and nurse, but I was in heaven! They were healthy and nursed well and I felt great! We quickly fell into a routine. I nursed the babies together for the first 4 months. I used a special twin nursing pillow and nursed them in the football hold. After that they were too heavy to nurse together, so whichever twin was crying would get milk first. During the day, I would have one of the older kids hold the other twin until it was his time to nurse. At night, the other twin was often still asleep. I would wake him up and feed him as well so that I wouldn't be nursing all night. This worked really well and I was able to nurse them for 18 months.

just a few days old, snuggled together in the bouncy seat... 

We have loved having twins. Our boys are identical and they have been inseparable since birth. Even as newborns they somehow scooted next to each other and were happiest being very close together. Now a decade later they still do everything together! I can probably count on one hand the times they have been apart, and it was never voluntary. They share everything. One will never, ever, ever take anything to eat or drink without the other. They take turns sleeping on the top bunk. They still like to wear the same clothes. They have the same cowlick. They wear out their jeans in the same location.They rarely disagree or argue, which is truly amazing because they are literally always together. They finish each other's sentences. They get stuck on the exact same math problems. They stand up for each other and cover each other's back. They will randomly ask me the same question without the other one knowing.They have the same interests and are always eager to learn something new. They are also convinced they will get married on the same day (twin girls, maybe?)...

We are so thankful that God blessed us with these sweet boys. They have big hearts for the Lord and for other people. They find excitement and joy in the ordinary facets of life. I am so excited to see what the Lord has in store for them in the future. Who knows what the next decade will bring?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

Our home group has been studying the book of Genesis. We recently studied chapter 22, where Abraham is called by God to travel to Mt. Moriah to offer up his beloved son. Abraham had waited many many years for this promised child. Now God was asking him to do the unthinkable. I cannot imagine that Abraham didn't have some questions for God. Why God? Will You pull through if I obey? I am obeying in faith- but none of this really makes any sense! After all, Abraham was human. And unlike us, he didn't know the end of the story...

Our family is standing at a new crossroad as well. My husband (and the amazing father of our large brood) is being called to work away from home 28 days at a time. Like Abraham, I am full of questions. Why God? Will You pull through if we obey? We are stepping out in faith- but none of this makes any sense at all!  

Over the past few weeks the tears have fallen freely. My heart aches as I think of being separated from my best friend. I don't look forward to having to do life "alone." No-one can get our 2 year old to fall asleep as quickly as her daddy. No-one is as good at grilling burgers or unclogging toilets (which happens a lot with 8 girls in the house!). I feel sad at the missed times of worship together, as well as the missed anniversaries and birthdays that are sure to come. With another baby on the way, life can feel very overwhelming. As I spent many many hours reflecting on the why's of our life, the Lord flooded my heart with Scripture, quietly and gently reminding me of His promises. Promises I can cling to and believe, even when life doesn't make sense...

Isaiah 55: 8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

These verses remind me that God knows the big picture. Right now I can't see the forest through the trees, but I can rest assured that God is on His throne, and He knows full well what He is doing! This season in life could be a stepping stone to something much bigger. I can trust Him completely.

2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

No matter what lies ahead, God's grace is sufficient- it is enough. It's so easy for my frail, human mind to think that I know better. God promises to be strong when I am weak.

Isaiah 40:31 "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

My strength will be renewed by waiting on the Lord- and this is to be a continual, habitual, daily occurrence. He will help me to continue on and keep me from weariness and fainting.

Isaiah 41:10 "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

God wants me to remember that He is always with me- I have nothing to fear! He is my God and I am, along with each of my children and my husband, in the palm of His hand. He promises to hold us up. Isn't that amazing?

Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God."

It's often hard to be still and wait for God's leading. God cannot lead if I am always hurried and rushing here and there, always responding to the pressures around me. He desires for me to be wanting Him, waiting for Him and willing and available for Him.

Psalm 31: 14 & 15 " But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, 'You are my God,' 
'My times are in Your hand...' "

I have to daily purpose in my heart to trust in My God- not in my feelings, circumstances or emotions which are always changing and often fickle. All of my life's why's and when's and where's are in God's hands- I will choose to trust in His goodness.

Psalm 9:2 "I will be glad and rejoice in You, I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High."

I think this verse (and many other verses in God's Word) speak about my attitude, especially in setting the atmosphere of my home. I must choose to be joyful, to rejoice and sing God's praises. This trusting, joyful attitude is what my children need to see in my home. Here is where I often fail miserably- but with God's help, it is an area I desire to grow in. There is no room for self-pity!

I Thessalonians 5:18 "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Anne Voskamp's book has taught so many of us to count God's blessings in our lives. It is so easy to look at all of the bad things in life which bring grumbling, complaining and discontentment. When we obey God's Word and begin to be truly thankful in everything, our whole perspective on life changes. I can grumble that my husband is always gone and that I have to do all of the work by myself- OR I can be thankful that I still have a husband, that he is willing to work hard to provide for us and that he will home for 2 weeks at the end of each rotation- and that's 20 weeks off every year! I am also thankful for modern technology that allows us to communicate rather quickly, even with so many miles between us.

Already my husband has made an impact with his co-workers. Before each meal, he takes off his hard hat, bows his head and thanks his Heavenly Father for his meal. He observed that he now sees at least half a dozen other men bowing their heads and praying as well before the meal. He is also known for always being positive, joyful and ready to work (even if it's doing something other than his job description). The other day a man came up to him and asked him what made him so happy all the time. He said "Whatever you are eating, drinking or smoking in your room- I want some of that!" My husband went on to explain that it is because he is a Christian and has Jesus living in his heart. He went on to give this man the gospel and invited him to also give his life to Jesus. This man, although intrigued, said he believed he was telling the truth, but wasn't sure he was ready for that kind of commitment. Maybe these are the very reasons my husband is working away- to be a witness of His Savior to those who maybe have never been confronted with the gospel or met a real Christian. I am so thankful that he is living out the Great Commission right where he is...

I don't know what tomorrow may bring. I also don't know what you may be facing right now. But it is likely that you also have a situation that may just not make any sense. It may be a wayward child that should know better, the loss of a parent or husband which happened rather suddenly. It may be an accident that left permanent damage or a recent prognosis from your doctor. It may be the pain of not having children. I know of several friends currently dealing with the sadness of a loved one taking their own life. Whatever your circumstance, you can trust God's promises! They are available for you to claim and cling to when life doesn't make any sense...

I have always loved Corrie ten Boom's poem "Life is but a Weaving..."

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Celebrating Every Life

I can clearly recall the excitement that our first baby announcement brought 21 years ago. Everyone was thrilled beyond words. Why is it that baby number 1 is welcomed with so much fanfare? Maybe even baby number 2, especially if it’s the opposite gender of the first. A few people are comfortable with number 3, but that’s generally where it stops. How are subsequent babies any less the wonderful and amazing creations of the living God?

I speak from firsthand experience how devastating the remarks can be of other people, especially Christians, when announcing another pregnancy. Really, Christians of all people should be those that rejoice at the promise of new life, not scorn it like it is something to be ashamed of. After all, I am happily married and allowed to have children!  God is the one that has formed a life that can only come from Him. Anyone who knows the pain of miscarriage or the ache of barrenness will acknowledge that life is not something they can control. Why then should many children be viewed in a different light?

We live in a day when children are no longer viewed as a blessing, but a burden. Babies make you lose your figure, forego your free time, lose all of your savings, and maybe even your sanity! It just isn't responsible to keep having children. I know, I've heard all the arguments. Many of my children weren't “planned” by me. They may have come at an inconvenient time in my estimation. But do you think for one minute that God made a mistake? God never has to say, “Oops, I didn't mean to make that one.” Instead the Bible affirms that He thought of each one of our children before they were even formed in the womb (Psalm 139).

I have been tempted to hide my last few pregnancies with those outside my immediate family. Ironically, our children are always ecstatic at the news of another baby. So although each new little one doesn't receive much excitement from those outside of our home, each additional baby is more loved because there are so many open arms and hearts waiting to embrace them inside our home.

Mothers, we shouldn't fear what those around us say when we announce another pregnancy. It is a shame that others cannot share in our happy news. It seems much easier for them to feel sorry for us or make nasty remarks. I know, I have been at the receiving end many times. But as I grow older, I am learning to be bolder and to share how children are indeed a blessing, no matter what the circumstance you find yourself in! I’m also learning that you can never encourage another mother enough when she is pregnant. She needs to hear that she is beautiful, that the sickness is all worth it and that she is doing the most important job ever, even when it's often hard. The last thing she needs are rolling eyes or unheeded advice... 

I am so thankful that God has chosen to bless us with 10 beautiful children and the anticipation of another precious life on the way. Is it always easy? Definitely not. Are my pregnancies always painless and trouble free? Umm, hardly. Does it cost money? Yup. Is it a sacrifice? You bet. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! Every life is worth celebrating. Baby number 4 or 5, 9 or 10, 13 or 14 shouldn't be any different than the first time we announced a new baby! It is time for us to value life for what it is- a beautiful gift from God.

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward."
Psalm 127:3

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Life Around Here

It’s been several years since I've managed to get a Christmas/New Year’s letter out. I thought I would post a little update here on how everyone is doing. So here is a summary of life around here...

Laina just turned 20 this week- the first to make it past the teenage years and onto the other side! She worked 2 jobs this past year saving up for school, often putting in over 60 hours per week. She was accepted into the Center for Massage and Natural Health in Asheville, where she will be starting in early March. She is looking forward to this new chapter in her life and we are excited for her to practice her new found skills on us! We still have a lot of details that need to work out over the next few weeks- most importantly securing a reliable vehicle and a place to live that won’t break the bank. What a comfort to know that God knows all the answers and we are excited to see what He has in store for her. Of course, our entire family will miss her- and maybe she will miss all of us just a little as well :)

Cort turned 18 last week. He is in his second year working as a full time mechanic for a large landscape company just down the street. He is finishing up his schooling and will be graduating in May. He works on the side fixing cars and welding, which is his number one love. He is planning to get his certifications as a welder and hopes to pursue a job in that field of work. He also bought a motorcycle this past year and loves to ride. We are especially grateful for all the work he does maintaining and fixing our vehicles!

Rylie is 14 and started high school this year. She loves photography and started a little business named Whimsical Photography this past year taking individual and family portraits. She hopes to branch out into fashion photography as well in the coming year. She also joined our local newspaper’s Teens & Twenties column as one of the photographers, and also occasionally writes for them. She enjoys reading, dance and decorating. She is also our number one babysitter as the older ones are usually at work. She really misses her bestie who moved out of the area this past year, but hopes to visit her in the coming year. She is eagerly anticipating taking driver’s ed this coming year- driver #3!

Elise recently turned 12. She is Addie’s second mommy and is a tremendous helper. She loves all things pertaining to animals and is excited to be riding horses again, although this time English! She persuaded us into getting a hamster, and although the little fur ball is super cute, she runs on her treadmill ALL NIGHT LONG! Elise enjoyed taking a fashion class this past fall at a local co-op and loves to draw clothing designs as well as nature pictures. She is our avid bird watcher and can often be found photographing birds up and down our lane.

Luke and Edmond turned 10 in November. I hate to lump them together, but they invariably do the same thing- so I’d end up repeating myself. They diligently take care of the animals- all of the chickens, the dogs and the cat. They enjoy wood-working, watching big brother fix things and spend hours and hours building with legos. They enjoy learning anything to do with science and are excited to take classes at our homeschool co-op where they are learning Brain Games and French.

Ashlyn is 7. As the oldest of our “little” girls, she is a big helper. She loves taking ballet. She also enjoys cooking and helping in the kitchen as well as doing crafty things. She is my errand companion and is always the first to volunteer to go with me.

Eva recently turned 6. She finished her Brain Balance therapy back in April and we are just thrilled with the “new” little girl that has emerged! She tested around age level in most areas, even testing at an 8 year old level in auditory processing. She continues to grow and mature, is halfway through her Kindergarten math and is well on her way to learning how to read. What an amazing difference to the little girl we had just a year ago! She is full of wit and is a lot of fun to be with. We are thankful for her willingness to help and her sensitive and caring spirit.

Haven is 4 and is also doing some school work with the big kids. She enjoys drawing and coloring and playing outside. She also loves animals and hopes to someday ride horses like her big sister Elise. Haven is our comedian and has a comical way about her that endears her to us. She loves story time and to snuggle with whoever is willing.

Addie remains our baby, although she is 2. She is extremely loquacious for her age and has no trouble keeping up with the gang. Although she loves to play with her siblings, she also plays tremendously well by herself. It took having 7 daughters to finally have one that loves to play with dolls. She keeps our family going with her sweet disposition and her adorableness.

My amazing other half continues to work hard to support our family. This provided its challenges this past year, but I so admire his tenacity and creativity to keep moving forward, despite all of the obstacles that seemed to constantly get in the way. He has had the opportunity to travel around the country, to Canada and to the Caribbean several times in 2014. He was asked to meet with key government people in the islands and even had a 2 hour meeting with the President of one of these islands to discuss economic growth and development.  Although we don’t know what will be the outcome of these meetings, we know that God has our future in His hands and we are His instruments if He chooses to use us in any way in the Caribbean.

And then there is me- I am so thankful to be a stay-at-home mom that gets to be involved in the lives of this crazy, big family. This is my 15th year home schooling, and this is the first time we have joined home school co-ops. My kids are really enjoying their classes and I especially like the extra accountability it gives my older ones to stay on top of higher math and sciences.  I spend a lot of time driving kids places as well as a lot of time in the kitchen preparing everything from scratch. This year I have continued to learn how to make things grain free and I love trying out new recipes. I am also doing a home-study on essential oils and hope to pursue a certification in aromatherapy in the coming year, emphasizing oils used for pregnancy, labor and delivery, as well as newborns. 

We enjoyed a quick (and snow-filled) trip "home" to NJ with Thanksgiving. It was the first time most of my husband's family got to meet our 2 littlest girls, and we also got to meet a few cousins (nieces and nephews) that we had not yet met. Here are Opa & Oma with most of their grandchildren. They have 33 grandchildren and one great grandson (4 were not able to be there, 1 is in heaven, and 1 is overseas serving in the military)...

Eva & Opa became fast buddies!

The cousins enjoyed spending time together...

We have much to be thankful for this past year, including many of our friends, both new and old,who have prayed for us and supported us in so many ways. What a privilege to be part of the body of Christ and to see God's love in action! It is our prayer that all who are reading this will know God's amazing presence and provision in the year ahead. Happy 2015!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Eva's Frozen Birthday Party

Eva turned 6 at the end of October, and like many other little girls, requested a Frozen birthday party. With the help of her very creative sisters, we pulled it off, and had a lot of fun putting it together. And let me add, we did this whole party on a very tight budget, using many things we already had and filling in the rest with items from dollar and discount stores. I think Eva will remember her magical birthday for a long time to come. Her exclamations of  "this is the best birthday ever!" made it so worth while!

We picked light blue, teal, silver and white to create our winter wonderland. A simple white vase with some sticks from the backyard and a few glittery Christmas ornaments made a dazzling center piece. We covered the table with a bag of fake snow and added a few tea-lights in mason jars and more glittery snowflakes. We tied the napkins with string and silver icicles.

Her birthday banner was a few doilies and some teal glitter glue. We decorated the ceiling with more tinsel and Christmas tree ornaments. We added some snowballs by stringing cotton onto some cotton thread.

Our menu was super simple and very kid friendly. We had wraps with ham or turkey and cheese and grilled on the panini. We served these little pinwheels with honey mustard sauce. {I used GF wraps for Eva}. We also had Olaf noses (carrots) and jello cubes. I made the jello cubes healthy, using only gelatin and 100% grape juice. They were supposed to be blue, but since all of the juices that were blue were very artificial and loaded with food coloring, our ice was purple!

And everyone's favorite part of the meal were the Melted Olafs. I used plain coconut yogurt for Eva's Olaf, and Greek yogurt for the others.

Our birthday games included a "snowball treasure hunt" where we hid LOTS of cotton balls and had the children look for them. We also played "pin the nose on Olaf!"

For our craft we made icicle pictures. Simply mix epsom-salt with a little water (water should be very warm). Have the children paint winter pictures on a black piece of construction paper. When the picture dries up they will have a crystal picture. {When the crystals dry up it is a little messy; I suggest putting your finished art work inside a plastic sleeve} Alternately, you could make chalk drawings.

We also made each child some glittery snowball play-dough. Play-dough is always a big hit with children. For a free printable and for a recipe click here

We finished the festivities with, you guessed it, ANOTHER viewing of Frozen and Eva belting out "Let it go!" This girl can sing! I love to see how far she's come over this past year. The song "Do you want to build a snowman?" was the song that finally helped Eva learn to pronounce the "SN" sound. Before that she could never say the "S" - it just came out as "Noman." God is so good!

Big sister Elise hand drew Elsa and Anna and framed it for Eva's room- isn't it sweet?