Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reflections...

A year in review, my reflections on my first year teaching my children at home.

How I agonized over the decision.

And, here I sit 10 months later.

They've grown.

I've grown.

But, best of all...

We've grown.

Together

Day in and day out, sunrise to sunset, moment by moment,

Grace upon grace.

Laundry often left undone, baseboards filthy, counters and tables a mess, a rare break for my sanity, my work never completed, my to do lists gathering dust. . .

But, my heart is full.

The nagging of loss is gone and in its place is the fullness of chaos, loud laughter, and uninterrupted activity 24/7!!!

And, when I tucked Joshua in last night, I thanked him for the great privilege of teaching him this year.  I told him how I loved being with him all day everyday, and I thanked him for the sweet memories of this year.

He thanked me for making him cookies. :-)

I told him he was very welcome.  Then, he smiled and told me he loved being homeschooled.

My heart beamed. :-)

This year was not always pretty, and I'd certainly never call it easy.  If I had to use one word to describe this year, it would be "rich."

It's been a year filled with...

visits from Pop and Nana (these become automatic holidays :-)
little boy laughter shaking the walls, rattling the roof
afternoons spent riding bikes, swimming, playing sports, exploring the woods ~ being free to be little boys
evenings and weekends without agenda ~ except soaking up time with Daddy
picnic lunches on pretty days
dinner table conversations about the Cold War, Sitting Bull, Apollo 11, or whatever else we are studying
fresh baked goodies with lots of helpers in the kitchen
enjoying good literature
brothers bonding
having "school" outside and breathing the fresh country air
big brothers reading to and teaching little brothers
the big learning to bend low and serve the small (still very much in process :-)
seeing the beauty in the simple
discovering the love for learning that God put in all of us (mom included!! :-)
waking up, pouring coffee, and listening to Daddy do devotions with his sons
slowing down a bit and savoring sweet time with my boys while they are still young

This year we've had more time, more moments, more memories. . .


video

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Rest of Jack's Birth Story...


I think I've mentioned this before, but I must say it again.  I like keeping my babies very close to me after they are born.  I think about their little journey from a comfortable place safe, dark, warm, and filled with the familiar sound of Mama's voice and heartbeat to a place that is cold, full of light, where they aren't held so snug, and where the sounds are new and unfamiliar.  And, I just want to hold them close to my chest and talk to them and make sure (if only for my own sake) that they feel safe.  So, even the bassinet beside the bed feels too far away.  While we are in the hospital, I sleep with my new little ones on my chest resting against my skin.  And, we always sleep very well this way ~ both of us.

Knowing all that, you can imagine my absolute sadness when the nurse told me that Jack would have to stay in an isolette in the nursery for 24 hours.  I had just given birth and tried to nurse (and for the first time, my newborn didn't nurse on the first attempt!) and then the nurse tells me he won't be able to room in with me.  I was so sad.

So, so sad.

I kept telling myself that he was healthy, and I should be so thankful!!  But, I just wanted to hold my baby.  And, I couldn't turn off the tears.  They began at that moment and remained most of the day.

A few hours later I was told that he was retracting when he breathed.  Later they told me his respirations were 80+ a minute.  Twice they consulted NICU.  And, thankfully twice NICU didn't think his condition warranted moving him to the NICU.  For two days they kept him on monitors in the nursery.  And, for two days, I heard the sounds of the nurses wheeling bassinets down the hall to all the other mothers while I sat in my room knowing that my baby was. not. coming.  My heart goes out to all the mothers who have ever had to do this.  For years I have taken for granted that when I had a baby I would get to have my baby with me.  Now, my heart hurts in a special way for all the mothers who have babies in the NICU ~ who don't get to go home with their babies.  How hard it must be.

I wore out the hallway walking back and forth at feeding times to the nursery in Erik's button down shirt (to make skin on skin easier), my maternity jeans, and my new purple slippers my parents brought me.  Over and over, day and night, every 3 hours, I walked to the nursery, held my Jack, and tried to get him to nurse with no success.  I had to manually express colostrum for the nurses to feed him via a tube and a syringe.  And, my heart was broken.  I was so thankful that he was healthy, but I was still sad.  I think it was just all so unexpected.  I didn't expect to have him so early, and I didn't expect the experience to be any different from my other births.

I worked with the lactation consultants and was told he may not be able to latch until around the time of his due date.  I had never not nursed a baby, so this was very difficult for me.  Especially after we got home.  Now at feeding times, I had to attempt to nurse him which usually did not work, feed him a bottle, and pump.  Doing this and taking care of 4 children was such a challenge, and doing it at night meant I got very little sleep.  We took a week and a half off of school, laundry was backed up, my house was a mess, and I was exhausted.  But, we kept on keeping on.  And, week by week, life got a little easier. Now, my little man is 6 weeks old, and he is nursing only!!  I still give him a bottle every now just to keep him taking it.

Two, things that this experience has taught me are. . .

#1 A new and very real empathy for mothers of NICU babies as I mentioned before.

#2  Empathy for moms who have trouble nursing.  It is emotionally difficult when your baby won't nurse.  Poor Jack just couldn't latch, and it was obvious that he preferred the bottle.  Call it hormones, but that hurt my feelings a little bit.  I wanted him to want me. Nursing is an emotional thing.  I'm not sure why it is, but it is a very intimate, special gift from God, and when it isn't working and you want it to, it is just plain hard.

But, as always, there were sweet gifts from God even in the hard.  My boys were BIG helpers!!  And, they learned a new skill.  They learned how to feed Jack!!

They took turns and loved every minute of their turn...



Joshua even learned some super skills...



They will be great daddys one day!  My boys love babies, and I'm so proud of them.  Now they beg me to let them feed Jack, but I rarely let them!  I'm making up for lost time ~ enjoying every feeding myself!!

I've never ventured too far out into the world of pumping and bottles, so my counters took on a new appearance with Jack ~ now cluttered with all my pumping accessories!  And, my freezer, oh, dear heavens!  I long for ice cream!  My boys want popsicles!  But, we just don't have room for those

things right now!!! Ha!  The freezer is literally filled with bags of milk!!  I used to buy frozen bags of chicken breasts.  Now I have to buy fresh meat and use it before it goes bad because I have no room to freeze it!!!  I doubt I'll ever use all the milk I've pumped, but I will not throw it away!!!

In retrospect I have learned a good deal over the past month.  I realized about a week or two after Jack was born that I could not do all that I was doing before he was born.  I would have to let some things go. When you have four children, you feel you've already let too much go.  But, I knew I had to let even more go, or I'd fry myself.  I had to let others help me, and that is not always an easy thing to do.  Erik and I put our heads down, and we pressed on, and now things are getting easier, so very much easier!  And, we are now officially done with Excelsior for the summer, and I am winding down the rest of our subjects dropping a little more each week.  And, Jack is such a joy to us!  It has been a different journey this time.  A journey with unexpected turns and unfamiliar twists, but we are so thankful to be here and on this sweet journey with our new little man!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jack's First Month

 Jack,

You turned one month before your due date!  We didn't expect to have you with us so early, but we are so thankful to have you in our arms healthy and safe.  One day, when we were going to get your weight checked at the Women's Center, I was searching through my purse to find something when I found something I didn't expect!  I was holding you in my arms at the time, and out of my purse I pulled your pregnancy test.  I had put it in my purse (which I rarely carry anywhere) to show your Daddy when I announced to him that God had chosen to give you to us!  What a gift you are, little man!!  So, I had to take a picture of the difference 9 months makes!! Ha!  From a little line on a stick to a sweet baby in blue!  God is so good!  We love you with all our hearts!
I don't know that my boys have ever been so crazy about a baby!  They adore you!  They cannot keep their little hands off you!  I spend most of my day trying to hold and feed you while little hands reach, grab, and pet you!  You get hundreds of kisses everyday from little lips!!

Before you were born, I would spend my Friday mornings, while your brothers were at Excelsior, sitting quietly at Atlanta Bread Company.  I looked forward to the time alone each week.  So peaceful and sweet!  But, the last three weeks I have not been alone!!  I have had a little buddy with me ~ you!!!  And, I have sipped my hot raspberry tea and held you. Good times!  I took the picture to the left on one of our Friday morning dates, sweet boy!
Now, a little about you.  You look sorta like Elijah and sorta like Erik Daniel.  I think your eyes are going to be blue??  And, your hair is most definitely going to be red like your big brothers!  You fit right in little man!  You are nursing like a champ now.  I had to fight for it, but the fighting payed off!  You rarely take a bottle anymore! Your big brothers miss feeding you for me!  You smiled for the first time in the hospital, and you have not stopped since that time!  You are trying to talk ~ lots of sweet little coos.  You are gagging some, not spitting up, but just gagging, and your tummy hurts you some.  I am trying my best to make you as comfortable as I can.  You sleep wonderfully ~ waking once, sometimes twice, during the night.
You are such a gift, and I am thoroughly enjoying being your mom!  I am excited to get to know you better and better each month, each year!  Keep growing, little fifth man!  How special you are!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jesus Loves Jack. . .

I was straightening up the schoolroom after we finished our morning work when I heard them.  First, I heard little Jack begin to cry in his moses basket, then suddenly he was quiet...

And, his cries were replaced by the sounds of sweet brother angels singing...

video

Friday, May 06, 2011

Jack's Birth Story!

video

When I recall this time in my life, there are two things I hope I never forget.  Two things that have played a significant behind the scenes role in the last four months of my life.  The first is Audrey Assad's CD, and the second is Ann Voskamp's book, 1000 Gifts.  Audrey's CD has played in my home almost constantly since late December.  So many of her words have spoken what my heart often wants to say.  Hearing her music years from now will bring me back to my Jack's birth and the happy months prior to it.

The week before Jack's birth Erik went with me to my 34 week ob appointment, which because I am 35, included a routine sonogram.  Unfortunately the sonogram showed that my amniotic fluid level was low.  It was still in normal range but was at the bottom end of normal.  My doctor asked that I drink a lot of water over the next week and return for another sonogram at my 35 week appointment.  Now, I have been pregnant four other times, and all had always been normal, so I wasn't really too concerned about this low fluid thing.

I scheduled a prenatal massage (thank you, Deana B) for the hour prior to my 35 week appointment.  So, when I showed up at the doctor's office I was relaxed and peaceful!!  The sun was shining and all was well.  The sonogram went fine, and at the end I asked the tech if my fluid level was okay?  Her answer:

"Well... I'd have to call it low."

So, I went to subwaiting thinking I must be a little lower than last week ~ on the verge of "low" or just at the top end of "low."  I sent a text to my mom and Erik and a few others saying all was well and letting them know that my phone was about to die ~ so not to worry if they didn't hear from me for a while.  I pulled out 1000 Gifts and began reading.  This was my second time through it, and I was just soaking it in ~ reading each word slowly.  Until, my doctor's nurse came to get me.  But, she didn't want to take me to an exam room.  She said the doctor wanted to put me on a monitor for a little while.

What?

As she strapped me to the machine, I finally got up the nerve to ask. . . "Is something wrong?"

She answered, "He'll talk to you about it when he sees you."

That is nurse-speak for, "Yes, something is wrong."

So, I sat there on the monitor, afraid to use my phone because I knew it was about to die at any second.  I didn't feel like reading or watching the TV in front of me.  So, I just stared at the cover of Ann's book and talked to God.  Ann's book is about her wrestle with the Almighty, learning to accept not just the good but the hard things, as well.  As I looked as the sweet picture of robin eggs held in open hands, I held my hands out to God and prayed, "I don't know what this is, but give me the courage and grace to accept what You give with open hands ~ whatever the situation might be."  I think I spent most of that 30 minutes just breathing, slowly, deeply, prayerfully.

My doctor came in and told me that the baby was doing great!  Just what he wanted to see!!  "Oh, goodie!" I thought to myself.  I took a deep breath and relaxed.  But, then he got very serious, looked me in the eyes in a way he never has before in the ten years we've known each other, and said...

"I want you to go to one of the exam rooms and wait for me. We need to have a come to Jesus talk in a few minutes."

What is this about?  I thought the baby was doing great?  So I gave him my "what did you just say look."  And, he answered. . .

"Well, I'm polling my colleagues about what I should do with you, and the first one I asked said I should put you in and take the baby tonight."

What?

Not at all what I expected. Not at all.  So, I took a deep breath and gave him my "what did you just say" look again.  And, he expounded, "Your fluid level is as low as if your water has already broken.  You only have 2 pockets of fluid left, and that isn't enough for the baby."

Oh.

Later, as I sat in one of the exam rooms waiting for my doctor to finish polling the other doctors in his group, I used the last of my battery to call Erik and tell him what the doctor said.  He was as shocked as I was, and I heard him yell down the hall to Sean, "Hey, Brother, we may have a baby tonight!!!"

So, I spent the next hour or so driving around waiting for Erik.  And, Erik spent the hour getting our stuff together at home and driving to me.  We met in a parking lot.  It was night by this time, dark, and I was scared, shaking.  I got in my car and followed him to the hospital.  I don't think I'll ever forget that drive.  I didn't want to have a baby that night.  I love being pregnant, and I wasn't ready to not be.  It most likely will never happen again, and I wanted to savor my last few weeks of feeling the baby move inside me.  I was tired.  I didn't feel up to laboring all night ~ especially not laboring with Pitocin.  But, I did my best to hold my hands open to Him.  And, as I drove staring at those familiar tail lights shining in front of me, I prayed and listened to Audrey sing "Restless."  And, I did my best to listen to her words and to rest in the peace they offered.  I took deep breaths.  It was all so confusing.  What were we doing?  What was happening?  I was supposed to be home putting my boys to bed.

We got to the hospital and a sweet friend of ours was the nurse manager that night, and she so kindly labored with me along with a sweet red-headed RN who looked more like she should have been in a Jane Austen book rather than in scrubs placing my IV.

We had a great turn out for our little labor party!  (My mom always says my labors are more like a party than labor!).  My mom made it in time as did my sweet friend Sara who drove from Nashville.  And, of course, my sister-woman, Deana B was there with camera in hand!  But, this labor was not a party.  NO, sir.  Pitocin crashed my sweet labor party.  I didn't have much fun.  I was quite unhappy.  All my sweet friends just lined up with their backs against the wall afraid to speak to me!  Ha!

The room was full of people, but as far as I was concerned there was only one other person there.

My Erik.

We've done this labor thing a few times.  He is my husband, my doctor, and my best friend.  Yes, I have a doctor, but Erik labors with me, and he delivers our sweet boys into this world.  And, he does it so sweetly, so gently, so perfectly.  What a wonderful welcome the boys get ~ their Daddy's strong hands right there to catch their sweet naked little bodies.  Erik and I are a team, and I love it.  He knows me like no one else.  And, when I told him after a couple hours of Pitocin, that I wanted an epidural ~ that I just couldn't do it any longer.  He looked me in the eyes and said, "No, you don't.  You don't want an epidural. You'll be mad at yourself tomorrow.  I know you. You don't mean it.  I know you better than you know yourself. You can do this, Erin.  You. can. do. this."  And, I looked him in the eyes and said...

"I'm so mad at you!!!!"

And, I meant it with every fiber of my being.  I. meant. it.  I was mad, fighting mad.  If only the pain hadn't been so bad, I'd have told him all the awful things that I was thinking.  But, thankfully, I was hurting so badly that all I could do was bite my tongue and keep on keeping on.

He is strength and courage for me when I don't have the will to muster it up myself.  When I labor his attention is fixed on me, fiercely fixed.  He looks through me when I am pushing.  He tells me how to push and how close I am to delivering.  I learned a long time ago how to read Erik's cues, and I know when the baby is really close.  Everyone else can say, "I see the head, and it is right there. One more push, and he'll be here."  But, I don't believe it until I hear Erik say it.  I take my cues from him.  When I am in that bed, pushing, there is one face I see, standing right in front of me.  There is one voice I listen for, and it is his.  He has my trust.  He is my leader and my love, and I am so thankful for these memories.

Jack came very quickly and very easily at the end, a wee little thing, he popped right out into Daddy's hands!  Erik says he gets more emotional each time!  And, this little man had a knot in his cord.  My doctor called it a "true knot" whatever that means!  It is a scary sight to see ~ your cord all tangled like that.  After a few moments, Erik put Jack on my chest, and I fell in love again. :-)  Then they took that sweet vernix covered love of mine and cleaned him, wrapped him, and gave him back to me to love.  He smelled that freshly born scent that I love.  He was a sweet little bundle, and I held him close.  Sweet Jack here with us 5 weeks early, our biggest surprise yet and born on April Fools Day, too!!!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Dry Days. . .

I'm tired.


It has been a month, and everyone tells me sweet and wonderful things...

"You're amazing!"
"I don't know how you do it!"
"You don't look like you've just had a baby!"
"I think you must be made to have children!"

And, some days I feel it.  I feel amazing and energetic and full of life and all that He offers me through it.

But, today I'm tired.  I feel worn.  Tears are just a few blinks away.

God is so good, and I am so tired.

He is still good when I am tired.

He is so very good when I feel worn, ragged, old, and grumpy.

His grace is enough for days when I just can't do it.

His grace fills me when my cup is empty.

And, in these times when I am tired, worn, and much too hard on myself, it is then that He reminds me that He is all I need.

I need to catch my breath...

And, He is my Breath, my Life, the only Thing that fills my cup on the dry days...

and the long nights...

When I sit on that couch holding my sweet infant and the sun is still tucked far away, I can know that I am not alone and...

He is enough, more than enough.

Only He can make dry days bloom beauty and joy and peace amidst the tired, the weak, and the overwhelmed!

Because one thing is for sure, when you have five kiddos and you are tired, weary, and worn, life does not stop for you!!  So, press on!!  If only they would wear the same clothes for a week and let me get caught up on laundry!  Ha!

Pictures from April. . .


I love to be outdoors in spring.  The yard, the woods, they come alive in spring ~ all the colors and smells.  I could breath honeysuckle all year long!! :-)


He appears to be so worried. It is hard to be a baby, so, so hard!! :-)


Best friends.


Sweetness.


Precious.

Fresh air.


 Beauty.


 Love.


My Jack.

He is strength for this weary mama, and His grace, thankfully, fills my gaps.  

I am so thankful.

O, my Strength, I sing praise to you;
You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.
Psalm 59:17
My photo
Hi! I live in a sweet country home overflowing with love, laughter, and little ones. I have been blessed to journey these days beside a man that I love, respect, and admire. He is my soul-mate and best friend. Together we are seeking to raise our seven children to be lovers of God, to be wise and discerning, and to be all that our sweet God created them to be. I am in the goldfish and cheerio stage of life, but I am keenly aware that these days are slipping right through my hands. This blog is my attempt to keep our memories safe for years to come.

 

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