Thursday, May 26, 2011


The irony of writing this post immediately after my previous one is not lost on me. It feels a little weird, like when you accidentally tell the birthday boy about his surprise party an hour before the party. 

A little foolish. 

A little embarrassing. 

A little awkward.

The truth is that I did struggle through the several weeks of this most recent pregnancy for reasons that don't really make sense, but were there nonetheless. I believe it might have been God preparing my heart to more readily accept His plan in taking this baby home much earlier than any of us could have anticipated. Whatever the reasons, my fears of losing the pregnancy were confirmed on Monday when an ultrasound showed that my pregnancy was no longer viable. Ironically, gestation ceased at around the same time I was taking my first pregnancy test.

There are a million and one things that can go through your mind when you are faced with loss. Questions, doubts, peace and pure logistics all crowded into my own brain when we left my doctor's office Monday. I was sad. But I had such an amazing presence of peace surrounding me. I didn't fall prey to blaming myself, or asking questions to which I'll never know the answers. God softly spoke to my heart, reassuring me that the mess I saw surrounding me was in fact part of a design that would someday be made known to me.

And this time that was enough for me.

It hasn't always been enough. Facing the exact same situation in the past left me hurting for weeks, crippled with fears and doubts. I don't think I have hit on some magic solution that saved me from that fate over the past few days. And I am not prideful enough to believe that I have weathered all possible difficulties with only blue skies on the horizon. However, I do believe that a greater appreciation for the grace of a sovereign Lord has ministered to me in ways I could not fully grasp in younger years. A deeper sense of joy in my healthy, living children keeps me rooted in the here and now. I am thankful for those things.

I am sad that I will not be meeting a new little person in December. This Christmas will be tinged with some melancholy thoughts, I'm sure. I am confident that it will also be filled with joy, a brightness for the things worth celebrating during the yuletide. As for now, I am thankful for my incredible husband who walked every step of this journey with me. I am grateful for lovely children who care for me. I am indebted to friends who stepped in when I needed help. 

I am in love with my Savior who is tenderly caring for a child I have never met, but completely adore.

~Dear Mama, I'm really, really sorry about the miscarriage. Here are some Orange Stars to try to cheer you up. (don't worry, the flowers fell off). I love you very, very, very, very mush (much). 
Your daughter, Hannah ~


Saturday, May 21, 2011

You Might Be Pregnant If...

I have experienced a phenomenally easy first trimester this pregnancy. In fact, being so asymptomatic caused me some nervousness, and I took another pregnancy test a couple of weeks ago just to be sure. I don't know exactly what I expected it to read. 

It was still positive.

So, I decided to accept the blessing and move on with my life. Until today. I am no longer asymptomatic.

The children and I had a park day for our homeschooling group in Monterey. Trying to save a buck on gas I decided to stop at the grocery store next to the park on my way home. Besides carrying the brand of seltzer water I like best it would save me the hassle of fishing dinner out of my freezer. Chicken fajitas were sounding delish. I pulled into the parking lot of the largest Safeway on the peninsula confident that I could be in and out within 5 minutes. There were 4 items on my mental list:
- fizzy (seltzer water)
- peppers (2 sweet, 4 hot)
- chicken breast
- chicken taco seasoning

I headed straight for the produce section upon entering the store. I don't know what the reasoning is behind all the "floating" displays, but trying to find peppers in a fresh produce area larger than my entire house is no small task. And don't even think about something logical like alphabetizing the veggies. Why can't peppers simply rest between onions and quince? I was pretty near ready to have a chat with the head of the department over the total lack of systematic organization when I finally spied my veggies hidden amongst the fresh cut herbs. That makes sense.

After rounding up my peppers I raced to the soda aisle. "Why soda," you ask? Because seltzer WATER is not kept on the water aisle. No, no. You can purchase it in either the soda aisle, bordered by its high fructose corn syrup counterparts like Sugared Fizz and Cola Candy, or it is tucked next to the mixers in the "over 21" corner. And when I say "tucked" and "corner" I mean them literally. It would take Ethan Hunt a solid hour to discover there whereabouts. However on this lovely day seltzer water was not to be found in either location. Once again, Safeway was sold out. Apparently the new idea in inventory marketing is to discover those items that are sold regularly and they wait until they are entirely gone before ordering more. Let's make sure we have pig's feet in the butcher's case always, but seltzer water is only on a semi-monthly restocking shipment. That makes sense.

Frustrated but not giving up my dream of saving myself the hassle of freezer fishing I proceeded to poultry for my chicken. The one item I had no difficulty finding but had a seizure when I drew close enough to grab a package. FIVE DOLLARS & EIGHTY SEVEN CENTS A POUND. For crying out loud, I'm not serving top sirloin. For roughly twelve dollars I could have walked away with enough chicken to feed 4 members of my family. 

Already irritated that I only had two of the four items on my list I finally swung around to grab some chicken taco seasoning. I walked up the "ethnic foods" aisle where the sign marked Hispanic Foods rested over refried beans, corn husks and salsa. No taco seasoning. Huh, silly me. Why would taco seasoning be in the aisle where all the other taco products are kept? I wandered down the spices aisles, the packaged food aisle, the canned meat aisle all to no avail. I finally stopped a worker who told me the taco seasonings are kept on Aisles 16. Perfect. Aisle 16 is the prepared dairy aisle with cheeses, yogurts, butter and such. Sure enough, right across from the Greek yogurt sat a whole wall of packets containing every given type of taco seasoning you could imagine. Low sodium, original, hot, mild, brand or generic were all on full display. Everything except any chicken taco seasoning. I easily shrugged it off and looked for chicken fajita seasoning. Nope. Nada. There wasn't even an empty space for it. Apparently no one in the greater Del Rey Oaks area makes tacos or fajitas with anything other than beef.

I left the store (after a typical line story I won't even go into) holding my small bag of peppers and brimming with angst. I would have to stop at another store in order to finish my shopping. I headed home, calculating the location of the store with the best chances of having both chicken and seasoning within a reasonable distance to my home, and without requiring a small loan to make the purchase. I decided on Walmart.

Again, I pulled into the parking lot and rushed inside to get my two items. The chicken was easy, and at $1.88 a pound for boneless skinless chicken breast you can save your breath on why I should boycott Wally World. I trudged over to the dried goods aisles hoping my sense of organizational genius would prove correct in ferreting out the seasonings. No such luck, but after a much shorter hunt I found the seasoning packets (remember, my Walmart has decided to make its grocery section 85% processed frozen meals leaving the bulk of real food to fit into a rather tiny space consisting of 3 "half" aisles). Perfect! But not really. Once again, there was every known seasoning available in 3 different variations but nothing for chicken. Seriously? Please tell me SOMEONE else fixes chicken tacos and fajitas occasionally?

At this point I was nearing tears. I stumbled out to my van, slammed the door behind me and just about lost it! I kept trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and why I was so upset about the seasoning. The entire time I drove to the 3rd store, saving not an ounce of gas, I continued mulling over in my head what was going on in my life that made me feel so crazy at that moment. By the time I got to SaveMart I realized:

I'm pregnant!

Because the SaveMart I was driving to was our regular grocery store before we outgrew it and moved to Costco, I knew where everything was located. I quickly ran inside, located the seasoning, found both chicken taco and chicken fajita packets, grabbed six and made a bee-line for the register. The ease of the entire transaction made my heart swell with appreciation, and as I walked back to my van my eyes misted over. What a beautiful thing to be able to buy chicken taco seasoning.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


     jaunty. Josiah has a natural charisma that exudes from every pore. He faces the world with a trademark glimmer to his eye and ease in his person. 

     obstinate. I don't think any of my children require discipline like my Josiah-Boy. It doesn't seem to matter what threat we make, he is sure to trespass within 10 minutes. We are only sure of his obedience when he sleeps.

     smirk. It's a classic look. He lowers his chin ever so slightly, gives just a hint of a raised eyebrow,  twinkles his eyes mischievously, and grins. He is utterly disarming when he lays it on this thick.

     impatient. Even before Josiah was verbal he had this incredible way of letting everyone know that he was frustrated - usually because he wasn't getting a toy fast enough. Screaming quickly became his favorite sound to inform all in the house that he wasn't getting what he wanted NOW! As he has grown, and his vocabulary with him, he now resorts to asking... a million times.

     affectionate. Josiah loves to snuggle. He is a mama's boy! One of his favorite activities is to tenderly brush my hair. He cuddles up next to me on the couch, or embraces his sisters for a good movie. 

     hilarious. All of our children make us laugh. Some of them by their jokes, some by their faces and idiosyncrasies. But Josiah beats them with his sheer personae. He struts around the house like a peacock, showing off his tail feathers. He unabashedly proclaims that he wears panties, and gleefully wears his sisters' frilly dress-up clothes. He revels in his own little personality, and we LOVE it!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Proof Of The Fall

There are many things broken in our world that show us how far from perfection we live. Mosquitos, hanging chads and freezer burn come immediately to mind. But I think, without argument, the proof most clearly visible of creation turned horribly perverse is: Poison Oak.

It is not a stretch to say that poison oak is the manifestation of all plantly evil ever made possible by Adam's sin. I am particularly susceptible to this great tragedy of flora. It hunts me down like a heat seeking missile, and targets me with its maniacal schemes.

You may think I exaggerate. I assure you, I do not.

Growing up I was bound to get the dreaded itchy rash every spring when the bloom burst forth in the forest surrounding my home. I would swell up to roughly the size of a blue whale, eyes closed to slits and skin covered in scabbing pustules while my mom diligently used a cotton ball to dab pink calamine lotion all over me. Cotton ball dabbed pink calamine lotion on poison oak is akin to 7 water droplets used to extinguish a grease fire -  highly ineffective and strangely comical. We would also employ ice packs to help numb the painful sores but the condensation from the packs just served to moisten the rash and keep it from drying out as quickly as possible. To say I hate it is a gross understatement.

As I grew I learned to avoid the deadly plant like the plague. I memorized the cute rhymes meant to teach children what to look for, like: leaves of three, let it be; and berries white, poisonous sight. This knowledge, along with a godly sense of fear for any contact with the detestable shrub kept me from my nemesis for years.

Then I had children.

To be fair, they are not trying to be tools of the enemy. But any one trained in tactical arts will tell you that getting the target's loved ones to do the dirty work is worth bonus point. Poison oak is a powerful tactician. Most recently my beautiful 2nd born daughter Bethany was beguiled by the insidious weed while spending the night at a friend's house. However, not satisfied with one victim it also left its toxic oil all over her clothes for me to "find" while doing laundry. Within 24 hours the tell-tale rash with its itchy burn erupted on my left shoulder. A few days later we were both covered from head to toe.

Thankfully today there are a great deal more robust and proactive measures to use in the fight for justice. Topical steroids, oral steroids and even injectables all give much greater relief in a much shorter time... 

except me.

Apparently I am one of the few random people who continues to erupt in the hateful breakout for weeks after the contaminate should have washed clear of my system. Why do I know this? Because 5 weeks after my initial contact (and with no possible options for fresh exposure) I am breaking out in a new wave of pustules in the EXACT same location as the initial scourge. Nice.

I'm telling you, there is no greater proof needed that we have fallen woefully short of the Garden of Eden. In fact, I think maybe the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a pre-cursed poison oak plant.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

And baby makes... 10!

To be honest, I was quite surprised. It's not that a positive pregnancy test is such an unheard of occurrence in our home. However, Phoebe weaned over a year ago and my modus operandi up to this point had been a mere one or two months from weaning to new pregnancy. So when months one and two passed without any significant happenings I shrugged it off as odd, but nothing extraordinary. But when months 9, 10, and 11 also passed without anything extraordinary I began to wonder...

Could we be done?

I had prayed for the Lord to allow us a little more time between babies after Phoebe was born. I was extremely convicted over my poor stewardship of health, and I felt strongly God's conviction that I needed to address those concerns. Not becoming pregnant right away would make some of my necessary changes in eating and exercise significantly easier to employ. But while I prayed that God would give us a bit more space I certainly was not ready to throw in the towel.

God is so gracious, and knows us better than we know ourselves. He heard my cries for time, and honored my desires to regain lost health and vitality before going through a pregnancy. He also heard my cries for his hand to once again choose a broken, sinful human to help bring the next generation into this world. I am forever humbled when I see those two pink lines show up on the pregnancy test.

Why me?

I make so many mistakes in my parenting. I don't deserve the responsibility He already placed on me with the gifts of my first seven children. I hardly deserve more! Yet He loves to lavish blessing on those who love Him. I am awed that once again He chose to lavish His blessing on me.

We are thrilled to announce the newest Randall, joining our family sometime towards the end of December, 2011.


Monday, May 09, 2011


Merriam-Webster defines patience as: the ability to wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset; the ability to remain calm and not become annoyed when dealing with problems or with difficult people; the ability to give attention to something for a long time without becoming bored or losing interest. Essentially the gist is that you don't let things get under your skin. It is probably the virtue I am most commonly anointed with by strangers, and the trait I feel most lacking in my own possession. However, I have happened upon a few things that I believe are essential in understanding what patience is, and what it is not.

First, what it is not. Patience is not the ability of a person to spend 1 hour with your small children, never minding the insatiable curiosity or arbitrary repetition that plagues youth. By its very definition it must be exhibited over a LONG TIME. I no longer feel any guilt when friends or loved ones tell me that they have more patience for a certain situation because they aren't around it all the time. That makes them untried, not patient. Patience is also not the misapplication of authority creating an environment devoid of spontaneity or childishness. If I think myself patient while my children are simply squashed cabbage leaves for fear of inciting my anger I am missing the mark.

So, what is it?

Well, we already saw what the literal definition says. It is the uncanny knack or ability to keep the same reaction to your child's 85th question about why blood comes out of their skin when it is cut as their first - especially when the questions are posed during a highly necessarily but poorly timed trip to Costco. It is gently reading the same book, watching the same program, saying the same thing over, and over, and over again. 

The assumption that because I have so many children I must be simply oozing patience never fails to amuse me. I believe, actually, quite the opposite is true. You see, your patience isn't tested until you have been at something for a LONG TIME. Remember, that is what patience requires... length in the trial. So, for instance, where other moms might have worked through two, four or maybe six years worth of toddlerhood I have no less than fourteen. Fourteen. To say I am over my fascination with the endless need for crying before peeing in the toilet would be a significant understatement. In fact, I could probably survive without ever hearing another whine, ever again. But that's not my life, so I digress.

Because my home harbors so many opportunities to express patience I began wondering how I could get more of the stuff. I can tell you straight away, willpower won't do it for ya. Trust me. If anyone could white-knuckle their way through parenthood it was me. I tried for years. Tried is the operative word in that sentence since I also failed. And, also contrary to popular opinion, patience doesn't come simply by merit of difficult circumstances. Being in the middle of a snowstorm doesn't necessarily mean you are prepared to effectively handle it; it just means you are surrounded by snow.

Then I stumbled upon a wonderful bible study by Beth Moore called Living Beyond Yourself. It covers the 9 attributes of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I was eager, above all, to read the chapter on patience. As a Christian I already knew that these were not optional, or even occasional characteristics required by Christ. If I truly have the Spirit of God living in me than His qualities must pervade me. It is a necessity. So, I snuck a peak at the patience chapter and read this perplexing phrase:

Patience through mercy

Huh. That didn't seem nearly spiritual enough for my way of thinking. Where was all the "just pray for patience" stuff? And I had no idea how Beth Moore was going to connect patience with mercy. The two appeared entirely incongruous in my mind. I somewhat disappointedly went back to the current week, and settled in to wait for the patience lesson to arrive. In hindsight I should have been ecstatic that I didn't peek at that chapter and read the dreaded "just pray for patience" mantra I had so often heard from both inside and outside of my head. I am happy to say that I am quite elated at this point in my journey, and regularly remind myself of the joy that comes from understanding that enigmatic phrase: patience through mercy.

The bottom line is that since I can't make myself feel patient my patience has to come from somewhere other than my feelings. And that it now does. Mercy is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion." It essentially means sympathy towards another person's distress with a view to help alleviate it. Sometimes that distress is a consequence of their own foolishness. Sometimes it is not. Come to find out, it apparently doesn't matter whether the person is responsible since we are to act towards others with Christ-like love; and he certainly bears with us through all manner of distress brought about as a direct result of ongoing (often belligerent) actions of great foolishness and disobedience. He sees us for what we are: broken, afraid, and hurting. He responds to us through that truth. He doesn't try to candy-coat our weakness or hide our imperfections. He is never patient with us by burying his head in the sand and pretending we are not, once again, rebelling against his righteousness. He doesn't ignore anything. And neither can I. That was my big hang-up. You see, I thought that in order to have patience, to feel patient, I must simply ignore the things that really drove me nuts. The faults of myself and my loved ones couldn't be genuinely acknowledged, because somehow recognizing their rub was itself an act of impatience. But the bible tells us that the truth will set us free, and that's exactly what patience through mercy sets up for us - a freedom through truth.

When I acknowledge that my child's behavior is taxing, frustrating, juvenile and even perhaps ludicrous I am freed to choose, of my own volition, to bear with that child in mercy. I can bless that child through compassion even though their actions are foolhardy. I am free to recognize my feelings of exasperation even while simultaneously choosing not to allow them to control my choices. Patience is suddenly nothing whatsoever about how I feel in a given moment, but how I choose to respond. I no longer need to strain, grunting and groaning, towards the elusive prize of feeling blissfully ignorant of any irritants that might come my way. Now I can clearly face my day square in the face, and actively walk out:

Patience Through Mercy.


The Perfect Randall Pet

I really wanted a dog. I mean I REALLY wanted a dog. Christopher didn't think it was such a good idea for us to commit to yet one more responsibility considering our already responsibility-oozing lifestyle. He was right. But I still pleaded, begged and brazenly campaigned for a four-legged Randall.

When we purchased our home a few years back the agreement was finally struck that we could get a dog once our backyard renovation project was complete. This was sensible, and upon completion I began earnestly seeking after my dog.

I did the research. I read the reviews. I spoke with dog trainers. All on the quest for the perfect, family-friendly, hypoallergenic puppy. I finally settled on a Cairn Terrier. To be sure they can be feisty and rambunctious, but I wanted a playmate for my children and all roads pointed to this little guy.

Of course all roads did not point to the price tag associated with buying the Perfect Randall Pet.

So, when a military family from our church were preparing to leave, and mentioned their desire to relocate their beagle to a new family I jumped at the opportunity. Sure, beagle wasn't on my list for the Perfect Randall Pet but hey, free was an awfully large word.

Enter Daisy.

Daisy Lou to be exact. You have never met a mellower dog. Ever. In the first year that we owned her I think I heard her bark out of excitement once. The only other times she ever barks is to remind us that she doesn't like her crate at night. That's it. She sits on the couch and sleeps 14 hours a day. She lies in her kennel and sleeps for 7 hours at night. She lounges on the rug in the living room for another hour and 30 minutes. She sits at our feet during mealtimes for an hour and 15 minutes each day. She eats and meanders outside for her business during the remaining 15 minutes of her day. That's it. But she eased Christopher into dog ownership with her calm ways and quiet personality. She has definitely become an integral part of the Perfect Randall Pet.

Oh, and she loves Christopher.

Yes. Our dog that I wanted so badly adores my husband. She wags for him, runs to him, snuggles with him, listens to him and obeys (when she is in the mood) him. I was cheated, and I felt it!

Then, about a week ago Hannah and I had an interview with the SPCA to begin volunteering in the adoption center. Hannah has a passion for animals, and is excited about putting that heart to use. When we were done speaking with the volunteer coordinator we decided to take a peak at the dogs.

Enter Rodger.

Rodger Thursten to be exact. Rodger is a rescued Irish Terrier mix and at 2+ months old is one cute puppy. I fell in love. I sat in front of his kennel for 30 minutes playing with and enjoying Rodger. When I arrived home that evening Christopher met me with a smile and one simple question: So, which one do you want?

My very sweet husband knew how much I still longed for a dog that would play with our children, and even perhaps love me. He took time off the very next day and we went out as family to the SPCA to see if Rodger was meant for us. We came home with our second dog.

Rodger loves to play. He adores Daisy, who has miraculously begun to move! She wrestles and bears with great equanimity his puppy ways. We are all quite speechless to watch Daisy, the lover of sleep, bound around engaging her new friend in a game of chase. Rodger is sweet, and loves to cuddle. He is excellently crate trained, and we are working on finalizing his potty-training. He plays very well with the children, and will gleefully run around the backyard for hours chasing and being chased by little Randalls.

Together I believe Daisy and Rodger make the Perfect Randall Pet.

And Rodger loves me.