Monday, December 31, 2012

The Trio

Three of my children (Mary, Josiah & Leah) surprised me with this little gem. Please note: Leah confirmed her version of the lyrics and gave me a theologically sound answer as to why Jesus was saving hearts from Satan's power rather than simply saving all of us.

Enjoy.

video

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Photographer

Phoebe is a photographer in the making! She got ahold of Hannah's iPod Touch and took these amazing photos:








I deleted the 27 other identical ones so as not to overwhelm you with her exceptional eye for staging and proportion.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cows and Throats

Phoebe walked up to me this morning and said:

Mama, my froat is broken.

You're throat is broken?

Yup. Listen... *she tried to cough to clear the gravelly sound from her voice but couldn't quite manage it*

Hmm, you must be sick.

Yeah, my voice is a cow.

You're voice is a cow?

Uh huh. Hear it? *she picked a note that has never been written on any musical score, ever, and proceeds to 'show' me how her voice is a cow by holding that singular sound for several seconds*

I see. I'm not entirely sure I understand how it is that your voice is a cow.

'Cause it is. *the answer that our idiosyncratic child defers to whenever her logic is questioned*




Phoebe walked away from our conversation leaving me a bit befuddled although greatly entertained. It wasn't until several moments later that I realized she was trying to say that her voice was hoarse.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Where Does She Get It?

Leah is our family's conundrum. She just doesn't fit the mold. And there is her penchant for imagining the most horrific events possible for her dolls. They break legs, arms, heads and feet. They are cripples for life, orphaned forever, sold into slavery, and often die. She usually responds with coolness towards their helpless cries for mercy. It's a hard knock life. C'est la vie. However, today was something unusually special. This is the conversation I overheard during her playtime with Mary.

Leah (in an unusually awesome fake accent): Hello. Do you have many children?

Mary (in an equally hilarious accent meant to underline her adult character): Why yes. I'm pregnant with my 20th.

Leah: Oh! How nice that you can have that many children. Has your uterus ruptured yet?

Mary: No. Not yet.

Leah: Well, I run the orphanage down the street. Do you know it?

Mary: Oh yes, I pass by there every day.

Leah: Perhaps you could think about giving your baby to the orphanage. We only have 1 child living there now.

Mary: Well, I'll think about it for sure. But I'm afraid you may kidnap my baby.

Leah: Oh! I would never do that! It's just that we don't have enough children at the orphanage and we need more. You have enough, don't you?

Mary: I could give you this one and then keep the next one.

Leah: Thank you. That would be perfect!




Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Not So Little People

It is so much fun watching my little people become, well, not so little. I am big enough to admit that I bought hook, line, and sinker into the myth that raising adolescents would be awful. It is a given in our society that teenagers must be incredibly difficult, stubborn, obnoxious beings that suck our will to live every day of their life. Apparently we are supposed to white-knuckle our way through these horrific years until they come out on the other side with maturity. Drugs are often needed. For the parents.


Now, I currently *only* have a thir-TEEN year old. However, as she nears her 14th birthday I continue to be amazed by her personality, sense of humor, and creativity. I love her! I enjoy talking with her and finding out what is on her mind. I think her take on life is super cute and very astute at times. I see childishness still lurking and sure, my patience grows thin at some of the more obvious lapses in judgement she makes. However, my patience grows occasionally thin with my other children for age-appropriate issues, too!

I think teenagers get a bad rap. They aren't eat-their-belly cute like babies. They aren't babble-misprounced-words cute like toddlers. They aren't entertain-you-with-wild-imagination-and-schemes cute like grade schoolers. They aren't even tender-your-heart-for-their-awkwardness cute like tweeners. Nope, these mini adults are just smaller, more immature versions of their final selves with all the personality perks and baggage that any other human being carries through life. Their idiosyncrasies are clear. Their strengths and weaknesses are becoming more and more plain. And the clock seems to be ticking towards that final transition into the "real world."


I remember so well the painful place of being stuck half way between little girl and all grown up. The jumble of emotions and new discoveries that both thrilled me and frightened me (when I was brave enough to admit it!). My conversation and questions ranged from the lofty to the downright absurd. Yes, I remember well the place in my own life that Hannah now inhabits in hers. And honestly, it sometimes feels like just yesterday. Then I watch my teen do something so very... teenish, and suddenly it feels a million years ago that I walked this same path. Funny how time works.

I don't know how my life is going to change as my parenting grows up with my children. Or more importantly how I am going to change. I have a lot of ideas, concepts, and parenting rhetoric fighting for breathing room in my head. But I hope that I remain humble towards the understanding that my assumptions about my children and my parenting could always be wrong.

Pleasantly so.




Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dun 45

Phoebe asks this morning if she can watch Dun 45. She is quite insistent and excited about the prospect of this movie. It took me and Christopher a few moments to catch on to what she was saying.

Phoebe calls Darth Vader, Dun. It is the sound we use to sing Vader's theme and she picked up on it. With a 9 year old brother how could she not? She now calls the entire movie Dun. However, she knows that Caleb is only allowed to watch the original episodes. Our younger children are only allowed to watch 4 and 5. Phoebe decided she was now old enough to be included in the younger children and asked if she could watch Star Wars episode 4 or 5.

Dun 45.


Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Speaking Love To Your Children

We all know that children need to hear how they are special and loved. I can't imagine running into a sentient parent who would argue otherwise. Yet through the hustle and bustle of our lives we somehow forget to do a quality job of verbally affirming their unique gifts and talents. And by affirming I do not simply mean the generic and ubiquitous, I love you. Sure, that's a great place to start, but let's maybe think a little bit harder. We love pizza, that cooking show, our favorite running shoes and the funny face our dog makes when caught licking their nether regions. Do we honestly think our children understand the immeasurable worth of their individuality and our consistent and unconditional favor upon them when we lump our sentiments together with a brand of beer? 

Assuming you love your children, I would like to pitch out a few ways you can more clearly share the intensity of your affection so there are no questions at the end of the day. After all, one of the worst things I can imagine is having my children question my abounding devotion to them.

1. I love you
But Trisha, you just said we needed to go beyond this simple phrase. Yes. Yes I did. However, our children do need to hear that we love them. Perhaps the better point to be made here is that we should stop loving everything else. When our love for our children is not on par with our "love" for that winning sports team we are much more accurate in communicating authentic affection.

2. I am proud of who you are as a person.
I believe one of the best kept secrets for healthy relationships with our children is the assurance that our pride in who they are is not the same as our pride in what they accomplish. Is it good and right to be proud of their test score, job promotion or successful project? Of course. Is it good that our children only hear those words in connection with that test score, job promotion or successful project? Absolutely not. Children naturally crave their parents' approval and when we attach it to their actions more than their existence we do a grave disservice to their identity. 

3. I really like you.
We are our children's first friends. What person does not like to know that their friends like them? Different from telling your child that you love them, which can come off dry and unimaginative if we only ever say it after their teeth are brushed but before we remind them to pee, speaking these 4 words conveys genuine regard. It helps your child grow in security since we associate liking with choice. And what child doesn't want to feel like their parents would choose them even if they were given another option?

4. You are beautiful/handsome.
The beauty (pun intended) of this sentiment is best seen when it is shared during particularly difficult seasons. When we dress up and take the time to groom ourselves it isn't shocking to hear someone compliment us. Our children are probably accustomed to hearing us, as well as others, praise their looks when attired in Sunday best. How often are they accustomed to hearing these tender words when you know they feel awkward with puberty, burdened with sickness or marked with pain? We tell them that true beauty comes from within, but then only ever compliment them on it when they are looking good. This appears somewhat counterproductive to me.

5. I miss you when we are apart.
My children long to be important to me. Because of the nature of parenting it is easy to fall into patterns that tend to communicate how burdensome they are and how much I can't wait to get away. Taking the night off for a date or movie with a friend shows in our countenance. Don't think your kids don't notice. They do. And it yells that time away is more enjoyable than time with them. Emotional health comes from the realization that it is appropriate for mom and dad to have time away, but with the security of knowing they are genuinely missed during those absences. Telling your child you missed them immediately upon your return home is great, but it can often be lost in the flurry of the moment. Speak these words to your child when you aren't going anywhere and watch their face immediately brighten.

6. I believe in you.
We all need to have someone backing us through this thing called life. Our children are no different. So, we should be our children's number one cheerleader. If we want to help shape adults who will be capable of taking initiative and standing for things not popular but right then begin saying this now.
Every child has a destiny. They reach it either by overcoming your silence or by depending upon your encouragement.

7. You are a joy to me.
To bring joy to another is probably one of the most rewarding experiences in life. That warm feeling when someone laughs at your joke, appreciates your hard work on their behalf, or gains tangible relief from your efforts is amazing. Give it regularly to your loved ones. The gratitude expressed here goes far beyond a mere Thank You. It speaks of a depth of regard wholly pleasing to you.

8. Please share with me.
The only way this one will work is if you say it and then listen. Listen. Don't multitask chores. Listen. Don't interrupt with time saving suggestions for the story. Listen. And then ask questions about what you heard because listening is not the same thing as sitting next to them and thinking about other stuff. Let me be frank, this one is hard. The million stories, pictures, dreams and "jokes" our children want to share with us can seem inexhaustible. And I am not suggesting that we stop what we are doing every time our child demands our attention. On the contrary that promotes a level of selfishness entirely counterproductive to what most of us are working towards in our parenting efforts! But children need to have time and space to communicate on their level. Little minds work faster than little mouths. How terribly painful to try and share a thought that simply won't. get. out. only to be told to hurry up, stop mumbling or ignored. Make regular moments in your schedule to sit quietly and ask your child to share their heart. They will. And then you will not only know their heart but have it.

9. You are exceptional at...
Find what it is and give them praise. Speak often of the things they are gifted in so they begin to see their own ability through your eyes. Openly share of your regard for their talents to others while they are present. Embarrass them with your compliments. No one on earth will ever take the job of providing unconditional encouragement the way you can as their parent. More than a spouse, friend, boss or therapist you hold the power to esteem their abilities in ways that matter. We hold authority in our children's lives. They look up to us and naturally accept what we say as truth. When we boldly proclaim their strengths (even the strength to recognize a weakness) we secure in them a lifeline to the things that make them special in this world. 

10. I am sorry. Please forgive me.
I make mistakes. I mess up. I say things that are wrong. I demand humility from my children and call them to account when they do these things with me or with their siblings. I must be willing to show humility in return or I risk creating a bitter relationship with my adult children. There is nothing more powerful to a child than a parent who is willing to admit when they did it wrong. Kids inherently value justice and they easily recognize what is fair and what is not. Sometimes the lesson on fairness is that it isn't always fair. However, this is never the place for that lesson to be learned. I lose credibility and I hurt my children immensely when I am unwilling to seek their forgiveness. Contrary to the belief that we undermine our authority when we apologize the truth is that we clearly establish the pattern for mutual respect necessary for a healthy lifelong relationship. I don't want to just play at intimacy with my growing children. 

My prayer is that we all grow in seeing the privilege of parenting our gifts from God so that we can experience the satisfying joy of watching healthy, stable people enter into a lifetime of valuable contribution to this world.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hiding

I sometimes wish I could just curl down in my bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep away the responsibilities pressing at my door. It is good to know that this desire is so innate even babies warm to it.



Evangeline must be hiding from the overwhelming knowledge that today is going to hold feedings, poops and naps. It's a hard life.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sitting Trust

Our children were recently taught the game Trust. It is a pretty simple concept. One person stands behind another while they fall straight backward, like a board tipping over, and are finally caught under the arms just before they reach the floor. I don't think it takes a genius to figure out where the game gets its name.

This evening my middle children were entirely engrossed in playing Trust when Daddy decided to join the fun. Being much more reliable than their siblings, each child grew more and more bold in falling backwards. Finally Phoebe wanted a try.

Christopher explained to her that she needed to stand with her back towards him and fall. She watched a few more sisters take the plunge before deciding it was her turn. As she set herself up we all watched with anticipation. Christopher took her through the motions with verbal directions and then even worked a bit of the plan with pantomime. At last she was ready to take the plunge. Holding his hands just barely away from her body he counted down for her to fall.

She sat straight down and then laid herself flat on the ground between Christopher's legs.

She was tickled pink that she had survived the game!




Wednesday, October 10, 2012

But It Weren't

I have posted before about the adorable ways my smallish children confuse their words. The examples are endless from my life and I'm sure from yours. You don't even need to have children to appreciate the hilarity of communicating with an only slightly verbal mini human. In fact, whole television shows are devoted to the subject and constantly receive high reviews.

Of course our version always seem to be the most adorable... to me.

This morning Josiah was disciplined for screaming at his sister. When he was ready to reconcile he came to me and said:

Please forgive me for screaming when you have told me multiple, multiple times to don't. 

Yep. I did tell him multiple, multiple times to don't. I'm glad he understands.




Sunday, October 07, 2012

My Psalm

It is generally considered good advice to write publicly about things that you have already processed. You know, stuff over which you've already had emotional closure so that you can somewhat objectively share your heart. Perhaps it is also a safety precaution so when other people respond to you in ways that might be hurtful you aren't quite so tender. Yep, it is definitely a good idea to wait before spilling your guts.


But I don't have that luxury right now.

I am hurting. My pain might not be what you think it is, and come to think of it, it doesn't really matter. It could be a difficult marriage or a troubled teenager. Perhaps it is a medical concern or a loved one's diagnosis. Perhaps it is the same thing that brings tears to your eyes. In fact, let's pretend it is, because what I have to say applies just as much to you as it does to me.

We need help! I need help!

I don't know how to keep on keeping on. I feel hopeless. Lost. And not a little scared. What if this isn't a season? What if this doesn't do the, "and this too shall pass" thing that everyone likes to say in that breezy, overly confident manner we use when someone else's pain hits just a little too close to home? How do I escape the sense that I'm being swallowed by a numbness that I can't even define?

I want to speak a word to myself. I need to hear this. I need you to listen for me, too. I need this to be loud and public because I'm afraid that if I just let it ruminate in the back of my mind it might start to sound fake, cheap and shallow. But it can't. It must ring with authenticity, hope and a truth so solid that nothing in me can contradict it.

His [Jesus Christ] grace is sufficient. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. He loves me. And He IS my savior.

He saves me from my pain, my fatigue, my fear of failure. He saves me from my brokenness, my sin and my ego. He saves me from my maladies, my idiosyncrasies, my hypocrisy. He saves me from the ridicule of others, the criticism of my enemies, the naive assumptions made about me and my family. He saves me from a life lived in futility, a life filled with the uncertainty that there is a good God and He really does save sinners. 

He saves me from myself. 

I need saving. I need it right now. I need to be reminded that when I mess up I don't lose it all. I need a gentle touch, but perhaps I don't and He is willing to bring me to humility because He really does have my best interest at heart. He knows. He understands. He walks this path with me and sees the hurt, the thing eating at me, the thing eating at you.

Jesus Christ. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. The Author of Life, Redeemer of the Lost, Savior to the World. The great I Am.

He. Is. My. God. And He will raise me up like an eagle soaring into the heavens. He will deliver me from my affliction. He will testify to my salvation. He will anoint my head with the oil of gladness. He will call my name, and He will come running when I see Him from afar. 

He is faithful. And He will do it.


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Gibberish in Idaho

My husband is leaving for a joy-ride to Idaho in just a couple of days. My children have caught the excitement in the air, and are playing that all-famous game, Idaho.

Yeah, I know. You loved it as a kid, too.

Today, Leah was leading a rousing rendition of Idaho when she called out from the playset, "Vamos y capore tunishia!" Phoebe excitedly followed suit, waving her hand frantically from the sky bridge and shouting, "Yunishia vamoshy gotoreshy!"

Obviously Josiah was somewhat dumbfounded by what his next move in Idaho was to be. Thankfully Leah provided a translation. "I just said hello and welcome to our boat to Idaho. I also told you I would not forsake you. That means I won't hurt you."

I'm glad she clarified. Phoebe just kept waving.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

High-Low #263b

So, apparently it is necessary to give some background information in order for a punch line to carry the joke.

My apologies.

Let me try to explain our last High-Low Game. Bethany has quite a habit of waking her siblings in ways less than... appreciated. "Make a joyful noise," comes quickly to mind. She has even been known to jump on Hannah, Leah and Mary in an attempt to share her love for everything early.

This is not entirely understood by her sisters. In fact, I think there may be times when they downright resent Bethany's presentation of dawn each day. I've heard the murmurings. Several of them have been working on a plan to exact revenge.

And then Mary made her move.

A couple mornings ago Mary thrilled with the realization that she was up before her early bird sister. She rubbed her hands in glee when I announced that I wished her to awaken her sisters. With a twinkle in her eye she bounded down the hall already finding great hilarity imagining the reaction of Bethany to a good dose of her own medicine. She burst into their room, began singing "Rise and Shine and Give God the Glory, Glory" (Bethany's favorite Battle Hymn Of Awakefulness when playing this game herself) and flew through the air landing on Bethany's bum.

Bethany's response was somewhat... anticlimactic. Well, to be entirely frank she responded with the tact of a wet cat. Shrieking at Mary for so rudely waking her put an abrupt halt to Mary's imagined glee at gaining the upper hand on her prankster sister.

Perhaps now Mary's response to High-Low makes better sense:


Low: Bethany's response to me jumping on her this morning to wake her up.

High: Jumping on Bethany this morning to wake her up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

High-Low #263

We play a game in our house called High-Low. Several people had great choices but Mary, who happened to go last, took the cake by a long shot!

Low: Bethany's response to me jumping on her this morning to wake her up. (It wasn't pretty)

High: Jumping on Bethany this morning to wake her up.




Thursday, September 06, 2012

Well, It's True!

We have a section of highway close to our home called the cutoff. This little nickname is supposed to inspire confidence in you because it "cuts off" time from your journey when traversing our peninsula. What isn't readily expressed in the name is the twisting, winding, vortex of terror that is the road. Add to it the sheer drop off around every bend and you can imagine my children's delight when we must drive on it. Every one of my older seven little people have begged for mercy at one point or another.

Tuesday night was Phoebe's turn.

From the time we were half through the cutoff until we were 10 minutes on the other side of it my precocious 3-year old gave our entire family this running commentary:

That was a scary, dark, twisty road. That was so scary. It was dark and a twisty road. Yep, that road was dark and it scared me. It was twisted and dark. It was scary because it was dark. I was scared of that twisty road. It was too dark.

I finally interrupted her soliloquy and sagely turned her mind to scripture.

Phoebe, the bible tells us to think about things that are lovely, excellent and worthy to be praised. We should think about those things that are pure and honorable and true above all else. I'd like you to think about Jesus. What can you tell me about him?

Oh, Jesus! He died on a cross on a day that was dark and scary.

Our entire van erupted into laughter and Phoebe responded with complete innocence and clarity.

Well, it's true!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Freezer Meals (part 1)

I am adding "part 1" to this title in the hopes that it will motivate me to actually create useable freezer meals for my family and thereby necessitate a Freezer Meals (part 2). I know there are a million and one blogs, websites, books and facebook posts that espouse the wonders of make-ahead freezer meals for pennies on the dollar. I have even read at least a zillion of each. The problem is that they rely heavily on 3 things:

casseroles with several ingredients
tomato based sauces
dairy

All of these are mighty no-nos in my house. We have multiple dairy allergies, and possibly a nursing baby that is going for gold in dairy sensitivity. Also, I'm completely against cooked, stewed, juiced or souped tomatoes. I love fresh tomatoes in all varieties, but once they are processed I actually gag on just the smell. That means I can't make:

lasagna
spaghetti sauce
sloppy joes

OR

cream of soup anything
cheesy anything

I hope you can appreciate my quandary. Lesser women would swoon at the prospect of creating an entire frozen meal plan using only duck tape and dried lentils, but I am here to take the challenge. Of course I must also add the other allergens known within my family. So I'll be skipping egg based dishes, recipes that include carrots and peas, or entrees that rely heavily upon potatoes. Also on the chopping block (pun fully intended) are peanuts, sesame seeds, tree nuts and apples. Ah yes, I'm remembering why I don't bake casseroles... because I can't use beef, any byproduct of dairy and oats are a big no-no.

However, I'm not letting this get me down! After all, duck tape is extremely versatile and it even comes in different colors.




Friday, August 17, 2012

Our Daughters' Cesareans

I warn you now, the following is not simply an opinion, but my treatise on cesarean birth and why I believe we need to address its prevalence in our country. 


More and more I find myself running into women who birth their children through cesarean. And, quite honestly, I am alarmed. Ironically, I myself am a cesarean birth momma. Of my eight children only my first child was born naturally. To say I know a little something about c-sections would be an understatement. I have "enjoyed" the experience after laboring for 30+ hours; while hemorrhaging (to death); uncomplicated schedule; unexpected labor with complications due to adhesions; scheduled with complications after delivery. Yep, I'm a potpourri of cesarean possibilities. I am also a staunch supporter for natural birth. But nothing compares to my passion for advocating informed cesarean.


Nothing.

Without launching into an armed assault on the medical community at large, I believe the best thing to do is educate women (and men) on what they need to know to avoid cesarean in the first place. However, as my own experience testifies, c-sections can have their place. Recognizing that fact, I also believe that it is paramount for women (again, and men) to have a workable delivery plan that keeps them, their baby, and their future reproductive health in top working order. By managing the physical aspects with a clear view for what will support and protect the mother, as opposed to easing the amount of work required by the doctor, we can simultaneously gain two benefits: the mother's physical health and her emotional health. To separate the two is to do a grave disservice to mothers and their babies. Especially their daughters.

I want to begin by explaining why I include men in the equation for informed cesarean. Our society has finally begun to embrace the possibility of natural childbirth as a uniquely non-medical reality for most women. Removing the unnecessary burden of hospital birth - and by that I mean not only the location but the entire process where a woman is placed on a conveyor belt and passed under medical oversight fraught with interventions that usually lead to increased complications-  is so empowering to a woman and the initiation of her role as a mother. But women are not the only ones whose lives are forever altered at the delivery of a child. Once upon a time fathers were seen as an impediment into what many believed should be a fully female experience. Over time that has given way to an acceptance, if not a complete embracing, of the father's role in birth. After all, he played a part in getting the baby in so it stands to reason he has a role in getting the baby out. Today most couples opt for the father to play a vital role in the coaching and support of a mother during labor and delivery. That is great and as it should be! However, on any given day that same couple who planned to participate together in the birth of their child finds themselves facing circa 1940's policies on the role of a father in cesarean. To stretch people beyond that status quo requires perseverance to think outside the box and an invitation for others to join the visionary ride. It will not come from the hospital administrators, the doctors or even the nurses. This will never be different until the soon-to-be mothers and fathers join together as a voice for change.

Informed cesarean begins with recognizing that no one is more responsible for your health than you. This means you can't leave the decisions to the "experts." It is their job to educate you. It is their job to counsel you. It is their job to recommend a course of action for you. But after all of this you must remember that it is not their job to live your life. Only your body will gain the benefit of the treatment. You alone will experience the complications inherent in any surgery. We must stop offering up our bodies on the alter of medical convenience and then assuage any sense of personal responsibility by ignoring the facts, deadening our ears to the evidence and turning a blind eye to the results. We must stop believing that uncomplicated vaginal birth is something that just happens for some women and simply doesn't happen for others.

That is a lie.

For instance, if a hospital's rate of cesarean is roughly 50% of its laboring patients then you can be pretty sure that 1 in every 2 women will just happen to have one. However, if another hospital's rate of cesarean is 20% then you can assume with accuracy that only 1 in every 5 women will end up with one. Hmm... it almost sounds like one of the first indicators as to whether you will have a cesarean is directly related to the statistics for cesarean birth among laboring women at any given facility. Other factors that have absolutely nothing to do with a woman's body, her baby's purported size or position, or even the phase of the moon when she last ate ice cream are whether she has a realistic birth plan and a labor coach who is trained to help her facilitate it.

I'd like to say that again: Every pregnant woman should have a realistic birth plan and a labor coach who is trained to help her facilitate it. 

I translate "trained labor coach" to a doula or midwife. I adore my husband. He has been a support at every one of my eight deliveries. I would never wish him to be in some far off waiting room preparing to hear the news of the delivery of his child from some nurse. However, he is not a trained professional. And he is not prepared to deal with the political intricacies of L&D where is wife is concerned. His emotional connection to me and our child render him incapable of objective thought. This means when the doctor tells us that I must have a cesarean because I certainly have cephalopelvic disproportion (even though I birthed my first child vaginally) and any attempt at a natural labor will result in a ruptured uterus with certain death awaiting either me or our child, my husband sees the color of loss. And the very true story of this theoretical situation almost always ends in an unnecessary cesarean, as did for me. Doulas and midwives are armed with the ability to enter into rational conversations with these subjects and truly assess whether the aforementioned diagnosis is based on actual presenting symptoms or are the machinations of a doctor with dollar signs in his eyes. Trust me, the thought is horrid but all too real.

Now, you have the facility and the help so all that's left is the mental wherewithal. Here is where childbirth classes and education become important. Know your stuff. What are valid reasons for cesarean? What general things can you expect during labor? For instance, deceleration of a baby's heartbeat during contractions is not, by itself, a reason for an automatic c-section. Most babies' hearts decelerate during the stress and pressure of a contraction. That isn't to say it might not be a sign of other concerns which may require cesarean. It is to say you should know what other signs to look for so that you aren't isolating symptoms and taking them out of context.

This may seem overwhelming, but education is work. Responsibility is work. Much of the reason we are in the medical pickle we now find ourselves, with malpractice skyrocketing and facilities shying away from anything not absolutely text-book, is because patients like you and me have reneged on our part of the deal until it was too late. 

But what if, even with all the right knowledge, the right support and the right facility you still find yourself facing a cesarean delivery? It's okay! Thankfully we live in a country where maternal morbidity is extremely low due in large part to sound medical advancements. There were quite literally two c-sections that saved my life. I am grateful the option exists! But it has taken years of reading and questioning to come to a place where my planned cesareans are not devoid of personal attention and joy. Asking the anesthesiologist to allow my husband to accompany me into the surgery room for the administration of my spinal, requiring my repair to be done using techniques that may take longer but are statistically shown to carry vastly higher rates of success in overall uterine health, and clearly articulating my birth plan with gentle authority are all ways that I establish my presence as someone who is ready to participate fully in her own medical care. They speak volumes to health care professionals. And they begin the discussion about why hospitals and doctors automatically assume cesarean procedures must look as they do.

Cesarean delivery is still birth! I do not somehow experience a lesser form of birth because I am lying on an operating table under a surgeon's scalpel rather than sitting in a birthing pool in the middle of my living room. I too distinctly remember the moment every one of my children was announced to the world (except Leah... but that's a whole different story). I remember hearing the beautiful sounds of each baby lustily crying out their signal of life. And then I remember the pain of separation. I remember the hours of loneliness knowing that my brand new daughter, my tiny son, was now outside of my body and entirely outside of my reach. We pass it off, as if those few hours spent in recovery aren't important. After all, we say, we have years with our babies so what are a couple of moments? This mindset continues to perpetuate what I like to call medical amnesia. Our humanity is temporarily forgotten.

Until we face together the unnecessary use of cesarean and call it what it is - harmful, invasive and unnatural - we will continue to be bound to medical amnesia. When women (and men) begin to actively pursue responsibility for their care rather than pass the baton to the "experts" we will see genuine improvements in how cesarean is managed both physically and emotionally. And as we dialogue with one another about our expectations and our realistic goals I believe we can make a real difference for our own care. But more importantly, I believe we can make a real difference for our daughters' care.

(a few of my own cesarean births)

 Caleb

 Josiah

Phoebe

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Order of the Universe

The earth spins on its axis once every 24 hours.

Toilet bowl water turns counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere.

Matter always expands.

And Evangeline is Phoebe's baby.




Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Back To School

Our area is going back to school in the morning. Christopher took our children on an outing to Target this evening and found it brimming with parents and kids readying themselves for a new adventure tomorrow. 

Batman Binders. Pointy pencils. Barbie backpacks. Clean clothes. 

The stuff all 8 year olds dream about in the final hours of summer. Well, all 8 year olds except mine.

I mentioned that Christopher was at Target this evening, but it wasn't to stock up on lined paper and erasers. He just happened to pick tonight as a Daddy Date with six of his kiddos. While I watch the feed on my facebook bustle with excitement over teacher assignments, kindergarten apprehensions and bedtime rituals our family is purring along softly, contentedly and most definitely not anticipating anything extraordinary occurring on the morrow. Well, that isn't entirely true. Perhaps Evangeline will sleep through the night and my kids will awaken to a mama who is bright eyed and bushy tailed as opposed to the sleep-depraved - err deprived - animal I have become. But that's another story for another blog.

No, there ins't anything exceptional about our August 8th because we homeschool. That means school never really starts because, honestly, it just never really ends. Sure, we start new curriculum. But it eases into our lives like melting butter. Our year is organized around weather, social activities and vacations that make use of off-season dates. We are just as likely to be hitting books during a mid-quarter break for the public schools as we are to be enjoying the sunshine in the middle of the week in September. Yep, we take it easy.

I like this way of life. I like the way it feels - the way it fits. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes from owning every part of my family's schedule. I especially appreciate the gentle hum of daily activities going uninterrupted even though someone somewhere decided the beginning of August was a fine time to start school. I mean really... August?

I love the reminder that Back To School gives me. It reminds me that I am not missing out on any of my children's milestones. I am not sharing my children's attention or affection during those early years when their minds are so easily molded. I don't combat playground bullying, teacher incompatibility or conflicting schedules. I get the immense pleasure of teaching my children. I am the one rewarded with their incredible gift for learning. 

Homeschooling may not be for everyone, but it is definitely for this mama and her family. So, tomorrow when my neighbors and friends hustle their bleary-eyed children off to school I will be tucked in my pajamas, nursing Evangeline, and listening to the soft breathing of 7 sleeping children. We will get up when it suits us. We might watch some Olympics during our breakfast. Play clothes will be donned in time for some afternoon sunshine in the backyard. Perhaps we'll read a new book from the library. Perhaps we'll read two. I don't really know. I'll just wait for August 8th to see what it brings. 


Friday, July 27, 2012

Communication

Phoebe has a way of expressing herself. Mostly it uses loud vocalizations punctuated with demands. If she weren't so cute it would be altogether intolerable. Occasionally she reaches the even exaggeratedly lenient point of breaking for her daddy. However, she has a nearly extra-sensory ability to recognize the warning signs and pull off a coup d'état. Her most recent exploit is quickly turning legendary.

Christopher needed some Phoebe love and was trying to get her to oblige him when she turned to him, entirely without guise, and said, "Pop queezing my shurtle!"

For those not in the know it translates, "Stop squeezing my shoulder." It not only succeeded in ending the offensive attentions of her beloved father, but caused us to both erupt in a flood of laughter as she stood neatly facing us. 

Once again her demands were entirely met.




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Evangeline Hope

Evangeline.

Her name comes from the Greek word euang√©lion and means good news. Literally it is the good news - the gospel of Jesus Christ. But her name has a sweetness beyond its connection with our Savior. It reminds us that something beyond the harrowing ups and downs of these momentary circumstances waits for us. And it encourages us that even when times are dark, there is encouragement. There is hope.

How apropos that her middle name should then be Hope. Yes, we chose a name for our sixth daughter that would always conjure the blessing of that silver lining to the dark storm clouds. We had her name picked before we met her. However, upon seeing her it is obvious that God knew her name as well because she is absolute perfection bundled into the sweetest 7 pound package you can image. 


Breathing her in draws you to a wonderful place that speaks of peace.


I love her.




Evangeline Hope
July 6, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life

We are counting down the days until we have our only child: 9 to be exact. We are super excited! I remember praying for the blessing of this pregnancy long before I ever took a positive test. The possibility of a child was such a joy. Now, as I work to wait patiently for these final moments to come to a close, I find myself daydreaming about the sweetness I will hold in just a matter of days. This is all new to me.

You may wonder at my sanity if you read my above paragraph and happen to know that this is my eighth child. The two appear to be diametrically opposed. But they aren't. And the perception that mothers with larger families cease to view their children as individuals and instead begin to morph them into the Borg is one I run into often. The enthusiasm used for welcoming the first born is replaced with a nonchalant acceptance - sometimes only a tolerance - for additional children. It saddens me. And it makes me wonder at our culture.

Now, there are obviously certain things that hold true for a mom of many. I don't worry about every twinge and flutter throughout gestation. I am fairly level-headed about what needs to be set up for the baby's arrival and what doesn't. I don't follow a daily "here is what's happening to your baby today" book or blog. However, just because the enjoyment of pregnancy is mellowed by experience doesn't mean the anticipation of an entirely unique human being entering our world as my child holds any less thrill because this isn't my first time giving birth.

I don't think God ever designed welcoming children into our lives to become something... ordinary.

Think about so many of the other amazing things we get to participate in time after time, but which never grow old. How many poems are written about sunrises, seasons, friendships, love? Why do we still stop and gape, open mouthed, when an act of kindness really expresses sacrificial concern? Have we never before seen these things? Hardly. But their reminder that we have a Savior who is beautiful, tender, giving and full of hope simply overwhelms us in the moment. We enter the experience as if for the first time - relishing in the swell of our hearts. In fact, this repetition of "first time experiences" is so important to us that we actually grieve for people, or ourselves, when bitterness steals the joy of this unique privilege. The hardened, contrary person who constantly belittles the beauty of a fresh encounter with hope earns our pity. And rightfully so.

Newness of life is something we are meant to wonder at time and time again. Whether it is the budding of spring blossoms while snow still covers the ground or the quiet dawning of a day filled with promise we are designed to be amazed by the never-ending offer of life given by our Creator. What could possibly encompass a greater opportunity to see hope set itself against the hardness and coldness so often seen in our world than the beginning of life?

John 10:10 ~ The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.



Monday, June 25, 2012

Leah's Gift

Leah has several gifts. She can make her daddy laugh faster than anyone in our family. She speaks her mind in such an utterly disarming way that no matter what she says you can't help but smile. However, she revealed her most special gift just a few days ago.

Bethany was away for a week at the camp she attends each summer. One of the things the campers are allowed to do is use a bow and shoot arrows for archery class. This happens only once during the entire week. To say Bethany was excited about the opportunity to practice archery would be an understatement.

On Friday, Bethany's last day at camp, Leah was sitting at our dining room table during lunch and staring out the window. Suddenly she said, rather prophetically, "I can tell by the way the sky looks that Bethany is doing archery right now."

Hannah laughed and questioned, "Leah, how can you tell what Bethany is doing at camp by the way the sky looks here? The sky looks like this all the time."

Leah chuckled at this delightfully innocent question. Then she answered with only a tinge of condescension, "Because, this is what the sky looks like when she does archery."




Friday, June 15, 2012

Sage Counsel

Caleb and I were listen to the radio station on our way to an appointment when a contest was announced for a Father's Day tribute. Contestants needed to call in and offer their father's best/most memorable words of advice in order to be entered into the grand prize. Caleb didn't quite understand the game so I reexplained the basic concept.

Oh! I see. I wish I could do that for Daddy. I already know what I would say.

What would you say?

I would tell them that Daddy's best piece of advice he has ever given me is, "Don't hurt yourself." Because I like to do crazy things and when I tell him about my ideas that's what he says to me. And it's pretty good advice.




Thursday, June 14, 2012

Garage Sale Find!

I can't count how many times I've noticed some darling pair of shoes, beautiful piece of furniture, or stunning vase only to be told by the owner that they bought it at a garage sale for a steal.

Thanks.

You see, I don't ever find those treasures. I'm the one that goes to garage sales where they're only selling 8-tracks of Crystal Gayle and soiled baby's bibs for 25cents each. The irony of this most magical power to identify the world's worst garage sales is that my family knows how to put on the All-American-Yard-Sale to beat anyone. Don't laugh. I'm serious. My mom, a retired general manager for her parents' successful gift store, reaches into the depths of her vast retail experience and actually merchandises her inventory. She has stations manned for questions. There are cashiers who know how to count back change. She will even pull out paper for wrapping those most precious breakables and bags to tote the junk to your car. You can't understate the scale of her garage sales. Where most people get excited at pulling in $300 over a weekend she easily walks away with nearly a grand. It's kind of scary.

Now magnify this picture by a thousand, add my aunt (a professional decorator and sales woman in her own rite) and you may begin to imagine the liquidation of my grandparent's home this past weekend. They called it an "Estate Sale." It was nothing short of organized extortion. People coming simply didn't have a chance. Before they even entered the front door they were greeted with no less than four volunteer staff all waiting to serve, answer questions, or schlepp out those large purchases with dollies. The garage was conspicuously closed, but no worries - an email sign-up was provided for the convenience of potential buyers interested in coming back to view the good of a finalist in the "He Who Has The Most Tools Wins" contest. Multiple couches, appliances in good working order, desks and small household goods all stood ready for purchase prior to even passing the threshold. What these visitors encountered next was dumbfounding.

Every inch of my grandparents' nearly 2000 square foot home, along with the granny unit and quarter acre backyard, were packed with items covering just about every known interest in Christendom. Each room was themed giving browsers an opportunity to peruse anything from antique china and cut crystal to meticulously handcrafted lace and fine linens. The odds and ends were out too with no less than six televisions, some 32 spatulas, ginormous speakers that would have put Ike Turner's home recording studio to shame, and 4327 individual matchbooks - a lifetime's collection. There was a sales associate in every room providing gracious help or, if necessary, bouncer back-up in case someone tried to escape without actually buying anything. We even had runners who would gladly begin a tab for you at the check-out by whisking your selected items from your arms thereby freeing you for more shopping.

But what really put the cap on this amazing event were the items themselves. I mean, anyone can have a lot of junk. It isn't necessarily compelling to walk into a house filled with commemorative Happy Days memorabilia. As much as we all loved the Fonz his silkscreened face on a thousand porcelain objects does not necessarily loosen the purse strings. And if it does then you need to be spending your money on help not another miniature Cunningham portrait shellacked onto a trivet.

But I digress. Back to the stuff.

You know those shows where people bring in the really old junk they bought at someone's garage sale and a professional assess it and tells you that it comes from the Chinese Ming Dynasty and is worth 7.3 gazillion dollars even though you haggled the poor schmo so he would come down from $5 to $3.75? I'm not saying anyone haggled me down that much, but I won't be surprised when one of those episodes proudly displays a random antique apothecary jar, which William Shakespeare used for inspiration when writing his famous Romeo and Juliet, that sat on my grandparent's bar for no less than 27 years.

If you disbelieve me just take a gander at the following photo:


This is a travel belt used before the days of fanny-packs (or by those still somewhat concerned about how they look while huffing to the top of Mt. Everest). You could tuck a small amount of cash into an inside pocket and then zip it up before resting it snug against your pants. No one was stealing your money. Also, you weren't accessing it without risking a public nudity fine so in effect this ingenious contraption protected money from robbers and from spendthrifts. My aunt priced this leather gem at $5, but realized that it wasn't competitive in the free market. Wisely, she chose to mark it down to $1.50. While she was changing the tag she noticed that the zipper was stuck. Not wanting to be caught selling damaged goods, Gail worked to get the zipper open (even getting help when it became too stubborn for her because one simply can't let a one dollar and fifty cents used leather belt sell with a stuck zipper). What unfurled from that tiny space was a crisply folded $100 dollar bill. 

Seriously?

Admittedly I wasn't shocked. After all, these are my grandparents. I just wish some of the Hyler eccentricities of money management had rubbed off on me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Father's Day Hero

The third Sunday in every June is set apart to commemorate fathers. It began humbly in 1910 by a woman wishing to honor the role her Civil War veteran father played in single-handedly raising his six children after she listened to a May sermon extolling the virtues of mothers. Sonoroa Dodd wanted the celebration to be on June 5, her father's birthday, but her pastor didn't believe there was enough time to adequately prepare a sermon and participation from the community on such short notice. It was decided to move the celebration to the third Sunday of June, where it more or less stayed until 1972 when it was finally instituted into law by President Richard Nixon. You may wonder at the need for 62 years of deliberation between the inception of Father's Day (rightly spelled Fathers' Day as a plural possessive, but inadvertently misspelled as Father's Day in the original 1913 bill presented to Congress and never changed) and its final status of legal holiday. The primary push-back for officially acknowledging men in their parental roles was a fear of commercialization. Much of the country believed the holiday was just another way to give men's clothier and snuff shops an excuse to drive up sales. While it has become a "second Christmas" for many specialized men's retailers, I think most of us recognize the far greater weight of taking a moment to see the value in men who dedicate their hearts to loving the next generation. These are remarkable people, indeed.

Fathers come in many shapes and sizes - men who have filled the role of mentor in our life. Grandfathers, uncles, pastors, teachers, employers and friends (along with dads) often provide a network of support that could all rightly be seen as the role of father fulfilled. But I strongly believe we are made to connect with one special man who ideally encompasses unconditional love, discipleship and influence. I want to take a moment, on the eve of this special day, to commemorate my Father's Day hero.

Christopher.

It may at first appear a little strange that I see my own husband in this role. He isn't substantially older than me. Doesn't play a paternal role in my own life. Never condescends to me. But what he has given me is a picture of fatherhood through his relationship with our children that simply overwhelms me with gratitude! Christopher is the most amazing daddy. Because my own view of parenting was uniquely shaped by a single mom I didn't really understand the intricacies of having a man present in the upbringing of children. My mom worked hard, provided, nursed, supported, guided, disciplined, sacrificed, loved and for better or worse did it herself. I had no intentions of being a single mother (neither did she!). But being married to my children's father and actually parenting as a complimentary team are two very different things. From the beginning men bring a unique and passionate experience to the proverbial table. For instance, studies show that men tend to hold their infants and babies against their chests facing outward while women hold these children facing inward. I trust you can see the larger picture of fathering exemplified in this simple act. Father's engage their children with the world, teaching them how to view themselves as part of a larger entity that doesn't revolve around them. When the parenting team is able to work collaboratively it naturally follows that mothers create a nest of safety, fathers create a vision for exploration.

I came to appreciate these differences as baby after baby arrived, and obviously needed us both. But what surprised me even more than my children's evident need for a father was how strong my own reaction was to watching a daddy in action. Christopher has shown me, through his amazing love towards his children, about the amazing love I have in my Heavenly Father. Seeing his leadership, and deep concern for the welfare of every son and daughter, has grown in me my own trust for God's sovereign plan even when I don't understand it. And the sacrifices he makes to be present, involved and emotionally attached to every little person bearing his name reminds me that Jesus Christ invites me into a personal relationship with him on a daily basis. I have experienced a great deal of healing through seeing the joy in my own children as they grow up under the protection of a man who not only pays the bills but invests in the lives of his beloved.

The time is approaching for us to bring home another little person. I'm excited about the ways I will again watch my strong, capable husband tenderly care for the needs of a newborn. But really, I'm excited every day as I watch him listen to our 13 year old daughter digest adult truths for the first time. I am humbled by his interactions with our 11 year old daughter who needs copious amounts of physical affection. It is wonderful to see him share dreams with our 9 year old son. He makes me chuckle every time he chases our 7 year old daughter, reminding her that he will embarrass her on purpose. I sometimes blink back tears when I see him light up at the sight of our 6 year old daughter racing into his arms after a long day at work. He genuinely loves coming home. It is encouraging to watch him set aside his evening's plan in order to read another Dr. Seuss book to our 4 year old son. And I am reminded of the importance to always keep first things first when he plays "copy cat" with our 3 year old daughter, standing on his chair at the dinner table making our entire family roar with laughter.

He bent over my belly just a moment ago to whisper sweet words of love to his teeniest "buhbee."

I love this daddy.





Wednesday, June 06, 2012

20% More

It used to be the unmatched ratio between packaged hot dogs and hot dog buns. Then it became water bottle and thermos sizes too large for vehicle cup holders. But I am now happy to report that there is a new pet peeve in town.

20% more toilet paper on the roll.

First of all, I have no idea why our culture is so obsessed with everything being bigger. If it worked when it was size x it will work better at size x + 5%... 10%... 20%... In case you question my point you may use the example of Starbuck's Trenta Frappuccino. It is 31 ounces, averages 800 calories, and is roughly the size of the human stomach. Seriously, we need to purchase a frozen whipped drink that can fill an empty stomach and provide over 1/3 of the average adult's caloric needs in one fell swoop? (My husband just asked if he could order a Trenta espresso. I won't comment.)

But I digress - toilet paper rolls.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find toilet paper rolled into sizes that actually FIT my toilet paper holder. Do manufacturer's not realize that the standard clearance of nearly all wall mount holders (and I won't even address recess mounted holders) do not provide enough space for one of these newer behemoths? I get the extraordinary pleasure of breaking off one square of toilet paper at a time for the first few days of use because the roll won't turn freely until it is roughly 20% smaller. Apparently it saves me  from the horribly inconvenient act of replacing the toilet paper roll - something tantamount to WWIII - for another 37.2 hours. Those are marketable statistics.

I can't decide how best to handle this new gem. Out of a maniacal desire to simply protest I briefly entertained the idea of installing one of those dispensers that doles out toilet paper in single, pre folded sheets. Then I thought I struck gold with the idea of buying a commercial dispenser that uses a roll roughly the size of my car's tire. This would be perfect! I could even lock the thing so only licensed employees of the Randall Corporation were allowed access to change the roll. This would ensure the correct over/under position of each replacement roll for generations to come.

Until they make the roll 20% larger and it stops fitting in the dispenser.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Of Course

We ate hamburgers and chips for dinner tonight. Daddy gave the kids a special treat with Cheetos. I'm not entirely sure of the chemical makeup for the orange powder used to dust Cheetos, but I'm fairly convinced it has almost nothing to do with cheese. It does, however, have the irksome tendency to stick on all substances - fingers especially.

Leah decided this was not entirely acceptable. I'm not really sure why since she thinks nothing of any other foreign material sticking to exposed or even hidden surfaces of her body.

I glanced over at her during the end of our meal and saw her cupping an open napkin in her left hand while placing her horde of Cheetos into it with her right hand. After every single Cheetos neatly placed in the napkin she would wipe her right hand... onto her pants.

"Leah!"

"Huh?"

"What are you doing?" 

Blank stare.

"Am I seeing that you are taking your Cheetos off your plate and putting them into a napkin, and then using your pants to wipe off your fingers?"

"Um... well, they are getting dirty."

"Why didn't you just leave them on your plate, using your fingers to pick them up from the plate to eat, and then wiping them off on your napkin after each bite? You are just going to get your fingers dirty eating them out of the napkin."

"No I won't."

"Oh, are you planning on shoving the entire handful into your face?"

"No," she calmly replied. "I was going to use this." She proceeded to show me a small corner of the napkin that she had already torn off before beginning this adventure. She picked it up and demonstrated how she planned to hold it between her thumb and forefinger, like a mini potholder, to delicately hold each Cheetos. 

Of course.






.