Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter nostalgia

Some Moms do the Christmas Eve photo in front of the Christmas tree with all the kids in their Christmas pajamas. I'm not one of those Moms. In fact, despite that I really enjoy taking photos, it's rare that ask my own children to sit and take a photo all together. And getting myself in the picture is even more rare.

For whatever reason, Easter is the one time a year I hand off the camera and force beg coerce bribe my kids (and husband) into taking a yearly family photo. It rarely ends well (and by well, I mean that we are all perfectly posed and I've not issued threats or made unreasonable promises), but it always makes me laugh. At least, afterwards. Many years afterwards.

It also appears to be the one thing that Lucas hates most on the earth. Olivia, on the other hand, has always rocked the Easter photo. I'm guessing it's her favorite holiday, ever. Besides her birthday and Christmas and whatever holiday is exactly next.

Easter 2010 can be found here on my blog. It's hilarious. But for comparisons purposes, here's a quick picture.
That would be itty bitty Ella on my lap next to Olivia. Goodness
Easter 2011 was apparently not blogged about and this is probably why:


The best one we got that year features our dog's back. Again, LUCAS. He's probably mad because he's wearing the exact same sweater vest that he wore the previous year. Fashion is clearly his thing. Or not. Seeing as how he's worn the same pair of jorts for the last week.

Easter 2012 things seemed to go a big more smoothly.

That's teeny, tiny Abigail on my lap.

You know, except for Lucas. At least Olivia is rocking it out. And Aaron. Clearly they were being bribed with excessive amounts of candy. Momma had a newborn. Momma was tired.

Easter 2013 apparently did not exist because I have no photographic documentation of it. Not even looking back through all the pics from my phone. So weird.

Which brings us to this year. Easter 2014. I knew I wanted a pic of all of us. My parents, my two grandmas and all the kids. Please note Lucas' over sarcastic smile because it took several photos of him not doing pointy, happy fingers at the camera, or throwing up some sort of gang symbol or staring off into the yard in the opposite direction.


23 photos later, grandparent photo: check. I mean, one kid out of 8 isn't looking but LOOK AT ABIGAIL. The cute. I can't even handle it.

And then, I politely asked Abigail to remove herself from my Mom's lap and sit with me for a nice family photo. She also loved that idea. Or not.



Okay, Abs, please just stop before you upset your baby sister.



Well, at least Lucas is happy for once.

I hope your Easter was a scream.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hold fast

Those were the words she said the Lord revealed to her as she prayed over what to share with us for the weekend. Hold fast.

And tonight, almost 3 years later, that weekend and those words were the ones that came immediately to mind when a dear friend told me to keep holding on.

It’s been a hard 2 years. Death, loss, grief, dreams that have seemed to dissipate, financial stress, adding a baby to our already crazy house, moving, it’s been an exhausting 2 years. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally it has consumed me in all of those areas. There are days where there is very little left of the old me at all.

But I clung to the side of the mountain. The mountain that seemed to shake beneath me as the world I knew came crumbling down. Yes, over the loss of a girl but also the loss of our dreams. The loss of what we envisioned for our family and for our children. But I clung, though not well at times, because I knew of nothing else to do. My fingernails were bloody and hurting. My feet ever feeling for a ledge to find my footing. Somehow, over time, a ledge appeared. I’m not sure if it was provided for me or if my constant slipping made a rut so that a ledge had been formed. But I found one, either way. I gathered myself, decided it was time to begin climbing again, and I looked up just in time to see the mountain above me begin to crumble again.

Deceit. Deceit that has shaken me to my core. By people I’ve trusted, admired and held in high esteem my entire life. The breath of the enemy is hot on my neck and I cling, once again to the side of the cliff.

And tonight as I sat and shared with a dear friend the depths of the pain, she told me, “just hold on.”

“You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him and by his name you shall swear.” Deuteronomy 10:20 [emphasis mine]

Oh, I’ll swear all right. Don’t you worry.

Random dropping of swear words because, it just feels good dammit. Check. Check. Checkity, effing check.

“I almost fell off, you know?” I told her. “I was so close.”

“I know. But you didn’t. You held on. Just keep holding on." HOLD ON.

Beth Moore said that same thing to an arena full of women, eager to hear her speak. Some of the girls from my Bible study attended with me and that was her message, the one she said God gave her to speak over our specific group 3 years ago. Hold fast.

I’ll be honest. At the time it didn’t mean a lot to me, I mean, other than the obvious.

Heh. Sure. I can hold fast. Hold fast for what?

But on the drive home tonight it was those words that came screaming back into my brain. HOLD FAST JESSICA. Just hold fast. Help is on the way.

Help? What help? What’s taking so freaking long, anyway?

That weekend with Beth Moore I underlined another ‘hold fast’ in my Bible.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 [emphasis mine]

Oh, I sure hope he who promised proves to be faithful. I sure hope so.

Those verses, that weekend.

Another friend helped me remember the date of that event. July 23-24, 2011. Exactly one year prior, to the day, that Paige died. I don’t believe in coincidences.

I’m weary. I’m afraid. I’m uncertain. But, with all that I have left, I hold fast.


—————

Side note: For those of you who know me in real life, this is a vulnerable place for me to be, out here on my blog. But after several people encouraged me to just write, I’m putting it out there. NOT because I desire to have you tell me how much you’re praying for me (though, thanks) or because I want to have a stop-and-chat in the hall at church on Sunday (please, just, no).

But, because there is no possible way that I’m the only one. There’s no way that I’m the only person going through this season. Someone else is clinging, with all they have. And you, dear one, are not alone. Let’s hold fast together, shall we? We don’t have to talk about it. We don’t have to hug or make it weird. Let’s just hold on together. Because, I’m certain, even though I’m scared as hell and I’m certainly confused beyond what I can understand, I’m certain that help really is on the way. It has to be. Hold fast with me, okay?

Friday, April 4, 2014

You are able. You are enough.

*I started this post a week and a half ago. Today, I sit back on my own couch, surrounded by 8 clingy kids again.**

I sit here on the couch in California, Evelyn napping beside me and Ashlee locked onto a movie, a whole country away from 6 of our kids and my amazing husband. Ash, Evelyn and I flew here to be with Amanda as she gives birth to her second child. She was due on Sunday should be having her baby any day now is eager to deliver her second daughter and is hoping baby girl will make her appearance very soon. They already have a beautiful baby girl who is 16 months old. So, in a few days, their house will be very, very busy. And exhausting.

A very pregnant Amanda with Harper and Nick, about a week before McKinley arrived
I keep flashing back to a conversation I had with another friend a few months ago. She was lamenting how dirty her house was, how she never had any time to complete anything and she feels so frustrated at accomplishing anything productive during her days home, aside from caring for her two boys aged 2 years and 10 months. And in that conversation, I remembered. I remembered the days of us having a 2 year old and 2 newborn babies. I remembered the days of having a 4 year old, two 2 year olds and a newborn. And I thought about it in comparison to my day to day life (when I'm not living up the relaxing life in California) now. Something leapt out at me and I knew, especially as we anticipate this sweet bundle that should come right this very second any day now, that it was worth sharing. These thoughts have been swirling in anticipation of the life Amanda and Nick are about to step into. So if you have young babies, all under 3 or 4 years old. This is for you, too, friend. I hope it encourages you.

Dear Momma (and Daddy) of many littles,

Your life is hard, most days. Diapers flow freely, your boobs see more fresh air than a topless mannequin in Abercrombie, your head rarely rests on your pillow for longer than hour and a half increments. Somewhere, deep inside you, you may wonder in the exhausting hours of the wee morning, when you've been on your feet longer than you've been horizontal, if you made a mistake with all these little people you longed for, prayed for and ached to hold. That's okay. I did that, too.

Lucas (as a newly turned 2 years old) holding Aaron (the itty, bitty newborn).
Lucas' shirt was SO CORRECT.
In so many ways, your life with your 2 or 3 kids all ages 4 years (or 2 years) and under is SO MUCH harder than mine, with 8 children ages 9 years and younger. I promise, it really is. The thought of 8 kids overwhelms you, most likely. But I can assure you, my day to day life is a lot easier today than it was 6 years ago when we had a 2 year old and two newborns. Do you want to know why?

Because you are responsible for it all. I have at least two tremendous helpers named Elizabeth and Ashlee. But, not you. You, mom and dad to your two little bitties, you are all there is to keep the peace. Every pat, every feeding, every reinserting of the pacci, every diaper, every butt wipe, every snack, every meal, every drink, every boo boo that needs kissed, every cuddle and burp, all of it. YOU ARE THE ONE who has to do that. You and your husband is all there is unless he's at work, or deployed or just at the store for another round of diapers, and then you're it. You alone.

And I don't say that to overwhelm you or to make it feel even more exhausting, but to give you hope. Because, I can promise you, that one day you will blink and those sweet babies that are 16 months apart will be 9 years old and 8 years old and the very best of friends. You'll hear them arguing over who gets to sleep on the top bunk tonight, or who wore the stonewashed jeans last or who took all the marshmallow cereal and you'll have to think really, really hard to remember how exhausting today was for you. You'll hear them tell each other secrets that they only reserve for each other and your heart will feel so overwhelmed with joy and love it just might explode.

Elizabeth - 3 years (almost 4), Lucas and Ashlee - 2 years, and newborn
Aaron in my arms, about to take his first "real" bath.
When you have a rockstar mom day, and both babies sleep like they've been sprinkled with sleeping dust from heaven, high five yourself and enjoy it. But when it's been a cry fest day, all you've accomplished all day long is holding babies and the smell of your own person makes you cringe, remember that this won't last forever. Also remember that this is the hardest part. Yes, there will be days when your first born begins to grow breasts and has her first period, her first crush and is sassier than a Kardashian with PMS and you'll wish so hard she was still 4 months old and you could baby wear her and smell her baby head. Those days will be hard, too. Trust me.

But today, the day that you are everything and everyone and the most important person on the face of the planet to everyone in your home, these days are hard. Emotionally, physically, spiritually all of it. You'll fall into the bed at the end of every day and, if you don't crash immediately, you'll replay the day in your head, highlighting all the ways you feel you failed. And you'll probably cry when you think about how you've probably bruised their fragile, little hearts with your harsh, exhausted tone of voice at nap time because OH MY GAH PLEASE GO TO SLEEP IN THE NEXT 5 MINUTES OR I WILL SNAP. Believe me when I tell you that you did not do permanent damage. It will be overridden by the hours you will spend rocking and holding and cuddling and kissing boo-boos and everything in between. Your babies will grow up, too quickly I can assure you, and you will long for the days when you had to hold your sweet newborn just so you could both nap while the toddler naps.

Luke and I with Luke's Dad and step-Mom.
Elizabeth is not quite two years old, the twins are newbies.
 The best advice I have for you right now, exhausted Momma, is to cut yourself some slack. And take lots and lots and lots of pictures. Journal if your arms are able to move at the end of a long day. Because you will forget. You'll forget the details you swore to yourself you'd remember. When I had my first 3 babies, facebook was relatively new and Instagram wasn't even a thought. Thankfully, with those two things, the picture part will be easier for you now. But journal, journal, journal. Even if you're a bad writer. Even if you can't write out complete sentences. Write it down. I wish, so much, I'd have blogged back then.

I *think* this is the morning of Elizabeth's 2nd birthday. If not, it's close to then.
Look at my tiny twins! Oh goodness I miss those baby cheeks.

Finally, my sweet friend, savor as many moments as you can. I know it's hard. I do. And sometimes it's all you can do to get through the day. But at least once a day, even if it's when everyone is screaming at fever pitch, stop, breathe, fake a smile and savor it. I heard someone say at a homeschool conference when Ella was just an itty, bitty baby (she's 4 now by the way) that, "The days are long but the years are short." It's so true. 

Savoring isn't the easiest thing in the world, either. So I don't say that flippantly. I love, love, love having newborns. But I know not all mothers are that way. And that is okay. It's okay if you don't love the newborn phase. Just like it's okay that 4 year olds aren't exactly my favorite age on the planet.

My point is, motherhood is hard. Mothering small armies of babies and toddlers without the help of an older sibling is exhausting. Cut yourself some slack. Take a long nap when you can and remember to date your husband as often as possible. You can do this. You were made to do this. I promise you were. God set those tiny people in your family with a specific purpose, at this specific time, for this specific season. When the days feel like you're drowning, remember that this time was ordained by The One who walked on drowning waters.

I promise you, you are able. You are enough. Now, sniff that newborn head for me and kiss those pudgy toddler hands (but check for boogers and mystery smells first). And if you forget that you are enough, just ask me. I'll be sure to remind you every, single time.

Love,

Me

Almost 4 month old Evelyn with less than 24 hour old McKinley


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Evelyn at 1 month

My baby is a month old already. How in the world did that happen?!


I really wanted to take some of those cute photos of her every month, like you see on Pinterest and stuff. Pinterest is a joke. Clearly anyone who posts photos and crafty recipes there has nothing else to do with their life.


I've decided that taking photos of your own baby (as a photographer) is MUCH harder than taking photos of someone else's baby. This girl gives me a run for my money any time the camera comes out. (I just remembered I didn't share any newborn photos I took of her. I'll do that next post. She was by far the HARDEST newborn session I've ever had.)


At one month old here statistics are; 10 pounds, 2 ounces and 22.5 inches. Yes, she gained nearly 2 pounds and grew an inch and a half in a month. Holy moly, right? I'm not surprised since she likes to eat. A lot. Last night she gave me the longest stretch of sleep yet, 4 hours and 15 minutes! Yipee!


I gave up having her pose with Raggedy Ann after she insisted on being swaddled and having her pacci in her mouth. Oh well, there's always her 2 month photos, right?


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Domestic Domestic

Way back when, before the days of children and when I actually wore single digit pant sizes, I played Junior Olympic Volleyball. It's not as hoity toity as it sounds. I sat the bench. A lot.

Anyway, during my 5 years of JO Volleyball and traveling to weekend tournaments, I spent countless nights in hotel rooms packed with my teenage teammates. These were the days before smart phones and laptops so we literally had no choice but to build relationships and act like teenage girls. That included swimming in clearly closed hotel pools after business hours, spitting over balcony railings, guzzling caffeine laden drinks until the wee hours of the morning, winning some tough matches, losing some that we should have won, making huge plays, missing crucial serves and just growing into adulthood together. You will never hear me say that I miss high school, because I do not. But those days of JO Volleyball, I miss those. A lot.

I miss the sport and I miss the people.

JOVB Summer of 1997 (?)
I'm the 3rd from the left. My friend Heather is last on the right.
Our hair. I blame humidity. And the 90's.
In a day where facebook reeks of political agendas and controversy, especially following the Grammy Awards, State of the Union addresses and the latest celebrity soapbox, I'm often annoyed by what I find on there. Several times I've wanted to just shut down my entire account because I am so over people talking about who said what and what they did and how it was so outside of what they should have done and blah blah blah. But, I don't. And the reason I don't just shut it down and walk away is because:

1) I like showing off my kids. And today was the first shower I've had since Sunday so leaving the house to show them off isn't really an option every day because their adorableness would be overshadowed by my smell and the length of my armpit hair.

2) I get to keep in touch with some people that I treasure deeply, even though I've not seen them in, say, 13 years. Some of those my former teammates from my JO Volleyball days. Heather is one of those people.

Heather drove her tan, chrysler mini-van to practices. Practices that she attended wearing argyle socks and cut off khaki shorts, and sometimes, a polo shirt. I remember being slightly enamored with her because she is one of those people that you just truly enjoy being around. Thoughtful, honest, genuine.

I graduated high school and kissed my semi-small town goodbye, loaded up my car and moved to an even smaller town to play college volleyball. I knew most of the players on my college team from my JO Volleyball days. Heather played volleyball with me in college for a year (maybe 2?). When she hung up the argyle socks and khakis (wait, no, that never happened), she stuck around our small, liberal arts college and for the next 3 years we shared our college campus and a few friends. She was forever making stuff. I remember her making a table top entirely from bottle caps for her apartment. From scratch. The only thing I'd ever made from scratch was Ramen.

Some people have a gift to see beyond the immediate potential of an object (or business) and cast forth a vision of their own. To see beyond what something is in the present and create with it something outside it's normal function. I mean, do you know how long she had to save bottle caps? I'd have quit after buying my first 6-pack of bottled fanta. But that's not Heather.

Through the miracle of the internet (yes, miracle) I've watched her grow into an entrepreneur who sees what is lacking in a community and fills that void in local commerce with tenacity. All while maintaining those same qualities I admired so many, many, many, many years ago while we wore unsightly spandex (you can't play in a game in argyle and khakis) and knee socks. Honestly, integrity, authenticity.

Her latest endeavor is a company called Domestic Domestic. While most Americans disagree on everything from breastfeeding and cosleeping to more serious social issues, I'm sure there's one thing we can all agree on: Buying American made products. Buying WELL MADE American made products, at that.

That's what Domestic Domestic is all about. I asked Heather why she started the company. Here's what she said,

"So many friends do amazing things. Adopt babies, save lives, drs, lawyers, missionaries. I sell things. I just wanted to sell things with a purpose. Make my own difference. The selection of Domestic Domestic is carefully curated. Each item comes from a great company that depends on consumers to be aware of the quality. I love being the connection between these companies and craftsmen and a consumer who gives a damn."

I think that is amazing. Knowing your natural bent in life and pursuing it with a passion to make this crazy world a better place.

Domestic Domestic sells everything from whiffle balls to taco plates (which would make taco night at our house immeasurably easier. Dear God, SPILLED SHREDDED CHEESE. *shudder*) to this little gem that would surely make me smile more when I'm in my kitchen.

Head over to Domestic Domestic yourself and check it out. Because they have stuff I don't even know what you do with it. And a murse that I'm pretty sure Luke is gonna pee his pants over when I show it to him. (He's been looking for one for months. Just pick one already, right?)

Point is, there's variety. American made variety. And some pretty fun stuff that if I'd known about in college, would have made me feel better about making my ramen from scratch.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Evelyn's birth story

My Evelyn's birth was, by far, the most dramatic of all our children's births. 

I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant at my Friday afternoon appointment. Earlier that day I posted a semi-snarky status on facebook about people NOT asking me if I have "had that baby yet" because clearly, I was still pregnant and there wasn't photos of a cute, newborn baby blowing up their newsfeeds.

My OB had told me the week before that, unlike Ella (who I carried 42 weeks 2 (3?) days), he wouldn't be in favor of letting me go much past 41 weeks gestation because of my gestational diabetes. I blew his comment off at my 39 week appointment because my OB is very laid back about due dates and birth and very much in favor of letting a woman's body gestate for as long as is healthy for the mother and baby.

However, when my blood pressure showed to be up just a little bit, he began talking inductions. Abigail is the ONLY baby I have not be induced with. And she came 5 days before her due date in a glorious, pitocin free labor and birth. Remember?

Anyway, my OB, who is a pretty laid back kind of guy started strongly suggesting that I get induced THAT AFTERNOON. I just sat and looked at him, stone faced. Certain that if I said nothing he'd send me on my merry way and I'd have another natural labor and birth. Right? He wasn't catching my drift. "I get the feeling you aren't a fan of being induced," he said. I explained to him my loathing of pitocin and how I'm sure it's extracted from the veins of the devil before it's placed into the IV's of large, desperate, pregnant women who just want to meet their babies already. Ahem.

My OB typed some things onto his computer and said, "Well, let's check your cervix and see what our options are." I was 3cm dilated.

I tried to coax my OB into letting me wait a little longer but at the end of our appointment he had convinced me that inducing was our best option with the elevated blood pressure and all. He is really very kind and very much takes into account the desires of his patients. So when he didn't back down about the induction, I knew he was serious.

I immediately began feeling anxiety well up within me. This would be my 4th induction. I knew what pitocin did to my body and I really wanted to try to avoid an epidural again. I texted a few friends asking them to pray for my anxious heart and I drove myself to the chiropractor for one more adjustment before calling labor and delivery to see what time they wanted me to show up.

I'd been having contractions on and off for about a week but they were never consistent and they weren't terribly painful. More of a nuisance, really. Especially when I was trying to sleep or lay down. I called L&D and they told me to show up about 4:00-4:30pm. I called Luke to come home from work and went home to tell the kids.

I got to the hospital and checked into L&D by 5:30pm. They did all my paperwork, started a saline lock IV, asked me a bazillion questions. Then, the midwife came in for us to talk about our induction options. (The OB went off-call at 5:00pm and the midwife was on call for the weekend.) I had discussed with the OB having the midwife just break my water and try to start labor that way. But after talking with the midwife, and Luke (who knows my laboring body almost as well as I do) we decided that the lowest, slowest IV of pitocin would be the best approach. So at 7:00pm we began the drip of pitocin. It immediately made my sporadic contractions consistent, even though the intensity and pain of them didn't increase much. We bumped up the pitocin every hour (compared to every half hour for a normal induction).

The nursed checked me at about 1:30am and I was 5-6cm dilated. We bumped up the pitocin one final time and that's when the intense contractions began. I was finally in transition! Luke and I have a "dance" we do when I'm in transition. I simply CANNOT sit or lay down during transition contractions because the pain is just too intense. He knows, once my hands go from low to up around his neck, it's serious.



For about an hour, from 1:45am until 2:45am my contractions were hard, consistent and every 3 or so minutes apart. My disposition changed and I told Amanda, who was in the room with us, along with my Mom and Dad, to text a couple friends and tell them that I was certainly in transition, because I knew they'd know how to pray me through. Luke and I did our "dance" that full hour. The contractions got harder, but I knew that they were bringing forth our daughter. And y'all, Luke is an AMAZING laboring partner. He knows when to hold me up, when to whisper encouragements, when to pray over me, when to get me water and when to be my advocate. I don't know how I'd make it through childbirth without him by my side. He's my prophet, provider, protector and priest in every sense of the word during those hours.

I don't think I'll ever forget opening the door to the bathroom (after changing into that sexy hospital gown and before all the induction business got started) and seeing my husband, kneeling on the labor room floor, his hands outstretched to cover the hospital bed, and him praying over it. That is why it's so easy to submit to him and why it's so easy to be his wife.

Anyway, back to birth. At 2:45am the nurse called the midwife. I labored those last 15 minutes literally hanging from Luke's neck. I'm pretty sure the last 3 contractions I had standing up, he was literally holding me up. The pressure was so intense, I just knew that the midwife would come in and simply catch our baby. I was that close to delivery. Or so I thought.


The midwife came in about 3:00am. She checked me to see how dilated I was. I was 6 cm. SIX CENTIMETERS. I felt defeated. And confused. I looked at Luke and the look on his face was exactly how I felt. It simply wasn't possible I was only 6cm because we'd just done our transition dance for the last hour. I think we were both completely thrown off our game. I remember telling Luke and the midwife that it was time to call for an epidural because I knew I could not make it another hour (my usual transition from 6-7cm to fully dilated) with the pain I was in. For whatever reason, it was decided that I wouldn't get an epidural but instead they'd give me some stadol and turn off the pitocin. I remember asking the midwife if I could push because I felt so much pressure. She told me I could not and that if I did, I would risk tearing my cervix. She did say that if it helped with the pain, I could bear down.

So here I am, in the bed, laying on my side and the contractions are not getting any easier to manage. It was the most intense, painful thing I've ever felt in my life. It felt nothing like my labor with Abigail, where it just felt like my pelvis would snap in half. It was an all consuming pain. My entire body hurt with each contraction. It was horrible. I began begging and pleading with Luke to find the midwife (who had left the room at that point) and to demand for her to call the anesthesiologist. I begged and pleaded and told him that it was just too painful and I simply could not bear it. It was too much. This went on for I think 3 or so contractions (remember - 3 or so minutes apart - so by now it's 3:09ish). The nurse put on another sterile glove to check me since I was obviously in major pain. Then, the next contraction came. I remembered what the midwife had said about bearing down. I knew I had to do something to help with the pain because, y'all, I HAVE NEVER.

So, I just decided to bear down a teeny, tiny bit. Apparently that was the only cue my body needed. Natural instinct took over and my body began to all out push. I was still laying on my side and I said, out loud, "She's coming now!" The nurse pulled back the cover and apparently got the clue that I was NOT at 6cm any longer. She walked to the door to get the midwife and I remember my Mom saying, "Her head is out!"

The nurse walked back around the foot of the bed just as my body pushed one last time. She caught Evelyn with one hand, the one that had the glove, thankfully. I have photos of her holding Evelyn with one hand trying to pull up my gown for skin to skin while the midwife is still putting on her gloves. I'd post one here but this is a co-ed blog (I think?) and while it doesn't show any "areas" of me (because the bed wasn't broken down and I wasn't even in stirrups!) it is a little, um, special. But if you know me in real life and come over, I'll show you.

At 3:12am our Evelyn Love was born. (At about 3:00am I was still 6cm. It was crazy fast.)

My poor husband y'all. I remember about the time this picture was taken. I was looking at my baby and something was dripping on my arm. IT WAS MY HUSBAND'S TEARS. Later, he told me that he's never seen me in that much pain and it was torture to know that he could do nothing about it.


Look at his hand on my face. I can't even look at these without tearing up. In that top photo, he hasn't even looked at his daughter yet. He was so concerned for me.





I nursed her for that first hour and she latched on like a champ. Also, THE STADOL FINALLY KICKED IN and my husband, my parents and Amanda were laughing at me hysterically. Apparently, I was slurring my speech and totally blitzed, as is evidenced by the photo below. I didn't feel loopy but I do remember thinking that it was really hard to blink.


Once our Love had finished nursing, Luke escorted her to the newborn nursery. And I did what any drunk person who hasn't eaten in 12 hours would do, I sent my dad to IHOP. No longer a diabetic, I wanted the LARGEST stack of pancakes he could carry back to the hospital. With syrup. An IV of syrup, please. And some juice.




Our girl weighed in as the biggest baby we've ever had. A whopping 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 21 inches long. The cheeks. I'm sure there's a pound of baby in each one.

The next morning (read: 5 hours later) our kids came to the hospital to meet their newest sibling.




They were all SO excited. Elizabeth was so thrilled that she couldn't contain her tears of joy. (Take a hard look at that photo above.) I was so worried that she was upset. But when she finally made it over to the bed all she could tell me was, "I'm just so, so happy she's here!"


Elizabeth has been the first to hold every baby in our family, as is expected since she's the oldest. But Ashlee is, in fact, a baby addict. I think she gets high off baby head sniffs. Luke and I decided that this time, Ashlee would be the first to hold the baby. Her face when I put Evelyn in her arms was priceless.


Even Abigail was smitten and totally thrilled with her new sister.


Our first family of TEN photo. Please ignore the face of Lucas. He hadn't held Evelyn yet and wasn't too happy about it.






The entire experience was unlike any other birth I've experienced. Which is true for our precious, baby girl - she's her own person. She's a delight to us all. We all take turns kissing her big, chubby cheeks and doting on her. I have a feeling she will be spoiled by all 9 of us. Just you wait.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Welcome to the world Evelyn!

Well, I guess better late than never, huh?

Earlier this month, we welcomed our precious Baby #8.

Evelyn Love
8lb 4oz, 21 inches long
born at 3:12am 

(middle of the night births are HARD to recover from, y'alll)

I'll post her birth story and more photos soon, or when she decides to stop nursing for stretches longer than 20 minutes.

She is a delight to us all and the main topics of conversations in our house now include whose turn it is to hold her, how often she needs to drink Mommy's milk and how totally cute and adorable her (insert any random feature) is.

Indeed, we are in love. Pun totally intended.


Also, have you ever seen a belly button like that? It totally freaked me out. Look how long the skin is! Stay tuned for her birth story. It's unlike any of my previous births. She entered the world in her own, special way. And I'm so thrilled to hold her on the outside. You just have no idea.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mr & Mrs: A(nother) repost

Happy 11th Anniversary to my wonderful husband! Here's a repost from our anniversary in 2010. Almost 2 kids later and I wouldn't change a single word (except to maybe add a few).

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It is a big church. The most grandiose in stature in the entirety of our small town. The dramatic roof lines and towering steeple sit perfectly atop rock and brick walls adorned with stained glass windows, all situated on the precisely manicured lawn.

It's a beautiful church. And every time I drive by I think about what happened inside.

I stand behind two huge wooden doors, stained to a perfect deep brown, waiting to walk down a burgundy-carpeted aisle. So much awaits me on the other side of those doors. Love. Commitment. Beauty.

The wedding coordinator adjusts my veil and the train of my dress.

Deep breath.

The organ begins to play the non-traditional melody of an Scottish tune, reminiscent of our college Alma Mater. The doors swing open, everyone stands up.

I blink.

It's 8 years later. And here I sit, mother to 6, wife to a man who loves me in spite of who I am. A husband who loves wholly, sacrificially and beyond my understanding.

In our counseling session at Candidate Week we reviewed the many statistics associated with our personality inventories, marriage surveys and some other psychological profiles that we sent in ahead of us.

"You have an over-idealized view of your marriage," the gray haired counselor told me, over the rim of her glasses.

I sat back in my chair, turning her words over in my mind, trying not to be defensive.

Really? Because I'm pretty much a realist in every other area of my life.

At the end of the session, she agreed, my marriage is not over-idealized in my very matter-of-fact head. Rather, I understand that I am blessed. Beyond what I deserve.

Blessed with a man who guards the purity of our marriage so fervently that he refuses to be alone with other women, even in the context of work, where such a conscience is often considered ridiculous.

Blessed with a leader who fears the Lord and seeks, with his whole being, to serve him, even if it makes our family uncomfortable and unconventional.

Blessed with a confidant, someone I can pour my soul out to, the nasty, dirty, raw and often ugly parts and he draws me close and prays over me.

Blessed with a protector, a guardian of our home and our children and someone who takes that role so seriously, he is willing to risk it all for the glory of the Lord.

I smell the familiar smell of the church and take in the pews, full of people. I look to the opening in front of me and see him, standing at the end of a flower strewn aisle. He smiles at me. My heart flutters in my chest. I reach the altar unsure of how I'm standing there since it seems as though my feet hardly moved.

We exchange vows and rings and we both cry. I wipe his tears. More sniffles echo through the rafters of the magnificent sanctuary.

We turn and face our family and friends. We are Mr. & Mrs.

We celebrate. It's glorious. Even 8 years later. It's glorious.

It's no fairy tale and my days are certainly mixed with their fair share of meltdowns and tears. And some days the kids cry too. :)

But we've come through so much. We've endured hardships and know that more are coming. We laugh together often. We love much. He still dates me. He still stops, through the bustle of our home, to wrap his arms around me and let me bury my face in his chest.

We argue, annoy the crap out of each other and forget things that are important to the each other. But we chose love above all else. We chose to bind our hearts together with God as the glue.

We walk out the front doors of the church, and the cold air hits us like needles. We climb inside the magnificent limousine and the driver shuts the door. I look at my husband.

It's over. Man, that went fast, I think to myself.

I adjust my dress. He grabs my hand. We kiss.

The driver starts the engine.

And then, the journey begins.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The photographer's apprentice

A while back, as sort of a half-hobby, half-distraction from grief and life, I started a photography business. I still have LOTS to learn but I've enjoyed getting to know more about light, editing and learning more about my style.

For her 8th birthday, we got Elizabeth a little point-and-shoot camera. Since I bought my new camera a few months ago, Elizabeth has been saying that she wants to learn to be a photographer, like me. It's cute but I tell her over and over and over again that the best way to become a better photographer is to take lots and lots and lots of pictures.


Then, a few weeks ago, Luke had the idea for me to take Elizabeth, and let her have a maternity photoshoot with me. So, today, while the littles napped, Ashlee was at a friend's house and the boys were at karate, we did just that. I showed her the basics of working my camera, made sure the camera strap was nice and secure around her neck then handed it to her, gave her a few instructions about shadows and direct sunlight then told her to take over.


I'll admit, being 38+ weeks pregnant I don't enjoy being on this side of the camera. But, I also know that 25 years from now, when Baby #8 is likely starting her own family, she'll like seeing photos of her Momma's large belly with her tiny self squished inside. Here's my little photographer's apprentice's debut photos. I did the editing, but the photos are all hers. During my wardrobe change (read: I got cold and changed shirts) she took a photo of our school table,


and our pet bird, Alex.


She really got into telling me to look at my belly, where to put my hands and which side my hair needed to be on.


She told me that I'm not good at doing a real smile, because all my smiles looked fake. Ha!



Overall, for a 9.5 year old, I think she did pretty well! And, it really was fun spending time with my oldest girl, allowing her to feel the weight of the camera in her hand and having some creative freedom.

So there I am, in all my 38+ week glory. Y'all have a great Christmas! Hopefully, the next post will be one of a baby on the outside.