Family PIc April 2015

Family PIc April 2015

Monday, December 16, 2013

Peace On Earth?

This holiday season has been different for us than any other year.
Thanksgiving is routinely spent traveling to see extended family and returning home late at night exhausted and grumpy.
This year, due to John's impending birth, we stayed home. 
We decided to spend the day preparing a meal together (all the kids were involved), listening to our Thanksgiving CD: "A Time To Remember" that tells of the very first Thanksgiving (it's a tradition we listen to it in the van as we travel on Thanksgiving Day), and truly giving thanks.
Several of the kids were heard saying, "This is the BEST Thanksgiving EVER!"
Eva made a homemade coconut pie...
here, she's cleaning up from making the crust
Silas helped clean up the flour that Eva dropped :)
Kedesh helped Nathan stir the vanilla pudding 

 Several of the kids helped set the table
with our good china, crystal glasses, and utensils
 Isaiah wanted to prepare the jellied cranberry sauce (his favorite)...
but Eva had to make sure he made accurate cuts :)
 Then, he was released to try it himself...
under the watchful eye of his perfectionist sister
 Caleb prepared the macaroni, and loved on his little sister
Samuel helped with the fruit salad...
and later enjoyed his food with a thankful heart
 Everything set up buffet-style on the counter
 Eva cutting the bread
Elijah prepared the corn on the cob,
and was a super helper washing dishes along the way
 Nathan getting his plate...teenage boys eat a BUNCH
 Kedesh didn't get a tall, crystal tea glass...
but she got a dainty coffee cup instead :)
 Yes, Isaiah DID eat all that he put on his plate...
Sitting down together...cloth napkins in our laps...
special occasions make special memories
Of course, they missed playing with cousins and seeing other family members.  But, we all really liked just being able to be home and spending unrushed time together.
The day after Thanksgiving, we took down Thanksgiving decorations, cleaned the house, and put up ALL of our Christmas decorations.  The following day, we wrapped most of our Christmas gifts. 
I was determined to get "everything done", so we could really enjoy Christmas this year.  
Have I mentioned that I really despise the hustle and bustle of Christmas every year?  I always seem to get to January and realize that I am a cynical ball of nerves.  Uggghhh!  I wanted this year to be different...
The December calendar was virtually cleared...a newborn affords the perfect excuse to step away for a bit.  :)
And, then...just a few days later, John was born.
Gregg has been home...rainy days have forced us to stay inside more than usual.  Nathan keeps a cozy fire burning...
There seems to be PEACE ON EARTH. 
At least within the security of our home.
The truth is...outside our home, a war still wages. 
Bitterness seems to reign.
Fake smiles...
Words mumbled under our breath...
Gifts are given grudgingly and sometimes even selfishly...
Tension is high...
And Christ is little more than a name we mumble at the church's Christmas Eve service.
In many ways, it's the hardest time of the year.  It's the time of year when past hurts rear their ugly heads and threaten to choke the life out of you.  When you can't bear the thought of biting your tongue one more time...but you there will be PEACE ON EARTH.  
Normally, no matter how hard I try, Christmas depresses me more than it encourages me.  It's so hard to focus on Christ and all that He did for us...when our focus is on STUFF.
Meaningless, we-don't-need-this gift, we've got to get this person something, run-around to make this party, appease this person, STUFF.
Please don't misunderstand...I LOVE giving gifts. 
Gregg and I don't buy our children a lot of things during the year.  Christmas is the one time of the year we allow ourselves to splurge a little, and we LOVE giving them good gifts. 
The part I DON'T like is coming up with lists for grandparents and coming up with expensive gifts for extended family when they actually complain that you didn't get them something else.  Or they want to know, "What did you spend on this?  Was it the same as we spent on you?" 
Really??  I'm sorry.  I forgot, momentarily, that Christmas was about STUFF.
Gregg and I have actually been told that we "keep having more young'uns so we can get more Christmas gifts."  WOW!  We must be REALLY SHORTSIGHTED if that's the case.  Because no amount of battery-powered JUNK could make up for the work and responsibility it will take to nurture, train, and care for a human being for 18+ years. (Talk about a demeaning and hurtful misunderstanding!)
Ironically, we've even suggested that we not exchange gifts at all so others wouldn't be burdened with buying for such a large family...and we get that "deer in the headlights", "are you crazy?", "what would Christmas BE if we didn't exchange gifts?", "you're just being cheap" look...
Misunderstanding after depressing misunderstanding.
So...each year, I try to get past the muck and see PEACE ON EARTH.  
And, honestly, I don't do very well at it.  I hate that about me.
I'm quick to hold a grudge, quick to get my feelings hurt, quick to replay a conversation over in my head and hear all the insinuations there...
I'm quick to wish extended family would be different, quick to miss what I think life should be like, quick to see the negative...
And slow to see the good.
This year, the timing of John's birth has, no doubt, been from the hand of God.  This little guy has forced me to slow cherish what's more sense the peace I so often let slip away.
In his birth blog, I mentioned listening to a Casting Crowns Christmas CD.  It has become my favorite arrangement of songs this year.  The first song on the CD is the one I heard while preparing to give birth to John.
"I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day"
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they're singing
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they're ringing
Like a choir they're singing
And with our hearts we'll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men
Music has such power to stir emotion, elicit thought, and to impart a new perspective.
This song has become my anthem this Christmas season.  The following video is Casting Crowns' lead singer, Mark Hall, sharing the story behind the song - which makes it even more meaningful for me.
The writer of this song found himself in the middle of a trying time in history - the Civil War.  When the Christmas bells were ringing with the sound of Peace On Earth, it didn't FEEL like there was peace on Earth.  The writer contemplates this and ultimately comes to the conclusion that, with Christ in our hearts, there is Peace on Earth - where He is. 
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men"
This Christmas, when it doesn't FEEL like a celebration...when it doesn't FEEL like there is PEACE...when family relations are strained...and meaningless STUFF abounds...
I will hear the bells on Christmas Day.  I will hear them ringing that "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep."
I will do my best to spend time with the Savior and not to simply go through the motions for another year...
I will do my best to put away my fake smile and put on a real smile - because I will hear the bells on Christmas Day...
And I will know that there is

 Be sure to listen to the end, past the song.  Mark sums it up well.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Every mother has a story to tell.

The story of when she first met her child face-to-face. 

Whether she is describing giving physical birth to a biological child...

Or laying her eyes, for the first time, on the child she will one day adopt...

She has become a mother.

And she has a miracle to share.

I've experienced 9 such miracles...all very different...all etched in my memory like so many beautiful, priceless pearls.

Today, I share my most recent miracle story...

The birth of my son, John Abram.

John - meaning "God has been gracious"
Abram - meaning "Father is exalted"

Like many mothers, I had been waiting - not so patiently - for the pending arrival of this newest little bundle.  Restless nights and a waddling gait indicated that it really couldn't be much longer...

On the evening of December 3rd, I found myself more restless than usual.  Although I had apparently stopped my "nesting" tendencies a few weeks prior, that night I felt a need to stay up late and finish a few projects.

I found myself finishing a sewing project just after midnight...and I was tired, but my mind didn't want to sleep.  The house was that all-too-rare quiet and calm, and I sensed a need to relish it. 

I then found myself on the computer, catching up with long-overdue replies to messages and emails, and even perusing several blogs and Facebook.

I distinctly remember thinking to myself, around 2 am, "I really need to get in bed!  Here I am, staying up late, and now I'll probably go into labor exhausted.  What am I thinking?!?!" 

So, I went to bed...And, still, I lay in bed with my mind very much awake.  I counted kicks of my tiny unborn child until I finally fell asleep.  I saw 2:39 on the clock...then was up just after 3:30...and again at 4:30ish.  I didn't know why...just restless...a need to use the bathroom - AGAIN - I guessed.

At the 4:30ish mark I noticed contractions. This was nothing new - I'd had so many Braxton Hicks contractions up to this point in my pregnancy, I was sure I'd miss them like an old friend after Baby was born.  But, I timed them anyway. 

They were 6 minutes apart.

At around 5:00am, one of the contractions felt different...and then a crippling cramp in my abdomen grabbed my attention for good.  As the cramp subsided, I felt that familiar "Oh my goodness!  I think I might actually be in labor!!"

A perfect mixture of excitement and sheer terror.

By this time, Gregg had awakened and was timing along with me.  Still, roughly every 6 minutes...45-90 seconds in length. 

For any normal was time to start seeking labor/delivery assistance. 

But, I'm not normal. 

So, I lay there saying things like "they (the contractions) don't really hurt that bad", "maybe I should drink more water", "should I call Susan?", "one more contraction and we'll call"....

I called my midwife, Susan, at 6:30am.  She answered with "Hey, Olivia.  Is it time?"...and I could hear her smile on the other end of the line.

And, just like that...HERE WE GO!! 


Obviously, early labor...what a lovely last pregnancy pic
 but, sadly, it didn't occur to me to take more pics at the time,
so it's the only one I have. :(
I felt a little like I was in a daze. 
Gregg was getting breakfast and getting the older kids prepared for their school day.  And shortly afterward, he had enlisted help from our very eager younger children to fill the birthing tub.
The assistant midwife, Rhonda, arrived in what felt like minutes (but was really about an hour later).  She listened to Baby's heartbeat and checked my vitals, then immediately and quietly busied herself with setting up everything as it needed to be for a home delivery.  We decided to wait until Susan arrived to check for dilation.
Susan arrived shortly after (she had further to drive) - with sweet words of excitement and reassurance.  I was dilated 4-5 cm...which, essentially, for me, means NOTHING besides the fact that I'm dilated 4-5 cm.  
We had  originally decided to arrange the birthing tub in our sunroom, but in the last week decided on something completely different from our normal Christmas decoration set up.  We decided to move furniture and put our Christmas tree in the alcove of what is normally our dining room.  We planned to place the birthing tub at the base of the Christmas tree in the glow of its twinkling lights.  It was Gregg's idea...and I LOVED it.
So, when Susan walked in and saw the new arrangement - with the little ones filling the tub in front of the Christmas tree - her face lit up and she said, "How neat!  HOW NEAT! I don't think I've ever delivered a baby under a Christmas tree before!"  It made me smile... 
And what was I doing while all this was going on? 

Me...I was trying to take it all in, but also doubting myself.  I even said, "What if I eat breakfast and the contractions STOP?"  I wasn't experiencing any real pain - just some discomfort.  I knew, from my personal experience, that hard labor could begin at any minute...but WHEN?  I still wasn't completely convinced that I was truly in labor. I had taken a shower, dressed comfortably, eaten a small breakfast, cancelled 2 appointments we had for later that day, and I had also made phone calls to my mother and my dear friend (who is very much like a mother to me).  They both planned to arrive in time to hear Baby's first cry.  What if I called them and it was FALSE LABOR?  I was intent on listening, the best I could, to the rhythms of my body. 
It was around 8:30am, I think.
And here's where things get pretty boring...contractions were still just six minutes apart (sometimes a little closer or further apart, but about the same)...for HOURS.
Gregg and I decided to take a walk together.  It was a misty, dreary, cool December morning and we walked the road just outside our home.  Hand in hand, I will remember this time with just the two of us fondly.  I needed to get out of the house...I needed to breathe.  I needed to be alone with my husband.
Still, 6 minutes apart...
My "adoptive mother" arrived from her 3+ hour drive, and I called my mother to tell her to stay at work.  Nothing happening...
Susan and Rhonda left for a couple hours (but stayed close by) to give us some private time and to grab a bite for lunch. 
Gregg and I walked some more...Susan and Rhonda were finished schoolwork...more walking.
At 3:00pm...we were just coming in from walking and still not much was changing.  I thought, "I'm not even going to have this baby today.  Poor Susan and Rhonda...they will be exhausted!" 
Still dilated about 5 cm. 
I felt frustrated, and Susan sensed this.  Baby was still not very "low" so Susan had suggested several exercises and position changes to try to position Baby better.  Some had seemed to help bring stronger, more consistent contractions.  At around 3:15 or 3:30, Susan suggested we try a few other natural techniques to help me relax and help facilitate labor. 
Was I uptight??  Uhhh...apparently...because with these suggested techniques, it was like my body just switched into high gear.
At just after 4:00pm, there was an audible "pop" and Baby's position had definitely changed.  My water had broken...and just like that, contractions were coming much quicker and much stronger. 
Still about 5 cm dilated...which, for my body, really meant nothing...
Gregg called my mother and told her to head this way quickly as things were definitely "picking up". 
Obviously, I was no longer in doubt that this was the real deal. 

Time to focus...time to get serious with the work at hand...
With about the next 3-4 contractions or so, I remember Susan and Rhonda checking Baby's heartbeat, checking my vitals, and helping me get ready to get into the birthing tub.  I also began to feel nauseated.  I always feel nauseated when I reach the part of labor referred to as I knew that I must be suddenly, but surely, nearing full dilation.

By my best recollection, and based on the timing of some of the photos we took, I was able to get into the birthing tub just after 4:30pm.

A small CD player nearby was playing Casting Crowns' "Peace On Earth" Christmas album.

A dreary afternoon accented the white Christmas lights and candles on the mantle and piano...and the colored lights of the Christmas tree. 

I made a point to try to capture the picture in my mind so it would stay with me for the rest of my life. I will never listen to Casting Crowns' Christmas CD without recollecting the birth of John. 

Upon entering the warm water of the tub, I felt relief and comfort. 

Not much longer now.

Rhonda added a little cool water to the tub, and then a contraction hit me hard.  I remember Gregg and Eva snapping some pictures, and I sent for everyone to come, because I knew it could only be a matter of minutes.

Things seemed to be moving in a sudden rush.  I was self-absorbed, teetering between "I can't do this!" and "I HAVE to do this!" 

Susan and Rhonda were getting ready to check vitals and check for dilation when I felt, quite certainly, Baby was coming.

Not everyone was with me...the kids were in the back of the mother had not arrived...but there was no waiting...

Susan was trying to get her water birth gloves on when the contraction I was having told EVERY. FIBER. OF. MY. BODY. to push this precious baby out.  (I think I had 2 contractions after entering the tub.  Maybe 3.)

So, with adrenaline coursing through my veins, and an insatiable desire to meet my little one...I pushed with all my might...

And, with that, Susan turned and saw Baby's head, and immediately did all the necessary things a competent midwife does to insure Mom and Baby's health.

Underneath the water, I saw my baby's tiny head covered with fine, dark hair...another push...another never-again-seen moment in time...tiny shoulders emerged...a final thrust...Baby's full body emerged into the calming, warm water...

I looked around me to see my children wide-eyed with wonder...they had made it - just in time.

Susan deftly picked up my little treasure from the depths of the water...and laid him on my chest.

Sheer relief mingled with unspeakable joy and wonder...face-to-face...


Following was a flurry of emotion and activity...
First order of business - Is it a boy or a girl?
It's a BOY!  And the kids want to know, "What is his name?"  (Gregg and I had decided to keep it a surprise for everyone.)  Gregg announces "His name is JOHN" - and everyone seems delighted.

Lots of snapshots and congratulations.  Snacks were eaten, dinner was being prepared...
Placenta was delivered,
Baby John was nursing like a little champ, 
I was relaxing - watching all the rounds of John's admirers grinning as they held him and listened to the click of the camera's shutter release.  


Susan's tender hands went over every inch of John's little body, and she spoke quietly and comfortingly about each detail.  Rhonda took notes on her iPad as Susan dictated.
John was weighed - 8 lb. 8 oz. (That was Mommy's guess!)

Head measurement - 14.5"   Length - 20.5"

Susan explaining all the little details

Gregg administering the Vitamin K injection
Me...I couldn't take my eyes off my little priceless treasure.  I couldn't get over his tiny fingers, his perfect nose, his beautiful little lips, his tender cry. 
More pictures...a meal eaten...bedtime routines...
Nanma holds John for the first time

Isaiah admiring John up close
 It didn't take long for Eva to earn the nickname "BH" - Baby Hog. 
She wants to hold him constantly.  :)
 John was cozy on his little heating pad...being examined
 Holding Daddy's hand
 Hand-in-hand with our lil' man
 Mommy and John
Susan has delivered 2 of our children -
Kedesh and John
 Beautiful are the hands and feet that serve...
Susan and John
Taken about 3 hours after John was born...
Susan and I pause to get a picture together with our
"Merry Christmas Gift"
 Rhonda, the assistant midwife, played a tremendous role
as she quietly served our family throughout labor and delivery
 Sam-I-Am couldn't wait to hold John "another time"
"Grand D" holding John and talking sweetly to him
"Eva, can I please hold my baby now?" :) 
Then, over and over in my head, I replayed the wonderment of the day's events...and that defining point in time when John was laid upon my chest for the first time...