December 29, 2017

Catching Up...Part 2

After a hiatus from the family blog, I wrote an overview post in July. Seems I need to do that again to finish out the year!

September started with a 2-night stay in the hospital when Verity's reflux led to significant vomiting and some tests showed she had a UTI. At least she got to meet her Great-Uncle Rande and Great-Aunt Jo who visited with Grandma J!

The end of September we got to host my parents for their first Colorado visit since we moved here! It was a quiet few days, all foggy until the morning they drove away!

September 28: Verity's 7-month birthday!

In early October we hosted dear friends Herb and Joyce Zick, who were traveling and sharing with folks about their mission and calling to Italy. We are grateful for their friendship and prayers for our family.

Somehow, despite multiple appointments each week, whether taking Verity to various specialty clinics or having in-home therapy sessions, we did actually manage to do SOME school the grace of God! A lot of our education, both last year and this year, seems to revolve around Verity--learning about her condition, learning how to help her grow and develop, learning how to unconditionally love and care for someone who is "different."

We also learned about the hazards of living in a dry climate, lol.

October 18 Charis turned 17 and Arden turned 14! We had different parties, but Charis made both of the cakes!

Moving on to November...look how big Rhema has gotten! She loves our "Baby Doll," though now her verbal skills have taken off, she can mostly pronounce "Verity" (sounds more like "Berity") but now and then still calls her Baby Doll.

November 2-3 Verity had a 24-hour pH probe done, which showed us that despite being on a medication, she was still having a lot of acidity in her reflux. We changed meds, but this was an ongoing problem for the next 7 weeks as we dealt with a LOT of vomiting and learned that not only was Verity NOT gaining weight, but she actually was starting to lose weight when we were monitoring her in December. (More details about all of this are on her blog.)

Dressed up for church! We continue to be thankful for the connections we have with our new church family.

The Monday before Thanksgiving, we took our kids to the North Pole outside the city for a day with their cousins Anders and Cade, plus Uncle Joel, Aunt Sarah, and Grandma J. The weather cooperated, and our nurse was home with Verity, who would not have done well in the cool, windy conditions, not to mention we were always paranoid about her vomiting. :-( But it was a fantastic day, full of memories that included lots of rides and a powdered sugar dust storm from funnel cakes, lol.

WOW--we caught Arden with a normal smile, lol! This is at church, and his and Tobin's friend Noah is standing between them. We are grateful for our friendship with Noah and his family.

I didn't take a lot of photos on Thanksgiving Day (which was the day after my 43rd birthday), but I love this one of some of my favorite people in our kitchen finishing last-minute preparations...and drinking buttered rum, lol.

We often post photos of our little ones, but here is a shot of my men!!!! Tobin and Arden are growing up so fast, and they are a joy and delight (most of the time, ha) with their quick wits that keep us laughing. When I look at this picture, as well as the one above with Charis in it, I am in awe at how quickly time has passed--how can we have THREE teenagers?! I absolutely love being their mom!!

November ended with a sleep study for Verity, which revealed severe obstructive apnea, for which we were given oxygen supplies so she can have 1/32 lpm of oxygen at night. We are still working on doing this consistently, as she hates the nasal cannula, sigh.

We've had the pleasure of getting together with our dear friends Bill and Mellisa and their crew--Ted and Bill (or Bill and Ted, lol) were best friends throughout high school, and we've been able to maintain our ties throughout the years. They are moving to Indiana soon, so we are cramming in some visits before they leave CO!

The second weekend of December, Charis and I took a road trip! We went to Utah for the Young Living Beauty School, at which we received lots of goodies and learned some wonderful tips for using the new Savvy Minerals make-up line (non-toxic skin care and make-up?! Yes, please!) plus heard good sessions on taking care of ourselves from the inside out. It was so fun to get that one-on-one time together, from the 560-mile drive each way to sharing time in the hotel and during the event itself. I love being Charis's mom and seeing the beautiful young lady she has already become!!

Verity's first Christmas!!! Followed by her 10-month birthday on December 28! Who would have thought a year ago that we would get to celebrate with this sweet little bundle?! And we got the best gift for her--learning that a slow, continuous, 24-hour feed allows her to keep nutrients INSIDE her body. The last week or so has shown us such a huge difference...Verity is clearly happier, resting better (although still up multiple times at night), and interacting more. We are so grateful that at least for now, we do not have to consider surgery to help prevent the vomiting. We will enjoy this solution as long as we can!

We had a wonderful and fairly quiet (considering, lol) Christmas at home, with Grandma J spending several days with us. What a joy and a blessing to be together to remember the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and KING!

December 26, 2017

Summer Birthdays

Rhema turned 2 on July 15! This was the day we woke up in Colorado for the first time calling it HOME! We stayed with Grandma J the first few nights, then drove to the Springs to prepare to move into our new house. Grandma got an ice cream cake, which Rhema heartily enjoyed.

We have two birthday boys in August: Seanin turned 4 on August 14, and Zaden turned 6 on August 24. We had a joint birthday party at the Focus on the Family birthday party room with some new friends we met through mutual friends who live in Texas. Wendi is a kindred spirit, and I know she and I will get together often! With 7 kids of their own, the B family also homeschools and has much in common with us. We are grateful to have been connected so soon after both of our families moved to the Springs. Charis made the minion cake, which the boys requested!

On August 28, Verity turned 6 months old! We celebrated her 1/2 birthday with a half cake, also made with love by Charis. Verity is writing her own special story, as her cake reflects.

And since she wasn't thrilled in the above photo, here is a happier shot!

October 15, 2017

August 2017

This month was a blur of unpacking, organizing, chiropractor appointments (my back slowly getting better), and settling into our new house, new church, new job, new routine. We were blessed with visitors, getting to host our Iowa pastor and his wife, Jon and Jackie, for dinner one evening and Rijente and Shauna and their family, friends from Italy, for several days as they road-tripped back to Washington state. What a joy to fellowship with these dear friends!

We started homeschooling VERY lightly...mostly we got Charis and Tobin set up in a homeschool co-op, allowing them to have Chemistry (Charis) and Biology (Tobin) with labs in a classroom setting. Tobin is also taking German 1. I am grateful that Charis can drive the two of them each Wednesday morning and that they are getting good instruction that I simply can't provide in these subjects!

We ended the month in the hospital, unfortunately...but thankfully it was only a two-night stay and Verity returned home and recovered well from a UTI we didn't even know she had. Our battles with reflux continued into September, but the hospital visit was the first in a series of much-needed steps to help us find some new solutions to that issue.

Zaden and Lucan made themselves at home on the back deck
with some favorite books after they were unpacked!

Visiting with Jon & Jackie...
Seanin clearly missed his pals from Common Ground Ministries!

The Bible Bee "Proclaim Day" was a beautiful celebration at the end of a summer
studying about God our Creator (Genesis 1-3).

Shauna's visit was such a boost to my spirits!
I am grateful for her and her friendship and influence in my life.

Moving & Mountains

A fairly brief rundown of July 2017...

On July 14, it was time to say goodbye to Iowa/Nebraska, our home of two years, and head west to Colorado Springs for Ted's 10th assignment with the Air Force! We were overjoyed to move "home," since Ted grew up in Denver, and living near mountains has always been a dream of ours. We don't know what God has in our future, but at this point we are hoping we have made our last major move--the house we are in now is nice but definitely a rental as opposed to a "forever home," but hopefully we can stay in this area. This move definitely was the hardest yet: emotionally, physically, mentally...moving with our special needs girl made things more difficult than usual, and even now in October, I am still doing paperwork and getting Verity to appointments that we had hoped to have completed long ago.

But...mountains. :-) We are blessed with an incredible view of the Rockies and the Air Force Academy. It's hard to believe we attended Ted's graduation ceremony there over 20 years ago! Who would have thought we'd be back here two decades later with 9 children in tow?!

Soon after we arrived, my back went out again--the worst episode I've ever had, and I've had some doozies. God tenderly provided through a friend of mine (Glory) from Iowa who had some connections in the Springs: families brought us meals for 2 weeks straight after we moved into our new house and had boxes everywhere! We are now (nearly) members of the church which most of those families attend, and we count many of them as dear friends whom we are getting to know as we fellowship and worship together.

I began a close relationship with a new chiropractor system, lol, and now our whole family goes regularly for adjustments. My treatment plan is intense, but I am making quick progress and am hopeful that not only might I avoid these episodes in the future, but perhaps I may even be able to try running again, a therapy I truly miss.

Charis remained in Iowa a couple of weeks after we drove away so that she could attend camp. It was bittersweet for her, I'm wonderful to spend extra quality time with dear friends, and so hard to say final goodbyes. Thanks to the wonders of social media and her new phone, she stays in touch much more easily than I did as a teenager plucked from Dallas, Texas, and replanted in rural Wisconsin! She flew to Denver at the end of July. We certainly missed her and were happy to have our family back together again.

Seanin enjoys the view from our back deck

Our first meal in the new dining room

We love our sun room!!

Kitchen...functional and CLEAN! (Rare, lol)

Verity on her 5-month birthday (July 28)

First family movie night in the new house (my office is through the door to the right; the fireplace is on both sides!)

Verity on Daddy's shoulder at our new church

July 11, 2017

Catching Up...?!

Goodness. I last posted in this family blog around Christmastime! So much has happened since then, I am tempted to throw up my hands and continue to ignore this blog! But my Facebook "See Your Memories" often provides me with links to the past, and I love reading over blog posts about our family from years back. So...I press hopes that someday I can get to the point where I can post quick little nuggets here and there instead of feeling MONTHS behind.

Most of my updating energy is spent on Verity's blog. It is so crazy to me to think that a year ago, Ted and I were sitting on a secret: we were expecting Baby Number Nine. As you can imagine, we weren't terribly eager to start shouting the news. We get enough comments about our family size as it is, thankyouverymuch. Receiving Verity's Trisomy 18 diagnosis in late September was followed by a fall and winter of wrestling, reading, and researching this condition we had never heard of prior to September 22, 2016.

Somehow we muddled through school days and a myriad of appointments. Now that we are into July, we can safely say we are "done" with our homeschool year, but the truth's all a blur. I have no idea what we studied or learned. I do know that Zaden learned to read! I've now taught 6 kids how to read! So that's definitely a plus. I always love it when the kids start reading books on their own, and I have found Zaden many times with his own book, curled on a chair or hanging upside down off a couch reading to himself. Aaaahhh. We must be doing SOMETHING right.

Verity arrived at the end of February, and the last 4 months have been a total whirlwind. So. Many. Appointments. Most of the happenings with her are chronicled on her blog, so I won't go over them here. I'm racking my brain for other family happenings...I think I will reach into my phone camera files and see what we can come up with!

Here's a whirlwind view of the past 6 months or so...

After taking the PSAT last fall, Charis is on the college radar!

Kenna decided to publicly declare her faith in Christ and was baptized by our local pastor.

Rhema managed to keep us on our toes and did her best to do whatever her big siblings were doing.

No tooth fairy visits our house. Kids just bring me their teeth and I hand over the dollar bill...
then chuck the tooth when they aren't looking.

Grandma J moved into our basement at the end of January and stayed with us several months. It was such a blessing to have her with us to just do life together! She took over the math teaching for all levels (Rhema is in pre-calc, lol), which was SUCH a blessing for me AND the kids!

Charis got more and more musical experience, playing violin with the worship team.
Ted played guitar many Sundays as well.

During the winter months, Ted and the kids read through the first two books in the Green Ember series. I confess I got lost, since I went into labor toward the end of book 1 (and had fallen asleep during many of the earlier readings anyway, lol).
But I hear the books were very good and they can't wait to read book 3!

Arden kept his status as the Sibling Most Fun to Play With on the Couch...there were many games of airplane and all kinds of (ahem) gymnastics...which probably contributed greatly to the current (much-declined) condition of the couch...

Kenna turned 10 on February 27 and got her ears pierced the week before!

Family party for Kenna! We celebrated a bit early...JUST in case...Verity did kindly wait until the day
after Kenna's birthday to make her appearance into the world!

We took advantage of a good-weather day to get a break from winter!

Seanin's "preschool" year has been a rousing success, as demonstrated here by his amazing artwork! Can you tell we celebrated multiple birthdays in a short time?! Charis was kept busy making a lot of cakes! Photos aren't posted here, but we celebrated LOTS of birthdays: Grandma Rhonda (2/6); Kenna (2/27); Grandma Irene (3/19) Ted (3/22); Lucan (3/27); and Tobin (4/13).

Hey! Evidence that we DID actually do some structured schooling!!
Two boys work on writing letters while Lucan does a language arts page. 

Kenna did most of her schoolwork independently this year. I cannot tell you how often I THANKED
the Lord for making Kenna so...independent, lol. That was NOT a prayer I prayed when she was
two, three, or four years old, ha!!

NCFCA Tournament Season! Charis competed in several regional speech competitions (Kansas City, Lincoln, and Omaha), qualifying for the Regional Competition at the end of April. Tobin and his debate partner competed in two competitions (Lincoln and Omaha), and while they did not qualify, it was a HUGE benefit for them both--they improved by leaps and bounds and did amazingly well for novices!

Verity joined our family 2/28/17 and was dedicated to the Lord at our church three weeks later.
(For birth photos and details, please visit her blog.)

My mom arrived to help after Verity and I moved home from the NICU. For a short while, we had TWO GRANDMAS in the house! The kids were in heaven! We loved getting to share so much time together, especially since Ted and I were in the no-sleep fog that goes along with a newborn...that hasn't really disappeared, actually...

As our assignment was finalized and we pinpointed a date for our move, the landlords began showing the house. Eeeek! They were so gracious to tell us "Don't worry about cleaning," but...we wanted to do our best for them! I at least made sure the kitchen looked AMAZING whenever we left before a showing! Thankfully another large family (7 kids) signed a rental agreement before too long, so we could stop worrying about cleaning up, lol.

I have no idea what was happening around this photo...I think it was a Sunday given the dress Verity is wearing...but clearly she does not lack for admirers!

Tobin and Verity forged a sweet bond! I love walking into a room and
finding him tenderly holding his baby sister.

We got to share Easter Sunday with my mom;
she drove home the day after, and we were sad to see her go.

Verity had her first surgery, a tenotomy to lengthen her Achilles tendons,
 a procedure that went along with her clubfoot treatment. (You can read more about this here.)

Reading continued to be a part of our family life, even though we no longer sit down as a WHOLE family to do read-aloud time. (And clearly we lose a parent to sleep deprivation from time to time...Ted is passed out behind Zaden here...)

I had the opportunity to accompany Charis to the Regional competition, at which she placed
2nd in Apologetics and qualified to compete in the National Finals! She did decline the invitation to compete, however, choosing instead to go on a mission trip.

Verity's 2nd surgery: a g-tube placement, which allowed us to say a hearty GOODBYE and GOOD RIDDANCE to the NG tube she had had since birth. You can read about this here and here.

Shown here is Arden, but BOTH of my teen boys are taller than I!

Spring arrived finally, and I took comfort in the fact that library books keep my kids engaged and learning despite my utter lack of energy or organization during this insane season of appointments for and sleepless nights with Verity.

You can see the feeding tube to the left of the photo...dinner is in the crockpot, Verity is getting a tube feeding, Rhema has planted herself firmly on my lap, and we are all listening to Zaden showing off his new reading skills.
Slice of life, spring 2017.

Mother's Day 2017. I am a mother of nine. 

Occasionally Rhema lets someone besides Mommy hold her!
She is shown here with her beloved Blankie and "Woof Woof," the purple bear who unfortunately
entered Rhema's life at a time when anything with fur was thought to be of the canine variety.

Zaden is reading aloud while Seanin listens in. I LOVE this stage!!!!

Oh, my heart!!!!!

Verity graduated to boots and bar from her casts and began taking a TINY bit of milk by bottle. We thank God for the ability to tube feed our girl; she would not be alive otherwise. She likes to suck, she has a decently strong suck, and there is nothing hindering her from swallowing--but somehow she just isn't strong enough to suck the amount she needs. We continue to try oral feedings and pray that someday she will graduate from the tube.

Memorial Day weekend: Ted and 4 of our kids went to Colorado for a house-hunting trip,
and my friend Mimi came to hang out with the rest of our family!

We got to enjoy a week-long visit with some great friends we met in Italy! They now live in WA and drove out to meet little Verity and hang out with us for awhile. Carla also stocked our freezer with meals!

June 28, 2017: We celebrated 20 years of wedded bliss! Also, this date was the Change of Command ceremony...Ted is no longer a squadron command! After the celebration, Ted and I got away for about 20 hours. ;-)

And...happening today...the final stages of our moving-out process. Somehow June passed in the blink of an eye and here we are, in the thick of the PCS (permanent change of station) mess. But the hard part is behind us...we are living in transition, in a hotel for about a week, and then to Denver to Ted's Mom's for the weekend, before we officially check in and get the keys to our new rental in Colorado Springs. Nebraska/Iowa has been good to us! We will miss the wonderful people we have met here but look forward to what God has for us next.