December 29, 2011

Christmas Day

Considering the head of our home is on the other side of the world, we had a very wonderful, blessed Christmas!  As hard as I tried to get up really early, I didn't actually wake until about 6:30.  By the time I finished nursing Zaden, I was hearing footsteps on the stairs...and Tobin came marching down, ready to begin the festivities!  (As an interesting side note, he was the last one awake the night before, having raced down the stairs to look at a clock to see what time it was!  I sent him to bed at 11:30 pm, so who knows how long he was awake after that!)

While I had managed to get the stockings stuffed before Tobin arrived downstairs, I had done nothing else.  So, as I have been doing a lot this year, I took a deep breath and released all my preconceived ideas of how the day should go.  Really, who cares if Mom gets a shower before present-opening time anyway?!  Tobin was more than happy to help me carry gifts from my bedroom to put under the tree, and then he was off again, storming into his siblings' rooms and waking them up before I even had a chance to put the tea kettle on so I could get some caffeine in my system.

I managed to hold everyone off until around 8:00, which was when Ted had thought he would be able to Skype.  (He got the whole day off for Christmas!  Woohoo!)  I ended up letting the kids open their stockings after they were all cozy in their spots in the family room--complete with big, fluffy pillows (an early Christmas gift I got them), stuffed animals, blankets, miniature Christmas trees, and who knows what else, probably a partridge or calling birds or something.

One smart thing I did was to forget about planning and cooking a fancy breakfast.  Instead, the kids got breakfast in their stocking, a variety of fun snacks from Trader Joe's, including kettle corn, fruit leathers, dried mango, and gingerbread cookies.  Along with hot tea (which I finally did get to make), it made for a fun and easy breakfast.  By the time we were finishing that, Daddy called!  We set the computer up in the dining room and read the story that goes with our Advent calendar, allowing everyone the opportunity to place Baby Jesus in the manger at the end.  Then Ted prayed, and then we settled back in the family room for gifts.  I tried placing the computer in one corner of the room, and I think Ted was able to see fairly well.

And the next hour was just chaos!  So much for opening presents one at a time, in order from youngest to oldest!  Before we could blink, Lucan had ripped off the wrapping paper and opened Charis's present from Clint and Ski!  I realized something was wrong when I saw a purple watch in the box!  Our gifts included items that were delivered anonymously, but I suspect came from a support squadron on base or something, since the note was "to an airman's family" thanking us for our service and sacrifice.  They had our names written on the gifts, and really, whoever did the shopping picked some great stuff!  The kids really enjoyed what they received, and I guess they figured you can't go wrong with lotion and fuzzy socks for Mom. :-)

Since Lucan had no concept of waiting his turn for gift opening, things sort of fell apart from there, so I just did the best I could as far as keeping track of who got what from whom.  By the time the frenzy was over, the house got really quiet as kids played with new items!  Ted was able to be on Skype with us for about an hour and a half!  I hope it wasn't too depressing for him to watch all the commotion from the other side of his screen; I know it certainly helped us feel like he was still a part of our special celebration.

We had a simple lunch of leftovers, and I finally got a shower while the older kids tried out their new Wii game from Joel and Sarah.  We also did some activities from our church's "Hope-full" box that they had handed out to each family; there were some fun things in there to help us keep the day focused on Christ, including a "Born to Die" ornament, coloring pages, word searches, a DVD, conversation starters, and other activity suggestions.

After attempting to give Lucan a chance to nap (ha), we loaded everyone up and went to Shane and Denise's house for a big feast.  Shane, or Toupe, as he is better known to his Air Force friends, was Ted's boss both at Nellis and our first year back here in Ohio.  They are wonderful friends who adore having kids over (they don't have kids of their own yet), and our kids enjoy going to their home.  When they invited us for Christmas dinner, we were all very happy to say yes!  Denise and her mother-in-law had an amazing spread for us, and Shane and his brother fried two turkeys and also had a ham prepared.  There were potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole with orange zest--yum!, green bean casserole, corn, cranberry-apple casserole, and probably other stuff, too.  It was all so wonderful!  And, as you can see, Flat Daddy made an appearance at the table with us!  Also in the picture is a single guy, Sgt. Walters, whom Shane and Denise invited as well.

Patty, Shane's mom, had bought a bunch of activity kits to give to the kids.  Now we know where Shane and Denise get their generous spirit!  Charis was in craft heaven, and Kenna adored spending time with "Grandma Patty" working on a sticker book.  Lucan spent most of the evening playing with a Fisher Price tractor with animals in a trailer, and I reveled in the time to visit and relax and watch the kids enjoy themselves.  I brought our Advent Book along, since we just had not had enough time to read it at home, and we read through that with Denise and Patty.

We headed home around 8:00 that evening, loaded down with tons of leftovers--I haven't had to cook all week!  From start to finish, it was a wonderful, wonderful day.  Obviously the only thing that could have made it better would have been having Ted with us, but considering the circumstances, we really did have the best Christmas possible.  "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

For more Christmas pictures, go here.

December 26, 2011

Family Letter 2011

Our annual Easter letter is…a bit late for 2011 or quite early for 2012, take your pick! :-)

TED—is a Lt. Col. select and has completed 7 months of a year-long deployment at Kandahar AB, Afghanistan.  He stays sane (mostly) with music as part of the chapel praise team and manages to squeeze in time for Air War College work when he’s not chasing down the people he’s supposed to be training.  He reads on his Kindle during all his spare time in the bunker during rocket attacks and Skypes the family when the stars align and our schedules don’t conflict.  He welcomes packages, particularly ones that include Oreos, K-Cups, and/or homemade goodies of any sort.  (Email me if you'd like his address!)

BEVERLY—is holding down the fort in Ohio with much help from our Faircreek Church family and amazing friends and neighbors.  She said goodbye to the remains of her sanity long ago and has finally accepted the fact that nothing will go as planned this year!  Ladies’ Bible study and drama, music, and Kitchen Kindness team ministries give her a much-needed outlet, plus a break from homeschooling and the endless tasks of managing a household solo.  She attempts to keep Ted and others updated via the family blog.

CHARIS (11)—just wrapped her 3rd production with the local youth theater and continues to excel in the arts (drama, piano, poetry, crafts).  A highlight of her year was catching Baby Zaden in the delivery room!  She is a beautiful young lady, inside and out, and Daddy just might hang on to those issued weapons to ward off unworthy suitors!  She is an amazing help to Mom and is very sensitive to the Lord’s leading.  Her thoughtfulness and generous spirit bless us all.

TOBIN (9)—continues his quest to read every book in the library before we move.  When we can’t find him, he is usually curled up in his closet reading or hatching a new plot for a spy game.  During the rare moments he isn’t reading, his preferred way of passing time is playing Wii, although he recently has gotten involved in karate and continues to enjoy piano lessons.  Tobin is the truth-speaker in the family, announcing loudly when someone isn’t on track!

ARDEN (8)—is a constant ball of motion!  Karate has especially been good for him, and you can see him practicing his moves all around the house.  Other interests include piano, Bakugan, and of course Wii.  He hasn’t yet fallen in love with reading in the same way his older siblings have, but he does love listening to read-alouds.  He tolerates school as a means of earning tickets to use for other fun activities.  He is silly yet gentle, with a sensitive heart.

KENNA (4)—is a pink-and-purple, covered-with-sparkles ball of energy!  She sings, dances, plays, and eats like there’s no tomorrow.  She bosses younger brother Lucan around and adores baby brother Zaden, apparently thinking that we brought him home as a special gift just for her.  It’s very fun to watch her in a big sister role; it’s almost like reliving the days when Charis was her age and had two little brothers!  She knows her mind and speaks it loud and clear most days!

LUCAN (2)—continues to amaze and delight us with his easygoing personality.  I couldn’t have asked for an easier toddler to care for during Daddy’s absence.  He entertains himself for hours with puzzles and building-type toys, but he does love having someone read to him or play silly games with him.  His verbal skills are exploding, which makes it difficult to have him in the room when we’re trying to do history or science reading with the older kids!

ZADEN (4 mos.)—is absolutely the easiest baby we’ve ever had…if you don’t count all the nursing issues Mom has experienced with him, but that’s not really his fault!  He is happy, healthy, and alert during wake time and sleeps well.  Mom wakes him after 8-10 hours at night and often after his naps, too.  He lights up when his siblings fuss over him, and he rewards their efforts with coos and smiles.  He favors his thumb and has the family trademark long eyelashes.

We are ever so grateful for the many, many people who are praying us through this year apart.  We look forward to spending 15 days together during Ted’s R&R time in January/February, and we especially look forward to being reunited for good in May.  Sometime between now and then we will learn what our next assignment will be.  In the meantime, we continue in the places and roles to which God has called us for this season, leaning on Him and learning what it means to love Him wholeheartedly, trust Him completely, and follow Him unreservedly.  We pray the same for you.

“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”  Jude 24-25

December 15, 2011

Little Successes

Since we are in Survival Mode, I am learning to find joy in Small Triumphs.  Really, when I think about it, the fact that I feed 7 people 3 times a day, every day, is in itself a small miracle, especially given the fact that I rarely get to a grocery store without extra people hanging all over the cart, begging for gum and asking if it's time to go home yet.  So when I'm feeling discouraged about how little schooling we are actually doing this year, I try to console myself with that: "Hey, at least we're all eating!"  Considering what we went through with Zaden in the fall, this is indeed an accomplishment!

But alas, there is more to life than filling our stomachs.  And while it seems we have been "doing school" for months on end, we have, in fact, barely finished week 6 of our Sonlight curriculum.  So completing schoolwork is not exactly something I can crow about.  Since this is a huge part of my current job description, it would be easy for my type-A persona to panic about how useless I really am.

Today, however, I have accomplished Something!  I paid bills!  Even the power bill, which apparently got overlooked in October, resulting in a few dollars' late fee added to the hefty October/November statement.  So, yay me!  Our finances are up-to-date!  Even better, I have enough money to go grocery shopping tomorrow!  (And I'm going alone, thanks to my friend Shirley!)

Other recent Small Triumphs include:

  • Writing the Easter Christmas letter
  • Ordering pictures to go with the letter
  • Stringing Christmas lights around the house, a la dorm room fashion (I neglected to tell the girls that if they wanted lights ON the Christmas tree, they should go on BEFORE the ornaments)
  • Finding 4 pairs of Tobin's underwear in the laundry last week (previous scores included 1 and 0)
  • Realizing that Lucan is saying "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome" without being prompted
  • Hearing Charis say that her favorite thing about Christmas is giving presents to other people
  • Listening to the older 3 quote Psalm 103 from memory
  • Hearing Kenna pray for Mommy's back to feel better
  • Discovering that Tobin is becoming a bit of a neat freak--whoa!  How'd that happen?!
Really, when I think about it, I realize that the true successes have nothing to do with academics and everything to do with character.  True successes involve our relationships with each other and with Jesus.  Maybe it took a season of chaos to help me REALLY learn what it means to lean on Jesus...and even what it means to be a homeschooling family.

December 12, 2011

And More Random Thoughts

1.  Beginning to wish I had just paid the $80 for another crib tent for Lucan.  From the thumps I am hearing overhead, apparently he is taking flying leaps off his bed instead of napping.

2.  My parents have been here for a short visit--hooray!  They got to see Charis' play yesterday, despite Mom being sick all Saturday night with a stomach virus--boo.  Praying no one else in the family gets sick, especially since Mom and Dad leave tomorrow for Wisconsin.  Not sure I can handle a stomach virus with 6 kiddos on top of everything else I'm dealing with!

3.  The milk blister/mastitis/etc. saga continues.  Friday I got a dose of Diflucan after it was obvious that my body was dealing with yeast.  The good news is that the lumps in my right breast cleared up.  I am still dealing with the milk blister and reduced milk production on that side, but this morning the skin of the blister itself finally broke apart (no needles! I promise!), and I am hoping that MAYBE, FINALLY, we can see some healing.  I have an appointment with the midwife on base to do more specific assessment on everything that's been going on.  My lactation consultant and I are going to be pretty darn close after all this!!!  She has been wonderful.  I feel like I should be a case study for breastfeeding name it, I've had it, all in the last 3 1/2 months!!

4.  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...exploded all over the house.  I've turned the kids loose with the decorations and have decided I will not say a WORD about how things look.  (By nightfall, however, the Thanksgiving decorations WILL be back in the storage closet in the basement if I have to repack everything myself to get them down there.)

5.  The kids decorated the Christmas tree a week ago, so we did have a little bit of Christmas in the house before mid-December.

December 05, 2011

Today's Random Thoughts

1.  Rain.  Meh.

2.  I'm trying to resign myself to the fact that this Christmas, like our school year, is just not going to look or feel the way we're used to.

3.  Double the listening pleasure--place a monitor next to two children playing loudly in the bathtub and hear them at an even higher decibel level while cleaning the kitchen! 

4.  Currently, Zaden is pooping 3 times a week.

5.  Currently, Lucan is pooping 3 times a day.

6.  I'm really looking forward to the day I can stop monitoring my children's poops!

7.  Milk blisters--they don't do a body good.  I saw the LC on base today, and we ruled out thrush.  I'm doing all the right things...just a matter of time, I guess, before this fully heals.  In the meantime, I'm praying for patience!  And trying not to be too concerned about the fact that the milk supply on that side seems to be decreasing. :-P  Maybe it's time to start up the fenugreek again.

8.  Do you ever hide children's library books so you don't have to read them aloud anymore?  Or am I the only one?  I'm just a little bit tired of The House on Hester Street.  It's nothing personal.

9.  Eight o' clock in the evening seems like a perfect bedtime to me.  Too bad it never happens for anyone other than Lucan and Kenna.

10.  So. Incredibly. Exhausted.  Can we really make it 5 1/2 more months?!

December 04, 2011

More Nursing Woes

I blogged awhile back about my first experience with a blocked milk duct.  It apparently did not fully heal/resolve right away, as I had the same problem in the same place on November 4, 21, 28, and 30.  During the beginning of all this a milk blister appeared, and it seemed likely that the blister was the cause of the blocks, since I had to work to get milk to come out of that area, and even when it did come out, it wasn't flowing as freely as it should.  I called Tricare on the afternoon of the 30th and set up an appointment to have the milk blister looked at.  The appointment was for Friday morning, Dec. 2.

Later that evening (the 30th), I went to bed feeling that things were "off."  I had done what I could to help prevent/relieve a blockage, but it wasn't resolved when I went to bed.  Sure enough, I woke in pain at 3 a.m. and woke Zaden up to nurse.  After doing everything I knew to do (from extensive reading on the internet!), I was exhausted and very frustrated.

God is so good and gracious!  That morning my friend Shirley had planned to come to our house to be with the kids so I could go out and run errands.  I told her when she called that I was not up to running errands, but I would be glad for her to be with the kids so I could take a nap.  Meanwhile, my friend Bethany, who had read a note from me on Facebook about my woes, called to ask if she and her husband could bring a meal to us for that evening.

The day progressed with Shirley reading to and playing with the younger kids and overseeing piano lessons, lunch, etc.  By the time I was nursing Zaden in the early afternoon, it was obvious something was wrong, as my skin on the affected side had turned a bright red.  I called the lactation consultant, who told me that if I couldn't change my Friday appointment to get seen that afternoon, I needed to go to the ER.  The family health clinic did not have any afternoon openings, so off to the ER I went with Zaden and my neighbor Chris.  I was SO thankful that Shirley was able to stay and help with the children--the older 3 had activities in the evening, and arrangements were made for all of that to happen without me.

Thankfully things went all right at the hospital, other than having to wait an hour or so in the waiting room.  I got some antibiotics to take and came home.  Shirley shooed me to bed, so I lay down for about an hour or so and woke to a quiet house--she had put Lucan and Kenna in bed, and the older three weren't yet back from karate and play rehearsal.  Though I woke feeling shaky and having a slight fever, I felt much better overall.  The redness was much improved, as was the pain and discomfort.  I was so thankful Shirley had been able to arrange her schedule to be at my house for a total of nearly 12 hours!  Her help and encouragement were invaluable.

By the time I nursed Zaden for the last time (after Skyping with Ted following the return and bedtime of Charis, Tobin, and Arden), I was feeling SO much better, and that was with only one pill!

The ER doctor wanted me to keep my Friday morning appointment, so Zaden and I went to base early in the morning while Jessica stayed with the other kids.  (The older 3 never even knew she was here, as they slept the whole time I was gone!)  After hearing my whole saga and the list of all the things I had been trying, the doctor said that I had done everything EXCEPT antibiotics and said that the milk blister should resolve once the infection is all cleared up.

So, that's where I'm at now:  taking antibiotics and keeping an eye on things.  The blister did indeed lessen quite a bit yesterday, but I have noticed this afternoon that it is back, as large as ever, and milk is not flowing very readily through it. :-(  I guess I need to continue to be vigilant with the Epsom salt soaks, hot compresses, etc.  I had not done those things as much since I was seeing improvement, and let's face it, I don't have a lot of time to be doing anything that isn't absolutely essential!!  Please pray with me that this issue will be fully resolved, once and for all, and that I don't have any recurrences once this round of antibiotics is finished!

November 30, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving

The November 30 Days of Thankfulness Challenge:  I posted these on Facebook each day in November.  (OK, so I missed a day here and there and doubled up now and then, but overall, I made it all 30 days!)  I wanted to record them all in one place.

Day 1:  I am thankful for my God who never forsakes me.

Day 2:  I am thankful for God's powerful, sustaining Word.

Day 3: I am thankful for the most amazing, thoughtful, wonderful husband I could ever have dreamed of. I love you, Ted Jacobson!

Day 4: Not only am I thankful for Ted (day 3), but I am especially thankful for his godly leadership in our home and his faithful commitment to Jesus. "Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" Proverbs 20:6

Day 5: I am thankful for my sweet firstborn girl, Charis, whose tender heart and unselfish spirit continually amaze and inspire me. I am thankful that we can share so many things together through a mutual love of cooking, reading, writing, stamping, and fussing over babies. :-)

Day 6: I am thankful for my firstborn son, Tobin, whose wit keeps me laughing even when I'm in a bad mood; whose intellectual curiosity keeps me on my toes; and whose ability to spin a tale keeps me on my knees!

Day 7: I am thankful for my sweet, gentle Arden, whose tender spirit touches my heart even as his boundless energy drives me crazy! I love his heart for other people and the way he prays for the nations to know Jesus. I love how he still adores his 22 stuffed animals yet wants to be a football player when he grows up. :-)

Day 8: I am thankful for my joyful, bouncing Kenna, whose squeals of delight over every little thing make life so much brighter. I am thankful for her willing obedience (most of the time!) and her tender care for her baby brothers as well as for her feisty spirit and stubborn streak that indicate a determined, purposeful drive to achieve her goals!

Day 9: I am thankful for my loveable little Lucan, who is (so far) the easiest 2-year-old I've ever had! His smiles and cuddles, funny noises and silly antics, tuneless little songs and Muppet-armed runs make our whole family smile with delight.

Day 10: I'm thankful for my bright-eyed baby Zaden! I'm thankful that he is a happy, healthy baby and that I am exclusively nursing him--not something I take for granted after his first month! I'm thankful that he is such an "easy" baby and that he sleeps pretty well most nights. And I'm thankful that he'll get to meet his daddy in just over 2 more months.

Day 11: I am thankful for Skype and the internet, which allows me to keep in touch with my veteran reasonably well--just not this week. :-) But even more, I'm thankful for the freedoms and comforts we enjoy in this country. It's not a perfect place, but people, we need to realize what we've got!

Day 12: I am so thankful for the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ. I have always loved my local church wherever it has been, but I am especially thankful for Faircreek Church and the many brothers and sisters in Christ who are helping to carry our family through this deployment. As a military family who has never been able to live close to our blood relatives, we are extra grateful for the church family.

Day 13: I am so very thankful for the godly heritage I have. I can never thank Mom and Dad enough for how they have poured out their lives like a drink offering to the Lord--and as a result, I have a strong, unwavering faith in our God and an unquenchable thirst for His Word. Their example, even more than their words, taught me what it means to live for Him. Thank you, John and Irene Keist! I love you both more than words can say!

Day 14: I am thankful that Zaden is now sleeping through the night! Five nights in a row he has slept until I've awakened him!

Day 15: I am thankful for many, many godly friends that have touched my life over the years. From growing up in Texas (Reinhardt Bible Church, Garland Christian Academy) to graduating in Wisconsin (Faith Christian School), from attending Cedarville University in Ohio to marrying an Air Force man and living in San Angelo, Mountain Home, Dayton, D.C., Las Vegas, and back to Dayton--God has provided amazing friends along the way who not only make life fun but also spur me on to a closer walk with Jesus. I love you all!

Day 16: I am thankful, on this C-O-L-D night, for our warm house. And hoodies. And flannel pants. And fuzzy blankets.

Day 17: I am thankful for MUSIC! I am thankful my parents gave me the gift of piano lessons starting at age 7 and that I can sit down and play songs with various praise teams at the churches God leads us to. I am thankful for the love my kids have for piano lessons and for their sweet teacher, who comes to our house Thursday mornings for their lessons. I am thankful that I met my husband in a mosh pit at the Cornerstone Music Festival. And I am thankful that Ted has received blessing and encouragement from being part of the praise team at Kandahar!

Day 18: I am so thankful for my wonderful mother-in-law! I love her so much and am thankful that we have a good relationship. I honor her for the wonderful job she did in raising her sons Ted and Joel Jacobson. I'm thankful that she will get to spend the whole week of Thanksgiving with us in Ohio! The one regret is that Dad Jacobson can only be with us in our hearts, as he is home in heaven now. I am thankful for the time I did get to spend with him on earth...even if it was too short.

Day 19: I am thankful for good food. We never lack for good things to eat, though many folks don't know where their next meal is coming from. Our food journey this year has taught our family how to eat real and healthy food, and I'm thankful for what we've learned. I'm thankful for the many creative foods God put on the earth and for the creativity people show in putting recipes together. And finally, I'm especially thankful for chocolate. :-D

Day 20: I am thankful for rest. Sunday afternoon naps = a happier mommy. God definitely had a great idea with that rest-one-day-a-week command.

Day 21: I'm thankful that my family is healthy. Yes, Charis is coughing this week, and Kenna has a little sniffle. The boys deal with allergies, and I've had a few blocked milk duct issues. But overall, we are all blessed with good health...not something to take for granted. Thank you, Lord!

Day 22: Today, my 37th birthday, I am thankful for many things: my relaxing massage this morning; a yummy lunch during which I did not have to get up ONCE to help a small person with something; uninterrupted time to think and enjoy the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute; and the honor of reading so many well wishes from dear friends on my wall. Wow! I am so blessed!

Day 23: I am so thankful that this deployment is HALFWAY OVER!!! 6 months down, 6 to go!

Day 24: I am thankful for all that God is teaching me about Himself this year.

Day 25: I am thankful for sunny days! I know my mood shouldn't match the weather, but it often I'm thankful for cheery sunshine. When one lives in Ohio, bright days can't be taken for granted!

Day 26: I am thankful for our house. God always provides the perfect home for us wherever He puts us, and this one is perfect for our family at this season of life. I'm excited to see where He will take us next!

Day 27 : I am thankful for...never thought I'd say this...our TV. Kids playing Wii = a decent nap for Mom. Boys watching football = Mom making dinner in peace. Cuddling on the couch and watching The Amazing Race with the older kids = special time with them. We try to limit screen time, but I have to confess I'm thankful for the electronic babysitter on many occasions!!

Day 28: I am thankful for my chiropractor. Our family enjoys much better health (especially during the winter), and my back issues are pretty much non-existent these days thanks to Dr. Peltier!

Day 29: I am thankful for the ability to read and for the passion many of my loved ones have for reading. I don't get to enjoy my own selection of books nearly as often as I would like, but reading with little ones is a joy of its own. I'm grateful that our children all enjoy books and learning.

Day 30:  It seems appropriate to begin and end this list with spiritual blessings, so on this final day of November, I am thankful beyond words for Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, who alone is worthy of all my praise, worship, energy, time, and resources.

November 25, 2011


We had a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving Day.  As I blogged earlier, we didn't have our big meal until the evening, so we had plenty of time to relax and leisurely work on the menu for the evening.  We had done a few things the day before, too, so that helped.  One of my favorite parts of the day was working on our Thanksgiving posters together in the afternoon while the little boys napped.  Even Grandma and I made posters!

Here are a few pics from the day.  To view the whole album, go here.

Christine holds a wide-eyed Zaden.

Lucan and Ian play a duet!

The whole family--almost!  Flat Daddy just isn't the same!

The Blessing Tree

Kenna's thankfulness poster--she did it all by herself!  The letters she wrote aren't completely random; they spell out the names of her friends, and she had to creatively space things to fit everything in.

Charis was playing a game when I was taking pictures of the posters, and since she had put hers by Flat Daddy, I just took a picture of him holding it. :-)

Colin munches a turkey leg and watches the Bananagrams frenzy.

Birthday Lunch

Not knowing that my friend Jen was plotting a surprise birthday party for me, I planned my own birthday lunch at The Cheesecake Factory!  Ha!  Well, you can never have too much cheesecake, right?!  Funny that Jen made me a chocolate cheesecake for the birthday dinner she made for us!  Rhonda and I ordered the pumpkin pecan and pineapple upside-down cheesecakes and split them.  They were both heavenly!  So was the complimentary coffee!  But even better was sharing time with Mom, Stefanie, Chris, and Eilene.  Below are a few pictures Chris took; to see more, you can view her Facebook album here.

Catching Up

Oh, my!  It's been a little while since I blogged.  This week we had the privilege of having Rhonda here for Thanksgiving.  Now that she's on her way back to Denver, I'm sitting here wondering where in the world the week went!  Why can't all the weeks Ted is deployed go this quickly?!  I'll type out some highlights from the last week or so, and then I'll do separate posts with pictures...assuming I have the time and energy to finish this little project!

We did a minimal amount of schoolwork and instead focused on a couple of service projects.  We took a meal to some friends and went shopping for Operation Christmas Child boxes.  Last year we purchased a little bit at a time and were able to do a LOT of boxes.  This year, we did it all in one fell swoop and managed to pack 5 boxes for the same ages/genders of our older 5 kids.  I chose the dollar spot at Target for this adventure--we got everything we needed there, for the most part, and it was much easier to keep tabs on everyone than if we had gone to the dollar store!

That night I went out.  I knew only that my friend Jen had arranged for her husband to bring her two kids to my house and babysit all of the children (minus Zaden) and that was I supposed to meet her at her house.  Well, since I saw Stefanie's minivan in the driveway when I pulled up to the H's house, I figured something was up!  Sure enough, it was a surprise birthday party, and it was quite a treat.  Jen fixed a delicious 5-course meal for us which included homemade chocolate cheesecake for dessert.  Oh, my!  Everything was wonderful, and best of all was getting to relax and visit with friends.  I felt so honored and blessed.

Charis had play rehearsal, and we did laundry and cleaned house preparing for Grandma J's arrival!  Her flight arrived in the middle of the afternoon, so we were able to enjoy dinner and the evening together.  I may have even gotten a nap before dinner...I can't remember!

We attended both services at church, and then I took a nap in the afternoon before we ate dinner and headed back to church for a special Thanksgiving service.

We got to Skype with Ted in the morning, which was an extra special treat since he doesn't get to Skype with his mom.  Later, Rhonda and I went out with some of my neighbor friends to The Cheesecake Factory for my birthday lunch!  Jessica C babysat the kids.  We took Zaden along and he did great!  Good food, great friends...lots of fun! 

My actual birthday!  Rhonda got me a one-hour massage for my gift, so after Skyping a bit with Ted, I headed out (right after a feeding!) to enjoy some alone time.  I was gone for about 6 hours--WOW!  Six hours with no kids!  I must say, I never thought I'd WANT to be alone for my birthday, but considering the circumstances, I can honestly say it was heavenly!  The massage was wonderful, and then I enjoyed lunch by myself and started a letter to Ted, a luxury of time that is rarely afforded these days.  Then I drove to the Dayton Art Institute (and pumped in the parking lot!) and enjoyed seeing the Norman Rockwell exhibit.  Oh!  It was so wonderful!  I'm so glad I went and did that.  Then I picked up Chick-Fil-A (courtesy of Rhonda) to bring home for dinner.  Rhonda took Charis and Kenna to the theater for Charis's dress rehearsal, so Rhonda and Kenna got to watch the show.  Meanwhile, the boys had their karate class in our basement!  If we can get a few more boys interested in joining, Sensei Steve R. says we can hold the classes at our house, which is fine with me!

Grandma and Charis got some girl time this day.  Charis had been saving her Michael's gift card to use when Grandma came, since Rhonda is the one who got it for her for her 11th birthday.  They shopped and then went out for lunch together.  I worked just a little bit on some Thanksgiving Day preparations, and then after the girls got back, I went out to get my hair cut (just a trim) and buy some groceries at Kroger.  I know, what was I thinking?!  We had most everything we needed for the dinner, but I did need to get a few items, and it's always nice to go shopping without kids in tow.  After dinner we watched It's a Wonderful Life with some real stove-top popped corn!

What a fun, relaxing day!  Rhonda and I worked together on the food stuff off and on.  We enjoyed spending time with the kids...watched the parade a little, made Thanksgiving posters like we did last year, and finally got ready for our big meal in the evening.  We hosted 3 college kids from our Resolve to Read Sunday school class, and it was so fun to watch them interacting and playing with our kids.  Colin, Ian, and Christine were just as silly with our kids as Ted would have been if he had been here--I think he would have been proud of some of the jokes and puns that came out!  We added some leaves to our Blessing Tree and played games.  And of course we enjoyed a full meal:  turkey, make-ahead mashed potatoes, squash bake, green bean casserole, dressing, Waldorf salad, homemade orange-cranberry sauce (courtesy of Eilene), and rolls.  We enjoyed chocolate-pecan pie for dessert with hot tea. 

Today was a little bittersweet.  It was normal as far as doing laundry, getting things cleaned up, etc.  I made a run to Trader Joe's and Meijers (kidless again!), but then we had to take Rhonda to the airport in the afternoon.  I honestly cannot believe it's been a whole week!  I can only pray that the coming weeks will fly by as well.  I am not entirely sure what we're doing for Christmas, but I hope it's as fun and full of blessings as this Thanksgiving was.

November 15, 2011

Lucan Tidbits

  • Praying with Lucan before his breakfast:  "Dear God, thank you for Lucan and for his oatmeal."  Lucan says, "You're welcome."

  • For unknown reasons, Lucan doesn't usually care to have the lights on in the family room.  In fact, he often demands that they be OFF.  Now that he can reach the light switch on his own, this can be tiresome, particularly for the siblings who are trying to read.

  • Likewise, for reasons known only to himself, it is not acceptable for the windows to be OPEN, even if we have a beautifully warm day and want some fresh air.  With much screeching and loud protesting, Lucan will drag the footstool to the windows in order to reach the windows, pull them down, and close the curtains as if to say, "I said, WINDOWS DOWN!!"

  • When I'm reading a book to him, after he turns each page, Lucan says, "Mommy," as if to announce, "OK, the page is turned and you can keep reading now."

  • New favorite snack:  almonds.  He knows where I keep them and often tries to help himself.

  • Current sleeping location:  either the big boy bed or the crib, depending on whatever his whim is!  He can climb in and out of the crib, but he's been doing pretty well with napping nearly every day anyway.  He has slept in the twin bed a number of times, and I can't figure out any sort of pattern, so I've taken to just letting him decide where he wants to be--BUT, we don't go back and forth!  I'm not playing THAT game, not with 12 stuffed animals, two blankets, and a ginormous pillow to shuffle back and forth!

  • Still repeating everything we say in a monotone voice--very funny!

November 10, 2011

The Hardest Part of the Day

For those who pray for us, I thought I'd share an almost daily struggle so that when you think of us, particularly during this time of the day, you can pray more specifically.

First of all, let me say that there is no way on God's green earth that we would be coping as well as we are if it weren't for God's grace and the power of prayer!  I can really tell that people are lifting us up.  Things are never perfect, but amazingly, my attitude has mostly stayed positive, and I'd like to think I've grown up a little since our last deployment!  I have fewer pity parties, for example, but then again...that could be because I don't have time to even think, let alone throw a party that no one else is invited to, LOL!

That said, there are predictable times when I just want to turn in my military spouse badge and call it quits.  This is the after-dinner-before-bedtime Crappy Snappy Hour (I'll try to keep it as positive as I can while still being real, how about that?!).  This fun time happens on evenings when we don't have any other activities away from the house such as AWANA.  Dinner time is usually a reasonably pleasant affair.  We've been doing "Joy, Junk, Jesus" around the table, taking turns telling about a joy or highlight from the day, a "junk" (or low point) from the day, and a moment during the day that pointed us to Jesus.  I got this brilliant idea from my friend Megan, who maybe does it with her kids at bedtime--I couldn't remember.  But I was tired of having the kids eat and literally run away from the table.  Darn it, if I spend upwards of an hour preparing the food that you mow through without even tasting, you'll at LEAST sit at the table and talk to me while I enjoy what I've made!

Ahem.  Anyway.  After dinner is over, the "fun" begins.  It's definitely worse on evenings when the weather doesn't permit me to send the boys outside.  At any given moment, any or all of the following could be happening in this house:
  • I am on the couch, nursing Zaden.
  • Lucan is heaven knows where, dumping who knows what onto the floor.  When he finally passes close enough to the place where I am nursing Zaden, I catch a whiff of a different type of dumping.
  • Kenna is running around in her 26th outfit of the day, singing at the top of her lungs a song that only she knows.
  • Tobin and Arden are running cartoon-like throughout the house, i.e. in a puff ball of smoke, from which can only be seen various appendages and exclamation points.  As they tumble through the house, the decibel level rises with their grunts, shouts, guffaws, and/or cries of alarm or rage.
  • Charis, my dinner-cleaner-upper-helper, has disappeared to read or craft without doing her job.  Since she helps me in SO many ways, I try not to begrudge her alone time, but it IS frustrating that the one reliable offspring is nowhere to be seen in the midst of utter chaos.
  • The remains of dinner still need to be put away, and dirty dishes are pretty much on every horizontal surface of the kitchen.
  • The floor is covered with crumbs stuck to random spots of goo.  And we just mopped yesterday!
  • The phone rings.
  • Someone knocks at the door.
And when I said earlier that any or all of the following could be happening, I am NOT kidding--quite often ALL of those bullet points are happening AT THE EXACT SAME TIME!!

So you get the picture of the frustrating level of chaos going on.  Now add to that the fact that I most likely am functioning on sleep that happened from 10:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., with no nap in the afternoon.  Because I physically cannot do a whole lot during this time period--I'm either nursing/caring for Zaden or trying to reduce the kitchen's level of chaos--my tolerance for shenanigans and noise has increased.  A little.  Why add to the chaos by yelling?!  Oh, but I do.  Just not (so much) for noise.  Mostly for trying to stop an argument or to prevent something bad from happening.


It gets remotely close to someone's bedtime.  Then, the chaos MUST STOP.  I can't handle it anymore.  I am tired of stepping over random toys and books.  I am tired of walking into a different room and having my shoulders automatically slump because I'm so overwhelmed by the mess and disorganization.  I am tired of the bickering, the complaining, the tattling.  I am just tired of NOISE and MESS, and I want it to go away RIGHT NOW.

"Right now" to a grown-up = at least 45 minutes to a kid.  Multiply that by 5 mobile children, and that is approximately how long it seems to take us to get the house and kids clean and ready for bed.  I start this process at 7 or 7:30, hoping (in vain) that THIS will be the night that EVERYONE is in bed early so that I can enjoy some quiet alone time.

However, by the time everyone is in bed, it's time for Zaden to nurse again, and I'm so tired I can't even think straight, not that I've been able to do that all day.  And of course once Zaden has finished nursing, I HAVE to get to bed immediately so I can have some hope of getting a decent stretch of sleep.

This part of the day is often challenging enough when Ted is home to help.  We're both tired, and there are times we just look at each other and ask, "Do you think the kids will put themselves to bed?!"  But it's infinitely more exhausting when I can't tag team with anyone.  I do pray a lot during these hours...and while Jesus is a wonderful comfort and friend...well, His presence hasn't yet manifested in such a way as to clean the kitchen or change the diapers for me!  But at least I know He IS with me!

I'm not trying to make anyone feel sorry for me.  Probably 99% of the time I don't even feel sorry for me.  This is just the way it is, and we get through it.  And we'll continue to get through it.  But I recognize this is a consistent challenge for me, and I could use all the prayers I can get!  For patience, nay, "longsuffering;" for endurance; for joy and contentment despite circumstances that, humanly speaking, would typically drain anything of the like from one's heart.

And with that, it's time to nurse Zaden again and get to bed!

November 08, 2011

Arden's Birthday Party

Whew, I can't keep up with anything these days.  I don't want to overlook Arden by not posting about HIS birthday party, so here goes!

The Saturday after Charis's birthday party weekend we had some boys over to the house for Arden's party.  I'm so thankful that he was an easy guy to plan for!  I didn't even make invitations.  Actually, I didn't even SEND invitations!  I emailed a few moms and talked to one mom at church three days before the party! 

Arden chose a Bakugan theme, a current obsession with the boys in our neighborhood.  The boys who came brought their favorite Bakugan cards and figures, and they did their "brawling" in pairs all over the house.  They did that for awhile, then we had Papa John's pizza, then they brawled some more, and then we had an ice cream cake from Ritter's, and then Arden opened presents, and they brawled some more and went home.  Easiest. Party. EVER!  Arden loved it, and so did all the boys!

Arden got a special birthday present from Daddy...Ted ordered an Avalanche jersey for him.  We Skyped with Ted when Arden opened the package, and it was very fun for Ted to be able to hear and see the excitement!

November 01, 2011

The Supplementing of the Spirit

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  1 Peter 2:2-3

I was clearing out one of my cupboards awhile ago.  Before I relegated some of these items to a storage closet, I decided to snap a picture to remind me of a few of the lessons I've learned this year.  Featured here are items I received from the lactation consultant who helped Zaden and me through our nursing trauma: a hand pump, bottles that went with the electric pump I borrowed, and the supplemental nursing system (SNS).  For those who aren't familiar with the SNS (I wasn't before all this happened), you place breastmilk or formula inside the bottle, making sure the tubes are clamped off until the proper time.  The bottle hangs around your neck, and the tubing gets taped to the breast you're nursing on.  When the baby is latched on, you release the clamp, allowing milk to flow through the tubing so Baby can receive nourishment from both the SNS and Mom.

The whole process was sometimes stressful, always cumbersome, but undoubtedly exactly what we needed.  Today Zaden is a champion nurser, and I have the honor of breastfeeding my sixth baby.

During our weeks with the SNS, I harbored a love-hate relationship with the contraption.  I loved that my baby was gaining weight and that I was able to put breastmilk into it so he could be receiving all the nutritional benefits of my milk.  I hated that it was such an ordeal to feed him.  I even felt (rather unreasonably) a bit of jealousy that he would only nurse when he was getting the additional sustenance from the SNS.  Every feeding was a reminder that on my own, I was unable to give my baby adequate nutrition.

Happily, that was all temporary.  But it produced a startlingly clear picture of what the Holy Spirit does for us!  An important spiritual truth was illustrated for me, as put forth in these verses:

I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit.  Apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Cor. 1:18

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  1 Cor. 2:14

On my own, I am unable to comprehend God's Word and apply it to my life.  Were it not for the fact that God's Spirit resides in me--since I received His Spirit at the moment of salvation--this whole Christianity thing would seem foolish to me.  Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I could read my Bible, but I would not receive the nourishment needed to grow.  This reminds me of Jesus's parable about the sower:

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  Matthew 13:3-8

Without allowing the Holy Spirit to fill me (Eph. 5:18), I will scorch and wither with no root; I will be choked by the thorns of this world.  In order for the seed inside me to be nourished and grow, I need that supplemental nursing system--I need the Holy Spirit to feed me spiritually!

If there is one thing I've learned from Ted's deployment...from being a mother...from any situation in which I feel I'm in completely over my's this:  I am utterly, totally inadequate to do ANYTHING good.  I am utterly, totally dependent on God to fill me, strengthen me, guide me, use me for His glory.

Today I am so thankful for the SNS and how it helped Zaden get to the point where he could nurse well.  I am thankful for what God taught me during those difficult days and nights, and--truthfully--what He is still teaching me about leaning on Him.  While I'm glad Zaden has outgrown the need for the SNS, I know I will never outgrow my need for Christ.  I need all the help I can get. :-)

October 29, 2011

And Another Nursing Issue

I'm going to record the details of today's experience in case I have opportunity to help someone else in this situation sometime!  And for my own reference should this happen again...but Lord willing, I hope that will not be the case!

Yesterday all 6 kids and I went to Bethany's house to try to give her some help.  Bethany has been on strict bed rest for a good portion of her pregnancy.  She is nearing the end, and we are trying to be sure she cooks her little guy as long as possible!  Things went about as well as could be expected:  older kids helped with cleaning floors and raking and entertaining/picking up after the little ones, and I finished cleaning floors (i.e. got all the areas they missed, LOL) and did some kitchen work.  Anyway, knowing I would be working, I put on my sports nursing bra for the day.  Zaden didn't nap well all day, and I ended up nursing him about every 2 1/2 hours, even after we returned home.

By the time we finished our movie night (Chicken Run...Lucan was in bed after not napping at all), I was pooped and just left my sports bra on instead of changing to the nursing bra I typically wear at night.  I last nursed Zaden around 9:15.  At 3:38 a.m. I woke, having been lying on my right side, feeling VERY uncomfortable.  After nursing Zaden so frequently during the day, plus having him wake in the middle of the night the past few nights (so no long stretches of sleep for either of us), I figured my body was just going haywire with the milk production.  I went to the kitchen and pumped about 3 ounces, feeling somewhat more comfortable as I went to lie back down.  I never did get back to sleep, so I was ready to feed him when he woke at 4:15.  By the time he was finished, it was apparent that something was not right.  I put him back to bed and got into a hot shower, massaging my sore breast (the right side, of course! always problems with the right side!).  When I got out and looked in the mirror, it was so obvious something was wrong--lumps in weird places and a general misshapen appearance.  I felt I had done as much as I could at that point, so I took some Ibuprofin and went back to bed, thinking we'd be up in another hour or so to nurse again. 

Wrong!  You might know, the night I need Zaden to nurse more frequently he sleeps longer!  It was 8 a.m. when we both awoke, and I was even more sore, to the point of being in tears while nursing him.  Of course I was starting him on the affected side and trying to let him go for a long time, but it hurt so badly.  And when he finished, it didn't seem to be any better.  I spent most of the morning putting hot washcloths on, massaging the area as much I could stand it, pumping (or trying to--wasn't getting much from that side at this point), applying a hot rice pack, and doing it all over again.

Thankfully it's Saturday, so I let the kids watch Loony Toons DVDs all morning so I could doctor myself and take care of Zaden.  By time the 10:30 am feeding came around, I was Skyping with Ted and crying because nursing hurt so much.  But I also noticed a white head on the nipple that, after Zaden finished nursing, was definitely blister-like.  In my reading about plugged ducts vs. mastitis, I had seen that plugged ducts could end in a white blister.  Several sites said to use a sterile needle to gently pop the blister.  The very thought made me queasy, so I set things up so I could get back into a hot shower.

After following directions for the blister, plus about 20 minutes of massaging the area in the hot shower, the hard lumps were definitely improving, though things still looked off, and I was still very tender.  When I rejoined the rest of the family, Charis informed me that while I was showering, one of her directors had called wondering why she wasn't at rehearsal.  ACK!!  I double-checked the schedule and realized that somehow I had missed the fact that she was supposed to be there today.  I don't know why or how I missed it--it was clearly marked that her page numbers were scheduled for today.  So, a few tears (on my part) and a quick phone call later, we were on our way to the theater with my neighbor Chris here at home with the kids.

I got home and used the warm rice pack again, then nursed Zaden on the sore side for a little bit before having to go pick up Charis.  (Thankfully Chris was able to hang out here at the house, so I just left all the kids here, which made it easier to run in and sign Charis out.)  I was feeling SO much better by this point, and after finishing our feeding once I returned, I was pleased to find that the lumps were completely gone.  Also, it seemed that Zaden was able to nurse better--I'm not sure what was going on earlier, perhaps he wasn't getting as much milk as he was used to, but his latch/suck seemed off, and my nipple was getting sore again from it.  But this time around, everything seemed to be working well.

Praise the is now nearly 6 p.m., and the only tenderness I have seems to be the result of all the aggressive massaging from earlier today.  We finished another successful feeding that didn't involve pain--woohoo!  I am so thankful that the whole ordeal didn't last long!  Now I am praying that I don't get any infections from pricking the skin of the blister. :-/  Zaden is certainly none the worse for the wear, as he's been giving good smiles all day!  Here's one of them!