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!