Saturday, February 28, 2009


Today I hit the 20-week milestone, halfway through this pregnancy (more or less). As I remember the anxiety I had at the beginning about whether I would even be able to sustain this pregnancy or would miscarry, I breathe an extra prayer of thanks today for the immense privilege of having this little one inside me, safely growing and developing thus far.

I haven't written much about pregnancy cravings, but here's my latest one: Snyder's Hot Buffalo Wing pretzel pieces and Quick Refresher. Quick Refresher* is a legendary drink in the Huffman family, made famous by my grandmother who always seemed to have this on hand to be consumed voraciously by us. I thought everyone knew what Quick Refresher was until I left the shelter of my Virginia family circle and went to college in Pennsylvania and then got married and moved to California. "Quick Refresher?" my friends would say, "What's THAT?" And then they would laugh in gentle derision at what they thought was a silly name. Let 'em laugh...I'll drink it all myself! :)

The craving for these pretzel pieces is a little strange since I don't normally snack on spicy things; that's Jeff's specialty, not mine. But for some reason, I find the zing in these pretzels very appealing these days. I don't think I'd even tasted them before this pregnancy since the thought of eating them had never appealed to me before. Now I'm making up for lost time and munching on these quite often. :)

Gotta love the freedom that comes from being pregnant and basically able to eat whatever you want!

* To make Quick Refresher, you simply mix 3/4 cup Tang, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/3 cup lemon juice with water to make a gallon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

19 Weeks...

The ultrasound!

What can I say about it? I loved every second of it and could have watched our sweet baby for much longer; the boys enjoyed it for about 5 minutes and then kept asking when it would be over. :)

When Josiah and David first saw this image...

...they said it looked like a pirate.

This view of the spine...
...prompted them to say it looked like we are having a dinosaur.

And this image of the face (with the right hand by the right eye and the left arm stretched straight up by the head)...
...made them say, "It's Gollum!" (from Lord of the Rings). Lovely.

Here are the images I like the best: the arms and hands (thanks for flexing for us, Baby, and showing off your muscles!)...
...the legs and feet (in the picture on the right below, you can actually count all the toes of one of the precious little feet)...
...and, of all things, an ear sticking out from the head. This was a new view to me; I don't remember seeing a picture quite like this from any of my other ultrasounds. In the picture, we can see the back of the baby; it's lying on its left side looking away from us with the right shoulder visible at the top. The little arrow is pointing to a protrusion from the head which is the ear! Imagine: my baby weighs about 11 ounces, and yet we can already see the ear. :)
And the big news is...



Our desire to leave the gender undetected was honored by the ultrasound tech (despite Jeff's earlier dream) so, for the first time in our lives, we will approach delivery without knowing who we'll be welcoming!

I'm REALLY glad that we're doing it this way, but I have to admit that in a moment of weakness in the waiting room yesterday morning, I did ask Jeff if maybe we should go ahead and find out. He rather forcefully vetoed that suggestion. :) He said he thinks it will help me go through labor and delivery if I don't know! We'll see about that... ;)

The baby was healthily active during the ultrasound (and I certainly feel lots of movement these days), and the measurement was right on: 19 weeks, 4 days. My weight was up to 159 which the midwife (Ann) was actually happy to see because it had dropped a tiny bit before my last appointment. My blood pressure was fine, something like 126 over 70, although I didn't write it down and I don't remember for sure.

Probably the most welcome news was that my placenta has shifted upwards (and will probably continue to migrate up and not move further down), so that was a relief after the anxiety early on about the subchorionic hematoma.

Yesterday I was thinking about how very grateful I am to live in this modern age when we can have such amazing glimpses of our little ones, long before they are born. I don't understand exactly how ultrasound works, but I have an immense appreciation for it!

After we got home yesterday, I told Jeff that now it feels like the wait will be FOREVER until this baby is born! With our other ones, there was a flurry of preparation that "needed" to be made after we found out the gender; but this time, I don't really have anything special to do. After we move Tobin's clothing out of the nursery and graduate him to another room, I can't even start putting baby stuff into the dresser and armoire (like I enjoyed so much when pregnant with Tobin). How am I going to fill my time until mid-July? ;)

~ 18 weeks, 6 days...with Misty Myers at our Friday fellowship potluck
~ 19 weeks, 1 day...on the floor with Tobin, that adorable happy little sweetheart!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Good News

She's home!!! Dad was able to bring Mother home from the hospital tonight; and although she's still not feeling the greatest, we're all relieved to have her continue her recovery in the comfort of her own home! Hopefully she'll be able to sleep better tonight than she has for the past few nights. At least she can be sure of the fact that no one is going to wake her up at 4:30 AM to weigh her. :) (I know hospitals have certain procedures that they have to follow; but good grief, I still don't understand why they have to do things exactly like they think they do...but I've never worked in a hospital so I wouldn't understand!) :)

Seeing the lights come on in Mom & Dad's house and knowing that they are both there tonight was one of the best moments of the day...and this day has had its fair share of "best moments," particularly in the ultrasound room of Shenandoah Women's Health Care this morning. :) More on that tomorrow (hopefully), if I get a chance to do my 19 Weeks post...

Again, I want to express a huge amount of appreciation to all those who were praying for my mother and reaching out to us in some way. We are all so very grateful!!!

To end, here are some pictures of sweet Tobin getting a haircut tonight from his daddy, the most famous barber in Harrisonburg (for today anyway)! But this haircut was special. Yes, very special indeed because this haircut happened here at home our garage...with Tobin sitting on--what else?--a potter's wheel! Sure made it easy to swivel him around! :)
I love the surprised look on Tobin's face in the top picture...
...and then the big grin he gave me in this bottom picture. I love this boy!!! (And his daddy...) ;)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thankfully... mother seems to be feeling much better this evening. I was able to spend the whole day in the hospital with her (thanks to the amazing, generous kindness of friends and neighbors, the Shanks and the Sacras, who took care of the boys, made sure Josiah got to his choir class this afternoon, and even provided a delicious supper for us tonight); and I watched her progress from horrible pain this morning to feeling pretty good this afternoon! My mom is not a complainer so you know the pain is bad when, on a 10-point pain scale, she gives it an 8 or 9. I'm so relieved that the worst of her pain seems to be over.

We still don't know exactly what the root of the problem was. Various tests seemed to rule out a gallbladder problem as well as pancreatitis. For a while, the possibility of diverticulitis was floating around; but nothing conclusive has been mentioned to us. The other possibility is that it was a severe case of a particularly nasty virus that's been passed around; and if I were voting, I'd say that explanation fits the best with what I saw. But what do I know? :)

My dad is staying with her tonight, and we're hopeful that she'll be released from the hospital tomorrow and be able to finish her recovery in her own home sweet home.

THANK YOU to all who were praying for her, and left comments, or sent emails, or called, or helped out in various ways. We are so grateful!!!

Here's a picture of my mother to close out this post. This was taken on Christmas, way back in 2005; and the baby in her lap is our adorable David.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mother in the Hospital, Boys in the Bathtub

I awoke this morning with a deep sense of doom, brought on by the extremely vivid dream I had just had about watching an airplane crash. In my dream, the crash happened where route 33 and Switchboard Road intersect; and the van I was traveling in with quite a few other people was heading east on 33, watching this enormous plane crash just to our left. It was headed to the country of Jordan; and oddly, all the passengers in my van (including myself) were driving to the airport to get on a flight to Russia, I believe. We don't normally have many international flights around here, but anything's possible in a dream. As we watched, this huge plane appeared to be stopped in the air; and as I wondered, "Can it DO that and stay up?", the answer was revealed as it crashed towards earth, tail first. There's nothing quite like watching someone die, if only in a dream, to set the mood for a new morning.

I wasn't a bit surprised to look out the window and see my parents' car gone. Usually at that time of day, Mom and Dad are sitting around their table, eating their breakfast of Cheerios, before Dad walks over to his office for another day of treating patients. But today, I thought with no sense of shock, "Well, Mom must be at the hospital."

Yesterday morning, she woke up with "intestinal disturbances," brought on by some sort of passing virus, we thought. Nothing serious. I wasn't worried about her.

Today, as I've found out later through phone calls from my dad, she woke up with severe upper abdominal pain so Dad decided the hospital was the best place for her; and he was planning to take her there himself until her blood pressure dropped, and he realized an ambulance ride was just what she needed. (Didn't I just mention how grateful I am for the rescue personnel in this town?) So off they went, Mom in the rescue squad, Dad in the car.

Despite my sense of doom that lingers, I'm still not really worried about her. She's having some blood tests done, and will have a CT scan in a little while. Dad thought it might be a gallbladder problem at first; but last I talked to him, he mentioned pancreatitis. In any case, they (nurses, doctors, Dad) are taking good care of her, and God's protecting arms stretch all the way into the corridors and rooms of RMH!

I'm sure Dad's cell phone will start ringing as my aunts read this blog and call to check in. For once, I became the "herald" of news--my dad's usual role!

To lighten the mood, I'm going to post a series of silly pictures. Jeff snapped these a week or two ago when I was gone one evening and he had all the boys in the bathtub. I'm not sure why Josiah had his hand up by his eye the whole time, but the part that makes me laugh every time I look at it is the way Tobin notices those funny things on David's face, then reaches out to grab the goggles. You've got to be careful when you're in range of Tobin's arms. You just might find your glasses yanked off your face, or your necklace bathing in the saliva of his mouth, or your teeth examined as his fingers pry your mouth open, or even your nose picked! :)

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Simple Sunday - Baby's First Gift

~ so thankful for this gorgeous afghan that my talented and generous friend Amy made and recently gave us, the first gift that The New Baby has received...being a baby of the family myself, I guess I'm extra sensitive to having something new for each child, something that was made or purchased just for them...this little child, whoever he or she might be, will be loved and cuddled and snuggled and adored as he/she is wrapped in this beautiful sunshiny blanket...perfect for our sunshiny July baby!
~ I usually only post one picture for Simple Sunday, but I love everything about this afghan so much that I decided to post two :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Revelation

About a week and a half ago, the boys and I stopped by the Sacra's house to drop off some fresh eggs for them from our little flock of hens. We were on our way home from Josiah's choir class so we got to the Sacra's a little before 5:30, just before all the family members came home, just before dinner time. And there I had a revelation...

I've written on the blog before about how that hour of the day often seems to be a "piranha hour" for us, with the munchkins tired and hungry and circling, ready to snap their little jaws at me and each other, and I suppose I'm the biggest piranha of them all since I too often find myself at the end of my figurative rope by that hour of the day, ready to be rescued by Jeff who walks in the door exhausted by his long day at work and ready for some peace and quiet. Fortunately, I have seen some improvement in how we all relate to each other during this time; and I'm hopeful that as the boys grow and mature (and as I mature and become more like Jesus), this hour of the day will become easier and more refreshing for each of us. But despite the improvement, it still wasn't a time of day that I looked forward to; in fact, my attitude was more like, "Well, let's just get through this the best we can."

I've also mentioned a time or two how that time of evening can be a melancholy time for me, particularly when it's winter, particularly when I have pregnancy or postpartum hormones flowing through me! :) I certainly don't get the blues every evening, but once in a while I do...and again, my attitude was more focused on pushing through and "surviving" that time of day, rather than celebrating it.

However, in an instant, I glimpsed an alternative view of that time of day. When the door of the Sacra's home was opened to me, I caught sight of the table nicely set, the delicious aroma of supper cooking, and the feeling of WELCOME that rushed out. Suddenly I realized, "This is the very nicest time of day." Before we could even pull ourselves away from their house (our delay due, in large part, to David's insistence on showing every member of their family the band-aid he had on his finger because of a little scratch he got), several members of their family arrived home from work or whatever activities they were involved in; and I realized how sweet it must be to come home every evening after a long day and be warmly welcomed by family who has been missing you and waiting for your arrival all day long. In my role as the welcoming committee in our home, I don't get to experience the other side of it! But I saw, more clearly than ever before, the beauty of those moments of gathering together, complete as a family after a day apart; and even more, I was inspired to continue my quest for excellence even in that sometimes difficult, hungry, tired, grumpy, stretched-as-a-mother hour.

Back in June of 2007, I had included in one of my blog posts, a quote from the book A Lantern in Her Hand that describes the specialness of that time of day. As I've reflected on the scene at the Sacra's, my thoughts have come back to that portion of Aldrich's book. I needed to be reminded of it.

Another reminder came in a marriage book I finished reading just this week, Lasting Marriage: The Owners' Manual by Harvey Yoder. In it, he includes this quote from Green Mountain Farm by Elliott Merrick. The summer smoke is coming blue out of the chimney, and the window in the kitchen shows yellow. The house looks so incredibly cozy and desirable in the midst of this fiercely beautiful and merciless landscape; it is enough to tear your soul out by its roots. Into my mind comes the realization that here I am, now, out of all time and space, here in this place. And I say to myself, This is my home. My woman. A baby. Two babies. Simple things like that.

All of this combines to persuade me to change my head and heart--to no longer call it "piranha hour" but rather "coming home hour," to pursue the path of making my home a peaceful and safe haven after sometimes stormy days away, to realize that even if Josiah and David are having a silly squabble over some toy and even if Tobin has a dirty diaper that needs changed and even if supper isn't ready (or even worse, is burned) and even if no cloth napkins are on the table and no soft music is playing... Even then, as the family gathers together once more, it's the sweetest kind of homecoming; and I'll treasure it each time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Most Exciting Moment of the Day...

...occurred this evening when Josiah was looking out the front window and noticed smoke--heavy smoke--everywhere outside. It was so thick that it looked like fog, but he knew that fog couldn't just come out of nowhere like that. He alerted the rest of us, and we all came quickly into the living room to see what was going on. Since we have a woodstove and use it constantly in the winter, the thought of a chimney fire (or to be honest, a house fire) is always in the back of our heads; and we were quite concerned that the smoke might be coming from that. It didn't take long though for us to realize that it was actually coming from our neighbors' house, and Jeff took off across the yard (in freezing temperatures with no coat) to find out what was going on and warn the Shanks if they weren't aware of the awful smoke coming from their chimney.

Before he had quite gotten to their house, Wilma and one of the girls, I think, had come outside and were looking up at the chimney, so they did know about it. I never really got the story straight about what exactly happened in their chimney--something about leaves which flew up the chimney and ignited at the top--I don't know. The thick, smelly smoke didn't last so long; but Douglas was concerned enough to call the fire department to come and check things out.

I don't know how fire departments and rescue squads work in different parts of the country, but here it is totally free to use them and they provide a GREAT service for us. My sister and oldest brother volunteered with the local rescue squad when they were teenagers (and maybe in their early 20s, too?), and I just thought that was the coolest thing. :) I was convinced that when I got old enough, I too would volunteer with the squad and get to have a neat-o scanner that would be by my bed and I would hear the various calls go out and I would respond and help someone in need and the next day I would have a great story to tell of my rescue adventures. Alas, that day never came. By the time I hit high school, I had let myself get way too busy to help with the squad so that little dream of mine died a slow death. In any case, to this day, I have a great deal of admiration for the rescue personnel in our community!

After Douglas called the fire department, it didn't take them long at all to come out with men and gear and trucks and ladders, and they were eventually able to get high enough to look down in the chimney and see what had happened and test for the structural integrity and safety of the chimney. As it turns out, all is well; and the Shanks can still use their chimney which is a wonderful blessing. But as I built up the fire in our own faithful woodstove tonight, I was reminded of the incredible power that fire possesses: power to sustain life, and power to destroy it.
This was the view that greeted the guests in our home this evening as they arrived for our Friday Fellowship Potluck (and all those pick-up trucks parked along the drive are from off-duty firefighters who heard the call and came to help, some arriving even before the firetrucks did). Here in the peaceful countryside, we don't often see a firetruck with lights blazing in our neighbor's driveway...but don't think for a minute that nothing ever happens here on Sylvan Drive. The simple life is anything but boring! :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

18 Weeks...

My belly at 18 weeks, 4 days...

I don't feel very wordy today, and I have no soapbox on which to climb. This will be a brief update--quite a change of pace for me. :) Actually, my heart and mind are so full of other stuff that thoughts of this pregnancy just bring a quiet, simple, peaceful joy--one which I, for today, want to hold close to me rather than shouting it from the rooftops.

I continue to feel good for the most part, and I'm so grateful for that. I keep thinking to myself, "When is the hard stuff going to kick in? Bad back pain? Feeling completely clumsy? Painful Braxton Hicks contractions?" Because at this point, I'm not having any of that. I thought by now, I would have to drag out the huge old beloved beast of a maternity pillow that saved my back during Tobin's pregnancy; but so far I haven't needed it so it remains tucked away in our hall closet, waiting for another day.

Next week is our ultrasound which I'm anticipating very much, but with a different sort of excitement than I had with the other pregnancies. Since we hope the question of gender will remain hidden, there hasn't been such a build-up to this ultrasound. But I still long for the opportunity to have a glimpse of our littlest one and, especially, for Josiah and David to see The New Baby.

I like the picture in my pregnancy ticker this week so much that I'm duplicating it here so that in the future, when I print this segment of my blog into a book, I'll have a record of it.

The golden days of pregnancy continue...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Answer

Apparently, Bonnie, in her free time from being the mother of three adorable little munchkins, is an amateur sleuth, because her comment about why David was wearing a dress was right on. Here are a few of the details she missed! :)

Yesterday, our homeschool co-op had a field trip, for those who wished to participate, to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Museum, and Birthplace in nearby Staunton, Virginia. I remember a fun field trip there as a school girl, and I was glad for the opportunity to take Josiah and David (and my mother stayed here with Tobin and canned applesauce while he slept, so all my boys had a good morning). Actually, Josiah and David had both been there once before--in the fall of 2006 when Jeff's sister and her family came from California for their first visit to our "new" home. Since their last name is Wilson, it was only appropriate that we take them to the first home of President Wilson! What I remember mostly from that trip is the anxiety I felt as we toured the home, knowing that one of the dear little boys in our group could, in just a moment of not obeying the rules, ruin something priceless and irreplaceable! During yesterday's visit, I was much more relaxed. :)

The students from our co-op were divided into three groups, based on their age; and I don't know about the other groups, but I must say that our tour guide did a very good job of tailoring her talk to the level of the students in our group. She made it interactive and talked about things that would be interesting to them. I thought it was very well done.

In the picture below, the students (before they divided into the groups) learn about Wilson's presidential car. Pretty fancy schmancy for its day, it was!
Josiah (with David right in front of him but hard to see) listens intently.
We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the home itself where Woodrow was born (Woodrow is his middle name, by the way...Thomas is his first, and he was called Tommy as a boy); but after that part of the tour, we got to experience a schoolroom of his times, and the children got to draw on slates and practice handwriting. The next time Josiah complains about the simple handwriting I make him practice, I'll remind him of the elaborate handwriting that Woodrow had to master!
I wasn't sure how fully David, at 3 years of age, would be able or would want to participate in all the activities; but he jumped right in without hesitation...
...and drew a house as instructed (one house, two chimneys, three windows, four trees, etc.).
Josiah concentrated fully on the task at hand, as is his nature.
And then it was time to learn about the toys of Wilson's day...and dress up...and play! The girls weren't reluctant at all to rush to the closet with the girl clothes and choose something pretty.
One little beauty...
...and another.
And another? Except--wait--that's a boy! So "handsome" is the word I'm looking for, despite the lacy ruffle around his neck. :)
So what's up with boys and dresses??? According to our guide, in the 1850s, it was customary for infant boys to wear dresses, then as they grew older, they wore "tunics" (which look like dresses to us), and then they were allowed to wear short pants under their tunics, and finally (around age 12 or 14, I think) were permitted to wear normal long pants like a man. The boys in our group yesterday got to experience a little of what the boys of that day went through; but of course, the boys of that day didn't know any differently so I'm sure it didn't bother them! Neither did it bother our boys who, almost as eagerly as the girls, went to the closet with the boy clothes and chose their desired finery. If either Josiah or David had resisted, not wanting to wear a dress, I wouldn't have pushed them a bit on that issue; but both were happy to wear a "tunic" and try out the old-fashioned games (which were not very easy, by the way)!

Besides seeing my boys in dresses, what I think I'll remember from yesterday is that Woodrow Wilson didn't know the letters of the alphabet until age 9 and didn't read until age 12. Despite his early difficulties with learning, he went on to become the highest-educated president ever, earning a Ph.D.--something no other president had done before or has done since. I'll also remember that almost all historians rank him in the list of top 10 presidents, usually around number 6 (according to our guide who could understandably be a bit biased). :)

All in all, it was a fun and educational day; and I'm glad we didn't miss the opportunity to participate in it! Because really, wasn't it worth it just to see David's cute face in a dress? ;)

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Question

Why in the world is David wearing a DRESS???
Answer revealed tomorrow! (If I get more time to blog tomorrow than I did today, that is...) :)


By the way, for those of you who live in this area, I wanted to let you know that on Wednesday of this week at 7:00 PM at our church (Weavers Mennonite), the Covenant Players will be performing/ministering; and you're invited! It's a free event sponsored by our youth but open to all ages. I remember when the Covenant Players came to town a few times during my youth, most particularly a day or two after my grandfather died. I always enjoyed their programs, and I really look forward to seeing one again (and seeing what kind of impact it has on my boys this time around!). :)

Another great upcoming event at our church that is open to anyone is a showing of the movie Fireproof on Friday, Feb. 27, also at 7:00 PM. If you haven't seen it already, well, you just should. :) If you're interested in coming and would like childcare, let me know and I can help arrange that.


The commercial is over. We return to our regularly scheduled broadcast. (Which was bedtime...good night!)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Simple Sunday - Chronicles of Narnia

~ thankful that our boys (two of them, anyway) are finally old enough to enjoy these treasures that I learned to love as a child...thankful for Jeff who has been reading them aloud to the boys...thankful for scenes of family togetherness and cuddle time like this...thankful for the profound spiritual principles that pervade these books

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

17 Weeks...

Josiah was, once again, my photographer for this 17 weeks, 4 days picture. He already knows way more about photography than I ever learned as a child. :)
These are the golden days of pregnancy, it seems; I feel fairly good physically, have evened out emotionally, welcome the changing shape of my body, cherish the tiny kicks I feel every so often, and generally consider myself blessed beyond measure to be the carrier and nurturer of this little life. Even though it already feels like I've been pregnant "forever" and I can't even remember what life was like before that test came out positive, I still find myself occasionally surprised by the fact that I am indeed pregnant. Quite the contradiction, I know; but here's a specific example: whenever someone refers to me as, "Davene who is pregnant with her fourth child," I think for a second, "I am? Me? Pregnant with my fourth? Woah, that's sort of a large family. Is that really me they're talking about?" :)

Pregnancy, at this stage, still feels rather vague and abstract. I try to remember that there is a real live human being inside me. I literally lie in bed and imagine the arms and legs and face of my child. It's hard for me to do at this stage, however, so my mind jumps ahead to the actual birth and the almost shocking moment of "that's a BABY that just came out of me!" that I always experience. I think of how it might be when this baby is born, when I see its complete form for the first time, when I feel it in my arms and hold it just like a "real baby." My mind always puts Tobin's face into my thoughts though, and I guess I'm not skillful enough at abstract thinking to fully imagine a new baby being birthed from my body. Despite this, it is a joyful thing to pause and strive to connect with who this tiny one inside me really is!

This, of course, is one of the reasons I'm looking forward to my upcoming ultrasound (in two more weeks). I do anticipate that sense of connectedness growing as a result; but because we're choosing to not find out the gender, I think the big thing I'm looking forward to discovering during the ultrasound is where is my placenta??? The bleeding I had back in December could indicate that the placenta is in an undesirable location; and if so, that would change the way the rest of this pregnancy and even the delivery progress. On the other hand, the placenta could be doing just fine, in a completely harmless position. We'll know after the 25th!

Since last week's post and my soapbox ranting about healthy babies, I've thought quite a bit about what I wrote, what responses I received (comments here and in person), and especially Sally's words that she left in a comment. I think I'm getting my soapbox out again; beware!

Like Sally said, I too pray for perfect health for my children born and unborn. The thought of one of them being afflicted with a serious disease or disability pierces my heart with a pain that's unlike little else. But much more than I pray for physical health for myself and my family, I pray that each one of us will be continually transformed into the likeness of Jesus and that someday we will all be together in heaven with God and each other. May the circle be unbroken!

I trust God so much that I actually desire Him to do whatever it takes for those two goals to be achieved (and I know Sally does, too, so I am in no way pointing fingers at her or accusing her of faithlessness...far from it!). If God knows that having a handicapped little brother will be the key to unlock Tobin's heart and turn him to Jesus, then I welcome it. If God's plan includes one of our children becoming ill or even dying so that the hearts of people are turned to God and their final destination becomes heaven, then so be it! THAT is true health. THAT is true blessing. THAT is what I earnestly desire more than anything else.

I think I whip out my soapbox when I hear people defining "blessing" in such narrow terms--such worldly terms. Blessing=good health, a decent living, as many children as you desire, happiness, owning your own home, a life fairly free from hardship and suffering, etc. What is that??? In my opinion, simply an American "Christian" view of blessing, but not biblical. I know my thinking in this area is influenced heavily by Jesus's words in the Sermon on the Mount where He turns the thinking of His hearers completely upside down and shows that God's economy operates on values diametrically opposed to the world's. "Blessed are those who mourn..." Really? Blessed are Joel and Jessica as they mourn Cora's death? Do I want that kind of blessing? "Blessed are those who are persecuted..." Oh, yeah? Blessed is Sandul who is in prison in Pakistan for her faith in Christ? Are my hands open and my lips chanting, "Oh, yes, God, bless me in that way?" Those in the world will never understand what God views as important...and why He so often considers what we think so important to be meaningless.

I am very aware, of course, that so many times God does pour out upon us the blessings of health and prosperity and absence of war in our country and protection from natural disasters. He sends the rain in due season...He makes the crops in the fields grow until they're heavy with harvest...He forms perfectly healthy children in the womb and brings them forth at the appointed time. But those things cannot become the definition of "blessing," or we show ourselves to be very near-sighted as we continue to function solely in the mindset of the world.

Jeff, on his blog, just posted two incredibly moving videos of a man with no limbs (here and here). As I watched them, I couldn't help but think again of how the world would see something like that in the womb and not even think twice before choosing abortion. And yet, what beauty would have been lost! What an outstanding example of an overcomer would have never been shown to anyone! What glory to God would have never been revealed! What encouragement and inspiration to others struggling with various difficulties would never have been shared! What a tragedy--not that he has no limbs, but that the world would have considered him worthless, something to be tossed away in a pile of garbage.

As I continue through this pregnancy, my prayer is that, yes, God would grant health and fullness of body to our tiny one. But more than that--so much more than that--I pray that He would change us into His likeness. Do whatever it takes, Lord. Whatever it takes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When Quiet Time Becomes QUIET Time

One of the aspects of our daily routine that makes my life much easier is our habit of 2-hour afternoon quiet time for Josiah and David. Yes, two hours. I know some families with this tradition get by with only one hour; but my boys don't know that yet, and I plan to keep this part of our routine until...oh, I don't know, they go off to college or something! ;)

It really is a valuable time, and not just for me! Since the boys get so much time together, I can see that it's healthy for them to have that time apart (one of them in the boys' bedroom and one in the guest room); and usually by the end of quiet time, they are ready to come together again and play happily, often choosing an activity that one or the other of them was thinking about during quiet time.

Tobin, of course, still naps every afternoon; but sometimes if he's not quite ready for his nap, I'll get him set up in the bouncy seat in the doorway of one of the rooms so he can watch one or the other of his big brothers. Then, after a while, I carry him off to his room, after he gets a hug and a kiss from both Josiah and David, and tuck him in his crib.

Occasionally, if one of the "big" boys is sick, or has been unusually tired and grumpy in the morning, or is going to stay up late that night for whatever reason, I have him take a nap. But unless there are special circumstances, they do just fine with quiet time...and it sure makes it easier for them to go to sleep in the evening when they haven't napped during the daytime.

During quiet time, they play with toys, look at books, draw pictures, etc. And sometimes, even when I don't plan on them napping, they fall fast asleep.

Like Josiah did on the guest bed one day last week...
Like David did in Josiah's bed yesterday...
And like Josiah did yesterday in Tobin's bouncy seat in the upstairs hall...
I can't imagine that he was very comfortable in that, but he slept that way for quite a while!

When things get very quiet upstairs, I usually tiptoe up to see where everyone is. I never get tired of watching my boys sleep. I'll definitely be the kind of mother who still creeps into her 15 year-old son's room in the middle of the night to pull up the covers and give him an extra kiss. :)


On another, much more serious note, I was reading this blog last night of a family in Kansas whose 11 month-old daughter Cora recently died of cancer. They only discovered that she had cancer about 3 weeks before she moved on to heaven and the comforting arms of Jesus. Three weeks is not long, not very long at all. As parents, how would you ever prepare your heart in such a short time? If you have a few moments and need a wake-up call to love your own children more tenderly and patiently today, I highly recommend reading about Cora. And please, say a prayer for her family. Their faith in God and the support system they have around them is sustaining them, but I can only imagine that such grief is far beyond words.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Simple Sunday - Mantel

~ thankful for this mantel display...not that it would win any awards in a decorating magazine, but to me it's highly significant because of what the wall hanging says ("All because two people fell in love...") and the pictures on the mantel that illustrate that principle...first, there are pictures of my grandparents (paternal and maternal), then a picture of my parents, then of Jeff and I, and then finally of our family of five...I only wish I had pictures of Jeff's side of the family to place on this mantel, is amazing to me to think about all the "life" that God had to weave together for many years to bring about my life and Jeff's and the lives of our children...not only do Jeff and I have a unique story of how we met and decided to marry, but also our parents do, and their parents, and their parents, and on and on...and now I look at our boys and think, "It really is because two people fell in love; and not only that, God blessed their love and made it grow"...for that, I am very grateful!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Sun Still Shines in February

It's no secret that winter is my least favorite season, no secret that I struggle to find joy in freezing temperatures, no secret that I long with ardor for the warmth and longer light of spring days.

However, as I've been working on attaining and maintaining a spirit of contentment this winter, I have found some things about this season for which to be grateful!

1. The sun still shines in February! Yes, it really does; and when it sparkles off the snow-covered ground, it's dazzling.

2. Plants still grow! At least, this young tender sprout of a marigold plant is indeed growing in our kitchen windowsill. When Josiah brought this cup of dirt out of his Sunday school class, I had my doubts about whether anything would really come up. But it did! Rather, they did, for now two lovely stems are poking their little heads out of the dirt and lifting my spirits with the promise of new growth.
3. We don't have to worry about bee stings in the winter.

4. There are no hordes of ants roaming my kitchen, looking for stray crumbs or bits of juice on the countertops.

5. No mosquito bites.

6. No swarms of buzzing flies. (See the theme here?) :)

7. There is no pressure to work outside in the garden.

8. I don't think to myself, "I'd better go weed that flowerbed now!"

9. No need to rake leaves. (The above three items I do enjoy, by the way; but the fact that I don't have to do them--or even think about doing them--in the winter frees up my time to accomplish other things, like...)

10. Lots of time for reading to the boys! If I could snap a picture that epitomizes this winter so far, it would be me sitting on the couch, with Josiah on one side and David on the other, and a pile of books beside us (Farmer Boy is a current favorite). Or if I could record a sound, it would be Jeff's voice reading The Chronicles of Narnia to the boys. Perhaps when summer comes with its long glorious evenings outside, I'll wish for the chill of winter when nothing was more appealing than cuddles and books.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When Jeff Goes Grocery Shopping

I am well aware of the fact that I'm in a fortunate minority when I say this: my husband loves to go grocery shopping. Blessed indeed--that's me!

There is, however, one problem. He always buys SO MUCH STUFF! What do I do with all of the groceries he brings home? Where do I put them? With overflowing cupboards (from his previous shopping trips, of course), my options are getting limited. It's a very good thing we have an entire room of our house devoted to food storage, but even that is getting pretty full.

Jeff's philosophy, when shopping for food, seems to be, "If buying one is good, then buying two or three or six or ten is even better!" Here are some examples, all of which really happened yesterday:

~ I needed some macaroni, so on the shopping list I wrote "macaroni"--and, in an effort to be extra helpful and specific, added the words "plain, dry." Jeff returned with 9 pounds of plain, dry pasta--elbow macaroni, rotini, ziti, angel hair pasta, and egg noodles! 9 pounds!!

~ I asked for black olives. Jeff brought home 7 cans! Now we have medium, large, extra large, and jumbo black olives!

~ I put baby food on the list and, once again, was very specific: "apples & chicken." Not only did Jeff buy that, he also threw in some sweet potatoes & chicken and pineapple-glazed ham, just for kicks!

~ I'm planning to serve a spinach and strawberry salad to the guests we're having over tomorrow evening. "Strawberries" went on the list. At the first store Jeff went to (Sharp Shopper), he found strawberries and bought a package of them; but when he got to Wal-Mart (to finish his shopping by buying all the things he couldn't find at the cheaper store), he noticed that the strawberries there looked better than Sharp Shopper's. Into the cart went two more packages!

~ I was craving red delicious apples. Jeff bought some at the first store he went to, then at the next store he thought he'd get some more, just in case the first kind he got weren't exactly what I wanted!

~ I did NOT write "candy" on the list. However, Jeff (who claims I'm the one with the sweet tooth and he prefers salty stuff) bought gummy bears, fireballs, and Sunkist fruit candies (which have vitamin C in them so they're just what our boys need to help them get over the little colds they have now)!

I have to laugh when the groceries are unpacked after Jeff goes shopping and I look around the kitchen at my overflowing countertops. Jeff claims his over-and-above shopping performance is related to the sense of security he gets from having plenty of food around; and to his credit, he gets great deals on the stuff he buys. I just think it's funny...and I think he's wonderful!!! ;)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Something's Missing...

...from the mouth of my firstborn.
After about a month and a half of wiggling, Josiah's first baby tooth to fall out gracefully made its exit today. Josiah was standing in the kitchen before lunch; and as I glanced at him, I saw his loose tooth at an unbelievable angle to the rest of his teeth and a little bit of blood starting to flow. I thought, "That tooth is going to come out!" And sure enough, Josiah himself, without a bit of fuss, calmly plucked the tooth from his mouth. I was so excited and proud. He's really growing up, that boy of mine!

After hugs and smiles and congratulations and a peek in the mirror by Josiah so he could see how his new smile looks, it was time to carefully tape the tooth in Josiah's baby book. I noticed that this first tooth to fall out was the first tooth he ever got; I wonder if it always works that way.
And so, another bit of our family history was made today. The event was photographed...the tooth was preserved...and now it's been blogged about--all within the space of a few hours. I wish I was this organized with all the important things that happen during the course of a day! But at least I caught this moment, and I'm grateful for that. :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snow Day

Snow--beautiful snow--began falling yesterday afternoon; and by night, our crepe myrtle bush looked like this in the glow from our porch light...
Today gave us this view from our front well as this. I always think of an elegant lady wearing old-fashioned flowing skirts when I see the way these pine branches bend down to touch the earth when snow covers them.
Today I noticed the texture of the snow: the bumps and ridges, the shadows, and even the sparkles (which don't show up as well in this picture). It reminded me of a desert of pure white sand.
Our holly bushes have been loaded with berries this year. I took a picture of holly in the shade...
...and later, holly in the sunshine.
Outdoor toys always look a little forlorn to me during the winter months, as they wait for their young friends to come and enjoy them again during warmer weather.
This snow was glorious in the way it stuck to everything: every single branch...
...every seed pod...
...even an old forgotten tennis ball Jeff had hung in our English walnut tree for Josiah to practice hitting.
The woods across the Beery's pasture from us looked lacy to me this morning.
This picture reminded me of a hand outstretched to point, almost accusingly, into the clear blue sky. (It also showed me, after I came inside and was viewing the photos, how dirty the lens apparently was.)
Both the fencepost...
...and this birdhouse have a lovely cap of snow.
A lone pine was reaching into the nearly cloudless sky. Such beauty all around me!
But best of all, as I wandered around outside trying to capture the glory of this extraordinary day, I found this: Josiah, my own precious snow angel!