Monday, August 31, 2009

14 Quick Tidbits

Yesterday after our church service, Jeff's mom treated us to a delicious lunch at a Japanese restaurant, the kind where you sit around a big flat cooking surface and the chef comes out and cooks your meal while you watch. Besides simply doing an excellent job of cooking it, the chef also makes the process very entertaining, with sound effects, twirling knives, fire, jokes, etc. I found my own enjoyment in watching the chef, but even more so in watching the faces of Josiah and David--particularly David, who was too young to remember the last time we went there but was old enough now to eat it up--figuratively and literally. All the movement and sound appealed to his highly active senses, and he was enthralled. I loved watching the frequent huge grins on his face throughout the meal as the chef did something silly to draw David in; and I wasn't a bit surprised when, right before we left, David stepped behind the cooking surface and pretended to be the chef, complete with quickly-moving arms and various sound effects. :)

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Speaking of food, we had our neighbors, the Shanks, over for dinner on Saturday evening. Jeff's mom cooked almost all of the meal, a Mexican feast. Wilma contributed an apple salad like the one she had made the last time Jeff's mom was here (which garnered heaps of compliments the first time we had it and this time as well). My mom brought iced tea and homemade lemonade, and my only contribution was dessert: turtles and chocolate-covered strawberries. The food was all tasty and the fellowship was sweet, but what I'll probably remember the most is how their two month-old Jason and our one month-old Shav look so similar...and how their behavior was similar, too, with both of them having squally periods during the course of the evening. :)

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Every time I get a headache (which happens much more often these days than it did when I was pregnant), I think that I should get a haircut. I know that realistically, it's not the weight of my hair that's making my head hurt...but for some reason, I still start to feel like if only my hair was shorter, I wouldn't get headaches. On second thought, if only I were pregnant, I wouldn't get headaches (since, for some reason, I rarely get them while pregnant--just one of the blessings of pregnancy for me!). But nah, I know I'm not ready for that particular method of headache prevention. :)

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One day last week, I opened the front door to see this fascinating creature hanging above it. I did not immediately know that it was a luna moth; but after some research, I discovered the name and a little bit about it--for example, this adult form only lives about a week, has no mouth and doesn't eat at all during that time, but only lives to reproduce. If this moth asked the timeless question, "What is the meaning of life?", the answer would boil down to one thing: make babies!

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The floor of Shav's room squeaks in several spots. One is by the door, but I can easily step around that spot and avoid the squeak; and by now, I'm so used to it that I hardly even think about it. But there's another spot--a large one--that is right in front of the changing table, exactly where I need to stand to change Shav. There's no way around that one, so in the still of the night as I'm changing Shav's diaper (and occasionally, like last night, his sleeper that's been spit up on), the music I hear is the squeak of the floor. The placement of that spot is unfortunate--it's mildly annoying to listen to the squeak--but the small size of the room prevents me from moving the changing table to another location so as to avoid the squeak. In previous years, when that room wasn't being used at various times as a nursery for my brother David and I when we were babies or as a bedroom for me when I was older and got "kicked out" of the bedroom I shared with my sister :), my mother used it as a sewing room. The ironing board stood where our changing table now stands; and sometimes as I hear the squeak, I imagine my mother standing there, ironing pieces of material after having sewn them together to make beautiful items of clothing. At least a few times during my childhood, she worked late into the night to make a special dress for me for some significant event. I'd go to bed, knowing that the dress was still in pieces; and when I awoke, the finished product would be hanging from the curtain rod in my room, where I could see it as soon as I opened my eyes. I wonder if, as my mother sewed in that little room while the rest of the family slept, she heard the same squeaks of the floor as I now do.

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When I started writing the above paragraph, I almost typed, "the floor of Tobin's room." Many times during the past six weeks, I've almost written "Tobin" when I really meant "Shav"; and I'm sure the day will come when I will make that mistake and it will slip through my proof-reading!

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When I change a diaper, whether it be Tobin's or Shav's, I lay the child down with his head to the right. Both Jeff and my mother (and, I suspect, most other diaper-changers) place the child with the head to the left. Yet another way that my left-handedness makes me different. It looks so backward to me when I see the way my husband or mother does it! :)

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The crepe myrtle by our patio is currently loaded with blooms. What beauty!

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Here I am, six weeks into breastfeeding Shav; and I'm very happy to report that, for the most part, the pain has gone away. There is still a little, brief pain when he latches on, but it's nothing--NOTHING!--like the toe-curling pain I had during the early weeks of nursing him. I suspected that after a few months, the pain would diminish quite a bit; but six weeks seems a little ahead of schedule...and for that, I am grateful! Another tidbit about nursing: sometimes at let-down, I get such a tingly, happy feeling that it literally makes me break out in a smile and sometimes even a laugh. Isn't that strange? Yet I've heard that the same thing happens to other women. Such a change from the tears of pain that I shed early on in this experience of breastfeeding Shav!

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My habit during nighttime feedings has been to spend part of the time (specifically the time I'm nursing Shav on the right side) reading a book, and the rest of the time (when he's on the left side and I have my right arm free to reach the little table beside my chair) using my laptop to read email and catch up on blogs and do other computer stuff. While Shav is still in my arms, I'll typically read someone's blog; then after I lay him down in his cradle, I'll sit back down in my glider rocker and take a few minutes to leave a comment or two (since I'm not a very skillful one-handed typer and can't do well with leaving comments while Shav is nursing). Sometimes the following morning, I'll think back on what I wrote in the middle of the night on someone's blog and think, "Oh dear, that probably didn't make a bit of sense." Sometimes my way of expressing myself in the fogginess of nighttime thinking just isn't very clear at all! :)

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Yesterday evening, I carried Tobin outside and set him on the grass, then asked Josiah to keep an eye on him while I went inside to get Shav and bring him out. I smiled, then grabbed the camera, when I peeked out the window and saw Josiah and Tobin playing together. Josiah is such a conscientious, caring big brother!



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One day recently, I took advantage of Jeff's mom being here to fulfill one of my long-held desires. I took a nap outdoors in our swing (the swing that can be seen in the pictures above)! I had always thought that it would be so delightful to have a nap in it, but it had never worked out because if I'm the only adult around, even if I do take a nap, I do it indoors where I can hear the boys and be accessible to them. But on this particular day, Jeff's mom urged me to go outside for my nap because she would be on call for the boys. I gladly took her up on that offer and made my way to the swing where I quickly fell asleep. Just as I had imagined, it was a joyous thing to sleep out there! Sometimes the things we think will be so nice don't turn out half as good as we had hoped; but in this case, it really was that good--the swing was comfortable, the bugs didn't bother me, the sun was the right amount of warm, and the breeze was the right amount of cool. Heavenly! :)

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When Shav smiles--when it's a real smile--his eyes smile, too. Sometimes his mouth will curve upward as he experiments with his muscles and tries out different facial expressions; but if it's a genuine smile, his eyes get involved, too, with the skin around them crinkling up in a joyful expression. One of these days I'll capture it in a photo!

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One of the hazards of having my laptop open by my side as I nurse Shav is that occasionally, when my milk lets down, it comes out so fast that it makes him sputter and gasp; and as he backs his head away, a stream of milk shoots out, sometimes landing right on the keyboard of the laptop before I can shove his burp cloth over me to absorb the milk (or at least, change the direction it's shooting out). If the laptop starts to feel a little sticky one of these days, breastmilk is surely the culprit! :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Simple Sunday - Summer Evening

~ thankful for this evening--a perfect summer evening...what peace and joy to sit around the picnic table, enjoying the pleasant coolness of the air, munching on popcorn and ice cream, holding my youngest son, watching my second youngest scoot all over the yard, seeing my oldest two carrying out "missions" (i.e. "you are Roman vineyard workers named Marcus and Felix...run to the grapevine and jump up and down five times underneath it, yelling 'Be fruitful!'...then find a purple grape and pick it before running back here" -- or "you are rabbits in Mr. McGregor's garden...crawl under the big swing as if you're crawling under the fence, then run to the garden and pick a ripe cherry tomato, then run back here by way of the big swingset as if you're escaping by a different route as Mr. McGregor chases you")...moments like these are the chocolate-covered strawberries of life: pure delight!
~ I took this picture this evening, but found it impossible to capture the beauty of the evening light on the neighbor's cornfield, the luscious shades of green in the forest, the lovely blue of the sky, and the moon that had risen already...actually, the moon is visible at the top of this picture toward the right, but only faintly...much less vivid than all of this was in real life, but at least it somewhat captures the memory for me

Saturday, August 29, 2009

He Laughed

I'm sitting here at my laptop to type, not because I have any energy or even want to be awake right now, but simply because this is too important to forget.

Yesterday morning, for the first time, Shav laughed.

I was sitting in my glider rocker in the corner of my room where I often nurse Shav; and while he was still in my arms after he had eaten, he made eye contact and was grinning up a storm. And then--oh, sweet sound--something that sounded for all the world like a chuckle came from his little body. I'd never heard that sound from him before, and I couldn't help but laugh along with him. It was an encouraging reminder of what is to come: times of smiles, giggles, tickles, belly laughs, jokes, silliness, and much, much joy.

One last thing before I call it a night: my new favorite quote comes from a blog that perhaps many of my readers are familiar with, the Williams Family Blog. Patrice, mom of Jonah who was born with a very rare skin disorder called Epidermolysis Bullosa, wrote this: I hope I never sound ungrateful when I'm having these tough days. I'm definitely not. I thank God every day for Jonah...Please don't misread exhaustion for ingratitude.

Yes, yes, yes. I couldn't have said it better. I'm tired. Sometimes I'm discouraged. Occasionally I'm completely overwhelmed. But I'm also thankful beyond words for my situation in life, and I'm unceasingly aware of how very blessed I am and how the very cause of my fatigue and discouragement is something that many women would give almost anything to have. I am humbled by that knowledge. And so, like Patrice said, please don't misread exhaustion for ingratitude.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hard Times A-Comin'

Just so I don't look back at these recent posts after a year or two have passed and think that I had it all together by the time Shav was 5 weeks old, let me be honest and admit that today was a rough day. Actually, to be perfectly honest, the day was great. While my mother-in-law supervised and entertained the oldest three boys this morning, I was able to finish a project that I had begun a very long time ago: organizing Josiah and David's room, sorting through all their clothes, packing away what doesn't fit, getting rid of some stuff, cleaning everything. Seeing that through to completion gave me a great sense of accomplishment. This afternoon was pleasant, too, especially because I got to take a nap while the older two boys were having quiet time and the younger two were sleeping. But somewhere around 4:30 or so, things started falling apart; and we entered the worst "piranha hour" that we have had in recent memory. To be completely forthright, it wasn't a piranha hour, but hours, lasting all the way until all four boys were in bed asleep.

If things could be this difficult while my mother-in-law is still here (and available to cut up watermelon for supper, hold Shav when he fusses, help to clean up the kitchen after supper, etc.), what will they be like after she leaves? I was reminded tonight of the feeling I had in those first few weeks of Shav's life--the feeling of being the only adult around, unable to effectively shepherd my four little lambs through the hours until Daddy's return from work or until bedtime. I can't do it all. I can't get out the paints because Josiah is suddenly having an attitude if he doesn't paint this very minute...while simultaneously dealing with David's incredible propensity for distraction when asked to do any simple task (is it just distraction, or is it subtle rebellion?)...while simultaneously teaching Tobin that it's not OK to scream, and if you do it, I'll have to take you to your crib for a minute until you learn...while simultaneously nursing/burping/changing Shav who is now fussier than he's been all day, and I really don't know if it's because he's hungry or tired or has gas. It's too much.

In Hebrew, there is a phrase which, roughly transliterated, is this: Ani lo maspiqah. It means, "I am not enough" or "I am not sufficient." That is exactly how I feel. I can't do it all. I just can't do it. That overwhelming sense of inadequacy is what made this blog post by Polly at The Trinity Chronicles seem profound and comforting to me when I read it recently. Towards the end of the entry, she writes: How many times have I heard the platitude that "God does not give us more than we can handle?" I have said that before, too! But not long ago I read a book where the author said that's not true. God DOES give us more than we can handle, and He does it so we learn to rely fully on Him.

Amen. I needed to hear that, and I need to remember it in the days to come...especially after next Wednesday when my incredibly helpful mother-in-law has to return to California and I'll have these times of being the only adult with all four boys and having to--somehow--hold things together.

In thinking back over the times of adjustment I've had after each of the boys were born, it seems to me that the easiest one was after David's birth; and then, as now, I had live-in help. My mother came to Israel and stayed with us for four weeks, long enough to get me over the hump of the initial transition. I can't even express how grateful I am now for her (and my dad's) presence just down the hill from me. Knowing that they are available and SO willing to help sustains my spirit as I contemplate the future; I know they would do anything for me. But I also know that it's different now than it was when she was staying with us in Israel since now she is still responsible for maintaining her home with all that that entails (and I'm not just referring to the physical home, of course, but the totality of her and Dad's lifestyle). It's vastly different leaving all that behind to fly to California (like she did when Josiah was born) or to Israel, focusing solely on welcoming the grandchild and helping the daughter, and I recognize that. If only my parents could move into our guest room so that she would be around all the time... ;)

When I think about new mothers who go through these times of adding to the family without much of a support system in place, I really think, "How do they do it??" It makes my task look like a piece of cake! How blessed our family is to be so cared for by both sides of the family. How grateful I am for both my mother and my mother-in-law, two women whom I love and respect deeply--two women who, by sharing their lives and experiences with me and offering helping hands across the bumps, make this journey an easier, more joyful one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Know How You Feel

While on an outing today to the Virginia Safari Park, Jeff, his mom, and our three oldest boys saw this (Shav and I stayed home so that's why we didn't see it)...
...a mama zebra nursing her young. I had to laugh when I downloaded the pictures Jeff took and was looking through them and spotted this one.

Mrs. Zebra, I know just how you feel! I spent a good part of my day doing the exact same thing!

But at least, I didn't have an audience. ;)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TTT - Moses and Adam


Almost every evening before we eat supper, Jeff reads a short devotional; and this particular book that we're using now for these devotionals always includes two questions at the end of the story--one that Jeff lets Josiah answer and one for David. One day recently, Jeff read about how Moses fled from Egypt to Midian and went from being a prince to a shepherd (Exodus 2:11-25); and at the end he asked David the question, "Why did Moses run away from Egypt?"

David: Because he had nothing to do.

Jeff: He was bored?

David: Yeah.

Well...not exactly, David Dear...something about being a murderer on Pharoah's Most Wanted list was probably a stronger motivation for Moses than simply boredom! :)

Later on in the meal, Josiah said to David, "You're the funniest boy I've ever met." :)

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Yesterday as we were enjoying the pleasant evening air outside, David announced to me, "I wish I was Adam in the Bible..."

I wondered what was going to come next, suspecting that I could guess David's reason. Sure enough, David continued by saying, "...so I could be naked outside!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy as a Clam

During some snuggle time tonight, Jeff asked David, "Are you as happy as a clam?"

David's honest answer: "What's a clam?" :)

He may not know what a clam is--or if he's as happy as one--but I can tell you this: I am.

This day of simple pleasures has been delightful...putting clean laundry away; organizing my thoughts and supplies for the beginning of our homeschool year (which we won't officially start for a while yet, not until after Jeff's mom leaves); enjoying a great chat with my mother-in-law this afternoon; nursing Shav while sitting outside on the swing this evening and, at the same time, watching Tobin scoot around on the lawn, watching David drive the Gator in circles around the swingset and English walnut tree, and watching Josiah race around the yard holding sticks and fighting his mock battles; knowing that, while I relaxed outside, a delicious dinner of taquitos was being prepared inside; feeling stable emotionally and energetic physically...all of these added up to turn this ordinary day into something extraordinary.

I suppose a large part of my happiness today is also due to the fact that this five-week stage of Shav's life is so special, mainly because he's really hitting the smiles-a-lot phase. This morning, he grinned at me more than ever before; and I felt my spirits soar. The eye contact, the smiles, the little noises that aren't crying, the way his mouth moves as if he's longing to form words and tell me what he's thinking--these are precious aspects of my five-week Shav. Sweet, sweet Shav!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Simple Sunday - Oh, Brother!

~ thankful for these boys, that each of them can say they have three brothers...what a gift!
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
~ Romans 12:10

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First Bottle

Jeff always gets the privilege of giving our boys their first bottle: like he did here with Baby David (April 24, 2005)...
...and here with Baby Tobin (January 24, 2008)...
...and here with Baby Shav (August 19, 2009).
I have actually only given the boys a bottle a few times in my life; it is almost completely Jeff's department to do that when needed. It seems like a fun job, and he's good at it. :) I thank God--again!--for such an involved daddy for my sons.

It's always interesting to compare pictures of the boys and try to figure out who looks like who. I've come to the conclusion that all of my children have a very similar look when they're this young, and they develop their uniquenesses later. In these pictures, I especially see the similarity between David and Shav; but maybe that's because Tobin had ALL THAT HAIR, more than the others did by far! :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just Enough Energy...

...to post this picture tonight. Isn't this a beauty of a flower? Isn't God's creation marvelous?
Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.
~ Matthew 6:28b-30a

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Grandma Love

I've pretty much decided that if I ever have another baby--and that's a huge IF--Jeff's mom has to come and stay with us for a while to help out, just like she is now. :) I can't even describe how much of a difference it makes to have someone else here...to have an extra pair of hands...to be able to be in two places at once...to basically have a clone. :) Her help has been invaluable: chopping tomatoes and peeling peaches for our supper last night, folding laundry, making our entire supper this evening, and so much more--but most of all, making life grand for my boys. When I can't get to them, she can--and does--and they love it, just like I do.

A few snapshots from our time so far...

Josiah, David, and Tobin helping her snap the beans for tonight's meal...it's a little hard to see her in this picture, but she's to Josiah's left. Josiah and David were so eager to help with this, and even Tobin had so much fun "helping," too.

Reading to David...isn't that a funny look on David's face? :)

Reading to Tobin...

Holding Shav outside on the swing...
We have been blessed by her presence with us!

And speaking of blessings... Last night, I fed Shav and put him in his cradle at 10:30, where he slept until 4:15 this morning!!! Then I fed him again and put him back in his cradle, where he slept until 8:15! Yippee! Sleep is sweet...and so is Shav. I love that little guy so much! Happy one month birthday, Shav! :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Braggin' on My Dad

My dad reached a huge milestone. As of yesterday, he has practiced medicine here in his current office for forty years. FORTY YEARS! That's a long time--seven years longer than I've even been alive, to be exact! What a rarity to find someone who has worked in the same place in the same field for that long, and what a rarity to find someone who loves his job as much as my dad loves his. (Not that the paperwork and the insurance companies and the government regulations don't occasionally drive him nuts because they do...but overall, he really truly loves his profession, especially the opportunity to help people.)

In honor of the occasion, Dad threw a party for his office staff; and some of us family members got to come, too. Isn't that a little backwards though? Shouldn't we have been throwing the party for him? :)

Regardless, it was a splendid evening. First of all, it was held in this beautiful log home that, for years, I have wanted to see inside; I would walk or drive past and wish that I had an excuse to enter. :)
(Just an aside...log homes are my absolute favorite, no question about it. Someday, I would dearly love to have a little log cabin in the woods. Maybe I'll get it here on earth, maybe not. Maybe Jesus is preparing a log home for me in heaven!)

Second, the girl in the black dress in the above photo is a reporter for the Shenandoah Journal, and she is writing an article on my dad so she stopped by at the beginning of the evening. I am looking forward with much anticipation to seeing the article come out in the paper! :)

Third, the food was so good. Simply delicious!!! This home belongs to an Old Order Mennonite lady; and her husband--now deceased--built it. To support herself, she hosts these dinner parties; and wow, if you ever want good food and a great atmosphere, this is the place to go. I was amazed that she could cook and serve the abundance of food--and do it all by herself.
Fourth, everybody was so friendly! There was much laughter and pleasant conversation, and it was obvious throughout the evening that a fantastic dynamic exists between the staff in my dad's practice.

Fifth, my dad gave an overview of the history of his Hinton practice; and it was truly interesting. To be honest, I thought it might be a little boring. :) But I found myself fascinated by it and wishing to hear more when it was all over. After forty years of doing medicine in our small community, you can imagine the kind of stories he has!

Sixth, I took Shav with me while Jeff and his mom stayed home with the other three boys. Shav was a perfect little angel; he slept and slept, only waking to eat before sleeping some more. My sister and my aunt both got to hold him, and Shav also got plenty of attention and admiration from the other female guests. We women love to "oo" and "ah" over sweet little babies!

Of course, we had to take lots and lots and lots of pictures. Here I am with my sister...

Here is my dad with his staff (current and former)...his original two nurses who started work with him back in 1969 were able to come which was a treat.

A family picture with my parents, my sister, my little love bug Shav, and my aunt and uncle...my aunt actually worked for my dad for a few months a very long time ago before she and my uncle moved away for my uncle to attend medical school.

My dad with his "baby brother" Rufus...both of them are doctors, and my uncle only has nine more years to go until he reaches the milestone of forty years in practice! These Huffman doctors are well-known and much-appreciated in our neck of the woods!

Congratulations, Dad! I am so very proud of you!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TTT - Buffalo What?

I have no idea how or when or where David even learned this song, but one day recently he was sitting on the black bench in our kitchen cheerily singing the old song, "Buffalo gals, won't you come out tonight..." Only his version went like this: "Buffalo God, won't you come out tonight..." Buffalo what??? Actually, David, we don't believe in a buffalo god. We're monotheists, after all. :)

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And in the "awww, that's sweet" category:

Shav was lying on my bed, and David climbed up beside him to look at him and talk to him and touch him and show him his new mini light saber. It brought a smile to my face when I heard David softly say, "Did you know that I love you, Shav? Did you? Did you?" and then give Shav a kiss on the nose. Precious!

Monday, August 17, 2009

At Four Weeks of Age, Shav...

...weighs 11 lbs, 1 oz.

...knows how to smile--sort of. I'm counting his first official smile as the one he gave me on Saturday morning, Aug. 15; but even it was a tentative, maybe-I'm-doing-this-right kind of smile. A treasure regardless!

...gets most of his baths in the upstairs bathroom sink. Usually likes them, except when the water is chilly (like I made it one time when I was concerned about it being too hot so I over-compensated with the cool water; he wasn't a fan of that).

...already knows how to pull my hair. Sometimes he inadvertently gets some of my hair in his tightly-clenched fist, and it's actually difficult to retrieve my hair from his firm grasp.

...has a pretty bad case of infant acne, but "this too shall pass."

...went out to a restaurant with the whole family for the first time yesterday. After our church service, Jeff's mom treated us to lunch at Golden Corral (and our friend Jane Burkholder came along, too). On the way, we realized that it was the first time that we had gone out to eat as a family since Shav was born; and Jeff and I wondered if we were up for the challenge. As it turned out, it all went fairly peacefully, despite a shaky start (when I was at the buffet getting food for Tobin and Jeff was at the table with Shav and Tobin, Shav started to cry so Jeff got up to unbuckle him from his car seat...meanwhile, Tobin grabbed Jeff's cup of iced tea and poured about half of it all over himself...when I returned to the table, I found Jeff holding Shav on his lap and letting Shav suck on his little finger while tending to a chilly, wet Tobin...but Tobin didn't seem to mind that he had washed his clothes while still wearing them, and things soon settled down after that). It went so well that we might actually consider eating out again in the near future--sometime before our youngest turns 5 and we don't have to spoon-feed anyone!

...has discovered that the swing is a pretty fun place to be. His brothers have discovered that the swing is fun for them, too...especially turning it on and off, varying the speed, and changing the direction of the swing. Fortunately for Shav, they usually leave it alone when he is in it; but not always. See Shav's little face looking up to see what David is doing at the top of the swing?
David apparently thought the swing was too dull of an environment for Shav, so he added some extra stimulation in the form of light sabers. I'm sure Shav's brain is developing by leaps and bounds because of it (though he doesn't seem to be paying a bit of attention to the colorful lights around him!).
...seems like he's always been a part of our family.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Simple Sunday - Jerusalem Mirrors

(changing the subject from baby talk to decorating...)
~ thankful for the pair of tiled mirrors we brought from Israel when we moved back to the States...we bought these in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is famous for its pottery and tiles (among other things!)...Jeff carefully wrapped them to ensure against breakage during the trip, and I looked forward to them being on our blue bedroom walls...the only problem was that our bedroom walls didn't turn blue until this year, only about four years after I thought they would! :)...all that time, the mirrors were tucked away in my closet, waiting for their debut...now I'm thrilled to see them on the wall, and I delight in the way they coordinate with the paint color we chose, the material of the Roman shades at the windows, and everything else about the room...they are special treasures to me!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How the Boys Are Adjusting

I have several posts that I've started, have really wanted to finish, but haven't made the time to do so. But since they deal with details of Shav's birth and our transition to a family of six, I don't want to let them go by the wayside because these memories are too important to me! This is one of those posts...

A number of kind souls have asked how the older boys are adjusting to having Shav in the family; and overall, I can answer enthusiastically that they're doing very well with it! There has been not even a hint of hostility or animosity towards this little creature who has invaded our home. :)

Josiah sometimes asks to hold Shav, and he also comes over occasionally when I'm holding Shav and says in a tender, adoring voice, "Oh, he's so cute!" which warms my heart to see my oldest express love to my youngest.

David also likes to hold Shav, but he usually asks to do so right when I'm in the middle of a feeding and can't honor his request. By the time I'm done, David has usually wandered off and gotten busy with something else, forgetting that he even asked to hold him. :) But he, like Josiah, does indeed hold Shav at times; and he'll also try to hold his hand while Shav is nursing...and lay down beside him and get really close to his face...and give him kisses on the head...and put his little finger in Shav's mouth to suck on (like he did in this picture with Tobin). Anything hands-on: that's what David likes. :)

Tobin likes to get a little hands-on with Shav, too; and the big thing we're working on with him is to be gentle. At first, he was just fascinated with Shav, like he would be with a kitten or a new puppy dog. Tobin would scoot over to him as fast as he could and look at him and look at us and grunt and point. We'd say, "Yes, Tobin, that's Baby Shav!" Along with that came a stage of vigorous pats on Shav's head and pokes in his face which is no surprise since we've been doing the "Where's Tobin's nose?" and "Where's Mommy's ear?" kind of thing with Tobin. Only natural for him to want to do that with Shav, I guess! :) Our refrain of "gentle, gentle!" is beginning to pay off, I think; but we still don't leave Shav in a place where Tobin can get to him without LOTS of supervision. The other thing I did to try to help Tobin learn how to touch Shav was to actually take his hand and lightly stroke Shav's head so Tobin could feel what was OK and what wasn't! The adorable thing that Tobin does now is to come over to Shav and grunt in such a way that I can tell he wants to "kiss" him, so I'll hold Shav's head close to Tobin's face and Tobin will put his lips to him; but because Tobin doesn't really know how to kiss with his lips, he just stands there and then sniffs with his nose. That's his current version of a kiss; and after he does that to Shav, he'll want to do that to me, so I lean down and put my cheek next to him and he'll kiss/sniff me. :)

One of the things that has helped us through this transition is that both Josiah and David are old enough to understand what's going on and realize my limitations. They are independent enough to meet most of their basic needs without my assistance and are really good helpers, and I do rely on them to handle certain tasks around the house. Plus, with our weather being so beautiful recently, they've been spending quite a bit of time outdoors which is wonderful. The difference in their maturity from January 2008 when Tobin was born to July 2009 is impressive: only 18 months, but it has made a big difference.

With Josiah in particular, this summer he has entered the age of responsibility; and sometimes I'm simply astounded by how grown-up and mature he is. He is definitely my go-to man when things need done around the house. Obviously, I don't make him slave from dawn to dusk doing things! :) But his normal jobs--feeding the fish, making his bed, emptying the non-breakables from the dishwasher, carrying recycling down to the garage, feeding the outside animals, setting the table, etc.--are almost always done by him without a word of complaint and sometimes without me even reminding him to do them. We've been paying him a dollar a week to take on the responsibility of feeding and watering the chickens, dogs, sheep, and goats; and he has embraced that opportunity. Money is a powerful motivator for him! But even when he's not getting paid for something--for example, if I ask him to get Tobin's milk out of the refrigerator or I ask him to close the gate at the top of the steps, etc.--he is almost always quick to do what I ask and not complain about it; and that's a very significant contribution to the peace of the household as we all adjust to having a baby.

David has his share of jobs to do as well to contribute to the well-being of the family; and as long as he stays focused on what he's doing, he does fine with it. But mercy, he's easily distracted! That is another post though; maybe I'll get to that someday...if I don't get distracted...can't imagine where he gets that trait from! :) David, however, is my go-to man when I need Tobin entertained. I've written about this before, but I'm still amazed at how well David relates to each of his brothers and adapts himself to each of their levels of play and understanding. His contribution to the family in this area is enormous.

As I tried to imagine how this adjustment would be, Tobin was the one I was most concerned about. He's at an age that has so many frustrations of its own: not able to walk freely, not able to talk, understanding a great deal but limited in communication and ability, etc. Add in a new little brother, and I wasn't sure how he would react, especially because his understanding of what was happening was so shallow (especially compared with Josiah and David's level of understanding). But in all of my concern, I forgot one thing: young children are SO adaptable to their situation. Quicker than I imagined, Tobin has picked up on the fact that I'm not so accessible; and although he might fuss for a little when he wants to be picked up and my arms are full with Shav or when he wants me to play with him but I'm stuck on the couch nursing Shav, it doesn't take him too long to adjust his thinking and scoot off to find something else to do. He likes to have me watch him when he practices standing by himself...or when he twirls on the Sit-n-Spin...or when he stands by the train table and plays with the trains and tracks ("play" in this case usually meaning to toss on the floor!)...or when he gets a book out and flips through its pages until he finds a dog or cat or sheep or balloon or lion (all of which he finds particularly interesting these days). I can do it though--I can watch him while I nurse Shav. And even though it takes more energy for me to mentally and verbally engage with Tobin while Shav is eating, I'm grateful at least that Tobin has adjusted to the reality of verbal contact rather than physical; and that interaction seems to satisfy him. Most of the time, at least. :) But more and more, when I say, "Tobin, I need to take Shav upstairs to change his diaper; and then I'll be back" or "Tobin, I need to feed Shav now, but I'll look at this book with you," he seems to understand and be content with that.

I also should mention about Tobin that suddenly, he has hit the stage of being a master mess maker. Maybe I should capitalize that: Master Mess Maker. He's become a pro at taking ALL the books off the shelf and scattering them on the floor, removing the plastic cups and bowls and plates from the cupboard, taking out all the cereal and breakfast bars from the cabinet, dumping all the pieces of a game all over the floor, etc. One particularly challenging day, not only did he get into a roll of toilet paper and decorate the bathroom floor with it, but he also spent his naptime methodically picking at the wallpaper border in the boys' room until he got a nice big section of it off the wall and into little pieces on the floor. What an accomplishment! Trying to stay a step ahead of him and think about what he might get into next hasn't been the easiest thing, and I wonder why did he have to hit this stage right now?! :) To his credit, he is eager to clean up, if I get down with him and sing the clean-up song and do it with him. Cars get put back in their tin this way, toys get put in the basket, blocks go in their box--all while we sing the song and I applaud him when he puts things where they belong. But that takes energy, and I certainly can't just tell him to clean up the living room without actively participating with him in that.

A few people have asked about regression: whether I noticed that in any of the older boys. I haven't really--certainly not in the area of potty training or anything like that--but if there is any issue in which we seem to have lost ground rather than gained it, it might be with David's eating and the length of time it takes him to finish and his desire for someone to help him by spooning food into his mouth. It's kind of random though: some meals, he gobbles up his food quickly; and others, he lags behind and drags out the process much longer than the rest of us think it should go. :) I try to stay casual about it though, realizing that, unless we have to go somewhere or do something or have some sort of deadline, it's not really a big deal if he decides to spend an hour (or more) of his evening sitting at the table staring at his food, rather than finishing and having that time to play. That's his choice, and the less I push him about it, the better. He'll be taught by experience what he's unwilling to learn by instruction. But even in this area, I wouldn't say there has been major regression.

One area in which I'm not achieving success is having individual time with the boys, and I'm not beating myself up about that because that's just how it is at this stage of life! But I have noticed a few indicators that Josiah and David might be feeling that lack of personal attention. One was when we celebrated Josiah's family night last week, and it seemed to me that it was such a BIG deal for him, more than it usually is. His choice of food and activity, the Celebrate plate at his place at the table, the sharing we did about special things about him--all that seemed to really mean a lot to him, maybe because he just hasn't gotten that individual focus as much recently. With David, I noticed this last night when I was getting ready to go to a coffee shop to meet a long-time friend of mine who lives in another state but is in town this weekend. Right before I left, David said wistfully, "I wish I could go with you." And when I said that sometime soon I wanted to take just him for a Mommy-David date, he brightened up considerably. I want to make sure that in our "new normal"--whatever that looks like--there will be times for individually relating to Josiah and David.

I know that part of the solution to that will come when we begin our new homeschool year. Because of the nature of homeschooling, there are quite a few things that we learn together as a family; but there are also specific times of focus on each boy so that I can make sure they're learning at their own level. Josiah will be officially in 2nd grade, and David, being only 4, will not be starting kindergarten but will be doing some preschool work. However, I do want to ensure that both of them feel that they're receiving at least some one-on-one time as we go through our homeschool weeks. The big question that is puzzling me, in terms of continued adjustment to four children, is this: how will I effectively homeschool? Shav will still be sleeping quite a bit, but what will I do with Tobin while I focus on the older two? What kind of a rhythm will we settle into that will meet the needs of all of us? I don't have that big question all figured out yet, but the success of the boys in the adjustment so far gives me hope that the next level of adjustment, come the start of school in September, will go more smoothly than I currently think. As I often remind myself, live ever in hope! :)
~ Josiah spending time with Shav

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Loved and Cared For

After having a downer of a post yesterday, I am so grateful that today has been a day of refreshing; and my spirit tonight is uplifted and strengthened. I feel so loved and cared for...

~ by Margie and Morning, who left comments so soon after I published yesterday's post that I was able to read them as I nursed Shav during the night, and my soul was encouraged even before morning came

~ by Julie M. who left a comment a little later in the day, but who had shared her heart freely in an email last evening...I know she knows how I feel, and that's comforting

~ by Julie S., who called a little after 9:00 AM this morning and offered to watch the boys for me so I could nap...I ended up taking the oldest three over to her house, then came home so Shav and I could sleep the morning away...it was fantastic!...and fortunately, Julie's daughter Emily captured some of the fun moments the boys were blessed to have and posted lots of pictures on her blog! :)

~ by Sally, who also called and offered to do anything she could to help me...she stopped by this evening and picked up her dishes from when she had brought dinner to us after Shav's birth, and she dropped off a bunch of yummy-looking blueberry pancakes and homemade granola bars: breakfast tomorrow is ready and will be extra special! :)

~ by my parents who sat in my living room with my dad holding Shav and my mom entertaining Tobin while I worked on supper preparation in the kitchen...it's difficult impossible to chop onions and carrots while holding a clingy toddler with one arm, so my parents' help meant a great deal to me...they have been entertaining out-of-town guests this week so we haven't seen them as much (and I haven't wanted to ask my mom for help because I know her time has been occupied), but the time they spent here today during the late afternoon was very much appreciated!

~ by Jeff who took Josiah and David to the airport this afternoon (leaving me with two napping little ones and a quiet house) to pick up his mom...she is staying with us for three weeks and is eager to help out...already she has held a fussy Shav, unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, and played a game of Skip-Bo with Josiah and David; and she's only been here a few hours!...I'm so grateful for her heart to serve

Last night, all I could see was the dark tunnel. Tonight, I see the light at the end.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Worse

Each time I've approached childbirth, I've assumed that it would be easier than the previous time. Most women assume that, and it generally holds true (although, of course, there are exceptions). But most of the time, giving birth to the first child is the longest and hardest, and it gets shorter and easier from there...except in the area of uterine contractions which I've already mentioned a few times in various posts. With them, the trend is the opposite, and the difficulty actually increases with each subsequent delivery and recovery period as the pain gets worse and worse.

The same seems to be true, I've found, with most aspects of settling into a new routine after adding a family member: in almost all areas, as the days go by, things get easier and easier. You'd assume--and rightly so--that two weeks after birth would seem more manageable than one week and three weeks would begin to feel more normal than two weeks and so on...except in the area of fatigue. The cumulative effects of fatigue begin to pile up more and more, and the difficulty of dealing with life on very little sleep actually increases as the days go by. I remember the first night after Shav was born. I was delighted to wake up to nurse him and have time to study his sweet face and lavish him with kisses. Waking up wasn't that hard to do, and the excitement and adrenaline of simply getting to meet this new little member of our family carried me through the early days. But now, instead of things getting better in this area, they are actually getting worse and worse, and the exhaustion--oh, the exhaustion! It forces me to draaaaaaaaaaaag myself through each day, sometimes focusing on simply making it through each hour or each minute because it's too difficult to think further ahead than that. It changes my goal from thriving to just surviving. It tweaks my emotions so much that each event brings forth a much more intense emotional response than it really deserves. It tries to make me think that life will always be this way and I will never feel rested or energetic again. It makes caring for four children feel overwhelming. It makes me think repeatedly throughout the day, "This is hard. This is hard. This is HARD."

Because I've gone through this a few times, I KNOW in my head that what feels like a perpetual difficult reality at this point in time will indeed fade away into an easier pattern of living. My other sons have all started sleeping through the night at two or two and a half months, and I expect Shav to do the same. I know when that happens, I will begin to feel much more rested and my whole outlook on the world will significantly improve. I know better times are coming. I know, based on this post from when Tobin was over a month old, that the fatigue was building and building and making me feel half-crazy; but I also know, from this post, that just a few weeks later, everything changed when Tobin started sleeping through the night. I have strong hope that the same will hold true this time around as I care for Shav.

But for now, it feels like, rather than getting better, things are actually getting worse and worse and worse. And all because I'm just so tired.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tiny Talk Tuesday - Stinky Sand

This is my first time participating in Tiny Talk Tuesday, but I've been inspired by Jolanthe's blog to use this way of recording the funny or sweet or memorable things that come out of my boys' mouths!

One day recently, David (age 4) was playing with some fake money, and he was very generously sharing it with me. At one point, after counting out various amounts, he said, "I have a hundred, and you have a kabillion. Is there a kabillion?" No, I don't think there is exactly, unless that's the amount that comes somewhere after trillions.

We've been listening to 4Him's Hymns CD at various times during the past week or so, and one of the songs is "The Solid Rock." I had to smile when I heard David singing along, but using these words: "On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is stinky sand." Well, I certainly don't want to be on stinky sand. All the more reason to stay on the solid rock! :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Three for Three

Last night was a rough night followed by a rough morning. The difficulties of the night were...
1) Tobin sleeping (in his crib) in Josiah and David's room for the first time and taking FOREVER to settle down and fall asleep,
2) my left breast flaring up again with intense pain (accompanied by a slight fever, bone aches, etc...in the night, I pumped to relieve some pressure because Shav hadn't woken up yet to eat...the milk squirted out so ferociously that it went into the air tube that connects to the actual pump and was dripping out the bottom of the pump...that's not supposed to happen!...it's starting to be a little funny now, but I wasn't laughing then!)
3) Shav not going back to sleep right away after his middle-of-the-night feeding.
By morning, I was exhausted physically and emotionally and was feeling like, "I just can't do this." But what choice do I have? Things have evened out since then, and I'm grateful for that; but for the sake of my honest recollection in the future, I think it's worthwhile to note that three weeks into this, I still have moments of feeling like I'm losing my footing and falling down the mountain, rather than triumphantly making the climb.

But what I really wanted to say tonight is that Shav is three weeks old! In honor of the occasion, here are three things that I'm particularly enjoying about him at this stage of life.
1. His hair curls a little when it gets wet. I remember noticing a slight curl to his hair when he was born which made me happy because, with my naturally curly hair, I've always wondered whether one of my children would inherit that or not. All the other boys have hair that's straight as a ruler, and I wouldn't be surprised if Shav's becomes that way, too...but for now, I'm happy to see that after a bath or even when Shav's head gets sweaty, his little curls pop out again, and I think they're adorable. :)
2. His skin is reddish-brown, definitely darker than the rest of us. I think his skin might lighten eventually; but if he does manage to hang onto a darker skin tone, it will come from his Grandma Fisher (who is coming to visit in just 3 days!) since my side of the family doesn't have a bit of color. :)
3. He makes such funny faces--and funny noises, too: little grunts, squeaks, snores, sighs, gulps, etc. Here is one of the silly looks I happened to capture when I was taking some pictures of him yesterday afternoon... :)
Oh, sweet Shav, I adore you more than words can say. I love to smell your precious baby smell, I love to watch you as you grow and change, I love to listen to the noises you make, and I love to hold you and feel your little body curl up like a koala bear against me. Happy three weeks on the outside! :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Simple Sunday - Boys!

~ thankful for BOYS!...even though they do crazy things like hang upside-down on the couch while they read, they are truly marvelous creatures (and girls are, too, of course; I'm not trying to discriminate against them!)...can you tell I'm still reacting to the comment that bystander made last night? :)

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

~ Psalm 127:3-5

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Exciting, the Fearful, and the I-Can't-Believe-You-Just-Said-That

Guess who took his first steps this evening?!?! At long last, Tobin Bear officially walked!!!!! At just four days shy of his nineteen-month birthday, I'd say he lands squarely in the late walker category; but that's just fine with me. He's an individual, that boy!

When this happened, I was nursing Shav while Jeff got down on the floor with Tobin to encourage him to walk. Fortunately, I grabbed the camera in time to actually capture the real first steps. This video is not a re-enactment! :) It was delightful to see how hard Tobin was concentrating on keeping his balance and getting his feet to work as he slowly and carefully took these steps. What a precious boy, and what a precious gift to have this video (especially because I don't have a video of either Josiah or David taking their first steps). Of course, in this video, Jeff and I can't contain our excitement so we sound like the goofy, proud parents that we really are. :)
video

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On to the fearful... Tonight we went to the Bergton Fair, something which everyone who lives in these parts should do once in their lifetime, I guess. :) However, to get to the Bergton Fair, we had to drive on the roads that lead to Highland Retreat, a beautiful camp that holds many wonderful memories for me...but unfortunately, one absolutely terrifying memory as well. At our church camp-out at Highland Retreat last year, Josiah was in danger of drowning (the story is here and here and here). As the end of August draws near, and with it the first anniversary of that dreadful day, and as we approach another church camp-out at the same camp, my thoughts have repeatedly flown back in time to the terrible memories from last year. Tonight, driving to and from Bergton, the fear was particularly strong in me. Jeff and I talked about it on the way; and he, being the sensible man that he is, doesn't have that same fear. Of course, I realize it's not exactly rational; but the connection between this time of year and that particular place and the events that occurred there are strong enough to cause undue anxiety in my heart; and I need to fight against it with strength and endurance.

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And now, the I-Can't Believe-You-Just-Said-That quote of the day... At the Fair tonight, Jeff and I were standing by the merry-go-round as Josiah and David were enjoying a ride on it. A friendly lady near us peered into the stroller I was pushing, saw Shav, and commented on his big blue eyes, etc. She asked me if he was my first, and I said proudly, "No, my fourth!" and then pointed out Josiah and David on the horses and Tobin in the stroller by Jeff. She said, "All boys?" and again I answered with motherly pride, "Yes!" And then she said, "Oh, how sad."

Excuse me??? Did you just say what I think you said? Mind telling me what exactly is so sad about having four boys? I happen to think it's one of the greatest blessings I've ever been given, and I can't even understand why you would think it's a sad thing...and even more, why you would feel like it's OK to make that comment in front of my sons! It's a good thing my oldest two were not in earshot, or that really would have made me hot. As it is, I'll stand here and smile at you as I quickly make some polite comment about how much I love having four boys; but my inner thoughts are far from polite. You may not know it, Friendly Lady, but you just pushed one of my buttons. Fortunately for you, I'm a pacifist; and I'll wait to vent until I'm at home writing on my blog! But let me make just one thing very clear: there is NOTHING sad about receiving the gift of four incredible sons from the hand of my Father in heaven who knows everything and has a perfect plan for my life and the lives of each of my four boys. Got that, or do I need to go on???

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Eager for Christmas

Being the lover of warmth and light that I am, I tend to mourn the departure of summer and dread the arrival of winter. I like fall, and I love the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years; but after those, there is such a long period of cold, dark winter left before spring, my favorite season, comes peeking around again.

However, this morning, I felt full of eagerness as I thought about Christmas approaching; and here is the reason why...
...one small boy, dressed in plaid flannel pajamas.

You might be wondering why Tobin was dressed in these PJs, and the answer would be that all his summer ones were in the laundry, of course. (I can happily report that today I got caught up on laundry so tonight he's wearing much cooler pajamas; and these flannel ones, which were really too tight for him anyway, are laid away until Shav is big enough to wear them.)

But something about the sight of Tobin reminded me of the joys of cooler weather, of snuggles on the couch, of hot chocolate, of a merry fire in the woodstove, of time spent homeschooling my boys and building sweet memories with them through that, of bundling up to go outside to sled and then returning to the warm house with rosy cheeks. And Christmas! This year, we'll have four boys in warm, cuddly pajamas on Christmas morning. What fun!

There are a few other reasons I'm looking forward to Christmas. By then, surely...
~ the parts of my body that nourish my youngest son will have toughened up and not be sore anymore,
~ Shav will be an old pro at sleeping through the night,
~ and Tobin will be walking by then!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Climbing the Mountain

Back in June, I wrote about the mountain that I could see in the distance and knew I would need to cross despite my trepidation. Today it seems appropriate to give a mountain-climbing update...

It's sometimes difficult for me to know how to answer when someone asks, "How are you? How are things going?" On the one hand, I have moments of feeling like, "Wow, this is not that difficult after all. Maybe I'm actually handling this just fine!" which are followed, sometimes quickly, by moments of thinking, "This is hard--just plain hard." Which is the right answer? Which scenario reveals how I'm really doing? Both! The good and the bad together, the easy and the hard, the energetic and the exhausted, the stable and the emotional, the patient and the impatient, the creative and the just-going-through-the-motions-of-mothering--all of these wrapped up together. I would say, however, that the good outweighs the bad; and through the fog that still drifts in occasionally, I can see definite glimpses of the new normal, and that's encouraging. Most of all, I'm constantly reminded of why I'm climbing over this particular mountain...and I must say, he's powerful motivation!
Sweet baby Shav makes it all worthwhile!

Here are my Top Nine Mountain-Climbing Aids:

1. Setting Simple Goals
Every day, I have three goals (besides doing the basics to sustain life and health for me and my family!): shower, pump, nap. Last August, long before I got pregnant (and while we were still quite definitely in the maybe-we-will, maybe-we-won't stage), I had written this post in which I declared my intention, should I ever find myself with a newborn again, to a) have a nap nanny to ensure decent daytime rest for myself and b) pump often and early in the weeks/months after giving birth to build up a good supply of stored breastmilk. Now I have the opportunity to act on those resolutions; and although I haven't lined up nap nannies like I thought I would, I have made it a priority to do my best to nap and pump on a daily basis. To tell the truth, those two items haven't happened every single day--but almost. The shower? That is a daily thing; and although it might seem silly, it surely is a time of refreshment for me, certainly worth making a priority in my limited time! :) Having these simple goals has been helpful because it keeps me from focusing on too-lofty goals (like organizing our homeschool closet or cleaning out the garden shed), but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can mentally check these three items off my list!

2. Feeling Good Physically
Despite the setback this past weekend (the breast infection that hit me out of nowhere), overall I have felt amazingly good ever since the birth. Each time I give birth, the physical recovery is easier than the last time; and this time was no exception. It's always astonishing to me how quickly the aches and pains and nuisances of late pregnancy disappear after giving birth. I don't have heartburn waking me up at night...I don't go to the bathroom half a dozen times in the night...I can turn over in bed easily...I can stoop to pick something off the floor without even thinking about it. I just feel so good! Losing 20+ pounds in a matter of a week or so sure does make a difference! :) Besides feeling good physically, I felt great mentally when I was able to fit into a pair of non-maternity pants one week after Shav was born. Granted, it was a pair of pants that is normally too big for me when I'm at my regular size; but they are non-maternity, and I got quite a boost from fitting into them so early in the recovery period. At present, besides that pair of pants, I can squeeze myself into two other pairs of capri pants and one skirt, so my wardrobe is still pretty limited, but at least I can wear lots of different shirts! :) Anyway, it has been a huge blessing just to feel good again! The one physical pain that seems to be the exception to the rule of recovery being easier after each subsequent birth is the uterine contractions. They only get worse after each birth because the uterus has to work that much harder to pull itself back into shape; and so, as expected, I had some powerful uterine pain to deal with in the days following Shav's birth. However, by Thursday of that week, the contractions were much less, and they soon disappeared altogether so I was able to get off the pain medicine (just Ibuprofen, nothing stronger) by five or so days postpartum. That was a good feeling. One other physical thing to mention: engorgement can be a painful time, but because Shav was eating SO OFTEN during those early days, it actually wasn't bad at all--less pronounced and painful than I remember it being with the other boys. That's one benefit of being up at all hours of the day and night, nursing a baby--there's no time for the breast to become fully engorged! :)

3. Releasing the Stress
This is not the easiest thing for me to do; but during the past two weeks, I have worked hard to completely eliminate extra stress in my life. Specifically, I have let the house go in some ways, realizing that on some days, it's been messier than it's been in a long time. On the one hand, that drives me nuts; but on the other hand, I have more important things to fill my time with these days. Eventually, I'll be able to juggle four children and a house, too; but for now, I'm letting some things go. And--this is huge for me--even when people come over (to bring dinner, for example, as so many of our friends have been doing for us), I'm letting them see us as we really are and not feeling like I have to quickly hide the mess on the counter or whatever the case may be. Another way I've tried hard to get rid of stress is by saying no to various opportunities and even getting myself out of obligations that I had previously planned to do (like leading hymns on Sunday). Right now, the less extra stress I feel, the better we all do with managing life!

4. Receiving Meals
I mentioned this in the last point, but we have been BLESSED by a number of delicious meals being brought to us. Knowing that I don't even have to think about cooking dinner has been a huge help during this time.

5. Reading
During the many hours that I feed Shav (particularly at night when no one else needs me), I have been able to read, read, read. I think I've finished six books so far, and I'm almost at the end of another one; but besides books, I've also been able to read stuff on the Internet: emails, blogs, etc. I haven't been so good at replying to emails or commenting on blogs, because my one-handed typing skills are sorely lacking...but at least I can read while I nurse Shav! :) Knowing that, when Shav's cries in the night begin and I must drag myself out of my cozy bed, I'll be able to open the laptop beside my rocking chair or pick up the latest book I'm reading--knowing that makes it much easier to get up and be cheerful. I'm always glad to see Shav; and as I cradle him in my arms and get him latched on, I look at him and admire his sweet face. But he's not much of a conversationalist; and usually at night when he's nursing, his eyes drift shut very soon and he's off to la-la land. So then I turn to my books or laptop, and they help to preserve my sanity as the minutes drag on and he's still sucking! :)

6. Not Skimping
Here's what I mean by that: sometimes I'm tempted to take shortcuts. For example, when Shav nurses on one side and then falls asleep, I'm tempted to skip the diaper change and feeding on the other side because I'd really like to get back to sleep myself and maybe I could just lay him down and he'd stay asleep and I could go back to bed?? But I know that in the long run, I'd just be shooting myself in the foot if I did that because he wouldn't stay asleep as long, and then I'd have to drag my weary bones out of bed sooner than I normally would, and that wouldn't make me very happy. Doing things the right way--completely--going the long way around and avoiding the shortcut: that's what I mean about not skimping.

7. Having a Wonderful Husband
This is definitely of the utmost importance when climbing such a mountain! :) Jeff's help has truly been invaluable during this time of transition. I have been blown away by how much he has served the boys and I during the past few weeks. In particular, when he's not at work, he has put himself in charge of Tobin, taking upon himself the diaper changes, the feeding at mealtimes (even sitting where I used to sit at the table so he can be right next to Tobin's highchair), the bathing, the dressing, the entertaining, etc. It's nothing new that, when Jeff is home, Josiah and David orbit around him; but it is a change of positioning for Tobin to also revolve around Jeff, rather than me. Instead of me being in charge of Tobin and Jeff helping me out by doing stuff for him, now it seems like Jeff is usually in charge of him and I occasionally help Jeff out by changing a diaper or reading a story, etc. I knew Jeff would be extra helpful during this time, but I didn't realize just how completely he would deny himself to give to us and keep our boat level as we navigate these new waters.

8. Consuming Spiritual Food
In several posts since Shav was born, I've included Bible verses that have been particularly meaningful in encouraging me along in this journey over the mountain. Here are several more verses that I've come across and found inspiring...

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love."
~ Psalm 90:14
- which is particularly helpful since I've been dreading mornings and the rush to meet everyone's needs at the same time...this verse reminds me that God is already there, He's waiting for me in the morning, and He will satisfy me and sustain me with His unfailing love

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."
~ Isaiah 40:11
- the thought of being gently led because I have young ones brings peace to my soul

This isn't a verse from the Bible; but something I read in Once Upon a Summer by Janette Oke (one of the books I read recently) stood out to me and brought spiritual insight and solace to me. The background for this quote is a time when a wildfire threatened the home and farm of Josh's family; and the new preacher in town (that Aunt Lou would eventually marry) came up with a plan to fight the fire. But before the men went their ways to implement the plan, the preacher prayed this...

" Dear Lord, you know our need and how much we depend upon your help. We're not going to give you orders about what to do, God. We are just going to thank you for being there when we need you."
- in a similar way, I don't want my prayers to simply consist of "God, please help Shav to sleep a long time tonight" or "Lord, please help Tobin to be happy when he wakes up from his nap, even though I can't get down and play with him"...I don't want to give God orders, but I do want to rely on His strength (and peace and patience and self-control and love, etc.) as I mother the four sons He's given to me

9. Keeping Perspective
One thought that has floated through my head and uplifted me is this: when I think of Shav, I think, "This is who needs me." Right now, others can step into the gap and help out tremendously with the other boys. Right now, things around the house can go to pieces a little more than normal. Right now, planning for homeschooling can be put on the back burner. Right now, other people can lead hymns for our church. Right now, the other members of the OSRC (a church committee I've been a part of) can make all the decisions. Right now, a lot of things I normally try to be a part of can slide. But Shav? He's the one who needs me.

It would have made a nice neat package to be able to come up with one more point to make it an even Top Ten, but I can't do it. I wish I could add "Drinking Caffeine" to the list because I REALLY miss Vanilla Coke; but the fact that I'm trying to do everything possible to help Shav sleep well at the right times means that, for now, I'll avoid it completely. At one point, I thought that Shav's use of a pacifier might help us all over this mountain; but ever since that one day when he actually sucked on the thing for quite a long time, he's been less than enthusiastic about it, grimacing whenever I put it in his mouth and spitting it out as soon as he can. So it looks like he won't be a pacifier boy after all. Maybe eventually he'll follow in the footsteps of David and Tobin and find his thumb, but that hasn't happened yet so I can't make that number ten on my list. Oh, well, I guess I'll have to deny my perfectionist nature and just leave it at nine! :)