One year ago today…

…I was getting pulled over on 405 by a police officer with all 4 kids in the car.  Seconds before I saw his lights I’d hung up the phone with my midwife.  I had barely gotten on the freeway and could not figure out why he was pulling me over.  He walked up to my window and I was unmistakably, enormously pregnant.  He asked me if I knew my tabs were expired.  Five months expired.  As soon as I opened my mouth I’m sure he regretted it – it went something like this, with no breaths for air:

Oh my goodness no!  In October, what?  I thought they mailed you that little postcard that told you to get new tabs.  That’s right, I remember someone telling me that they don’t mail it anymore, have to save money somewhere.  But I never looked at my plates so I didn’t notice.  Oh my.  The midwife just called me and I just hung up with her when you were pulling me over.  She’s going to come to my house in two hours, TWO HOURS, and I’m going to have a baby.  TODAY!  So I’m, you know, a little frazzled and excited and I wasn’t expecting it to be today and I’ve got to get home and is there any way I can renew my tabs after the baby comes?

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t all but you get the idea.  I was a mile-a-minute to the moon bursting with excitement and nervousness and could not care less about my tabs just had to go home to get my home birth box all set up and my kitchen clean and have a baby and all.  As soon as I let him talk he said, “Oh wow, yeah you have a lot going on.  You get yourself home safely and have yourself a baby.  Just renew those tabs as soon as you can.”  I smiled and said I would and headed home.

I made the calls and picked up the house.  My sister started a dinner that would feed the midwife and whoever else was at our house.  The whole story was that the weather was cold and it was supposed to snow.  I have a history of fast labors, barely made it to the birth center last time.  And I was very progressed and ready but not in active labor.  So she gave me the option of them breaking my water so that we would know for sure that the midwife would be present for the delivery.  My husband had read the pamphlet entitled “What to do if baby arrives before midwife” and he said he really didn’t want to utilize the info.  Who could blame him.

The midwife and her student went to get coffee after my water broke and pretty soon I called them back to say that things were moving right along.  About three hours later a plump and purple-ish baby boy was born in our bedroom – with Rylee behind me rubbing my back and my mom and sister standing next to me with Kyler and Audrey. His daddy helped catch him and told us all “It’s a boy!”.  He got some oxygen and perked up and all I could think was “there are rolls EVERYWHERE”.  He was so plump and round.  After snuggling and getting rubbed off, he weighed in and everyone gasped.  10 pounds 11 ounces.  I was instantly thankful that he’d been born that day and not one day later!

We all sat on my bed together and soaked it all in.  It was the experience I had dreamed of but it still seemed very surreal.  It was bedtime so my mom and dad helped get kids in bed and we settled in for the night. We marveled together as we watched him sleep and counted ourselves tremendously blessed.

One year later and we’re not sleeping much but we wouldn’t trade the sleep for anything.  Phineas is a perfectly wonderful addition to our family.  We joke that he’s like a movie star in his own home.  Every time he wakes up from a nap there is fanfare and greetings galore for his sleepy, smiley face.  His brothers love to crash trucks to make him laugh.  His sisters love to snuggle and play baby with him.  His daddy loves to hold him in just the right spot on his shoulder.  His mama kisses his face and head all over.  Every single day.

Yes, it’s loud.  Yes, there is chaos.  Yes, we’ve got hard days just like everyone does.

But oh my, the love…there is
so.
much.
love.

first time for everything – he didn’t make a fuss, just fell asleep in his high chair
first time climbing into a drawer
finding the apple box
he's got a penchant for emptying the recycle bin!

The list

No, not the Christmas list or the to-do list or any other of the many ‘lists’ floating in my head right now.  Just this one…its been a long few days holding down the fort while my hubby is across the country with his best friend to run their first marathon.  I told him “I’m running a marathon too, mine ends when you fly home!”.  My first stint without him overnight this many days since Finn was born in February.

#532 – family to help share the load, taking kids to help rake leaves or kids over for slumber parties…all so wonderful

#533 – eggnog

#534 – the way they ask me to pray for them before they go to sleep

#535 – someone telling me that knowing my momentous regrets has helped shape the choices they’ve made…how He doesn’t waste anything

#536 – dreams so vivid and bright that the lines between sleep and awake are blurry

#537 – darling old ladies from the nursing home on a visit to our favorite ice cream shop

#538 –  being comfortable enough in my skin to simply kneel down next to them, total strangers, and hold baby Finn so he would smile at them, chatting with them about babies and life while they sat in their wheelchairs

#539 – whispering to Finn “You made their day!” and knowing that he truly had

#540 – the way the kids cluster around my legs while we worship together at church every Sunday

#541 – laundry baseball

#542 – a house that is standing

#543 – a wonder-filled field trip to the science center downtown

#544 – someone challenging my thinking

#545 – watching God work in my husbands’ heart

#546 – how much better God does working on hearts than I do

#547 – nightly haggen daz coffee almond bars

#548 – pumpkin scones

#549 – children in the church class I taught recently and their perspective – on Thanksgiving – “Well, I don’t know, I really don’t like it that much….we just seem to eat the same food every time.  And then we eat it, again and again and again.  For days we eat it!  I really don’t like that.”

#550 – finding awesome books at the goodwill

Just when you think you’ve got things under control

It’s Sunday night.  Kids and husband have pitched in and worked hard and the house is close to back in order.  I remark that I absolutely must spend some time writing out lesson plans after bedtime for our school week.  I clean the kitchen after yet another round of applesauce making so I can have a free counter to spread books out.

I breathe a sigh of relief.  Starting the week in good order is such a blessing for me.  It makes such a difference in how things go. I spend a brief moment relaxing on the couch before I begin my next task. Kids are all tucked in bed and it is quiet.

Enter Rylee.  She’s talking fast and has wide eyes and is saying something like “emergency, its an emergency, come, come see!”.  She has a slight smile so I know its not a grave injury.

We quickly follow her down the hall.  A smell greets us in our shower but worse yet a sight.  Our shower basin is filling fast as toilet refuse combined with kitchen sink drainage is spewing up the drain.  We run for towels.  We grab a plunger.  I start sopping brown liquid and he starts plunging everything he can possible plunge to no avail.

He gets on the phone with a plumber who of course says they can come ‘for an extra after hours charge’.  I see dollar signs in my head but also 7 people who ‘need’ running water and toilets.  All the plumbing and water for the whole house is at a standstill.

Kids now are bustling from the drama and no one wants to stay in bed.  Toilet water spilling onto the floor mixed with piles of pumpkin seeds from tonight’s carving is too exciting to not see.

When the plumber finally arrives its past my bedtime and my hopes of peaceful lesson planning are long gone.  And he needs access to our bedroom so we can’t put the baby to sleep in there.  He starts working and trying to drain the flood waters back.  It doesn’t go well.  A valve breaks over his head and instead of water slowly draining into buckets it covers the poor man head to toe even in his mouth and empties all over our crawl space (the crawl space that was just re-done last year and is was pristinely clean).

I am mortified and want to offer him a shower and towels immediately.  But of course I have no clean towels and no running water, so that’s out of the question.  He tries to continue working but simply cannot given the saturated, smelly nature of his self.  Who could blame him for leaving?

Now its midnight and we try to retire for the night but mixed up baby who should have been in bed hours ago is not tired anymore.  Besides, he got into the dog food earlier in the day and ate some and has a most unpleasant belly ache – which I probably would too if I ate dog food.  We still have no working plumbing.  I spend the next 5 hours up and up again with little Phineas.  At one point I step in bathroom water but am honestly too ridiculously tired to find clean pj pants.  I roll the pants up to my thigh and crawl into bed for the umpteenth time.

By 5:30 AM Finn settles and I sleep for more than 30 minutes.  My phone got misplaced at some point so its not by my bed to wake me early for homeschool co-op in the morning.  Instead I wake at 8:40 to the plumbers knocking on the door.

In my pajamas.

With my one leg still rolled all the way up.

With kids running around who’ve been awake apparently for almost two hours playing horse quite happily in the backyard.

I am incoherent.  I tell the sweet plumber that we’re supposed to be at co-op and what do they need and “I’m so sorry I just woke up…”.  Seriously – it was a completely crazy scene.  They smile at me and say to just leave the door unlocked and they’ll get to work.

Kids run to the van but then I realize one is missing and I run back in to wake up the one who is still sound asleep.  We stop at a coffee stand for a pathetic ‘breakfast’ on the way.  I am in yesterday’s dirty jeans and a baseball cap and am pretty sure I have crazy written all over my face.

We make it only 20 minutes late and boys who are thrilled to finish a very cool art project make it in time.  I take deep breaths and share my plight with a sweet mama in the playroom who offers her house later if our problems are not fixable soon.

We stop at the park on the way home and breath plenty of fresh smelling air before heading home.  Problem (mostly) fixed.  A graciously less-than-it-could-have-been bill for me to pay.  Piles of nasty laundry to do.  Cleaning work that I won’t get paid for that will involve a clothespin on my nose and an open bottle of essential oil of lavender.

Coincidence that all this went down on a Sunday night/Monday?  On a day that I remind myself to choose gratitude?  Really?

#523 – toilets that flush

#524 – not having to wash clothes by hand

#525 – resources to fix this (very large!) problem

#526 – the three hours of sleep I DID get

#527 – how it feels to have friends call to check up on me

#528 – a strong enough stomach to clean utter nastiness

#529 – getting to do life, every day, messy, real life with my children by my side

#530 – Snickers minis

#531 – laughter in spite of it all

Mukilteo Monday

Last week was a week I wouldn’t mind forgetting for the most part.  I got the flu and struggled immensely just to get through the days and care for our family.  Usually, I get thrown up on and coughed on and maintain a fairly excellent immune system but last week didn’t work out just so.

So, it being Monday and all I’m finding the need great to keep counting gifts…

#509 – netflix on sick days

#510 – my hubby installing twelve, yes twelve, new lightbulbs for me – the house is so much brighter!

#511 – babylegs on crazy chubby thighs

#512 – a brunch jazz cruise around the bay, a super thoughtful gift from friends

#513 – above mentioned friends watching our five kids WITH their five kids for FIVE hours while we enjoyed said cruise

#514 – knowing he still thinks I’m beautiful

#515 – a freezer full of beef coming our way tomorrow….yum

#516 – spontaneous ice cream outings

#517 – an impromptu beach dinner at sunset on this oh-so-totally-gorgeous Pacific NW fall evening

#518 – Ivar’s fish and chips

#519 – he thinks she’s beautiful too

#520 – living near ferries and water

#521 – silly silhouettes

#522 – kissing in the dark

We may not have clean fingernails…

…but we sure know how to catch frogs.

and we can gently hold a bee flower for a long time and watch its tiny parts move

we love to share frogs with our little sis

and dig for carrots in the garden then peel them for Mama

and disappear with baby brother to snuggle him in a chair while Mama cooks

and delight in setting tea tables with mom’s wedding china and a flannel pillow case for a table cloth (can you see the flower petals they put in the sugar cubes?!?)

and share…because what else can you do when there are five kids in this cozy place?

# 501 – 508 on my thankful list this week

Time for lovely

Yesterday afternoon the boys were playing and the girls asked to have a tea party.  Rylee found a little pad of paper and wrote down their order and handed it to me.  Usually she runs her own tea party but this time she wanted to be waited on.  I could have told her I wasn’t a waitress (it’s been said before!) but instead I told them to wait at their table.  I donned my grandma’s old ruffled apron and rummaged around finding snacks and crystal bowls (that haven’t been used in years) and my wedding china.

It was the end of the week so options were slim for food but I decided it was more about presentation.  Rice crackers in a beautiful glass dish with a lid would be perfect.  I used the tray they’d set out for me and filled it up with fun things.

Oh their delight when they saw me in my apron at their door with a tray full of love!

It doesn’t come natural to me, this slowing down, but oh the sweetness that comes when I do.  And my goodness are children ever so good at helping me practice this discipline!

The tale of a little sister

Once upon a time there were three little girls.  The older two were more shy and would make the youngest one redeem their tokens for ice cream at the local Dairy Queen.  She wore a constant smile that young one and was a most darling little thing.  These three grew older and fought over clothes and other silly things.  They forged their own paths and discovered who they were.  The oldest sister and her boyfriend used to hang out often with the four years younger sister, great times were had and a friendship was forged that would last forever.

Youngest sister meandered into some circles of friends that were older and shared very different values.  Their pull was strong.  The temptation of a different life drew her far and fast away.  Hearts broke and the prodigal one wandered far.

Oldest sister started to journal and pray (parents did too, for certain) about the little sister.  Pages were covered with tears and words poured out.  Years passed.  Agonizing choices were made, truly things you might not be able to imagine.  Life’s consequences followed.

Love was given in the ways everyone knew how to give it.  Hope ebbed and waned.  The way the heart hurts watching one you love so much walk away burns a deep pain.

A slow, lengthy journey home began.  It has taken years for Redemption to weave His way back into her life.  The ones closest to her watched and loved and waited under what sometimes felt like unbearable weariness.

The oldest one often wrote letters to that youngest one.  The journey was a foreign one to her but she had, literally, seen the scars and sometimes didn’t know how to choke out the right words.  So she just wrote.

The young one let sleeping dreams awaken and pursued her hopes of becoming a nurse.  She pressed on, though academics were not her strongest suit and all the family (minus two brother in laws) was there across the country when she walked across that stage and received her diploma. The oldest gave her an engraved butterfly necklace that day.  It said simply, dream. Because she had.  And we got to watch.

After a couple of jobs in her field that were less than she’d hoped, she landed one at a local, excellent hospital where she has been stretched beyond her imagination.  But she’s done it.

Her story isn’t finished.  There were times those close ones thought it might be.  The ways her Father has sheltered her and saved her might be a forever mystery.

And now? She’s finding Love and she fell in love. Last week, that baby sister (though she’s almost 30, still a baby sis) married a sweet, strong, genuine man.  There were a few moments when middle sister and oldest sister shared a glance and tears brimmed.  Hard to believe it was really happening and in such a beautiful way.

My list continues…

#489 – the God ordained concept of marriage

#490 – a dry, sunshine filled evening for a wedding after weeks of summer rain

#491 – grass stains on ring bearer knees

#492 – how it feels to dress fancy and get gorgeous

#493 – a heart full that just wants to keep saying ‘thank you’

#494 – tiny baby Ruby toes painted cherry red

#495 – our mama extraordinaire without whom the wedding could not have come together

#496 – the look on his face when he saw her first

#497 – the children that surrounded my legs and covered my lumpy parts for wedding photos (and how much I wouldn’t trade them for a more lovely figure!)

#498 – the story God’s still writing

#499 – a front-pack-clad daddy who went way above the call of duty this day

#500 – a littlest sister that I love more than words could ever say

Back on the gratitude bandwagon…

#431 – silly sister moments

#432 – silly sibling moments (love the relationship these two have most days)

#433 – impromptu brother sister tea parties by candlelight (they rumaged all the snacks they could…even vitamins!)

#434 – sleep (the bits I’m getting are pretty darn sweet!)

#435 – making a CD mix for my love….my ploy to remind him of me while he spends oh-so-long days driving and working

#436 – date night – 2 1/2 hours of face to face time with no children = absolute sweetness

#437 – perfect, yummy baby skin

#438 – a hot meal, not prepared by me, and the joy of eating it all while its still hot (did I already mention date night?)

#439 – common ground, sharing dreams, having ideals

#440 – sisters (a good one of my middle sis, just so she doesn’t kill me for posting the goofy one above!)

#441 – new favorite song – Matthew West “Hold You Up” – what it is about a girls’ heart that wants to hear the words “You are worth fighting for”?

#442 – garden boxes and all the little tiny seedlings poking out of the ground despite the COLD spring!

#443 -pins and needles waiting to hear about the birth of my best friends’ SIXTH blessing!!!

#444 – how good it feels to let things go and really, truly let. them. GO.

#445 – celebrating twelve years married to the love of my life

A miracle, every time

#380 – #404 on my gratitude list this week from a heart overflowing with thankfulness…

an intense 3 hour labor 5 days before my due date

blood pressure stabilized enough to deliver at home as hoped for

laboring at the kitchen counter with precious little distractions hovering around me

two amazing midwives and the unique care they bring

a sweet 8 year old daughter rubbing my back between pushes whispering “Good job mama, you’re doing good”

a husband brave enough to help catch the baby

the miracle moment that is just as amazing every single time it happens….when a new baby is placed into your arms

hearing “its a BOY!”

seeing rolls of skin all over said boy

hearing “10 pounds 11 ounces” and gasping in shock

snuggling in bed minutes after he is born with curious siblings all over

tucking excited, tired kids into cozy beds on a cold, snowy evening

the quiet after midwives and family are gone and we are left with a new son in our arms

realizing how much such a big baby needs to eat

holding hands under the sheets and snuggling closer relishing what just took place

exhilaration

exhaustion

the smell of a newborn

instantly and forever glad we said yes to one more

quiet prayers of gratitude whispered in the dark

pondering names and knowing the ones

Phineas (first name) – a man of the Old Testament, who stood for righteousness and was “zealous for the honor of his God”

Jon (middle name) – a man of today, my father, who also stands for God’s righteousness and honor

family and friends that greatly lift the load, watch children, run errands and fill in the holes while we adjust to ‘new normal’

treasuring each moment, ever so aware that this season is short lived and I won’t get it back

A love like this

In cleaning a few weeks ago, I found this letter I penned just about 2 years ago.  Tumultuous would have been a mild way to describe the status of our life. We were facing huge change and loss and everything felt out of control.

I was overcome with emotion as I read.  And remembered…

My beloved.

It’s been a long year.

A longer 8 weeks.

An even longer 10 days.

I have a lot of observations and thoughts about our life together, why it has been so hard, why there has been so much pain, why we’ve had more than our share of struggle.  Those aside, I just want you to know that though the road has been bumpy and left us bruised and broken more times than we can count-I would walk through it all again to have the privilege of making this beautiful family with you and following Jesus by your side.

I believe in you.

Let me say it again, I believe in you.  I have watched you find Jesus, walk with Him, walk away from Him, make good choices, makes poor ones, thrive in your talents and gifting and falter in your weakness.  I have watched your heart break.  I have watched you rebuild and roll up your sleeves as you have relentlessly pursued healing and restoration in your life and in our marriage.

Whatever this next season looks like, wherever it is going to take place, however great the amount of change and struggle-I want you to know, I need you to know that I am in it WITH you.  I stopped wondering when we would ‘arrive’ in a place of near-perfectness and ease.  I am done waiting for a magical place of ‘easy life’.  We’ll never be there.  Ever.

But we are here.  Today.  Together.

And my heart bursts with price for who you are allowing God to mold you into, what you’ve let him do with your heart.  I am secretly excited for the way we will have to trust Him to care for us in the coming months.

Because He will.  And we will get to watch.

I love you more than I ever thought possible.  I choose you, even if I could see every hard thing we’d walk through.  I would still choose you.  I choose pushing through, working hard, letting go, dying to myself, moving forward and believing with you for great things.

My thankful list this Monday is short and all hinges of the absolute miracles God can do with the human heart.  Our life, our family, our marriage is testimony to just that.  If this “love day” finds you less than confident in love…can I just say to you today that there isn’t any heart-challenge that the redeeming love God gives can’t mend?  I used to say that because it sounded good – but now it is a resounding truth that sits deep in my soul because I’ve sat by in wonder and watched it happen.

Now to keep counting…

#372 – breaking years long destructive habits

#373 – learning over and again that incredible beauty is born out of great pain

#374 – looking back and seeing the faithfulness of God

#375 – realizing how much love is a choice not a feeling

#376 – how the “worst thing ever” can become a treasured gift

#377 – pure, unceasing, overflowing, perfect love

#378 – the fruit of saying “yes” when you want to say “enough, I’m done”

#379 – watching grace infiltrate our union