Tuesday, May 31, 2016


For the past week, I have awoken each morning full of ambition and energy.  Today is the day!  Today is the day I come out of my postnatal coma and re-enter reality and responsibility.  I make my list at breakfast:

  • weed the lavender bed
  • wash the windows both inside and out
  • keep up on laundry and dishes
  • hang closeting materials in the girls' closets and help them sort their mixed up clothes
  • read the Book of Mormon
  • shower
I struggle for the first few hours in the morning to complete things on the list.  By noon, I am frustrated and disgruntled with myself.  I've fully finished nothing on my list.

This is the reality of having a newborn.

How much time does one give oneself for holding and feeding and cleaning such a tiny being?  There are many willing hands in the house, but if they are holding her, they are not getting their list finished either.  No one else, of course, can feed her and I wouldn't give up that task even if it were an option.  To be quite honest, I don't want to hand her off for any amount of time.  A month has already gone and her cheeks are getting plump.  The time will fly by.

Will I regret not getting the lavender weeded?  Probably.  Will it be a while before the house keeping is done with care?  Absolutely.  Will I ever type my blog posts with both hands?  Not for a long while.  But what would be worse?  Looking at a three year old and realizing I've forever missed precious moments with my baby, or dirty windows?  

I will continue to make my lists and I will continue to struggle to cross things off of it.  But I'm going to give myself a break if nothing is completed at the end of the day.  She really will be tiny for such a short amount of time.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Field Trip Summer: Stone Rose Fossil Dig

We are doing everything we can to make a fall trip back east possible.  One thing that that means is no expensive things this summer. We will do a couple of one night camp outs, but no trips, only free (reading rewards) tickets to an amusement park, no sports/drama/music camps, and no concert tickets.  How to still make sure summer is fun?

Ingredient #1:  Field trips.

The Stone Rose Fossil that made the site famous.
We have a field trip planned for just about every week during the summer months.  Our first was yesterday to the Stone Rose Fossil site. The site is the location of an ancient lake bed and has tons of the kinds of fossils you'd imagine would be at the bottom of a lake.  We were instructed to bring chisels, hammers, screwdrivers, or paint scrapers to crack open rocks. Lots of found fossils were promised; we were not let down.  They even gave us the school rate, as a home school, which doesn't happen all the time.  $2 per head.

All of us enjoyed the trip.  It was exciting and kind of like a treasure hunt to crack open dozens of rocks, finding nothing, then to crack one open to find something cool!

You can see the giant litter of rocks we walked into.  At first glance, you'd think all the fossils had been found.  But sit down and begin chiseling away, and 50 million year old leaves, petals, wood, and needles reveal their hidden burial places.

And it isn't just for kids!  Justin and I were just as excited about finding something as the children were!

Everyone was only allowed to bring home three fossils, so pockets were filled as we went.  At the end, each person decided on their three very favorite finds.


This guy was hilarious.  He was all about it, hammering on the rocks, sometimes looking for the "birds in there," sometimes hollering, "DIE, DIE!"  No idea about those comments, but I blame the big brother and the father.  I'm sure the girls in the family wouldn't teach him that kind of thing.

It is a fairly long drive (about three hours, one way) from our house, but the scenic drive was a big part of the field trip.  It was an absolutely beautiful drive.

We had to stop frequently to feed our new baby, so the trip took the whole day.  It was well spent!

If you have thought about taking this trip, do it.  It was a great way to kick off our summer of field trips!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

There are Others

We have all been doing this for three weeks:

We are enamored with our baby girl.

But it should be noted that we also have other children.

The unbound joy of a three year old with a light saber.
Twelve and moving past the awkward into the confident.
Sweet big sister.

A recent Saturday for this girl consisted of watercolor painting and homemade play-dough.
At the oral surgeon's office, checking out a wisdom tooth extraction video.
This child, pushing in the carts at her new job.  I'm totally that mom.
Life is full.  I've been frank about my postpartum emotions.
Please know that I am okay.  Thank you for your concern.
I've also been frank about my all-the-time joys.
I am real, sitting here in my living room.  I hope you don't mind my sharing it all.

Settling in for a Sunday afternoon nap.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Looking Forward on Her Birthday

Today is my baby's birthday.  She would have been five.  This summer, she would have learned to ride a bike without training wheels and probably whistle.  Sometime this year, she would have lost her first tooth, with her shins covered in bruises.  She would have been young enough to still need me to fix every wound and to want to sit on my lap for awhile.  She'd have been asking too many questions and filling our lives with imaginative play.  Right now, she would be learning to read and counting higher than she ever had before.  She would know how to skip and hold the baby and lay quietly in the grass, staring up at the clouds in the sky or watching a beetle lumber awkwardly across her view.  She would sing sweetly or loudly, depending on her mood.  Her antics would make me crazy, and make my heart swell with joy and love.

All those things you need a body to do.

All those things she isn't doing.

But she is mine.

And she is safe from this horrible, wicked world. And I will see her someday . . .

learn to ride a bike without training wheels

and whistle

and lose a tooth

and laugh

and sing.

Someday, sweet, missed Eowyn.  Someday, I will hold you again.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ah, Hormones, How You Screw with Me

My beautiful youngest arrived just over two weeks ago.
I cannot get enough of her.

Once you know how old my daughter is, you'll also know that starting a few days ago, my postpartum hormones went bonkers.  
Tears all. day. long.  
Those tears may present themselves for no apparent reason or for a very good reason.

At four o'clock this morning, my husband awoke to my sobs, "What's wrong, Mama?"
"The weight of the world."

Sometimes it feels like that!
Of my seven with me children, I am presently worried sick about five of them.
On the other hand,
my children absolute delight and thrill me.
I'm not healing quickly from my last labor and delivery and it is frustrating and worrying.
On the other hand,
nursing hurt for less than a week this time and my baby is gaining weight at a healthy rate.
I'm a lousy mother.
On the other hand,
I'm not doing so bad as a mother.
So many people rely on me and I can't do it all right now.
On the other hand,
it is good for them to do without me for a while, if only to recognize how much they rely on me.
Bills will never go away.
On the other hand,
my husband has a job he enjoys.

Then, Singing in the Rain comes on and I'm sniffling again.
The marine saluting vets for hours.
The cancer families on Humans of New York.
The son brings home donuts and chocolate milk for the family.
The husband put my underwear in the dryer for me.
The wildlife was incredible on our day drive.
The girls are happy and cute with their piglets.
I hurt the kid's friend's feelings.
The cheering people at the parade.
The child was rude to me.
My baby is perfect in her tininess.
My baby wants to be awake from 3 AM-5 AM.
I'm tired.
I love being alone in a quiet house with my sweet one every early morning.
My three year old hates me.  I know because he keeps telling me.
And now I'm crying over Be a Man from Mulan!

Good grief, woman. Get a grip!

Monday, May 16, 2016

What I Always Wanted

The other evening, I was at my kitchen sink.  I looked out the window and saw this:

Dad had a fire going and all of the kids were out roasting marshmallows, laughing and enjoying each other.  I stood there for a long time, just watching, putting it all in my forever memory bank.

The kids have been outside nonstop this spring.  They have an imaginary town, like from the book Roxaboxen, they've been playing on the hammock, they ride bikes and climb trees, they dress up in costumes and run and laugh outdoors all day.  And all of this before the grass is fully in and before we've been able to build a fort or a swing set.  They don't seem to need many props.

This is what I've always wanted for my kids; this kind of play in this kind of setting.  They are safe and they are happy.  Of course they have to work out childhood kinks (read: bickering), sometimes they get a scrape or two, and every once in a while I have to step in to help solve problems.  But, these are life skills they are learning and I love being a witness to it.

Monday, May 9, 2016


It was late at night and my precious new baby was wide awake.  When babies are this new, they sleep a lot, but she wasn't wanting to be asleep just then.  I cuddled her up in a soft blanket and sat, quietly rocking her.  I began to sing from my long list of lullabies.  While some of my lullabies are the of the traditional Rock-a-bye Baby variety, most are primary songs or gentle hymns.  After all these years, the words come automatically and I don't always think about the words I'm singing.
That night, though, I began singing these words,

"Jesus once was a little child,
a little child, like me.
And He was pure and meek and mild,
as a little child should be."

As I looked into her impossibly small face, I saw her eyes, wide and fixated on my face.
She was listening to every word, every sound.  She was watching my every movement.
I sang the next words,

"So, little children, let's you and I
try to be like Him,
try, try, try!"

My voice caught as I, once again, remembered the magnitude of the job I was undertaking when I committed to bring this tender spirit into my life.  
I automatically began the next song,

"Tell me the stories of Jesus, I love to hear.
Things I would ask Him to tell me,
if He were here.
Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea.
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me."

The role of mother is celestial.  It is nothing short of the most important work I could ever do.  The task is daunting, if you think about it in its entirety.  But, of all the things I am asked to teach the girl, from making bread to using a drill to treating a burn, from speaking in public to helping a stranger to practicing honesty, from learning shapes to memorizing the times tables to capably writing an effective analogy, the most important thing I can teach her are the simple lines from a children's hymn:
Try to be like Him; try continually.
Tell her the stories Jesus would tell her, if He were here.
He shouldn't need to tell her the stories; that is the privileged role of mother.

What a sacred duty.
One that is an honor to perform.

I will do my best, sweet angel.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Picnic in the Park

After being cooped up for several days, we decided we needed a day out.

We've had the most perfect weather this spring, with several days of rain followed by several days of sun.
Our little one loved being outside and she was the cutest thing ever in her bonnet!

After a couple of hours at the park, we walked over to the library.
The cool quiet was restful after the noise of the playground.

What better way to end the day than a stop at Baskin Robbins for a pick of 31 flavors?

Despite the faces in the pictures, everyone was enjoying their cones.

It was a long day, kind of accidentally too long, but it was a nice, pressure-free first outing.
Nothing like a picnic in the spring!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Loafing Around

This beautiful thing came into my life five days ago.
She and I have been loafing around ever since.

Physically, I feel great and I am sorely tempted to get off my duff and start working.
Being able to move my body after the stiff and awkward final months of pregnancy is such a delicious feeling that I find myself wanting to DO.  I did that after the birth of another baby and regretted it.
I'm forcing myself to restrain, allowing my body to fully recuperate from the rigors of childbirth.

These are the plants and flowers we put in the day before she was born.
I've been sitting on my porch, enjoying them, watching the grass grow.

I am SO glad we were able to get all of this done before the baby arrived!  The two week old grass is growing in nicely and will be a thick, lush lawn before we know it. The one week old grass is just beginning to poke up from its dirty bed.

While I am forcing myself to not go out and work, there is nothing I can do about the list forming in my head.
I have more than one summer full of projects.  Some things are as simple as fixing a small section of fence or transplanting an under-performing plant.  Other projects are much more ambitious, like creating play spaces for the children and building a waterfall.  There is so much work to be done . . . work I want to be doing!

That will wait.
For right now, I will sit on my hands and enjoy this:

It lasts for but the blink of an eye.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Baby Heaven

Please pardon me, if I don't answer the door . . .
or the phone . . .
or the text . . .
or the Facebook message . . .
or the email.
We are soaking up our newborn time
and I'm avoiding reality.

Camilla, 12, with her new sister.

Our seven year old authority.
"Guys. I've been taking care of babies for
three years!"
To her credit, she does have a natural skill.

Daddy is happy to change diapers because, in his words,
"that is when she is most alert and we can have a little chat."

The first-time big brother cannot get enough of his baby.
He is amazingly sweet and tender with her.

She is so beloved, in fact, that we have to set the timer to make sure everyone gets equal cuddle time.

Having a girl visit.  My oldest and youngest girl.
The new one resembles the Eliza most to me, in both looks and temperament.

Hook, line, and sinker.
Without exception.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Final Birth Story

On Thursday we finished raking and seeding the yard.  We planted a couple of ornamental trees, hostas and other perennials, a few petunias for instant color and hung planters above the front porch.

On Friday morning my water broke.

It was about 10 o'clock in the morning and I was wandering around, looking at the freshly planted  greenery. My heart was happy, knowing that huge job was done and I could now focus on getting the remaining tasks wrapped up to prepare for our baby.
I was in denial for the first few minutes, after all, I was still three weeks early!
I went into the laundry room to start a load of laundry and by the time my sandals were filled with water and there was a puddle on the floor, I had accepted the truth of the situation.
Panic set in.  I laid on my bed and contacted the necessary parties.
Though I wasn't having any contractions, labor usually goes quickly with me so we didn't mess around.  
Thus began a day of fruitless waiting.
And waiting.
And waiting.

This is step one in the Heavenly orchestrated event.
I needed time to transition from panic and fear of labor and delivery, to understanding that whatever the price, I needed to have the baby.  It became more important that she come out, than that she stay in.  
Our midwife wasn't going to get concerned until the next morning.  
We took walks, I did some yoga stretching, I drank hot raspberry leaf tea, Mom massaged my feet, I took a hot shower, all to no avail.
Through the night, I was up every 45 minutes, had several strong contractions thinking, "This is it!" 
But those contractions had no follow up.

By morning, I still was not in labor.  The baby was moving a lot, so I wasn't terribly concerned, but I knew time was no longer on our side.

We went to the birthing center and got settled in.  The midwife, Inga, checked my cervix--high and firm, only dilated to maybe a 2.  I was discouraged, knowing how long it could take to get from a 2 to a 10.  But, there we were and I knew we couldn't mess around.  The midwife threw every trick at me: a castor oil smoothie, regular doses of black and blue cohosh, massage, stirring things up in the uterus, so on and so forth.  I got a dose of penicillin, just in case, since infection was the worst threat to our baby at this point.  Then, saying she didn't want me to feel like a watched pot (THANK YOU!!), she left.  She only lives about 5 minutes from the birthing center, so she could get there quickly if it was necessary.  We knew we had plenty of time.

The birthing center is a Craftsman style farmhouse built in 1907.  We were in a bedroom with a comfy full-sized bed, antique dressers filled with medical equipment, a birthing tub, and a large window overlooking trees and the fresh spring greens, and filling the room with natural light.

By 10 o'clock, 24 hours after the membrane ruptured, every old trick had been administered and the midwife was gone.  Since it was a Saturday, Justin and I had the place to ourselves.  We cuddled up on the cushy bed together (instead of me being on the horribly uncomfortable hospital bed and Justin on the squeaky vinyl chair) and we watched a few old Seinfeld episodes on his tablet.  Eventually, he got hungry and decided to go grab some food at the nearby grocers.

After he left, the first rounds of caster oil took effect.  
I had my first small contractions.
By the time he got back, about 11:45, I reported that maybe we should start timing contractions.
In the hospital, there are wires and devices that measure a multitude of things.  One of those is regularity, duration and intensity of contractions.  Since we didn't have those devices, Justin deftly took on the role.  His scientist mind went to work as he pulled out his stop-watch app, kept figures and worked on charts.  It was quite adorable--and completely helpful!  Knowledge is power, as they say, and having bits of facts to gauge progress encouraged me.

By 12:30, I was confidant that I was in active labor, but knowing I had to get from a 2 to a 10, I figured I had a long way to go.  We snooped around and found a big exercise ball.  I labored on that for a long time, hoping it would help bring the baby's head down, which would in turn soften and open up the cervix.  

Eventually, I moved to the bed, contractions getting harder, longer and closer together.  At 1 o'clock, I told Mom she should probably head over, knowing it would take a good 30 minutes for her to arrive.

Laboring away in the pretty room.
Inga, my cute midwife, came back at 1:35 to administer a second dose of penicillin. I knew my progress was good, but that pessimistic starting point still had me cowed.  I told her it would be a little while yet (in my head, I thought 20-25 minutes), but that I didn't think I had time for antibiotics.  Ever obliging, she wanted our experience to be what we wanted it to be.  Since we were clearly in labor, our first concerning issues were resolved.  Baby's heart rate and other signs were good. She headed downstairs to wait for us to holler.

She didn't make it down the stairs.

The next contraction came long and hard . . . 
then that tell-tale pressure.
Everyone came running, gasping at the suddenness of it all.
(The other midwife and an assistant happened to come into the birthing center for something just minutes beforehand.)

This, I am sorry to say, is when the panic returned.
I knew what to do, but I didn't know what to do!  You know?
"What do I do?!  I don't know what to do!"
What I really meant was, someone tell me to calm down, collect myself, and push because it was time to deliver that baby.  Frantically, I looked at my husband for guidance.
"You know what to do!  Push!"
So I did.
Twice; once for the head and once for the rest of her.
Justin was able to catch her.
It was 1:47.  About a two hour labor.

"I did it! I did it! Oh, baby girl, we did it!"
That constitutes most of my communication over the next two or three hours.
I did it.

The midwives were trying to get the baby up on my chest.  Justin had never been able to catch the baby before, so he knew he had to give her over, but he did it slowly so he could savor that precious moment.

6lbs 6oz, 19.5 inches--fits in perfectly with my other babies, and not even our smallest!

So fresh.
There is no describing that laughy cry,
but I was in the middle of it when Mom arrived.
I honestly felt so bad that she had missed it.
It is the only sad thing of the day!

Isaac was in San Antonio, but we were exchanging information all day.
We got him on a video call as soon as we could.
Justin went to pick up the other kids after I was cleaned up a bit.

As you can see, she has been a hit!

There is more to the midwife/birthing center story, but that will have to come another time.

The most important part is that she is here, safe and sound.

We are all won over, without a doubt.
A beloved daughter and sister.

I did it.