Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Sunflower

Since Jeremy is blessed to have a first-ever paternity leave available for him to take, the kids have been enjoying lots of daddy time lately...they've been doing math schoolwork and receiving rewards when they finish each unit. We've taken them bowling, to a movie, and next will either be a Honkers baseball game or to bounce world. It's been a very special time.

Yesterday Jeremy was out doing some yard work with the kids in the back while I was indoors with Gabriella. I heard Sayde come inside for a few minutes and then go back out, then I heard some squabbling out the window. I looked out and saw Sayde and Hudson arguing by the sunflower growing up against our fence in the back yard. It was taller than either one of them. Sayde had brought out her little step stool from the bathroom upstairs and was apparently trying to pick our one and only sunflower! Hudson was telling her not to and trying to keep her from it. Jeremy told her, "if you leave it alone it will grow taller than Mommy." So she said , "oKAY, but I can still pick the OTHER flowers over there!" pointing to a yellow flower bush outside Hudson's bedroom window.

Sayde loves picking flowers outside. Nearly every day she brings inside not only flowers and dandelions she's picked for me, but also pine cones, sticks, grass cuttings and pine needle branches. She sure loves nature!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Introducing Gabriella Rose

I've made it a tradition to write birth stories or at least a few notes about the births of each of my children. No matter how many times I'm told that once I have more than two or three I won't have baby books for all of them, or that somehow it gets easier once you get past three kids...none of that is true for me. It is incredibly challenging having four children under the age of seven. We are doing the best we can, but I know we're far from the most competent, expert parents out there. We don't assume with arrogance that we can handle anything. We're crying out to God for help!

Gabriella's birth is different from the first three kiddos because I had to be induced. I tried all kinds of natural remedies to go into labor before the induction date, but we still ended up arriving at the hospital early morning of July 14th. It felt funny to be strolling into labor and delivery without labor contractions.  I was soon hooked up to an IV with fluids and pitocin to synthetically start it all. Jeremy and I were prepared with essential oils to help progress labor quickly and help with pain management, but a few hours later these contractions were not like normal labor contractions I've been very familiar with from my previous three babies. Baby still had a high head station and was not progressing down to the birth canal. The birth was beginning to not be so natural and unmedicated as I had planned, the epidural was called in for pain management.  Finally the obstretrician, a very pleasant woman, recommended a repeat c-section due to an "arrest of descent" and heart rate issues of the baby during contractions. My midwife had actually advised no more pushing and had me lying on my left side and breathing oxygen for the baby. It was not going well, so I was relieved by that evening to finally hear that I needed the c-section.

Maybe I was supposed to fight the c-section and maybe I didn't seem so brave being relieved that I no longer had to work for hours longer trying to push a baby out of me...I was minutes away from meeting her. We were wheeled into operating and not much later I heard her first cries as she was lifted out. I got to hold her as she looked up at me from under her blanket. Jeremy was there with us through the whole thing. He had to wear a scrubs outfit in order to be in there with us.

We named her right away because we knew her name fit as soon as we saw her, it means the strength of God. We've been experimenting with many little knicknames that come out of that name, including "Gabby." Her middle name is Rose. We like old-fashioned sounding names alot.

We were wheeled back to our labor and delivery room with Gabby in my arms, where she could breastfeed for the first time. There was all the essential oil bottles lined up in a row on the bedside table. The hospital staff all remarked what a nice smelling room it was. My birth plan turned out not quite as natural as I had planned for, but God gave us a beautiful baby girl who is feeding and growing fast.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Future Career Options for this Stay at Home Mom

I'm writing about something that's a sensitive topic for me, one that I could struggle over a lot and get down about it.  Instead I'm choosing to make light of it and see the possible funny or fun side of it.

I'm a stay at home mom and presently also a homeschooling mom. The only income I make is the savings to our family from not having 3, soon to be 4, kids in childcare. I did not heroically give up ivy league degrees, law school, or being a doctor or nurse to stay at home with my babies.  My job, if I had one, would not cover the expenses of nannies, daycare, preschools, and after school child care for 4 kids.

When my husband and I were married 8 years ago we quit our jobs to go overseas and learn a foreign language together. We didn't marry each other for one or the other's impressive careers and earnings. Almost immediately we found out we were having our first baby.  After about 6 months we returned home and Jeremy started back in his old career in the same job. I used the time to complete my interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in "ministry" and humanities, when I was about 8 months pregnant. At the age of 33 I had my firstborn baby girl. In the early years of our marriage we could afford college classwork, Chinese language tutoring, and other schools or classes...

It is now 8 years later and I am expecting our fourth baby at the age of 40. It has been over 8 years that I haven't had a job. The last time I looked at a job description requirement or talked to a hiring specialist, most are not asking for 8 or more years of stay at home mom work experience. I have filled pages and pages of my journal with career ideas and options for the future, and still don't know what I'm doing with my life. Here's some of my options, and these are not jokes, they are very real options and goals I have thought about over the years:

1. I can get a job at my local grocery store. In fact, it happens to be the same store I worked at for my first job at the age of 15, serving coffee, breakfast and fried chicken in the deli, bussing tables and washing dishes.

2. I can work at a coffee shop. They may even let me bake pastries since I've had over 8 years of experience baking goodies for my family.

3. I can always try at starting my own business since I've had over 8 years experience of being the only boss and no business is going to hire a stay at home mom anyways (though I know nothing about selling things to people).

4. Write a book and get it published (that was my husband's idea).

5. Teach English as a Second or Foreign Language (if my bachelor's degree is good enough, I don't know much about that but I'm sure someone could tell me).

6. Move our family again, to Western China this time, or in the Himalayan Mountains, and start a cafe or bread & breakfast hospitality business with my husband (he could work remotely and continue his I.T. work over there).

Being a stay at home mom these days is not only unheard of but very difficult. The whole world wants to shame her and it's difficult for her to feel that she belongs, contributes to society, and is smart. And of course, there's the many voices saying that all of that is actually true - you don't belong, you are not smart, and you don't contribute a thing.

Re-entering the working world is one of the scariest things I can imagine. I wonder if it is as difficult economy-wise as it was in the early 2000's and if it has gotten even worse since then. Is it as difficult now as it was back then to find jobs and to actually be hired, and what would I do in an emergency?

The truth is that my life, instead of being devastated, is absolutely blessed. I am so lucky to have all these sweet children and my husband who actually loves me. Oh I know, everyone would tell me that real women can do both - have a successful career and have children at the same time. Shouldn't have to choose between one or the other. Financially though, we did have to choose. It's fine, they can think whatever they want to about me.  But they still can't take away the fact that I have a beautiful and amazing family.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Family Trip to a Lamb Farm

On Friday we went on a homeschool trip with several other families to visit a lamb farm in Wisconsin. We spent the day learning about llamas, sheep, and stock dogs. All kinds of other animals were on the farm too. They raised the lambs mostly for their wool, and the llamas are also shorn for their wool. We had a great time in the fresh air and sunshine!

Pretty barn with lights and decorations

Nice big sheep dog!

She loves the lambs!

Went on a hike up the hill to see the little cabin

Friday, January 29, 2016

Thankful for My Man

We've had much to celebrate this month. On January 4th, Jeremy and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. We are expecting our fourth baby coming up in July. And my sister had her twin baby girls on the 1st of January.

These days we don't have date nights often. Maybe once a month at the most. For our anniversary we went to Newt's and enjoyed their yummy burgers. It was fun just to get dressed up and look nice outside of the house.

These are some of the things that I admire or respect about my husband. He is a man with whom I feel completely safe. Unlike many women in the world, I have never once had to think about what it would be like to be threatened with violence. I am very lucky. He also is not one to tell me exactly what to do with my looks, hair, make-up, etc. He doesn't even tell me that he wants me to have long hair. He says he just wants me to be happy with my hair, whether long or short. Now I happen to like my hair long and find it easier to care for after all. The one thing that he does complain about is this: jeggings. He doesn't like jeggings, and that's understandable!

He neither requires me to work outside of the home nor requires me be a stay at home mom forever. He just wants me to be fulfilled in the work I do. Right now, I feel more fulfilled being with my children and teaching them than I would be at a job that does not pay for childcare expenses. But if I did happen to find a job that was both meaningful and paid for things, he would support that too.

Jeremy is also a good father. He is sensitive to the children and is concerned for their character development. He takes the time to talk with them about serious issues when I am busy doing stuff around the house. He is very thoughtful.

It's important to take the time to think about your spouse and why you married him or her. I am reminded to be thankful for the man I married and not take him for granted.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Homeschooling Stateside

Last year in Shanghai was our first official year of homeschooling our kids. Annalise was a kindergartner. For two main reasons we made the decision to start our kids out homeschooling. First, we were not "high budget" and couldn't afford kindergarten or international school tuitions. Second, and maybe more important of a reason for us, we have always had a family goal of being together. This becomes especially important if any kind of ministry is involved. While often kids can get left out of their parents ministries and plans, we have always sought to involve them as much as we can. So, rather than sending them away for 6 to 8 hours every day, we have enjoyed the privilege of teaching our kids at home with us. We love to travel together as a family and have the flexibility to do that, exposing our kids to the world in a much more positive way. As a married couple, we think it's also important to travel together. Jeremy and I have enjoyed going on outreach trips together. When we went to Brazil many years ago, Annalise was only 16 months old and we were gone from her for 10 days! We could have brought her with us, but since it was a little over a week we decided she would be happy with Grandparents. It worked out well.

While we were in Shanghai, we were told by one of Annalise's sunday school teachers that she is very assertive. Our homeschooled daughter is assertive and can speak her mind in a class! Hudson also has bloomed in many ways at home. He is very creative and comes up with all sorts of inventions around the house. Sayde has learned to talk and say so many words from being around all the schooling and talking going on at home. She has learned so much just from watching and playing while we do school.

Homeschooling last year went so well that we have decided to continue it stateside this year. Hudson is now Kindergarten and Annalise is in 1st grade level of her schoolwork. We still love the Sonlight Curriculum and all the books we get to read together. However, instead of attempting to write as if I have to defend homeschooling and how superior my own kids are to non-homeschooled kids I will tell the truth. Nearly every day it is a struggle, sometimes over many hours, to get my kids to stop playing and do their schoolwork. They hate sitting down and doing handwriting or copywork assignments. My kids are probably not any better behaved than public schooled kids, while many homeschool blogs brag about homeschooled children being better. Because of the struggle, it takes many extra hours of the day to get their work assignments completed. Many times Jeremy has to work with them on a Saturday to stay caught up with their weekly schedule. I won't know how they are really doing until next year when at least Annalise is due to test. I am hoping that she is at least in her grade level. Maybe she will be ahead. I don't lack in confidence that Jeremy and I can homeschool our kids successfully. I just want to be sure that what I write about is for the right motives. And we are still quite new at this. I don't want to brag when I still have so much to learn.

There may always be this conflict I have inside that I'm not allowing my kids enough opportunities to be "salt and light" in the world, Daniels in a very secular culture, and that I am sheltering them too much. And it is a legitimate concern. Every year we will probably ask the question, are they ready to be greater influencers of those around them than they are at being influenced (by the world)? I imagine that I am saving my kids from all the pimps and sexual molesters out there waiting to nab them. But even homeschooled kids can be vulnerable to abuse and molestation, as apparent from the recent national news. It could happen in the church, despite safe haven policies, especially if people go unreported and undealt with. Our purpose isn't to shelter our kids from making choices for themselves. But what we do want to shelter them from is those who would not allow them any choice. Whether my kids are homeschooled until high school or college, or only for their first few school years, I want them to grow up free.

Recess time on our hill

The kids' first snowman of the year

My little superheroes on Halloween

Our cozy wood-burning stove, which in learning how to use this thing prompted a homeschool tour at the local firehouse. I am all about safety and rules! 

Jeremy and I on a date at Silver Lake

At the beginning of our school year, in our new house