Friday, April 21, 2017

Did I Brush My Teeth Today?!?

I'm pretty sure I've just grossed everyone out but I don't care.There are just some days of my life where I get to bed time and realized, I haven't even brushed my teeth today. It's not necessarily from lack of time or desire, believe me I enjoy clean, cavity free teeth. It's just one of those days where the day sweeps you away and before you know it, it's bedtime and you haven't brushed your teeth.

These have been my days lately. As we wait patiently (or not) for our little baby boy to arrive. I've been blessed beyond measure by Matt's mom and my mom being in town to help lighten the load. I'm sure my ability to nap and be more relaxed has caused him to say a little longer in hotel mama. But my days seem aimless and yet busy and a little out of sorts because the routine is looser, there are extra helping hands and everyday we wake up wondering if today will be the day.

The past 21 days have been a roller coaster of wondering. As April rolled in and the due "month" was here I've been on pins and needles ready to get him out. I thought for sure after my appointment at 37 weeks revealed me to be 2 cm and 50% that his arrival was going to be sooner than later but that hasn't been the case. I felt so restless and anxious, and even a bit of pressure (all self inflicted) that he was coming. But as everyday came and went without a baby my days have been a bit off. My mind feels off beat with life. These feelings and thoughts are so hard to put into words but I need to get this out. I need to record it and reflect on this time so I can move on- on to what I'm not so sure. 

After no progress at my 38 week appointment and a day full of contractions and a trip to the doctors only to find out the contractions weren't the real deal I was overwhelmed with frustration and anxiety. And it wasn't until Easter Sunday when my heart, spirit and mind were flipped from their selfish thoughts to thoughts of God that I begin to feel content with him still residing inside of me.

I mean what's the rush?! Was I in a rush?! I don't really think so, I just feel like the unknown of it all was getting the better of me. And some days it still is. The more waiting time the more time to think about this or that or whatever. 

I'm used to a busy, scheduled life. Not too busy and not over scheduled but as things have slowed to preparing for his arrival and as help has arrived I've felt a bit of extra time to think/worry/wonder. I really should be using the time to do stuff I've wanted or needed to do but I'm not. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I've been feeling coped up and the days I get out I've been exhausted, crabby, and cranky from the adventures. It feels like a lose/lose deal.

On top of it all, what do I really have to complain about? Um...nothing. And to make things worse I've been short and crabby with the kids and Matt. I'm just done. I'm really for the next step. Or am I?

I mean I've done this all before- you know having a baby. And I know. The baby is way easier when it's in the womb than when it's outside demanding more of your time and energy - not to mention that the time and energy the sweet ones that are already here demand. I keep telling myself this- over and over in my head but it somehow is not sinking it. I guess part of me thinking once he's out the 'wait' is over and my days will be full and busy again. It's almost like I'm wishing my 'vacation' away. I know it all seems a bit backwards- but it's just how my crazy self has been handling it all. Today I was blaming the hormones. I'm ready to be myself again!- whatever that might mean. I'm sure you're thinking I should see someone for a psychiatric evaluation. But as these days roll on I feel like I'm going a bit crazy myself! But I think this comes with the territory. I mean this is kid number four right? But if I have any words of wisdom to give in this whole post of blah, blah is that each and every pregnancy/baby/life season always brings in more new/unknown territory to life's journey. 

So we continue to wait and wonder. I continue to try and remove the selfish thoughts with each contraction (occurring daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes regularly and yet other times erratically) which prepares my body for the moment when God is ready for him to meet us. I need reminders to do less worrying and more praying. Less anxiousness and more thankfulness. Less crabby mama and more grace filled mama. Less of waiting for the next moment and more of enjoying this moment. Less of me and more of HIM!

Prayers welcome!

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever, Amen." ~ 1 Peter 5:6-11 ~

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Growing Again!

Here I am 29 weeks and I'm finally getting around to writing a post about expecting our 4th bundle of joy! I laugh because yesterday I had my 28 week appointment and the sweet nurse who was administering my rhogam shot (such a fun experience, since it has to go in your hip/butt area- I know TMI), anyway she was chatting with me about life and I told her how we had just moved to a new house this summer and she commented "oh moving while expecting..." and I said no, this baby is a product of being in the new house. We both laughed. But here I go, yet again, trying to fit 30 weeks of memories into one post...

So we moved into our amazing new house this past July. We love our house, it is a blessing times a million. We were in our house a little over a month when I got the positive pregnancy test. I was so shocked. I didn't expect it but I was super excited for it. I wanted to wait a bit to think of some fun way to tell Matt but that didn't happen because I live a real life over here. You see I had a feeling I was expecting even before the test results proved my intuition to be correct. I had been having infection symptoms and need to see a doctor to get medications. Due to all of this, the surprise was dismissed and I told Matt- who was as taken back as I with the speediness of it all. Anyway, we had planned a fun trip to a water park that day, something we had never done with the girls before but we had passes and wanted to take advantage of them, but that morning I had to call the doctors. So in I went got my medications and we set off to the water park. Here's a few pictures of that day.

The girls had a blast and have spoken of going back ever since. But that was our last hurrah before normal mommy became zombie mommy. 

Almost as soon as September set in so did my ever wonderful day sickness. I'm not sure who coined the term "morning sickness" but I consider them to be lucky because with every single pregnancy my sickness lasts all day long. This time on top of that I've had chronic infections (they just keep coming back- so annoying) and I had migraines through most of my 1st trimester. I had never had a migraine before so it was almost 4 of 5 weeks before I figured out what was going on. They were almost always stressed induced. Because I was stressed and pushed beyond my own capabilities through September and the beginning of October.

You see this pregnancy was more of a "if it happens, it happens" type of adventure. We wanted another sweet one for sure, don't get me wrong, every child is a blessing beyond measure! So the whole month of September was a bit busy to say the least. First, we were beginning our official adventures in homeschooling. Lauren entered Kindergarten and now I had to fill out forms and at the end of the year we have to provide evidence of achievement- a bit more official then the preschooling I had done the years previous. Then on top of that I had two to three days each week where I was watching Brooke and Norah for Sarah. Brooke was 4 and Norah was 9 months at the time. So adding two more to an already crazy full house, enough said. Then you top that off with the fact that we had just moved and things were by no means settled around here. We still had boxes of stuff in the garage, blank walls, unorganized stuff just laying around- aka things sitting there reminding me that I had stuff to do and no time/energy to do it. And then we also had lots of visiting grandparents (this was more of a blessing than anything but just something else added to the crazy). So if you're a math person like me, you can add all that up:

day sickness + 1st year homeschooling + extra kids + unfinished moving + life in general = one stressed, tired, cranky, headachy woman!

Once I discovered they were stressed triggered migraines I was able to take some Tylenol and better prepare myself for them but that wasn't until I was a good 4 weeks into this migraine thing. Basically I would wake up somewhat okay. Then as the morning wore on I would just feel overwhelmed with anything sensory. Lights were too bright, noises were too loud, smells were too smelly, I didn't want to be touched- I remember talking to my sister on the phone and describing this and feeling like I was on the spectrum. It was an overload to the extreme. On top of all that there was never ending pain in my head and neck. Because this fun migraine adventure I struggled with watching Norah. She herself was going through I bit of a rough time, since she was having chronic ear infections, which I was unaware of, and she would spend her days crying and crying. Needing to be held all the time. A huge stresser for me. And I had four other children to attend to! Please feel free to reread the description above about how the migraines made me feel and I swear to you there were some days I wanted to cry right along with her and might have had it not hurt more to do so. It was awful. My mom and step-dad visited at the end of September for a week and it was then, when see took over my roll as mommy and I got to lay all day that I realized they were headaches/migraines. So I was able to find a bit of relief in Tylenol but that just took the edge off, I still had many not so fun days with and without Norah.

One other big reason I struggle so much with the 1st trimester is because of my previous experience with miscarriages during this time. God now holds four sweet little ones of ours in his hands in heaven. All of my girls are rainbow babies and so I so struggle with getting through that time so I can stop holding my breath for the 'bad' to happen. This is the first time I've gotten pregnant and stayed pregnant without having a miscarriage first. Let me tell you I much prefer it this way. But because of the past cycle- get pregnant, miscarry, get pregnant, stay pregnant- it was very hard for my head and heart to get on the same page. During the worst of it all, the month of September, I kept telling God if he needed to take this baby (for whatever reason) this was it. I. Was. Done! Having three running around and trying to keep all of life moving was exhausting enough but I couldn't/wouldn't do this to myself again. You know some people say that feeling like crap during the first trimester is a good sign- well I've felt like crap a total of eight times now- yes all eight, no matter the outcome. I was just dead tired. We had just gone through a roller coaster of emotional and physical exhaustion with the house selling and buy process I was throwing in the towel if something happened with this one. I told Matt that if this baby went home to heaven then that was God's sign to me that we were meant to have three. I talked very bluntly to God in my prayers during that month- I was too tired to do anything but. And God answered right back at me and this baby is an answer to those dark time prayers. I'm not sure that I've expressed this the right way here or that it will make sense to anyone outside of my own self, but sometimes there are things for God and me to share and comprehend that no one else will quiet grasp because they're not me and that's okay with me. But I write on here for me, so I'm putting it all down.

Let's just say I was glad when September ended and as October moved forward. Things seemed to settle a bit more. By the end of October I was doing much, much better. I was watching Brooke and Norah way less since their grandparents had returned from their trip. When Matt's parents came at this time so we could enjoy a day trip to celebrate 11 years of marriage, I have a vivid memory of getting up at the crack butt of dawn and accomplishing a project around the house (putting up a shelf above the washer and dryer). It was the first time I had energy and the drive to do anything related to the house since the end of August. Plus, having them here meant I had help with the kids during the day so I could expend more energy in the morning and since I'd get a break in the middle of the day. 

By November I was feeling much better and we had the joy of having Matt's brother and girlfriend down with Matt's parents for a visit. Then we geared up for having my mom and step-dad back for 10 days at Thanksgiving, as well as my sister's family in for 5 days too (coinciding with my mom being here and the Thanksgiving holiday). It was a busy season for visits this fall. Everyone was excited about the house and we sure needed the help around here so they were all welcomed visits for sure. It is such a blessing to have a guest bed again! 

Anyway back to the baby. One of the biggest difference this time has been baby's big sisters. Lauren is so much older (6 now!) and she knew before we told her. She looked at me one day prior to us officially telling them I'm pregnant and said "You look like you have a baby in your belly!" Speaking of my already growing belly. I was taken back by her, as I often am, intuition. This time we decided to bring the two big girls to the 12 week ultrasound in mid October to announce to them/show them the baby in mommy's belly. They had no idea until they saw the picture on the flat screen hanging on the wall. They were both in disbelief at first. Lauren was much more aware of what it all meant and kept saying "there's a baby in mommy's belly!" and "I can't believe there is a baby in mommy's belly!" with such joy and excitement. That was so neat to watch. It's the first time my little ones are interested in me being pregnant. She's frequently asked the size of the baby and what the baby can do. It's been fun. I've only cracked open the What to Expect When You're Expecting book when she's asked me questions. The other day at High School Bible study one of the girls asked if the baby could hear- we had to look it up. I mean I was pretty sure it could at this stage but wasn't 100%. Things are different with number 4.

For instance, one thing I think any mom of more than one will tell you and that is that life slips through your fingers. Days go by so fast, though some seem to drag on like a bad dream, for the most part days fly by. Before you know it the week is gone and then the month and then the year. I mean really, how on earth is Lauren Shea 6?!?! I tell you each new baby makes time fly at a exponentially faster rate. It defies physics if you ask me. So this pregnancy is just flying by. I can't believe I'm in the third trimester all ready. Once November hit and I was feeling more 'me' and less 'zombie' it picked up the pace like we were sprinting for the finish already. But the second trimester always goes quick for me because it's my favorite. Your body looks less 'fat' and more 'pregnant.' You start to feel movement. You're not a hot mess with sickness. You are still small enough that you can move about with some ease. I always say I could be pregnant forever during this phase. My mind is not stressed about the babies health anymore. My spirits are up. People know and are excited to share with us. And if you choose, you can find out what you're having!

We again took the big girls with us to the 20 week ultrasound to find out the gender. It was so different this time. With Lauren I wasn't sure until I saw her face in a 4D ultrasound and then I knew she was a she. Then with both Olivia and Audrey, Lauren had them both pegged as sisters. In fact, she was so sure I just expected them to be girls. This time however, she had no intuition. That should have been my first clue. I've never had any intuition about my babies before the ultrasound tech showed us. When asked, Olivia wanted a brother and Audrey said "sisah" but I'm convinced she doesn't even have a concept of the word "brother" so of course she would say sister. But as you've probably already figured out, this time God decided to spice life up and he blessed us with our first baby boy! I guess the ultrasound tech wanted us to have no questions about that fact since she gave us four different pictures showing us that indeed he was a he! Matt was a bit taken back and when the tech left to get the doctor he asked to look at the pictures to be sure. Well I was sure. In fact, I called it out before she said anything. I had seen enough girls to know this wasn't one!

This time I already had a girl name selected. I was so ready to name her Rachel, but alas that name will not be used on my sweet little boy! This time around has been so tough since I feel like boy names aren't as fun as girl names. We had names selected for all three girls by this point in the pregnancy but not this time. I struggle so much because I don't like names that can be shortened. I think growing up Jennifer and everyone under the sun wanting to call me Jenny, which I don't like, drove me nutty. So that might explain why I like names that are what they are, end of story. Matt prefers more traditional names, as do I. So there are not many boy names that can't be shortened and have to be six letters...okay don't laugh or roll your eyes like Matt does but all three girls have 6 letters in their first name and 4 letters in their middle name. Also, the first names are special names to them- no one in the extended family shares that name- but their middle names are all family names. So now that I started that trend it's hard to just change it up, for me at least. So the search is on...still. I have a name I really like but Matt isn't 100% for. But hey, it took a bit for him to get on my side with Olivia so maybe he'll come around! Optimism is good for the soul. But I'm not going to write it here, yet. You'll have to wait until baby boy is born to see what we select. 

Food cravings have been somewhat different for all of my pregnancies. The only thing that remained the same with all of them is meat. I crave me beef, pork and chicken- all of it. I love me some Chick-fil-a chicken sandwiches and a good burger loaded with lots of yummy stuff. Hot dogs, ham, and deli sandwiches loaded with meat. Oh I must need the protein. Maybe that's why I've had such hairy babies! But with Lauren I had an aversion to yogurt- a staple food for me. But other than that I don't remember anything specific. Olivia I wanted anything and everything sweet- but especially ice cream with peanut butter on top. Then Audrey I don't remember anything specific (similar to Lauren) that I wanted I just wanted it all. Now this one I'm enjoying salty things and pickles. I've eaten a half a jar of pickles in a sitting and have purchased more jars during this pregnancy than the past 6 years previous to it. Just writing this makes me want to get some out and eat them!

Okay, I'm back from my pickle binge. Oh another comparison between the pregnancies is how I've carried them. Lauren and Audrey I carried very low. My hips were a hot mess (heck they still are to some degree), more so with Audrey since she was #3. Olivia I carried higher, so high that she gave me chronic heartburn through the whole pregnancy- sending me to the ER in 1st trimester because it was so bad I was having chest pains! Oh that was a fun day...err not. This little guy is more like Olivia and my hips have been much better this time around. Well that is until this week. I know I've entered the 3rd trimester since I can't sleep because I can't get comfortable and I toss and turn all night. If I sleep on my left side my right hip hurts and if I sleep on my right side limbs fall asleep- thus making me flop around like a fish, a very wide fish, a very slow fish. I've also had some trouble with heartburn so who knows. All I know is there is nothing "special" to this pregnancy that makes me feel like I'm carrying a boy and not a girl. All those old wives tails are just that. Well I take that back, his heart rate might have been an indicator since he followed the "boy" trend. He has been in the 140's pretty much the whole time (since 10 weeks when we heard it for the first time). Where the girls started higher, in the 150's, and then slowed over time to settle in the 140's. 

The last thing I'm going to ramble on about is the prep for a baby boy. With Lauren I decorated the nursery in green and purple with kind of a garden/flower theme. I didn't change that for either of the other girls. I just washed what I had and slapped it right back on the crib. Instead of focusing on the crib/nursery when baby girl #2 and #3 came along, I focused on the prep for the older child. Getting a big bed and the accessories for that. It was nice, I saved a lot of money that way. This time however, we're focused on both- a big girl bed for Audrey and boy decor for the crib and other things. I was very good at purchasing a 'gender neutral' stroller/ car seat, bouncy seat, swing etc. But I wanted the nursery to be girly. Now I want to make sure that this boy is not mistaken for anything but a boy! Following three girls is going to be hard enough already. Also, Audrey and baby boy are going to share a room. So thinking of a gender neural theme and color that are very "girl" and very "boy" that coordinate has been fun. Let's just say I've been on Pinterest a LOT these days. 

I've decided on stars. I'm still not sure how but I want to do a homemade star wall decoration with a bible verse. I've got three I'm thinking about - Psalm 148:3, Daniel 12:3 and Philippians 2:14b-16 (see below and vote if you think one is better than the others). I want to make a lamp shade with silver stars painted on it. I've gotten purple sheets for Audrey's bed and I've gone with navy blue for baby boy's crib. I'm still waiting on the crib bumper I ordered off ebay but I've got a plan navy crib sheet and a crib sheet with navy stars. The crib skirt and bumper are just white with navy strips. I've gotten a navy changing pad cover. The next big tasks is to go to Joann's and pick out fabrics for the quilts Ester and her mom are going to make for them. Her mom made the quilts on the big girls beds and it is so special. I felt very blessed that they were willing to do two more! But I need to go there when I can look around and really take my time. Plus, I still need to finish my measurements so I know how much to purchase. Just so much to be done, but just like the other rooms in the house these days...it'll be a work in progress for a while. I figure in about ten years I'll have each room as it should be, lol! Or not. 

All I know is that we feel blessed beyond measure with so much these days. A new house, a new baby, and a whole lot more- all blessings from our wonderful Heavenly Father. Oh I pray so often that as my little ones grow up that they see the evidence of God working in their lives, in our lives as a family. He is ever present and always loving. I pray their hearts see that so they can grab hold of his promises. Because when I look at our lives I see his finger prints on each and every moment.

Here I am with my sweet and crazy girls. As you can
tell it's Olivia's birthday. 

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. ~Psalm 148:3

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. ~Daniel 12:3

Do everything without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure...Then you will shine among them like STARS in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. ~Philippians 12:14b-16

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Finding Home - Part Two

Finding A Home - Part 2

James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Part 2 - Buying a new house

Wisdom is what we've needed throughout this process and God provided it. The house buying process has been just as crazy of a roller coaster ride as selling our current home. You know I remember it being more fun the first time.

When we purchased our first home we had no other home to sell. We had no children. We had no rush or timeline. We were way more naive. We found it fairly quickly and had no competition in the purchase. We were in such a different frame of mind.

Well a lot has changed since then and it has effected the process tremendously.

When we went into this whole process we had a location of our future home in mind as well as a price and size. There was also our short list of must haves: a garage, formal dinning room, 4 bedrooms, a master bath, small front yard and a more moderately sized back yard, no hills, and no corner lot. Our 'most have' list is much longer this second time around. I think the first time around our most have list was "must be a house," lol. 

Now after owning a home we see houses differently the second time around too. First, I see them with children in mind. When we purchased our first house I didn't ever think of have two of our bedrooms on the first floor as an issue until children came into the picture. In fact, it worked out nicely since the two rooms downstairs were a guest room and an office. However, once sweet Olivia came around my view changed. Also, the fact that the living room wasn't in view from the kitchen space didn't bother me until children. And then lastly the 'traffic' flow that the floor plan created didn't really bother me until kids were in tow. 

But there are things we loved about our first home as it is concerned with children. Like the fenced in backyard- ideal with children. The computer being on the same floor as the living space makes monitoring them much easier during computer time. So all of these lessons learned and future growth of both our current family members and of our family as a whole, play such a big roll this second time around. Just so many more factors to consider. 

Location, location, location. This second time I'm not budging on location. When we first moved here (states away from our 'home' state) we lived in apartments that were part of a bigger housing development. I loved that location. I loved how we could walk to things and it's proximity to our church. This was important not just for convenience sake when it came to commute time, but because we are so far from our 'blood' family that being close to our God given family holds that much more importance to us. But when we bought our first home, at the top of the market mind you, we couldn't afford this area and God didn't lead us to it either. I wish he had but His plans are not our plans (Isaiah 55:8) so we landed just ten minutes to the west. Which in all honesty wasn't far back then. But it seems more so now. I think that we're in a different school system effects us more since our children wouldn't go to school with their church friends, if God ever leads us to have them in public schools. But also it would be nice to have neighbors who we know from church or neighbors we could invited to church! Also, we're more involved in church now than we were before. I would say it is the one place I travel to the most besides the grocery store. It is a home away from home to us so to be closer makes more sense. 

So with all this in mind we began looking for homes on the internet last fall. We started seriously watching the local market and the neighborhoods we were interested in January. And we began going to see houses in person once we received a contract on our house (the story of selling our house can be found here).

The first house we looked at, looked great in pictures but then once we got into it, not so much. It's amazing to me how pictures and the act of physically going to see a house can be so different (more about that when I tell you about the house we purchased!) That first house was so small and boxy. It met the criteria on our list but it wasn't right. So we went to two more a week or so later.

Again, they seemed small. Just like I said above, the floor plan can play such a huge role in the flow of a house. So a house with the same square feet can seem to not feel like it does when you're actually in it. We saw a few houses that didn't seem to click and that is when we found out that they lady who was trying to buy our house didn't have the money and the contract fell through.  

So our house quest was temperately on hold. It's funny how God often uses music in my life to inspire me, get me through or to speak His word into my heart. Well this time it was the song "Keep Moving" by TobyMac. This song resonated in my heart through this time. I have a such a vivid memory of making the girls beds when I was yet again preparing the house for a showing and this song playing on the radio.

But before we knew it two contracts came in and we accepted one and we were back to going to see houses again.

I think the fact that we felt rushed lead us down this next road. Mike got wind of a house, in one of our desired neighborhoods, had gone up for sale at a wonderful price. It was being sold "as is" so the current owners wouldn't do any work to the house but the low price made the house look much more desirable. We were the first to see the house and put an offer in that day. This house was at the top of our square footage which was nice, more room but not the top of our budget! Just walking through it you could see it needed some much needed love. I guess it was currently owned by a married couple who didn't live together and they couldn't get along so their realtor was trying to make the process easy for them- if they sold the house "as is" they didn't have to bicker about what they could/would fix when it came time for the inspection. And we thought with the low price we'd have money to fix it up. So we forged ahead. 

The day of the inspection came and the guy we hired to inspect the house was wonderful and very detailed as he described the needs of the house. He found a lot more than met the eye. Let's just say "water, water everywhere!" We left the house still optimistic but I think we both felt like it might be more than we could handle/afford. We sent our dad's the report once we received a digital copy of it. I also sent it to a trusted friend and contractor who we would need the assistance of. 

That evening after dinner my dad was the first to call us. He began the conversation with "I think you know what I'm about to tell you..." I got off the phone with a sunken heart. I know I agreed with him that there was too much work and too much unknown about potential water damage to the structure but this house fit OUR timeline. We would be able to close on our house and this house and not need to find another temporary place to live. I looked at Matt and said "how about we call your dad and see what he thinks?" So that we did, only to hear him say with such sincerity that this house was not the house for us and he had been sick to his stomach all day thinking that we might not heed his and my dad's warning against purchasing the house (I guess they had called each other and spoke before calling us).

We were ill with the burden we were carrying. How on earth we could go against both of our fathers was unthinkable. They're both so knowledgeable about this stuff and they truly wanted the best house for us and both of them knew in they're hearts this wasn't the one. We had laid there in bed that night with no words. No words to pray but just tears as to what this all meant for our future. 

To find out what we did you'll have to go to this post and see how God provided and saw us through the process of finding temporary housing and moving forward after such a set back. But after we got out of that contract, we were off again to more showings and more houses that might fit our needs/wants and houses we were hoping would be a bit more dry! 

The night we found our "forever home" was a bit frantic. It was a Wednesday night so I had High School Bible study to get to (although it was a fun night where we went to see one of the girls play lacrosse in the playoff tournament and enjoyed ice cream.) So between Matt getting off work (5:30) and the game (6:45) we had scheduled to see two houses. The first one I wasn't too fond of. The pictures didn't wow me and the second one was at the top of our price range and the lot was on a bit of a sideways hill- not something we really liked. But now the time was ticking, we needed to find a house! So I wanted to leave no stone unturned. Plus, from past experience pictures could be misleading and I didn't want to rule anything out. 

The first house we only had a half hour to look around. I was kind of unaware of this and just figured it was our time constraint that caused the shorten time. But with three kids in tow we zoomed through the house in the blink of an eye. Overall I liked it. I wasn't sure it was quiet as "big" as we were looking for but I really liked the upstairs and the layout was nice and had a good flow. The second house however both Matt and I agreed was not the house for us. The house it self wasn't at all right for us and the slopped lot was a big yuck.

So off to the lacrosse game I went. But I couldn't get the first house out of my mind. And I couldn't get how much this process was sucking out of my mind either! Good thing I was so excited for ice cream and great fellowship, so I put the bad thoughts out of my mind. 

The whole game though I was watching, chatting and thinking about that first house. Was it really too small or was I just rushed through it? The upstairs was perfect and I liked the way the floor plan was laid out both upstairs and downstairs. The yard was a good size too and on level ground. The small front yard was nice, with mature trees and the backyard, although a bit smaller than we had hoped for would work okay and it was fenced. I just couldn't stop thinking about it. So on the way home I called my mom and dumped my ever crazy thoughts on her. She suggested we go take a second look at the house. Maybe without the kids. Such a simple idea and it never occurred to me- but yes we should. 

So I got home and once Matt and I finally got a chance to discuss the houses (aka when the kids were in sleepy land) we were both on the same page. The second house was a no go but the first house had something about it and we wanted to go see it again. So we called Mike. He said he'd call them and set up a second showing but not to hold our breaths since houses weren't staying on the market very long. Now I should have prefaced this with the fact that I was going out of town on Friday morning for my sister-in-laws baby shower and I won't return until Sunday afternoon. Now remember this was Wednesday night. So it wouldn't be until Sunday evening that we would be able to see the house again. So more waiting was in store for us since for whatever reason Thursday didn't work.

So the whole weekend I thought and prayed and prayed. I was staying at my in-laws house and I was so excited to be there and celebrate our first niece coming in just a month and her wonderful mother but I couldn't get the house out of my head. I prayed that if this was the house that God would make it known to us. That not only would the house still be on the market Sunday but that the act of putting a contract on the house wouldn't be drama filled, but simple. I just kept saying I wanted God's house for us and I would know it was HIS house if He just took us down a simple path, not a path filled with crazy. I prayed over and over- every time my mind thought of the house or got filled with worry. 

Before we knew it Sunday was there and we dropped the kids off with some friends from church who lived down the road (just three blocks away). We had a full hour to look at the house. Mike was running late and as Matt and I waited for him I told Matt what I was thinking. I wanted a closing date in mid July, X amount of money back at closing so we could get new carpet right away (a regret that still lingered from our other house- where we never changed the yucky carpet) and lastly that I think we should pay X amount for the house. Matt was completely on board with all of it. So we spent each and every moment we had looking at everything, discussing it with each other and Mike. 

As it turns out the family room and kitchen were the exact same size as our old house but the layout was a LOT more open and other aspects made them feel more spacious. Plus we had a formal dinning room and living room added onto them in this house. There were four bedrooms- again the same as our old house- but they were all upstairs. There were two moderately sized rooms, a master and a spacious bedroom over the garage. The garage was a good size and would fit both cars (although a bit snug since we own a minivan and SUV, both of which are big/wide cars). The yard needed a bit of love since there wasn't much grass (mostly weeds) but it was a good enough size. The fireplace had already been converted with a gas insert- something we only saw in one other house and a nice added bonus. The backyard had a brick patio and not a deck- a bonus to me since maintenance is much easier. The furnace, AC unit and water heater were new within the last five years. The house had vinyl siding and new windows, something that was a big selling point to us since we wouldn't need replace and which we would have had to do with many of the other houses we looked at. The only thing needing attention in next few years was the roof, that was original to the house (so 25 years old) and nearing the end of it's life. So some grass seed/tlc for the lawn and a roof were the only big money items that we could see. And the more we walked around the more we could just feel like this was the house. 

So that night we put in an offer. We got home ~5:30-6 and by 9:30 the sellers and us had settled on a contract. No drama, no bumps, nothing. And each item I had talked about with Matt in the car while we waited for Mike was exactly what the contract said. Mid July closing, X dollars back at closing and X amount purchase price for the house. It was everything I had been praying for. Everything, down to the last detail. I went to bed that night with no question that God had lead us to our home.

More wonderful blessings came as the house buying process continued. Matt's parents were in town for the inspection of the house, which happened to fall on the day we closed on our old house. So they were here to help us move to the rental too. But Matt's dad loved the house and could find no reason why we shouldn't buy it it. We used the same guy for the inspection and he seemed more pleased after going through this house. After the inspection we asked for some more money back at closing to fix the things he had found. This money totaled to the amount needed to pay for the new carpet. So we used very little savings to pay for closing and then put that money into new carpet. Our friend owns a flooring store and she was wonderful and so where the men who installed it. The instillation took place the two day following our closing and before we moved all of our furniture in- nice and easy. My dad came down to help us move from the rental to the new house and was able to fix a few of the 'big' projects- like a new man door to the garage and he rebuilt the steps from the garage into the house. Matt's parents came down a little later in the summer and then again in the fall and helped with a few other things, like fixing the fence doors so they opened and cleaning out the dryer vent that was all blocked causing the dryer to not work too well. These and other small jobs have gotten done with their help. All of these things were manageable. Just little stuff, normal house maintenance. Nothing like the work needed on the house we passed up.

Now I look at this house, six months into living here, and it feels like I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. The things I was worried about, the size of the family room and kitchen, are not even an issue. When I tell people that they're the same size as they old house they always have a look a surprise on their face. I love my kitchen. It has the perfect amount of cupboards and a nice pantry. It fit all of my things nicely. Has more counter space than the old house and just an overall better layout. I love how it overlooks the family room so I can have my eye on the girls when they're playing in there and when we entertain it is a nice flow for those relaxing and those helping in the kitchen. The dinning room makes us able to entertain beyond our own family of five. At Thanksgiving we had six adults and four kids here and the kids table was in the kitchen and the adult table was in the dinning room. It was very nice. And the storage in this house is out of this world. Our master bedroom closest square footage alone is the size of the old houses closets all put together. There is attic storage, garage storage, knee wall storage, and ample closet space in each bedroom too. I love how the big girls room just holds their beds, lovies, a small book shelf, and their clothes (dresser and closet). Same with the nursery. 95% of the toys are in the playroom/guestroom, the over sized room above the garage, that is a neutral zone for all to play in. I love that we have a place for grandparents to stay when they come. The playroom is great when the girls have friends over and I love that all the mess is upstairs and out of sight- causing this mama to not feel like I'm forcing the kids to constantly clean up a big mess. Instead I just have them gather what migrated downstairs for the day and put it where it belongs. Then we do a big clean up when necessary. I could go on and on when I sit back and think about the blessings that each room/area of the house lends our family.

What we love, love, love just as much as the house structure is the neighborhood. It's got sidewalks (which any northern friend might laugh about, but in our area they are not common). There are two pools in the neighborhood, one only 1.5 blocks from our house! There are three playgrounds, one only 2.5 blocks from our house! In fact, this is the neighborhood that is connect to the apartments we lived in when we first moved here. We've come full circle. Where I always dreamed of living. Our neighbors are so nice. There are three of us (mind you there are over 900 houses in this development) right next to each other who moved in within months of each other. We all have young kids- theirs are all boys but potential future friends all the same. I just talked with one of them a week or so ago and we talked about doing a little get together between the three of our homes to get to know each other a bit better. I know I'm a dork but I love that my kids will grow up with neighborhood friends. I had that growing up and I loved it. We have multiple church friends/family that live in the neighborhood which is wonderful. You can walk to a grocery store, a CVS, and much more. I loved being able to go to the corner store with my friends growing up. Mom would give us a few dollars as long as we picked her up some Boston Baked Beans too! Countless blessings again.

I have to say that it was an adventure I'm not soon to forget and one that I see God's hands all over. I love that when I look back on the tough times, I see His miraculous work in my life. I praise Him for it all. The first thing I did when Matt and I pulled up with the keys from closing was to sit on the steps and dedicate this house back to Him who provided it. May all who enter these doors see my God and his blessings in our family on in our home.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 
1 Timothy 6:17

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Finding Home - Part One and a Half

Finding Home - Part One and a Half

Jeremiah 17:7-8

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Part 1.5 - Renting

Soooo the journey of selling our old home (Part 1) was quick, in retrospect of course. While we were in the thicket of it, yes it felt like forever! It was always our plan to sell before seriously looking for a new home. I was convinced I would find the perfect house before ours sold and then we'd have to watch it sail down the river with another crew aboard. I'm that way with a lot of things. I don't like to look for things until we have the money for them. Sure I window shop to some degree but I didn't want to do any SERIOUS house shopping until we knew our house was under contract. With that being said we always knew in the back of our minds that there was a possibility that we'd not find a house in time and we'd have to rent.

Well that possibility became reality, even though I never really thought it would. We looked at a few house but God had not yet revealed our house which seemed to work out okay since we had all the drama with the first contract falling through and then getting another one. I had even begun looking for temporary housing when we found the "Hoof" house. With this house we were going to do a quick close and so if we rented back our old house from the new owners for a few days we would have been just fine, however that was not the case. The "Hoof" house didn't workout (more to come in Part 2) and so on May 10th, just a few weeks from closing and being homeless (literally), we realized we'd have to find a house or apartment to rent in between homes. 

This moment was one I have so vividly etched into my memory. I remember talking to my mom and step dad on the phone when we realized the "Hoof" house wasn't going to work out and I needed to rally and figure out where God wanted us to go. My step dad told us to pray together. I got off the phone and laid with Matt in our bed and I told him I didn't have the words to pray and I don't think he did either. Our emotions were everywhere. Our thoughts all jumbled together. Our kids and our well being on the forefront of our over loaded minds. But in these times, times when you can't come up with the words, our loving God is there no matter what. Romans 8:26-28 tells us "Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant conditions, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is working into something good." (The Message translation).

Just a few weeks earlier in my Thursday Bible study, before we'd found the "Hoof" house, I randomly asked if anyone knew of a place or had a place that my family could rent because we were about to be homeless (said in a joking manner). A lady I barely know, Darlene, (since she'd missed much of the study due to her husbands illness) said she had a place. It was in a part of town I wasn't familiar with and we exchanged information. About a week later she called me to say she didn't think the house would be ready in time for us to use it and I told her no problem since we'd found the "Hoof" house by that time, we wouldn't need temporary housing. I was so grateful for her willingness but was grateful too that I wouldn't need it.

Fast forward now two weeks and I'm at the same Bible study in tears and speechless. Frustrated and scared. Upset and nervous. In God's arms and waiting on His provision. Just two days earlier, Tuesday evening, I had found out that the "Hoof" house was no longer viable and we'd have to pass on purchasing it. The inspection report came back and it was revealed to us that we'd need another place to live and our house hunt would forge on. 

The Wednesday in between finding out we'd need temporary housing and Bible study, I had begun the day on the floor, in tears and on the phone with my mom. After getting all the frustration and tears out I began looking for townhouses and apartments. I must have called over 25 places. In the end I had two apartments complexes that could take us. The apartments available were both two bedrooms. Each one would have to be nothing less than a 6 month lease. Both of them cost over $1200 per month. And after a half day of searching I was at ends with God.

Really!?! He wanted me to put my family of 5 into TWO bedrooms. Let's not forget the cat. Plus we'd have to rent a bigger storage unit because we were not fitting our whole house into a two bedroom apartment, not to mention all of the stuff in our shed. I just cried and cried what felt like all day. I couldn't believe this is what God was asking of us?

So at Bible study that next day I just couldn't hold myself together. I just couldn't understand what God was doing with us and why. I wanted to put my faith and trust in Him who has it all worked out and I honestly had no other choice but why on earth a tiny little apartment God...really.

At the end of the study the women, oh my sisters in Christ, all showed such support as I poured out my heart. It was then that Darlene approached me again. She said "I just texted my husband and he said we will do everything in our power to get the house ready for you if you want it." I must have looked as beaten down as I felt, I could see it in her eyes as she looked at me.

The next morning we went and looked at the Darlene and Ray's rental house. Oh I can tell you now I was looking at it through God's eyes and not mine. It was in need of lots of love! It never looked unlivable but it was in rough shape. But they were going to work hard, he assured me, to get it into better shape. They were going to put new flooring in the kitchen and two bathrooms, new toilets, new vanities, new paint throughout, paint the kitchen cabinets, put up ceiling fans, new stove and dishwasher, new fence in the backyard, new shed doors, new window treatments, new kitchen facet and garbage disposal, clean up the hardwood floors, resurface the tub and put in new tub surround walls and some other things that are alluding me know. They had only 2.5 weeks to get it all done before we needed to move in. And God willing, they did got the majority of the work done hours before we moved in. And answered prayers we didn't even know to ask for. This house fit our needs- however temporary- God provided!

For instance, there were no washer and dryer here. Matt and I thought we could do the laundry mat or maybe rent a washer and dryer from one of those "Rent-a-Center" places or at times bum off friends. But the day after we walked through the house Darlene texted me that they were going to put a washer and dryer in too. Tears fell once more- we didn't even ask God but He knew. Although the washer and dryer proved to be the first of many trials we faced while living in the rental. You see, they didn't get hooked up until 5 days after we moved in- unknown to us until the day of move in. But hey those five days taught me that I wouldn't have lasted 6 weeks without a washer and dryer! God knew, oh yes, He knew!

Many more trails came to us after the washer and dryer were hooked up though. But first I want to sing the praises of God's provisions. The rental house might have been twenty plus minutes from everything and everywhere but it FIT.OUR.NEEDS. We didn't have to rent any other space. And the rent per month was a fraction of what we would have spent on those apartments! The shed fit all our 'shed stuff' and the patio fit our other outdoor stuff too (kids toys and patio furniture, etc.). There were THREE bedrooms! I never thought one bedroom could make or break me but this was HUGE after touring those tiny apartments. The biggest bedroom housed all three girls beds/crib and dressers plus three hampers and a nightstand. Matt and I had all of our bedroom stuff in a small bedroom where there is just enough room to walk around the bed and from the door to the closet (all we really need for a short stay). The third bedroom housed our many unpacked boxes, our food and Annabelle's stuff. The living room was plenty big enough and housed the majority of our furniture. The kitchen was sufficient and then there was one more room, I called it the back room- which is where we had the table and the computer desk. 

The house was only ~100 square feet less than our old house. I had to laugh when my FIL came up to me they day we moved into it and said "The movers don't think we're going to fit all your stuff in this house." I just gave him the "don't worry about it- it's going to work" kind of look. And to their astonishment it all fit fine.

One thing I wasn't prepared for, and I don't know if I ever could have been was the emotional aspect of the move. With all our physical needs being met, it was hard to anticipate the emotion roller coaster I'd be on as we moved into the rental. I was sad for leaving the old house, but not in a way that made me want to stay there. No, I was very ready to put that house behind us and found 'home' somewhere else. However, I wasn't ready to find 'home' in the rental. I was very tired after the trials of selling the house and I think I was very frail. This made living in the rental hard for me. This wasn't what I had planned, I know please keep your laughing to a minimum, but I didn't like the place. Not the actual place but what it meant emotionally.

It meant moving twice and all the physical, financial, and  emotional energy that this was going to take. It meant that I was going to have to stretch myself and live on faith that I didn't know I had. It meant that I was going to have to be patient once again. It meant that I was going to live in a state of limbo and have to hunt for my things and live out of boxes. It meant that I was going to have to rely on God more than ever before because God was taking us down a road that was going to cause us to hold onto our faith in Him and let the rest of it go, the rest of ourselves and our thoughts.

You see we didn't move in and have smooth sailing. No we had many trials during our first three weeks of living here. For the sake of organization I'm going to make a timeline of the tribulations and let you infer how we were broken down before God lifted us back up... 

Week One:
-No washer & dryer for five days
-My mom comes into town and is a huge emotion support 

Week Two:
-We lose air conditioning in the heat of summer for four days
-We lose our bathtub as they begin work on the tub surround and fixtures for three days
-My mom heads back to her home

Week Three:
-We lose power after a bad storm (just 24 hours after getting AC back) for three days

As I list it out it doesn't seem as traumatic as it felt during everything. But it just felt like one thing after another and I was emotionally spent before it all began. I went to bed exhausted each day and just waiting for what would come next. It seemed like every time I took a breath and felt like we must be through the worst of it, something else came along.

My mom had gone home on a Wednesday and the following Sunday at church (when we still had no power) she said she prayed that if nothing else God would give us back our AC. That a week without it was more than enough and if He was going to continue to mold us in these ways that he would at least give us cool air to weather the storm. 

But around the corner of each trial there was God provision. From friends who lent use of their washer and dryer and bathtub and cool house in the heat of the day. To the use of our church freezer for our food and refugee when the house was being worked on. To wonderful landlords who where doing things to make the house comfortable for us- including putting a new AC unit in. To having found our 'forever' home- giving me comfort that this time in our lives was temporary and that God's promises to provide and prosper us were as true during our trials as they were every other day of our lives.

I grew A LOT in that house. It was there that I really just lived on faith each and everyday, in a way I wouldn't have if we had gone from the old house right into a new house. God wants us to prosper. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, he says "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." and in Jeremiah 29:11 He says, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." And these and many other promises didn't change just because my earthly circumstances did. God was providing for us and molding us to be more like Him and to have faith that can move mountains.

I often times want to write on here to get out all the love God shows me daily. I want to write down memories to reflect on later, memories my feeble brain might forget otherwise. But I also want a written archive of my faith journey. How God took the worldly heart of one woman and transformed it into a heart worthy of God's eternal, heavenly future. Of all the things God promises, easy is not one of them. Our selfish, sinful nature wants life to be easy and for things to be handed to us but God wants us to grow and become the person He brought us into this world to be and I don't want to be anyone else and the trials of this life will just make me realize that this is not our home! We were created for something bigger. So I'll leave you with a poem I came across and it really struck a cord in my heart. Don't worry...Part 2 is coming because our newest HOME is just moments away and I can't wait to share the story of how it came to be ours!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Finding Home - Part 1

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Part 1 - Selling Our House

It was this time last year that God started us down the journey of finding a new home and selling our current home. In the fall we spoke with my great friends husband, Mike (he's a realtor), about if we could even do such a thing. You see we bought our house at the top of the market back in 2006- ten years ago. Little did we know then that it was the top and the housing bubble was about to burst. He said he was confident we could. We calculated the numbers and came up with the magic number of what we would need to sell our house and get out. And by that I mean to just be able to put this house behind us, not make a dime off it. We were all optimistic it was possible so we made plans to put it on the market the following spring.

It was then that I began praying for the people who would love our home as theirs and for our next home to be ready for us to grow into. This process has been bathed in prayer from the moment of conception and God's hand has been in every up and down too. But as you'll see God's plan isn't always ours and our dreams are often not as big as His. But He tells us to be transformed to His ways, His good, acceptable and perfect ways. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8). 

Well fall and the holiday season went by and before we knew it, January was here. This was the month we began the physical and emotional journey of selling our current home. Little did we know how this journey was going to stretch us, break us, mold us and renew us but that is exactly what has happened. 

We spent the beginning of the year preparing the house. We decluttered by renting a storage unit and cleaning out closets, donating things, and just tossing some stuff in the garbage (why have we kept this all these years??). We paired down kitchen supplies and toys. We washed windows and walls. We reorganized and simplified and depersonalized. We spent weekend after weekend working on the house. We painted and moved around furniture. We had a friend from church come and 'stage' the house with decorations. And by the beginning of March the house was ready. I'm not sure we were ready but the house was looking good- we however were a little more tattered and worse for the ware than a few months earlier.

It is kind of an uncomfortable thing to let strangers walk through your home. I would equate it to getting your pants pulled down in public. You are just exposing yourself to whomever called to look at the place. But as reluctant as I was we opened the doors to the public mid March.

Now having people come to into my house was no small thing. Each time we had a showing it took me a good solid hour or so (depending on the state of the house prior to the call) to get it ready. I would start upstairs with picking up toys and making beds. Then I'd stuff all the kids things away (baby gate under a bed, step stools in the bathtub, changing pad under the crib etc.). Then I'd vacuum the whole upstairs. Then I'd move to the downstairs where I would corral the little ones into a room with some form of TV on. I'd pick up, organized, and vacuum. I would have to strap Audrey into her car seat at some point because as soon as I'd get anything picked up she'd be pulling something else back out- oh how I was losing my mind. Then I'd pack the kids into the car with their toys from the living room and put on music or a book and run back in to do the last room and run over my check list to be sure in the hectic moments I didn't forget anything.

It.Was.Crazy!!!! We had the house on the market for only two and a half weeks before the first offer came in and it felt like a lifetime! We were ecstatic but more so me because it meant that I would be able to sleep again. I slept horribly throughout this portion of the process. It was excruciating. I was always on edge and not myself. I found it hard to relax and this was just as exhausting as not sleeping. I didn't enjoy being around myself most days and felt awful for my family who were stuck with me just the same. But that was past us now, or so we thought.

The house was off the market two weeks when we found out that the purchaser was unable to find financing. She was a single mother and had some bad past mistakes still holding her back from her dreams of owning a home. My heart went out to her. In fact, when this first setback came I was okay with it. I just took it in strides. And less that 24 hours later we were right back at the beginning.

Now God was with me, yes it was tough, but let me tell you some days it was His strength and not my own getting me through the constant cleaning and packing up kids and food (the showings during dinner hours were my least favorite, we ate a handful of meals at church due to this craziness). He was with me in the middle of the morning when I couldn't get back to bed and I lay there for hours on end wishing I could calm the anxious thought that kept me awake. He was there when I wanted to cry but instead I put on my big girl britches and did what needed to be done. He was always there.

So now it was April and the house was back on the market. This time it only lasted a week and we had TWO offers come in. I was blown away by how God was just showing us he had this. This time we accepted an offer that came in above asking price! We were jaw dropped at how good our God was. Woohoo! Not only was it a great offer but it was very apparent that they LOVED our house. They wrote a letter to us and I kept thinking "This is what I was praying for." God had answered my prayers!

They quickly did the inspection and secured financing. Everything looked great. Then the house appraised...oh yes, God was still great but the results of the appraisal were not so great. The offere were had accepted was $2,000 over asking price but asked for $4,000 back at closing. This would have given us about $8,000 net profit on the house. We priced our house with a little wiggle room so we would get at least enough to get out of the house. However, the appraisal came in at $4,000 LESS than what we needed to get out of the house without LOSING money. Yes, you read that right. Now we have to pay money to sell our house, more than what was due to the realtors. And yet, God hadn't left us.

They wanted us to fix some windows (totaling about $1,000 to do so) and they said we didn't have to fix them. They had asked for a $450 home warranty and they took that off the table (their realtor is getting it for them). They took off the $4,000 they asked toward closing costs too. So in the end it doesn't seem like much to pay $4,000 to finally put this house in our past. I told Matt multiple times that do this was worth never having to go through this process again. I mean our alternative was not selling the house until it was worth more but when would that be? And we'd have to start from scratch again at that point! No, God didn't want us to do that. He wanted us to surrender the money to Him and His plan. 

So that's where we are now. We officially lose ownership on June 1st and we need to be out of it by June 4th at noon (we've rented back from them for a few days but more about that in Part 2 - Buying a House). More to come though because along side this journey of selling our house, we've been on another journey to find our next home and oh man it has been just as bumpy of a road.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Three Months of Love

 Lord, teach me how you want me to live.
   Do this so that I will depend on you, my faithful God.
Give me a heart that doesn't want anything
   more than to worship you.
Lord my God, I will praise you with all my heart.
   I will bring glory to you forever.
Great is your love for me.
   You have kept me from going down into the place of the dead.

Psalm 86:11-13

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Audrey's Big Day!!!

I guess first I need to introduce the newest member of our family:

Audrey Ruth

Born: April 19th
6 lbs. 4.5 oz. & 19 inches long

So here it is 1 month later and I'm finally getting around to writing her sweet birth story. The story I was praying about for months and wondering what it would be like. This month has flown by and each moment/day seems to go at lightning speed. I truly enjoy every stage and age of childhood, so I get so sad when one passes but then excited for what's to come- it's a confusing thing I know. But oh what joy it's been to have a sweet little baby in the house again! We love her more and more with each passing moment. I've so enjoyed watching her big sisters love on her and having her add to the love/crazy in our house. We're truly blessed beyond measure!

Well where to begin? I'll start with week 37 of pregnancy and go from there because that's when my body started making me nuts and keeping us wondering...

So both Lauren and Olivia were born just over 37 weeks so I wondered if that was my body's limit. So at 37 weeks 1 (a Friday) I had an OB appointment. I woke that morning having some contractions. This is normal, to some degree, for me towards the end of pregnancy but that morning they seemed a little more 'regular' as I woke at an early hour to prepare for the appointment. The plan was that we were dropping Lauren and Olivia at Esther's house and then Matt and I were heading to the appointment. Well that was until I got a text from Esther that poor Evan had been up all morning sick. So as I was getting ready I was racking my brain as to who else could help us. Well since it was Good Friday, Robin didn't have school so I called her and she was able to jump in at the last minute. Problem solved! Well about ten minutes later Matt was putting on his socks and he did something to make his back get messed up. I know putting on his socks of all things, but my dad herniated a disk in his back putting on his socks so you just never know. Well Matt was in obvious pain and at one point asked me to help him walk...while I was having a contraction! I immediately started to panic...what if I am in early labor, then what?!?! He was in no way going to be able to hold a leg let alone do any other helping during labor. So then I called my great friend Heather, the only person in town I would even consider being in the labor room with me, and in panic mode asked if she could help out if this was the day. She said she could do it and to keep her posted. Things seemed to spiral into craziness as the morning continued. I got nervous as the contractions continued so I said we should bring the bag with us, just in case. I was so anxious and in wonder- was this the day??

At the appointment I told my doctor about the contractions and she got right to checking me and I was 1 cm and 'ripe' (such a nice term). She asked if I had timed them and I laughed and told her I hadn't even thought of it with our busy, hectic morning. She hooked me up to a monitor and left me there. She tended to other patients as Matt and I sat. It seemed that as I 'relaxed' (as best I could under those conditions) so did my body and the contractions slowed. I had a few spaced out contraction but the monitor had been hooked up wrong so they didn't even register. When she came back 45 minutes later I just wanted to leave, go home and sleep. So back home I went, off to work Matt went, and sweet baby girl stayed right where she was. Later that evening the contractions came back and were very regular but not very strong- an hour later they were gone altogether.

That was Easter weekend and I spent the whole weekend wondering if it was time. I kept trying to think of anything else I needed to do to prepare. And this is when I also started praying and praying fervently that when the time did come that there was nothing dramatic about it. I prayed to God for a quiet exit to the hospital where I simply had a baby and that was it. No drama, just baby.

And my poor mom was just on call waiting to book her plane ticket so she could be here to help out. She was hoping our baby girl would stay in a little longer since she had a 'can't miss' doctors appointment on the 9th that couldn't be rescheduled. 

Well the week continued, days filled with contractions and no labor. I got to the point where I would just ignore them and go about my day. I just remember being more and more exhausted as each day passed. I would get to the point of having nothing left to give each day by lunchtime- after that I was running on fumes. Only by the grace of God did I continue to put one foot in front of another. Thankfully and unfortunately the month of April was fairly empty since I was planning on having a baby sometime in that month so I didn't plan anything just in case. Well some days I was so thankful since I was just big and done and then other days I needed distractions and something to keep my mind off being big and done.

My next appointment was a week later (38 weeks), also on Friday morning. This time we just took both girls with us. I was not in fear of going into labor during the appointment so I had no problem with bringing them. We brought a wonderful sticker activity book to occupy them and told them that when the doctor came into the room they had to sit with daddy behind mommy while I talked with her. They did wonderfully. She checked me again and I was a "soft 1 cm." I really wonder who comes up with these terms! Well as my sweet little ones were keeping daddy's hands full I asked my doctor about induction.

My doctor broached the subject with me two weeks earlier and since I was so used to giving birth early I didn't even give it a second thought. Then I started to think about it more and more as the days passed. I just kept thinking about how it would really help with planning and my mom and I also thought about how it would help me relax and enjoy the last days of pregnancy as much as I could. Plus, my doctor might actually, finally deliver one of my babies if we went this route- she missed Olivia by ten minutes!  She was open to it and told me how it would all work. She also informed me that the last five patients she had scheduled for an induction went into labor on their own before hand. So that gave me hope that I would too. So we went ahead and got the ball rolling. Later that day, after the appointment, the doctors office called to tell us that we were scheduled to be induced on Monday, April 20th. They gave me all the pertinent information and that I would need to come in on the following Thursday to do all the pre-registration stuff. I got off the phone with mixed feelings.

I really wanted to go into labor on my own- I started praying now for a drama free labor that happened on it's own. I prayed and I prayed most of all for the strength to trust in Him who knows all. To trust and believe that He had it all worked out and if induction was His plan- than that was that and I didn't need to worry about it. But you know how God works- sometimes he takes us down a road that looks to us like a detour but what is to him the right road all along. 

I only spoke of the induction to my mom, Esther (since she was going to take my kids) and another prayerful friend. I know all three of those women were praying hard for me. I am eternally grateful to them for that love. 

Now that we had a set date on the books for our sweet girls potential arrival and it was now passed my mom's important doctor appointment, we could plan for my moms arrival to our house. My mom called me the Sunday following the 38 week appointment and said that her and my step-dad Bill had talked it over and they thought it would be best for her to head our way at the end of the week so she could help me out before and be here a little early incase Audrey came sooner too. My exhausted self was so glad to hear that help was on the way. God knew I needed it!! He always provides for us- Amen!!! I was praying then that the baby wasn't born Monday because that would have made for craziness but thankfully she was still tucked safely inside and content to be there. 

My mom arrived on Wednesday evening. The moment I knew her plane had arrived I let out a breath of relief and relaxed a lot. It was nothing but the grace of God that my mom provided us in those few days leading up to Audrey's birth. Especially since that Thursday I had the pre-registration appointment, right during nap time, that took two and a half hours and cost us $500 (oh we'll get our money back but not until after the hospital and the insurance company go through that long drawn out process of settling the bill- so annoying). Then the next day, Friday again, I had my 39 week OB appointment. So my mom babysat for both appointments- heaven sent!! At this early morning appointment my doctor checked me and said I was a generous 2 cm and said she would like to see me Monday morning already in labor and if I went over the weekend then it was very unlikely that she would be there due to personal obligations (she was throwing a fundraiser at her house for an early childhood preschool program for abused children- she's truly a wonderful lady). At this point I wasn't sure I cared who delivered my baby as long as she somehow made her way out. My doctor also wanted to do an ultrasound that day to check baby's weight. Another time I was overjoyed my mom was in town. So I left that appointment, got home, we all went grocery shopping, then headed back to the doctors for the ultrasound.

It was so cool to have my mom at an ultrasound- she had never had one before and this was her first chance at seeing her newest grandbaby and seeing an ultrasound. The girls came too, and they loved it. The tech gave both of them their very own picture. It was cool for me too, since I had never had an ultrasound so late into my pregnancy. Oh seeing her on the screen made me even more excited for her impending arrival.

After the ultrasound we headed to meet daddy for lunch since we were all starving and Matt works 5 minutes from the hospital. Plus, I was excited to show him the ultrasound pictures. But when we came home from that morning/afternoon I was exhausted to the core, we all were. I was grateful for mom then too, as she cooked dinner and helped with the kids too.

Saturday came and so did some time for rest. It was eighty degrees that day so we set up the pool out back. Matt mowed the lawn and mom and I rested in chairs on the deck watching the girls enjoy the first hot day of the season. As the day progressed so did the intensity of my contractions. During nap time mom and I went for a walk. During the walk she said "I have a feeling about tomorrow." I laughed and told her I've had a feeling about a lot of days when my contractions seemed more intense but I continued to brushed them off.

After dinner that night mom said we should go on another walk, "we're going to walk this baby out" she said. The girls road bikes and I waddled along. Mom took a picture of all of us (I need to get that from her) and told me "you got to look at this Jennifer, you look huge!" Yeah, just what I wanted to hear and see- big ol' Jennifer, no need to remind me- Thanks mom. I know she could just see it, see that I was done. I knew I had just a day left until for sure we were headed to the hospital so I took it in strides. That night I headed to bed around 9:00 with not an ounce of energy to have a care in the world.

At 12:35 am I awoke to a pretty strong contraction. I again didn't think much of it. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I had awoke to a few strong contractions only to fall back immediately back asleep- that's how exhausted I was! But I got up this time and headed to the bathroom. It was there that I realized what was going on, the fog lifting. I laid down only to have another contraction tell me that it's time! I woke Matt, also exhausted. He was so tired that he fell back asleep after he asked why I was waking him. He seriously fell back asleep three times after me telling him it was time to get up and start timing the contractions and start packing the bag. Each time I told him that and each time he'd fell back asleep forgetting anything I said. This annoyed me to no end so I started fussing at him and my tone was one of a very frustrated wife. It was then that he started waking only to fuss at me for fussing at him while he was trying to sleep!! Oh we were so tired. Finally, he got up and watched me breath through a few strong contraction as I was running around the room throwing things into the hospital bag while looking over my check list. After he was alert we both apologized for being so harsh and got to work. The contractions were like clock work 5 minutes apart and very obviously strong so we called the doctor.

I was feeling a little stinky from the hot day and all the walking and since I was too tired before bed to shower I wanted to hop in for a quick shower to freshen up. Since the doctor could take up to thirty minutes to call back I jumped in, only to have her call back in like two minutes- go figure. So Matt answered and talked to her. He came into the bathroom and had her on speaker phone. She made me laugh because she could hear me breathing through the contraction and she said "I think it's time to get out of the bath and head to the hospital." Oh I was planning on it doc!

We quickly finished up, Matt headed upstairs to tell my mom we were on our way out. She was awake already, she said that she heard us moving around down there and knew that it was time. Then we were out the door. Oh the ride there- the contractions were not easy to take sitting down. I remember just being so glad it was the middle of the night and the road was empty, allowing for a quick trip. It only took fifteen minutes but all three contractions I had in the car were not easy- I wanted to be up- it was so much easier to handle them walking around. 

We parked by the Women's wing and walk to the emergency room entrance, having a few contractions along the way. Matt check us in at the kiosk as I breathed through another few contractions. The emergency room check-in nurse called L&D. He was very anxious to get me up there and told me I had to ride in the wheelchair so I didn't have the baby right there. The L&D nurse who met us at the elevator said he looked very nervous and it made her laugh.

She wheeled me into the room and one of the first questions out of their mouths was "Do you want an epidural?" I said no. I was going to try again to have another natural birth- lots of prayer for that throughout the pregnancy. I told them I labor rather quickly and also that I had been scheduled for an induction the following day so my chart was already put together. They got me in the bed and checked me. At 2:00 am I was 5 cm and 70%. Wow, I thought, all that walking got me another 3 cm. Only 5 to go! 

The next hour and a half went very quickly. I had two wonderful nurses helping us. I have to laugh at the fact that we had two nurses with two totally different personalities- one just like mine and one just like Matt. One sweet, calm and quiet, and the other bubbly, talkative and encouraging. I am so very grateful for both of them. They had one of the laborist doctors come in at 3:00 am and check me. I was 8 cm and 90-100%. 

For some odd reason she wanted to do an ultrasound on me to make sure baby was head down. I'm not entirely sure why. As far as I knew she had been head down for a month. The lady who did the ultrasound on Friday afternoon never said anything that would indicate she wasn't but she did it and found that baby was indeed head down. It was not something I care to due in the middle of labor contractions but she did it anyway, only to find out all was well.

Shortly after that, I think- things are getting a little fuzzy a month out, my water broke. I was very glad I was laying in the bed at this point. Matt was a champ through the whole thing. He helped rub my back, talked to me (even if one time when I asked him to talk to me he start out by saying "I wonder how long..." in quickly interrupted that thought with "NO! Something else, talk about something else."), and he helped me out in any way I needed it. I know he was tired- it had been a long month, it had been a long week, it had been a long day but he rallied and stayed with me. 

It wasn't much longer before I was telling them I felt the need to push. They checked me again and said I was 10 cm with a little lip. I didn't seem to care about the little lip. I wanted to push. I pushed three or four times and at this point they were already hustling around trying to prepare everything for the baby who was coming soon.

I was happy to find out that the Laborist that was going to deliver her was the same one who delivered Olivia. At least if I didn't get my doctor I got someone I already knew. She was in there helping to prepare everything. Once they got the bed all set up she checked me again and said that there was still a bulge of amniotic sac behind the baby's head so the broke that. After that I was pushing through each contraction. It took a little longer to push her out than Olivia, like 5-10 pushes. 

I need to preface this next statement with the fact that I am NOT, I repeat, NOT a night person. I am a morning girl to the core. So the fact that I was giving birth at 3:30 in the morning would not have been my choice but that is how it was. So after the last big push, yeah she's out. I just flopped back like a sack of potatoes. Then I had a thought- 'oh wait, I need to look at my baby.' so with the little energy I had I sat up and looked at her with tired, relieved eyes and then plopped back down again. I was so glad for her to be there but was so ready to a rest. They then put her on my tummy, so I didn't have to sit up to see her.

Oh she was precious right from the start. I'll let some pictures do the talking now...

We laid together for the first two and a half hours. Matt tried to stay awake through that whole time but he laid down for a bit. I was even tired as the excitement wore off and the room cleared of doctors and nurses. During this time she nursed and we snuggled. I kept saying to Matt "She was just inside me and now she's out." "She's here!" "Wow, I just gave birth to her!" I think it all happened so fast, three hours from when awoke in bed to birth, and I was so tired that I just couldn't believe it had actually happened and that I actually gave birth to her.

The whole pregnancy was very reminiscent of my pregnancy with Lauren- how I felt, what I craved, how I carried and then sure enough she was born with clubbed feet just like Lauren. She was also longer and leaner, like Lauren. Oh I was so excited to finally see her sweetness outside of the womb!! To soak in her preciousness and met her gaze.

My mom brought the girls later that day. They were so excited to meet baby Audrey. They took to her right away, wanting to hold her and give her the gifts they had gotten her- Lauren a Whale lovie and Olivia an animal blanket. They were also excited to find out Audrey had gotten them a little something too. It was so precious. Lauren wanted to wrap her in her blanket and give her her Whale lovie- my heart was overflowing with love. They also got bored of that after a bit and spent the second half dancing around the room and hiding behind the curtain. Oh the joys! Then my mom so wonderfully took them to a birthday party. That day was also their friend Aliana's birthday!

I was so excited that Audrey shares a birthday with my great friend Heather's third child. In fact, Audrey shares some special thing with not only Aliana but her Aunt Carrie too. So here it is. All three girls are third babies. They're all girls- obvious I know. They all have six letters in their first name and four letters in their middle name. Aunt Carrie and Audrey share the same middle name- Ruth. All three girls are born in April. Aliana and Audrey share the same birthday and were born almost twelve hours shy of the same time too - Audrey 3:31 am and Aliana 3:35 pm. It's just really sweet. They will forever be linked in these special ways.

Matt and I enjoyed our two and a half days of quiet time at the hospital. It was our longest hospital stay since she was born so early in the morning on our first day there. Matt took a LONG nap once we made it to the post paradom room on Sunday. I however couldn't sleep, too much excitement. I was looking forward to having my sweet Audrey Ruth back in the room with me. This is when our mini vacation started. I'm tell you it was truly a vacation after the end of pregnancy! Nurses waiting on me, quiet...lots of quiet, I sat for hours at a time with nothing pressing for my attention, food being brought to me with no prep work or clean up to bother either of us, time to talk and reconnect after what seemed like a month or two of chois and crazy with each other, and nothing to do but love on our newest little girl. We watched some TV but spent most of the time with it off and just enjoying the sweet silence and talking to each other with no interruption. It felt so good to get rejuvenated- we needed it!

Before we knew it though it was time to head home and start enjoying life as a family of 5!!! We were so excited, even if it meant our vacation was over. We missed our big girls and couldn't wait for them to start loving on their newest little sister. Life couldn't feel more perfect!