My life as a follower of Christ, a wife and the mother of many

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas at our home

Wow, can you believe Christmas is only 8 days away?  It's getting closer and everyone around our house is very excited.  I was reading about Faith's family and how they celebrate Christmas and so I thought I would share what we do.  First, let me say that I know that God made each and every one of us different, so the way we celebrate may be different (and it probably is) than the way you celebrate.  I believe that if our desire is to honor and glorify God, that is the most important thing.

Let's talk trees!  Some love artificial while others love the smell of a real tree in their home this time of year.  For us, it has to be real.  Yes, there are the occasional needles (or 2, or 50!) that wind up on the floor, but that's okay.  We cut out tree down every year and it's an experience that we just love!  We cut our tree down on December 1 as a way to remember our son, Samuel.  This is a special day for us.  Erick takes the day off and we spend it as a family, going out for lunch and getting our tree.

Each year the kids get to pick out a new ornament.  We go to a local store that sells Christmas items and they have thousands of ornaments for sale.  It's neat because they have trees decorated by themes, such as flamingos or Jim Shore (which I love!).  The little ones get a child's yearly ornament from Hallmark.  They start to pick their own out at around age 5.  For the past few years I haven't been good at getting the yearly ornaments for the little ones, except for "Baby's 1st Christmas".  Our tree has 9 of those!  So I spent some time last week on Ebay finding all of the ones I had missed.

This year, for the first time, I didn't do any decorating.  Our older children did it all and I loved it, and so did they.  They later confessed to me that I take too long discussing each and every thing and they were so excited when I said they didn't have to wait for me and that they could do it on their own.  Our tree and house look fabulous, thanks to them.

In the past years we have done some excellent advent activities but this year we aren't doing one.  Hopefully we can get back to doing one next year.  Even though we aren't doing one, we still make sure we talk to the kids about the true meaning of Christmas.

We love to go driving around to look at lights.  That is one of our favorite activities to do during this time of year.

Now, let's talk gifts.  My older children exchange names and purchase something small for each other.  They love this and it's fun to see what they come up with.  I know many families buy their children 3 gifts referring back to the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus.  I think that's a great idea.  Another idea that I love is to buy "something to wear, something you need, something you want and something to read".  I love both of these ideas, although we don't do them.   I have thought about doing them, but I end up buying too many gifts and so I always say "next year."  I probably give each child about 5 gifts, less if the gift is something big like a camera.

Finally, let's talk about Santa.  Did I say that?  Yes, I did!  We did Santa when our older children were younger but I remember the year when Noah, who was 4 at the time, got so excited when he saw what Santa had left him that he said, "Santa was nice to me, Santa was nice to me!"  I'll admit, I got a little jealous over the attention and thanks that Santa got.  So, we quit doing Santa.  Looking back, I think that we were also following what others that we knew at that time were doing.  And they had great reasons.  But a little part of me always missed the big guy.  So, when Jubilee was born, Santa came back into being a part of our Christmas experience.  I don't know how long Santa will last though.  So far, 2 of my little boys have already found the "santa toy" that I had hidden.  Santa only brings one toy to the little ones, the rest are from mommy and daddy.

That's just a little window into Christmas at our home.  Check out Clark Chatter to see how other "big" families celebrate this special time of year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Remembering our son, Samuel Isaac

Often, when we are out as a family, Erick or I will turn to each other and say "someone is missing".  Do you ever feel like that, like someone from your family is missing?  I feel like that all of the time.  Someone is missing.  My little boy, Samuel Isaac, is not here with us.  Seven years ago, on December 1, 2003, our fifth child and second son, Samuel Isaac was born.  He was born "sleeping",  as many people, mostly those who have also suffered this tremendous pain, refer to stillbirth. 

What is stillbirth?  Stillbirth is the term used to refer to the loss of a child during pregnancy from twenty weeks gestation up to full-term.  What causes stillbirth?  There are many factors which cause stillbirth: umbilical problems and post-maturity are just two of them.  One out of every two hundred pregnancies in the United States ends in stillbirth each year.  It makes me so sad when I think of the families that have to go through this, I know their pain.

My pregnancy with Samuel was somewhat normal.  I say "somewhat" because we did have a scare during a routine ultrasound but we found out shortly thereafter that our baby was fine.  Because of this incident we decided to find out the sex of our baby, this was the first time we had ever done this.  I am so glad we did this, this really changed the way we bonded with this little one, and God knew we needed that.

My official due date was November 26, but we all know that babies don't know that.  By this time I had given birth four times before and three of those babies were "late", with the latest one being 10 days late.  That was Leah, and to this day she still runs late!  So,when my due date came and went I wasn't surprised.

Everything was ready for our little baby, we were just waiting for him.  His clothes were all washed and put in his drawers.  His carseat was in the car ready to go.  My hospital bag was packed.  Erick would call me everyday from work to see if anything was happening.  We waited patiently.

Sunday, November 30 was like any other Sunday.  We woke up, got ready for the day and went to church. 
The church we were going to was small at the time and our pastor asked the women to lay hands on me and pray for my labor and delivery.  After church we had a potluck and then we went home.  Once we were home Erick took the kids for a walk and I laid down on the couch and rested.

Some time went by and I realized I couldn't feel Samuel moving.  I pushed and poked like all pregnant women do and I didn't feel his response like I usually did.  I drank some juice and laid on my side, hoping to wake him up.  I made a phone call to a friend and we chatted.  I was telling her that one of my greatest fears as a mom was having a child die of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and she told me her fear was stillbirth as she was also pregnant.  Oh the irony! Here we were talking about it and all the while my own child was already dead. 

Erick came home from his walk and I told him my concerns.  We called the hospital and they told us to come right over.  My emotions were all over the place at this time.  Part of me was begging God to let our baby live and the other part already knew our baby was gone.  We arrived at the hospital and right away the nurse tried to locate the heatbeat.  Of course she couldn't and she tried not to show us that she knew what had happened.  They called our family doctor and ordered the ultrasound machine to be brought to our room.  I did not want them to turn on that machine.  I didn't want the finality.  I knew the truth, but I didn't want to have to acknowledge it.  The machine was on for about 30 seconds and then it was shut off quickly.  The doctor was at the foot of my bed, he touched my feet and he said "I'm sorry".

How do you tell a mom whose child is over due, whose child was alive and kicking yesterday, that her baby had died?  What happened?  How could this happen?  Why did this happen?

We went home that night and tried to sleep.  We had decided that we would be induced the next day with the midwife whose care I had been under.  On Monday December 1, 2003, we drove to the hospital knowing that we would be delivering a dead baby.  I'm sorry I can't paint a prettier picture for you to read.   Just because our son had died before he was born didn't mean that he just vanished physically.  He still had to be delivered.  I still had to go through labor, knowing that my son was going to be born without a sound, "sleeping".  After a very long and difficult day, Samuel was born.  He was perfect in every way.  Ten fingers and ten toes.  Sweet lips.  Soft skin.

We spent time with him.  We dressed him in his going home outfit.  We took pictures of him, which I still cherish.

The funeral home came and carried him away, nestled safely in a little basket.  Oh, it makes me so sad to think of it today.  My precious baby boy, wanted so dearly, gone in a heartbeat.  Literally.

We don't know why Samuel died.  The doctors had no answers for it.  For many years I would stay up late and google "stillbirth".  It would tear me up emotionally, looking for answers.  As time has passed, I have come to believe it had to do with his post maturity.  Although my babies tend to be on the small side, Samuel was the smallest and I think at the end of my pregnancy he wasn't thriving, but we just didn't know it.

I am so thankful that I know where my precious son is and that I have a promise from the Lord that I will see him again in Heaven, and what a glorious day that will be!  I don't understand why he had to die, I don't always understand what happens in this world.  Even though I don't understand, I still trust in God and believe that He is in control.  Believing in God and trusting Him doesn't mean that I don't feel pain and sorrow.  My heart still aches for my little boy.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him.  The bedding I lovingly purchased for him is still boxed up, even though it's been seven years and I haven't been able to let go of that.  Someday maybe I will. 

Samuel, you truly are missed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Are they all yours?

I don't know if there is a single large family that hasn't heard that question. What constitutes a large family?   The United States census bureau states that the average family size is 3.20, so in reality an average family has one or two children.  Although we don't normally think of a family with three or four children as being "large" I do know many people who have four children and they do get asked this question.  I also know some families who upon announcing that child number three is on the way end up receiving negative comments.  The consensus seems to be that if you have two, and one is a boy and one is a girl, why would you think of having another.  Now, if you have two of the same gender, let's say two boys, then that's okay that you would like to try for a girl.  Three seems to be okay, but four is when I think you really start to get the questions.  "Are they all yours?  Are you going to have any more?  Do you know what causes that?"

Now that we have nine children, people rarely ask me if I'm planning on having any more.  I think they probably assume that I am going to!  However, we still get the question "Are they all yours?"  We've had this personalized license plate for a few years now and I love it!  I've seen people behind me when I'm stopped who read it and I can see them point and start laughing.   We've also had these stickers on the back of our van for a few years and we love them! 

We do get a lot of stares when we all go out as a family.  I've had people literally run up to me from across the mall and the parking lot to talk to me.  They have so many questions to ask,  such as; "How do you do laundry?  Is it easy?  How old are they?"  I'm always willing to answer questions but I'm always surprised at people's reactions.  But when you think about it, how many large families do you see out and about?  I go out often and quite honestly I never see large families.  We go out to restaurants, the mall, the movies, the fair and just about anywhere and we never see families with more than four children.  I think people tend to be fascinated with large families, especially with the media attention that has been shown lately to families such as the Duggars and the Gosselins.  We always tell our children that people will look at us differently because there are so many of us and it is a chance to let our light shine for the Lord and to be an example.  That doesn't mean that we are perfect, but we try to keep in mind that people are paying attention to us.  We are so thankful for our large family and we hope that it shows!  Yes, they're all ours!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My 4 "Littles"

These 4 little boys keep us so busy!  We are so blessed by God and we are so thankful to have them.  I always joke that they are in cahoots!  My house is definitely not as clean anymore and I am finding things broken on a more regular basis.  We've purposely kept Silas in our room because I'm nervous about moving him in with the other boys. 

There was a time many years ago when my heart ached for another little boy.  Don't get me wrong, I love my girls!  But after having one boy and three girls I was really looking forward to the day when I would have another boy.   There were many years when I wondered if we would ever have another boy.  We had some heartbreaking experiences;  we had 2 miscarriages and our son, Samuel Isaac was stillborn five days past his due date. 

Then,  a little over 3 years ago we started the adoption process to adopt a little boy.  We chose the country of Guatemala, which sadly is no longer open to adoptive families.  We chose the adoption agency, All God's Children International and we submitted our dossier and began the long wait.  Shortly after we began that adoption we found out we were expecting again!  Ezekiel Zechariah Mountain was born in March of 2007 and in July we received our referral for Gideon Levi, whose birthday is July 31.  So, they are 4 months apart.  The wait for Gideon to come home took much longer than we anticipated and while we waited, God blessed us again.  Silas Freedom was born on June 10, 2008.  The day he was born we received the e-mail from the United States Embassy telling us that Gideon was ours and he could be brought home the next week.  So, Erick left and when Silas was 10 days old, Gideon came home.

So, we had a 17mo. old, a 10mo. old and a newborn!  Needless to say, our lives were very busy.  None of the boys were mobile yet and Gideon had been in an orphanage up until this time.  That first summer was very hard and made even harder by my mom passing away a short time later.  There were many times I wondered about the timing of everything.  But I kept my mind focused on the fact that God is in control and everything happens in His timing.

8 months ago we were blessed with yet another little boy, Gabriel Michael.  When Gabriel was born we had 4 boys ages two and under.  Talk about blessed!  It's not always easy having these little ones so close together.  4 in diapers was not easy! We try to look past the dailiness of it all and focus on the positives and what joy these children bring to our lives.  So, God has definitely answered my prayers for another little boy even more than I could have imagined.  It can get very noisy and chaotic at our house, but we have so much so be thankful for.

My four precious "littles"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blessed and Encouraged

Last weekend I was finally able to attend an Above Rubies Conference. This is something that I have been wanting to do for so many years but the timing and location just never worked out for me to be able to go. I was so blessed to be able to go and I came home feeling so encouraged. First of all, I am so blessed to have such a wonderful husband who has no problem being by himself all weekend with 8 children. Gabriel, our 9th little blessing was with his mama, of course! I was able to room with a sweet friend of mine and her 2 daughters. The messages were very encouraging and convicting. It was a good time for me to go and get renewed, to get a fresh vision and to be encouraged in my roles as a wife and mother. I really needed that time and I received so much from God during the weekend.

I have already noticed a difference in my mothering and the way I am doing some things. When you are a parent, it's easy to get stuck in a "rut". You get used to doing something a certain way, whether it's discipine or teaching or any number of things you are called to do during the day. It's easy to lose your passion, your joy. I am feeling a real change in some of the ways I am feeling about parenting, and it's a welcome change. I was getting stuck in that "life is so daily" attitude and that can really make for long days!

As an added bonus, I took home a door prize, a new baby carrier! I LOVE wearing my babies, check out The Baby Wearer. I wore Gabriel all weekend in some of my many different carriers. My new carrier is a ring sling called Hava and I absolutely love the pattern. This ring sling is slightly padded, which I didn't think I would like, but the padding is so thin it doesn't bother me at all. Baby wearing is something that I've been doing since my early mothering days and I don't think I could manage without it. It's not only practical, but I love the feeling I get having my little one so close.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Preparing for high school

I am so thankful that I have had the privilege of homeschooling our children for the past 9 years. Next year our oldest, Noah, will begin his high school years at home. I am actually looking forward to this new chapter in his life. I think it will be awesome to see all that God has planned for him and in what direction his life will take.

I am beginning to prepare already by reading books on homeschooling for high school and also looking ahead at the different curriculum choices. I want to plan early because I know that with nine children, time goes by much too quickly! we go again!

Well, I have decided that I am going to try and blog again. I tried a long time ago and I did not do a good job keeping it up. But, since I seem to blog in my head alot I have decided I will try it again! Yes, I said "blog in my head". I can think of a lot of things that I would like to say and write down about my day so I am going to attempt to get those things out of my head and written down.