Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Fall Break turned out to be a much longer break than I anticipated!  In fact, mine started last Tuesday.  The kids returned home from our church youth retreat the Sunday before and were filled with stories and overflowing with excitement, but they were also fairly exhausted.  So when I heard Audrey had fallen asleep at the end of the day IN CLASS, I attributed it to exhaustion.  However, she woke the next morning with headache, stomach ache, fever and so I ended up being home with her Tuesday and Wednesday.  She rested and I spent much of the day catching up on household chores and decorating for fall.  I used to always decorate at the change of seasons, but had kind of quit over the last few years, but being home unexpectedly and with Audrey's persistent encouragement I made the trek to the attic and actually really enjoyed decorating.  We even lit candles!  I love being home.

Audrey started to feel better on Wednesday and we probably would have made it back to school, but school ended up being canceled for the impending Hurricane Michael on Thursday.  So we were all home and Thursday, we did NOTHING except sit around and talk and eat and watch TV and chill and nap and it was a fantastic day.  Friday, would have probably been a 2 hour delay, but since our fall break was slated to start on Friday and we were only scheduled to have a half day, school was canceled on Friday as well!  Friday was a fun day!  I took the kids to breakfast at Grub.  We ate on the rooftop.  It was great.  Then we ran to get Lydia a prop for her halloween costume.  Sophia was anxious to take some pictures on her new camera, so we walked around downtown and took pics of Lydia and Audrey.  Jackson had all the fun he could handle so he pleaded to be dropped off at home first.  We had to get home because I had a doctor appointment.  It was a pretty low key day.  I enjoyed being outside with the kids, just enjoying them.  We got home and I fixed dinner and we had a nice quiet evening.

Saturday we slept in a bit and then I ran Sophia over to the Caring Center at church where she is volunteering.  While she was there I made a quick trip to Costco and washed my van and cleaned it out.  After I unloaded the car and finished cleaning, I went to pick Sophia up and dropped her off at home to grab some lunch and a shower.  While she did that I gassed up the van and vacuumed it out at the car wash.  Then I picked Sophia up and we headed to the Starbucks in Wake Forest.  Sophia was meeting with a friend of mine in Wake Forest that is advising her as she works towards a Congressional Award.  While they met I sat outside and enjoyed an iced latte and my current book.

SIDENOTE: I'm currently reading a book by a guy named Cameron Cole.  It's called Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths that Comfort, Sustain, & Redeem, in Tragedy.  I'm only on Chapter 3, but I like it and I wish I had read it before Matthew died.

ANOTHER SIDENOTE: While I was sitting there reading I was also inadvertently eavesdropping on the 2 people next to me. As the guy shared about his search for a church, I continued to think he would LOVE our church.  As I sat in Wake Forest listening to this 20 something seeking church in Durham....I felt compelled to tell him about mine.  I think I must be officially old.  I butted into their conversation and admitted I had been eavesdropping and proceeded to encourage him to checkout FBC.  I NEVER would have done that even a couple years ago!

After Sophia finished her meeting we raced back to Durham and  on the way back I got to talk to ANDREW!

LAST SIDENOTE:  I MISS ANDREW SO MUCH!  I have not seen him since he left for school in mid August and I still have to wait another month to see him!  I love to hear from him though.  He had a one day fall break and was able to spend it in the beautiful Shenandoah National Park with his Campus Outreach Group, so I know he had a great time.  He is a Junior at American and studying finance.  He is doing very well in his classes this semester and really enjoying his studies.  He is in leadership with Campus Outreach and he loves the Lord and this brings such joy to me.  I truly love to see him walk with the Lord.  I am so thankful that he is not wasting his college years.  I LOVE that he spends time in the word, and that he meets with other guys to study God's word, and that he witnesses to the lost and disciples and is discipled.  I love that he goes to church.  I love that he is in small group with people of various ages and stages of life.  I was not doing that at his age and I am so thankful for the work of God in his life!  It is so encouraging to me.  I just want him to come home, so I can see him!  He is currently working for Door Dash a food delivery company and he really likes it because he creates his own schedule and that gives him flexibility with his school, church, Campus Outreach, etc.  He also plays lots of cards.  He plays poker, and bridge, and spades.....lots of cards and movies.  He loves movies.

ANYWAY.......As soon as we got back to Durham, Randy, Sophia, her friend, and Jackson headed to Lynchburg.  They spent the rest of the day at SCAREMARE.  They loved it and Randy wants us to all go next year!  They all agreed that it is legitimately scary.  Randy's only suggestion is that at the end of the house they have a sheep and goat exit.  Randy!  While they were at SCAREMARE, Lydia had a couple of her friends over for dinner and ice cream and Audrey had her cousin over for a sleepover.

Sunday we went to church, grabbed lunch, I cooked for Home Fellowship, and I read and talked with the girls about the BOYS chapter in our Girl Talk book.  Then we headed to Home Fellowship.  I love Home Fellowship and this semester we are working through the book of Philippians, which I also love.  Home Fellowship ended with Jackson having an impromptu sleepover.  It was short but sweet.  The girls and I headed home and watched Switched at Birth while Randy headed to bed early, still exhausted from his day trip to Lynchburg.

Monday and Tuesday were our actual planned fall break days.  Monday Jackson had an early morning dentist appointment and then he and I ran a couple errands.  He needed pants that fit.  I also treated him to breakfast at Chick fil a.  It was free!  He got a biscuit, hash brown, and lemonade all for free!  I enjoyed my morning with Jackson.  He is growing into such a kind and thoughtful guy.  I sure am proud of him.  He was anxious to get home and get outside, so I took him home and picked up Audrey and Lydia.  They were both in desperate need of pants that fit.  They have grown a ton since last year!  So I took them to get jeans and leggings.  Our trip to Kohl's proved successful!  Then we headed home to get ready for Sophia's volleyball game.  The game was in Cary and they played a very evenly matched team.  They were able to pull out a victory winning 3 out of 4 sets.  This team has been such a sweet blessing.  The coaches and the girls....it has been a fun and drama free year and my girls are all super sad that today is their last game!  Most of the team was able to go to dinner at Chick-fil-a last night to celebrate the victory!  It was fun!

Today is our last official day of fall break!  I woke up a little sad.  I think I'm mourning a little over volleyball ending.  It has been such a sweet and fun season.  I think I'm a little sad over a relationship that is painful and I'm not sure how or if to pursue, because it hurts.  I like to fix, but sometimes I think maybe I don't need to fix things.  Sometimes things break for a reason.

OKAY REALLY THE LAST SIDENOTE: I read this quote yesterday and could really identify with it, "I have a happy personality with a heavy soul.  Sometimes it gets weird."  Cracks me up!

And I think I'm a little sad, because I don't think I invest enough in things of eternal value into my kids.  I think I get swept up in the dailiness of life and I'm not sure how to do it better and more on purpose with so much that needs to be done.  So today's plan is that we are going to spend it cleaning up the mess we have made!   I see a day filled with laundry!  We are going to get ready for our week ahead. However, we do have one last volleyball game to look forward to tonight.  It's Charlotte's senior night too, so that will be fun!  I'm looking forward to celebrating that sweet girl.  Dinner tonight will be leftovers and alarms will be set.  I do want to do the Girl Talk chapter on Modesty with the girls today too.  School starts early tomorrow.  We have 2 days and then we are cutting out Friday and heading to the fair! We plan to spend the morning as a family at the fair and then to let the kids spend the evening running around with friends.  It's been a good break.  It's been nice and rejuvenating.  I'm looking forward to seeing my work friends and the sweet kids at school.  I'm thankful for such a great place to work, where my kids are learning so much and enjoying such sweet people and have such amazing teachers.

I am blessed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Stingray Story

Sunday morning was beautiful. The sun was shining the air was warm and we were at the beach with our family.  The Winn kids had come with us and we were looking forward to meeting up with the Aucoin’s and Taylor’s later that day. We went out to the beach around 9:00 and we had spent hours in the ocean. We had probably gone through 2 bottles of sunscreen. We had just finished lunch. We were expecting the Aucoin’s and Jackson W. at any minute. Sophia, Aubrey, Audrey, and Jackson S. had just walked back to the beach house and were coming right back. Lydia and Braden had just run back out to the ocean. I had settled into a beach chair and Randy and Micah were walking out to join Lydia and Braden in the waves....the next thing I knew they were walking back. Randy was carrying Lydia. I thought they were so cute. Then something of panic flashed on Micah’s face. Something was wrong. As they walked closer I heard this terrible scream coming from Lydia. My soft spoken little girl was screaming. She was wild with pain. I panicked. I couldn’t think. We had assumed it was a jellyfish. Then we looked at it. There was a jagged hole and blood. Randy said that is not a jellyfish. I told Randy to run back home and to get a car. Hurry! Micah and Randy took off. It was Braden and I alone. Lydia screaming.  Call 911 flashed in my head. I scrambled for my phone. A crowd of people were gathering.  Mama’s were shooing children out of the ocean.  A lady walked over she offered help. She gave us ice. She placed her hands on Lydia and started to pray. Her husband helped me give the 911 dispatcher directions to where we were. Lydia was screaming. Then I saw the Aucoin’s.  I asked Amanda to watch the kids. Randy was back, Brent had taken him to get a car. There was the lifeguard. His radio was alerting him to a beach emergency, 12 year old female....and he was already there. The EMT came. They said something about barb in her foot. Stingray. Venom. They couldn’t do anything for the pain.  She was still screaming. She was begging them to help her. She was scared. A truck came they put Lydia in and I jumped in and they drove us to the road where an ambulance was waiting. We were whisked to the nearest hospital a half hour away in Morehead City. On the way I started to cry. It was so sad to see Lydia in so much pain. I just lost it, which made Lydia even more upset. So I quickly composed myself and did my best to comfort her. Lydia was overwhelmed with the pain from the venom. Heat brought her only comfort and it didn’t bring much, but did seem to take the edge off. She said it throbbed and it just hurt so bad. She cried and pleaded with the EMT to please give her something.....ibuprofen....anything. They told her there was nothing that would take the pain away. Heat was the best they could offer! Slowly over the next hour and a half the pain eased. Within 2 hours she was like a different person. It was amazing the transformation. So they did an X-ray and were all very happy to learn the sting ray had not left behind any fragments and they prescribed an antibiotic to preventninfection and gave us information on caring for a puncture wound and sent us on our way. We were back to the beach in time to greet the Taylor’s. Lydia was bandaged and in socks but doing amazingly well.

As I reflected in the adventure which began just before noon and concluded around 3:00....I marveled at God’s hand. He could not have orchestrated things better. Randy was right there when Lydia was stung so he was immediately able to assist her. Braden did not get stung. He was right beside Lydia, but his Mama was in Durham. That would have been a nightmare! God had us setup camp right beside a Christian. She came and offered help and ice but brought comfort and peace. Lydia kept talking about that lady with the warm hands and how much it helped her to have her praying and placing her hands on her. Randy and I were at the beach with 7 kids. Amanda and Brent arrived at exactly the right moment. They took over all the supervision. They drove Randy to get his car. It could not have worked out better. The lifeguard just “happened” to be right beside us as he got the call about Lydia. He was already there! The EMT was there right after the lifeguard arrived. They were able to remove the barb in the beach. It was crazy timing. When we got to the hospital she was put right in a room. She was taken directly to X-ray. There were no complications. She was in and out and okay!

Interestingly, Lydia had shared with some of the kids the night before that one of her biggest fears was being bitten or stung by something in the ocean. I was telling her how brave I think she is. Christ allowed this to happen and I marvel at how he went before her and am humbled by the great love he showed in his abundant provision for her in the midst of a tramatic situation. God is good and now she has a great story to share!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Teacher Appreciation

This week I have been OVERWHELMED with the love and gifts and sweet words showered on me during teacher appreciation week.  I have been simply overwhelmed with the generosity of the parents and kids at ERA.  My mind however keeps going back to my friends.  So many sweet Mama friends that are daily pouring out their lives in an attempt to not only raise their children well, but also to educate them well.  I remember well my homeschooling years.  I remember the sacrifice.  I remember the dailiness.  I remember the wondering and worrying if this was the biggest mistake of my life and I definitely remember thinking, "What about me?" during teacher appreciation week.  Does anyone know what I'm doing?  Does it matter?  Does anyone care?  Can anyone understand?  I remember longing for just one teacher workday.  I remember wishing I could get a pay check for the sacrifice and work I was putting in, and I think that is part of what made it so overwhelming.  I remember longing for the school bus to please, just this once stop at my house.  I longed for an acknowledgement of the work I was doing.  I was hungry for just a bit of validation.  I wanted to hear that I was doing a good job, I wanted to know that I was making a difference.  So my heart wants you sweet Mama's to know.  You are my people.  You are my best friends.  You are my soul sisters.  What you are doing matters!  Your kids are awesome!  You are doing such a good job!  I mean this sincerely.  You ladies are in the trenches daily.  I know a bunch of kids and some of my all time favorites are yours.  Keep going.  Keep putting in the hours.  Keep slogging through the math books.  I appreciate you ladies more then you know and am amazed at you!  I think you are fabulous!

So if you want some chocolate....stop by my house.....I have a truck load.  I'm keeping the gift cards!  I will share the apple knickknacks and home baked treasures.....and I'll even share some flowers.  First come first serve!  But friends mostly remember you are laying up treasure.  Your good works that are not seen by others are seen by our heavenly Father and not one of them will go unrewarded.  Not one.  Keep doing the good work to which He has called you.  You are doing a work with eternal value.  Yeah...some homeschoolers give the rest a bad name.....you are not those.  You sweet friends are rocking it.  You are awesome and I love you and I hope you know one day your kids will appreciate you.  My 20 year old son that was mostly homeschooled, says now how thankful he is for that season and how he felt like it was for his best.....so even though I'm in a different chapter of life now and I have a different calling that I love and am thrilled with....I don't regret the years I put in.....and you won't either.  I hope your families celebrate you all BIG TIME tomorrow, you deserve it!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

My Tattoo

So if you have not heard.....I got a tattoo.

So far I've been asked 2 questions....

1. Did it hurt?


2.  What's the deal with Brave <3?

I can't really answer  that question very succinctly in the church foyer or over Easter lunch, but I'm so glad people ask and I don't mind sharing.  I'm much better at articulating my thoughts in writing than I am at expressing myself with the spoken word....so here is the story behind the Brave <3 tattoo.

A couple years ago I realized that a lot of my sentences began with the words, "I'm afraid....." followed by varies fears that ranged from fear of hurting someone's feelings to fear of catastrophe and pretty much everything in between.  I begin to actively examine why I was so afraid.  I realized my first memory of real fear....besides watching the Wizard of Oz and seeing the Wicked Witch and her crazy monkeys......was when I was about 11 years old.  My family received a terrifying phone call.  My little cousin, my beautiful, sweet 8 year old cousin was kidnapped.  I'm not going into the details, because it is not my story to share, but I will say it was terrifying.  She was kidnapped by a stranger when she got off the school bus.  After that happened I was very afraid to go outside.  I was afraid to ride the school bus.  I was afraid of being kidnapped.  What was a very unlikely event, in my mind became a very real possibility.  My cousin did live but what happened that day changed a lot of lives even a 12 year old girls.  I knew fear.  I knew monsters were real.  I never really felt safe outside again, especially alone.  Ever.

Then when I was in college fear came again.  Without going into much detail I will just say that a very close relative was violently attacked by 4 men in the wee hours of the morning while she was doing a newspaper delivery for a friend of hers that was out of town.  I got a phone call that woke me from a dead sleep.  I lived in an apartment with this person during college and she was crying and telling me where she was and I was confused and scared.  The men were arrested.  They were tried and put in jail.  However, I again realized how unsafe the world was.  It was very unsafe.  Disaster seemed to lurk around every corner.

About this time I became obsessed with crime TV.  Forensic Files, Law and Order, 48 Hours and anything like it.  I never knew why I was so intrigued with these shows but I watched them regularly at bedtime.  Which is creepy....and I knew it was creepy....but I was really drawn to these shows for some reason.  Years later my counselor told me she suspected I watched these shows in an effort to be prepared.  I had been surprised by some bad and terrifying things in life and if I watched these shows enough and mentally covered all the possibilities I would be ready when tragedy came calling....I wouldn't be surprised.......except I wasn't....

When I was 25 and a young mother to Andrew, who was 3 and expecting Matthew...he died.....inside me....right before he was born.  He was a fully formed baby.  He had fingers, toes, hair......I had no idea that could happen.  I was so unprepared.  I wanted him.  If a baby could die inside a healthy, young, white, American, middle class woman....was the world safe at all.....He died from a "random" knot in his umbilical cord.  A few years after Matthew died.....Sophia was born.  The doctors promised Sophia would not have a knot in her cord.  That it was a random tragedy that happened with Matthew.  Well Sophia did have a knot in her umbilical cord and she also had it wrapped around her neck twice.  The doctor was wrong.  God was in control.  Not doctors.  God allowed Matthew to die and Sophia to live.  It was not random.  What kind of God was this?  My trust was growing but this God was terrifying.  He was so unpredictable.

Every pregnancy was wracked with fear.  Yet God protected the twins and they were born 5 years after Matthew died on exactly the same day, February 10.  God was in control and not only that but he was in the details....and he loved me.  He took a day that meant nothing to the world but everything to my broken heart and he redeemed it.  This scary God was loving.

Then Audrey was born 6 weeks early with a fever.  She was sick, very sick.  I will never forget the absolute shock that came over me when the doctor came in shortly after she was born and informed us that they needed to do a spinal tap on our baby and see why she had a fever.  They suspected it was because the doctor forgot to give antibiotics to me during the delivery and I was a Group B strep carrier.  So I had passed that on to my tiny 6 week early baby girl.  No Lord.  Not her.  Don't take my baby.  I knew he could and he did allow babies to die.  I was scared.  But God did not take her.  He let her live.  In fact her birthday is in a few short hours!  God is good.

And then my brother went off to the war in Iraq.  Your baby brother in a war will do a number on you.  Then one day my Dad called and told me Matt had been in an accident.  His vehicle had run over an IED.  He was being flown to Germany.  He was alive but injured.  It's all kinda a blur but healed and came home for a little while and won a purple heart and awards for valor.....and then he went back to finish his tour.  I couldn't believe he went back.  He was home.  He was safe.  He didn't have to go back.  He went back.  That is the kind of guy he is.  He finished his tour.  I was so proud of him and I was so scared.  However, he came home.  God protected his life.

By now I was fully immersed in the busyness of motherhood.  I was busy and afraid.  Afraid kidnappers lurked outside my house and regularly cruised our cul de sac.  Afraid of my kids being hurt.  Afraid they would die.  When Andrew was diagnosed with Premature Ventricular Contractions that originated in an unusual part of his heart I was petrified.  It could be something he outgrew or it could be something that may cause issues and require treatment.  We could only watch and only wait and see.  Talk about terror.  I knew the world was not safe.  I just had to wait.  Those crazy heartbeats that happened every 3 beats when he was a 4 year old child disappeared when he was about 15 as quickly and randomly as they appeared.  My fear changed nothing but robbed me of a lot of sleep and peace.  God was in control.  I was not.

Yet God persisted in showing me how little control I had.  Randy was a project manager for a builder when the market crashed.  He lost his job.  It was an unsettling time.  I was a stay at home mom with 5 young children.  My husband did not have a job and was looking for a job and the building market had just entered into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.  Nobody was hiring builders or project managers....nobody.  It was 7 long months of unemployment.  But God used that time to teach me he was in control and he loved me.  He would provide for us in that time through the generosity of others in the most unusual and creative ways.  We were given bags of clothes regularly.  We were given gift cards and groceries and money.  We even won a shopping spree at a shoe store when our kids needed shoes.  Our neighbors even gave us a car during this time.  God did not abandon us.  God did not forget us.  He provided for us lavishly.  God grew my faith and trust in him as I realized I could do nothing but rest in him.  I could not fix this.  Yet he could be trusted.

Through all of this God has wooed me and taught me that I can trust him.  So the Brave is not because I am brave but it is just a reminder that I can be brave.  I don't have to be afraid.  I KNOW now that God does allow tragedy and sorrow and bad stuff but I KNOW he only allows it if he names it good and to bring himself glory.  So I can trust him.  The heart is to remind me that he loves me. He has been faithful.  He has not kept everything safe and secure but he has been there every single step of the way. Everything he does he does out of his great love for me.  So no, I don't really have a brave heart but I'm learning to not be afraid.  I'm learning to trust a loving God and to let go of living in fear.  I'm learning to speak the truth and not be afraid of having a thought or an opinion or a belief.

So.....I started thinking about this tattoo a loooonnng time ago.  I told myself I didn't need to get a tattoo.  This could all be true without a tattoo.  So I debated whether or not to get it.  I did not want to aid in the delinquency of youth.  Sophia was so excited about me getting a tattoo she thought that meant as soon as she turned 18 she could get one.  I guess she can.  I hope she won't.  I did that too.  Got a tattoo when I was 18....and I hate it.  So kids....take it from me....wait......wait longer then you want.  You can always get a tattoo......  I told Sophia she could get one when she is 43!  I put a lot of thought into this tattoo and asked Randy if he cared.  He was fine with it.  I love my tattoo I love the visual reminder.  When I look down, which I do when I'm feeling insecure I see it.  It is a reminder of who He is and what He has done and it reminds me to speak and to share Him with others.  I can be brave because he can be trusted.

That is why I insisted on the tattoo facing me.  The tattoo artist said it was considered backwards.  I told him the tattoo was for me, not for others, so I needed to be able to read it.

However, having some random word on my foot seemed a bit weird....but then I thought how cool it would be if it was in my Mama's handwriting.  Then I could still have her handwriting with me when I didn't have her.  When I had that idea I really got excited about having the tattoo.  You see my Mama is brave too.  So Mama wrote Brave and drew a heart and the tattoo artist made a stencil from it and then traced it onto my foot.

So that it what my tattoo is about!

Thanks for asking!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Ramblings.....

So I haven't written a rambling post in a while and one of my goals for the new year is to get back to blogging, so today I'm going to ramble.

I'll start by saying it feels so good to have everyone feeling well!  I've had some sick kiddos and honestly have not been feeling too well myself.  So hallelujah we are all well!!!

This morning dawned early.....well early-ish....It wasn't workweek early, which is 5:15, but it was Saturday early, which is 7:00.  Lydia had to be out the door headed to Greensboro by 7:30.  She and her friend Elenore are part of the team representing Eno River Academy in the Science Olympiad.  They are the, "Road Scholars".  So they have put many hours of study and training into preparing for todays competition and I'm hoping that they have a great time and do their best at the competition today!  Randy and Ellie's dad accompanied the girls!  I can't wait to hear about how it goes!

Sophia also had to be out relatively early....8:00....to get to DRIVER'S ED!!?!?!!  Class didn't start until 9:00, but I wanted to check out a bakery.....so we left at 8:00.

Durham has a lot of bakeries.....and I've only been to a few....so I made a list of ones I need to check out or check out again....I included a few in Hillsborough too since that is my new home away from home.....
If you guys know of any I need to add to my list please let me know!

Here is my list:
The French Corner Bakery
Ninth Street Bakery (have not been here but have had a lot of their products.....yummmm!)
Guglhupf  (been here)
Mad Hatter Cafe (been here)
Rise (been here)
Rose's Meat and Sweet Shop
All Day Cafe
Cup-A-Joe (been here)
Weaver Street (been here)

Today Sophia, Audrey, and I went to Loaf.  Jackson was still asleep, but I did bring home a little coffee cake for him to try.

Sophia got some fancy french named pastry that I can't pronounce and Maple View Farm chocolate milk.  That girl LOVES their chocolate milk.  She honestly did not love the pastry she chose.  She thought it would have a sweet glaze, but it was more of a honey glaze, and she is not a honey fan, so she just had a couple bites.  Audrey and I shared ours with her though!

Audrey got a classic chocolate croissant.  She devoured it before I could get a picture.  She also had the chocolate milk and she was very happy with her choice!

I got a raspberry chocolate pastry and coffee.  If I'm being honest, and I am, the coffee was ehhh.  It wasn't bad, but I also wouldn't go for the coffee.  In fact, I may bring my own next time.  However, the pastry was wonderful.  I would definitely go again for the pastry.  It was light and fluffy with a crispy crust.  Just a hint of chocolate, lemon, and raspberry.  It was sooooo good!  Yum, yum, yum!

The atmosphere was bustling.  It is literally a hole in the wall.  In fact, we almost missed it. I'm fairly certain they do not have seating, just counter service.  But so much was going on that it is possible I missed it!  Nonetheless, they are very close to the Parlor in Downtown Durham, and they do have outdoor seating there which would be lovely on a temperate day.   Loaf opened at 8:00 and we arrived at 8:00 there was already a line and we had to park a few streets away.  The staff was very helpful and friendly.  Perhaps the best part of the experience was the smell.  Oh. my. word.  They make their pastries right there in the shop and it smells wonderful.  Warm and doughy.  Perfect.  It was all in all a fabulous experience and I definitely would go again.

So......anyway......Sophia is taking drivers ed.  That is scary and awesome!  I do miss having a driver in the house!  Unfortunately, because our life is so crazy she has to take it privately and that means Saturday and Sunday all day for 2 weeks and then an additional Saturday.  Which also means she will miss the family trip to DC to see Andrew.  Boooo!  I may take her up another weekend because she really misses him and he's not coming home for spring break or this summer!  What am I going to do with that boy!  He just keeps right on growing up and heading out!  He did land a summer internship with The US House Financial Services Committee.  He is super siked about that and he is still working about 20 hours a week at Nike and got to talk to Kyrie Irving when he came into the store a few weeks ago so that was cool.  So this summer he plans to work, because he needs money and do his internship, so he should stay pretty busy!  He's also swimming for his schools intramural swim team and enjoying that.  He took time off all his events last week.  His relay team came in first.  So YAY!

Today feels like a gift.  February has been so full.  We've had birthday parties,

and super bowl parties,

and valentines, which at my house means a scavenger hunt.  I didn't do a scavenger hunt a couple years ago thinking the kids had probably outgrown it....they hadn't.  Talk about disappointment.

We've had 6th grade dances,

basketball, oh how I love basketball

and more birthday parties

and it has just been so busy!

Today feels lazy and slow and wonderful.  I do need to clean and I do have to run kids here and there and I have a couple gifts to buy and I have already picked up groceries....and gone to Goodwill to drop off things that have been riding around in the trunk of my car for about a month......but it just feels like a much more restful day.  I've already gotten to eat pastries, drink coffee, and blog.....Ahhhh

I may get a tattoo today.....maybe.

I might wait until summer....so I can wear flip flops while it heals.  My foot is already pretty jacked up so I don't have many shoe options that will work this time of year and I'm afraid tennis shoes would be too uncomfortable.....but I'm pretty sure this is happening sometime soonish.  My Mama is a tattoo artist.  Who knew!  She wrote it.  That way when I don't have her I will still have her handwriting......I have all these letters from my grandparents and I love them.  They are one of my very favorite things.....Its like a part of them left behind.

OH..... and speaking of goals.....another one of my goals was to read more books.  So far this year I've read two:

Unoffendable by Brant Henson......and that one was a game changer for me.....I should probably get that tattooed on my other foot.....or maybe my forehead....


Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee.....which is about letting go of your need for approval and seeing yourself through God's eyes.  It was a book I had started about a year ago, and never finished.  I picked it up again and this time buzzed through it.  It was excellent!

Well....I think this qualifies as rambling......

Until next time,

Friday, February 9, 2018

February 10.....A Day that Changed my Life.....FOREVER

It's weird how one day can hold so many emotions.  This eve of February 10 I have spent some time reflecting back over the last 17 years since my world stopped turning.  It was 2001.  It was a time of joy and excitement.  We were expecting our second son.  I was 8 months pregnant.  The nursery was freshly painted, a lovely shade of powder blue.  The closet was lined with tiny baseball uniforms and blue onesies.  The shelves were stocked with diapers and the crib was setup.  We were expecting a baby.  A baby we had tried over a year to have.  Andrew was 3.  Randy and I were 25. 

Then at a routine doctors appointment we were told the baby was a little small.  They monitored me closely for a few weeks.  The baby was growing, but slowly, very slowly.  I was put on strict bed rest.  Questioned about my drug and alcohol usage.  Told only to get up to go to the bathroom and I could shower twice a week.  Seriously?  Wow they were being strict.  I researched.  The Internet was invented back then.....so I poured over articles.  I was far enough along.  Our baby had over a 90% chance of survival.  Each day that number got higher.  So I followed the doctors orders.  After a few relaxing days, I got sore, very sore.  Its painful to lay all day....every day.  I prayed, I read the Bible, I researched, I talked on the phone.  I visited with sweet friends.  The days inched past and then one day I didn't feel the baby move....at all.  I knew as the baby got bigger there was less room for movement.  I knew that when the mother was still the baby was more restful, but I also knew when you were as pregnant as I was....you felt the baby move....I wasn't feeling anything.

My sister took me to the doctor that morning.  They found the baby's heartbeat.  Everything sounded fine.  I was sent home.  I still did not feel the baby move at all.  It was February 7.  Late that evening we called the doctor again.  He instructed us to go to the emergency room and that he would meet us there.  I was escorted immediately to labor and delivery.  The nurses searched for a heartbeat.  They couldn't find it.  Sometimes they could be tricky to find and babies liked to hide, they assured me.  Now I realize that is early on....they probably already knew he was gone....but I held on.....ever hopeful and clueless and naive.  An ultrasound was ordered and the baby was there!  I saw him.  He was big.  He looked normal, except the spot where his heart was, wasn't flashing.  He was dead.  The weight of that news hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was shocked.  I was devastated.  Hurry.  I wanted them to hurry.  Maybe they could revive him.  Nobody was rushing.  What was wrong with these people.  I was wailing.  Animal like sobs wrecked my body.  Randy made the horrible calls to let our parents know and our doctor, a funny Jewish man about my parents age sat and cried.  Dr. Fried, pronounced freed, sat with us for hours.  He answered every question I had....and I had a lot.

How will the baby get out of me?

Will it hurt?

When will I go into labor?
your body will go into labor naturally when it is ready.....I remember replying, "you mean I have to leave here pregnant and some random person on a bus is going to ask me when I'm due?" and I remember sobbing.  So worried about the pain of answering that question......Now it makes me laugh.  I don't ride buses and I didn't back then....but it was a real concern at the time!

Will you induce me?

If you like.

Can you just knock me out and do a c-section?
No it will cause higher risks with future pregnancies.

Will I get to see the baby?

What if I don't want to?
You don't have to....but we recommend that you do.

Will the baby look black and decayed or like a normal baby?
normal, but dead.

What will you do with the baby? 
wrap him up, photograph him, weigh and measure and take footprints, and bring him to you.

Then what are you going to do just throw him away?
No.  We will release him to a funeral home and you can make arrangements.

What happened?

We don't know.

Does this happen a lot?
Not a lot but more then we wish.

They induced labor that night, it was a Wednesday.  Contractions started on Thursday.  Labor was in full swing on Friday.  Then around noon on Saturday, February 10 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  It was so quiet.  You could here a pin drop.  There was no rushing around.  No newborn cries....the only sounds came from me.....wailing for the baby I wanted so badly. 

From Wednesday night until Saturday I had one prayer.  I prayed with 100% certainty that God could answer.  I prayed for the God who raised children from the dead to raise mine.  I prayed for a shred of life.  I prayed for a miracle.  God in his providence said no.  That day a journey of brokenness and healing began that in some ways continues still today.

We named him Matthew, it means a gift from God.  He has been a gift. 

The healing has come slowly.  God has been faithful.  I do feel like we have a hole in our family....I really wish I was celebrating his 17 birthday tomorrow.  Sometimes when I stranger asks me how many kids I have and my kids ages....I'll rattle them off....Andrew-20, Matthew-17, Sophia-14, Jackson and Lydia-12, and our baby Audrey is almost 11. I'll include him....just for fun....he did exist....I don't tell them the story....but I don't leave him out.  With people I know I usually just say 5 kids.....it's simpler.  No matter how I answer it seems wrong.

We did find out the reason he died was because he had a "true knot" in his umbilical cord.  It had tightened as he grew and it cut off nutrients, thus causing him to grow poorly and eventually die.  They promised it would never happen again.  Except they were wrong. 

The knot did not kill Matthew.  God ordained....with thought and consideration for Matthew to die....and he named it good.  They were also wrong because it did happen again.  After over a year of trying we finally found out we were expecting again.  This time a little girl.  My first girl.  I was so excited....and absolutely terrified.  The doctors watched my pregnancy like a hawk.  Weekly ultrasounds the entire second half of my pregnancy.  Constant reminders from the doctors that knots were random....it would not happen again.

Well as May 10 dawned I gave birth to Sophia Grace....and she not only had a knot in her umbilical cord she also had it wrapped tightly around her neck two times.....but God ordained for her to live.  I had spent my entire pregnancy praying for a baby to scream.  I wanted to hear my baby cry.  Well scream she did.  That little girl cried for about 3 years straight!  Praise God!  God used Sophia as an answer to a Mama's prayers and balm to a wounded soul.  I thought our story was over, but God was about to show off.

We wanted more kids so started trying right away.  It always took us a bit longer to have kids then we hoped.  After over 2 years of trying we found out we were pregnant again.....with twins.  They were due in the middle of March.  They would probably come early, the end of February or beginning of March......

Again the watched my pregnancy closely.  On February 9 after a day of shopping my feel were swollen to the size of tree trunks.  The doctor told me to come to the hospital.  My blood pressure had skyrocketed.  Baby A (Jackson) was breech....they needed to deliver the babies now.  They were going to do an emergency C-section.....So they started the C-section just before midnight and at 12:19 they pulled out Jackson and at 12:20 came Lydia.

It was February 10, 2006.

On the 5 year anniversary of losing our precious Matthew.....God lavished his grace on us with Jackson Halsey and Lydia Hope.  Only God. 

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  May the name of the Lord be praised.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the gift of Jackson and Lydia....

Jackson is an athlete.  He plays basketball in a rec league and when he's not doing that he's playing basketball in our driveway.  He loves football.  He swims.  He runs cross country at school.  He's starting to play Ultimate Frisbee at school.  He is tall and strong and tough as nails. Jackson in winsome.  He reminds me so much of his Daddy.  People LOVE Jack. He makes them laugh.  He is nice.  He does rib.....at times a bit much.....but has such a sweetheart.  Jackson is LOUD.  He knows how to project his voice.  Jackson is brave.  He is the frog catcher.  Ladybug relocator.  Spider killer.  He is the one doing handstands in the middle of the dance floor....like literally....he does them.  He doesn't mind standing out....in fact he loves it.  He loves sugar and sour candy and soda.  He has such a sweet tooth.  He thinks history is interesting and doesn't love math.  He's a charmer!  He seeks forgiveness when he is wrong.  He is determined.  He is a leader.  He is a precious gift from God to our family.

Lydia is creative.  She makes things beautiful.  She loves to set a beautiful table.  She dresses with care and has an eye for cute accessories.  She is an amazing student and works very hard to do well in school.  Lydia is an expert at planning.  She will break big projects into sizable chunks and chip away at them.  She is tall and thin and soft spoken.  She is a faithful friend.  She will listen and help and include.  She has a quick and beautiful smile.  Lydia is an athlete: she runs and swims.  She is always a part of the playground games, a fierce competitor and according to her PE coach has uncanny skill at Capture the Flag.  Lydia loves roasted vegetables and homemade mac and cheese.  She likes truffles and olives.  She is a fabulous writer.  She is organized.  She is a leader.  She is a delight.  Lydia is a precious gift of God to our family.

God has been good to us.  I don't understand all that he has allowed but he does have a plan and I can attest....it is good.  It has been good.  It will be good.

PS  Andrew and Audrey if you are reading this.....please know you are gifts to our family as well.  I will blog about you both another day.....Blessings upon blessings

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Snow Days Then and Now

Snow days used to mean mess

and noise.....and laundry.....and cold....and hot cocoa....and neighborhood kids in and out

..slamming doors and fireplace roaring......and sledding 

and snowmen 

and snow bibs on and off and on and off and on and off......and cookies....and gloves......and mind you this was before noon....but the kids have grown.  Our snow days are so different....

This year the kids were in bed until 11:00.  I was in bed until 10:00....shameful and wonderful!

A nice cup of coffee and board games.....

Brunch around noon.....

Followed by

Bubble baths and good books.....

A Friends marathon.....

A surprise drop in from the Winn kids....even though we were still in our PJ's and had no makeup on and had billows of dog fur tumbling around we were happy for the sighting!  It was almost 4:00 so we should have been dressed.....we just decided not to today......

Then the younger kids did finally venture out for a bit, disappointed that not much snow was left they decided to hike over to their grandma's to see their cousin for a bit....

The rest of us played a pretty intense round of Spades....

A cake was baked.....and dinner was made, not be me.....and dishes cleared...also not by me...

Laundry was done....that was by me.....

Now we've all scattered around the house and Lydia and Audrey are playing an online trivia game, and Sophia is texting her friends, and Randy and Andrew are watching TV and talking, and Jack is playing Madden....and I'm blogging and thinking how much life has changed....and how in some ways its so much simpler....like meals...and snow days....... and in other ways it is so much more difficult....like relationships and feelings and technology.

The twins are about to turn 12.  They are begging for Instagram and iPhones and I'm wishing they still wanted Barbies and Nerf Guns....

Slow down time.....please slow down.