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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jonah: Birth to Life - A Birth Story

 I began this blog fully entrenched in foster parenting and we were going through lots of life changes with the moving and new job.  We are a little more settled now, and since I am enjoying using this blog to remember things learned, I want to go back and recap the birth story of my sweet baby boy.

      I was a roommate in college to two pre-med students.  I heard a lot of biology and chemistry talk and we discussed medical things rather often.  One thing I was particularly interested in was childbirth.  I began researching healthy medication free labor a full 7 years before I ever got pregnant.  It started with going to watch a viewing at UAH of the movie "The Business of Being Born" a documentary on how birth in the US is handled compared to other developed countries.  I decided then to try to not get an epidural.  I am not saying this the right decision for everyone, and I have no problem with women who get epidurals.  I just felt like it was a reasonable and worthwhile pursuit to try to have a medication-free labor and delivery for the short and long-term health benefits to me and my baby.  Not to mention that women have been doing so for thousands of years before modern medicine came up with ways to try to make it easier.  I got very close to succeeding! In a nut-shell -  I did not have an epidural, although I did end up accepting Nubain for about an hour in order to allow me to rest to have enough energy to do all the hard work a few hours later.

     On Thursday morning, May 17th, I felt like I was having small contractions around 8 am, but I was unsure because I had had absolutely no Braxton hicks contractions. These also had no definite start or stop, just felt sort of like cramps that were sometimes in the front of my belly, and sometimes wrapping around to my back.  John and I actually got to go and take these pictures that morning with the talented Mrs. Jennifer Gann, because he was graduating from Seminary the next day:

This one is cool because we're holding our perspective Seminary accomplishments. :) 

He was such a big basketball sticking all out front!

      By the end of the fun photo shoot, I told John I was pretty sure these were real contractions, and they were definitely getting worse, I just still couldn't feel a definite start/stop.  Thank the Lord one of our sweet teenagers from Bartlett Baptist, Megan, came over to clean that day, so while the girls were at day care, she was cleaning the apartment, and I was making sure my hospital bag was totally packed and that I had all of my motivational index cards ready to go.  These cards were really helpful over the next day.  I made about ten Bible verse inspirational cards, and then I gave John 10 starter sentence encouragement cards and had him fill in the rest (i.e.: I love it when..., You make me smile when..., I like your...).  Both the verses and my husband's written words of affirmation were very strengthening to read.  After taking Megan home, it was around 2pm, and I could tell a start and stop to the contractions, which were now getting much more painful, and so we began using the "Contraction timer" on one of my pregnancy apps on my phone.   They were about 12 minutes apart then, and only lasting 20-40 seconds in the beginning.

We were so very thankful that our next door neighbors, Jeremy and Kacie offered to take the girls for us while I would be at the hospital.  They had watched them a few weekends previously so the girls knew them and were totally comfortable with them.  John got the girls from daycare, and I made sure the girls' bags were packed for a good 3 day stay.  It was a huge relief to know they were being loved and taken care of just as well as we would have.  The 'babysitters' are now blessed to be the proud parents of their own beautiful baby girl!

WARNING! If you are a man or a squeamish female not interested in labor and delivery details - you should STOP reading until you get to the pictures of newborn baby Jonah, and that will allow you to miss the semi-gory labor/delivery details.

When the contractions got to an average of nine to ten minutes apart, lasting consistently 30-45 seconds long, we called our parents (because they lived just over 4 hours away, and we had no idea how long labor would take), and told them we were pretty sure it was going to be delivery day.  They all came straight away.   I had researched midwives and doulas, and we felt that for our first delivery we preferred the gynecological all female doctor team I had been seeing, along with a doula.  I called the doula and she headed over. In Memphis, this mother-daughter team are currently the only Christian doulas available, and after interviewing a few others, we decided we wanted someone with whom we could pray.  The mother, Marcie was on a mission trip, and so the daughter, Katie was our doula for Jonah's birth.  She gave some great suggestions on positions and techniques for easing pain. I am also very modest, and did not want any family in the delivery room and viewing all the extreme nakedness, so it was nice to have an impartial party there who could be supportive and helpful when John needed a break, but I wasn't going to be embarrassed to see again. You can learn more about them here: Precious Arrows Birthing

When our family arrived, I remember labor seemed to get harder.  In retrospect, I wish we would have had somewhere else for them all to go while I was in labor before going to the hospital, instead of all being in our small, very crowded apartment with now six adults and a child.  I did not anticipate this being a problem though, because I didn't think it would bother me.  However, I was ready to just be alone with John and the doula, so we tried going into different rooms in the house to labor.  Family followed us, and ended up convincing us we should go the hospital around midnight.  My contractions then were 4 minutes apart and lasting a full minute, and I had been deep breathing and moving around since 2pm.  It had been 10 hours of labor then, and my mom really thought I was probably dilated quite a bit.

Riding in the car was by far the most uncomfortable position for enduring contractions.  John sped a little down Germantown Parkway, and we did get pulled over by a cop.  Thank God he quickly understood as I gripped my big belly and breathed hard and squirmed and John said, "My wife's in labor, sir."  He let us go quickly!  That was pretty funny to everyone except me at the time.  We checked in at our hospital, Germantown Methodist Women's Pavilion (an EXCELLENT place to have a baby, I might add).  We had a big blue exercise ball with us, because it had been helpful at home with labor, and the nurses did give us some very condescending looks and I heard one say sarcastically, "Oh, she's going natural," as if they didn't really believe me.  I'm not sure how many women check into the hospital intending to go natural and then requesting an epidural anyway, but from their tone I guess it happens rather often.  I was a little offended.  A nice nurse checked me, and said I was only dilated 3 cm.  What a disappointment.  She explained calmly that if I was serious about not wanting an epidural I should go back home because they would only continue to make me stay hooked up to the monitors, which was uncomfortable.  She recommended we stay home until I was bleeding heavily, or my water broke, or it was just "too much to take." We were so frustrated, but decided that we would go back home. Luckily by that time, most of our visitors were so exhausted, they all went to sleep around the apartment and John and the doula and I went to our bedroom and dealt with an increasingly difficult labor.

I went into this natural labor philosophy with great optimism.  Being sent home from the hospital was a crushing blow to my optimism, but I am glad that we did. I used my index cards the most during this stretch of time.  I also listened to Christian music the entire night, and we even let our iTunes just play from John's laptop once we got to the hospital.  The most helpful song for labor was "Before the Morning" by Josh Wilson.  I think I played that one on repeat for about an hour! Music and motivational cards were my biggest helpers besides John and the doula, who took turns massaging, rubbing, hand holding, getting me anything I asked for.  Contractions are different for everyone, but for me they were kind of like being trapped in a tornado and squeezed between two semi-trucks.  I felt like I couldn't hear or talk during them most of the time, like they were loud in my head, as if I was in a strange tunnel, and the pain would kind of wrap around my whole belly and often my lower back as well.  It was hard, but bearable.  I remember moving around my bed a lot.  My favorite position was standing next to our fairly high bed, with my elbows on the edge of the bed leaning forward and swaying/rocking forward and back.  When I got too tired to stand, I kneeled alternating on the floor and then on the bed with my hands on the footboard.  Then I got to the point where I was kind of in child's pose on the bed, with my arms folded under my head, half falling asleep between contractions, only to be woken up by strong, long contractions constantly.  I was having 2 minute long contractions about 2 minutes apart most of that night.  Then the contractions got longer than 2 minutes, and were down to less than 2 minutes apart.  I was so exhausted, and starting to feel nauseous.  I had some bleeding, but not a ton.  At 7am, I told everyone I was ready to go back to the hospital.  I had now been awake for 24 hours straight, and in labor for 17 hours.  I was sure I had to be further dilated.

We endured another painful ride in our van to the hospital, this time in the day light, and I remember sending my principal a text asking her to let the faculty know I was in labor and asking for prayers.  I worked at Farmington Elementary School, and I love that faculty and staff so much.  It is a special thing to feel comfortable enough with all the teachers in your building to let them know personal details and ask for their prayers.  She sent back encouraging words: "All will be well!  It will all be worth it. Hang in there! You can do this. I promise! <3"  Did I mention I really loved working there?  We checked in to the hospital again, and met a new team of nurses, and I was only at 5cm.  Wow again.  At this point, I decided I needed some rest for the pushing later, and so I requested Stadol  - a short term narcotic that I had researched as having little to no lasting harmful effects on mom or baby if given at least 2-3 hours prior to delivery.  We were all certain I was at least that far away from delivery, so it was safe.  My hospital said they had Nubain instead, and it was essentially the same.  After a quick prayer, I decided it would be ok.  The Nubain allowed me to actually really fall asleep between contractions, and just wake up for the contractions and breathe through them, but feeling a little out of it.  It didn't take away the pain, but helped me to rest despite it.  Funnily enough, my dad's cousin was the person mixing up my medicine and saw my name and realized who I was, and we had a little family reunion the next day! The medicine wore off about 2 hours later, as expected, and I was ready to get up and moving again to deal with the labor pain.

The hospital rules were that I needed to stay hooked up to the monitors for them to watch baby's heartbeat for 20 minutes total out of every hour, which was mostly spent sitting or lying back in the bed (very uncomfortable positions).  This meant that the other 40 minutes I could move around and do as I pleased.  I spent a lot of time standing next to the bed, leaning on it as before.  I asked for the squat bar to be attached to the bed, and I also enjoyed holding on to that.  I kept feeling like I needed to pee, but every time I went to the bathroom, nothing would happen.  That was very painful and annoying.  Finally I told John I wanted to go for a walk, and he obliged me by holding that pole with my bag of fluid attached, and giving me his elbow to lean on. I was Beta Strep positive at 36 weeks, so they gave me IV anit-biotics when I checked in, and I got two full rounds before Jonah was born.  We slowly walked down to one end of the hall and back to our room.  That walk was helpful! I highly recommend you try that and wish I had been allowed to go further!  Soon after getting back to the room I had waves of nausea and threw up.  The first time I threw up, I peed all over the floor and John hoped it was my water breaking, but I was pretty sure it was finally just all the pee I had been trying to get out.  The nurse came in and checked me, and said, no that wasn't my water but that I was at 8 centimeters and it felt like my water would break any time now.  They kept telling me that after my water broke labor would speed up, so I was looking forward to it.  Minutes later I threw up again, and this time it felt just like I was holding a balloon between my legs and someone had snuck up behind me and popped it.  That was the water breaking! This was another blessing because sometimes they worry if you are Beta Strep positive and your water breaks then they do want the baby to come out soon after for risk of infection and stuff.

My nurse came back and checked me and said, "Oh wow, don't push ok? You're at ten and his head is right there! Let me go call your doctor." Nurses began to appear out of nowhere.  I was so excited I didn't even realize they were taking away the whole bottom half of the bed and my squat bar until they were gone.  I asked for the squat bar back and no one really made a move to get it.  That is my only complaint about the hospital.  My doctor had just left, so a different doctor came in and said I could push if I felt like I needed to, or I could wait, and I told her I'd wait for my doctor.  My gyno group had 5 women doctors, and I had met them all, and only one really made me feel like she wouldn't make me get an epidural or perform an episiotomy if I didn't want one.  I had a birth plan and my three biggest desires were no c-section, no epidural, no episiotomy (unless of course in an emergency - I was not going to argue if I felt like Jonah was truly in danger).  We had prayed for this to be the one doctor who would be on call when I went into labor.  Thank you Lord for answered prayer!  She followed our birth plan almost to the letter, and even prayed with us after the birth.  It was beautiful!

Once my doctor was there I remember thinking - where did they get all those stools the nurses are sitting on?  They were standing though - my bed was just raised super high.  I was calm and excited and happy and not scared.  They all had on gloves and their hands were up in front of their chests like they were all going to catch the baby! It was kind of like they were nonchalantly putting up a weak basketball guard.  I felt a little like a movie star with so many people suddenly in front of me.  My doctor followed my birth plan and began doing the vaginal massage.  They waited for me to have a contraction and then told me to push when I was ready.  I am so glad I did not get an epidural!  I knew what was happening, I had no weird side effects, I knew when to push.  As I pushed I realized I was making the weirdest noises I had ever heard in my life! I think I sounded like a cross between a cow and an orangutan!  John laughed the first few times.  I don't know if I laughed or not.  The nurses were great cheerleaders and I remember one going, "Push harder push harder push harder push harder push harder push harder push harder!!!!" during every contraction, and I thought, "Don't you think I'm pushing as hard as I can!?"

 John was the best though.  I remember him getting so very excited and smiling and taking my hand saying, "Baby this is it! He's almost here! You can do it! He's almost here!"  After about 20 minutes of hard pushing and grunting, my doctor said, "The reason he is not coming out is because you are very tight. I can see you are going to rip some, so I am going to give you a little local, it will feel like a bee sting." She was right, and I saw John wince at the same time I did when she gave me that shot.  I am glad she followed our birth plan though and did that instead of just cutting an episiotomy as some of the other doctors would have done.  A few contractions and hard long pushes later they said, "Oh! Oh! The head is out!"  I was shocked.  I guess because of the local, I didn't feel it as much as I thought I would. John was amazed and stared despite previously saying he wouldn't look.  I kept laying my head back and looking up at the ceiling and someone said, "Look, mama!"  It took me a second to realize they were talking to me, and I tried to see the little head, but the rest of my belly was still very much in the way of my view.  John, however, got a good look at the funny spectacle of a little head dangling.  The next contraction and grunting push brought out the rest of my big baby.

Jonah Garth Honea was 8 pounds, 6 ounces, 21 inches long, and had Apgar scores of 9 and 9.  (Jonah from the Bible - we love the story of God's grace to all people in that particular book, and how God uses and teaches Jonah despite his imperfections.  Garth was John's grandfather's name on his mother's side.) Little Jonah's head was very cone-shaped from all that time with me pushing, but other than that he was perfect.  I remember in the hospital he seemed so skinny and had just the biggest nose you've ever seen on a baby.  I knew nobody could replace him because no other baby I had every seen had such a schnoz!  She delivered the placenta, and it was bigger and bloodier than I had thought.  She inspected it and said it was a very healthy one.  After the birth, I did have to have "a few" stitches.  She gave me another local, and I remember watching her pulling that black stitching string a lot and wondering what her definition of "a few" was, but didn't think to ask how many stitches I was really getting.  She said, "Oh you tore just a little, right where I would have cut you anyway." Thank you Lord! Then came the mean stomach mashing from the nurses. That really hurt when they mashed my stomach a whole lot right after labor and delivery and I remember making faces and saying, "Ow! Ouch!" The nurses by this time were so impressed with us though, they said with apologetic looks, "I'm sorry, most women don't feel this either with the epidural."
First time holding him - half-laughing in surprise!
First picture I took with him as we settled in for a nap that afternoon.

Check out that big nose!

Poor tired Daddy!

One nurse who had been very brusque with us when we first arrived came up to us later and said, "Your birth experience tonight was a real blessing to me.  Your inspirational music playing all night, and your calm, polite attitude was so nice.  Thank you for letting me be a part of it."  I smiled.  I knew she was one of the ones who had thought, "Haha, no epidural, yeah right, we'll just see about that." I was surprised though at my own calmness.  I had planned to go natural but expected more complaining and swearing.  I mostly preferred to endure the contractions quietly though once they really got bigger. It was about 2:25 when I finally looked over at the clock, so I estimated that Jonah had been born 15 minutes ago, and told everyone he was born at 2:10.  It wasn't until the next day when I told someone that and John said, "No, it was 1:59." So it had been exactly 24 hours of labor.  2pm Thursday to 2pm Friday - and Jonah was born on his due date, joining the 5% club of babies who need exactly 40 gestational weeks, no more, no less, go figure!

I got taken upstairs to the recovery room in a wheel chair, and the nurses on that floor looked wide eyed and said, "Wow, we don't see this much anymore! Go mama!" I smiled.  I was so tired.  John was too.  He was such a wonderful support and never once said, "Just get the epidural."  He was awesome and did whatever I told him to do. Although he did draw the line at biting.  I bit down on his hand really hard during one contraction at home and he informed me that was not going to be allowed.  Haha! I don't blame him.  He stayed with us at the hospital until almost 5, but then had to go home to eat and get ready to go graduate at 7.  A birth and a graduation in the same day is a little rare, but seems just typical for our busy family.  John's side of the family went with him to see him walk, and when they left it was just me and my mom in the room and then the lactation consultant walked in. She tried to come up and tell me all about breast feeding and I just kept falling asleep.  My mom apologized for me, and she came back later.  I slept a lot in between feeding and snuggling Jonah.  I enjoyed my stay in the hospital and was a little scared to bring this precious little bundle home with us and being responsible and not able to just page a nurse.  However, the photographer said, "I remember feeling like I jsut showed up and someone handed me this baby, and I was like, whose baby is that? Where did she come from?" Well, I did not feel that way at all.  I worked so hard for that baby, and he had my big nose.  I knew exactly whose it was and was still feeling where he came from for weeks!

The car ride home was the first time I cried in the whole experience.  I remembered the painful night rides to the hospital and how awful those trips had physically felt.  I remembered the car wreck on this road a year before, and how the first thing I said to John when I understood the gravity of the situation was, "I'm so glad I didn't die because I really want to be a mommy."  Now I was sitting in the back next to his carseat, unable to take my eyes off of his beautiful little sleeping face.  The tears just streamed down that sunny day.  I hadn't cried in labor or delivery at all, but I sure was weeping on that drive home!  John looked in the rear view and said, "What's wrong babe?"  I stammered, "I'm just so so so thankful for him!"  He smiled.  Then it occurred to me what my husband had witnessed, "Do you think I'm gross now?" He didn't even have to think before saying sweetly, "NO!  I am more in love with you today than I have ever been.  You did great!"  I smiled through my tears and kept crying almost all the way home.

It was back to reality pretty fast though when we arrived home and got the girls back. My mom stayed for a week and then John's mom stayed for a week, and then it was hello mommy life!  The first 6 weeks were pretty rough and Jonah cried a lot.  Now I know we probably held him too much because he doesn't really like to be held that much.  He'd rather be propped up and looking around at everyone. Once he learned to smile at 5 weeks though he became a much more friendly baby. Here's his next nine months in picture review:
9 Days Old
1 Month - I took all 3 babies to AL for 11 days while John went on some church trips.
So, I didn't have his age blocks with us.
December - He would NOT lie back on the blanket, so we had to change positions.



 It was all totally worth it! A trial and a triumph for sure!
February, bedtime self-take :) 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

House Parenting: Recent Happenings and Ramblings

People often ask us "How are you doing down there?"  This is how we are doing.

Standing at the low window sill.
Jonah is crawling and pulling up on everything in the house, which scares us to death and makes us very proud at the same time.   He hungrily drinks 8 oz. bottles now instead of 6 oz. and is now waking up nightly around midnight and 4 am for bottles and we can't figure out how to get him back on a normal sleeping routine so we can at least get a 6 hour stretch again. So, we try to take naps when we can fit them in to our day. I am reading that babies go through sleep schedule changes when they hit new milestones like this crawling/pulling up business.  However, I thought he'd be more tired from all the increased activity and sleep better.  Wrong again.  It is 1:20 am, and I am awake because I was the lucky one to get to take a nap today, and thus I got the midnight bottle duty. He's too cute to be annoyed at though.
Talking to his reflection

Standing by pulling up on the TV stand.
 The older kids continue to amaze us by alternately being helpful and respectful and then saying or doing really strange and disrespectful things.  I still don't know how much of their behavior is just teenager stuff or just them or just because we haven't parented teenagers before and maybe we suck at it.  All of the kids constantly try to get out of doing household chores. We had them do the "5 Love Languages" quizzes for their appropriate ages, and so we've been trying to reach out to them more specifically the ways they responded to feeling the most loved.  We can't tell if this is helping or not yet, but I certainly see more smiles! I don't know if you can count your effectiveness in facial expressions, but sometimes it seems like the only way around here.  The other baby walks now and thankfully, hits Jonah less, so we can leave them alone together in a playpen or baby zone we've created with rugs, toys, and baby gates, for about 2 minutes now before either one begins to cry. We signed new privacy forms the other day, so I don't think I can say much else about the kids.

We have almost finished decorating the house to make it feel more like "home" in most rooms.  We have added several things to the walls, including lots of pictures of the kids here, and bought some rugs to balance out the super hard concrete floors.  It is a little different though having the village furniture instead of our own.  I mean, I really miss our big L-shaped cuddler couch, but I am glad at least we have our mattress and bedroom furniture with us. We struggle to keep our room picked up though.  It is difficult to share a bedroom with both your husband and your baby.  It hardly ever seems like a good time to do our never-ending laundry, especially around Jonah's nap times during the day when he is in the crib and we need to sort clothes or put them away.  The kids get points taken away on their behavior score-sheets if their room isn't clean...we would have no points if we were on a score-sheet.  That makes me feel guilty, but not guilty enough to sacrifice my devotion or run time for cleaning my room time.

Speaking of run time, we have been exercising more! This at least makes us feel good, even if results are slow to see.  My goal is to get back to pre-pregnancy weight and being able to easily run a 10 minute mile by the time Jonah turns one.  I'm trying very hard to get there.  I ran an 11 minute mile last week.  John is doing well with diet and exercise too.  We have a little competition between us that whoever can get to their goal weight first and maintain it for a month, gets to choose our next real vacation location!  However, with absolutely no breaks or other houseparents down here, that vacation is seeming less and less plausible.  I want to go the Grand Canyon.  John is undecided in location but positive he is going to win.  I just stopped nursing/pumping, and I have a feeling now that I don't have that as an excuse to eat a few extra calories, I'll be able to eat less, and therefore maybe win.  I'll let you know how that turns out.

We are really enjoying our wonderful pastor and his sweet wife at the church we attend down here! They constantly ask us how we are doing, and had us all over for the Super Bowl, and we all had just a lovely time.  I didn't even mind staying over there with grumpy sleepy babies until almost 10 pm, because it was so nice to just be away from the house and in the company of other grown-ups! However, the rest of the congregation is a little stand-offish, or maybe just busy.  John has taken some of the kids hunting at one nice older gentlemen's house a few times, and that was awesome!  Other than that, no contact, no friends, no other adults to talk to down here.  I literally go to Sunday school to see/hear other adults.   I love the messages in the sermons at church, and I am learning how to worship to a much older style of music, but I miss having friends in my church family and hearing some contemporary music. Sometimes it gets lonely.  We'd like to make some friends.  We talk to people in church a lot, but you can't really invite yourself over to their house with a pack of kids.  We are thinking of inviting people over here, and just hoping the kids will all behave, and the other adults won't blame us if they don't.  We had such great church families in the last few places we lived, and built relationships quickly, so this is kind of weird for us.  We also know that we are kind of weird to them though, I mean, you don't see a lot of couples with a group of other peoples' children living with them.  I also know the true adage, "You've got to Be a friend to have friends." So, I am on a quest to try to "Be" a friend. John feels the same way, plus he misses getting to speak/preach.  After speaking at least once or twice a month for the last two years, it's kind of strange and difficult for him to go a few months in a row without sharing a message.  I feel that it is making him an even better speaker, though, because the few times he has gotten a chance to preach or share, he has been amazing! I am so proud of him! I can really see now how seminary taught him some neat things about the Bible, the history, the Greek and Hebrew language, and lots of other cool stuff.

We've had some crazy weather down here lately. It has been beautiful weather many days in January with upper 60s and even 70 degree days, where we can take the babies running with us and all enjoy the fresh air.  Then we have also had some severe thunderstorms, tornado watches and warnings, flash flood warnings, and cold days.  Tornado warnings result in us all sitting in the hallway together for about 30 to 45 minutes at a time.  This is an interesting way to get everyone to talk to each other and spend time with one another while silently praying against impending doom (at least, that's what I'm doing.)

We've also finally struck on a style of nightly devotions we like for the kids.  We were doing a children's devotion for younger kids then a teen/college age devotion for older kids. This felt a little disjointed and awkward at times and the kids seemed to zone out.  Now, we read a Bible story from the children's bible, then read a corresponding adult Bible passage from Stormie Omartian's "Praying Through the Bible." This flows well! For example, I read the beginning half of the story of Noah and the Ark in the Children's Bible, then John read the devotion which quoted a piece of that story and then went on to highlight how important it is for us to listen to God and follow his will, despite what people may say or think, just as Noah must have been severely ridiculed for building an ark in the middle of the desert.  We are happy about this.

One of our good friends procured tickets to the Southern Miss/Memphis Basketball game yesterday, and John's parents just happened to be here for the weekend, so they stayed home and watched Jonah, and John and I took the kids to Hattiesburg for the game.  I did not have very high hopes for this sporting event simply because I am a recovering book nerd from high school who hated sporting events, but I really enjoyed it!  Due to having lived in Memphis longer than I have lived in Mississippi, and having enjoyed Memphis far more, I cheered for Memphis, and was happily proud for my team! I wore blue in a sea of white, and had a good time.  I tried to take a decent picture of this without any of our kids in it, for privacy's sake, and this was the best I could do:

The kids complain all the time about not doing things, but then didn't act as though they enjoyed this, so that was kind of frustrating.  If you have or know teenagers  - what do you do to make them happy? I'd love some tips on this.  They aren't allowed to have cell phones and they have limited computer time with no social media allowed, and those rules alone make them very disgruntled.  Suggestions on how to otherwise entertain them are welcome! We have done movie nights ("Here Comes the Boom" was a good family movie for us, but does have quite a lot of UFC type fighting - maybe not good for little kids), and gone skating, had them exercise with us, and gone shopping.  There's not a whole lot of choices down here unless we drive 45 minutes to Meridian or 50 minutes to Hattiesburg. If you have ideas for how to entertain and please teenagers please comment below or send me a facebook message!

So, that's "how we're doing." :)

Pinterest Project: Dresser Refurb

I have always enjoyed painting.  I like painting walls and pictures and furniture. I saw this ugly dresser when we moved in, and knew we needed it for storage space in the living/dining area, but it sat there looking rather ugly for the first 3 months.  After doing my big cooking day, I found more time and was able to accomplish painting this over the course of a few days!  I followed instructions from these blogs:
This lady does an amazing job on a ton of projects: Before Meets After. This is the specific one I was interested in sort of copying: Pretty tall dresser however, she uses real chalk paint, and I just used the homemade recipe from pinterest!

This one was helpful too: Shabby Sweet Tea with a beautiful turquoise dresser.

Here's my before:      

Here's the after:

I began with a pale blue/green color Olympic paint from Lowe's, and followed the chalk paint recipe using plaster of paris and hot water.  I cleaned the pieces of the dresser, removed all the knobs, and painted two solid coats of the chalk paint and let it dry over night.

The next day I gave it the aged/textured look by scrubbing all pieces with a sand paper block and then scraping them a little with a 5-in-1 painter's tool.  I blew and wiped off the excess dry paint this created, then used a rag (old ripped up T-shirt) to wipe on the brown glaze.  I used a wet rag (old cloth diaper type of material) to wipe off the excess glaze.

I let that dry overnight, then came the hardest part - the final waxing.  I have to admit that I did not understand the purpose of this and found it tedious and difficult - like waxing a car. I begrudgingly waxed every piece (took about 35 minutes of tough work), then went back to wipe off the wax (the can said to wait 10-15 minutes, I don't think the extra time hurt).  As soon as I began wiping off the wax, I loved the shiny, polished look it gave the wood.  I understood.

Putting on the wax reminded me of those trials in life we don't really understand or appreciate. Wiping it off to see the beautiful result was like finding how God is going to use that trial for His glory later.  I hated the car accident I was in 2 years ago.  Now, I know what fear is like, and we have a small savings account and are able to use some of that money to prepare for adoption and bless others when we feel God leading.  I would not willingly have gone through the pain and fear that followed that wreck, but I can gladly look back and say God has used it for His glory, just as His word says He will!

Romans 8:28

New Living Translation (NLT)
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[a]for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

I also struggled in Memphis last year being a foster parent, teaching first grade, and being pregnant. Please understand that John was an amazing husband and father and helped immensely with everything or I would not have survived!  Even as a team though, it's not easy waking up multiple times a night with a tiny 3 month old who frequently vomits, while you are in the last half of pregnancy, and then to get up and go to work (or for John - seminary classes and work) the next day. Then having a newborn along with a 7 month old and 17 month old made me often wonder, "God, if we don't get to adopt these girls, why would you put us through such a hard time with them right now!? What is your plan here?" I felt like it was all in vain and selfishly wished I could just be pregnant with no other babies around, or enjoy Jonah all by himself.  However, starting this job and getting another little baby (after we were told they do not take children under 2), seemed like God saying, "See, I was just preparing you to be the best mom you could be to two babies at once."  Juggling life with two small babies isn't easy by any means, and I think twins would be easier because they would be on the same age/ability level and hopefully similar sleep/eating schedules too.  However, when you have two babies at unnatural age distances (less than 10 months apart), it is awkward.  Madi and Jonah were 7 months apart, the new baby is also unnaturally close in age to Jonah.  However, I think God puts people (and babies) in our lives to teach us and to use us to teach them.  I haven't finished learning from this experience yet, and I often feel like I am failing although I am daily striving to be a better mommy and teacher to the kids we have now.  I am confident that one day I will be able to look back and see how God used this situation for His glory too. I am reminded of a favorite passage of mine:

James 1:2-4

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

Trials and Temptations

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faithdevelops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The final step in this project was to order some better knobs.  I love these brushed copper looking ones John found for me online! Hard work and finishing touches made this dresser a triumph! I wish the pictures could show better the color - it is very pale turquoise, but it looks almost white in the pictures.

Before - plain wood

After - Painted with brass knobs
I really really wish I could get better pictures of this.  Even John likes it and has given me permission to paint more furniture now!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pinterest Project - Meal Prep Day

     I decided in my quest to spend more time on things that matter the most, I need to try to cook more efficiently.  The older kids here are very critical of my cooking, and difficult to please in the food department. I guess this is common among teenagers, but since I didn't expect it, I have had some difficulty adjusting to their negativity.  I am not a bad cook, really, and I like to look up new recipes and experiment with old recipes too.  I try to cook healthy foods though, and they are more interested in fried foods and fast food. Many days though, cooking seems like more of a chore than the delight like it used to be.  Being a full time parent to 2 babies and 3 older children in a pretty large house zaps more time and energy than you might think.  Cooking in the evenings about half of the time is fun and enjoyable and the other half of the time is just work.  I saw several pinterest ideas about how to prepare many meals at once and freeze them for later use, and I decided to do it.  It was an all-day endeavor the first week in January.  We grocery shopped on a Wednesday and I made the mistake of freezing the meats we were going to use.  I would not do that next time.  Because Jonah had a doctor's appointment that morning, the cooking project didn't begin until 2pm on Thursday.  I would also start much earlier the next time I do this, but it was the last day we had the relief parents at the house to help with the kids, and I was so excited to start the project that I just pulled out all these vegetables and washed them, then cut them up. Washing and cutting a ton of vegetables took about two and a half hours.

Then I stopped, pumped, made dinner for that night, ate dinner, and began again.  I also do not recommend stopping the project for three hours and then starting again.  However, this time when I continued, one of our sweet girls jumped in gladly to help and it went much faster adding all of the ingredients to the bags.  I made recipes from a combination of sites to try to achieve meals our kids would eat so here is the list/links/recipes I used:

This mom is very good at explaining the best techniques to go about this huge cooking day, and I used her recipes for Sausage and Bean Supper, Chicken Tortilla Soup, and Chicken Taco Soup: Loving My Nest Blog. These were all liked, however the taco soup didn't go as well as I'd hoped.  I'm not sure why.  They love Taco Bell food, and that soup tasted great!

Then I also made the Hawaiian Chicken and Teriyaki Pork Chops from this lovely blog, which I intend to use more of for sure! Saving You Dinero. The Hawaiian chicken was the family favorite of the entire house.  However, the portions weren't quite enough for us, so when I thawed it in the crock pot I also added sliced sausage and everyone loved it!  I did the same thing with the pork chops, but they weren't as fabulous.

And last but not least I also made the Healthy Mama BBQ Chicken and Stephanie's Goulash from this neato blog:  Mama and Baby Love  These taste healthy.  In my home, that means only John and I like them.  However, since I made 2 bags of each, I am just going to add some more seasonings/sauces to them the next time.  The BBQ chicken just needs some actual BBQ sauce and I think everyone will like it.  The goulash tastes like spaghetti sauce but with larger sliced veggies.  The kids weren't impressed.  I think she has a great base though to start, but we needed more flavor for these picky eaters.

I also made my regular pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and the onion seasoning pouch.  All in all, I got 15 frozen meals which required few if any side items, and very little clean up for about a total of 7 hours of work.  I was exhausted going to bed at midnight that night.  However, after using over half of these, I can tell you, IT WAS WORTH IT!!!!

I feel like I have so much more time every single day.  I still cook a regular meal about once or twice a week, and we have a meal at church on Wednesdays, and we do leftover on Sundays, so all in all, I have a ton more free time.  In that free time, I have accomplished several other projects I will explain very soon! If you have been thinking about doing this all day project you should!  I wish I had done it on a Saturday at the beginning of every month while I was teaching.  It would have made life much easier for John and I to eat healthy meals. We used our last bag on January 30th, and I am currently putting together a grocery list to go tomorrow and have my big prep day this week!

OK, this is the gross part.  There was one recipe that called for chicken thighs, but I found this big bag of leg quarters and decided it was cheaper to buy them and then cut off all the fat/skin myself.  I would not do that next time unless they are boneless, because putting chicken in the crock pot all day with bones means you have to pick lots of bones out of your food.  However, this is the fat and skin I pulled off that chicken!

Gross! This picture has been inspiring me in my quest to eat healthier and exercise more.  This is chicken fat, but it looks the same in our bodies.  Nasty, yellow fatty deposits just under the skin that could be burned through exercise, have got to go!  If we really do value our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit, then it's our responsibility to eliminate as much of this as possible.  I know this next verse is specifically about avoiding sexual sin, but I feel like it is totally applicable for also avoiding the sin of gluttony, and it often inspires me:

1 Corinthians 6:19:
19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.