Summer, Diary 2, 2016

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today is Memorial Day, a day where we remember those who have given their life for our country. To honor their sacrifice, their love, and their courage, so that others might be safe, might be protected, and might be free.

I know my country is not perfect. It is a large land full of many different people from many different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, mindsets, and circumstances. But here is the thing… we fight so much because we have the freedom to. This country has immense freedom, more than we realize or even wish to acknowledge.

So I want to remember the good of my country. I want to uphold what is right in it, so that the good will grow and grow until there is no more room for the bad.

In America we are free. Rejoice in it. Use it. Do not squander it.

We have the freedom to pray. Cherish that and pray for those who don’t.

We have the freedom to worship. Worship without fear and celebrate.

We have the freedom to form our own lives, to choose to sit back and do nothing, or to work hard and make something of ourselves. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We do not have the right to happiness, but the pursuit of it. Whether you have a happy life, a good life, or not depends on you. That is your freedom. So form your life well.

We have freedom with our children. Realize what a blessing this is— to be given charge of a brand new life who will rely on you to train and guide them so that they can grow up and live their own life. Don’t squander this! Raise them with all of your might, or give them the hope of a good life by finding the best parents possible for them. In this land of freedom, don’t abuse yours by taking away theirs just because you don’t want the inconvenience. There are too many options out there. Be that child’s blessing, however that might be.

We have the freedom to make our voice heard, through online blogs, social media, sitting in a cafe with friends, or voting. Use that freedom. Don’t waste it by saying “My voice will never be heard, my vote means nothing.”

We have the freedom to help. Pass it on, no matter who it is.

We have the freedom to do our best. Reach for the stars!

With freedom comes responsibility. Freedom is a gift to be cherished and utilized. It is an amazing tool that can become deadly by those who take it for granted, who use that freedom to take instead of to give.

Our founding fathers did not begin this country, and our men and women who have fought and died, did not sacrifice to gain and keep freedom for us to abuse it.

Make their sacrifice worth it.

Live well.

 

“This is my family. … It’s little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.”

Lilo and Stitch

***

1st Peter 2

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

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The Surprise Has Arrived :-)

You know, I have a good life.

Now I say it that way because life here on the Wisconsin homestead has been CRAZY these past few months… and as a mother of four, with a garden and school starting up in a month and the day-to-day battle in keeping house… well, one can get overwhelmed. But life really is good.

The last time I blogged I was still pregnant. Then hey presto, mid-Spring a cute little package showed up with huge charcoal eyes and an adorable, wide smile. Our William is the happiest baby ever… he’s been smiling since week one, and he smiles all the time. He’s also an alarming go-getter. He babbles non-stop, tries to copy the motion of my mouth as I talk to him, and is already trying to scoot himself on his belly. This will work better when he figures out how not to trap his arms under him when he rolls over. In the meantime, his nose is getting to know the carpet on a deep and meaningful level. I think the friendship has promise.

This was the first pregnancy where I had an epidural at the birth. I had always been against them before, because of all the stories I heard where the mother had one and then couldn’t feel to such an extent that she couldn’t tell what was going on and couldn’t push well and the birth took a much longer time than it needed to. Unfortunately, I have back labor, and after having my daughter (which took a total of three miserable hours) I swore I had to find some kind of pain management/killer that worked. I’m not afraid of pain, and I actually have a high pain tolerance… but back labor makes me crumple. Normal labor hurts; add back labor into it and it’s three times worse. I’ve had it with three out of four pregnancies. I decided that if I didn’t have back labor, I would just have William naturally, med-free. If I did, I was going for the epidural (nothing I had tried in any previous birth worked). And wouldn’t you know it, my old friend showed up again, worse than ever. I tried to stick it out for about an hour, and then I thought “This is crazy! I can’t even breathe and I’m bruising my poor husband’s arm with my fingernails… someone stick me!” And they did. And it was glorious. The pain completely went away, but I still had total muscle control. Why hadn’t I done this before?! I spent the rest of the birth sipping ice water and chatting with my mom and Sackett Man while we watched Guardians of the Galaxy. The actual birth took about two minutes, and then there he was… a bawling, fighting, beautiful baby boy who I got to hold for thirty minutes before they took him to clean him up. He spent the entire time howling his fury to me. It was actually hilarious. And when he was done he calmed down as if nothing was wrong and just looked at me with his big, dark eyes. When Sackett Man spoke he craned his head back and back and back till he could see his Daddy’s face. It was beautiful.

William

William

So here is our little surprise. The baby boy we hadn’t planned and hadn’t expected, but God knew we needed him. 🙂

God Knows Best

I have been in to the hospital three times now with false labor. Well, the first time was because of some blood. The next two times I had contractions 3-4 minutes apart for hours before they suddenly would just disappear! What?! Why? The last time I was positive it was real. It hurt so bad and was so constant! And then ‘poof’. Like magic. I was SO FRUSTRATED! We live 40 minutes from the hospital. We have three kids that we have to drop off at a relative’s house every single time. My husband usually ends up taking off the next day of work because I end up so sore that I can hardly move the next day. These trips are not simple or easy, despite the medical staff always breezily telling us “Oh, just keep coming in each time. Even if it’s a dozen more times. No problem. One of these times it will happen!”

No problem? Says them. It’s a two day ordeal for us.

What I have come to realize though is this: I think God is stopping it each time. Why? Because a) Sackett Man has got the mother cold of mother colds. He wouldn’t be able to hold or kiss his new baby boy. And b) stomach flu has hit our house today. Not exactly the best time to introduce a new baby into the family.

So I’m okay now. I wasn’t before; I was getting mad and frustrated with the emotional and physical stress of thinking “This is it! Hello, William!” and then having it not happen. Now, this morning, I’ve hit a new understanding that God has not only kept this pregnancy healthy and safe, kept me from having him prematurely (yay!), but He is also making sure that William comes when we are healthy and ready to receive him.

So I’m taking a deep breath, and I’m just going to wait for the germs to leave us. Because I know I won’t be pregnant forever, despite what my pregnancy hormones keep telling me. I just need to be patient. God knows what He’s doing. 🙂

Call Me the Dancing Panda

I’m a mother of three. Soon to be four. I’m short. When I picture myself (aka my body, not my face) I see Rachel Luttrell— short but fit and hard, curved and slender, and then I walk past a mirror and go “AARGH!!!”

I do yoga and bollywood. My 3 year old giggles. (I choose to believe this is because he’s 3, and not because I look like Po the panda trying to do kung fu.)

I used to be a dance teacher during my college years. I weighed 124 pounds of fit muscle when I got married at age 18. Then I did full-time college plus worked two jobs. My time to devote to staying that physically fit dwindled to nill. Then I began struggling with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which played havoc with my weight), and THEN I started having kids.

In today’s day and age it’s really hard to maintain a good self image. Even during my dancing years it was hard; I have curves where most dancers don’t. I’m curvy up top and generously endowed in the back. My thighs have never, ever had a gap between them and I’ve never been able to wear boots that go higher than my ankles; my calves have always been too thick. Being around stick-thin girls with bird-bones and barely-there curves made me feel big, even though I wasn’t.

I wear size 12 pants. My stomach has stretch marks running up and down from my ribs to my hips. My hips and legs look like Chel’s from “El Dorado.” I’m a 38D. I have Eyelid Inflammation (Blepharitis), so I always seem to have bald spots or thin patches in my eyelashes.

My toes are stubby.

But you know what my boys tell me? That I look like a princess. My daughter loves to hold my cheeks with her little 18 month old hands, and after looking at me with large, shining eyes, she kisses me and says “Uv U” and “P’tty.”

Sackett Man thinks it’s the best thing ever when I decide to do bollywood. Sweat, tangled hair, Po the panda doing Dancing Goddess and all. He usually reserves a seat on the couch for the 45 minute show.

Why am I writing about this right now? Because of this blog right here, by Nicole Jankowski, which hit me right where most women feel the most vulnerable. Our self image.

Everything telling us we’re not pretty enough, or doing enough to take care of ourselves? Doesn’t matter. Yes, be healthy. Yes, take care of yourself. And listen to those who live with you and actually SEE you. Every day. That new beauty article can’t see you. Your computer doesn’t care. Those big-time designers, whose clothes almost no one can wear, can’t see you and don’t know you.

Your husband, your kids? They know you. They see you. And I’ll bet they wouldn’t want you any other way than just the way you are.

“Stories of Our Children: Part Two”

We may not have been ready before to become parents, but after our little lost one, we were more than ready.

We began trying soon after for another child, with no success. I have always had some problems with hormone levels, which meant that I have always worried that I would have trouble conceiving. Three years passed, trying to conceive, and failing. During that time I learned I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, a confirmation for me that there was something wrong with me. I was broken.

I struggled. At times I had such feelings of brokenness, inadequacy, and failure, a sense of something being broken and wrong with me inside, as though I’d been made wrong. Sackett Man was always there, no matter how up or down I was, loving me and encouraging me. I thank God every day that He gave me Sackett Man as my husband; without him, I don’t know what I would have done.

Then came news, deep in the middle of winter, that would change our lives. We learned that one of Sackett Man’s relations was expecting a baby boy. She didn’t feel she was ready to be a parent, to be the kind of mother she wanted her child to have. She was still young, still unsure of where she wanted to go with her life. Her then-ex boyfriend was also not in any position to raise a child. She wanted her child to have a stable, Christian, married father and mother, with a good and steady home, who she felt would raise the child as best as possible. So she decided to put her child up for adoption.

The moment she told us about her decision I felt an instant connection that I didn’t fully understand. I ignored it, and we supported her the best we could, but it quickly became a matter of desperation for me. After our loss, I could not imagine giving up your child. She remained fixed on adoption, and my feeling of desperation increased; all I could think was that another child was going to be lost. I knew it sounded irrational, and tried to fight against it, but finally I told Sackett Man that I thought we should offer to adopt her child. At first he was against it, worried about the adverse affect it could have on the family relationships. Would it be too awkward for her, when we visited? Would she have a hard time letting go? Would there be trouble if she still felt maternal urges even as we tried to be the baby’s parents? Were we ready for such a big step? I didn’t know; and at that point, I didn’t care. The connection I felt was so strong, as if it were my child she was carrying. All I knew was that if she was serious about going through with adoption, then I wanted him, with a passion.

For two months we prayed and talked, and I cried. She was nearing her seventh month, and we still hadn’t asked. I felt like time was running out.

And then it happened: she asked us. She had been hesitant, she said, because she didn’t want to create an awkward situation for us… but then she thought about how much we wanted a family and how hard it had been for us, and she finally decided it was better to ask and leave it up to us.

It was such an answer to prayer! I laughed and then I cried. We said yes!!! Absolutely, we wanted to adopt!

I thought that would be it, we would move forward with all of the legalities and red tape and in the end we would have a son. If only I had known. The ex-boyfriend still hadn’t even consented to adoption. If he did, then he had to consent to us being the adoptive parents. They lived in a different state than us, so we had to comply with two separate states’ adoption laws. We still had to be evaluated and looked into in order to receive approval for adopting. We had to find lawyers. We had to figure out if we needed just lawyers (since it was an in-family adoption) or if we had to go through two adoption agencies and lawyers.

Then one evening in late summer we got a phone call. She was going to look into other families, because she was too afraid that if her ex-boyfriend found out we were the adoptive couple, he would back out of the adoption deal altogether (because then she would have the upper hand, so-to-speak, since we are her family).

I have rarely felt such horrible desperation and anger. We thought that the ex had known about us; to find out he was okay with adoption, but hadn’t been asked about us, was a complete shock. We prayed, begged, and waited. I went from being completely fine (because I refused to think about it) to being a complete mess. I ranted and raved between bouts of tears.

A week later we got another call. She had decided to brave her ex-boyfriend’s unpredictable nature, and told him. Not only did he agree to us being the adoptive parents, he was excited about it! He had met us and gotten to know us the previous Christmas, and actually felt relief because he knew us. His child was not going to disappear into the void, given to some strangers.

At this point we only had three weeks to finalize all of the legal details, go through a home inspection, get approved, and get ready for a new addition to our lives. I went into a nesting phase to end all nesting phases; my office was completely emptied of everything. I swept, mopped, and then got on my hands and knees with a toothbrush and a sponge and scrubbed until you could have eaten off that floor. I cleaned the walls. My mom gave me a dresser she’d had in storage and the baby bassinet she’d carefully stored in her attic for years. I cleaned it all and set it up in the room. I added a changing table and a rocking chair.

And after those two  days I turned to the rest of the house, whether it needed it or not.

Being a family adoption, we learned that the process would be naturally faster. And we only needed lawyers, no adoption agency, which sped everything up even more. The home inspection was all of one hour long. The inspector, before she left, assured us that– although she had to submit the paperwork– our approval was pretty much guaranteed. Another blessing from God!

The same day, that same hour even, we got the call that our boy was born, eight pounds of long-limbed beauty! The moment the inspector left we threw our things into the car and drove three hours across the state line and to the hospital. I was shaking as we entered the hospital room. He was laying in his little hospital crib, sleeping, but the moment he heard Sackett Man’s voice he opened his eyes and searched the room until he found the source, and then he couldn’t stop looking at Chris. He quieted and snuggled into my arms whenever I held him. I couldn’t believe how beautiful he was, how big his eyes were, how his fingers curled around mine. I had been dreaming about him for three chaotic, crazy months, and now everything just stilled as we looked at each other.

We named him Roman.

I was a mother.

I was a mother.

We stayed with my in-laws that first week. I was honored and so, so happy when she (the bio. mother) let Roman come home from the hospital with me. I slept in a twin bed by his crib, and I fed him with a bottle throughout the night.

Needless to say, that first night was long. He woke up every hour and a half, and finally I just pulled him into bed with me and wrapped him in my arms and held him close. Then he slept. He’d just wanted me.

I quit working full time, to stay home, and I was so happy! Roman fit into our lives as though we’d had him ourselves. I couldn’t believe how natural it was; our lives had been turned upside down in a matter of months, but we couldn’t imagine it being any other way.

Three months later we had the final inspection (that insured that we were being good parents and that Roman was thriving), which lasted all of ten minutes, and then we went to court and the papers were signed off and filed. Roman was officially ours.

All we ever wanted was our own child. God answered our prayer in a wonderful, beautiful way.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 11.40.35 AM

It has been two months. Oh my word, what has changed in two months!

My eldest has started kindergarten. I remember when he was little bitty, when his hair stood straight up and was pale blonde, making it look like he had dandelion fluff instead of hair! Now he’s six and doing school. Oh boy. But we’re homeschooling, so I actually get to spend more time with him than before! 🙂

The second change is that our daughter is now eating with a fork and a plate, is sleeping through the night, and is now weaned and just takes a sippy cup before bed.

This summer I had a nagging cold, and then I began to get some awful headaches, which for me is a sign that the cold had migrated and turned into a sinus infection. The ONLY reason I tested was because I wanted to be able to say “No, I’m not pregnant, dose me up and kill this thing!”

Good news: I didn’t have a sinus infection.

Better news: I’M PREGNANT!!!

Welcome to the third change. As of March, Rose will no longer be the youngest in the family. SURPRISE! Are you? Surprised? We were! And when I say surprised, I mean shocked, bamboozled, “How in the world did THAT happen?!”

Why, you ask? Why should we be so surprised? Haven’t we ever heard of the birds and the bees?

Yes, in fact, we have.

However, the fact that it happened is a miracle.

I will be telling the stories over the next few posts, but the long and short of it is that I never believed I would ever, ever, EVER get pregnant on my own. The only other natural pregnancy I had we lost, and since then I have needed medical intervention to succeed at conceiving. I have also needed medical intervention to make it possible to go full term.

Our last child, Rose, was full term. 🙂 And now I’m pregnant on my own!

I had to go in for blood tests and an ultrasound to figure out how far along I was. I had no symptoms beyond the headaches, and the fact that my jeans were not buttoning properly anymore. I attributed it to three weekends of birthday parties and consuming too much pizza and cake. Turns out I’m already three months along, due in March.

With this news, and reeling from it and adjusting to it, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how God has given us each of our children, and their unique stories, and how much struggle Sackett Man and I have been through to be blessed with the amazing children we have. I would like to write them down, to share with those who wish to read it, and to have to show our kids when they’re older.

Hopefully the stories will be worth your reading! And I promise not to hold back when we learn if I should be decorating in pink or in blue. 🙂