Friday, May 31, 2013

Painting with Pool Noodles

Matthew is a late sleeper generally (hallelujah!) but that means that by the time he wakes up, it's usually already too hot for him to be outside. So we're having to get more creative with inside activities to fill that extra time we would normally be out.

This week I picked up a pool noodle at the grocery store.

Today I brought it home and proceeded to slice it into little medallions. My trusty scissors and I went to work carving and whittling away different shapes into the foam and after about 20 minutes, I had 6 or 7 pieces.

I sat Matthew down with some paint and the shapes and we went to town.

I already had the paint and the paper. The noodle was $1.99 and I only used about a foot of it so I have the rest of it left for other projects. So using only 1/4th of it means that this project cost me an additional 50cents on top of what I had on hand. Not too shabby!

My tips:
Use sharp scissors and you'll get cleaner lines than I did.
Make sure your slices are straight otherwise the image won't stamp right.
Don't make your cuts too close together because it starts to shred the foam.
Wash them right away and you can use them again!

I'd welcome some suggestions for other shapes. The noodles I've seen so far have been perfectly round. I'm hoping to find one of the scalloped ones so I can make some flowers too.

Let me know if you try this!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes

Have I mentioned that my son is brilliant?

Well, not really. I mean he is really smart if I do say so myself, but I'm not talking about his academic prowess at the moment. But the things he says teach me and astound me on a regular basis.

One of the things I did through my pregnancy and since Matthew was born was pray over him. I really enjoy praying over his whole body. I pray for ears to hear God's Word and Spirit, feet to bring the Good News to people, hands to work hard and to serve, eyes to see people as Jesus sees them, knees to bow in humility, lips to speak the truth in love, a heart of compassion and tenderness, a sound mind to discern the will of God. When he was little and would fall asleep in my arms, I would move my hands around his body, praying those things for him.

God is answering my prayers beyond my imagination. He is crafting in my little boy a heart for the Lord that could only come from God. It moves me to tears and humility because I have so much to learn. I want to be the kind of mom who models those things too. I admit I'm farther away in that department. Much farther.

Matthew is teaching me so much.

At Christmastime, we did Advent activities with him each night. He was always so excited. He would come to me many times throughout the day and ask for Advent. He'd bring the Advent Bible and ask me to read it. He would ask me to play the story from his Advent ornament. His reminded me to remember Christ's birth and anticipate His return with enthusiasm and joy.

Before Easter, we were teaching him about Palm Sunday. I cut a palm frond from our tree and brought it inside, and we practiced shouting "Hosanna!" We read from the adult Bible, we read from his Bible with pictures and we even watched some youtube video clips from various movies that have reenacted it. It didn't seem to be penetrating and I figured that was ok since he was just barely two. Then one day many weeks later, we were out on a walk when he stopped suddenly. He pointed to a palm tree and yelled with a huge smile, "Hosanna!" He reminded me to see God in the every day.

He LOVES animals. LOVES them. So we do lots of things WITH animals...trips to the zoo, books with animals, apps on the tablet with animals, games and songs with animals, etc, etc, etc. One day we were looking at some pictures on an app, and a donkey came up. He's seen a donkey in a zillion different contexts. He excitedly pointed to it and yelled, "Jesus ride donkey!!" The next picture was a hippo. He said "no Jesus hippo."  He reminds me to filter EVERYTHING through God's Word and God's history, not just the big stuff, and even zoo animals.

Even though it's now almost June, he still asks to read his Easter books. He has 3 that he loves and we read them multiple times a week. When we arrive to the page with 3 crosses in one of the books, he tells me "Jesus died 3 days." When we turn the page to the empty tomb, he yells, "All gone Jesus!" which is 2 year old for "He is risen!"  He reminds me that Easter is true every day, and not just "on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox." 

He will sit with his Bible and "read" it for prolonged periods of time, all by himself. He knows it's different from his other books. He'll bring it to me and ask ME to read it and then he'll sit for as long as I'll read. When I read aloud from my Bible, even though he couldn't see the book, He knew it was God's word. He reminds me to feast on God's Word.

He loves to go to church. He is excited to go when I tell him that's where we're going. He is always thrilled to see his friends and greets them with hugs and kisses. When his teacher arrives in the nursery to pick them up and take them to class, he runs with enthusiasm to the door and waits for her to lead them so class can start. He loves to give a "fist bump" to the Pastor and last week, he asked if Pastor could come to Mother's Day lunch with us. He reminds me to not forsake meeting together, to greet others enthusiastically with the love of Christ, and to seek instruction in my faith, from those wiser than me. 
He recently prayed his first prayer that he initiated completely by himself. He said "Dear Jesus. Thank you Mommy. Thank you Daddy. Thank you Mommy. Thank you Feena [Fiona]. Thank you Daddy. Amen." His prayers since then have all been similar. He always says thank you for the people we are with. And then in his way that is both pure of heart and a little mischievous because he likes having "the floor" so to speak, he looks around the room and starts thanking God for things he sees. Sometimes, they're silly. Tonight, he thanked God for the table. Last night, he thanked Him for the wall. He thanks Him for toys and phones and french fries and milk and all sorts of things. He prays this way whether he is happy or sad. The other night, he prayed "Thank you bed. Thank you blanket. Thank you water." Wow. 3 things that much of the world doesn't have and which I don't regularly thank God for. He reminds me that even when I am tempted to feel forsaken, God cares for us. He meets our needs and has given us so much. A he reminds me to be thankful in all circumstances.

Matthew has this heart because of God's work in him and in spite of me. I believe God is answering our prayers for him. I'm such a poor example for him, and yet God is growing him and I am so thankful. I'm thankful that I get to see the faith of a child lived out before me each day so that I can learn to have that same full faith. I want very much to be the kind of parent who can shepherd such a heart as his.

My heart is still broken, but every day I thank God for this amazing little boy. He is such a joy to my heart and having him here eases some of my pain and through him the Holy Spirit tunes my heart toward God when pain deters me away.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Now?

Part of the way I process grief is to look ahead. It helps me to not dwell on my current feelings. The downside is it can lead me to rush through things, but by in large, it's helpful for me to just keep plodding along.

Naturally, my question is "What now?"

Part of why this is so hard this time around is that it's not just about what I have lost anymore, or what DH and I have lost together. It's also about what Matthew has lost. Last year, his siblings were ripped from him through no fault of his own. And now, two more have died.

Matthew. The sweetest, kindest, most loveable little boy I know.  The one who LOVES other children. The one who dotes on his friends with huge smiles and hugs and kisses. The one who would make the most amazing big brother. And I can't give him a sibling, nor could I protect the ones he had already.  My poor sweet baby.  I hurt so much for him.  I feel like he's being punished. I see photos that friends post of their big kids kissing their little babies and my heart just aches. I want another baby, but beyond that, I want him to have a sibling. So very much.

But I kind of felt going into this last transfer like this was it. I honestly feel like there's not enough of my heart left to risk another loss. And even if there was, it seems insurmountable. We've spent over $25,000 through all of this. To go through another Embryo Adoption will be another $10,500. If we go through a traditional adoption, we're looking at another $20,000. It feels insurmountable. I've never been one to be daunted by money when it comes to things of God. I've always believed that if it was in God's plan, He would provide the money for it. And somewhere, I still believe that. I know He was the one who provided the $25,000 we already spent.

But even if He did provide it again, it feels so far away. Like I'm standing at the bottom of Mount Everest, or on one side of the Grand Canyon with the instruction to just jump. And I'm so very weary. Our savings are dwindled, my body is tired from the hormones, and my husband's body is tired from working so hard all of the time. Matthew's not getting younger, and neither are we. By the time we could even round up enough money to do it yet again, it could be months or years from now. It just feels impossible. I know it isn't, but right now I'm having trouble pushing through my fatigue and my heartache to wrap my head around that.

And back to the grief. Even if I woke up tomorrow with a spare $25,000, I just can't fathom enduring another loss. I feel like I've reached my breaking point. Like the grief will consume me.  I'm sure it will lessen with time. It always does. And I know that one day I'll see purpose and sense and maybe even ministry in this. But right now? God, it hurts so much.

But God, I want another child.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Clinging to the Truth

Our beta was this morning. It was negative. I was expecting the call. I've been through a dozen or so of those little cheapy test strips and they all said the same thing. But how do you wait for the call confirming that your children have died? It's just absurd and surreal, like so much of this journey has been. But the words above give me great comfort.

I've been sorting through my feelings, having a hard time. The loss we endured last year was losing Matthew's siblings. The people we adopted our embryos from took the ones we had left (6) back. Their reasons are their reasons and I don't really want to elaborate more because their decision is not really the point of my story. I've really resisted putting it out there at all.

Like all of our losses, I think we shall always feel that one. It was different from our others because there is a chance that some of those children will be born to someone else and yet will never know us. To know they may be out there walking around some day, ignorant of my love for them or even my existence (or DH's and Matthew's), crushes me if I dwell on it. This pain sort of always feels unresolved, because it is.

We spent much of last year determining if we wanted to have any more children. It seemed unbearable to grow our family without the 6 we lost. I began to be ok with having only Matthew here on earth and I think we came to a place of contentment with our family of 3, or 14 minus 11 as another friend put it.

 At the end of the year, we felt like God was giving us a peace about another embryo adoption. We specifically asked to be matched to a family with only a small number of embryos. We didn't want to adopt a large amount, have many children eventually born as a result, and have Matthew be an "odd one out."

 We were matched to a lovely family in the Midwest, who chose us to adopt their two embryos. Those are the two we lost. That brings me to now.

The biggest feeling I've been having is confusion. We had come to a place of peace with just Matthew, so it's hard to understand why God moved us away from that place. Isn't contentment where we're supposed to be?

I confessed to DH that I was feeling "used." If He gave us the mind to adopt only two, and those two were bound for Heaven anyway, I was merely a vessel. A delivery mechanism to transport them from the freezer to God's presence. I didn't really understand why we went through the expense, the medical invasion, and the heartache, only to be right back where we started.

 As I'm verbalizing this to DH, I am convicted that isn't it the Christian's primary purpose in life to be "used" for whatever His purpose is? We are each called to be vessels to transport God's grace, with the ultimate goal of ushering many into God's presence.

I knew my conclusion was right, but still it felt very cold and impersonal and utilitarian to me. I felt unloved. It occurred to me that my problem was really with the pain. Why did MY purpose have to be carried out in such a wretchedly painful way? I am 32 years old. I have lost 13 children. I barely know what to do with that. And if they were Heaven-bound anyway, why were they delayed in frozen storage first? But I know I don't really have the right to ask Why, nor am I entitled to an answer.

I begged God to help me pray, to help me have faith, and to give me courage to cling to what I know is true in spite of my feelings. I begged God to help me want Him more than I wanted another child. He is gracious and He has given me all of those things, but I still struggle.

My head knows the Truth and bids the lies to depart from my heart. God's Word is full of promises and truths that refute each of these things. And He is patient while I continually try to submit the feelings to Him. I'm so not even a little bit there yet.  I am comforted by the scriptures below, and by the knowledge that my babies are with Jesus, but I still ache.

Grieving with a child is different. I am grieving for Matthew, too. He doesn't know what he has lost, but I do, and that's hard. I hurt for him. And I hurt that tonight, he had a mommy and daddy who were sad and he doesn't understand why. We spent the night having a picnic on the couch, watching a movie and snuggling. Tender mercies.

The scriptures I am clinging to are below. I'm posting them here to keep myself accountable because I tend to come back and read what I've written and I don't want to be tempted to stew in the lies my heart is struggling with right now when the Truth is before me:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." -Lamentations 3:22-23

"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" -Mark 9:24

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." -Isaiah 55:8-9

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." -Psalm 147:3

"For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalm 30:5

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." -Psalm 34:18

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." -Psalm 56:8

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:8

"And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
-Job 1:21
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." -Psalm 139:13-16

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." -1 Corinthians 13:12-13

"But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed." -Isaiah 53:5

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." -1 Peter 5:10-11

God's name be ever praised. Amen.

This statue is called "Memorial to Unborn Children." It takes my breath away.

I love you babies.

God, continue to give me strength for this delicate dance of joy and grief.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stuff Matthew Says

If I ever get around to scrapbooking, I want to make a page about the funny things Matthew says. Some of the things he says are downright humorous because of their content, and other things are cute or funny or sweet because of HOW he says them.

He has a big vocabulary, but his conversation is still pretty one-sided. He doesn't dialogue much yet. So most of his conversation is him narrating things. He talks in the third person most of the time.

He's such a dichotomy. I see his peers ahead of him in sentence construction and interactive dialogue, but then I'll hear him bust out with correct pronouns (excepting himself), accurate choice of singular or plural, and properly used adverbs and conjunctions like "too" and "and" and "then."  He has so much going on in his head behind the scenes and then he'll just spit a whole bunch of new things and surprise me.

His favorite thing right now is to exclaim "OH!" when he's really excited. Like when he sees daddy come home, it's, "OH! HI Daddy!"

He says his own name as "Mashu." It's seriously the cutest thing.

My favorite thing he says is "I too." I says that to mean, "I love you, too." I love it.

One thing you all missed when I wasn't blogging is that the little stinker wouldn't say mommy FOR.THE.LONGEST.TIME. He said Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa, the name of our dead dog, the names of my mom's dogs, the name of my brother's dog, the name of his little friend at church...the list went on and on and on. I was the baby equivalent of "Hey you!" Then one day, he started saying it, finally. And it's my second favorite thing he says. Right now he's sort of toying with "Mom" but I'm not giving up "Mommy" without a fight.

I often call DH, "Hunny." I rarely call him Todd, unless I'm speaking about him to someone else, or if he didn't hear me the first time. Sometimes, Matthew will go looking for him. It goes like this: "Daddy! DADDY!!! DADDY!  Hunny? TODD!!!" Cracks me up.

He used to say "yellow" as "yell-wee." I miss that.

Recently, he started barking. He barks around the house, he barks when we're on our walks, and he was barking in Target recently. After a couple of minutes, I told him, "All done barking." He looked at me, thought for a minute, and then said, "MEOW!!!!"  The fact that he's SO literal makes for some funny moments. It's like his mischief and his developmental stage collide into this hysterical combination.

Tonight he was watching doggies on youtube (one of his favorite treats). When we were done, he asked for more. I told him we were all done doggies. So he said, "Watch cats?" Nope. "Watch trucks?" Nope. "Watch goats?"  I busted out laughing. We've never sat down to watch a video of goats but in his mind, I only said no to the dogs, not no to anything else, so he was desperate to find something I would allow.

And then he has this thing he does, that we think is generic for "take this," or "here you go," and sometimes, "help you." He makes this sound, "A-baas-a-baas-a-baa?" He's not attempting to say any word-it's just this sound he makes. It's cute but I wonder what he thinks he's saying.

When he wants help, he says "Mommy help you."  Sometimes he'll specify, "Help you toys." It's sweet.

I had to stay up until midnight because I got off schedule with my meds (have to take them 4 hours apart). It's 12:03 and this pumpkin is going to bed! Makes for a lousy transition, but I'll leave you with a smile:

Post script: The title of this post is "Stuff Matthew says." But you should really read these posts, too. While this stuff isn't as cute as "Mashu," they have some really great things to say.
To Parents of Small Children, Let Me Be the One Who Says It Out Loud
10 Words that Describe Infertility
One Thing Your Daughter [or son] Doesn't Need You to Say

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Emotions Have a Memory

It's Mother's Day in the United States for a couple of more hours. Mother's Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate moms, but it can also be a source of great pain for many. For those who have lost or are estranged from a child or their mother, it is a reminder that they are no longer together. For those who long to be moms but aren't, it is a picture of what they do not have but desperately want.

For many years, Mother's Day was a day I celebrated my mom. We went to church, went out to eat, and went to do what she wanted to do. It was fun and it never occurred to me that anyone might find the day to be difficult. I was young, unmarried, and still had my mom. Then I got married and I had two moms to celebrate-still wonderful.

As we began to try, and then wait for a child, Mother's Day took on that dual-meaning that so many of us identify with. I wanted to celebrate my mom and my Mother in Law, but every well-meaning flower from a church or a restaurant was a pang in my heart. For years, I stopped going to church. Some years, depending on who was attending at the time, I was literally the only adult woman at my church who was not a mom. The only one who couldn't stand up when the moms were asked to stand and the one who shouldn't take a flower. I just couldn't bear the weight of my pain and the conspicuousness I felt in my difference. So we'd stay home. We'd meet one mom for lunch and the other for dinner and I'd hide the rest of the day.

I went to church the year I became pregnant with Matthew. We had the transfer a couple of days after Mother's Day so it wasn't a good time to travel. And I was full of hope. I went to church, and I felt like a fraud. I felt like I was being disloyal to IF women everywhere. Now that I might be a mom, it was ok to go to church?  I blamed it on the hormones from the impending transfer.

What's so funny is that my church is pretty low key about Mother's Day. The Pastor never preaches a sappy Mother's Day message. To my knowledge, they haven't done the everybody stand up thing in years. We have several non-moms in our membership now. And they certainly don't impose a mothers-only policy on the giving of the flowers.  They don't do anything to make anyone feel excluded.  So the source of my pain is nothing to do with *my* church in particular at all. But if you've been through IF, you  know the whole day feels exclusive by design, without anyone having to say or do anything. It's a mantra of Christianity in general that motherhood is God's highest calling for a woman (which is not true but that's another post) and so to be in God's house celebrating the fact that everyone around you can achieve "His highest calling" but you can't just feels absurd. I know if you've been through this, I don't have to explain this.

I've had 3 Mother's Days with Matthew in my arms. The first and second were both spent at my mom's house, and we attended her church, which somehow was different than attending my own church, probably because no one knew me. My first Mother's Day was lovely. Last year was marked by great pain and loss that I mentioned here previously so that day was lousy. That brings us to this year.

We were in Tucson with my mom for the last 3 days. DH wanted to come home yesterday so that he could rest in his own bed before returning back to work, and have time to celebrate with his mom, too. So we did Mother's Day with my mom yesterday, and arrived home last night.

I woke up this morning, had some quiet time, and then got ready for church. Nothing was amiss, I was physically feeling fine, and we headed off with no hesitation. I was actually a little excited to attend my first Mother's Day at my own church with my son in my arms.   We sang and then it was time for my Pastor to preach, I started weeping. And I couldn't figure out why. I wasn't feeling particularly sad. I hadn't been thinking about our losses or years of waiting. I hadn't even been thinking about how difficult Mother's Day once was. And yet, I wept.

I excused myself and went to the bathroom. I tried to sort through my feelings, angry that they had such power over me when I couldn't even identify them. I know that some of what I was experiencing were the hormones. I thought about the fact that we likely lost a baby this week, and I thought that was probably some of it. I thought about our loss from last Mother's Day. I thought about all of our losses. But still none of that really struck me as the source. As I thought, I felt fear closing in around my heart. Fear of loss. Fear of pain. And I began to pray, and read scripture. I didn't want to feel fear and I was angry that I did.

Around that time, a friend came in and saw me upset. She lost her first husband several years ago and has often counseled me through grief. I told her what I was feeling and that I couldn't figure out a trigger. She shared something with me that struck a chord. She said that she learned it as she went through grief counseling after the loss of her husband.

She said emotions have a memory.  The way I understand it, it's like a muscle memory. Exercise just conditions your muscles to react and do certain things. For so many years, Mother's Day was painful. It's almost like my emotions became conditioned to hurt that day. For whatever inexplicable reason, sitting in church was a trigger to past emotions and hurt, even though there was no new trigger today. And now I don't know how to mix the joy with the pain.  She said it will just take time to build new layers on top of the layers of grief.

I've been noodling on that a lot. Aurelius (I think?) wrote that we should not be enslaved to anything which we should rule over. I do not want to be enslaved to my emotions. The heart is deceitful and pain is wrapped in fear. I want my mind to rule my heart. More than that, I want the Holy Spirit to rule both. But I also recognize that God created our emotions too and I am often left trying to figure out how to balance those two things. Today was a reminder that I'm not there yet.

I don't want my emotional memory to be about the pain I felt. I want it to be about the God who lovingly collected each tear. I don't want to respond in fear, I want to remember the faithfulness He continued to show me as I wailed and screamed and cursed. I don't to think about what I've lost, but about all He has given me. I don't want to remember all my plans and dreams that went unaccomplished, but about all of His plans that He accomplished. I don't want to remember my waiting. I want to remember His timing. But I filled those years with a lot of indulgence in my feelings, and not enough in His word and His promises.

What I finally was drawn to think about was this question: How am I currently building what will become tomorrow's emotional and spiritual memory? In order for the things of God to be recalled in the future, I must dwell on them now, and not on my pain. Pain and heartache will come. But God's timing, God's will, God's compassion, God's providence, God's faithfulness, God's character, God's Word, and God's truth remain unchanged. God, help me cling to those things in both prosperity and adversity. I want tomorrow's emotional and spiritual memory to spring forth with confessions of trust in the midst of pain.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


For the fourth, and probably last time, I am PUPO: Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise! On Thursday, we underwent a Frozen Embryo Transfer with 2 precious little babies.

Here they are! Aren't they cute?

The transfer went well. Everything was a little different since I've had Matthew--something I wasn't expecting! So everything felt a little different and they had to work around my C Section Scar, but overall, the doctor was pleased with how things went. There's just nothing like watching that little "firework" when the embryos leave the catheter and enter the uterus.

Here's a video of another woman's transfer if you want to see. I think it's so cool.

The doctor did tell us that at the time of the transfer, one of the embryos had not begun to re-grow, which is not a good sign. We believe there is a good chance that baby is already with Jesus but we also know he knows the exact amount of moments each one of those little lives has here on earth so we're trusting that whatever that number is, it is His best.

My doctor is in a town about 2 hours south of here, where my folks live, so the plan was to meet us at the doctor and pick up Matthew and Fiona. We were supposed to leave our house at 8:45.

At 8:30, Matthew was still totally passed out.

This picture just cracks me up. We were trying so hard not be anxious, but of course you wake with butterflies. But then there's my sweet boy, completely content, anxious for nothing, sleeping the morning away on the day we're supposed to go get his siblings.

We were eventually on our way.

On the way down, I was telling DH about my quiet time that morning and was reading him a Psalm that God brought to me. Matthew's carseat is still rear-facing so he couldn't see what I was reading. But he recognized God's Word (which was amazing because we usually read to him from his Toddler Bible, which doesn't have Psalms in their original form). Somehow, he knew what I was reading and started yelling "BIBLE! MATTHEW BIBLE!" and would not rest until I gave him a turn. This makes my heart so happy and I pray that he always has a heart for God's word.

We eventually arrived. There were no other patients there, so I was able to take Matthew and introduce him to the doctor and nurse who took such good care of him when he was frozen. It warmed my heart to see them meet and I'm only disappointed I didn't get a photo. Our doctor is so amazing and was such an answer to our prayers so many years ago when we were looking for someone to entrust our babies to.

So Matthew and Grandma and Grandpa were off on an adventure, and we were on to our transfer. I wanted to get a picture of the 3 of us before he left, but I forgot. They have you take Valium an hour before the transfer to relax your uterus, and everything else. Let's just say, I forgot a LOT of things that day! If only I could take Valium every night before bed, I would get the most awesome sleep!  But I did get a picture of DH and me on my phone.

I came home from the transfer practically comatose, so DH and my folks continued to care for Matthew while I took the world's longest nap. It was awesome. My doctor doesn't advocate bed rest after transfer, but in this case, I didn't really have a choice! It was the most wonderful nap.

I woke up and had some dinner and then after Matthew went to bed, I went for a swim. Swimming is easily, one of my top 10 favorite things to do. Swimming outside (as opposed to in a gym pool), under the stars, by myself? Perfection!

The next morning, I was awake before everyone else so I snuck in another swim. It was 61degrees outside, but the sky was blue, the birds were singing, the pool was empty...amazing. Perfect time to ponder God and His goodness.

Grandma and Grandpa were off on another adventure with Matthew and so DH and I had the whole morning for a date. We tried to remember-we think the last time we had a date was the first week of February, so we were overdue for some alone time.

I had purchased a membership to the Pima Air and Space Museum because DH and Matthew are both pretty obsessed with airplanes and this transfer had us down there a lot recently with plenty of chances to go. Needless to say I got a gold star in both of their books for that membership. But this same museum offers tours of the only Airplane Boneyard in the United States, on the Air Force Base across the street. We've always wanted to go, but it's only open weekdays, and we're never down there weekdays. This was the perfect chance. It's a one-hour bus-tour of military aircraft relics, mostly from the 50s, forward. It was fascinating. My camera is lost (boo!) so all I had was my phone for photos.

The tour guide is an elderly man who was in the Air Force for 20 years. So his tour was peppered with personal stories of working with some of these crafts on his base. He told us a story about this plane:

He told of a time that he was on active duty at a base and a civilian saw one of these in flight. She called the base to report that a UFO had taken one of their airplanes. Ha!

After our tour and some time in the museum, DH and I had a leisurely lunch and some shopping together. We headed back to my mom's. The boys all took naps, and mom and I went for pedicures.  Warning...foot photo:

Aren't they cute?

That night we went to a going away party for some friends we met through my mom and who are moving overseas with the military.

This morning, we took my mom to breakfast to celebrate Mother's Day and then we were on our way home.

We got stuck in a major traffic delay for more than an hour, but sweet Matthew was a champ. Here he is after it was almost over so he'd been sitting in his carseat well over 2 hours at this point. I am so thankful to have such a happy-hearted kid.

We came home and all of us took a nap. The boys woke up before I did and went out to pick up dinner and dessert.

Matthew came home with these.

DH told me that Matthew was in the cart, they were walking by the flowers and Matthew started yelling "Mommy flowees! Mommy flowees!" He initiated the flower purchase and chose these ones all by himself. I think my heart might burst. Then he brought them home, along with the piece of cake they chose, and he thought that since I got the flowers, he should get the cake :) I gladly shared with him.

We had dinner and afterwards, he watched some youtube clips of "Sister Act" because I always sing him "I will follow you" (we call it the stalker-mommy song.) Matthew is starting to sing along, too--SO cute. I tried to get it on video but was unsuccessful. I'll keep trying, but in the meantime, I'll share this video instead from this morning. He didn't know I was watching him. He loves to bark with Fiona. When we walk the neighborhood, HE is the one I have to pull along and instruct to stop barking at the neighbor dogs.  He's such a little ham.

Now he's in bed and DH and I are going to enjoy a restful evening.

Please pray for our babies. I'd appreciate your prayers for me, too. The hormone therapies are much, much harder on me this time around, which is funny because my doctor has significantly modified his protocol to include a far smaller amount of medicines. I've been in a lot of pain. The last couple of days haven't been so hard, and I'd appreciate your prayers that this trend continues.

Several of my other bloggy friends have just had or are about to have transfers, too, so please keep Chelle, and Shannon and their little snowflakes in your prayers, too, as well as Diane and Tracey, and Em, who are all pregnant with Snowflakes. Hurray for summer blizzards!

Nighty night!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Matthew's Favorite Books at 2 Years Old

I'm on a combination of medication that puts me in a lot of pain, and caffeine that I consumed all day to make my weary body go, and therefore I'm up at 1:30, with no sleep in sight!

I've been wanting to make this list for my own sake anyway, so I figured, why not put it here!?

As I mentioned previously, Matthew LOVES to read. You would be hard-pressed to find a book he doesn't like. Occasionally he'll get bored if there are too many words that keep you on one single page too long, but otherwise, he'll sit and read or be read to for more than an hour at a time.

These are his current favorite books right now at 27 months. He's had other favorites come and go, but these are the current favorites. They're listed in no particular order, except the first one, which has been his favorite book now for more than a year. You can click on the picture of any book to be taken to its Amazon page for a description.

My Truck is Stuck
This has been on his list of favorites for more than a year. We have a copy at Grandma's house, we have a copy for the car, we have a copy for the bookshelf, and we have a copy that has been "retired" from being so well loved. It's a great book for transition between picture books and story books. It's very repetitive, so Matthew likes the rhythm. The illustrations are too cute. And I love the message of helping each other out. Plus, I think when he's older, he'll get the running gag of the prairie dogs stealing the bones out of the back of the stuck truck.

This book is all about being kind. It describes a "Heartprint" this way: "A Heartprint is formed when you do something kind. Your love touches others, leaving heartprints behind." It's all about being kind-visiting a sick friend, saying a nice word, helping with a project, etc. I love it and I love that Matthew loves it.

 Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way 

 He loves both of these equally well. They're great little tales about helping others and being kind even when someone else isn't (Little Blue Truck) and taking turns (Little Blue Truck Leads the Way). If you read them with gusto, they have lots of fun noises too (animals in one, vehicles in the other) and I think Matthew likes that a lot too. Another great introductory Story Book. He calls them "Beep Beep Truck" because Little Blue Truck says "beep beep beep."

 The Very Hungry Caterpillar 

This book needs no explanation. What child doesn't love The Very Hungry Caterpillar? This was one of Matthew's earliest favorites. We did his first birthday party in the Caterpillar theme. I would almost rank it higher than Truck is Stuck in terms of longevity on the list, but he enjoys truck with more enthusiasm now, so I ranked it higher.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (et al)

This is another classic kids' book and Matthew loves it and all its variations. The repetition and the classic Carle illustrations make these a big hit.

Hush Little Alien
This is such a funny book and I found it in a second-hand store. It's a spinoff of the classic "Hush Little Baby," told by daddy Alien to baby Alien. It's full of things little boys (and little girls?) love, like aliens, rocket ships, astronauts and more. It's very cute. It's illustrated by the same guy who did My Truck is Stuck. Matthew just calls this one "Hush."

ABC Bible Verse
This book features one Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet. I like it, and I love that he's learning God's word through reading it, but I think there might be others like it that are better. This one uses the KJV in a lot of the verses, which is very stiff for kids. Some of her choices of verses go way over kids' heads too-especially kids that would be reading board books. For example, for Q, she uses "Quench not the spirit" and it shows a little kid giving back some money a passerby dropped. I like books that challenge kids, but I think she just misses the mark on some of them. But he loves it, so that's ok with me.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Chicka Chicka 123
 Honestly, I have no idea why he loves these as much as he does, other than that he loves the alphabet and numbers. I think they're sort of modern classics. I think they're a little odd, but he loves them and there's nothing objectionable about them. He calls them "Chicka Boom."

Anything Mama Llama
Mama Llama books are cute and fun and he loves the rhyming whimsy. We have a few of them and he enjoys them all equally.

Almost any picture book by Roger Priddy
They're big, well priced, vibrant, and full of pictures kids love to look at. Matthew has several in various themes and he loves them all. I don't like the Treasure Hunt for Boys Book because I think it features things that are unnecessarily dark for a little kid, but that's the only one I've disliked so far.

Wherever You Are, My Love will Find You 

Out of all of HIS favorites, this is my favorite. It speaks of the love God or a parent (depending on how you interpret it) has for the child and the unending lengths gone to show that love. I love this book. It's so sweet. The last lines are "You are my angel, my darling, my star, and my love will find you wherever you are." So, Matthew calls this book "Darling." So cute.

Sing Along Bible Songs
This is another one *I Love.* I love this book because it plays classic children's songs ("Jesus Loves the Little Children" and "Whole World" are two examples) as well as hymns like "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." There's no story-think of it more like a hymnal for kids. It's just the words to each song, with a cute little picture to illustrate, and then a button you can press to hear the tune. It's a little shrill in that mechanical book sort of way, but I love that it gets him listening to wonderful songs of our faith. It's out of print so you have to buy it used-snag it if you ever see it!

The Toddler's Bible

We've looked at and owned a lot of Bibles. This my favorite, and his. The illustrations are beautiful and vibrant and each story is only a couple of pages long so he doesn't lose interest. It's age appropriate and engaging. But it's not so abridged or sanitized so much that it cuts out important things. I've seen more than one toddler Bible that stops at the birth of Jesus. This one goes well beyond that, all the way through the life of Timothy. He loves it and I do too. And it looks and feels in size and weight like a "real" Bible. He knows that this book is different than his other books.

So there's my little boy as captured by his books: Faith, animals, vehicles, and being kind. Maybe one day I'll post a list of my favorite books for him. They're much more sappy and fortunately, he indulges me when I want to read those instead of about something that barks or has wheels.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dates with my Darlings

As it's getting hotter, we have to get more creative if we want to get out of the house. Sometimes we like to meet Daddy for lunch, which is a treat because he's gone before Matthew wakes up in the morning. Today, we decided on a lunch date at Chilis because we had a gift card and a coupon (kids eat free-click here if you want to print it). Then I had an errand to do at a store next door, so the boys went in to Bass Pro Shops to watch the fish. Matthew loves animals, and will pretty much take them any way he can get them. So while we do enjoy our zoo membership and go whenever we can, we also spend a lot of time at Petsmart and Bass Pro Shops. The bonus is that the last 2 are air conditioned and don't require as much time or energy.  So I left DH and Matthew at Bass with the request, "take a picture if he does anything cute!"  He obliged.

I love his heart for animals. He tries to talk to or pet every animal he sees-live, stuffed, toy, or even 2D like pictures and movies. He feeds the stray cats when we let him and when we leave the house, he always makes sure to tell Fiona goodbye.

We had a nice weekend. Matthew has a little friend who was born just 2 weeks after him and they've become good buddies since they've known each other their whole lives. Her mommy was very pregnant with her little sister, so we picked her up and took her and Matthew on a "date" this weekend to the zoo and lunch and the splashpad. It was great fun. Matthew longs for children to play with and that's one thing I wrestle with since he's an only child. It was so cute to see them so excited to see each other, especially the next day at church.

Thanks for the warm reception back into blogging. I have missed you ladies.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Previously on Snowflake Family

When I last blogged, Matthew was 15 months old, had just started walking and was working on talking.

He looked something like this:

Now, he is 26 months old, talks all the time, and is practicing jumping. Here is a photo of us this winter:

His favorite things are being outside, reading, airplanes, and dogs. We're reaching 100 degree days here so sadly, his outside time is dwindling, but he is out there as often as I let him be. 

He loves to read. He's always loved to read and I love that as he gets older and more capable of doing other things, he still comes back to his love of books. He loves to read his Bible, which brings joy to my heart.

He's OBSESSED with airplanes. In that photo above, we're at our local airport, watching the planes take off and land.

We had an airplane birthday party for him in January which was great fun.

Last August, our 11 year old dog died. It was terribly sad and I miss him very much. Matthew asked about him for a long time. Then he filled his doggy void by Skyping with my mom's dogs. We took trips to Petsmart to visit dogs but he is an animal lover to his core. We waited for the right dog to come along and in February, we got Fiona. She's a 2.5 year old Boxer/American Bulldog mix and they are each other's best friend. We named her Fiona because she's part princess, part ogre.

Here is how I found them when they thought I wasn't looking.

They sit like this together almost every day.

His airplane love is starting to expand to anything with wheels. My days are filled with trucks, planes, cars, tractors, bicycles, etc. My house looks like Grand Central Station. I love every second.

He's my little smarty pants. Since he was 18 months old, he's known his alphabet--upper and lower cases and the sounds each letter makes. He knows his numbers and loves to count--his current favorite number appears to be 10. He loves to label vehicles, animals, colors, and shapes. His little mind is very concrete. He much prefers concrete, tangible, logical play over imaginative play.  I think that's why he has excelled the way he has so far-they're all very hard skills with definite right and wrong answers. His little friend likes to pretend cook and have tea parties--Matthew likes to count his dishes and open and close the doors on the play kitchen. He loves to see how things work and come apart and go back together again. It's so fun to me to see how he's developing and learning what he likes and doesn't like. It's also a challenge for me to try to grow him areas he doesn't enjoy as much but which are still good for him in terms of becoming a well-rounded person. He'd easily spend his days buried in a book if I let him.

He does enjoy some softer skills. He loves to color and paint, and he still loves music and dance as much as he always has. It's so precious to me to see him learn songs that I've sung since my childhood, and to think dancing is the most fun thing we can do.

We take lots of field trips to the zoo and the children's museum and the library. 2 is tough, but overall, he's a really good kid, and I love being a SAHM. I am constantly grateful for the fact that something I waited so long for is everything I hoped it would be, and more. That sounds so mushy and cliche, but it's true. It's a good thing to remind myself of when the days get tough.

In the past year, we also moved into our own auto shop so our business has grown and changed a lot from when DH was working out of our driveway. God has blessed us more than we deserve. DH gets to do what he loves, he gets to work with his family, and our family is provided for.

Well, that's it for my first attempt at breaking the silence and putting myself out there again.  Hope you all are well!

So Here I Am

A year ago, we received a phone call that broke our hearts. We experienced shock and loss and heartache and grief, and our hearts are still broken even now. As things continued, I took down my blog to protect our family from people who were intentionally and maliciously attacking our family. I wanted to protect our family from further attack by removing anything that they could use as ammunition. It also made me horribly uncomfortable to think of them spectating into our lives, especially my son's life.

I struggle a lot with forgiveness. I pray for God to give me a heart that wants to forgive them. My head wants to and knows it ought to, but my heart is still trying to get outside of its hurt and its desire for justice. It's funny. I'm leading a small group and this very discussion came up this week. I want the wrong to be righted. I want to be vindicated. THEN I'll think about forgiving them.

But it doesn't work that way.

Thank God.

Because if it did, we'd all be damned.

And I know that. I know the hypocrisy of my heart in its refusal to forgive. I know that it slaps our precious Jesus in the face for I have done to Him infinitely worse than what these people did to me, and yet He loves me, forgives me, heals me.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchhmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Psalm 130

To whom much has been given, much is required (Luke 12:48). I have been forgiven much, completely without merit. I owe them my forgiveness, regardless of if they earn or deserve it. Wow. That's hard.

I am a work in progress. And God is patient with me. His name be praised. And so I ask Him to help me forgive them to help me WANT to forgive them.

My first step is to confess my sin. I confess that I am harboring unforgiveness toward them. I confess that I know that I am doing this, and yet I still struggle to want to forgive them. I confess that I've made my forgiveness conditional on their accepting responsibility for their part in what transpired between us. Lord Jesus, please forgive me, and help me to forgive them. Each day, I need help all over again with this for even when I try and think I have forgiven them, more is unrooted and revealed in my heart.

My second step is to stop living in fear. My heart stops in my chest every time I see their name or something that reminds me of them. I fear the next attack lurking around the corner. I fear how this situation has, is, and will affect my son. I fear that my words give them another chance to hurt me.

But letting this fear rule keeps the pain alive, the wound open and gaping. It causes me to continue to try, judge, and sentence them in my heart every time I let this situation have power over my decisions. It leaves me in the past of pain, rather than the future of hope and promise (Jeremiah 29:11). God removes our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Love keeps no record of wrong (1 Corinthians 13:5). We are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44) for what is it to just love those who love you?

The forgiveness we have been shown is merciful and boundless and unconditional and undeserved, and so ought the forgiveness we give be. Surrendering to fear gives sin power in my heart . Fear is the enemy of forgiveness.

Fear is born out of the conviction that we need to protect ourselves from something. But therein lies the beautiful truth. God holds my future, and theirs. HE is my protector and defender, and theirs. He knows the beginning from the end. Nothing I do can thwart or delay His plan for us. Whatever comes our way is something that He has permitted. So if He sees fit to allow another attack, so be it. If not, so be it. But whatever does or does not happen will not be because I did or didn't do anything. He has promised to work ALL things together for good (Romans 8:28). God's providence exceeds my fear, and my feeble attempts to protect myself. I needn't hide crouched in a dark corner, with my arms crossed over my head as a a shield. Faith calls me to stand in the light, with arms outstretched and open. Vulnerable. Fearless.

So, here I am.

I know this breaks down a little. I know there are things to be said about lifeboats and hospitals and availing ourselves of God-given resources in any given crisis. I certainly don't dismiss our responsibility to steward our resources, to be shrewd and discerning in our decisions, to utilize the gifts God gave us, and to avoid being careless. But this is bigger than that. This is the stuff of my soul and the only one equipped to prune it properly is my Jesus.

So, here I am.

Out of these ashes,
Beauty will rise...