Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yesterday was a Good Day

It was busy.  We had our homeschool co-op in the morning, came home for lunch and an hour's rest, and then we were off again.

I'm going a different route with this baby.  I've always delivered at the local mega-hospital, but the last few experiences have left a lot to be desired.  Actually, it's more than that, but it's another story for another day.  We have an alternative birthing center near our home that I've always heard really great things about.  We've never gone there because of insurance/doctors/locations.  There's a group of midwives who deliver at the center, but their practice is 30+ minutes from my house, and I've never felt like I could make that commitment for prenatal visits.  This time we decided to go for it.

So I had an appointment yesterday in the late afternoon, with one of the midwives.  Ryan came home early (after only 8 hours at work instead of 10!), we loaded up the kids and headed out.  They dropped me off at the office and then headed to a park.  The weather was beautiful, a rare day over 60, and it's a good thing because I waited an hour before even going back to a room.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but it was worth the wait.  I'm really getting excited over the prospect of a different birth experience, and that's saying a lot after 5 years of birth-related anxieties.  One very notable relief:  They will not force induction on me at 41 weeks.  They routinely let women go to 42 weeks if there are no signs of distress for the babe, and that should be all I need to let this little peanut come on his/her own.  My talk with the midwife yesterday was very refreshing, and I have renewed hope and confidence.  And speaking of the babe!  We heard a strong heartbeat and all those wonderful swishy movements.  Seventeen weeks tomorrow.  God is good.

So the guys came back for me, and everyone was starving.  That was fine, we had a plan!  We were 15 minutes away from Ikea, and apparently kids 12 and under eat for free on Tuesdays!  We made our way over there, and I (somewhat sheepishly) ordered SIX chicken tender/french fry combos and they were FREE.  Our cost for the adult meals was $17, and we all ate happily.  We can't even do fast food for under $40 (which is why we nearly never eat out), so this was quite a treat.

We shopped the store, picking up four of those dandy little wooden spice racks that everyone on pinterest uses for kids bookshelves, and headed home.  But not before Blake bought himself a cinnamon roll with extra icing on the way out the door.  He gave up coffee, tea, candy, and electronics for Lent, not so much cinnamon rolls. :)

I know these days are numbered.  That someday, probably sooner than I want, the kids will start to scatter and it will become a rarity for all of us to be together.  I hope I can savor these days and continue to appreciate even a simple outing for errands.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Five, Ten, Fifteen

Five random catch-up things:

1.  Sebastian is doing really well.  We like his doctor (which is good, since we're going to be seeing him quite often for many years), he's taken to the medicine beautifully with no side effects so far, and his symptoms have subsided.  We go in for a check-up next week.

2.  Peyton turned 10!  And Owen turned 12!  I intended to blog both occasions, but you know, there's was RSV to contend with...

3.  We got RSV.  Genevieve and I were the last to get it (it was just a cold in the older kids), and she ended up in urgent care with a double ear infection and her very own nebulizer for breathing treatments.  It landed me in the ER with a bleeding ear, from an infection that came on so fast and so ugly that it ruptured the eardrum, leaving me completely deaf in that ear for weeks.  It was crazy intense and super awful, but it's done.  I'm at about 90% now (hearing-wise), and so grateful to be able to turn the page on this chapter of Illnesses We Endure in the Small House with Many Children.

4.  Oliver made his First Reconciliation, and is preparing for his First Holy Communion, coming up on May 4th.  I can hardly believe that we have four children who are able to fully participate in the Sacraments.  God is so good.

5.  I just looked back, and the last time I posted a picture of Genevieve was the 4th of July!  She wasn't even a year old!  Now she's a feisty (but sweet!) 18-month-old, who does things like this:
That's a chair she shouldn't be standing on, and an iPod Shuffle she shouldn't be pressing buttons on.  But isn't she cute in her denim dress and tights?  I know.  Maybe I'll even scrape up another photo so you can see her face...

Ten weeks:

As in, this kind of weeks -
That's right, God has blessed us again!  We are all very excited.  I am in the depths of all day nausea and exhaustion though, which is a sacrifice for all (don't ask my men about the quality of my dinners lately!  or whether they have clean socks!  it's not pretty!), but that won't last too much longer, and it is such a small price to pay!

Fifteen years:

That's how long it's been since the Mr. and I promised forever to each other and God.  It's hard to believe, 15 years ago today, we were just kids!  And yet, by the mercy of the Good Lord, we have grown in faith and love, and He has blessed us.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sebastian's Diagnosis

The doctor confirmed his tentative diagnosis of Chronic Ulcerative Colitis.  I think most people are more familiar with Crohn's disease, and from what I understand, Colitis is kind of the sister disease to that.  They are both types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, with Crohn's occurring anywhere in the GI tract, while Colitis affects only the colon.  It can be painful and debilitating, or it can be well-managed with long periods of remission.  We will understand more after we meet with the specialist again on Friday.

We are praying for wisdom, for us and for Sebastian's new doctor who we will now be seeing a lot of.  We're praying for a manageable degree of this illness, and for a full and happy life for our little guy.

Thank you for being such an awesome, prayerful community of friends.  We are blessed to have you.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Thank you all so much for the prayers.

The testing went well on Friday.  Sebastian handled everything like a little hero, he was so good.  The nurses were kind, and the pediatric unit sure knows how to relate to little ones.  He was nervous, and they made him as comfortable as possible.  The teddy bear they gave him offered so much comfort, and he's been carrying it around with him all weekend.

The doctor's tentative diagnosis is Ulcerative Colitis.  This is a chronic condition, and will be a heavy cross for Sebastian to bear, but the doctor is certain there is no cancer or any of the other frightening possibilities we were looking at.  We won't know for sure until mid-week, when the results of the biopsies come back, but this condition does fit every aspect of what he's been experiencing.

Please continue to keep him in your prayers.  I appreciate it beyond what I can express here.

And because I don't want to forget:  When I explained to the other kids what Sebastian was going to have to do to get ready for the tests, and how long he would have to go without eating, Peyton looked very thoughtful and concerned.  A few minutes later, he finally said that he was going to try not to eat for as long as Sebastian had to.  He said he wanted to go through it with him.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

therapy and prayers

So.  It's been awhile.  It's so hard to make time for so many things I love, and yet... and yet, sometimes I know I just have to do it.  I just have to let the dishes sit, and find me some therapy.

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to --

No, let's not.  We'll never get through it.

Let's start with today.

Today, Sebastian is on hour number five of not being able to eat.  He's on a clear liquids only diet, in preparation for a colonoscopy tomorrow.  Tomorrow, at 3:00 pm.  If you're counting, that's 26 hours of not eating.  For a three year old.  Ask me if he understands.  He doesn't.  God gave us popsicles though, and the green and orange ones are included on the diet, so with His help and those, we'll make it through.  The test itself?  We just don't know.  He's been having some symptoms that can't be explained after two months and countless non-invasive tests, so now, it's the colonoscopy.  He'll be sedated (a blessing as well as an additional worry).  We're hoping the test goes well, and that we find answers that bring peace and good health to our sweet little guy.

I'm anxious, for so many reasons.  So.

Pray for him, please?  Thanks.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Woes of Modern Technology and 3-Year-Olds

Do you remember a few years ago, when fancy flat TVs and Wii game consoles were starting to become the norm in average households?  Remember those stories and youtube videos of the unfortunate incidents of a Wii remote leaving someone's hand and smashing the TV screen?  I remember feeling like that was one of the more awful accidents I could think of happening.  I couldn't imagine spending all that money on a TV and having it wrecked, just like that.  The TVs when I was a kid were practically indestructible, and it was typical for us to have the same one in our living room for a decade or more, so I was looking at these new ones with their modern technology as being pretty fragile and kind of dumb.  Wow, that makes me sound old, doesn't it?

Alas, the male portion of my household eventually won, and we, too purchased one of these flat screen accidents waiting to happen.  The Wii had been previously gifted to us.  For three years, all was well.  The TV and the Wii got along just fine.

Then one day, on a sunny weekend in October, the news came from the basement:  Sebastian had "made cracks" in the screen on the TV.  We went down to survey the damage.

Was it a Wii remote?  Nope.  A penny.  Yes, he threw a penny at the TV, and it hit in the upper right corner.  The cracks that were reported were not even in the outer screen, that part is unblemished when it's turned off.  It looks like a chipped windshield, and it's the inside screen (?), which apparently houses lights and pixels and pathways of sorts, which are now broken and/or blocked.  Or something.

So now this is what it looks like:

See that vertical line over Father Mitch's finger?  And the horizontal line at the top of the screen?  Where those two intersect is the point of impact of the penny.  The whole screen has lines and bluriness, and varying degrees of weird light.  It's pretty much toast, unless you like being really frustrated when you're watching something.

So that's that.  I guess this is one of those stories we'll tell over the years - "Remember when Sebastian threw a penny at the TV and we still let him live with us?"  Now we just have to see how the story ends - "...And you guys all emptied your piggy banks so we could buy a new one?" or "...And that was the winter we went with no TV and everyone learned to knit?"  Or perhaps from the youngest Smiths - "WHAT?!  We had a TV?!"  I'm  tempted.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Loving Encouragement

I received this message recently:

You are such a crappy blogger!
Wait, you're thinking, YOU have a blog troll?  Who would bother?  
No, just my husband.  Apparently he's noticed my lack of posting.
So maybe I'll give it a go again?  I've got lots of stuff swirling around in this old head of mine...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

lessons from the great outdoors

We went camping again this past weekend, at Ionia State Recreation Area.  We've had this trip on our calendar, and the site reserved and paid for, since back in May.  It's a good thing too, because if we had been able to back out at the last minute, we may very well have done so.  We have a lot going on right now, with a project we've taken on as a family, and it wasn't easy to get ready for this trip.

I won't say it was always pretty, but we made it.  The kids love camping, and I know it's important for us to take time away from the daily grind once in a while.  But still, it's a lot of work.  When we camped for a weekend back in June, we remembered how hard it can be with a crawling baby.  There's not much for her to do, except get really dirty and try to hurt herself, so we ended up just holding her 24/7.  (As opposed to the 22/7 that would be the usual average at home.)  I really thought that she'd be walking by this trip, but she's still very firmly a crawler.  And not a patient one.  Turns out she spends a lot of her time wanting to be somewhere and/or do something that no one is accommodating, and she lets us know about it.  Loudly.

On Saturday morning, Mr. Smith (Do I really always call him that on here?  I guess I do.  I think I'm too tired to keep up that charade any longer.  I suppose I had a reason for doing it at some point but my priorities have shifted.  One day I'm going to start talking about Ryan and y'all are going to wonder who this Ryan guy is.  That's my husband.  There, I said it.) So anyway, Ryan took the boys down to the lake to fish.  Genevieve and I stayed back at the site to clean up a little, and then I walked her in the stroller to where they were.  We were planning on going swimming after lunch, and after a bit of fishing some of the younger boys were ready to get going.  I said I'd walk back with them, and just meet the rest of them back at the site.

So I walked back with my four kids age 7 and under.  No biggie, I do this all the time.  Got them lunch.  Got them bathing suits.  Got them sunscreen.  Super woman, I know.  Still no big guys though.  We waited.  Genevieve continued her scream/squeal-when-I-have-a-need-that's-not-being-filled-immediately routine.  No big white van pulling back up to the campsite.  The boys started breaking down because they were hot and the beach was calling them, and they were starting to not believe me that they'd be back any minute.

That's when I saw it.  Our "neighbors" were packing up their site, on Saturday late-morning, only they weren't packing to go home.  They threw their air mattress up on top of their car, still inflated, and drove deeper into the campground, clearly moving to another site.  Why would they do this?  Well, it only took me about 3 seconds to figure out why: Obviously we are way too loud and our baby cries too much, that's why.  They couldn't stand being our neighbors.  It was like someone had punched me in the gut.  I could just picture this couple going up to the front office and explaining that they could not stay on their site for one more hour because of the obnoxious family next to them, and I was totally embarrassed.  I called Ryan on his cell, "Are you guys planning on coming back here sometime today?" (When I'm upset it's hard for me to contain the snotty.)  My innocent husband, "Yeah, we're headed to the van now.  Everything okay?"  And I think I told him to hurry up before I hung up on him.  Yup, I'm that nice when I'm flustered.

They got back and rushed through eating and changing, while I huffed and puffed and glared.  I explained what was bothering me to Ryan, how I couldn't believe we were THOSE campers, and maybe we just shouldn't be camping with a baby, and why does she keep screaming like that.  Etc.  My dear, patient husband just looked at me, and listened, and got ready to go.

We got to the beach and I started to relax.  The weather was beautiful and the kids love, love, love the water.  Eventually he came over to me and said, "I've been thinking.  When I booked this trip, a lot of the sites were only available for one of the two weekend nights.  It could be that they couldn't get that site two nights in a row, and just had to move to one that's available tonight."  Well sure, I could see his point, but no, they moved because we are the most barbaric and repulsively out of control family they had ever encountered and they couldn't bear to be near us any longer.  (Yes, it really might have grown to that caliber in my mind.  I struggle with pride.)  He was just trying to make me feel better.

By that afternoon, a motor home had come in and we had new neighbors.  Okay, so the site was booked for that night.  Still...

My sister and her family had come in for the day, and we went to do some more fishing after dinner.  I had been holding Genevieve for most of the evening, and at one point Ryan took her from me, and brought her back up to the dock where the boys were.  My sister and I were entertaining some of the other little ones near our vehicles.  When we were all back together again, he came and whispered to me, "You know our old neighbors?  They were up there fishing too.  I was trying to help one of the boys, and the woman saw me struggling with Genevieve.  She offered to hold her for me, and went on about what a cute baby she is.  I'm pretty sure they don't hate us."


I processed this bit of information, and as the night went on I realized that we really weren't any louder than anyone else in the campground.  And certainly not as loud as the chorus of night time creatures and insects.  I was magnifying the situation through my own lens of insecurities.  I wonder how often I'm doing that and not being proven wrong.

I've considered many times telling Ryan that he's free to take the boys camping whenever he wants, but that I'll be sitting the trips out for awhile.  I'll pack for them, prepare food for them, and get them out the door, and then G and I will sit back and chill for some girlie time.  But then I think about how much fun we have, in between the work and the stress, and I wouldn't want to miss it.  And I wouldn't want my boys to think I wanted to miss it.  These are our family vacations, and I want to be in their memories of them.  I guess it's like any other part of raising a family - you st priorities, take the good with the bad, you do your best, and try to enjoy the ride.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Oliver gets up and comes into the kitchen, "Good morning Mama".

"Good morning, Oliver.  Did you sing Happy Birthday to Genevieve yet?"  My way of reminding him it's his baby sister's first birthday today.

"Oh!  No, I didn't yet."  He runs to the dining room where she is in her high chair.

I finish pouring my coffee, and can hear a soft, sweet voice singing a tune in the other room.  I revel a little bit in the love of a big brother.  I walk out to join them, catching the end of his serenade,

"... and you weigh that much too."

Oh well, big brothers are big brothers.

I can't believe my baby is one.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Birthday

Well, Blake turned 14.  I'm not sure who gave him permission to do that, but it happened before I could do anything about it.  Not that I would change anything, but gosh how does 14 years go by so fast?
He's such a great kid, and is growing into these teenage years with grace.
I'm thankful that he's still very much a kid.  He's never been one to scoff at something because it's "for little kids", and he has not once, ever, not wanted to do something that the whole family was doing.  Maybe that will still come, but in the meantime I'm enjoying his pleasant, resourceful nature, his company, his help, and his playful sense of humor.
He really wanted to have friends over on the day of his birthday.  So we cleaned up the basement and invited his four closest guys over.  They hung out down there for the afternoon, we had pizza and cake and ice cream, and then I drove everyone home in the evening.  We attempted to claim our free slurpees (the perks of your birthday being 7/11), but the location we stopped at had given out all the small cups, so we paid for big ones.  I don't think the boys minded.
Blake is a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and is, to put it mildly, consumed with excitement over the release of the The Hobbit trilogy.  We're counting the days until the next one comes out (143 from today), and LOTR, and Tolkien in general, is a daily topic in our home.  So for his birthday we got him this and this.  He loved the book so much, that he immediately used a gift card from my sister to buy the other one in the set.  So, given all that Hobbit-ness, I couldn't resist a few playful touches to his day.

(Jessica has this document available for free!  Just check out her party themes tab.)
All in all, it was a great day.
Next up:  A certain little girl is turning one soon.  What to do about that...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Beginning Again

Today kind of feels like the first day of the rest of my life.

I just can't explain, or really even comprehend myself, how busy life has been lately.  And by lately, I mean for as long as I can remember.  Is it homeschooling?  Is it having seven kids?  Is it having teenagers and babies at the same time, with a bunch in between?  A combination of all, I'm sure, plus some.  Some days I just feel like I don't have time to breathe, much less relax.  

So we pretty much finished up our school year a few weeks ago.  We didn't get everything done, but I'm comfortable with where we're at.  Some math is going to continue to happen for several children, but mostly anything we didn't get to will be pushed into our new year, with a start date to be determined soon.  It must be a big relief to have schooling off my plate for the time being, right?  Well sure it is, but since we stopped our formal schooling, we've had:

  • a major yard reconstruction project
  • two asthma episodes for Isaac, with one resulting in a hospital stay and both resulting in many, many trips to the doctor
  • a week of VBS for 5 of the kids = utter, mind-numbing, suck-the-life-out-of-all exhaustion
  • a week of in-laws in town from Tennessee = non. stop. spoilage.
  • the 4th of July
(must interrupt bullet points for this very important and related photo)

(necessary, yes?  I thought so.)

  • a broken water heater = a Tuesday away from work for Mr. Smith to replace it = a Saturday at work for Mr. Smith to make up the hours
  • a camping trip
  • a new vehicle for the Mr. = trying to sell the old one
  • two birthdays
  • the general, everyday craziness that is our family life
So I guess it's no wonder that I haven't felt the sipping-iced tea-on-my-back-porch-while-the-kids-romp-in-the-sprinkler thing happening just yet.

But will I?  I mean like, ever?  Sometimes it doesn't feel like it.  It feels like the weight of the housekeeping and child rearing alone are enough to crush me, never mind all my other responsibilities and anything extra that might spring up.  How will I ever keep up with it all?  I don't know.  Maybe I won't.

But I do know that today is a new day.  There's nothing monumentally challenging on my calendar this week, or really for the rest of July.  Today I got up early and in the wee dark hours of the morning a little voice told me to make some time for a quiet rosary today.  I think I will.  My morning coffee/clicking brought me this reminder.  Why yes, I think I needed to hear that today.  And at this very moment I have a soon-to-be 14 year old who's eager to have some friends over later in the week, waiting for me to join him to clean up in the basement.  Sounds like a good place for a fresh start to me.

So that's what I'll do.  I'll begin again.  I'll pray.  I'll simplify, and wipe out the cobwebs.  I'll continue to find inspiration for good, and I'll have hope.  That will be enough.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

We have our work cut out for us

I love our home.

We bought this house in July, three years ago, and one of the things that sold us on it was the yard.  It was a good size for city dwellers like us, with nothing at all in it, a blank slate, just waiting for us to kid it up with a swing set and bikes and balls, and gardens just the way we want them.

We've done all of that, but in the meantime we've figured out that we have some pretty serious issues when it comes to water.  With any significant rain the whole yard floods, and sometimes even forces seepage into our basement.  It's rendered the backyard useless for much of the spring and fall seasons, which is not good when I have boys with pent up energy.  We think it's a combination of compacted soil that doesn't receive the water very well (it just sits on top of it), and our yard just plain being too low compared to neighboring ones.

So this is the year we decided to do something about it.  On Memorial Day weekend, we ordered 10 yards of dirt and had it dumped in our driveway.

Ten yards is A LOT of dirt.

We started right at the back of the house, tilled up the compacted soil, and built up the dirt by a good 12 inches.  We created some simple flower beds (which we'll plant later) against the house, and tried our best to very gradually slope the dirt out from there.

Ten yards took us about 1/3 of the way back, and we roped it off and planted some grass seed, hoping for the best.  We planned to do the yard in phases, so that the kids could still use the back half of it while we got grass growing in this area.  (That area to the right of the white fence will later be my patio.  We're ignoring it for now.)

A couple of weeks later, we got our first heavy rain.  A test.  I kept looking out to see what our new area was looking like:  
So far so good, it seems to be draining.  But wait -- just beyond where we finished looks even worse than usual.  Well of course it does, we haven't done that part yet, and that's why we have to.  No wait -- it looks pretty bad, like lake bad.
Well, maybe pond would be a more accurate description, because soon we had this:
If you knew where we live, you'd know how hilarious this actually is, because you just don't have ducks in your backyard here.  I could not believe it when I saw them.  They hung around for a couple of days, just doing their duck thing.

That picture was taken nine days ago, and only the last couple days can we walk around out there without being in a soggy mess.  The water didn't have any place to go (which is good, because our basement wasn't on its list of options this time!), so it sat there, and killed what little grass had been there, and made our yard smell like a swamp.  It was looking like that's how it would be with any rain at this point...

So... phase two has come sooner than we had hoped or expected.  We had another 10 yards of topsoil delivered.  We're tilling and wheelbarrowing, and praying this all works out!