Gender Reveal

Last Wednesday, we had a sonogram and found out that our baby is a healthy, perfectly-measuring, precious…

Baby Girl!

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Tomorrow we will be a full 19 weeks along. This pregnancy is going by so quickly! I am astonished weekly by my What to Expect video updates that inform me of the miraculous milestones our little girl is reaching. You might think that after ten babies, I wouldn’t be surprised, or in awe of it all. But I forget, far too quickly, those little details after each pregnancy. And the awe? Well, I can’t see how anyone could not be in awe of witnessing any of it. Babies are a miracle, from their creation to the amazing ways that they grow. Psalm 139 says it so beautifully:

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.


Recessed Light to Pendant Light in Minutes

I’m always looking for ways to make our home prettier, more welcoming, and more comfortable. I especially appreciate simple projects with a powerful impact, that can be done inexpensively. I’d like to share a lighting project that my husband recently did for our kitchen.

House project articles are not a strength of my blog, due largely to my forgetfulness in picture-taking. I am notorious for waiting until after a project is complete before realizing a “before” shot would have been good idea. Thankfully, I have a husband who remembers my photography regrets, and minutes before beginning this project, asked, “Wanna snap a picture before I start?”

Thus, while you won’t get to see a pristine kitchen, and you won’t get to see “process” pictures, you do get to see a last-minute “before” shot of our kitchen (Thanks, Michael!)

Before:

lightsbefore

The thought occurred to me that placing pendant lights over the bar countertop area would add an extra dimension of lighting and more ambiance to the room. Wanting to find out if pendant lights would be doable (doable meaning DIY and not too expensive), I did a little research. I quickly discovered that since we already had recessed/canned lighting in the kitchen, the project would be quite easy and cheaper than I had hoped.

Lowes sells pendant light conversion kits that screw right into canned light fixtures, just like installing a lightbulb. No electrical wiring necessary, which was great news for us. Even better news? The kits run just $20 each. We only had to add a pendant lampshade of our choice. My style tends to be classic/traditional, so we went with a simple, bell-shaped, frosted glass shade. Lucky me, the traditional choice was also a frugal choice, at $8.

My husband installed three kits in around a half hour, most of which was spent adjusting the cords to hang at exactly the same height.

After:

lightsafter The pendant lights provide a softer option than the bright recessed lights, and add a nice dimension to the room. I love the new look!


Too Old for Babies?

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Pregnancy at 42 is different. In many ways, it is harder than it was when I was younger. I don’t have the strength I used to. I begin to show earlier, and I grow huge; no gorgeous, skinny mama, belly pics for me! Morning sickness is worse at this age. Fatigue is worse too. Diastasis recti and pelvic floor prolapse are new vocabulary words to define old symptoms. Genetic risks are higher. Risks of pregnancy complications are higher. Risk of miscarriage is higher. As an older mother, there is an increased chance I could die before this baby is grown.

All of that is true.  I can see why some might look at our family and wonder if we are crazy.

But I look at it differently.

What is “too old”?

First, who decides what the magic number is, the number which officially makes a woman too old for babies? General consensus? Doctors? Our neighbors?

How do we define “too old”? Is it a matter of how many gray hairs or wrinkles we have? Does it mean “outside cultural norms”?

Is the number variable by woman or is it universal across the board? Are healthy women allowed a higher number before “too old” is reached, whereas women in delicate health are marked earlier?

Does it have anything to do with whether or not we already have children? Do women who marry later in life get an extension on what age is acceptable to have a baby?

Is it a matter of health? Does it refer to an age that carries pregnancy risks? If that’s the case, wouldn’t the label apply to every woman?

What are the risks, really?

Actually, I don’t view the “increased risks” in older mother pregnancies as being dire at all. According to Merck, the risk of giving birth to a Down Syndrome baby at 42 years old is 1 in 64. If you have a calculator handy, you’ll find that is equal to 1.5%. This means that I have a 98.5% chance of giving birth to a child without Down Syndrome.

The risk of having a child with any chromosomal abnormality is 1 in 42 for me, or 2.3%, which means I have a 97.7% chance of having a child with no chromosomal abnormalities.

And life expectancy? The average white woman in the United States lives to be 81, while the average white man lives to be 76 (Source: Medical News Today). My likelihood – and my husband’s – of living to raise this child to adulthood are still pretty high.

Miscarriage rates are sobering, to be sure. Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage. But I’ve experienced that, and while it was painful, I have never regretted the fact that my sweet baby girl was conceived. She has an eternal soul, and that fact is so much bigger than the fact that I mourn her loss while here on earth.

Some stats look promising, others less so. Either way, my hope is not in statistics.

Who really decides?

I would answer that first question this way: God decides.

For me, this answer brings clarity to all the other answers as well.

Life is uncertain, no matter how old we are. Having a baby at any age carries risks. We can not know what the future holds, whether that future appears bright or dire. We can be wrong.

But God is all-knowing. He does know what the future holds. And he is good!

And, he is the creator of life. We may try to make our choices in the life-giving department, but God is still sovereign over the womb, and he can override our choices. If he chooses, he can open the womb while a couple is using birth control, and he may sometimes close the womb even when a couple deeply desires a child. It’s a painful thing to accept.

I believe that if God, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, chooses to give me a baby at 42, then he believes I am young enough, and he knows best.  God will decide when I am too old to bear children, and when that time comes, he will stop sending babies.

Until then, I receive each blessing with joy and gratitude.

Trusting in the goodness of God is enough to drown out any fears of the “what-ifs.” What-ifs are paralyzing. If we let the what-ifs dictate our decisions, we would never do anything worth doing.

I would rather trust God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

16weeks


Dealing with Morning Sickness and Other Pregnancy Woes

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At almost 16 weeks, I am mostly nausea-free. I’m reveling in the second trimester!

This was not the case a few weeks ago. Either I experienced my worst bout of morning sickness this time around, or I have a terrible memory of my previous pregnancies. I wish I knew of a definitive cure. It certainly would make the first trimester more pleasant.

So far I haven’t found any miracle cures, but I have found some relief from the following tips.

Magnesium Oil and Vitamin B

You may have heard that Vitamin B helps alleviate nausea. I’ve had doctors who have prescribed prenatal vitamins with extra B for this reason. In some ways, B helped, but I recently read a little more to the story.

During my desperate attempt for ideas that would offer relief from my nausea, I came across a fascinating article called The Real Cause of Morning Sickness. I recommend reading the whole thing, because my little summary to follow is a rather poor explanation.

Essentially, some studies have shown that magnesium deficiency can aggravate nausea during pregnancy. Magnesium deficiency is a pretty big problem in our culture today, with many unfortunate consequences, so I find it easy to believe that this could affect the level of morning sickness we experience.

An additional problem exists for us expecting mothers, because magnesium is just plain harder to absorb when we are expecting. This is where vitamin B comes in… B vitamins supposedly aid in the absorption of magnesium, which could explain why some women have good results from using B supplements.

My experience? I picked up some B complex vitamins from Target along with this magnesium oil from Amazon, and began to feel a little better within days of beginning to use them. Could it be that I was nearing the end of the morning sickness anyway, and my relief was more timing-related than magnesium-related? Possibly. But, I will say that I continue to take my B vitamins daily, and I use my magnesium spray a few times a week. I’m not taking the chance. ;)

Eating Habits

Here’s a puzzling truth: Those very moments when I can hardly bear the sight of food, oddly enough, are the times I need it most.

Seriously. The smallest pangs of hunger trigger my worst episodes of morning sickness. Throughout the first trimester, I find it better to eat small meals every hour, rather than three regular meals a day. Personally, I like to eat meals with protein, because they tend to stay with me longer, and because they are lower glycemic. Too many carbohydrates cause me to crash quickly, and that can trigger a whole new bout of nausea.

It’s a fine line.

My favorite mini-meals this time around are:

  • eggs (every morning)
  • pickles, sliced cheese, and a little mustard on the side
  • yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • a “parfait” (as Cowgirl calls it) of granola and yogurt
  • a little leftover meat (except chicken; for some reason, I could not bear to look at chicken until a few weeks ago)
  • a protein shake
  • black beans with ranch dressing mix
  • popcorn
  • nuts

I prefer to eat the same lunches and dinners as the rest of my family, just with smaller portions.

Sleep

For me, morning sickness becomes worse the more tired I am. Thus, I nap almost daily without guilt.

Sleep is not a cure-all, but without it, I am a wreck.

The difficult part of sleep, for me, is finding time to do it. Every mother reading this understands. There are always a hundred useful, important things I could be doing, or feel I should be doing.

My solution is this: In the first trimester, or anytime I am sick or weak, I give myself permission to let some things go for a time.

Priorities are essential. As to my children, I look first to their physical needs, then to the needs of their hearts, and then to their educational needs. As to household duties, I focus first on food, then on laundry.  If those important things are taken care of, most other things can wait until I get some rest.

Fatigue

I have very little advice here, I’m sorry to say. Of course, fatigue is a sign that we need rest, so to mention sleep would be rather obvious. I will just reiterate the need to make it happen.

I am still struggling with fatigue, even in the second trimester. This is new for me, as I recall the second trimester as being a lovely, energetic time in previous pregnancies. While it certainly is by comparison to the first trimester, I daily wonder what in the world is wrong with me.

Dehydration makes fatigue worse, so drinking lots of water helps. Prenatal vitamins are important. I use Integrative Therapeutics Prenatal Forte, because they are inexpensive and work great. I find them similar to the popular SuperMom vitamins, but at a nicer price.

Indigestion

I haven’t yet had much indigestion in this pregnancy, but I know it’s coming. The third trimesters of my past have been full of sleepless nights because of it. Even by eating careful, small meals, and restricting myself to no food after 7:00 pm, I still struggle.

One tip that has helped me tremendously has been the use of apple cider vinegar. I sometimes make it into a hot tea with honey, but my favorite way has been more simple. I fill a big glass with cold water, and splash in a little ACV, just enough to lightly tint and cloud the water. The concoction helps me to feel better almost immediately. If you are suffering with indigestion, try it! Just remember to brush your teeth afterward, or rinse your mouth with a little milk to neutralize the acid and protect your teeth.

Attitude

As you can see, I have no cure-all solutions to share. Some tips help, but nothing has made nausea or fatigue go away completely for me. The very best advice I can give is this:

Recognize the blessing.

Remember, morning sickness is something that only happens when you are pregnant. The one thing that has made a difference for me has been the awesome knowledge that it’s worth it!

It’s easy to forget when you are pregnant with a child who is yet unseen, but I’m easily reminded when I look at my children who I already know. When I look at the faces of each of my children, young cuddly toddlers with tiny voices and tiny feet, children who are growing and asking the most amazing questions, and older ones who are becoming young adults, I know they are worth it.

And the blessings are not just for me. Ultimately, the hope in a new pregnancy is so much bigger than me, my joy, my blessings. The goal in raising children is not to raise children, but to raise adults – adults who will have God-given purposes of their own. The impact of a new life is so much bigger than we can imagine. The opportunity to nurture new life, even with the difficulties that come with pregnancy, are so, so worth it.

I’d experience any amount of suffering for my children to have life. Morning sickness is a small price to pay, and is actually a great reminder to me that a healthy baby is growing.

Each child is a gift. This baby – this tiny, mysterious, wonderful child in my womb, who I haven’t yet laid eyes on – is worth it. We can’t wait to meet this little one face to face, and we know we will just fall in love with him or her instantly.

Babies are worth it.

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. ~ John 16:21 ESV

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Help with Homeschool Information Overload

Yesterday I shared the joys of homeschooling conventions and how the experience has changed for us over the years. Today, I’d like to share a potential downside of these conventions. Honestly, it was something that I’ve never noticed before, but I think God brought it to my attention in a very obvious way for a reason.

At one point during the convention, my teens were attending a session together, and my husband and I walked through the exhibit hall with only our younger children. As we explored the various vending booths, a woman shoved a brochure in my hand.

“You will need this,” she said, knowingly.

“What is it?” I asked.

We are an online school. You may be okay now, but you will need this someday,” she said, glancing at my little ones.

I smiled and thanked her, taking the brochure and walking on. In my head, I laughed. Now, I have nothing against online schools. I am sure that many people benefit from using them, and who knows if maybe we will use one someday. However, I really did not like being told I “needed” one. I will graduate my first child in a year, and I have not needed one yet.

Keep that thought in your mind and set it aside for a moment.

Not twenty minutes later, another woman at another booth inspected my elementary aged children, and in a serious voice, asked,

“Are you doing drills yet?”

“Yes I am,” I answered.

“Well, research shows that drills are the only way for children to succeed in math. You need to make sure you do this rIght. We are the experts.”

Once again, I responded with a thank you and a smile, and walked away.

I agree drills are important, and we do them. But I really, really don’t like the attitude that there is only one way to homeschool, and if you don’t use this curriculum or that one, then your kids will be messed up.

As a seasoned homeschool mother, I recognized that these ladies were just trying to sell me something, and I wasn’t threatened. I wasn’t personally offended or frightened by the words of the online school lady or the math drill lady.

But I was irritated for another reason. Many young, new homeschool mothers are jumping in to these new waters right now. They deeply desire to do what is best for their kids, and they are already overwhelmed by all that is out there. Fear is already there… fear of their new venture. Fear of how their kids are going to turn out. Fear of making the right curriculum choices. Fear of how they are going to give their kids a good education while taking care of the house and baby too. Fear of how they will financially be able to make this venture work.

I know they have those fears, because those were my fears twelve years ago. To tell you the truth, there were lots of other fears too.

So I was not irritated for myself. I was irritated to get a glimpse of the pressure that these two vendors tried to place on me, which for a young mother with less experience, could add MORE fear and pressure to their already overwhelmed selves.

Most vendors are not like this. In fact, in the many conventions I’ve visited over the years, I think this was the first time anyone approached me with the old “FUD” approach. Most vendors do believe that they have something of value, and they are there to show what they had to offer, answer questions, and sell some stuff. Everything displayed in that exhibit hall would be of value to someone, and I think it’s great that we have the opportunity to interact with the vendors and see if their books/methods/etc. are a good fit.

But the PRESSURE! Homeschool moms, especially those new to the journey, feel that pressure… feel the fear, uncertainty and doubt… even without high pressure sales tactics shown by those select few women I encountered. They need confidence. They need to be encouraged. They need to be equipped. They need help navigating the new, deep and wide waters.

They don’t need more pressure.

These thoughts hit a nerve that has been bothering me for a few days.

As I mulled over these thoughts, I wanted to do something to serve and minister to young, overwhelmed moms. I considered perhaps writing a blog about how to navigate through the incredible amount of information in these waters, but had not yet determined quite where I would go with it. Then this morning, providential timing, I discovered that someone had beat me to it! Over at Raising Arrows (GREAT blog, by the way!) Amy is just beginning a series on Homeschool Information Overload. I’m sure she will have tons of better advice on the subject than I could offer, so I am happy to direct you to her. :) If you are overwhelmed by the options out there, if you are feeling those fears of which methods to use and which curriculum is best, if you worry that choosing the “wrong” books could break your kids… fear not. Go visit Amy and be refreshed!