Friday, November 24, 2017

2017 ~ Christmas Letter

I know. I really haven't written anything since Della was born.
What can I say?
This year has been a hard one.
My time is not my own.

Here's our Christmas letter for the year... it will be a catch up of sorts...

Messy & Beautiful ~ 2017

This seems to be our theme for the year of 2017 … over and over again it’s been the place we’ve found ourselves.  Messy little faces. Life messy and overscheduled. Camp, messy and changing. Messy relationships. A house that’s endlessly messy. The futility of the messy could be maddening if it wasn’t for the juxtaposition of beautiful that glints through the grime.

Della-9725 copy 2.jpg
This old world is endlessly messy. But, through the mess we are better able to observe that God is in the business of making messy things beautiful! This time of year we are reminded of One who came into the messiest of conditions, but came to repair this mess-of-a-world, to wipe away every tear from every eye and make all things new and beautiful! He is the beauty in the mess!
Way back in January, 2017 started off in the most messy and beautiful way possible with labor, great struggles, discouragement and lots of griminess that produced the sweetest of gifts! We were blessed to welcome Della Jane Miller on January 3rd. She weighed in at 8 lbs. 10 oz. and was 19 inches long. Pretty beautiful, right? She has been our great delight this whole year! Her name means “The valley of God’s graciousness” and it’s an apt description of the valley we’ve been walking this year… full of God’s grace even when shadows appear. As we say farewell to 2017 we give our annual report on what happened with those 365 messy days God gave us.  

The Beautiful
Addie > 12 years old  > Events: A highlight for me was being baptized in the camp lake with friend and family around. I enjoyed going to camp and the COLS homeschool session and the relationships I made at both. > New Skills: Learning guitar and getting my own email account. > Thankful For: I’m thankful for getting a new little sister, she’s so little, sweet and loud!

Allan >  11 years old on Christmas Eve  > Events: It was really great this summer to be baptized and to share how I was raised out of death into life. I also really enjoyed going on our church’s men’s camping trip. > New Skills: I’ve learned a lot of skills building our house and I’ve been learning guitar too. > Thankful For: I’m thankful that we have gotten to build our house and how God’s provided that for us!

I know, we were missing one.
Elias > 10  years old > Events: Probably getting baptized was my favorite event. I also liked to meet our new camp staff this summer!  > New Skills: I’ve learned how to be calmer and more thoughtful and I’ve also liked learning to play the guitar. > Thankful For: I’m thankful for my life, getting to be here with everybody, and getting to learn God’s Word.

Cora > 9 years old > Events: I found out I have a type of Epilepsy called Absence Seizures, don’t worry, I’m ok and I’ve learned that God is a good God who’s in control. I was also baptized in the camp lake in June! > New Skill: I learned to perfect my lemon bar recipe, but I tried to make gluten-free ones and it was a disaster! > Thankful For: I am thankful for the friends I made at COLS this year!

2017.07.25.-Icecreaminpark-4184.jpgThea > 7 years old January 9th > Events: My favorite event of this year is getting to take music classes and getting to sing! I like to sing! I’ve also grown a lot this year!!! > New Skills: Learning to read and getting to do more school with Maga (Tim’s mom)! > Thankful For: I’m thankful for getting a baby sister to hold! (Notes from mom: Thea’s grown a ton this year and overcome many things. She’s proving to be a superior big sister, kind and loving!)

Whitley > 3 years old > Events: Whitley became a big sister this year! Every day she figures out a new way to get into something. Whit’s the angel-faced kid who’s done all the things no other had the gumption to do! > New Skill: Talking more with her speech therapist’s help! > Thankful For: Paint, sharpie markers, lotion… anything messy. (Whit’s mom is thankful for inescapable pjs that zip up the back, and all the childproofing gadgets that we’ve had to invest in for the first time.)

Della-9621.jpgDella Jane > 1 year old on January 3rd > Events: She was born! She was a week overdue… Mom’s still a little irked about that… but, when she did arrive it was to shouts of joy! It was a good coming! > New Skills: Doing all the wonderful and mundane things babies do! She has 8 people in the world under her chubby little thumb. Her smile is the best. > Thankful For: Milk, all the food and fun siblings to entertain her. We are all thankful for Della’s presence. Having a little one, one more time. She’s unique, new and such a smiley joy-giver!

2017.07.25.-Icecreaminpark-4173.jpgMarci > So many gray hairs > Events: Had a baby, for the last time … AGAIN (I know, I’m milking that to the end of this letter). Tim and I celebrated our 15th anniversary! The last few years have proven that it DOES only get better. I’ve seen Tim grow and become a grace-filled, imperfect, but self-giving man! Every day I am thankful for how he serves and love our family and those around us. We ended our 7th year of homeschool, I staggered across that finish line so ready to call it and then by August we started our 8th year of homeschool. I was fearful but had renewed perspective and it’s ended up being one of my favorite years thus far! > New Skills: Working on my watercolor and lettering skills… for my wellness! Learned many new skills working on our house. > Thankful For: I’m thankful for my “mother-in-love”, Barbara, who came to stay with us for a month, twice this year to help us, love on us and spoil us! I’m thankful that I am not my own, but belong to God. Endless comfort in that thought!

Tim > Aging finely...says his wife > Events: Cross Bar X, COLS. Many changes there, but looking forward to what lies ahead. Built a house with every other spare moment. It’s not done yet. > New Skills: Wiring, Heating and Air, Drywall, Plumbing… you get the idea. > Thankful For: Family. Growth and challenges. That God doesn't give up and makes all things new.

All our Love  
Marci (for the whole crew)

(Photo Cred > Svatka at Foteem Photography > Who captures the beautiful in the midst of our messy.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Best Pencil Sharpener EVER!

A few years ago I purchased the best pencil sharpener ever!
I found this amazing product at...

It has not only survived our 7 children's daily use, homeschooling and the antics of our toddler (who is a destroyer), but my favorite thing about it is it's also pretty! 

I opted for the red one, of course! Isn't it pretty??? 

Here's a little video I did as a give away for our local homeschool mom's group.
One lucky mom won this beautiful and functional yellow pencil sharpener!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Della Jane's Unique Birth

Birth Stats...
Estimated Gestational Age: 41 weeks
20 hours ruptured membranes and inactive labor, 3 hours very intense active labor
8 lbs. 10 oz.
Unmedicated, Home birth, Water birth, 5th birth

39 weeks

Our amazing New Year's Eve dinner... all alone!
The last week of my pregnancy was hard (the last month had been) and I was so ready to have labor start and to see my baby! On December 31st my parents came and picked up our 6 older children because I was so tired and feeling so bad, to give us a break and let me get more rest. I was so stressed out about going overdue, fearful and also just physically struggling. I kept trying to make things happen, and that was obviously not working well! 

January 2nd (almost 41 weeks overdue) I woke up at about 5:45 am to go to the bathroom, getting back into bed I felt a small gush of liquid and realized my waters had broken... it was a slow leak. The night prior I had lost my mucus plug, it had actually fallen on the floor when I stood up from the toilet with a flop! It was huge, I laughed at how large and creature-like it was!

Well, "sorta soon"!

I tried going back to bed but fluid kept slowly coming out and mild contractions started and were about every 7 minutes apart... so I made my bed for delivery (with layered sheets and water proof pads) since we planned a home birth, our 3rd one. I got my sweet little scripture/meditation signs hung up around the room, picked up and generally did a little nesting of my birthing space. I was so eager to meet our baby!  At least I knew that it would come… sooner or later. At 7 am I got up Tim because usually I get started and have the baby within about 4 to 5 hours. I told him he might want to shower and get us breakfast before I would presumably naturally transition into active labor... ha! 
41 weeks

At 9 am everything abruptly stopped. No contractions… nothing! I called our midwife who said she'd come over at noon to check my progress (dilation) and talk "herbal induction". I was a "stretchy 3, almost a 4 and we thought I just needed to be pushed a little over the hump into active labor. I started an herbal tincture and labor seemed to resume... moderately intense contractions every 5 to 8 minutes... I was hopeful we were on our way to having a baby by dinner time! After my last dose at about 4 pm everything slowly ground to a halt again. I was so disappointed and discouraged! With my 3rd my water had similarly broken spontaneously and I entered labor with no problem... I was so confused why my body wasn't cooperating! I tried to rest, which was a joke because I was so anxious and wound up. Honestly, I can’t even remember what I did from about 4 to 8 pm? We did watch Wonder Years, which helped take my mind off things, I tried using my breast pump to stimulate oxytocin and I think I took a bath too.
Ready and waiting!
Tim helped me do the “side-lying release" on spinning babies, at about 8 pm my labor started on its own again, which was encouraging ... but it would only keep going only as long as I was active... I kept it going by walking, climbing the stairs and sitting on a birth ball until 10 pm but we were both getting tired. I felt like I'd already been through labor, I was tired and achy, and felt “done”. I could hardly imagine all the work I really had before me! I was very discouraged. At our midwives encouragement we went to bed and called the whole thing for the time being. She reminded us that we had plenty of time to still have the baby (the whole “time limit” thing of having broken waters) and she assured us that my body would just start up on it’s own and to surrender to what was happening and to stop trying to make it happen. I complied and went to bed.

Laborland. Beka our amazing midwife looks on.
While sleeping I’d wake and have a contraction every half hour or so. I got some decent rest. At 1 am I had a sort of stronger one, another at 1:30 am and then at 1:45 am I felt like a freight train hit me! It was probably the most painful contraction I've ever had and it just kept going and going and going, ... Tim came to my aid, as he had been resting in the adjoining room. I was very vocal about the intensity of the contraction. After it passed my entire body immediately started shaking uncontrollably and my jaw chattering! It was intense! Tim took my vitals and my BP was crazy high... we both just looked at each other like "for real?" It had been just below or at a mildly concerning place for the last month of my pregnancy and had slowly inched up the days before my water broke. I had NO other signs or symptoms of pre-eclampsia, but we kept an eye on it. Perhaps that crazy jump into active labor made it shoot up?  Tim thought I might be in transition (or feared that) so he immediately called our midwife who lives just around the corner from us. She said she'd be on her way and to get me in a hot bath to relax until she arrived. Our secondary midwife was also called and she got on her way.

I got in the bath but was SO fearful that labor would stall... yet again. I kept thinking that we’d call the midwives, they’d arrive and the labor would flop again. I told Tim I needed to get out of the bath due to this fear… he told me he thought I needed to stay in and to stop worrying so much! It, thankfully, didn’t stop. Beka arrived, set up more of her stuff, and just observed me. 

Finally here! It's a girl!
The waves were so incredibly intense it was like getting pounded by a tidal wave. I was trying so hard to find focus and meditate on my planned thoughts of perspective and even just control my breathing. It was a struggle and took my entire being. I labored in my tub from 2-5 am, the entire delivery. We had to refill it once  because it was getting cold, but it was a great help to me yet again. I'd labor in varying positions... reclined, sitting up, sort of squatting, all fours and back again... moving helped position our baby who was engaged, but high and moving positions too during the whole thing, which didn't feel great.  During my tidal wave contractions I would moan, remind myself "open", "out", "down into my arms" and try to visualize my opening relaxing cervix. Tim would give me sips of water, I drank 3 glasses during labor, and cool my head with a cloth. He kept telling me "it's only been an hour, you're doing amazing, that one did so much work, you know you're good at this, you've done this before..." All affirmations that I needed to be reminded of as I felt frustrated at the intensity and how this labor felt nothing like my other labors. 

Well, look at you!
At one point I asked for my progress to be checked as I really wanted to know when we could move on to pushing... I was 8cm, almost 9... but given the clear to "follow my body" as little pushes with a multipara (mama of many) can push the cervix out of the way... I did. After about 45 min I felt strong bearing down instincts and pushed quite aggressively several times. I checked myself and baby was NO where to be felt... I nearly cried! Beka checked again and found a cervical lip on one edge. She suggested laboring through 3 contractions on hands and knees to remove it... I did and amazingly they were very gentle contractions in comparison to what I had been feeling prior! After that I went back to pushing and my new labor mediation became "it's ok if you split in two... you won't, you'll just feel like it"! Haha! It was strangely encouraging to me. The first few pushes did nothing and I looked at my team and said "What is going on? It's not coming down!" I was so mad! I've literally pushed twice with some of my children! Tim suggested I try a modified hands and knees (with my tail more down in the water)... I was skeptical... but trusted him. Trust had been my word for labor and I realized I needed to apply this. 

Sweet relief! Baby on the outside! Thank you Lord!
After a few pushes in this position the baby got over the “speed bump” in it's way and over my pubic bone and came barreling down in one MASSIVE and long contraction! I was able to push from public bone/pelvis to head fully out in that one contraction, several pushes. I was seriously yelling/crazy grunting during this whole thing... it was crazy intense and also I was just surprised and unprepared for it. But, I soooo badly wanted to be done and have the baby out that I went with it! I was totally embarrassed however that I was so loud! Thank goodness our kids weren't around. 

After the head was out I got a rest and asked Beka who was assisting with the baby's head 
behind me if the baby was ok if I waited, she said yes. It took several pushes to release the rest of the body, which was odd for me, it usually just sort of slips out with a hearty push... but it soon did. Beka caught the baby and as I started to sit back the baby was passed between my legs to my waiting arms! I grabbed it up and said "I'm so glad you came out!!!" Then looked to see what it was... a girl! Our 5th daughter! I was happily surprised. I had totally thought the baby was a boy, but I had nothing but feelings of gladness to welcome my baby. Della Jane was covered in vernix from head to toe, I was given a shot of pitocin to help me not bleed too much and I got out of the tub... which I had totaled out in my massive push... it was SO gross! 
Joy our assisting midwife.

Della Jane
 (with some nice bruising along her brow)

Della's twin... look at it in comparison to the size of the chux pad!
They got me settled in bed, I delivered a massive placenta I affectionately called "Della's twin"... it was the size of a dinner plate and approximately 1 1/2 inches thick! The midwives jokingly said it's why Della was so happy and unwilling to be born “on time.” I remarked that no wonder I was cranky the last few weeks... I was carrying that around! I lost a fair amount of blood when it came and they wanted me resting in bed for a week due to that and my elevated BP, which took it’s sweet time coming down.

8 lbs 10 oz

Della Jane and I had wonderful skin to skin time, we had an uninterrupted hour as mama, daddy, baby, I got Della nursing while the Midwives got us food, switched the laundry, did dishes and picked up... as well as cleaned the "poop tub!" Bless them!

I couldn't do it with out you.
They did the newborn screen and their paperwork. They hung out and observed mostly me (due to the BP) until 11 am. Beka came back the next day to check on us. 

Oh! And Della had a 14 1/4 head! That said, due to pushing on hands and knees I didn't tear a bit... I had torn with all my others... I was very pleased about that and it made healing amazingly easy! I felt like that was kind of my reward for such a crazy labor. Della weighed in at 8 lbs 10 oz and was 19 inches long. 

Sweet baby girl!
When all was said and done this mama who's use to 4-5 hour labors ended up with a 20 hour long early or sporadic labor and had a 3 hour active and crazy intense labor... basically, a tiring long labor and a short intense labor all in one! It was NOT what I expected, but it was still good, I got to be at home and we have a healthy baby and I'm doing pretty good with amazing care! Very 

My Prize!

(photos by Foteem Photography)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Welcome Sweet Baby Girl!

On January 3rd a little someone came to visit!

She was born at 5:19 am

Measured in at 8 lbs. 10 oz.

19 inches long!

All sweetness and complete joy!

Della Jane Miller
Our bright and gracious gift from the Lord!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Coming Baby, Coming Lord

A sweet friend recently sent me this Word encouragement in this time I'm in, 

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 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. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." - John 16:20-22
Recently, my motto, meditation, and nearly every breath has been partnered with the words "Lord, help me. Lord bring this baby soon. Lord allow it to come. Lord, deliver me from this." I know, I might be being a bit dramatic, but people, it's where I'm at. And I question if this isn't most women's late pregnancy thoughts.

I realized that this refrain is very fitting for the Advent season. 

While my focus is on the coming of a baby, and not directly spiritually related, I began to wonder were those Mary's meditations prior to her travel, "Lord, I don't want to have your Son on the road... please let him come now!" Or did she know she needed to get to Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecy? Were her words instead, "Oh Lord, please help me, sustain me while we travel... keep this baby from coming before your appointed time?" But, both held the anticipation or expectancy of the COMING of the incarnate Rescuer. They just held a different focus and perspective.

Aren't we, as Christians, really to be about both of these prayers as we look to the coming of our Lord? 

"Come, Lord Jesus, come!" we pray, meditate and say with every breath... and yet we also say, "Lord, please help us as we wait, sustain us until your appointed time of coming," because we know that none know the hour or time and the Lord's delay is a delay of mercy for those who are lost.

In our home we are focused on really one singular thing... readiness. It's nearly my obsession. Boxes have arrived filled to overflowing with (not Christmas presents) but will all manner of medical supplies, I've cleaned my room and bathroom and sanitized my tub more than is humanly possible, we all get our laundry done promptly so it's not backed up, we attempt to keep a full fridge (which is hard around here) and we keep things spotless and clean in anticipation for a small guest's arrival. Oddly, this guest could really care less how clean our house is or if we have the car seat installed yet, and would make it's self quite at home with a swaddle blanket, diaper and a warm chest to nuzzle on. But, we make ourselves ready... because we know the time is drawing close... not because we think we can actually, really, ever "be ready" on our own. 

We look for signs and are aware of current events. Tim will ask each morning, "How are you feeling today? What happened with you last night?" I google random things like "is a backache a sign of labor?" or read articles entitled "Signs of Labor You Shouldn't Ignore..." When signs of labor persist, then delay... We lament and rejoice. I look forward to the pain of labor knowing it will be of little consequence to the good I'll receive in the gift of a child.  My sorrow is present when some days I think, "How will I ever make it to the end... its so far away???" and dissolve into tears ... then an hour later I think "He (or she) is coming soon... it's not that far away!" As people of faith when we feel anguish and sorrow and the ever present prodromal labors that tire us and wear us down, at the struggle of sin and of the earth... yet at the very same time we know it's in preparation for a greater glory... its the glory of a joy that NO one can ever take away from us! In that we rejoice.

When baby does arrive we won't be thinking that we made it happen... it will just happen all of a sudden... when the time is fully done. 

Advent is a time of waiting... a time of expectations... and a time of entering in to both sorrow and rejoicing. It's a sweet time and also a time of struggle. Perhaps this is what is meant when we read, "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." At it's core Advent is a time all about treasuring and pondering. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

How To: The Last Month of a Pregnancy

As I write I'm 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant or 2 weeks and 4 days until my due date, which I will tell you means absolutely nothing! But, when one is this far along one tends to count the days.

If it's been a hard one (or is currently hard) this is for you. If it's been a joy and you feel ok letting baby stay put as long as their little heart desires... happy day... keep reading too!

A little about me...
I am about to have my 7th baby... yep.
#1 was 13 days overdue
#2 was adopted at the age of 5
#3 was born on his due date (what a considerate child!)
#4 was 9 days overdue
#5 was adopted at the age of 1
#6 was 4 days overdue

... and we will just see what happens this time around. But, as you can see I've had my share of days (and "extra days") in late pregnancy. I've learned to cope... and when I haven't coped well, I learned things then too. Like ugly crying is totally ok. Just tell your children, "Mama is having a hard day, don't worry, I'll feel better after I am done." And you will.

My current status:
I am dog tired. I was up from 3:30 to 6 am with very strong Braxton Hicks contractions, a wiggly baby who wouldn't be settled and general discomfort. My pelvis feels like it's splitting in two every time I walk, and I have heartburn all hours of the day. Plus, (and maybe most of all) I just want to hold my baby and see who he/she is. And... I still have several (likely) weeks ahead of me and that is really discouraging me right now.

So without further delay, here's my list of ideas of ...
How To: The Last Month of Pregnancy!

Don't Focus on your Due Date... and tell anyone who is (including care providers) to step off...

Here's some pretty undeniable facts about why due dates are a load of bologna. The fact is you're likely to safely deliver the two weeks before or the two weeks after any date you or a care provider determine is a "due date", and typically, when a baby chooses to come on it's own is going to be the healthiest and easiest way to deliver them... not a forced induction your body isn't ready for or capable of (of course there are reasons and exceptions to this). If inductions need to be scheduled realize you can always call your provider and ask for a few more days... or make a "deal" with them. It's your body.

If people keep asking "Have you had that baby yet???" Send them this.

A watched pot never boils, as they say. With that in mind, let's move on...

Consider all the things you can be doing... while you wait.

The last month of pregnancy is best spent doing the following...

- Resting. Sleep in girl! Sleep til' noon, if you can. If you can't then move down the list...
- Prepping for baby... get your house spotless and savor the beautiful order. But, don't over do it.
- Enjoying time with your mate. Go on a date... or 4.
- See a movie... or 4.
- Read a book, because your hands will soon be full and holding a book and a baby is harder than you think.
- Stock up on supplies so you don't have to go shopping after baby arrives.
- Practicing a pain management technique. Even if you think you'll get that epidural... don't be fooled, you will be in pain... prepare yourself.
- Take a walk.
- Eat dates.
- Do squats.
- Make some freezer meals and stock up on easy prep food for postpartum.
- Make "Padsicles".
- Go to a La Leche League meeting... nursing might be difficult and getting support will help.
- Read some good, positive birth stories... HERE.
- Make some birth "affirmation" cards to post in your birthing space.
- Go see a chiropractor.
- Get a pre natal massage.
- Do yoga.
- Make sure your camera is in working order and learn how to take better photos.
- Make something, knit, sew, craft, write... be creative.

One of the most overlooked parts of the last month is making a plan for postpartum self-care...

The finish line isn't birth and getting your baby out... while that's important. The goal is overall wellness and your birth (baby's) and yours as a mama.

How are you going to take care of yourself? Learn about "lying in". Consider this plan...
3 days in/around your bed or room
3 days in/around your couch
3 days in/around your house

Investing in concentrated healing will help you SOOOO much in the long run. You need to realize the overall big picture of healing and restoring your body and the sacredness of time you have to set aside with your baby and family as you all adjust.

Set yourself up for postpartum before hand.

It's ok to rest, take it easy and not be "super woman" postpartum, you don't need to prove anything to anyone ... you have a literal gaping wound on your insides... and you and your little one need to adjust to life. Give this time what is required of it.

Give yourself GRACE!

This is my motto these days. I feel like I'm failing everyone and being a huge flop... relationally, physically and mentally. I'm just out of whack. But, the reality of my situation is that I'm exhausted, hurting, mentally preoccupied and sort of all focused relationally (emotionally) on this baby. I am in the last days of growing a HUMAN BEING! While 255 babies are born each minute around the world, that doesn't mean that we should dismiss the personal impact of such a sacred and wonderful act.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 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 16:20-22
If it's hard take care of yourself and realize this wonderful truth... they always come out. Each minute there are 255 new human beings to prove it! One way or another.  Rest in grace and let it be what guides you through this season of time!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent ~ 2016

Were studying the BIG PICTURE of God's redemptive plan... it's good news!

Everyone... almost. One is still cooking away.